Council Hears Opposition to $17.5 Million Water Plan
Townsquare Media Photo
Harry Graves says some Hannibal voters went for what they thought was a “Free Lunch” when Proposition 1 was approved in 2017.
Graves addressed the Hannibal City Council Tuesday evening. He calls the vote “flawed” that mandated the City of Hannibal remove ammonia from its water supply. Graves says while the Issue was better water, it was not adequately communicated that consumers would pay a price for this change—increases in water rates as much as 60% in the next 5 years.
Graves asked the council to consider tabling a bill that would let voters decide if the BPW can issue up to $17.5 million in bonds to pay for conversion to carbon filtration. He named a number of reasons why:
- Much of water usage is not consumed for drinking, therefore individual filtration at point of use could be utilized.The Board of Public Works could assist with financing and installation.
- Utilities rates in Hannibal are already higher than average. Rate hikes could impact future business development.
- Poor people in town are already struggling to pay utilities and taxes. Storm water management will bring even more charges to utility bills on top of water rate increases.
Graves disputed the BPW contention that conversion from ammonia to Granulated Activated Carbon (GAC) was already decided by voters, and an upcoming election is only to authorize financing. He says removal of ammonia should be linked to the new water bond question on the August ballot. Graves also said voter turnout in last year’s municipal election was low, and many did not realize the costs involved.
Two council members challenged some of Graves’ arguments:
Councilman Mike Dobson said the Jacobs Engineering study provided estimated costs and that was communicated to voters before the April, 2017 election.
Councilwoman Melissa Cogdal challenged the assertion on low voter turnout last year. Cogdal said turnout for the election involving the ammonia issue (Proposition 1) was actually fairly good…3rd highest since 2000. The initiative passed with 1259 “Yes” votes, and 894 “No” votes. Cogdal said the city did its best to communicate the issue to voters.
Heath Hall, Hannibal BPW Director, followed Harry Graves. Hall stressed again the public has already voted to remove chloramines, and the upcoming vote August 7 is to approve funding the project with bonds. Even without voter approval, he said the Hannibal BPW is still obligated to remove ammonia.
Hall says BPW officials recently traveled to Pennsylvania to view a carbon manufacturing facility and also an operating GAC system at Penn State University.
The project will require construction of a building approximately 80 x 100 ft., large enough for a semi to enter. The location in Riverview Park is still being evaluated, taking into consideration aesthetics. The building will house large GAC vessels up to 12 feet in diameter. The number of vessels and type of carbon is still being studied. BPW plans to submit a final design to MoDNR in Sept, and bid out the project at end of 2018. Construction will begin in spring 2019, estimated 1 year to complete.
More information is now known about the amount of increases Hannibal water customers will see: Heath Hall says the Cost of Service Study was presented to his board just prior to Tuesday’s council meeting. Over 5 years, the cost of service study estimates a 54% increase in water revenue will be needed. Of that 54%, 30% will go for the GAC conversion which is estimated to cost a residential customer an additional $10.56 per month, 15% or an additional $5.28 per month to cover the loss of Ralls County water customers, and 9 percent, or $3.17 per month to cover inflationary items.
Hall says a Public Hearing on the rate increases is scheduled Monday, June 18 at 6 pm at the BPW Board Office on Warren Barrett Drive. At that time, more information on the rate increases will be available, including the first step of increases that go into effect July 1: An estimated 3.5 percent increase for water and sewer. More information will be available on the 5-year plan, and incentive rate changes for commercial/ industrial customers. Hall says electric rates will remain flat at this time.
In the end, the Council voted unanimously to place Proposition A on August 7 ballot, which if approved, would allow the BPW to issue up to $17.5 million in bonds for the water treatment conversion to GAC.
In other business, the council:
- Approved a request by Parks and Rec Director Andy Dorian to contract with Townsend Tree service to take on difficult tree removal projects.
- Approved spending up to $9300 for engineering services related to a complete rebuild of the Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse. Dorian says it will cost 30 to 60 thousand dollars to tear down and rebuild. It was last rebuilt in 1960. The wood frame with cedar shingles has sustained lots of water damage over the decades. The renovation will include a new lighting system illuminating the entire structure.. Because the lighthouse is the most vandalized structure in Hannibal’s parks, a security camera system will be installed. The project is expected to be complete by early 2019.
- Mike McHargue, Street Department Supervisor received approval to purchase a newer trackhoe with funds from surplus property sold for a total of $53,500. McHargue says the purchase will not exceed that amount. The trackhoe is an asset in house demolition and also removal of sidewalks .The Street Department already has one other trackhoe that is getting older. The new purchase will be the primary one and the older model will be used as a backup.
- Approved street closures on Thursday evenings from May 31 to Aug. 30 for Music Under the Stars in the 300 block of Hill Street.
- Approved a “Pedal Hannibal” event on August 11 benefitting Toys for Tots. Aron Lee told the council a major source of funding has been lost with the closing of the Toys R Us chain.
- Amended street closure dates during Tom Sawyer Days at the foot of Lyon Street, in order to accommodate a new carnival company that requested additional set-up time. The dates for the closure will now be June 27- July 7.
- Approved closure of the Main Street parking lot next to Mrs. Clemens during the Twain on Main event May 26-27. The lot will be designated handicapped parking only.
Closure also approved for the 200-300 Blocks of Main Street and the parking lot at Bird and Main for the Main Street Vintage Market Show and Sale to be held on two separate weekends: June 8-10, and Sept. 28-30.