Council Discusses Liquor Ordinance

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Three requests for payment from contractors were affirmed at the Hillsboro City Council meeting Tuesday evening, July 28. Stutz Excavating, the firm responsible for the work at the intersection of Summer and Rountree, was paid $178,183.99; according to city engineer Scott Hunt of Hurst-Rosche, the check covers work accomplished to this point; another payment, after the work is finished and verified, to cover striping, seeding, and the typical 10 per cent retention fee, will be made. 

Hunt anticipates that the striping will be done within a week.

The other requests were from Bill’s Home Improvement for work done under the Housing Urban Development grant; the first for $15,700, covered work done in the area labeled Hillsboro-2; the second was for $13,000 for work completed in Hillsboro-4.

Tabled for more research was an ordinance that would prohibit the sale of drive-through and curbside pickup of alcohol within city limits. The council had requested city attorney Kit Hantla write that ordinance during their July 14 meeting because of the governor’s executive order permitting those sales unless a city has a specific law in place to stop them. 

The executive order was intended to help small businesses stay open during the pandemic.

Opera House owner Tony Marcolini came to the meeting to ask for clarification of terms of the ordinance; Kendra Wright also voiced concern. 

Both wondered if the new law would prohibit use of an app to order with the product to be placed in the vehicle or delivered to homes as restaurants can do now. Hantla said he understood the intent to be preventing “grab and go” -- easy access and consumption -- not delivery to homes. Thus the language does need clarification before a vote is taken.

Ms. Wright was also there to deliver a request from the Natural Resources Committee, which she chairs. The committee asked the council to pursue changes in lake lot leases to better mirror the realities the city faces when decisions have to be made. Wright foresees having to turn to the city attorney for help in restructuring the framework, but the committee needed authorization from the council to do that because of the cost that could be involved. 

The council gave their approval while limiting attorney fees to $1,500.

Earlier in the meeting, during commissioners’ departmental reports, Parks Commissioner Daniel Robbins read a letter submitted by the NRC asking that the lakes and the watershed be given a higher priority by the city. 

Given that the natural resources are an attraction for visitors, the committee asked that workers help keep the South Marina and docks cleaner, that the lakes have more of a patrol presence, and that already existing lake lot rules be enforced.

The council filled two vacancies on that committee by appointing Bart Wetzel and Fred Butler to fill them.

The council asked Parks Superintendent Jim May for details about a request to repair damage to the stream back by the Wood Street Bridge (at the southern end of Central Park). May explained the bank had been damaged by water flow from a break in a nearby water main. Repairs will necessitate erosion blankets, installation of a culvert, and reseeding. The council approved spending an amount not to exceed $2,400.

Woodard & Curran representatives, with Tim Ferguson as spokesman, presented the firm’s annual report to the council as they ended their second year of supervising the water system of Hillsboro; they have also managed the waste water system for over a year.

One important highlight was the absence of any recordable accidents or lost time injuries. In addition, an arc flash assessment (used to identify possible problems in the electrical systems) in both plants was completed, and the outdated gas chlorine system at the sewer plant was replaced by a safer liquid hypochlorite system.

Water sales to wholesale users outside of Hillsboro increased almost 20 per cent over last year; most of the increase was through sales to the Montgomery County Rural Water District. 140 (now 200) water meters were replaced, making metering more accurate and efficient; and work has begun on a G1S system to utilize a cloud program.

The firm negotiated a four and a half year extension of phosphorus discharge limits with the IEPA on behalf of the city and developed and submitted a facility plan required by the IEPA. Also, a preliminary engineering report was submitted to the USDA for possible grant funding consideration when a new waste water plant is mandated.

The 2019-2020 budget estimate was $1.55 million; final costs were more than $15,000 under the estimate. Plans for the future include installation of more electronically-read meters; the development of a watershed management program; and other capital improvements. Woodard & Curran also provided their current rankings in Engineering News-Record; they are #70 (of 500) in designing and #51 (of 200) among environmental firms.

Bills for the Historical Society’s Harkey House and Blackmon-Evans House were paid for by income from rental of a residence behind the Harkey House. That property has been vacant and undergoing touch-ups since the last tenant moved, but May said it’s almost ready for rental again. The council approved advertising the house for rent.

They also unanimously approved a request from John and Renee Mueller to change their lot lease assignment to them as trustees of a revocable qualified spousal trust. Their lot is in Lakewood Estates.

Besides reading the NRC letter in commissioner’s reports, Robbins reported that the Public Properties crew kept busy mowing and weed-eating around town and at Glenn Shoals. A bush hog was used at the Irving Silt Basin, and tiling and other drainage work was completed in Central Park in hopes of decreasing the mosquito population there. Also at Central Park a 12” sanitary sewer main was repaired and a 2” water line was installed. Dirt was removed from the creek, and the basketball backboards and rims were reinstalled. Glass blown out of a window from the Corner Block Building onto the sidewalk during the July 15 storm had to be removed.

The Street Department helped fix the sewer line in Central Park, cleaned up storm damage, fixed a water leak on Douglas Street, and set forms for concrete work on Broad Street. This time no dead animal removals appeared in that report.

Public Safety Commissioner Michael Murphy reminded citizens to call the police, not him, if they see problems around the town. That way a record of the calls can be maintained. He also reminded property owners that it is their responsibility to mow and maintain their property from the curb to their rear property line. Later, after the city planner’s report, he told citizens that they need to do a better job in the future of holding city commissioners’, “...feet to the fire” so properties are not allowed to become derelict. “Insist the council do something,” he implored.

Mayor Katie Duncan said she’d fielded numerous calls from one resident lately concerning barking dogs, too much noise, etc.

Utilities Commissioner Don Downs said he and Ferguson had held a preliminary meeting with neighboring towns with whom Hillsboro has a water supply contract; he feels meters measuring those sales should be changed out too. It would benefit both the buyer and seller. He said potholing (to locate mains) needs to be done before the Huber Hill project can proceed, but that machine isn’t available at the moment (the city rents it).

Muddy water (caused by a break in a creek-side sewer main) is complicating work at the waste water plant, but Ferguson and crew are putting a management plan together.

Downs also had the only public comment of the meeting when he used that part of the agenda to speak to dog owners/walkers. “Hillsboro has a nice dog park, but too few people use it” (since it was reopened), he said. Instead, he sees evidence people are walking their dogs uptown or at Beckemeyer but not picking up the feces that their dogs leave behind. “It’s disgusting,” he said. He suggested that all dog owners be responsible enough to clean up after their pets. He also thanked “Whoever raised flags in town to full mast again for their thoughtfulness.”

Community and Economic Planner Jonathon Weyer gave the council people each a copy of the strategic plan he has prepared. He asked that members read it between now and their August 11 meeting when he hopes to receive preliminary approval and money to have it formatted by a graphic designer. After other mandated steps, including a public hearing, he will ask that the plan be formally adopted, hopefully at the October 27 meeting.

He also reported that the owner of the Corner Block Building (aka as Sherman’s) has requested a meeting with Commissioner Murphy, Code Officer Gary Satterlee, Attorney Hantla, City Clerk Cory Davidson, and Weyer on Thursday, July 30. At the moment, the owner is subject to weekly fines which can by law become daily. Weyer also said he may have people interested in developing the building, so he hopes, “...to connect the dots.” This meeting could be a first step.

Hunt, during the time allocated for the city engineer’s report, said the MFT program has been approved by IDOT. The spillway repair plan is 95% complete. The Rountree/Summer Street project is finished except for striping and seeding, and the Seward Street Bridge project is on hold. The easements for the Helston Place sewer project had to be sorted through, but that process is complete. Hunt had good news -- the existing main lies within the easements -- and bad news -- the easements need to be broader for the planned project.

The council next meets on Tuesday, Aug. 11, at 7 p.m. in city hall.

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