Proposition S to be on April ballot

Hannibal Mayor James Hark will personally answer stormwater-related questions posed at this week's Hannibal City Council meeting by community resident Michael Hagan.

"I will be glad to answer those questions to the best of my ability and meet with you in person," Hark said, estimating it will take approximately a week to gather the necessary information.

Hagan's inquiries touched on both the city's stormwater problems in general, and specifically Proposition S, which will ask residents whether to approve a fee schedule to fund the city's stormwater utility. Proposition S will appear on the April 2 ballot.

Hark applauded the Hannibal Board of Public Works (HBPW) for taking the stormwater funding mechanism to voters.

"I think everyone up here (on the council) is of the same opinion that any time there is going to be a decision made that impacts the masses and the fiscal integrity of any citizen, they have the right to vote on it," he said.

Hagan argued that the language of Proposition S is so vague that it will likely make some voters believe an effort is being made to "hoodwink" them.

Hagan, who acknowledged he had already spoken with representatives of the HBPW regarding many of his concerns, expressed reservations regarding oversight of the HBPW.

"You're leaving it up to them to set the (stormwater assessment) fee and giving them carte blanche to do whatever they need to do," he said. "If they want to rip out all the stormwater sewers in town, replace them all, and spend $20 million, you're OK with that?"

Hark said the HBPW will be guided by regulations set forth by its Missouri Department of Natural Resources' water permit and by what stormwater projects take top priority.

"This is 150-to 200-year-old infrastructure and it is just failing," he said.

Hagan asked about the problems that result from stormwater system failures.

"If a storm sewer fails and collapses it will no longer contain the water, which will back up in whatever natural way it can, whether that be in basements, yards, driveways or across roadways," Hark said.

Hark said it's better for the city to deal with its stormwater issues now then have repairs be mandated. "We will try to fix this problem before the state or the federal government comes in and says, 'you are in violation,' and starts fining everyone," he said.

Hagan suggested Hark was part of past councils that essentially "kicked the can down the road" in regard to stormwater repairs, but Hark countered by saying the current council has taken a definitive stand.

"This council at least has integrity enough to say, 'This is important' and have tried to take an appropriate stand," he said.