Columbia adds department, director

The Columbia City Council meeting Monday night featured several administrative actions. 

The first action split the duties of Columbia’s city engineer and director of public works positions. 

Prior to the meeting, Chris Smith held both titles. Action on Monday night created a Columbia Department of Engineering and Inspections, of which Smith will direct as the city engineer. 

Michael R. Sander was appointed as the new Columbia Director of Public Works, with Doug Stinemetz named assistant director.

After closed session, Smith gave the council an update on upcoming road projects. 

Road paving for the ongoing roundabout project on Palmer Road is expected to begin next week. 

Smith also advised that the Illinois Department of Transportation accepted bids for an upcoming resurfacing and improvement project on Route 3 from Gilmore Lake Road north to I-255 despite coming in over 10 percent – around $1 million – higher than original project estimates.

According to the IDOT website, work on this section of Route 3 will begin Aug. 8 and be completed sometime in 2023.

The next action item was an ordinance which rezoned two parcels near the Columbia Department of Public Works facility on Route 3 near Sand Bank Road. 

The two lots will be subject to “down-zoning” from I-1 (light industrial) to C-3 (commercial zoning), which Columbia Director of Community Development Scott Dunakey called a “no-brainer.”

“This is a prime commercial property and it shouldn’t be zoned I-1,” Dunakey said, adding the city would like the parcels to have the potential to provide maximum benefit “for taxpayers of the community  should the opportunity come.”

Dunakey, at the request of Ward I Alderman Doug Garmer, also gave an update on the city’s ongoing comprehensive plan process.

Dunakey said the process is moving forward with new community engagement opportunities available at

There will also be an upcoming in-person interaction opportunity during the Columbia Days celebration Aug. 19-20.

He also noted several recent focus group and steering committee meetings have been productive.

Dunakey said there is a tentative date of Oct. 2  for an open house to discuss a draft of the plan and to gain input and refine details ahead of the formal approval process.

The council also voted to restructure a loan for Sunset Overlook, located at 11604 Bluff Road.

The city had issued a $75,000 “revolving loan” to the business in 2016. According to the resolution, no payments had been made on the loan since December 2019 “due to extenuating circumstances,” and the “borrower has asked the city to consider certain adjustments to the term of said loan.” 

In addition to a lump-sum amount for payments not yet made for 2022, Sunset Overlook will “complete necessary documentation” to enroll in an auto-draft payment system.

Two other businesses were topics of discussion at the July 11 meeting of the Columbia Plan Commission.

The commission approved recommendation of a special use permit to include drive-thru specifications for a planned Jimmy Johns restaurant at 150 Veterans Parkway.

Also on the agenda for the commission was a request for annexation consideration at 1439 Centerville Road, but the item was tabled.

Originally, Greg and Melinda Meyer had proposed future annexation of the property which is not currently adjoining any property in the city limits. 

The Meyers made the request to gain access to city utilities while planning to rebuild their Sugar Spring Ranch wedding venue.

The first Sugar Spring Ranch – located at 1385 Centerville Road – was destroyed by a fire in late May 2021. 

Dunakey said the proposal has been put on hold at the request of the applicant.

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Scott Woodsmall

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