Hannibal City Council discussed Hannibal’s Proposition S before negative results were in

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Council members Mike Dobson, left, and Darrell McCoy at Hannibal City Council Tuesday night Photo by Megan Duncan

HANNIBAL, Mo. — Hannibal City Council had an in-depth discussion with a patron on Tuesday night regarding Hannibal’s storm water tax ballot measure Proposition S, which Hannibal voters did not approve on Tuesday’s ballot.

Before the results were in, April Azotea, owner of La Azotea Cocktail Lounge in Hannibal, told the council she believed the tax was unfairly burdensome on commercial business owners with industrial meters.

Had it been approved, the proposition would have been a flat fee per parcel of land, with the amount of the fee based on the electric meter size and usage for commercial, residential and industrial properties.The amount due would have been determined by average annual monthly kilowatt hour usage.

Azotea referred to a previous version of the proposition, which was proposed by the Hannibal Board of Public Works last January. The proposal, also called Proposition S, was killed by the HBPW after discovering issues that would cause certain landowners to pay exorbitant amounts based on their acreage.

“I kind of feel like the buck got passed over from landowners to somebody else, and to me, (storm water) affects everybody,” she said.

Hannibal Mayor Barry Louderman pointed out that the tax would have affected all Hannibal homeowners or businesses with electric meters, with the exception of the Hannibal Public School District.

Azotea said the January proposal of Prop S based on acreage amount, which upset local landowners, would have a greater impact on business owners and those who rent space but do not live in Hannibal. Azotea told council members some of those business owners who do not live in Hannibal city limits were not allowed to vote on something that would directly affect them.

“As a renter, you don’t own the property. You have a landlord, which will ultimately get passed down to the tenant,” she said.

Stephan Franke, 3rd Ward council member, agreed with many of Azotea’s points and said he did not vote for Proposition S to be on Tuesday’s ballot. He reminded her it was now in the hands of Hannibal voters. 

“I think where my frustration lies is that ultimately you guys got to vote whether or not it went on the ballot,” she said.

Louderman told Azotea that a democracy works by presenting citizens with the initiative presented to them by the Stormwater Action Committee and allowing voters to decide.

“Our sole job in this whole thing was to take the recommendation of this committee and put it on the ballot for people to vote on,” he said.

Azotea also brought up the nearly $2 billion Missouri received from federal funds allocated by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which was enacted by President Biden in 2021 to provide $550 billion for infrastructure, including in roads, bridges, and mass transit, water infrastructure, resilience and broadband. 

Louderman explained the funds went to work around St. Louis on I-70 and I-44, a combined cost of $1.7 billion. He said Hannibal doesn’t get many allocated federal funds, which tend to go toward larger projects around the state. 

Azotea asked what kind of grants were available for storm water and what they already had.

City Manager Lisa Peck told Azotea the city is working on accessing the $3.5 million requested by Congressman Sam Graves through the Water Resources Development Act for North Street and Mark Twain Avenue sewer repairs. Peck also mentioned a $5 million in funding received for North Street repairs.

“That’s almost $10 million just for that stretch of stormwater,” Peck said.

Franke referred to a 2017 study conducted for HBPW by engineering firm Black & Veatch, which has been updated as needed. He said the goal was not to just one thing but have a recurring funding source for maintenance and upkeep.

“It is to have permanent ongoing funding that way to hire staff, buy specialized equipment, and maybe take on debt for it. That way they don’t have to pay for it upfront,” he said.

He also said that while he didn’t vote for Proposition S, the amount of funds Proposition S would have raised were less than what Black & Veatch’s study called for but “more than zero.”

Louderman told Azotea they will go after any funding they can find. 

“The problem is we are competing with towns that have much bigger problems and much bigger sway in the politics of things than we do,” he said. “There is no way around that.”

Louderman said he didn’t believe Proposition S was the fairest way to find a stormwater solution.

“The fairest mechanism would be to have a stormwater utility built into the Board of Public Works but our supreme court said ‘No, you can’t do that.’” he said. “So here we are trying to find a solution to a problem that is going to cost us a lot more than people realize in the very near future.”

Louderman said if Proposition S was voted down, they would be back to square one. Several hours later, the proposition was voted down by 725 votes.

“So we will see where we go,” Louderman said.

McCoy thanked the 15 citizens who made up the Stormwater Action Committee for their work on a complicated problem. The other council members agreed.

In other business, the council:

  • Approved a feasibility student contract with Klingner and Associates for $31,100 for work in Hannibal’s Central Park.
  • Approved a bid of $44,257.94 from ECAMSECURE for a trailer-mounted security and surveillance system for security at large public events.

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