Once again Hillsboro’s city council found itself in a split position at their scheduled Tuesday, May 12 meeting; half (Michael Murphy and Katie Duncan) were present from a distance (via Zoom) while the other half (Don Downs and Daniel Robbins) were at the table, as was Mayor Brian Sullivan. Also in the room was city planner Jonathan Weyer.
The council didn’t split when it came to voting, but a pair of decisions have the potential to split the city opinion-wise from the greater area community.
The first came in a motion by Robbins that was ultimately withdrawn to allow for more investigation.
The mower used at the sports complex, according to Robbins, has a blown engine, and the request to the council was to pay a third of its replacement cost. The only bid was from Sloan Implement in Litchfield; the cost was to be $10,873.32 plus trade-in; split three ways (the city, the Hillsboro Sports Association, and the Hillsboro School District - which uses the complex for baseball and softball games plus soccer matches), the motion called for the city to spend $3,624.44.
The first question came from Duncan, who said since the city had purchased the original mower, the trade-in value of the machine should be deducted from the city’s third. A search of old expenditures will have to be undertaken to see who did purchase the now-broken machine.
Adding to the discussion was Robbins’ announcement that as Parks Commissioner, he had just been notified by state officials that baseball (and presumably softball) activities on government owned facilities had been cancelled for the summer because of the ongoing pandemic. That in turn has several consequences – the concession stand, now one of the more consistent funding sources for the HSA – won’t be available, and the part-time summer jobs it provided won’t be there; travelers from out of town won’t support local gas stations and restaurants; and the mowing and grounds upkeep won’t have to be as frequent as it has been in the past.
Utilities Commissioner Don Downs asserted that the original agreement with the sports association called for them to be self-sufficient. The city gave them part of what had been designated for an industrial park to use as the complex. Association board members and other volunteers built the original diamonds and tennis courts; the soccer fields were added later. Eventually the JFL moved to what had been the varsity soccer practice field. Those additions required more manpower to mow and line; that’s when the school district took more responsibility.
Downs said the board of the sports association no longer meets; he credits association president Matt Lentz with doing a fantastic job of holding what’s left of the group together, but he noted a lack of the volunteerism that was once prominent at the site. Again a disagreement became evident concerning who has the responsibility of fund-raising; undermanned, the association no longer holds dinner/dances nor tournaments. Downs’ final comment was, “This city is not a park district.”
Given that the mower price is good until June 4 (the council meets again on May 26), Robbins withdrew his motion so questions about whose responsibilities is whose can be researched.
Another motion by Robbins was passed with a contingency after an amendment. The South Marina Restaurant may become another victim of the pandemic. Expected-to-be leasee Ryan Turner may not open the facility because 1) part of his expected season is already passed; and 2) the shutdown of supply chains has made the cost of operation prohibitive. Turner has told Robbins he’ll decide what his plans are by this Friday, May 15.
Robbins wants to hire two part-timers to be around the South Marina to do the other chores the leasee would normally do: sell gasoline to boaters, keep the general area clean, and sell boat permits. Mayor Sullivan pointed out that currently the only way to purchase permits is online because city hall is closed to the public and there are no campground hosts. The motion passed 4-0.
Finance Commissioner Duncan presented two motions, both of which passed unanimously. Approved for payment were bills totalling $393,118.20 and the extension of a line of credit with Bank of Hillsboro for $300,000. Duncan said the line of credit hasn’t been used for at least five years, but the annual motion has to be passed in case a financial emergency arises. “We don’t have to use it, but it’s available if needed,” she said.
John and Kendra Wright, renovators of The Red Rooster Inn, submitted receipts of over $34,000 used for material and labor to construct an ADA compliant railing, ramp, and fence at the famed hotel. Because the business site has two entrances, they received the maximum $4,000 facade grant to help with the improvements.
C.J. Liddell was appointed to the zoning board of appeals to fill a vacancy.
After a 35 minute executive (closed) session, the council reconvened to approve a motion instructing city attorney Kit Hantla to begin legal procedures against Montgomery County to resolve the ongoing dispute about animal control. The city decided not to sign a new contract with the county, claiming by state statute the county is responsible for animal control within city limits if there is no contract. The county’s stance seems to be “No contract, no service.” Hantla and States Attorney Bryant Hitchings have met to discuss the issue; but, according to the mayor, negotiations are at an impasse, requiring a court interpretation.
No members of the public, (except this Journal-News reporter) were present, so the agenda Public Comment slot was filled by commissioner reports. Commissioner Robbins said all parks are now open, but the playgrounds are still off-limits because the equipment would have to be wiped down after each use, but there isn’t enough personnel to do that. Sherwood Forest Campground opened May 1 with COVID-19 restrictions in place, and most of the sites have been taken. Electrical receptacles were replaced at four sites.
Culvert extensions at the Glenn Shoals North Access area were installed to allow the grading of dirt on a slope so the slope can be moved. The dog park opened, and painting work on Central Park’s pickleball courts and basketball pad continued.
Robbins concluded by saying city hall has added many forms and documents related to the parks and lakes to the city website. To download, visit www.hillsboroillinois.net.
Downs talked of the water main break discovered on Monday, May 4, southwest of the old lake’s spillway in the creek bottom (see relevant letter to editor in May 11 edition of the Journal-News). The water treatment plant knew of a major leak somewhere in the system, so Tim Ferguson notified Downs.
Streets Superintendent Chappelear used his own ATV to locate the leak (the terrain was difficult to navigate because of the wetness of the weather). Downs said, “As usual, our crews did a fantastic job of locating, isolating, and fixing the problem quickly and safely.”
A boil order was in effect for homeowners east of the spillway and campers in Sherwood Forest until late in the day on May 6. Downs told the council that area will be suspect in the future as the creek banks have eroded so much that the main may have to be moved.
Murphy said a letter would be sent to the railroad company demanding their property along the tracks next to Railroad Street be mowed. Again he asked residents to care (mow) their properties to the curb, citing one property in East Hillsboro from which a city employee has had to hand cut weeds the last two growing seasons. He asked that clippings not be blown into the streets as well. His last admonition was to call the police (532-6129) and not him if a citizen sees or senses something that doesn’t look or feel right in his/her neighborhood.
Mayor Sullivan reported fielding a flood of calls from local businesses, and he empathizes with the callers. “We aren’t in Cook County or any other densely populated area. We’ve done what we were supposed to do, but now we’re hurting but not receiving intervention. Businesses need help, relief; some can’t survive another month. “We’ve flattened the curve.”
Sullivan said his next step will be to consult with the local health department.
Weyer’s report dealt primarily with the strategic plan he has developed. It is now a ten year plan, and the rough draft is in the hands of the council members and those on the planning commission. Weyer would like comments and feedback by June 1.
A committee is meeting to develop a marketing website for the city. Weyer feels smaller towns like Hillsboro could become destination spots for families and businesses wishing to flee cities with population densities that promote problems like the pandemic. Marketing will let them know what Hillsboro has to offer.
The next council meeting is slated for Tuesday, May 26, at 7 p.m. in city hall.