Hillsboro Swears In First Female Mayor

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The transition of leadership in Hillsboro seemed rather seamless during the Hillsboro City Council meeting Tuesday evening, June 23, as Mayor Brian Sullivan exchanged gavels with his mayor pro tem Katie Duncan. Before Sullivan read his letter of resignation, he recommended Duncan be his replacement.

Currently Finance Commissioner, Duncan said she would be willing to serve as mayor until the next city election in April of 2021 if a financial accommodation could be reached; she felt extra work should mean extra pay.

City Attorney Kit Hantla reminded the council of a state statue which forbids elected officials from receiving a pay raise once an election is over, which precluded Duncan from receiving both a commissioner’s salary ($3,500 annually) and the mayor’s salary ($7,000). As a compromise, Duncan will receive the mayor’s salary (prorated until April) when voters will decide who the next mayor will be.

With that understanding, Duncan was appointed interim mayor, thus becoming the first female mayor in Hillsboro history. As interim, she has no veto power. The amendment to give Duncan the mayor’s salary met no opposition; the next action was to accept Duncan as interim mayor. It was also accepted unanimously, with Duncan abstaining.

Sullivan then read his letter of resignation; the council accepted that letter unanimously as well. (The letter was printed on the front page of the Monday, June 22, issue of The Journal-News.) The council and those gathered in the room gave Sullivan a round of applause for his five years of service.

Before the matters of naming an interim mayor and accepting the former mayor’s resignation, five other action items came to the council table. The first dealt with a request from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to submit a letter of intent to share costs connected to improving the stoplights and ADA improvements to crosswalks at the intersection of Rt. 16 and 127. Bid-letting will be soon; the estimated cost to the city would be $23,000. 

The vote was 4-0 to agree to the request.

The second dealt with what Utilities Commissioner Don Downs described as “a mess” and City Engineer Scott Hunt labeled “a spaghetti bowl of mains and pipes” that crews encountered after beginning work on the intersection of Rountree and Summer Streets north of the junior high. 

Downs said no one knew of the mish-mash of water mains, one-inch feeder pipes off the water mains, some of which were active and some of which were not, sewer mains, fiber lines, and storm drains that lay uncharted but intermingled beneath the surface of the street.

Downs, Hunt, and Streets Commissioner Daniel Robbins had praise for the street crew and the utility department workers who have been involved with untangling the mess. Two companies expert in such situations were called in to help – Loelke Company and Earhart and Company (both from the Metro-East Area) brought specialized elbows and other connections and went above and beyond expectations to restore service to the area. According to Downs, the original opening of the pavement was to lower the existing water main crossing Rountree and to install line stops to enable shutting the water off when repairs were needed.

Still remaining is a question of the disposition of the storm sewer line. According to Hunt, two options exist, one of which is to run it above the water main with PCV pipe replacing the older clay tile. The other is to eliminate it altogether, depending on gravity flow across the intersection aided by grade (fall). While cheaper, that option could lead to icing in the winter. The council approved funding not to exceed $25,000 to complete the work.

Downs thanked all who have been involved at the site for their efforts; dirt movement was still in progress at 8 p.m. Tuesday evening. He also asked residents who were affected by the service interruption or the traffic reroute to have patience for workers who were doing their best. He was particularly irate about facebook postings criticizing those involved.

Robbins reported that due to the long hours the project had required, brush and yard waste pickup would be delayed this week.

The other two items were more routine. Approval was given to city resident Randy Rieke to organize a fun run to benefit the Montgomery County Cancer Association on Saturday, Aug. 1. The run traditionally kicks off Old Settlers Week, and it will be held this year, with a staggered start aiding social distancing requirements, even though there will be no Old Settlers. That vote was 4-0

So was the vote to approve a $1,879.50 facade grant for a new awning on a building owned by John Dalpozzo at 300 South Main Street (John’s Medical Pharmacy). The grant covers 50% of the cost.

Pulled from the agenda was an intergovernmental agreement with the county and the state for a new bridge on Seward Street by the old ice plant (now the home of Marcolini Construction). Hunt said cost estimates had grown to over $1,000,000, which could make it elegible for an 80%-20% grant (the city and county would split the 20%) if IDOT opens that program. The city’s share would come from Motor Fuel Tax funds; the delay in signing the agreement won’t hurt but might help the city.

During commissioner reports, Robbins told of mowing and weed spraying activities in parks and public properties; he reminded the audience that the South Marina Restaurant is now open Thursday through Sunday. His departments are working to decrease the mosquito problem in Central Park by improving drainage, using weep tile where a spring seems to exist. The annual USDA/NCRS dam inspections to the mine and silt basins as well as Glenn Shoals dam have been completed.

The lake lots that weren’t renewed were reviewed so that deposits can be refunded to those who left the lots in good shape.

Public Safety Commissioner Michael Murphy reminded residents that potential business owners will be in town, so he asked that private properties be well-maintained to add to the good impression visitors have of the town.

As Finance Commissioner Duncan said the next budget was all but finished (some information from the water and sewer department was still needed). “Don’t spend” were the last words in her oral report.

Downs talked of the events at Rountree and Summer; he also said the five year water contracts with E.J. Water (who has taken over for the Montgomery County Rural Water Company) and Coffeen are under review.

Mayor Sullivan reported the city was in line for a $500,000 grant from the Building Illinois Bond Fund which he and state Senator Andy Manor had worked to support. It is designed to help with costs associated with infrastructure improvement but could be delayed because gaming, the tax source for funding, was shut down in the pandemic response.

City planner Jonathan Weyer said Atlas 46 was bringing representatives of companies who may be interested in locating in Hillsboro to town this coming Monday, June 29, and that Atlas is running out of space in their location. He also reported that the city’s small business grant program, “...went live today.” Businesses that were completely shut down by the pandemic could apply.

Hunt commented about the work on Rountree and the delay that had caused for Huber Drive plans. He also said MFT acceptance forms had been returned to IDOT.

After the first meeting was adjourned sine die (without setting a time or date for the next meeting), a short second meeting was convened. City Clerk Cory Davidson administered the oath of office of interim mayor to Duncan as the first and only action item.

The council next meets on Tuesday, July 14, at 7 p.m. in city hall. Because this region of the state entered Phase IV of Recovery on June 26, the meeting will be open to the public. Masks will still be required for attendees.

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