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Hannibal Courier - Post - Hannibal, MO
  • Controversy erupts over Hannibal commercial vehicle proposal

  • Hannibal has taken steps toward what some officials touted as better streets and driveways, but hasn’t quite completed the trip.

     


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  • Hannibal has taken steps toward what some officials touted as better streets and driveways, but hasn’t quite completed the trip.
    City Councilmen gave initial approval Tuesday to proposals that would ban people from parking autos in their yards and keep commercial vehicles off of residential streets.
    They also gave the nod to new regulations on Dumpsters and new standards for driveway improvements.
    But a more controversial plan to ban commercial vehicles on residential property was tabled.
    Truck driver Robert Walden was one of two residents who spoke against the measure.
    Walden said he lives on Market Street and has no choice but to park his rig at home. He keeps the trailer elsewhere.
    Walden told the council that it would be a mistake to penalize drivers who pay taxes and deliver products to the city.
    “You’re going to tell him you’re not going to let him come here?” Walden asked. “Truck drivers need a place to go. They need a place to park.”
    Mayor Roy Hark said the city should not arbItrarily make scofflaws out of residents and businesses who previously had obeyed the law without problems.
    Doing so, he said, would be “coming down on them like the Gestapo walking through Germany.”
    Councilman James Hark said he had received many calls from worried residents who had “little to no options” when it came to parking commercial vehicles on residential property.
    Councilman Barry Louderman, who first suggested the changes more than three months ago as a way to improve public safety and the city’s attractiveness, said failure to act would be a “disservice to the city as a whole.”
    “If we start tailoring these ordinances to individuals, we’re not going to have an ordinance,” he said.
    Councilman Kevin Knickerbocker suggested criteria be developed for exemptions.
    “Maybe we need to get some public input and get some variances,” he said.
    “I think we need to look at this a little more,” Mayor Hark agreed.
    Louderman is confident a solution can be found.
    “We’ll get there,” he said. “We may have to revise it. I don’t have a problem with that.”
    Fire chief changes
    Final reading was given to a bill that gets rid of the city code’s impeachment language for the fire department’s top administrator.
    The change resulted from controversy surrounding Fire Chief Tim Carter.
    Carter was suspended for unspecified reasons in January and November 2009, and impeachment charges were filed against him in February 2010.
    He was accused of acting unprofessionally and being derelict in his duties for alleged fraud, dishonesty, insubordination and oppression of others in the department.
    Page 2 of 3 - The allegations, which Carter refuted, dealt mostly with his purported actions on asbestos removal at Fire Station 3 and a former television studio that was being converted to a Fire Department administrative office. Carter also was accused of not following Fire Board directives.
    Carter produced documents that appeared to prove his proper handling of the asbestos situation, and records obtained by the Courier-Post showed that firefighters testified they had not been adversely affected.
    The charges were never proven and the City Council voted unanimously to drop them in July. A settlement was announced in October.
    Carter will officially retire Dec. 31, with Acting Chief Bill Madore taking his place.
    Louderman, who heads Fire Board, said the bill fulfills a promise he made to other councilmen.
    “I think it’s been long overdue,” he said. “It shouldn’t have been in the code in the first place.”
    Louderman said the change “makes things much easier” by having the fire chief be subject to the same type of dismissal procedures as other city employees, including the right to appeal to the council.
    The council also approved final readings of ordinances updating the merit system used to promote firefighters and setting up formal procedures for fire code permitting.
    License tax
    The city’s $5 vehicle license tax is still alive, for now.
    A final reading of an ordinance that would have ended it was tabled.
    Councilmen Knickerbocker and Mike Dobson voted no.
    Knickerbocker repeated his opposition to doing away with a fee that brings in about $50,000 a year.
    “I don’t think this is a good idea,” he said. “It is a revenue source, and we’ve been running in extremely tight budget times. I don’t know how we’re going to replace it.”
    Councilman Jeff Lyng said he first proposed ending the tax as a way to offer a “small relief” for residents overburdened by the bad economy. He called the a fee a “nuisance.”
    Knickerbocker said the city should find another source of revenue before eliminating the tax, and Louderman and Mayor Hark suggested it be studied.
    Charter changes
    Discussion of proposed city charter changes was delayed.
    Dobson and Councilman Lou Barta have been working for several months to fine-tune city codes.
    The pair has met with department heads and others. Dobson hopes to put proposals before voters in April.
    Barta was ill and did not attend the meeting, so the talks will be taken up in early January.
    Other action
    The council also:
    • Approved a contract extension for City Manager Jeff LaGarce and the reappointment of City Clerk Angel Vance through 2014.
    • Approved spending $44,548.11 on engineering services with Architechnics Inc. of Quincy, Ill., for the downtown sidewalk project.
    Page 3 of 3 - • Agreed to pay Bleigh Construction of Hannibal $7,768.10 for additional work needed to wrap up the West Ely street improvement project. Lyng voted no.
    • Approved appointments of Frank Desmond to the Police & Firemen’s Retirement Board, Bianca Quinn to the Employee Benefit Trust Board and Dr. Stephen Sankpill to the Park Board.
    • Gave first readings to ordinances updating city code on harassment and cyberbullying, vacating a tract of land in Hunt’s subdivision, and an agreement for funding of an access road and parking lot at the airport.
     

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