Hillsboro Hires Police Officer, Dispatcher

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Hillsboro’s city council meeting Tuesday evening, Sept. 8, was busy as two men were hired, the once Eagle Zinc property was annexed, and a stack of bills were okayed for payment.

Hired as a policeman was an experienced young man with family in the community; Caleb Reynolds, a veteran of the Coast Guard who served as a police officer in the state of Washington, will replace Gary Satterlee on the force. Satterlee anticipates retiring this December; by then Reynolds’ paper work and additional firearms training will be completed. As Police Chief Randy Leetham said, Reynolds will be “ground ready” as Satterlee retires.

The other hire was Austin Furness, the son of Kyle and Tina Furness, who has been a volunteer firefighter for the past several years. Furness will become a dispatcher at the fire station when Charlie Goad retires; that is also expected to be in December.

The evening began with a mandated-for-annexation Public Hearing concerning the two parcels of the Eagle Zinc property. That meeting began at 6:45; the only question came from council member Don Downs, who asked why the trees north of the removed structures were still standing. City Clerk Cory Davidson said the trees and the land they cover were found not to be contaminated when the EPA Superfund crew took over, so the land wasn’t disturbed. The top soil used in restoration was hauled in from off-site. The hearing adjourned at 6:50; the motion to adopt the ordinance annexing the property was passed 4-0 during the regular council meeting. The address of the property, which the city hopes will become the site of light industry, is 218 Industrial Park Drive.

In financial matters, the council approved bills from August to be paid in September; that total was $481,486.89. In addition, the council agreed to pay Stutz Excavating their last payment (for $25,237.12) to cover work on the Rountree/Summer Street intersection. That check will be sent contingent upon engineering approval after small areas of the reseeded area are fixed. The second installment of a lease agreement with those who invested in the new South Marina Dock, totalling $26,400, was also approved. Representing the group of investors at the meeting, Kendra Wright had good news; the total number of payments before the city owns the addition has been reduced from eight to seven.

Hubbart Wood Carving will receive the last $2,000 of a $6,000 TIF grant as part of an agreement that they had to remain in business at the former Lessman Sales and Service site for three years. The three year target has been reached. Finally, Bill’s Home Improvement received two checks for work done in the HUD block grant project as home improvement continues in homes in the Anna Street area. One check, for work done on an area labeled Hillsboro 2, was for $13,075; the other, for Hillsboro 4, was $9,360.

Hurst-Rosche spokesman, Engineer Scott Hunt, explained several agenda items to the council. His firm will examine/inspect Shoal Creek structure #5 for $2,300. Hunt said that dam is upstream of Hillsboro so the state requires a report on its soundness every year. The other dams are  inspected on a three year cycle.

The Helston Place sanitary and storm water sewer systems continue to be a concern. Hunt said if the council wants to do it correctly, the expense will be considerable; Utilities Commissioner Don Downs said if it isn’t done right, it’ll be the same problem for future councils. Hunt said doing it right will require hauling in massive amounts of fill (there is a ravine involved), so much so that seeking grant help will be necessary.

An option, the one the council settled upon, is making the project “shovel-ready” – doing formal easement work and design work – before pursuing low interest loans and/or grants. Design alone will cost $49,000; the projects full cost, the do-it-right option, has a cost estimate of $530,000.

Two items on the agenda dealt with intergovernmental agreements with Montgomery County. One amended an already existing agreement concerning the Seward Street Bridge project. Illinois recently announced a major bridge funding program, but it gives grant help to projects costing over $1,000,000. The county applied for that grant, with the city and county to split costs above the million dollar threshold. The other item, requiring no action by the council, involves moving a fire hydrant at the new highway department building site. That was a request by County Highway Engineer Cody Greenwood; the city will move the hydrant as soon as possible.

Commissioner Downs asked for suggestions about changes to the ordinance requiring bonding and fixing streets and sidewalks broken up by plumbers to repair water and/or sewer mains. The ordinance had been discussed at a previous meeting with more research suggested. Streets Superintendent Justin Chappelear asked that the current standard of replacing the top six inches of dirt removed be changed to using a granular (gravel) backfill for the depth of the hole to prevent settling once the pavement is replaced. The bond for breaking up the street could be $1,000 with $500 required to break up a sidewalk, and the suggestion was made by Woodard & Curran’s Tim Ferguson to require the rebuild to be completed within ten working days. A consensus seemed to be that the Streets Superintendent has oversight rights of projects.

City attorney Kit Hantla recommended withdrawing the motion until all the suggestions could be incorporated into the ordinance, so the motion was withdrawn.

Two requests were voiced in the Public Comments section of the agenda. The first came from Ingrid Watkins of Litchfield, who perhaps had her question answered before she voiced it. She wanted permission to use Lincoln Plaza (across from the courthouse) for a community prayer service on Saturday, Sept. 26, from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The Building and Grounds Committee of the county had already granted use of the courthouse lawn for the same purpose on the same day, so she sought room to spread for Covid Rules compliance.

However, during earlier Commissioner Reports, Public Safety Commissioner Michael Murphy had strongly suggested the city establish a procedure by ordinance to be followed whenever a city facility was to be used for a public gathering. Without naming the specific past gathering on the plaza that had sparked his concern, Murphy said the city needed to approve of gatherings before they were held and that an ordinance was needed to formalize the process.

In another example, Police Chief Leetham said he’d been informally approached for permission to hold an unorganized drinking party in the cove on Lake Glenn Shoals during Labor Day weekend. He’d told the requester “No,” but he too feels there should be a process groups, organized or not, could use so the city can be aware of what’s happening on public property.

With those discussions in mind, and with Hantla’s direction, the council told Watkins she could not use the plaza as part of her plans, but she can use the courthouse lawn, which is not under the city’s jurisdiction.

Eric Bradley, accompanied by his wife Vicki and neighbor John Gibb, asked the council for help resolving a storm sewer problem in the 200 block of West Summer Street. There is no easement on record for the 24 inch clay tile storm sewer line, and Bradley would like to build a garage in his back yard; however, the tile is only two inches underground in places as it cuts diagonally across his back yard, leaving no room for a garage. In addition, two neighboring houses were reportedly built over the line. The sanitary sewer serving the area has not been located, so it could also be a factor.

Hantla said that type of situation isn’t uncommon in small towns. He suggested that the city locate the waste water main as a first step.

During the commissioner reports, Murphy had profuse praise for Journal-News reporter Tori O’Dell for the article concerning Monarch Park and the city’s handling of dilapidated property over the past five years. He added the city is now looking at a vacant house at 1021 East Tremont and another at 617 Lakeview for possible action.

As he talked about the ordinance he wants so the city will be informed of gatherings locally, he said its purpose would be to insure fairness for those who want to hold gatherings; Murphy said it “...would take the subjectivity away from approving gatherings within our city.” He said it’s necessary because “A culture which feels victimized ...” is affecting society.

Finance Commissioner Katie Duncan said the auditors have finished their work and would present their findings  at the Sept. 22 meeting.

Utilities Commissioner Downs said everyone knows about the apparent leak along Rt. 127 by the laundromat, but no one knows its source because it sometimes goes away, indicating it might be a spring. “We can’t just dig up a state highway,” he said.

In his role as Street Department Commissioner, Dan Robbins talked of the oil and chipping at the campground and Pinnacle Point. Summer Street has a new sidewalk (Robbins expressed dismay that the new work has been marred by initials and sweeping marks before it was cured). A water leak on Vawter Street was repaired; and, in the dead animal report, a squirrel was removed from Rountree Street pavement.

Highlights of Parks Department work include a new bench installed in the playground at the sports complex; nearly-completed dirt repairs to the stream bank at Central Park, with rip-rap yet to come; and the typical mowing and maintenance.

Planner Jonathan Weyer said he’d just been informed a new business is coming to town, but he couldn’t release details yet.

Besides his input to the agenda items, Hunt said the Huber Drive water main plans are in the design stage.

The council next meets on Tuesday, Sept. 22, at 7 p.m. in city hall; visitors are welcome to attend.

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