The deadline for the Hannibal Board of Public Works (HBPW) to remove ammonia as a disinfectant in the city's drinking water system was extended to March 2020 Tuesday night by the Hannibal City Council.

The deadline for the Hannibal Board of Public Works (HBPW) to remove ammonia as a disinfectant in the city’s drinking water system was extended to March 31, 2020, Tuesday night by the Hannibal City Council.

That’s too long of a timeframe according to Councilwoman Melissa Cogdal, who nevertheless voted in favor of the ordinance at the council’s meeting. Cogdal was a proponent of Proposition 1 — the citizen-driven initiative banning ammonia as a disinfectant that won public approval in the April 2017 municipal election — but said approving a reworked version of the ordinance “is the right thing to do for the community.”

The council, faced with legal action from the HBPW, passed the rewritten ordinance extending the deadline for ammonia removal by a 7-0 vote. Originally, according to the ordinance approved by the council in May following the April election, ammonia should have been removed from the drinking water system on Aug. 15. The city, with pending changes to the ordinance unapproved between Aug. 15 and Tuesday’s meeting, has not fined the HBPW as required by the original ordinance.

HBPW filed for a temporary restraining order to prevent the implementation of that ordinance. With the possibility of the issue becoming mired in a court battle, the council moved forward with extending the deadline. In addition to extending the deadline for ammonia removal, the new ordinance also requires quarterly reports from the HBPW General Manager to the council to review progress toward removing ammonia.

Cogdal, although she said she thinks the new ordinance allows too much time for HBPW to make the conversion, predicted that the utility would complete the work before the 2020 deadline. She said the decision to delay the deadline was a difficult one, both for herself and the entire council.

“This is something I personally didn’t want to — and I don’t think any other elected official wanted to — change the vote of the people,” Cogdal said. “This is one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do emotionally.”

Hannibal resident Denny Kolarik addressed the council, asking them to postpone the second and final reading of the rewritten ordinance. He said a vote to delay the conversion deadline was a willful move to ignore the vote of the people.

Cogdal, along with councilmen Kevin Knickerbocker and Mike Dobson and city manager Jeff LaGarce, addressed his thoughts. They noted that the HBPW does not, and could not, go by a city-commissioned study by Jacobs Engineering exploring multiple water treatment methods. The study was meant as an informational tool, not a workable plan for the BPW, they collectively argued. Kolarik noted that the Jacobs report has a shorter timeframe for conversion. He implored the council to wait until more details could be discovered before delaying the deadline.

“I wish that holding this vote tonight was the answer to all the problems, Denny. But it’s not,” Cogdal responded.

LaGarce explained that each phase of the conversion requires approval from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. HBPW has begun work with Black and Veatch Engineering on the water system conversion.

Cogdal and Knickerbocker, although on different sides of the debate surrounding Proposition 1, both agreed that Tuesday’s vote will get the ball rolling.

“I was an opponent of Proposition 1 from the very beginning,” Knickebocker said. “But I think Councilwoman Cogdal has made very good points and I support her argument — especially that it’s time to move on,” Knickerbocker said.

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