Solar Power Company Visits Hillsboro Council

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David Ronen and Mike Putnam spoke to the city council of Hillsboro at their meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 10, to explain the status of solar energy as an alternate power source in Illinois; the two are business partners with expertise in the field.

Ronen explained that the state has a fund of $800,000,000 (collected from fees on power bills) to use as incentives for customers (homeowners, businesses, and government entities) to convert from carbon-fueled generated power to an alternative source – nuclear, wind, or solar. Private customers receive tax credits after conversion as well as power generated on their property; government units can receive certificates which convert into cash as well as the power their solar units produce. Ronen said a private resident can cover his costs in two years, while a government payback will take five.

Mayor Brian Sullivan asked if any of the money is available before the projects begin; Putnam said 20% would be up front, with the rest to come in quarterly payments over four years. Their company, according to Ronen, has 500 projects in process at the moment; one of the closest is at Blackburn College in Carlinville. The state's goal is to have 35% of power across Illinois be from an alternate source by 2025.

The mayor and council thanked the pair for the information; no plans to go solar are currently under consideration, but information about the ever-changing field is important to have before any plans can begin.

Finance Commissioner Katie Duncan had written checks for August bills payable in September for $304,364.58. Those bills were approved unanimously. Ms. Duncan also said the budget process would begin again soon as tax levies need to be completed.

Two new expenses were approved; Hurst-Rosche Engineers will inspect Shoal Creek No. 5 and Lake Hillsboro Dam for $4,500. Also, an outdated server, purchased in 2008, will be replaced by one purchased from Shawn Perkins for $5,800. That item was in the budget.

Appointments to the Natural Resources Committee were approved; the new members are Brett Reeves and Cary Eisentraut. Patrick Murphy was hired as an intern at city hall until Dec. 1 by a 3-0 vote (Michael Murphy abstained).

The HHS Homecoming Parade route was approved; it's scheduled for 3 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 4. Halloween Trick or Treating hours for the city were also approved: 6 to 8 p.m. on Oct. 30 and 31.

City Attorney Kit Hantla will write an ordinance concerning political signage in the city for the next council meeting (Tuesday, Sept. 24) as a result of a zoning board of appeals meeting held on Friday evening, Sept. 6. The new ordinance will limit size of signs to no more than six square feet and none can be on public right of ways, including boulevards. Other recommendations including length of time signs can be in the ground won't be included because courts have already ruled those type of stipulations to be in violation of ones right to free speech.

The other two items on the agenda dealt with Sherwood Forest Campgrounds. One involved a change in fees for the three "full service" (electricity, water, and sewer) hookups. As campers give up those spots, those fees will increase to $1,400 each; the current rates are grandfathered in, though. The second item was discussion only, as both Public Properties Commissioner Daniel Robbins and Parks Superintendent Jim May described a dilemma with the camp host and co-host situation.

No one stays on the job for very long. Ideally, according to May, a camp host and his family will return year after year, thus providing a sense of stability to that community within this community. Robbins said one of the problems is that the salary (plus use of a site) isn't enough for the hours and grief/tension involved. Neither this year's host nor co-host (hired in mid season this year) plan to return for 2020.

May pointed out that those employees feel they are on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. "It's the nature of the job," he said. "Just when the day's tasks are over, someone else drives in looking for a boat license."

He and Robbins want help finding answers; the campground is a revenue-maker for the city.

Interim planner Jonathon Weyer said the first Chamber of Commerce – city open forum for small businesses will be Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. at the Black Rabbit. He also reported that Atlas 46 not only will sponsor a monster making contest for Imagine Hillsboro's Octoberfest on Oct. 5, but they have also hired a major marketing firm from St. Louis to publicize the event.

He's been in contact with the owner of the building that Gianni's recently vacated, and she's willing to renovate for a new tenant. He also said "interested parties" in the Corner Block Building have been in contact with the current owner concerning a professional evaluation of the building. "We should know the costs for renovation by the end of October," he commented.

Representing the city engineers, Jeremy Connor reminded the council members of the public hearing concerning a main street infrastructure project that is to be held tonight, Thursday, Sept. 12, at city hall. It's scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

Commissioner Robbins said fence installation for the dog park would begin next week; post holes were dug that afternoon. More grass seed and an erosion blanket were added at the former beach house.

His street crew finished blacktop work on City Lake Road and poured fifty feet of sidewalk and retaining wall on Summer Street. A water main leak on City Lake Road was repaired, but time taken for that chore moved the usual second Tuesday brush pickup back a day.

Robbins released Sept. 18th as the day to oil City Lake Road and Glenn Shoals Drive. Other streets scheduled to follow are Baker, Grantham, Lakeside Knolls, Land's End, Mulligan, Orchard Knolls, Park Side, Ridgeway, Rolling Greens, the Sports Complex, Walnut, Edgewood Drive, Wood Lake Lane, and Woodlawn.

Commissioner Murphy reported on various demolitions (and reasons for delay) around town and read a Thank You note from the Morgan County Search and Dive Team, which both complimented and thanked Hillsboro's Dive Team for their help finding a drowning victim in Jacksonville's lake.

Utilities Commissioner Don Downs reported working with Tim Ferguson and Cory Davidson before submitting an ordinance concerning check lists to be completed before demolition of a building in Hillsboro begins; Downs contends we need to be sure water service is turned off and the sewer main capped before demolition begins.

Mayor Sullivan congratulated Justin Gonzalez, Richard Hewitt, and Davidson for their designation as Arson Investigators of the Year for work that resulted in arrests in a Schram City garage fire. The mayor pointed out that award usually goes north of I-80. The mayor also expressed thanks to a group of high school seniors who spent a Saturday afternoon picking up trash around town.

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