Hillsboro Discusses Aging Sewer Plant

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Jen Anders, an engineer for Woodard & Curran, had sobering news for the Hillsboro city council as they met Tuesday evening, May 28, in city hall. She talked about an upcoming wastewater plant permit renewal required by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) as the current permit will soon expire. Permits must be renewed every five years.

All new permits carry lower discharge standards for phosphorus which Hillsboro's current plant can't meet. In addition, the current plant's hydraulic capacity (the amount of incoming flow that it was designed to handle) is maxed out, which could mean the IEPA could put the plant on a restricted status. That in turn would mean no new homes or businesses could be added to the system. Anders also said the required reduction of ammonia in the current discharge will be hard to achieve in cold weather.

Anders said the current plant is antiquated and not adaptable to today's technology. A seven page handout used during her presentation stated the, "Aging Wastewater Treatment Plant's infrastructure (15) at the end of its useful life; the current treatment process was not set up for high level nutrient removal; (and) the plant is at capacity – which limits (the city's) ability to grow or bring in new industry."

Woodard & Curran has discussed the plant's problems with the IEPA, mitigating original demands from that agency which wanted the phosphorous levels at the desired level before a new permit would be issued. According to Anders, that would require additional chemicals, produce additional sludge and higher chemical costs while providing only a band-aid to a larger problem.

Woodard & Curran, on behalf of the city, proposed a "longer term compliance schedule" that solves all the wastewater plant's current problems and involves six steps; the first is a facility plan/alternative assessment that will take six months. Total time involved would be four to five years, and a major step is finding funding help, primarily from the USDA.

For the plans to go forward the council has to write a letter of its acceptance of the IEPA terms included in the negotiated agreement reached with the agency by Woodard & Curran; that letter was authorized by a 3-0 vote. (Commissioner Michael Murphy was absent.)

City Attorney Kit Hantla will provide a motion for an upcoming meeting that will authorize Woodard & Curran to proceed with facility plans and alternative assessments because that was not on Tuesday's agenda for action.

Tony Marcolini, one of the owner/operators of The Opera House, now a brewery/social gathering spot on the corner of South Main and East Wood Street, appeared to clarify a request he'd sent to the May 14th meeting. Marcolini asked permission to shut the block of East Wood from South Main to Berry Street occasionally this summer in order to bring in food trucks and trailers from Springfield and other areas. He said it would only be four or five times and that his staff would place and remove traffic barriers. Times would be from 2 p.m. to 10:30 or 11 p.m., and the city would be notified in advance. Police Chief Randy Leetham had no objections because it won't affect Main Street or Berry Street traffic; Marcolini said he just wants a safer alternative than parking the food options on Main Street. The council voted 3-0 to grant permission.

The annual request to the Illinois Department of Transportation to shut down IL Rt. 127/West Rt. 16 for the Thursday night (Aug. 8) Old Settlers Parade was also approved unanimously.

After a closed session to discuss personnel matters, three motions were passed. The first was to hire Adam Fath as a full-time policeman pending Labor Dept. agreement. The second was to terminate Mike Cerutti's contract with the city; Cerutti had been contracted to be groundskeeper at the Sports Complex. The third was to make Cerutti a part-time city employee (limited to 999 hours annually) at $15 per hour.

Before the council went to executive session, Councilman Don Downs initated a discussion about the chain of command to be followed when a citizen has a complaint. According to Downs, a town resident will approach the mayor at his place of business; the mayor then contacts the city employee in charge of the affected department with the commissioner left out of the loop. Downs said when he was street commissioner, employees under his charge did work he knew nothing about.

The mayor apologized for one incident when that did happen, saying it was never his intention to step over or on anyone's authority. He did say commissioners aren't always readily available when a complaint needs attention.

The mayor said he'd try to honor the chain of command more in the future if the council people would do the same. All agreed the future of the city is the most important concern. "We try to do the right thing, not undermine anyone."

Councilman Daniel Roberts began the Commissioners' Reports. The rain has made it difficult to keep up with mowing around town. JLS Marine is assembling the new slip addition at the South Marina, and work has been done at the Firemen's Clubhouse (decorations stuck to the walls made repairs necessary) and at the Challacombe House.

Royell has installed the tower at the Firemen's Clubhouse and the Wi-Fi upgrade at the marina, and the no-wake status because of high water on Glenn Shoals has been removed. The campground hosts tendered their resignation effective June 15. Work continues on Central Park pool for its opening.

The Streets Department fixed two water leaks, jetted culverts, picked up brush and cleaned grates.

Mayor Sullivan expressed thanks to Murphy for filling in for him to welcome those attending the Memorial Day ceremonies on Monday, May 27.

Finance Commissioner Katie Duncan expressed frustration with her fellow council members. Although she asked for their budget estimates four weeks ago, she has not received any thus far. She threatened to put the budget together by herself, leaving the rest of them out of luck if they didn't receive what they needed.

The only public comment came from Chief Leetham, who wanted Duncan to know he'd turned his budget worksheet in to Murphy (the Public Safety Commissioner) two weeks ago.

The meeting adjourned at 8:05 p.m. The next one will begin at 7 p.m. on June 11 in city hall. 

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