Hillsboro Council Adds $3 Fee To Water Meter

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Perhaps it was the pressure of a longer than usual agenda; perhaps it was the presence of a full house of spectators; for whatever reason Hillsboro's city council moved swiftly through their meeting on Tuesday evening, Aug. 27. The motion to adjourn came just prior to 8:30 p.m.

After a discussion about the need to add a water meter fee to the water bills of Hillsboro clients, the council voted 4-0 to charge $3 monthly for each meter in the city. Water and Sewer Department Commissioner Don Downs suggested a $5 fee per month; Mayor Brian Sullivan and council persons Dan Robbins and Katie Duncan felt that amount was too high.

The mayor offered justification for an increase, noting that the new meter system under implementation (it's major feature is that readings will be taken at city hall, which will allow for early detection of leaks if a resident is gone from the home for a long period of time without a monitoring service available) will cost the city .89 cents per meter per month to administer. 

By law, as city attorney Kit Hantla reminded the council, that must come from funds collected by the Water and Sewer Department.

Downs asserted the higher amount would provide a cushion when lead and galvanized pipes once installed as infrastructure under the streets have to be replaced. He said it's not wise to repair streets that have had mains (water and sewer) under them.

Robbins opined that $5 per month to someone living off a $600 per month social security check would be a hardship. Duncan said she knew the fee was necessary, but a $3 charge would provide $48,000 per year in revenue after the .89 cents was subtracted. Currant & Woodard representative Tim Ferguson said if the city needed a grant or bonds to someday work on the mains, having one source of a stable income (so much per meter) rather than income based solely on sales' volume, which can vary widely, would be beneficial.

The motion to charge a meter fee of $3 per month passed unanimously; it will probably be reflected on the October bill.

The council agreed to continue supplying neighboring Taylor Springs with water; a forty year agreement just expired. The new agreement will mirror the terms and conditions of the Schram City agreement, and will be in effect for the next 16 years, with a review every five years. That motion also passed 4-0. Also in Public Utility Department news, the council declared the Durango last driven by Brett Reynolds before his retirement and a generator to be surplus property available for purchase.

Anne Huber, an active member of Imagine Hillsboro, invited the council members and mayor to participate in the Reimagine Hillsboro dinner meeting to be held in the Cloud Room of Hillsboro Area Hospital on three Thursdays (Sept. 12, Sept. 26, and Oct. 3). Interim City Planner Jonathan Weyer reminded the group that those three meetings would be in conjunction with gathering information for the city's next five year comprehensive plan.

Facade grant checks were approved for work completed on the Unified Child Advocacy Center at 108 E. Wood Street for $1,015.23 and to Ryan and Lesley Hamby for facade work on the two entrances on the once Chances Building at 307 South Main Street. They were eligible for a $4,000 reimbursement.

Two bids were received for the recently cleaned lot at 682 Anna Street; Hillsboro Area Hospital submitted the winning bid of $2,750. The other bid from a neighbor was $500. The vote to sell the property to HAH was unanimous.

In a personnel move, Clay Murzynski was hired as an intern in the police department at $10 per hour; he will enter a police academy soon and upon completion will become a Hillsboro patrolman. He is scheduled to enter an academy on January 8; he replaces recent hire Tim Siverly, who resigned as of August 28.

A small step towards having a walking trail in Central Park was approved; because the park is technically in a flood zone, a hydraulic analysis has to be completed by professional engineers as a first step. The study of the highest likely water level will be undertaken by Hurst & Rosche engineers at a cost not to exceed $6,000. The end goal is to obtain a permit for constructing three walking bridges.

Nonspending motions included approving the rules brought to the council at the July 23 meeting by Nancy Slepicka for the dog park (PAWSBORO 620K9); Attorney Hantla had reviewed and approved the rules in the interim, so the council voted 4-0 to accept them. They will be posted at the park after it's finished. Another was approval of closing Main Street from Wood Street north for Imagine Hillsboro's Octoberfest Celebration on October 5, which will include Chalk of the Town activities.

Several purchases were approved, including a four foot panel to raise the town's Christmas tree another four feet ($4,211.20), ten new trash receptacles for Courthouse Square and Main Street ($9,069.23), 5" to 8" Largemouth Bass to maintain the fish population of both lakes ($8,000), purchase and installation of lighting and a meter base at the South Marina ($2,750 for contract with Lyerla Electric), and a heavy-duty picnic table and umbrella for the Central Park Pool ($1,161.23).

At least six pickleballers were present as spokesperson Mark Mathews answered questions about improvements to be made on Central Park's pickleball courts. The work, including materials for resurfacing and painting the courts and new standards and nets, all cost $13,252. Volunteers will provide most of the labor.

Streets' Supervisor Justin Chappelear explained the dilemma he and his crew face as they need to repair a storm drain on Gunning Street. An outlet pipe from the drain goes under the street, but until it is uncovered, no one knows where it goes or if further repairs are needed because it isn't visible. A box drain needs repaired too; the council approved a motion to spend a not-to-exceed $5,000 so repairs can begin.

A contract to repair and repaint the walls and ceilings of Challacombe House for a bid of $3,693.50 was awarded to Terry Richmond. Hillsboro Electric bid $10,925.74 to install a single phase service and run service to the Santa House and Lincoln Plaza; it will also allow for installation of new street lights at a later date.

During commissioners' reports to begin the meeting, Commissioner Robbins said sidewalk replacement on Summer Street had been delayed by rain, soft spots on Rountree in front of the junior high were dug out and replaced with CA7 mix, and brush pickup on alternate Tuesdays continued. Broken windows at the Central Park storage building have been boarded over.

The pool has been closed, with winterization beginning. Bush hogging at Glenn Shoals continues, prep work for more sidewalks at the Sports Complex continues, and a memorial bench for Bobby Noyes at the North Access Pavilion has been installed.

Public Safety Commissioner Mike Murphy read a list of 14 buildings around town that are within a time frame for abatement. Two are garages with doors needing repairs; one is a garage leaning badly; two are buildings with visible holes in their roofs; three were derelict vehicles which have been removed, and five involve demolition projects. The total of demolished buildings in the past five years will be 38.

He again reminded citizens who see unusual activity to call dispatch (532-6129), who will then send an officer to check the situation. He said the zoning board will meet tomorrow, Friday, Aug. 30, at 6 p.m. in city hall to discuss a zoning violation–allegedly a doublewide mobile home has been moved onto property on Parkside Street.

Commissioner Downs urged residents to view Hillsboro as, "our town–keep it clean. Mow the boulevard between your property and the street; it's the law, and it makes your property look better."

He reported that fifty of the new water meters had been ordered and the water bill software update is complete. Training of city hall staff is underway. A mobile hydrant flushing aid is now near the Dairy Queen. It helps water circulate in dead end systems where it tends to be dormant at times.

A low water pressure problem in one residence has been solved; galvanized pipe from the curb stop to the structure was nearly plugged by residue. The home owner had the pipe replaced and pressure was fine. Downs said those who have rust stains in toilets or tubs most likely have galvanized pipe lead-ins.

An algae bloom was present in the lake before the Aqua Run, almost cancelling the popular event. The bloom had been caused by excess rain runoff and the hot weather; according to Downs, the algae can harm fish population. Two large pumps at the plant are inoperable and are under scrutiny.

Downs also said the sewer lift stations around town are aging. They are equipped with lights that flash, so he asks citizens who see a flashing light to call dispatch so repairs can begin before basements suffer.

Jonathan Weyer supplied a community planner report. He, Park Superintendent Jim May, and the Natural Resources Committee are collaborating on plans "...to make Central Park a great place for our young families." According to Weyer, that's a key component to attracting families to Hillsboro.

Kaityln Fath is the new Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, and Weyer will work with her, the mayor, and Jo Ann May, the Illinois Metro East Small Business Development Center Director working out of the Small Business Development Center from SIUE meant to focus on local small businesses.

The council next meets on Tuesday, Sept. 10, at 7 p.m. in city hall.

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