HANNIBAL, Mo. — Two Hannibal teens were left with minor injuries last week after the sidewalk they were walking on collapsed beneath them.
According to William Billings, the father of one of the girls, the collapse occurred Feb. 2 adjacent to Union Street on the city's South Side, near the former Stowell School playground and the Southside Baptist Church.
Billings said that while one of the girls wound up in the hole, she shoved her companion to keep her from also falling in.
Mathew Munzlinger, interim general manager of the Hannibal Board of Public Works, was thankful neither of the girls sustained serious injuries.
"I do not like to see instances such as this where a member of our community could've been injured, or worse. Public safety is a top priority of ours. Unfortunately with Hannibal's aging infrastructure, situations like this may occur," he said.
Munzlinger said it appeared that the failure occurred where a street inlet connected to the storm sewer. He added that was the first such occurrence in that particular area that he is aware of.
As of Tuesday morning, Munzlinger was unsure what repairs, if any, the HBPW would be undertaking at that site.
"It is too early to tell as we have not been able to fully inspect the damage," he said.
The incident left Billings concerned.
"The tunnels crisscross all over the South Side," he wrote in an email to the Courier-Post. "If two girls walking can fall through, what about the vehicle traffic?
"This problem is getting worse daily with no one doing anything to help. When and who last inspected the tunnels? What is the city going to do to fix this problem? This is going on all over town."
Munzlinger acknowledged that Sunday's collapse was not an isolated event.
"This failure is similar to storm sewer failures in other portions of town, where a laid up rock storm sewer has failed, resulting in a hole showing up on the surface," he said.
A dedicated funding source to fix such problems does not exist.
"Historically, there has not been a funding mechanism for the maintenance of the storm-water system within the city," Munzlinger said. "This is a problem many cities throughout the country are facing, not only Hannibal."
Munzlinger noted that in 2017 the HBPW began working to develop a funding mechanism to fix failures, such as the one that occurred Sunday, and perform maintenance in an effort to prevent large failures.
"The necessary proposition to institute the funding was defeated in the April 2019 election. However, we received constructive feedback last year during our outreach activities, and have continued to work with our consultant to further develop the storm-water utility. The plan is for another proposition to be placed on the ballot in November 2020," he said.