City cannot afford $200,000 repair

The Hannibal City Council voted 4-2 on Tuesday night to accept an engineer's recommendation and close approximately 100 feet of Martin Street to through traffic.

Residents of the South Side neighborhood urged council members to allow the street to remain open, saying residents could have difficulty reaching their homes, it could limit access to emergency vehicles and create other safety issues.

"It would be a shame if it were blocked off," said Robert Crane, who lives on nearby Crescent Street. "It would be a major safety issue."

Safety is behind the recommendation. A portion of the pavement, located adjacent to a failing storm sewer, has begun to shift.

"We recommend closing the street to avoid more damage to the roadway or some catastrophic event such as a car falling through the street," wrote Hannibal Board of Public Works General Manager Heath Hall in a memo.

"This is actually not a street problem, but a stormwater problem," Director of Central Services Andy Dorian said. "The base material underneath the street has shifted into the collapsed (storm sewer) vault leaving a void. At some point it will collapse."

The city could be sued for negligence doesn’t take action and Martin Street collapsed, resulting in an injury or death, City Attorney James Lemon said.

"You have knowledge now that there is somewhat of a chance that it could collapse into the void,” he said. “If that in fact would happen and you had chosen not to close the road, potentially you would have a legal liability there."

Based on Lemon's legal opinion, Mayor Pro Tem Mike Dobson said he did not feel the city had a choice other than to close the section of Martin Street.

Dobson, Mayor James Hark, Councilman James Godert and Councilwoman Melissa Cogdal voted in favor of closing the street. Councilman Alan Bowen and Jeff Veach voted in opposition. Councilman Colin Welch was absent.

Hark said closing the street would put a greater "burden on us to get it repaired sooner."

Based on the estimated cost of repair, the street will not be reopened in the near future.

"The cheapest fix for this is around $200,000, and there is no funding for it," Dorian said.

That estimate does not include street repaving or other utility upgrades, Hall said.