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Hannibal Courier - Post - Hannibal, MO
  • Protection's price: Cost to install or remove five gates - $1,750

  • At a recent meeting at Hannibal City Hall, it was suggested that it costs thousands of dollars to install or remove a single flood gate. It's a popular, albeit inaccurate notion.
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  • At a recent meeting at Hannibal City Hall, it was suggested that it costs thousands of dollars to install or remove a single flood gate. It's a popular, albeit inaccurate notion.
    "I think that discussion has gone on for years," said City Engineer Mark Rees of the cost confusion. "If a person did not get the right number reported to them then they might have thought it was more expensive."
    John Hark, Hannibal's emergency management director, agrees that the cost of protecting the downtown area from the rising river has been overstated for over a decade.
    "There's always been a misconception about that due to the fact when we first built this thing we thought we may have to pay somebody an annual fee to be on standby to get a crane. There was a figure of $5,000 mentioned and it escalated from there. Some people thought it was $5,000 a gate," said Hark. "We have a cost of approximately $350 a gate. Is it a lot of money? Yes, especially if you're going in and out like we've had to do this year. It starts to add up, but the city has an obligation to the businesses and people in the downtown area, and we're going to fulfill that obligation, whatever it takes to do it."
    The city budgets $6,000 for flood gate installation and removal. If all five gates go in, it totals $1,750. Three times in and out, such has occurred this spring/summer, brings the total to $5,250.
    Because the flood gates were never set in 2012, the money budgeted was available to use for three installations and two removals in May and June of 2013. Wednesday's cost of removing all five gates was incurred in fiscal year 2013, which started on July 1.
    City Manager Jeff LaGarce reports that if the city ever exceeds $6,000 "we'll find cost savings from other general fund 'centers.'"
    Set criteria
    The city has firm criteria in regard to when the flood gates must be set. When a crest prediction of 20.5 feet or more is forecast, the gates on Hill and Center streets go in. The remaining three gates - two on Broadway and one on South Main - are placed when the crest is forecast at 21.5 or more.
    Hark has a little more leeway as to when the gates come out.
    "If I can see this river has crested and is starting to fall at what we consider a decent rate, and it shows it's going to fall for five to seven days, then we can remove them a little bit early. We're 0.2 higher today (Wednesday) than I'd like to be to start to remove," he said. "We're going in the right direction. I'll be so glad to see us get under 16 foot, which is technical flood stage. I think we've been above technical flood stage since we moved the first time on these gates (in 2013 - April 18.)"
    Page 2 of 2 - Some suggest that in years such as 2013, when the river keeps rising and falling, that the gates just be left in place.
    "If we were going to do that we would have built a solid flood wall all the way across this community and just left it at that," said Hark. "It was designed to protect the city when it needed protecting and designed to be open for people to view the river and use the river."
    Hark understands he is subject to second-guessing.
    "I have caught a certain amount of criticism. I think that goes with any decision-making process," he said. "You're going to make some people happy, some people unhappy and some people don't care at all. We do what we need to do to keep Hannibal's downtown historic district dry and safe from the Mississippi River."

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