Evidence of the damage garage sale signs can inflict on city property was presented by Hillsboro Mayor Don Downs shortly after the city council meeting began on Tuesday evening, Oct. 12. Downs showed the council (neither Public Safety Commissioner Michael Murphy nor City Attorney Kit Hantla was present) signs he had removed from stop sign posts. The signs had paint from the sign posts, which means the posts will have to be repainted.
Mayor Downs had mentioned at a September meeting that leaving garage and yard sale signs in place after the event was over was a form of littering. This time he told how, when he saw old signs with addresses on them, he would remove the signs and put them on the porch of the house at the address. In September he asked Hantla to review the littering ordinance, consequently two changes were suggested.
The previous ordinance had fines for littering on only two streets/roads; the amendment makes throwing objects from a moving vehicle punishable by fines ranging from $250 to $750 dollars. The second amendment makes leaving signs up after an event is over subject to the same fines. The mayor’s directions to the public were simple: Don’t staple, nail, or glue signs to utility poles or street signs - that’s always been frowned upon, illegal. “Put your signs on stakes in the ground (but not on boulevards), and collect them as soon as the sale is over -- or be fined.” The amendments to the ordinance passed 4-0.
The continued temperate weather the area has experienced this fall has kept the Parks and Public Properties busy with mowing and trimming tasks, according to Commissioner Daniel Robbins. The pool is undergoing winterization procedures. He also said the city has been awarded a grant from the Trees Forever program to purchase trees as part of that group’s “Recover, Replant, and Restore!” program.
The Street Department did its routine clean-up of brush piled in yards around the city as well as repairing curb stops (water shut-off valves) in four locations; a lead water line was replaced on Jefferson Street. By state law, when a lead line is exposed during routine work, it must be replaced.
Public Utility Commissioner Kendra Wright reported that the fire hydrant testing/flushing program is on schedule and proceeding with areas in East Hillsboro, downtown, and west of Vandalia Street still remaining. Sewer-wise, the Hickory Street lift station has been a major issue the past two weeks as socks, scarves, and other nonflushables clog the pumps and affect electrical components because of the overheating that results.
Later in the meeting, Wright moved to amend the rates for certain services provided by the water department (per City Code). Councilperson Wright wrote, “As a part of our continuing efforts to get water bills paid on time, late fees have changed to 15% (of the client’s bill) and delinquent account shut offs/turn ons are now $40 each. Water bills are due by the 15th of the month ...get those paid to avoid those higher fees.” The council approved the changes unanimously.
Community and Economic Planner Jonathan Weyer reminded the council that the first mental health summit will occur Monday, Nov. 8. He gave a presentation by Zoom to the Illinois Chapter of the American Planners Association. The talk was titled “Revolution of the Small: How Small Towns Can Survive and Thrive in a Global Economy.” The county’s economic development corporation is working with Vermont-based Center of Rural Innovation; Weyer is a member of the MCEDC board and is helping collect the data the study needs. He also plans to have the rough draft of Hillsboro’s Growth Management Plan ready to present to the Hillsboro Planning Commission and the council by December.
Mayor Downs welcomed Dr. David Lett to the meeting. A part of the Litchfield School district administration team, Lett is involved with the South Central Illinois Regional Workforce Training and Innovation Center, whose mission is to improve workforce development in this region.
Lett talked about the student career pathway that has planned career-oriented activities beginning in kindergarten and ending with graduation. Although the facility to be used for vocational training is located in a renovated box factory in one of Litchfield’s industrial parks, the concept is regional in nature, with students from other school districts already participating.
Renovation of the box factory is to be funded by the state through a Department of Economic Opportunity grant of 8.6 million dollars. Lett is hopeful that half that grant will be distributed after January 1, 2022.
Kyle Putnam of Patton & Company presented the year’s audit for council approval. She said her firm was surprised that water receipts had not been more adversely affected by COVID-19; she expressed a fear that if the city receives the federal grants it needs for infrastructure work, the amount will exceed the amount ($750,000) that requires a “single audit” which is more extensive (and expensive) than the audit Patton & Company now provides. Patton & Company won’t take single audit jobs; only larger accounting firms have the personnel required to do one. (This year the city received a HUD grant and Rebuild Illinois funds, but didn’t reach the trigger amount.) The audit’s selected Financial Information sheets showed the General Fund collected $767,493 more than was expended; in 2020 (when there was more capital outlay), the General Fund had a deficit of $338,142. Other funds were in the black as well; the council accepted the audit 4-0.
Another presenter to the council was City Engineer Jeremy Connor, who represents Hurst & Rosche. He is assisting Weyer with the grant writing process. A required public hearing for the Seward Street Bridge project “...was not well-attended,” so Connor asks that any citizen with a personal interest in that project call him at his office.
Another unanimous vote was to pay the September bills as presented by Finance Commissioner Katie Duncan; the total was $494,823.69. A facade grant payment of the maximum $2,000 was approved to Ben and Amanda Cunningham for work done on their tumbling gym at 130 E. Seward; the project cost them $6,296.
Two other facade grants were also approved -- one to Tony Dragoo ($2,000 for an estimated $16,000 worth of work) for his restaurant-to-be at 439 South Main, and the other for $2,000 for an estimated project cost of $6,181.59 to Connie Childers at 101 South Main. Those grants were payable upon completion of the work and presentation of receipts.
A third facade improvement grant, for work to be done at 211 S. Main, was tabled until more information can be obtained; the grants are for facades, but the picture presented with the requests were of the back of the building.
Caitlyn Voyles asked for approval for a community bike ride to be held on Friday, Oct. 29; riders will assemble on the Presbyterian Church Parking Lot at 6 p.m. that evening. A short route and a four-mile route will be available; the sponsor is Imagine Hillsboro.
Commissioner Wright asked for approval of an already-budgeted item (100 water meters) because the price has risen; a scarcity of computer chips caused the jump in price. Wright said the city has over 300 water customers whose meters no longer function, so their bills are estimated.
Wright also asked that language in the Utility section of the code be amended to reflect past and current practices; for example, the code calls for a $150 deposit required of home owners and non-owners alike, but a deposit from home owners hasn’t been collected for some time. Other charges involved ways a client can ask for a hearing before his/her water is disconnected for non-payment. The council approved the changes 4-0.
The council approved paying $2,251 for purchase and installation of a new front door for city hall.
The meeting concluded with a discussion of grant applications, to be based upon ITEP grant requests that didn’t make the cut before. Weyer said the requests needed to meet three considerations; underground infrastructure, above-ground infrastructure, and green space. Wright also reminded those present that she and city clerk Cory Davidson would soon tackle the City Employee Manual; she suggested those with ideas, especially about job descriptions, submit them soon.
The next council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 26, in city hall. The public is welcome to attend.