Hillsboro Council Discusses New Sewer Plant

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Hillsboro’s city council began steps to build a new sewer processing facility by adopting an ordinance to authorize issuing general bonds to finance initial costs associated with the project. The resolution approved a bond principal not to exceed $3,000,000. According to City Attorney Kit Hantla, the next step is to hold a public meeting, now scheduled for 6:45 p.m. on Tuesday, April 27 (the date of the next city council meeting); a motion to issue the bonds is expected during the regular council meeting that night. Refer to the Public Notice on Page 5B.

Council members in chambers (Daniel Robbins and Don Downs) voiced concern about the projected total cost of the project, reported to be 35 or 36 million dollars. Contrast that to the water plant, which cost about 11 million when it was constructed. The design phase is to begin in May.

In her role as Finance Commissioner, Katie Duncan presented March bills payable in April for $383,403.81; the amount was reduced by $3,800 because a bill payable in May was accidentally submitted before the council had approved the expenditure. That approval came later on the evening’s agenda. After clarification, approval to pay the bills was unanimous. Duncan, who also serves as temporary mayor, and Public Safety Commissioner Mike Murphy, attended by Zoom.

The $3,800 was the cost to repair the Fire Department’s burn building (used for training purposes) which is located on Fillmore Trail; the work was done by R-Machining, Inc., of Butler. Another Fire Department expenditure went to Mac’s Fire and Safety Equipment of Litchfield ($1,700 for a gate valve; $8,500 for fire hose, which will replace older cloth hose; and $900 for three smaller gate valves). The $11,000 total had been budgeted.

The Utilities Department received approval to buy a three horsepower pump from Illinois Electric Works, Granite City, for $4,794 to replace the problematic pump on City Lake Road, and three two-horsepower Meyers Grinder Pumps for $2,242.50 each from the same company. Commissioner Downs and Woodard & Curran representative Tim Ferguson said the present City Lake Road pump would cost more to rebuild than replace, and the smaller pumps will be reserves used to replace pumps at other stations while they are rebuilt. Usually the department has two or three pumps in reserve, but that supply has been deleted.

The water tower needs some attention too, and that will begin with an inspection of the exterior and interior of the tank. The last inspection was four years ago, and Downs feels an inspection now may prevent bigger problems later; Coating Inspection Services will do the job for $2,400.

Police Chief Randy Leetham gained approval to purchase a Panasonic Toughbook FZ-G1 and a two-year extended warranty with IT Services “for Installation and Configuration,” so that all squad vehicles will have mobile data terminals. The purchase means the Hillsboro Police Department can take better advantage of the county-wide Motorola Flex Program. The total cost to the city is $3,288, but Leetham intends to use money from the Rural Fund to defray costs.

Nic Ondrey, Cooper Holcomb, and Zane Duff were employed to help maintain the playing fields at the sports complex this summer; three or four other individuals will soon be hired to work in the concession stand during softball and baseball games.

Commissioner Robbins was given permission to advertise for a pool manager at Central Park; the lady who intended to take the job will instead work for the school district this summer. The city is proceeding with the assumption that COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted sometime this summer, allowing the pool to open. 

As acting mayor Duncan suggested changing the hours that employees will be in city hall (whether it is open to the public or not) from 8 until 4:30 with an hour for lunch to 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. with half an hour for lunch, beginning Monday, April 19. City Clerk Cory Davidson said no one used the services at city hall after 4 p.m., so the change will have little effect on city services.

A facade reimbursement grant for Sheldon and Sons, LLC, for work on a building at 213 S. Main Street was approved. Receipts presented with the request totaled $670.03 and labor costs of $2,355 were claimed, so the total for the project was $3,025.03. The city’s share approved Tuesday was $1,512.52.

Also approved was a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) Grant to the same firm. Moran Economic Development reviewed the grant request and found $11,221.54 of material expenses to be eligible for TIF or Business District Funds. The project is to prevent collapse of a brick wall at the back (east side) of the building.

Zoning and Code Enforcement Officer Michael Lee brought two issues to the council, both of which were approved by Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman Gene Knisley. The first was for a Special Use Permit request made by Sean and Kayla Brauer who plan to establish a drive-through coffee shop at 917 South Main Street (between the Masonic Lodge and Mary Brown’s Insurance Agency). The area is zoned Business 2, but the Brauers will operate from a portable building, so a special use permit is needed according to the current zoning code. The Brauers have agreed to build a privacy fence across the back of the property to separate it from the residential area to its east.

The other request came from Caleb Reynolds through Officer Lee. The Reynolds family owns the property at 1700 Klar Avenue, which is zoned Industrial 1 and was the site of Mutchler Contracting. The Reynolds have started a greenhouse and want to make further improvements to the once-abandoned buildings which are east of the Union Pacific Railroad tracks. He would also like to raise goats for meat and milk, but to do so the property needs to be rezoned to Agricultural, which is the current designation for the land east of Klar Avenue.

Commissioner Robbins moved to approve a grant writing class for Community Planner Jonathan Weyer. Provided on-line by the University of Georgia, the cost to the city is $899, which is a bit cheaper than a grant writing course offered by Lincoln Land. All motions during the meeting were passed unanimously.

As has become procedure, Commissioner Robbins began the Commissioners’ Reports segment. The Street Department kept busy repairing fire hydrants, grinding stumps, and trimming branches that were overhanging streets. The street sweeper was also in operation in preparation for last Saturday’s brief downpour. They were also dispatched to pick up an illegal dump that occurred along Ashmore Trail. Robbins asked people to not dump junk in ditches. (City cleanup week, during which junk can be hauled to legal dumpsters at the city shed, begins Tuesday, May 4.)

The Parks Department continues mowing public properties. Robbins reported that most campers have moved in at Sherwood Forest Campground, but four sites remain available for the 2021 camping season. The restrooms at both lakes are open, and playground mulch has been installed at Central Park and the campground. Pool paint has been received; the plumbing for the restrooms at Central Park is complete, as is the stocking of fish at Glenn Shoals and at the under 16 fishing pond.

Temporary Mayor Duncan and Commissioner Downs (the mayor elect) both attended the Bicentennial Celebration in the courthouse on Saturday, April 10; both thought it went well. As treasurer, Duncan asked that department heads and commissioners e-mail her their budget priorities for the next fiscal year.

Utilities Commissioner Downs said new water meter installation continues. He also said if homeowners plan to update pipes from the curb stop/meter pit to their house to be rid of iron or galvanized pipe, the city will try to do the city’s side at the same time, but city hall has to be notified in advance. Petersburg Plumbing sent a specialized water jet-equipped truck to Hillsboro in late March to deal with problem roots on Jefferson Street. While here, they also hit other trouble spots, including one on Summer Street from which city workers had extracted five or six buckets of grease. Downs said the water jet blasted all blockage into tiny bits so that the affected mains flowed freely. The cost for services was $1,920.

Downs reported that issues with lift pumps continue, and he asked citizens to call dispatchers if they see a flashing (trouble) light at a lift station. He also asked again that residents not flush materials that can harm a pump; recently a zipper was found in a pump. He thanked Jan Jett for her services to the city as she has retired. He also reminded users of city water and sewer that bills are always due on the 15th of the month, even if the bill is lost in the mail. “We mail them around the first, so call us to see what you owe if you don’t receive the bill.”

Public Safety Commissioner Murphy reported that the fire department’s ladder truck not only passed its required state inspection but also drew praise from the inspector for its condition. He congratulated Jerry Gregory, Bill Gonzalez, and Kenny Moore upon their retirements while thanking them for their services. Murphy also said that more travelers would drive through town now that spring is close, so he emphasized how important it is to keep premises tidy.

City engineer Jeremy Connor confirmed that MFT program bids will be due soon. A group of homeowners and engineers met about the Helston Place Sewer Project, and opinions at that meeting have sent the engineers (from Hurst-Rosche) “... back to the drawing boards.” He estimated a preliminary plan would be ready in a week or so.

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