Hillsboro Council Discusses Events

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It was a relatively long evening for Hillsboro’s city council Tuesday, March 9, primarily because of a lengthy closed session regarding potential discipline of a city employee. The results of that meeting will be released to the public after the affected party has been notified.

Two items on the agenda regarding the agreement with Woodard & Curran concerning the government mandated Public Water System Risk and Resilience Assessment (RRA) were tabled because a meeting to further discuss the agreement is scheduled for tomorrow, Friday, March 12, according to Utilities Commissioner Don Downs. He requested the items be tabled, and the vote to do so was 4-0.

Finance Commissioner Katie Duncan presented bills to be paid totalling 399,023.09; again council approval was unanimous.

Public Safety Commissioner Michael Murphy was the primary opponent for two motions that were discussed at length. Murphy asked City Attorney Kit Hantla to explain the legal liability the city would entail if they permitted unmasked gatherings on public property while COVID-19 restrictions are still in place. The question referenced a request to use the Lincoln Plaza for the customary Farmers’ Market in the soon-to-be here summer and another request to close a portion of South Main Street for the county’s Bicentennial Celebration Scheduled for April 10.

Hantla said that while the council needs to encourage civic events and gatherings, they need to follow guidelines now in place to limit exposure to COVID-19; any agreement between the city and the applicants (Imagine Hillsboro and the county’s Bicentennial Committee) has to be contingent upon the groups following whatever guidelines are in place at the time of the event.

Duncan suggested a loose agreement, basically saying, “Okay, if...” Hantla said it was hard to give legal advice now about such a fluid situation. Murphy advised, “It’s better to be safe than sorry.” The council voted 4-0 to move forward to tentatively see if the situation changes with the Farmer’s Market, which wants to be on the Plaza June 5 and 19, July 3 and 17, August 7 and 21, and September 4 and 18.

When the Bicentennial request was discussed, Murphy expressed fear of sponsoring a super spreader in the midst of a global pandemic. “We can’t allow city assets to be used for mass gatherings.” 

Duncan reminded the group that the event, cancelled in February when the temperature turned uncomfortably cold, hadn’t called for closing the streets then. The request will be reconsidered at a later meeting.

The council was hopeful restrictions will be lifted soon as they took two other actions – they voted to spend $3,199.95 on paint for the city pool to ready it for summer use and to spend $10,000 for fireworks to be used on July 4. Sherwin Williams Company will sell the paint, and the fireworks come from Extreme Pyrotechnics, LLC. 

Duncan asked what would happen if the Fourth of July celebration is cancelled because of the pandemic, as it was in 2020; she was told the money could be applied to 2022 purchases. The council did approve a request from Mike Kupinski to have a fireworks display on his lake lot on Pinnacle Point on Saturday, June 19; it is viewed from boats on the lake, so no social distancing requirements need to be enforced. A lease agreement with Ryan Turner for the restaurant at the South Marina was approved; Turner held the lease in 2020 as well.

Two other items on the agenda brought forth lots of discussion but only tentative plans. The person who has cleaned the Challacombe House and the Fireman’s Clubhouse after rental events will no longer provide that service, so Parks and Public Properties Commissioner Daniel Robbins asked permission to either advertise the job or ask for bids. Duncan felt it would be better to have his department assign someone to do the work as a money saving move. Without bids, it’s hard to know which strategy would be most cost effective. Hantla reminded the group that they could solicit bids but not accept any of them if they were deemed too high. The matter was tabled to allow for more investigation.

Robbins also presented a possible problem looming at the Sports Complex. Matt Lentz as a member of and then more recently as president of the Hillsboro Sports Association has served as unpaid administrator of the complex for ten plus years. That’s been a 20 hour per week, ten months a year job, and he feels he’s served his time. He’s willing to mentor a replacement, but one has to be found.

Robbins proposed the city take over management of the facility (baseball and softball fields, soccer pitches, tennis courts, and concession stands) and hire an administrator. After much discussion (involving cost, time management, help from/cooperation with the school district), council agreed to advertise for an administrator to see who/what is available.

Duncan thinks the city has to do something to keep the complex operational. Downs remembered when a higher percentage of kids played ball; be feels travel teams have harmed local interest and wants local teams to be revived (The town had three Pony League teams playing in a league with teams from Panama, Coffeen, Nokomis, and Witt in the 80s - the league no longer exists, no Pony League team plays, nor is there Legion ball available in the area). Downs also volunteered at the Complex for many summers. Murphy wanted assurance the school district would be involved.

Robbins began the meeting’s departmental reports by saying drainage work continued on the west side of the Central Park building, whose downspout water is now routed to the creek. The boom mower was used to prevent briars and bush honeysuckle from invading the parks. One of the four main breaker panels at the campground needs replaced; Mondin Electric will do the work, and Robbins has begun budget prep work as requested by Ms. Duncan.

The Street Department crew repaired a water main at Oak and Hickory Streets, a curb stop at 532 S. Main, and curb boxes on Ridgeway and Park Streets. A fire hydrant was repaired on Vandalia Street, and Lyerla Electric repaired the stoplight controlling traffic at the intersection of Vandalia Rd. with Fairground.

Murphy said two citizens who remodeled a house on Rountree were happy with the cooperation they received from the dispatcher and the police when they called in a complaint. He also referred to the ordinance that requires citizens to retrieve their trash receptacles from curbside as soon as possible after the trash man comes. He also gave a shout-out to the county Health Department for the work in administering the virus vaccine, and he encouraged townspeople to be vaccinated as soon as possible so the town can achieve herd immunity.

Acting Mayor/Finance Commissioner Duncan said the budget planning packets were out, so the budget process can begin. She also thinks it’s about time to open city hall and to transition back to holding council meetings in city hall rather than by Zoom.

Utility Commissioner Downs said the last group of water meters in this year’s budget is on order; that process will continue next year. Each new meter installed means more revenue for the city because the estimated totals were too low. He spoke again of the continuing problems with lift stations trying to process wipes flushed down toilets; he said repair crews have discovered industrial-sized wipes clogging one station and, “That practice has to stop.” He finished by asking all townspeople to practice safe behavior - “Wear masks, social distance” - because of personal experience; both he and his wife are under quarantine because they’ve had COVID-19, and it’s treated him roughly.

City Planner Jonathan Weyer said State Senator Turner cancelled her scheduled visit to Hillsboro on March 2 because of a family emergency, but she will come here when she can. 

As a member of the American Planner’s Association, he will participate in a panel discussion about the growth of small communities sponsored by the Illinois Chapter of the APA. Also, the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation has asked him to serve on their board.

The council next regular meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 23, at 7 p.m.

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