Columbia, S.C., to Spend $500 Million on Water & Sewer Upgrades

Columbia officials plan to spend half a billion dollars over the next five years to upgrade the water and sewer systems in one of the most ambitious, aggressive capital spending campaigns in the city’s history.

Columbia city manager Steve Gantt heralded the plan as “Columbia’s own stimulus package,” saying it will be a lifeline to the city’s contractors who have struggled for work as the weak economy continues to punish the construction industry.

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But with no city ordinance giving preference to local contractors, it’s unclear how much, if any, of that money will stay in the capital city. The struggling construction market means the city has been attracting bids from companies across the region, some of which can undercut local contractors.

With the city prepared to spend so much money in such a short time, City Council members are considering passing a so-called “local preference” ordinance that would favor local contractors bidding on city projects.

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The city’s sewer plant upgrade, a $41 million project that will reduce frequent sewer spills into Gills Creek, went to Adams Robinson Enterprise Inc., a company based in Ohio. It beat out six other companies, including two based in the Midlands.

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