Kendra Wright Joins Hillsboro Council

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Kendra Wright of the Pinnacle Point area was sworn in as a Hillsboro City Council member at their meeting Tuesday evening, June 8, by Mayor Don Downs. Wright, who has been active as chairperson of the Natural Resources Committee and who has spoken frequently to the Hillsboro Planning Commission about concerns of the Natural Resources Committee and Glenn Shoals Lake improvements, fills a vacancy on the council created when past Mayor Brian Sullivan resigned because of business interests in June of 2020.

When Downs moved that Wright be appointed, Councilman Daniel Robbins moved to table the action because Finance Commissioner Katie Duncan wasn’t present to vote, but that motion died for lack of a second. Downs said the search for a person willing to serve on the council had been long and arduous; when he called for the vote, Michael Murphy, Robbins, and Downs all voted yes. Ms. Wright took the oath of office immediately thereafter.

Two citizens spoke of growing concerns about dog control in Hillsboro. The city once had an ordinance in place that called for police officers to respond to in-town canine incidents, including violations of leash laws; then the animals would be transported to the county’s facility south of town during business hours. The town contracted through intergovernmental agreement with the county to provide service.

When the contract expired, however, the county set a new price for its services; Hillsboro and Litchfield balked, saying the price was too high. Without a contract, the county claims its only responsibilities for dog control are in unincorporated areas; unless it’s a rabies case, the county won’t respond within city limits unless a contract exists.

Hillsboro’s position became the county had to respond if a city ordinance didn’t exist, so they negated the dog portion of their animal control ordinance. State’s Attorney Andrew Affrunti says that’s a misreading of state law, so a standoff exists.

Residents Kathy Carlyle and Robin Carter spoke about dog control problems in their neighborhood; Carlyle has a neighbor whose dogs have used her yard as their bathroom, and Carter has a neighbor with “...large dogs that bark (when they are outside) constantly and loudly.” Neither neighborhood nor offending neighbors were identified, but both feel they need help to make their homes more livable.

In more routine matters the council approved paying bills for May totalling $341,728.79; the mayor presented those bills in Ms. Duncan’s (the Finance Commissioner’s) absence. Mayor Downs said the recently-held, twice annual city-wide cleanup cost for dumpsters at the City Lake Road shed was $3,748.

Randy Rieke spoke on behalf of the McM Multi-sport Club, again charged with organizing and timing the Old Settlers Fun Run to be held on Saturday, July 31. Rieke said proceeds will go to the Montgomery County Cancer Association; the club sets up beginning at 5 a.m. on the day of the event and are leaving town by 11 a.m. The starting point is on Wood Street and turn-around is on City Lake Road. He needed approval to use city streets for the event, and that was granted. Downs suggested he notify Police Chief Randy Leetham (in attendance), the Auxiliary Police, and Atlas 46 to see if their work force will need the parking lot near the starting and finishing lines on that date.

John Hapner, recent purchaser of the Hillsboro Bowl at 217 North Main, requested $11,000 of Business District Funds to help with exterior work, kitchen relocation and renovation, and construction of an outdoor patio. The agreement to do so was unanimous.

Payments to Bill’s Home Improvement from the HUD grant for work done to three residences on Park Street (it is a block grant intended to upgrade housing in a specific area) were approved: the cost per unit was $14,750; $15,800; and $29,100.

Parks and Public Properties Commissioner, Robbins asked to hire three more lifeguards for Central Park Pool (Allie Kuhns, Avery Walden, and Gracie Brink) and five umpires (Blaze Helton, Megan Jorn, Chase Murray, Dillon Devlin, and Blake Vogel) for the summer league baseball and softball programs. The wish was granted unanimously. Plate umpires will be paid $30, base umpires $20; a short discussion involved hiring certified personnel for Pony League contests.

Action was also taken on the utilities front. A year-long agreement for community electric aggregation fees was okayed with Homefield Energy; and a month’s extension of an agreement with AED that supplies power to lift and pump stations outside municipal boundaries was also approved.

Water plant operator Tim Ferguson, an employee of Woodard & Curran, asked the council to have City Attorney Kit Hantla write an ordinance to fill large capacity tankers using a specified hydrant rather than using the bulk-fill system at the water plant.

Ferguson said he would generally oppose contractors not working for the city using a hydrant-fill system because it can cause complaints from home owners in the area of the hydrant, but the city has been approached by a major contractor installing a gas line south of town. The city has ample water to sell, but if their trucks use the current bulk outlet at the water plant, it would cause delays for those who normally use that facility and perhaps tear up the lot where those customers park. If the city won’t supply the water, the contractor will have to haul it from St. Louis. Hydrant-fill seems a better solution for all involved.

The water would be drawn from a designated hydrant far enough removed from human habitation to not affect that water supply and would be metered at the hydrant and monitored as needed by the city. A bonding procedure would be established, and the new ordinance would contain a termination clause if all conditions aren’t met by the contractor. The ordinance will be written for council approval.

A special council meeting has been set for today, Thursday, June 10, at 12:15 p.m. to discuss other utility matters.

Mayor, Commissioner Departmental Reports, and the Community Planner’s Report followed the swearing in of Commissioner Wright, who did not have a report to give. Robbins said mowing is now in full swing, as is weed-eating and spraying weeds on public property. The pool is open on a limited schedule pending hiring of more help, and a list of available lake lots on Glenn Shoals has been compiled and made available to those who have requested a lake lot. Cleanup after Memorial Day activities has also been accomplished.

The Street Department repaired a water main leak on Hickory Street, sprayed weeds in gutters and along curbs within the city, and trimmed limbs hanging over the roadways on Lake City Road and Tremont Streets. Sidewalk work continued on Park Street. Bagged (and placed by the curb) yard waste was picked up, as was a lone squashed squirrel on Kinkead Road.

Public Safety Commissioner Murphy reported that zoning enforcement officer Mike Lee issued 12 property citations and has eight property inspections pending. Murphy asked that anyone with property they can no longer maintain contact a realtor to put it up for sale before it deteriorates so badly that it can’t be repaired. He said the Fire Department Budget has been submitted to Ms. Duncan, and the Police Department Budget will soon follow. He again commented about how proud he is of Hillsboro’s appearance, especially when he visits other towns.

Murphy talked about two complaints he has heard. One concerns the Police Department. He asks that citizens file a complaint as soon as anything goes missing from their property. If it isn’t reported, the department can’t be of help if that property is later found in another’s possession because “...procedures must be followed.”

The other complaint dealt with identification of city-owned real estate sold at the last (May 25) meeting. He defended the city, saying the property was identified by parcel numbers, which is all state statute allows. As he has said in the past, “The best way to be aware of what the city council is doing is to attend our meetings. We are not trying to hide anything.”

Mayor Downs said the city is receiving favorable publicity as television reporters shot coverage of both the Harkey and Challacombe Houses; Mike Rappe, Jeff Dunn, and Jim May reportedly were interviewed.

Community Planner Jonathan Weyer said Illinois State Senator Turner plans to be in town on Tuesday, June 22, with an appearance in the Cloud Room at Hillsboro Area Hospital. He is still working on the rough draft of an economic development plan for the city. A soft opening of The Coop -- a business incubator located in the former Montgomery County News/Books and Moore Building -- is scheduled for Thursday, July 1.

In the city’s near future is the special council meeting today (Thursday, June 10, at 12:15 p.m.); a planning commission meeting on Tuesday, June 15, at 12:30 p.m. in city hall; and the last city council meeting of the month on Tuesday, June 22, at 7 p.m. City hall is now open, so the public is welcome (and encouraged) to attend all meetings. Those who have had both COVID immunization shots are not required to wear masks. 

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