It’s not uncommon for a small percentage of voters to determine the outcome of a municipal election. That, however, won’t be the case when it comes to the appearance of Hannibal’s new Main Street sidewalk.
Because fewer than a dozen of almost 50 Main Street property owners were present to cast votes during Tuesday afternoon’s meeting at city hall, a last-minute plan was drafted to give all the property owners a chance to let their voices be heard.
Supportive of the delay was City Manager Jeff LaGarce.
“I hate that 10 percent would make a decision for 100 percent,” he said.
LaGarce will be drafting a letter to Main Street property owners detailing the three sidewalk options that are available, plus what their individual assessment will be, based on the style of sidewalk the majority chooses and their amount of sidewalk. One vote will be allotted per parcel. The votes of those who choose not to return their “ballot” in approximately 10 days will be added to the sidewalk option that the majority of owners have selected.
During a vote of those present Tuesday, the majority - six - selected using brick pavers, which happens to be the most expensive option. Three chose standard white concrete, the cheapest of the options. No votes were cast for stamped, colored concrete.
For at least one property owner the proposed cost of his annual assessment, rather than the style of sidewalk, was his primary concern. Jerry Welch, co-owner of American Decor, balked at an annual assessment of as much as $2,700 over five years.
“You can’t spend my money that way,” he said, noting that the pavement along his South Main Street property line is some of the best in downtown Hannibal.
Welch indicated he would vote “no” on all the options until a solid promise is made by the city that his assessment could be spread over 10, rather than five years.
“I think I can sell 10 years to the council, but I don’t know about longer,” said LaGarce, who indicated he favored extending, and thus lowering the annual cost, for those whose annual assessments are above a certain plateau.
An assortment of questions were raised during the course of the meeting, including how long individual businesses can expect to be impacted, how long from start to finish will the entire project take, how would areas with double curbs be handled and which of the surfaces would be easiest to repair?
Martin Meyer of Architechnics, Inc., which is designing the project, estimated the downtown project, which will also include a mill and overlay of Main Street, would take four months from beginning to end. However, he indicated it’s anyone’s guess as to when work could start because of all the officials who must sign off on the project once the sidewalk surface is decided and final specs are determined.
Page 2 of 2 - “There are a lot of people who have to touch this and it all takes time,” he said.
Among those who says the new sidewalks can’t be installed soon enough is Kristy Trevathan, who called the current condition of downtown sidewalks “shameful.”
“We can’t be proud of the sidewalks we have to offer tourists or the people who live here,” she said, adding her concern that the project will be “talked to death.”