Bill comes up for second reading on Sept 5.

An ordinance giving the Hannibal Board of Public Works (HBPW) three years to implement an ammonia-free water system was given initial approval during Tuesday night’s meeting of the Hannibal City Council.

While the first reading was approved unanimously, not every Council gave the measure wholehearted support.

“I don’t like three years either, but I understand there is a pilot study that has to be done regardless of whether we like it or not,” said Councilwoman Melissa Cogdal.

Mayor Pro Tem Kevin Knickerbocker stressed that the original ordinance, which was approved by voters in April and adopted by the Council in May, was not gutted when the revision was written.

“Our intent was to leave the ordinance as true to the original product as possible,” he said. “We’re just changing the time frame to something that is realistic and doable.”

Ordinance 4751 gave 90 days to complete the water system change. The revised ordinance gives a deadline of March 31, 2020.

Ammonia opponent Kellie Cookson of the Hannibal 2 Oppose Chloramines group, which worked to land a Proposition 1 on the April 4 ballot, does not agree with giving the HBPW three years to complete the water system transition.

“Most everything (in the revised ordinance) I kind of agree with,” she said. “I would like to ask for two years instead of three years.

“I think two years is a good place to start. My fear is three years will turn into four.... I think two years is very doable. If the work is done quickly, efficiently and monitored well it can be achieved.”

“If we shorten the time frame to an unrealistic expectation we’re back in the same position with litigation that we’re looking at now,” said Knickerbocker, who noted the three-year time frame was based on a water system study performed by Jacobs Engineering that was commissioned by the city last year.

Members of the Council noted that while an initial “pilot” study has been started, it will require 12 months to complete. Additional steps will follow the pilot study.

“There’s a lot more processes than just saying, ‘I’m going to do GAC (granular activated carbon),’ and let’s run out and build it. If it were that simple that would be great, but it’s not,” said Knickerbocker. “There’s quite a few steps involved and there’s time lines involved with all of them and part of it is the DNR (Department of Natural Resources) approval process.”

Cookson issued a challenge similar to one given the Council almost a year ago.

“Please do what’s right, not what’s easy,” she said. “The people have already spoken. We want this taken care of.”

Mayor James Hark stressed that efforts are in motion to give residents what they want.

“The whole goal here is to honor the will of the people as fast as legally possible,” he said.

The new water ordinance is due to come up for a final reading on Tuesday, Sept. 5. Hark told the Northeast Missouri Economic Development Council on Wednesday morning that the measure will likely be “tweaked” before being given a final reading. The mayor did not elaborate regarding what might be changed.

On hand Tuesday night to provide the first of what will likely be many Proposition 1 mandated project updates was Bob Stevenson, general manager. He contended that allegations of “foot dragging” on the HBPW’s part are not true, producing a multimedia list of bullet points showing all that has already been accomplished since this spring. He stressed that Black and Veatch (B & V) Engineers, hired to handle the preliminary phase of the conversion project, has been “very thorough.”

Based on what has already been learned, Stevenson said there is no “silver bullet” that would allow ammonia to be turned off immediately. Stevenson added later there is “no guarantee” the city will be done with ammonia even after a new water system is completed.

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