The City of Hannibal is looking westward for a vital part of its economic future. Signs of economic development are already springing up in the area east of Shinn Lane between Highway 36 and Route MM, across from the medical campus. Construction is progressing on the Sleep Inn Hotel in the area, and future plans include a lake and infrastructure to support a Business Park development.

During Tuesday's council meeting, City Manager Jeff LaGarce discussed the results of a traffic study regarding what the Shinn Lane of the future should look like. The MoDOT study takes into account 20 year traffic forecasts in anticipation of a developed Business Park. The plan calls for Shinn to be expanded to 3 lanes with one roundabout at the Medical Drive intersection. The Highway 36 outer road would no longer intersect with Shinn Lane. Instead the outer road would be diverted directly to the new Business Park road. The City would then be responsible for maintenance of the outer road from Veteran's Road to the Business Park.

LaGarce stressed proposed changes are a "general concept" at this point and would be predicated on future development that could begin taking shape several years from now. He also stressed proper planning today can help prevent traffic bottlenecks as the area grows. The council unanimously approved the general plan.

Interest in the economic development is also on the radar screen of the Hannibal Board of Public Works. General Manager Bob Stevenson told the council the BPW has invested heavily in the development of the Hannibal Lakeside Technology Park.  Stevenson says the BPW has plans to develop sewer and storm water drainage systems in the area over the next several years. He says the Business Park is now certified as "ready to build" by the Missouri Department of Economic Development; one of only 24 sites in the state. The BPW is involved in the marketing the site and has acquired neighboring property that will help with the widening of Shinn Lane.  Stevenson told the council this puts the Hannibal Board of Public Works in the position of being the largest single investor in community infrastructure and economic development in Hannibal and Marion County.

Stevenson also updated the council regarding water, sewer, and electric operations. Stevenson told the council that debt service obligations for infrastructure improvements means sewer rates will likely increase 4 ½ percent and water rates will go up 3 percent in July. Electric rates are a mixed bag, however. Some industrial rates will be reduced, while residential service is expected to increase by about $2 a month. Mayor Hark noted the importance of reducing the rates for industrial users; Hark said the City should take every step possible to keep industry and jobs here, while keeping residential rates as affordable as possible. Stevenson said the bond issues approved in 2013  by voters allows for smaller increases in rates rather than large rate spikes that have occurred in the past.

In other business, the Council:

  • Approved a request by Hannibal Convention and Visitor's Bureau Director Gail Bryant to spend $20,790 on redesign of the website. Bryant fielded questions from the council regarding the cost vs. benefit of the redesign. Bryant said the current site is three years old and could use updating which would include interactive videos and improved search engine optimization. She said the site is Hannibal's "face to the world" and is an all important first impression. All advertising directs prospective visitors to the site. State vendor SteadyRain will redesign the site.
  • Approved a mowing contract at the Old Baptist Cemetery. Building Inspector Joey Burnham told the council the sole bidder was Simply Cut Lawns. The contract price for 2015-16 is $3600.
  • Approved closure of streets near the high school for Commencement on the evening of Thursday, May 21.
  • Approved a Public Hearing to be held Tuesday, June 2 at 6:30 p.m. regarding the rezoning of a parcel of land near Route W. Preferred Family Healthcare is proposing the land be rezoned from Commercial to Multiple Family in order to build an apartment complex.
  • Approved bids on four 1 and 2-ton city trucks no longer needed and previously deemed as surplus by the city council.

More From KHMO-AM 1070, News-Talk-Sports