Hillsboro To Offer Business Grants

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Hillsboro’s city council approved a Small Business Stabilization Grant Program by a 3-0 vote (Commissioner Don Downs abstained because his wife could benefit from its passing) during their meeting Tuesday evening, May 26. 

The resolution, necessitated by the forced closing of small businesses by measures designed to control the COVID-19 virus, has two levels of relief and a total cap cost of $30,000.

Those who meet the requirements for Level 2 (designated as a non-essential business by Executive Order No. 2020-07, which meant they had to close entirely) can ask for $2,000. Level 1 is for those who had to limit services and normal operations; those business owners can apply for $1,000 worth of help.

The funds will come from the Business District account, and the applicants thus must have a business within that district. 

Home-based businesses are not eligible.

To be eligible, the business must be authorized by the city, and thus be regulated by city ordinances; must be a registered business entity; must be a private, for profit or fraternal organization with sale of goods, general services, or professional services to the public; must have been in business before March 16, 2020; can have no tax debt outstanding; and must re-open when allowed to do so.

The grant funds can be used for the following approved operating costs which fell due between March 16 and May 30 of this year: lease payments, mortgage payments, utility service payments; vendor/inventory payments, and building improvements.

Applications are available at city hall. Keith Moran of Moran Economic Development, the firm that advised the city when the business district was established, helped formulate the plan, according to Mayor Brian Sullivan. The awards are to be distributed on a first come, first served basis, with a three person group charged with checking the applications for completeness and veracity. That commission will consist of Finance Commissioner Katie Duncan, City Clerk Cory Davidson, and Planner Jonathan Weyer.

Bill Sakach, both a resident and a house renovator within the city, appeared before the council to ask for help with a repair bill for property he purchased at 647 W. Tremont Street. In question was a contract executed in 1982 which called for the contractor to connect a basement drain at the house to the sewer main. Sakach had pictures showing clay tile running from the building but with no tap-on. After he bought the property, Sakach had a plumber rectify the problem by installing plastic pipe and tapping onto the main for a cost of $5,300. He asked the city to split the bill with him.

City Attorney Kit Hantla, attending by phone, said he won’t set policy, but his legal advice was to proceed with caution. To grant Sakach’s request would set a precedent (What the city does for one it will have to do for others), and the contract that might have held the city liable was 37 or 38 years old, thus past a reasonable Statue of Limitations. The original contractor is dead, his company dissolved. Hantla also wondered if the seller from whom Sakach bought the property had disclosed the problem. Originally the house was the property of a cemetery, but it has changed hands numerous times since then.

The nearest sewer main is 35 feet east of the house in the middle of an alley; most of the houses’s waste water was sent to it. The basement drain in question had its outlet leave the house in a northern direction and seemed to end in fly ash. No one currently involved knows why that drain was handled as it was.

Utilities Commissioner Don Downs said he’d done his homework looking through maps and contracts; after his research, he’d written to Sakach to explain why he didn’t think the city was responsible even though he is grateful for the contributions Sakach has made to the city as a “good landlord.” Among reasons for his decision Downs quoted Woodard & Curran employee Tim Ferguson as saying there was no evidence the city was at fault.

Public Safety Commissioner Michael Murphy echoed Downs’ appreciation of Sakach as a valued landlord, but he felt the city, “...needed to insulate itself” from the possibility of like requests from others.

Mayor Sullivan commented that he didn’t think this was a common problem that would lead to more bills; he also thought that the request to split the plumber’s bill with Sakach was reasonable, given that the city’s culpability was in doubt.

The vote was 3-1 to not share the expense; the dissenter, Streets and Public Properties Commissioner Daniel Robbins, said after the meeting he voted yes because he felt it had been the city’s responsibility in 1982 to be sure the contractor had indeed tapped onto the main. After the vote, Downs told Sakach he hoped that he (Sakach) knew his efforts were appreciated by the council; the negative vote was not to be considered as a slap in the face.

In other action, a motion withdrawn during the May 12 meeting (to pay a third of the cost of $10,973.33 for a John Deere ZTrak mower for sports complex use) passed unanimously upon its re-introduction. The city, the sports association and Hillsboro School District #3 will each pay $3,621.11.

$10,000 was budgeted to approve returning (paying for) the time taken off by city employees during the pandemic. As Finance Commissioner Duncan said, the employees weren’t sick but were told not to come to work every other day every other week. She also suggested that going forward the Health Department be consulted before “stay home” demands are made. Robbins added that the council made them take the time off. The vote to adjust the budget was 4-0.

Also passing unanimously was a motion to accept bids from Litchfield Bituminous (oil, chip, and Durapatcher oil) for $143,557.96 and from Louis Marsch for CA-7 mix delivered for $63.70 per ton and Bituminous Premix delivered for $71.70 per ton. If the Marsch material is not delivered, the price will be $5.70 less per ton, according to Hurst-Roche engineer Scott Hunt, but passing the “delivered” amount gives the city an option to take the lesser amount.

Also coming from Motor Fuel Tax Funds (MFT) will be an amount not to exceed $110,500 for preliminary engineering services for Seward Street Bridge Replacement. Montgomery County will reimburse half of the amount ($55,225) to the city; but, according to Hunt, the city will be the lead agency for the project.

Hunt also answered questions from the council; the locker plant/Helston Place sewer project has been delayed by the wet spring, but he expects progress in June. Too, the Huber Street water main project is on hold until the city can pothole (explore to find) the existing water main. That process has been slowed because a key employee has been unavailable. Also the Rebuild Illinois MFT program will make $409,000 more dollars available to Hillsboro (spread out over three years) for state-let project.

The last agenda item was a motion to approve the aggregation of Hillsboro electrical costs. The winning bid for street lighting was Dynegy Energy; their three contract will cost $17,051.48, $17,348.19, and $17,487.51 two years from now. Ameren Electric Power was low bidder for pump stations’ power; the one year deal will cost $119,695.15. Homefield was low bidder for the other requirements (and it is the rate homeowners and small businesses can claim). For one year, the length of the agreement, the cost is 4.116 cents per kilowatt hours. The council followed Rock River Energy Services (represented electronically by Mike Mudge) recommendations as to the best deals available. Mudge said Homefield’s offer is two mlls less than current supplier Constellation, which could save the average homeowner $1.40 per month.

Mayor Sullivan thanked John Galer for reading the names of Hillsboro area soldiers who have died or were killed in combat and John Kieslar for playing Taps after the reading as an impromptu Memorial Day Service at Hillsboro’s Veterans’ Memorial on Monday, May 25.

Downs thanked the street crew for helping install a meter pit on Hickory Street; he told the council that such pits may be the method to use going forward. Hillsboro Electric was called for repairs at a lift station on Ash Street.

Murphy reported that police recruit Murzinski would graduate from the police academy this week and would be on duty soon, he won an award for defensive tactics. Again Murphy asked for civilian help to keep streets clean, advising drivers to have and use a trash can in their vehicles and to not allow dumpsters to sit for long periods of time on the boulevards before or after scheduled pickups. He also mentioned a problem in East Hillsboro where a resident runs a chain saw late at night.

Robbins’ list of work for the Parks and Public Properties Department included mowing and weed eating and a meeting with a representative from Midwest Pools and city engineer Hunt about upgrades to the filtering and chemical feed systems at the pool in preparation for a grant application.

Robbins reported that the campground still has permanent sites available for the 2020 season. The city will not rent sites or cabins for short stays this season.

Weyer mentioned briefly “... an exciting new work program.” A private/public partnership is also working on a promotional video. He also encourages residents to support local businesses once Phase III and IV of the state’s recovery platform begins. Money spent locally will benefit everyone.

The meeting adjourned at 8:02 p.m. The council next meets at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 9, in city hall.

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