Hillsboro Looks At Infrastructure

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Much of the business conducted at the Feb. 11 Hillsboro City Council meeting dealt with infrastructure planning. As Mayor Brian Sullivan said, “Plans are approved in the winter so work can be accomplished in the summer.” All commissioners were present for the meeting.

The first infrastructural item on the agenda was a discussion about the process to replace the Seward Street Bridge. Montgomery County has to okay paying 50 percent of project costs once the county’s Road and Bridge Committee acts on the town’s request. The council voted 4-0 to send the request and the necessary paperwork to that committee so the process can begin. The estimated total cost is $940,000, so the city’s share would be $470,000.

Hurst-Rosche Engineers submitted a proposal for $11,800 to survey the property, the topography, and the elevations needed to bid out state-mandated repairs to the concrete spillway of the older lake. That work would cover all of what is hoped-to-be a four year project. Also included was a proposal not to exceed $4,600 to administer and observe the first year of the construction process. After discussion the proposal was accepted unanimously. Both motions were presented by Commissioner Daniel Robbins.

Public Utilities Commissioner Don Downs introduced a Hurst-Rosche Topographic Sanitary Sewer Survey proposal for potential sewer main work behind properties on Helston Place. According to engineer Scott Hunt, existing recorded easements have been provided by Spears Title Company. The need now is for a baseline to include a study to see which easements need to be widened, the depth to which a new main needs to be installed, elevation studies, and other information necessary before a bidding process can begin. The project has been needed for over a decade, and Hunt stated if undertaken with today’s technology, the main would be marked with GIS co-ordinates. The council approved having Hurst-Rosche do needed preliminary work for $9,400.

The city and Hurst-Rosche entered into a Construction Engineering Service Agreement so the firm can help administer the 2020 Motor Fuel Tax (MFT) fund; the not to exceed cost is $19,400. One of this summer’s MFT fund projects is the Rountree/Summer Street intersection near the junior high. Also approved 4-0 was a revision of the MFT program because the Illinois Dept. of Transportation (IDOT) changed the required method of bidding in December of 2019, so the agreement approved before that had to be rescinded and the revised motion passed.

Robbins next moved to spend $3,840 so that the Illinois Department of Natural Resources will review the city’s application for the permit to build walking bridges in Central Park. If the applications merit IDNR approval, those bridges are a step closer to construction. All motions passed Tuesday night were unanimous. 

Finance Commissioner Katie Duncan presented bills totalling $378,883.39 for approval; that was given. Reimbursement to Jake Weiss for concrete to replace a sidewalk at 415 Franklin Street was approved per the city’s policy to pay for concrete if the homeowner pays for labor. The total invoice for concrete delivered to the site was $1,615.37; the council approved paying $1,492.75, which is the invoice amount minus sales tax.

Given more discussion was the administration’s request to reimburse Ben Cunningham (801 Jefferson Street) for damage caused by raw sewage backup in his basement. The Cunninghams were on a 10 day vacation; when they returned, sewage was in the basement. It wasn’t theirs since they hadn’t been home. Advanced Carpet Cleaning removed the mess at a cost of $1,650.

Downs said he hadn’t seen any evidence that the city was at fault, so he thought it unjust that the bill came to the city. Duncan said she didn’t want to set a precedent; if the city paid to clean that mess, other citizens might expect the same.

The mayor cited a difference between the Cunningham claim and others, though. He said a past employee had reported roots invading a sewer main, but had been told not to bother with it by his immediate supervisor. Downs said tree roots in mains were common across the city, but Sullivan said the tree wasn’t on Cunningham’s property, so he felt it was the city’s liability. When the vote was called, the council agreed 4-0 to the reimbursement.

The meeting concluded with a discussion about water main projects on Huber Drive and also on the Fairground/Summer Street loop. Duncan questioned where the money would come from for any additional projects, including one (the need for a newer sewer plant) that wasn’t mentioned during other agenda discussions earlier in the meeting. After lengthy talk, the mayor said Huber Drive should become a priority since it had been in mind since at least 2018. The Summer Street work will cost at least $700,000, so a major grant would be required. Both the mayor and city planner Jonathan Weyer expressed hopes that more state grant opportunities may be on the horizon.

Weyer’s report to the council was succinct. The E-commerce seminar was judged to be a success. Work on the Hardcore Hammer and Atlas 46 storefront is ongoing, but no timeline for completion is set. The rough draft of the city’s strategic plan should be to the council by March.

Commissioner Robbins said work at the South Marina continues. The new manhole on Jefferson Street is a work in progress. Brush has been cut and burned as weather allows, and Robbins has personally met with “several” mowing contractors to answer questions and discuss options. The city is still interviewing candidates for the campground manager position and needs applicants for the 2020 pool manager and lifeguard jobs.

The street department picked up a newly purchased leaf vacuum from Dixon, IL, and Punxsutawney Phil (or at least a relative of his) had to have his carcass removed from Seward Street.

Public Safety Commissioner Mike Murphy said that Police Department case reports from 2019 are available at city hall (they will be highlighted in The Journal-News soon), and he asked that people call police dispatch when they see strange people or strange activities (looking through trash, shouting obscenities) in their neighborhoods.

Duncan said the 2020-2021 budgeting process is about to begin.

Downs reported the repair of a water leak in front of Dollar General. He also said the process of installing new water meters is continuing – and that water revenues are up as a result. Lift station repairs continue.

Mayor Sullivan both thanked and congratulated those responsible for free wifi in downtown Hillsboro.

The council next meets in regular session on Tuesday, February 25, at 7 p.m. in city hall.

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