Members of the Hannibal Board of Public Works' Board and staff will be in Washington, D.C., next week to meet with federal legislators.
For the most part Washington, D.C., was spared a blast of arctic air when a major winter storm swept through that region earlier this week. Still, that doesn’t mean three representatives of the Hannibal Board of Public Works can’t expect at least a “cold shoulder” to the message they plan to deliver to Missouri’s Congressional delegation when they visit the capital next week.
Bob Stevenson, general manager of the BPW, and BPW Board members Randy Park and Dr. E.W. Harder will be meeting with federal lawmakers regarding issues near and dear to the hearts of Hannibal utility customers.
“This is our opportunity to talk to our congressmen about things we’re dealing with and primarily right now that’s water and sewer issues,” said Stevenson, noting that the organizing group behind the grassroots lobbying effort is the American Public Power Association. “Even though it’s a power organization that’s sponsoring the trip, it’s OK with them if we still get our guys off to the side and say, ‘Look, we need you to help us out with our water and sewer problems where you can.’ That will probably be our main focus while we’re there.”
While Stevenson has been a regular participant in the annual lobbying effort, this will only be the second time that Park and Harder have made the trip.
“They’re actually more effective than I am because they’re appointed,” said Stevenson. “It’s even better when we get elected officials to go with us because the people we’re speaking to are also elected and they listen closer when other elected officials show up to argue the point.”
Stevenson praised the Board members for being willing to go.
“They’re taking time out of their own lives to go to bat for the city. I think that’s pretty heroic,” he said.
In addition to Hannibal’s participants, the 17-person delegation from Missouri will also represent the communities of Independence, Springfield, Columbia and Carthage. Stevenson, Park and Harder will be in the capital Monday and Tuesday before returning Wednesday.
During Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, Stevenson reported that last year’s message yielded little in the way of results. According to the BPW’s GM, those in the minority said they lacked the power to implement change. Those in power showed little interest in reining in groups such as the Environmental Protection Agency.
“It’s going to be the same message this year I think, but our attitude is we’ve got to keep trying,” said Stevenson. “There are some new faces there. It would be easy to imagine that an elected official new to his job may have very little knowledge about our business at any level and is completely incapable of making value judgments and decisions about what’s best for us. If we can’t convince them of anything we at least have an opportunity to educate and say, ‘Here’s how this particular issue impacts residents of Hannibal or other communities like Hannibal.’”
Despite not expecting to see any short-term relief in Hannibal, which because of unfunded mandates will be forced to spend millions of dollars over the next few years on sewer and water system improvements, Stevenson believes the trip to Washington is worth the time, effort and expense.
“It’s got to be,” he said. “The alternative is to do nothing and that doesn’t yield a very acceptable result either, so you’ve got to keep trying.”