Hannibal hires special counsel for water lawsuit - WGEM.com: Quincy News, Weather, Sports, and Radio

Hannibal hires special counsel for water lawsuit

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Hannibal's water treatment plant. Hannibal's water treatment plant.
HANNIBAL, Mo. (WGEM) -

Hannibal City Council hired a Mexico, Missouri attorney to represent the city in its lawsuit with the Board of Public Works.

BPW says removing chloramines from Hannibal's water conflicts with state law, but since City Attorney James Lemon represents both the city and BPW, officials felt there was a conflict of interest.

They hired Lou Leonatti who's currently the city attorney in Mexico. BPW wants to extend a 90-day deadline to remove chloramines from the city's water. Mayor James Hark feels that's reasonable. 

"It's very important for us to get this behind us so we can move forward as a community," Hark said. "I still don't like to believe this is really a big conflict."

A hearing for the lawsuit is scheduled for this Friday at 3 p.m. BPW is seeking a temporary restraining order from the 90-day requirement to remove ammonia from the water, as approved by voters at the April election. They also want the ordinance declared invalid.

"The voters spoke," City Manager Jeff LaGarce said. "City council could easily pass an ordinance requiring ammonia to be removed from the drinking water and that's not subject to limitations on initiative petitions."

Kellie Cookson, founder of a group opposing chloramines, filed a petition with the court to intervene in the lawsuit. The group wants to represent the voice of Hannibal residents. She says the group has been involved in the process for two years and wants to continue fighting for safe clean water.

"It went in front of council and council voted on it," Cookson said. "So this 'unlawful' thing that they're saying about our petition falls back on the city either way. Proposition 1 and its co-founders did everything we were supposed to do from the beginning."

The lawsuit may not be drawn out. LaGarce feels this could be resolved on Friday. He says it's not a typical lawsuit. It's more of a clarification and ruling to see how the city and BPW should move forward.

Also at Hannibal City Council:

  • Councilmen approved selling the city's amphitheater to the Hannibal Jaycees for $100. 
  • Agreed to sign a new 10 year lease with General Mills to keep the business in America's Hometown.
  • Council had a first reading to appoint Bill Fisher to the Board of Public Works to replace an expiring term.
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