Fear of the unknown factored into several issues at Tuesday night’s Hannibal City Council meeting.

The controversy swirls around what could happen if the Missouri Legislature overrides Governor Nixon’s veto of tax cuts this fall. Nixon came to Hannibal recently and shared his estimates of the local impact of a veto override—over $800,000 in lost revenue to the city which city officials say could translate into 17 people losing their jobs and significant cuts in city services.

The first agenda item that encountered resistance was a new hotel development. Gary Zimmer of SZC Hotels presented his plans for the Sleep Inn Hotel development to be built near Fiddlestiks restaurant west of town. Economic development tools including a 1.5% city sales tax rebate would pay for the developers’ infrastructure costs and an access road.  Councilman Kevin Knickerbocker suggested that a decision of this magnitude be put off until the fate of the state tax cuts is known. Zimmer countered even with the tax rebate, the net effect of the project is plus revenue for the city, and up to 20 new jobs when the hotel is complete in 2015.  A motion to approve the project was made, and the voice vote was unanimous.

The agenda also dealt directly with the tax veto issue. The council voted in support of a Resolution urging State Senator Brian Munzlinger and State Representative Lindell Shumake to refrain from overriding the Governor’s veto.

Two other issues were affected directly or indirectly by the uncertainty of the tax legislation:

  • An Emergency Reading was given to a Payroll Bill that pares down salary costs.  The Bill changes the title of Engineering Assistant Brian Chaplin to Public Works Superintendent.  His salary will increase to over $48,000,  as his job now assumes some of the responsibilities of the City Engineer position which was recently eliminated.   The City Engineer's salary was $78,000.  The other part of the payroll bill would hire two new police officers; the net effect actually reduces salary costs by reducing overtime of higher paid Corporals and Sergeants.
  • Purchase of a new fire truck was tabled due to budget concerns.  Assistant Fire Chief told the council the low bid came in at $455,867.  Mayor Hark told Benjamin  the council doesn't deny the need for new equipment, but a final decision will have to wait until after the Missouri Legislature veto session.  Benjamin said he would call the low bidder to see how long the bid price will hold..

In other business, the council approved:

  • The closure of streets in the downtown area for the Autumn Historic Folklife Festival October 18 and 19.
  • The purchase of microwave radio communications equipment from A & W Communications for a total of $44,844.  The upgrades will effect a savings by eliminating telephone landlines while improving communications for all City departments.  A fourth radio antenna will be installed to improve communications west of town..
  • A Resolution to install a premium overlay of the Huckleberry Park tennis courts at a price of $144,550.
  • A Resolution opposing expansion of the federal definition of waterways by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers.  City Manager Jeff LaGarce told the council it's a case of government overreach.  He said even ditches could be subject to regulation that would require a permit to remove a limb or replace a stop sign that was knocked over.
  • A Contract of Obligation between the City and the MO DNR for the new lowered amount of $305,900 for ongoing maintenance of the closed city landfill in Ralls County.  City Attorney James Lemon says this is not an expenditure, but is similar to a bond that would be in effect only if the city is found not in compliance with DNR landfill regulations.