Hillsboro Council Members Sworn In

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Two for the price of one brought a higher level of attire than usual to the Hillsboro City Council meeting Tuesday evening, May 14, as the newly elected city council members were sworn in after the last meeting of the old city council was adjourned sine die (for an undetermined length of time) at 7:45 p.m..

Because the council members and the mayor were re-elected, only two items were on the agenda for the meeting when it reconvened. After the Pledge of Allegiance, Judge Jim Roberts swore in Mayor Brian Sullivan and Commissioners Don Downs, Katie Duncan, Michael Murphy, and Daniel Robbins. 

The second item, assigning council members to departmental commissioner duties, proved to be more contentious.

Downs, who served as commissioner of the water, sewer, and street departments during the last four year term, objected to a reorganization plan okayed by ordinance at a previous meeting which made streets and sidewalk part of public properties, which had been the Parks Department before.

Robbins was appointed Commissioner of Public Properties; Downs was named Commissioner of Public Utilities, Duncan Commissioner of Accounts and Finance, and Murphy Commissioner of Public Health and Safety by the mayor. The council then had to vote approval of these appointments.

Downs voted no; Duncan and Murphy voted present; and Robbins voted yes. To break the tie, Mayor Sullivan voted yes, but the two yes votes were short of the necessary majority. City attorney Kit Hantla and the mayor researched the Municipal Code to find the next step, a solution for a tense situation.

When they returned, Downs asked why the assignments couldn't remain as they had been, indicating he wanted to stay as the council person in charge of streets and sidewalks and citing progress the city had made in those areas.

The mayor said because of new EPA guidelines, the sewer plant needed major revamping; and he felt Downs would have the best perspective on changes that are to come. Downs became adamant that he preferred a position in which he could supervise street and sidewalk work, but Sullivan then said it was his job to appoint people to positions in which they would do the most good for the city, and that whoever received the most votes in the election or the personal wishes of the council was irrelevant although he noted Downs' objection.

Then each appointment was voted upon individually. Duncan's appointment to Accounts and Finances was approved 4-0. Murphy's appointment was three yes, with Downs voting present. Robbins and Murphy voted yes on Robbins appointment to Public Properties, with Downs voting no and Duncan present; he was affirmed when the mayor voted yes; and Downs voted no to his appointment, but the other members voted yes so his appointment stands.

Approved unanimously were the appointments of the following supervisors: Cory Davidson as city clerk; Bonnie Hefley as treasurer; Jan Jett as water clerk; Jim May as public property supervisor; Justin Chappelear as street supervisor; Randy Leetham as police chief; and Joe Lyerla as fire chief.

Kit Hantla remains as the city attorney and Hurst-Rosche was retained as city engineers. The motion to adjourn came at 8:16 p.m.

In the first meeting the council unanimously approved paying bills amounting to $390,796.23, with the only question, quickly settled, about the source of funds to pay for street work around the Red Rooster and improvements to parking lots. (The money comes from the Business District, not the MFT fund.)

An expense already budgeted was for the acquisition of two computers for the police department for $1,714 and to upgrade wireless service at city hall for $1,845.

Three potentially happy events were given approval. Bernard Huber, a resident of East Tremont, asked if the city would close that street from Rountree to Chase on Saturday, June 15, for a block party so neighbors can meet each other. Huber said an entertainer from Nashville, TN, will be on-site. Chief Leetham said Auxiliary Police would also be there in case an emergency would call for an ambulance to go down Tremont to the hospital. Huber anticipated the party to last from 1 p.m. until 8 or 9 p.m.

Tony Marcolini absentia asked permission to close the first block of West Wood Street occasionally so food trucks could service events at his new establishment, the Opera House on the corner of South Main and West Wood. The council didn't vote, and won't without specific times and dates, but there was an informal consensus that it could be done.

Holly Leetham asked permission to hold kayak races near the North Marina on Saturday, June 15. The races will be hosted by the Glenn Shoals Lake Club and will begin at noon; the council approved that request unanimously.

During the agenda segment devoted to Commissioner and Mayor reports, Robbins said that USDA personnel had completed required inspections of the mine silt basin, the Irving silt basin, and Glenn Shoals Lake. JLS Marine Company has started assembling the new slip additions at the South Marina.

He also reported that work continues concerning preparations for opening the pool at Central Park on May 26. The pool paint arrived on the day of the meeting, although it was ordered on April 30. Robbins said that late delivery "...will make opening the pool by the 26th a challenge," but he thinks it is still doable.

Murphy gave the police reports for February (nine criminal arrests, nine traffic citations, 380 logged activities), March (19 criminal arrests, 592 logged citations entered) and April (11 criminal arrests, six traffic arrests, and 405 logged activities). He also said the recently purchased dive truck has been outfitted and is ready to go.

He reiterated that it's the citizens job to take care of the boulevards between their property lines and the streets. "We can spend time and money doing it, but then we have to recoup the money by issuing fines. Property owners can either cooperate or pay."

He also said the city is taking applications for the police department hiring list. "We could have an almost complete turnover in the police department over the next four years," he warned.

Duncan is awaiting information from the various departments before she can construct the budget.

Downs asked people to keep their yards mowed, but, "Don't blow the grass clippings into the street. We've written tickets for that before, and we'll do it again, though we don't want to."

He thanked Imagine Hillsboro and the junior board of Hillsboro Area Hospital for cleanup activities around town last weekend. He said the street department continues cleaning ditches, culverts, and storm water grates and will do so as long as the area is subjected to heavy rains.

They are also using the new milling machine to cut the lips off city roads; that in turn helps water drain off the roads. In a bit of bad news, the city did not receive the Safe Routes to School Grant for which it had applied, so the MFT funds that were to be used to help fund that work will be reallocated.

Mayor Sullivan reminded the council and audience of the Atlas 46 American Made celebration scheduled for this Saturday, May 18. "A day of activities has been scheduled, and we have the potential of thousands of people coming to town, many for the first time. Please, help us put our best foot forward."

The council next meets on Tuesday, May 28, at 7 p.m. in city hall. Visitors are welcome as always.

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Susan Hucker

I am sorry to read Don Downs was removed from streets, sewers and sidewalks. During the last 4 years our sidewalks have been greatly improved by his willingness to walk the city’s sidewalks and replace the ones needed! Also, I have personally seen him along the roadside picking up trash and cutting down weeds! He cares enough about this community to spend his own personal time doing these things! I have a Great Solution, why doesn't Robbins take over the Pubic Utilities and Downs can take over Public Properties including streets, sewers and sidewalks! That way his good work can continue and the taxpaying citizens of Hillsboro who re-elected him for his dedication and job well done will actually get what they voted for!!!

Thursday, May 16