By Adam Thorp
CLARKSVILLE – Gov. Mike Parson heard the same ask, again and again as he made his way through a nearly-swamped Clarksville Monday.
They wanted him to sign off on the provision in a bill passed this session by the Missouri House and Senate that they believe will keep this from happening again.
“We’re proud of our history, and what it means to the state,” Mayor Jo Anne Smiley told Parson during a round table of participants in Clarksville. “But we also know that we want to be part of the future.”
That means being independent when it comes to flood fighting, Smiley said—and the portable flood wall Clarksville is asking for would make that possible, allowing the nine people to put up a nine-foot wall around Clarksville in a day and a half.
H.B. 19, a grab-bag of appropriations, would cover $2 million of the $4 million project. The city plans to use that $2 million investment. Parson could choose to strike individual items in the bill, as past governors have just as the money seemed set to enter law.
Clarksville’s state legislators, Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin and Rep. Jim Hansen, made the financial case for the floodwall.
The state has already paid the cost of the floodwall, and could do so again, in response to Clarksville flooding, Hansen said. A permanent solution could save money in the long-term, he said.
O’Laughlin put the wall in the context of Clarksville’s value as a tourism attraction—a spot that could contribute to the state well beyond its small population.
“We’re hopeful that you can see our need, see what we’re going for, and agree with the decision of the House and the Senate to put a bill in front of you that will include money to get us started on this project,” Smiley said.
Parson praised the efforts of Clarksville’s defenders, and the response of people across the state to recent disasters—but remained non-committal on the question of the bill.
Parson examined segments of the proposed wall presented to him by Smiley and asked questions about how it would be paid for and used—asking, for instance, whether Clarksville could share the wall with flood-prone communities elsewhere in the state.
Parson arrived in Clarksville by helicopter from a tour of the flood-stricken parts of the region, and passed through the flood kitchen at the Clarksville United Methodist Church—where volunteers reiterated the importance of the flood wall—before he left.
It was part of a busy schedule Parson has had in the past few months, responding to natural disasters that have plagued the state.
“You maybe think, when you’re mayor or governor, that you have a little clout, a little ability. But let me tell you, mother nature has a much higher authority than you do.”
Parson also included a note of caution.
“I’m not sure we’re out of the woods yet. There’s another front coming in, and I’m not sure there’s not another crest,” Parson said.