Hillsboro Council Discusses New Improvements

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The three Hillsboro City Council members who came to the Tuesday, Aug. 24, meeting (Mayor Don Downs, Public Safety Commissioner Michael Murphy, and Utilities Commissioner Kendra Wright) made a quorum; all votes taken were 3-0. Parks and Streets Commissioner Daniel Robbins did submit his reports which were read by Downs during the departmental reports.

Highlighting the Parks and Public Properties Department report was that the work of digging out the detention pit (sediment removal) at the Sports Complex has been completed. Dirt was hauled to the site of a recent house demolition at 617 Lakeview Drive and to the Glenn Shoals emergency spillway. Repairs are finished at the Harkey House rental property.

The Street Department installed a new fire hydrant on Main Street to replace the one that caused problems just before Old Settlers began (that work was also mentioned in the Public Comment segment of the agenda). Employees also continued sidewalk work on Summer Street, repaired a water leak on Chase Street, and “...did (other) Street Department things.”

Murphy asked Code Enforcement Officer Mike Lee to orally report his activities since the last meeting. Lee said he contacted the property owner on School Street who had a tree dangerously close to falling onto the highway. The tree was removed the next day; the city appreciates that type of cooperation. Lee is concerned about several properties whose grass has grown too tall, and he’s worked with several fence permits. One had to be stopped in progress because the fence was located four feet onto a neighbor’s property.

Murphy mentioned that citations which were issued almost 90 days ago concerning repairs needed on vacant buildings should be in court in early September. 

City Attorney Kit Hantla said the court had delayed the hearings until Sept. 22 because of scheduling difficulties. Murphy also reminded home owners and renters that the boulevards (the strip between sidewalks and street) are the citizens’ responsibility to mow. He also reported that hiring lists for the police and fire departments would soon be updated. He thanked the Police and Fire Commission for their work in advance.

Wright emphasized several points in her presentation. The new, more automated water bill payment system will be in place by Sept. 1; it can be accessed at hillsboroillinois.net. From Sept. 1 on, the charge for credit/debit card payments of $3.00 per payment will go to the customer; it had been picked up by the city from the inception of credit cards, but the practice has grown until it was costing the city from $600 to $800 per month. Another change from past practices -- reminder phone calls that bills are overdue will no longer be made.

Wright said, “I urge all citizens to set up autopay to avoid late fees, shut off fees, or processing fees.” Payments are due by the 15th of each month, so if a payment is mailed on the 3rd but doesn’t arrive until the 16th, a late fee will be assessed.

The new O’Reilly’s Auto Parts Store is connected to a water main and a sewer main behind the new store’s construction site. Water quality from Glenn Shoals has fluctuated greatly (regarding phosphorus and ammonia levels) in the last few weeks, but the plant has kept the water output quality in acceptable ranges. Chemical prices keep rising, though.

She also reminded sewer users to not flush wipes or feminine hygiene products of any kind. The mayor asked if the situation along City Lake Road had improved since letters of explanation had been hand delivered in the area. The answer wasn’t one he hoped for -- the number of banned items that have been flushed in the area has doubled since the letters were carried to the houses served by that particular pump. Downs said the problem affects all clients, “The more money the city has to spend in the repair process, the higher sewer rates will have to be for everyone.”

In his report, Downs offered the city’s condolences to the family of John Gasick, a veteran of Vietnam who had faithfully served on color guard units during parades and military funerals. He reported the new truck for the Street Department is in service, and that the Jorn Sign Company had painted new orange and black logos on all the department trucks.

He reported that IDOT said Kinney Construction of Raymond will start concrete work on the intersections controlled by stop lights after Labor Day with the hope that the new lights will be installed by the end of October. Main Street from NAPA north to Wood will be closed for two days for the installation of water lines from the main on the east side of the street to the library-to-be, Attorney Chris Sherer’s office, and the Country Company’s office. Parking on both sides of the street is already restricted where the work is scheduled.

Mike Lee said he has talked to Steve Huber about work scheduled for this fall on the west wall of the World Harvest Church. There is no set date, but Downs thinks the need is urgent; as is, he thinks the wall will crumble this winter. Lee said the city has no way to apply pressure about how the work is done because the original building code was adopted in 1964 based on insurance industry recommendations made in 1961. Hantla suggested a new code is probably a need.

Downs attended a meeting with state representative Avery Bourne and area law enforcement officials in Litchfield; he hopes those conversations can continue.

In the tease of the evening, Community/Economic Planner Jonathan Weyer reported a “gigantic announcement” to be made in the Orpheum Theater on Wednesday, Sept. 8, about a six-year project for the city that “...will make Hillsboro known nationwide.”

He also said Dr. David Lett, leader of an effort to establish a center focused on job training for Macoupin and Montgomery Counties, will visit a council meeting in September. He also said The Coop’s opening has been delayed until October because the ownership of its home building has changed.

David Strowmatt, a Pinnacle Point resident, was the only speaker during the Public Comment section. He began with a compliment, “The crew which repaired the water leak outside my office at the VAC center did a tremendous job in a near-emergency situation.” He followed that with a request. “Next time, let me know; the noise level in the building made meetings and other work impossible.” Then he had an observation. He had appeared at a council meeting on March 23rd concerning erosion problems on Glenn Shoals; he had come to the April 27 meeting with a suggestion that the 50 percent of funds from sale of water to the Deer Run Mine be directed to the Lake Improvement fund as the original agreement had stipulated.

That suggestion hadn’t been discussed in the four months following that meeting. In the meantime, the Lake Club had spent $1,500 for new buoys and $1,000 on security measures like cameras while the city has spent nothing. He asked the city to do its part to protect the city’s water supply.

The first item to call for a vote was approval of the bills for July totalling $379,762.79. Also approved with little discussion was approval of mountain biking trails and a mixed use space on public property east of Sherwood Forest.

Tony Marcolini was present to answer questions about a swag light proposal; the lights are to be strung at a height of 16 feet over Wood Street between Main Street and Gunning Street. Marcolini will both buy and maintain the lights.

Hurst-Rosche’s bid of $4,500 to inspect Glenn Shoals Dam and Shoal Creek Structure #5 and to supply a maintenance schedule for Lake Hillsboro was accepted. Those items are required by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). In another water contract matter, the council approved a change in date (from Nov. 2020 to Nov. 2021) on the water purchase agreement with Schram City. The change was needed because the assigned date fell in the midst of the first COVID crisis.

An already-budgeted item, repairs to a pump at the water treatment plant (one of four service pumps) that will cost $6,657.50 was approved. Murphy said the rehab of the pumps was one of the priorities that Woodard & Curran pointed out as a need when they first took over the plant. He said the citizens of Hillsboro deserve the pump, which will be aligned by laser when it is re-installed. The mayor said it was, “Money well spent.”

The other four action-needed items dealt with facade grants; the awards come from Business District funds, not from the General Fund. Grants go to: Chris Casey for property at 421 and 423 South Main (his cost estimates were over $10,000, and he receives $2,000 per address); Ryan and Lesley Hamby for the former Chances building at 305 and 307 South Main (third and fourth floor windows - estimated cost $23,328, grant $4,000); Ben and Amanda Cunningham for the Hiltop Elite Tumbling and Trampoline building at 130 E. Seward ($2,000 grant for an estimated $5,096 project cost); and Jake Fleming for work at the former Spears’ Title Company, 218 S. Main (estimated cost $3,950, so the grant is for $1,975). Casey was present to thank the council for its assistance.

The council next meets in regular session on Tuesday, Sept. 14, at 7 p.m. in city hall. 

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