City believes sale of structure will save it money

When the Hannibal Jaycees approached the city in July about acquiring the canopy to Hannibal’s Riverfront Amphitheater, City Manager Jeff LaGarce was tasked with not solely finding out what the civic group would be willing to pay, but with seeing what selling the structure might save taxpayers. Consequently the City Council, on LaGarce’s recommendation, agreed to sell the amphitheater’s roof for $100 on Tuesday night.

“There is no good way to value this old equipment, so we’ve done the best we can using economic rationale,” explained the city manager. “If we can’t use this facility for public benefit, this local service club can. We’ll get a little something from it, and avoid ever having to deal with that facility as a future maintenance problem.”

LaGarce estimated it would cost in the neighborhood of $3,500 to either enter the site and demolish the structure, or to enter the site and repair/improve the canopy.

If the city were to tear down the steel structure, LaGarce estimates it would bring no more than $600.

Because the city has no access of its own to the site, it would have to pay an adjacent land owner for access rights.

“In 2012, the adjacent land owner charged the city $1,500 to obtain a one-time, 10-foot temporary access easement on a nearby site. I have little doubt the fee would be at least $1,500 today,” said LaGarce. “If we created a permanent public venue at this location for summer concerts, I suspect we’d pay a lot more than $1,500 for permanent access.”

At one time a bridge crossed Bear Creek, providing access on city-owned property to the amphitheater. A flood wiped out that span. Andy Dorian, director of the Parks & Recreation, estimated that rebuilding a bridge from Nipper Park to the south would cost “six figures.” He added there could also be a “mitigation fee” charged by either the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

“By acquiring and removing this pavilion, the Jaycees are actually performing a service to the city,” said LaGarce.

A vocal supporter of the sale Tuesday night was Mayor Pro Tem Kevin Knickerbocker, who called the transaction a “good idea.”

“We’d be getting rid of a huge albatross,” he said. “It’s a win-win situation.”

Knickerbocker warned that if the canopy were to topple into the nearby Mississippi River, the city would find itself having to deal with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

In July, Jaycees President Adrienne Abright said the organization intends to relocate the structure to its location at 320 South Third St.

“Eventually we plan on it becoming the replacement for our current stage. It will allow us to accommodate a lot of larger national entertainment acts that require 16 feet of headroom,” said Abright. “Our current stage does not provide that much headroom so we are looking to expand. These larger acts have the potential to bring in a significantly greater amount of revenue to the city than what the acts we are able to bring in at this time with our limited stage room.”

Under terms of the sale the Jaycees will be “responsible for obtaining legal access, removal of the structure, and posting all requisite insurances and hold-harmlesses indemnifying the city.”

Reach reporter Danny Henley at danny.henley@courierpost.com