City has also withdrawn $25,000 in support to the Northeast Missouri Economic Development Council, but meeting between city leaders and the NEMO EDC have taken place.

It appears that the city of Hannibal will pursue an old path when it comes to charting a new course for its economic development future.

According to the proposed 2018-19 city budget, which will come up for final approval at the June 19 meeting of the City Council, a position of city planner/economic director is being added. The city had a planner on staff up until 2003.

“What was old is now new again,” said Mayor Jim Hark, regarding the revival of the city planner position at City Hall.

According a payroll document presented by City Clerk Angel Zerbonia at the June 5 City Council meeting, the starting salary of the position will be $62,462.

In a related move, the city has decided to no longer contribute financially to the Northeast Economic Development Council, a 501c6 corporation created to provide economic development services for the Hannibal region, which includes Marion and northern Ralls Counties, and the cities in that area.

While City Hall is dropping its $25,000 in financial support of the local economic development group, the Hannibal Board of Public Works (HBPW) is choosing not to follow the same course of action.

“As of now, we plan to fund NEMO EDC with $60,000 for this (upcoming) fiscal year as we have in the past and was in our approved budget,” said Heath Hall, general manager of the HBPW.

Regarding the city’s plans to drop its monetary support of the Northeast Missouri Economic Development Council, Hall said, “I am aware of the city’s tentative plans, but have not discussed it with the (HBPW) board yet.”

Hark believes this is a positive move for the city.

“I’m just looking to get the best bang for our buck and I think this is a good direction to go,” said the mayor. “The (City) Council’s direction is for us to have a full-time person working economic development for the city of Hannibal. I think it is important for our citizens to know that we have someone out there trying to retain and to attract new business, industry and jobs to this community.

“This is an investment in our future. I know it is a position we are creating within our (city) government, but I think it is just as important as having a police or fire department. We have to have economic development and we have to have jobs here.”

While Hark appreciates the work that has been performed over the years by the economic development council, he added that he wants “to make sure our own (Hannibal’s) needs are tended to.”

“We want to be sure that Hannibal is at the table and doing everything it can to provide incentives and creating an environment where a business, or manufacturer, or distribution company would want to locate here,” said the mayor.

Despite not having had a meeting since the city’s decisions were announced, and recent turnover on the board, Hal Benedict, vice president of the economic development council, says meetings with city officials have occurred.

“We have not had a meeting of the board of the NEMO EDC since the city’s budget meeting. We will be meeting on June 20 to discuss with the entire board,” he said. “There will obviously be some changes to the board since both Tom Boland and Bob Stevenson will be replaced. The remaining Executive Committee members of the EDC have met with both the mayor, city manager, as well as the Board of Public Works officials. The meetings were positive and we look forward to the future of economic development in Hannibal.”

Asked Tuesday morning about the possibility of the city having a change of heart before the budget is finalized next week, City Manager Jeff LaGarce said he didn’t “have anything to say,” other than a job description for the position of city planner/economic director is now being prepared.

Hark is hopeful the job will be filled before the end of 2018.

“I’m looking at a timeline of somewhere in November or December for having a person on staff to work full-time on this,” he said.

After the Hannibal City Council authorized the creation of the city planner position over two decades ago, Jerry Kelley served in that capacity from late March 1998 until the spring of 2003.

When it came time to draft the 2003-04 budget, the city planner position was not funded.

“We can amend the budget and add that position back in later if we see that the revenues are going to come in higher and there’s going to be money for that,” said then-Mayor Roy Hark.

But no money was ever set aside again for the position until the budget of 2018-19.

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