When Hillsboro's City Council met Tuesday, Nov. 26, Public Utilities Commissioner Don Downs brought Ordinance #17 to the table. Offering new, less confusing regulations concerning who is responsible for water line repair/replacement (in cases where lead and galvanized pipes were installed decades ago), the ordinance took several planning sessions for Downs and City Attorney Kit Hantla before the presentation. When issues became apparent this summer, local plumbers visited a city council meeting to express their concerns.
The new language passed by a 3-0 vote; Commissioner Mike Murphy wasn't present. Because it contains several sections, a more thorough article dedicated to the ordinance will be published soon, hopefully in the Thursday, Dec. 5 issue of The Journal-News.
Attorney Hantla was assigned another task–preparing a Request for Proposal (RFP) so the city can explore contracting with a lawn care company to do at least part of the mowing that consumes Parks Department time in the summer. Public Properties Commissioner Daniel Robbins said that arrangements could save the city money in the long run; Parks Department Supervisor Jim May, responding to a question from Mayor Brian Sullivan about the condition of the current fleet of mowers, said one-third of them are in good shape, another third are in need of repairs, and the final third are close to obsolete.
The RFP will specify which parcels of land would be the responsibility of the contractor, among other items; it would assure that bids cover the same items for each interested bidder. Once the RFP has been approved, the council can decide whether to ask for bids.
The council also approved amending the current animal control ordinance to abolish any reference about dogs running at large. Since the county built an animal control center and hired a warden to answer calls for dogs running at large (before that, such animals were taken to a local veterinarian to be held until the dog was either reclaimed by its owner or euthanized, and vets found the process too time consuming), the towns and the county signed a contract outlining fees and the chain of command.
When the county changed the rates for collecting critters in incorporated areas (the county by law has to provide animal control for areas not within a city's boundaries), some of the towns within the county rejected the changes. Those towns and the county has different interpretations of the statutes. The county feels that it is not responsible for bite cases, neglect cases, etc. , within a town that has an animal control procedure in place and thus won't respond to calls (especially those not within established working hours) from towns without a signed contract; Hillsboro's amended ordinance, according to Mayor Sullivan, means the county will have to respond and not charge for that response.
The mayor was granted permission to have the county put an advisory question on the ballot (whether for the primary or general election was not made clear) concerning the sale of cannabis in the city. A previous council decision allowed for such sales once the use of recreational marijuana becomes legal in Illinois, but Mayor Sullivan said after that vote a number of concerned citizens approached him to protest the action. He suggested the townspeople have a chance to vote on the issue.
When Commissioner Downs suggested a public meeting, the mayor said he didn't want to pit the pro sales people against those who oppose sales, which could polarize the town; but he does want to know how the voters feel. County Clerk Sandy Leitheiser told him the issue could be on the ballot, but she had to know by Dec. 30 because ballots will be printed soon thereafter. The vote was 3-0 to add the referendum to the ballot for Hillsboro residents only.
The annual tax levy to cover items like the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) and Social Security was approved; the $860,059 amount is $285 more than the last fiscal year levy. Finance Commissioner Katie Duncan stated the city is allowed a five percent raise each year without a Public Hearing; this increase is far less than that. Mayor Sullivan said the council has done its best to limit tax increases.
The cost of liability insurance purchased from ICRMT did increase 2.38% because of an increase in cyber security coverage. City Clerk Cory Davidson said Hillsboro needed more coverage because of the higher profile of the reconstructed website. Already hackers, most based in other counties, have attempted to garner information about local residents.
The final agenda item was the traditional cancellation of the second December meeting, this year scheduled for Dec. 24. Thus the last meeting of 2019 will be the next one on Tuesday, Dec. 10.
City official reports began the meeting. Robbins talked of winterizing the campgrounds, splitting wood for sale during the 2020 camping season, installing the snowflakes on the light poles on South Main (they were still up despite high winds the days after the meeting), and constructing the 12 foot Christmas tree in front of the courthouse.
The Street Department has their street sweeper back in action just in time to clean storm water grates around town (citizens are asked to help with that chore if a grate is obviously clogged near their residence). Sewer main work on Dunning Street was 95% complete as of late Tuesday afternoon, and water leaks remain a constant concern.
Duncan Reported for Public Safety Commissioner Murphy. Hillsboro Area Hospital has completed all but two OHSA required tests of fire department engineers and volunteers; those tests must be completed by Dec. 2.
Downs had praise for waste water department employee Danny Robinson, Jr., who cobbled together a method of shutting off a water line which had been accidently broken by workers cleaning up the recent fire scene. The shut-off value couldn't be found, and the basement of the burned-out building was filling with water. Robinson's solution prevented digging up at least one street and protected neighboring basements.
Mayor Sullivan said after the bid opening for the HUD Block Grant project (five houses in the Anna Street area have been selected by the grant director for rehabilitation according to federal guidelines), three contractors had been selected to do the work. He expects work to begin by early January. Mayor Sullivan also reminded the council and those in attendance of the Storybook Christmas coming to downtown Hillsboro on Dec. 5; he thanked Imagine Hillsboro for their volunteer work.
Interim Community Planner Jonathan Weyer said he is working with new restaurant options for Hillsboro, and he is optimistic but not ready for an announcement yet. At least two parties have expressed interest in leasing the restaurant at the South Marina for the 2020 boating season. He also talked of the CEDS process and the city's role in it; Barb Hewitt and Kendra Wright will attend a meeting to be held in Carlinville on Dec. 10 to seek and provide information for that document. Six counties are involved in compiling the five year plan with help from the University of Illinois.
Weyer also said the proposed Arts Committee has been formed.