Long Agenda Keeps Hillsboro City Council Busy

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Hillsboro’s city council faced a long agenda when Mayor Don Downs called the group to order Tuesday evening, Sept. 14; all council members were present.

After the standard opening agenda items were covered, representatives of the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution witnessed 

Mayor Downs signing their proclamation making the week of Sept. 17 to Sept. 21, 2021 Constitution Week in Hillsboro; a picture accompanies this article.

Bill Christian, an employee of the city with the water and sewer department for many years until he became an employee of Woodard and Curran when that firm was contracted to be in charge of those areas, was rehired by the city to be youth sports administrator, which means he will be in charge of activities at the Sports Complex. 

City Clerk Cory Davidson had assumed those duties this past summer when the Hillsboro Sports Association no longer oversaw scheduling at the four baseball/softball diamonds, the soccer field, the JFL field, the tennis courts, the concession stands, and the parking lots. 

The council felt that the complex, which hosts high school contests as well as games ranging from t-ball contests through youth soccer, is a necessary asset for the city and thus needed a dedicated person in charge; Christian was their choice from three applicants, so he returns as a city employee who can install water meters and handle other non-complex responsibilities as his schedule allows. The vote to approve both the position and Christian to fill it was 5-0.

Thanks to a group of parents, there will be a homecoming parade this year -- tomorrow, Friday, Sept. 17. Anne Reynolds came to the council to ask for approval and for help, as the parade will need the traffic control expertise of the police. Chief Randy Leetham had okayed the route and time (3:30 p.m.) in an earlier meeting with Reynolds. Participants will gather in the St. Agnes Catholic Church parking lot at 3 p.m.

The council agreed to pay bills from August totalling $473,863.10 before approving another list of expenditures to be paid in October.

The next bills for the HUD Block Grant received by the city to help homeowners in one area of the city (Beal, Anna, and neighboring streets) renovate their homes were presented. Three payments to Bill’s Home Improvement Company for $43,458 and one payment to Blue Collar Construction for $13,739 were approved.

Commissioner Daniel Robbins presented a motion to replace the roof on the Firemen’s Clubhouse; he explained the roof would be extended to cover a to-be-built pavilion; the motion called for an amount not to exceed $12,500. Work will be done by a city crew. Finance Commissioner Katie Duncan pointed out that the amount proposed was more than he had budgeted to spend on the project, so another project in the budget will have to be of smaller scope. Robbins also asked for $18,870 to replace a main electrical panel in Sherwood Forest; Mondin Electric will do that work.

The council agreed to spend $5,600 for concrete work (sidewalk, curb, and gutter) on the north side of Wait Street behind the Red Rooster. The money will come from Business District Funds. Mayor Downs said the work had been considered before, but now, “The time is right.” The vote was 4-0, with Kendra Wright abstaining. Wright asked for $5,000 to purchase a hand-held remote meter reader from Midwest Meter; the one in use until recently was more than 25 years old, inoperable, and beyond repair.

The IEPA has an open file (which they want to close) concerning a 1994 gas leak at the marina on Glenn Shoals; it’s open because of a lack of documentation of the solution to the problem 27 years ago. The city needs help to satisfy the request. Hurst-Rosche will undertake the job at a cost not to exceed $400; it may be less if the time needed to do the work is less than anticipated. The Street Department suggested buying a hydraulic saw to be used when working on mains with the Utilities Department. A long-needed item, it’s a possibility now because it can be powered by the potholer put into service recently. The cost is $5,000.

Three action items dealt with facade grants, TIF grants or Business District grants. Jacob Fleming of Spears Title Company at 218 S. Main Street presented receipts of $3,950 for work completed there. That qualified him for $1,975 in grant funds. A TIF grant request by Chiropractor Pam Kotschevar to help fund potential facade work on her building, which once housed city hall, was tabled so the council can obtain more information. The need for more work was uncovered during renovation; the cost estimate for the project is $47,450, but the request to the city didn’t specify how much help was needed. $18,342.09 of Business District Funds go to E.G. Construction for the company’s work on the water main project at Bre’s Beehive and Country Companies on South Main.

The council okayed requesting grants of its own. The city will apply under the Illinois Highway Code for sidewalk and curb improvements on West Tremont, Mechanic, and Wood Streets. Much of the work is needed to meet ADA requirements. The Illinois Safe Routes to School project will be approached for funding to help with sidewalk work from Rountree to Hilltop Drive and from Rountree through East Fairground to IL Rt. 127. In addition, the city agreed, as they do annually, to participate in the Illinois Federal Surplus program.

The council approved Cigna Health Insurance as the carrier for the city’s health insurance for workers; a union negotiating team requested the change because of premium increases and a question of whether those using local doctors would still be in-network with the old carriers. A lender requested a lease extension for the couple (Steven and Becky Menzel)purchasing the Zoellick property at 315 Lakewood Drive. Attorney Kit Hantla said such requests have become standard procedure; the extension is in effect until 2051.

The council voted unanimously to accept ownership of the new housing projects (Hills Project and Kennedy Court) in East Hillsboro. The city will now maintain infrastructure already in use. The council also appointed Ron Deabenderfer to the zoning board of appeals upon request of appeals board chairman Chuck Knisley.

The board went into executive session to consider selling public property, but no action was taken.

During the commissioners’ and mayor’s departmental reports, Streets Commissioner Robbins thanked the public for their patience during the oil and chipping process and asked for the same patience concerning branch and leaf pickup. “We do that as time allows; if there is an emergency that we have to deal with, then that’s a priority.”

Public Safety Commissioner Michael Murphy reported the Police Department has over 60 applicants, and he appreciates that. He also thanked Streets Superintendent Justin Chappelear for working with a citizen to alleviate problems she anticipated with the oiling process, and he also thanked the people who attended Governor Pritzker’s press conference. He encouraged citizens who see suspicious activity to call police dispatch (217-532-6129) rather than posting their thoughts on Facebook.

Utilities Commissioner Wright said hydrant flushing and testing will begin next week. The problem of flushing material that isn’t flushable continues to grow, and that can lead to consequences for all sewer users. A representative of the Army Corps of Engineers inspected the potential site of new sewer plant. She also reminded the town that the water payment online system is now operational. 

Mayor Downs put some teeth in Wright’s comments about ultimate cost to citizens for sewer services. “It costs us $5,000 to lift the pumps when they need service; that will result in a raise in sewer rates for all of us.” Downs said an independent firm is doing a cost/rate study of the sewer economics.

Downs mentioned four former workers for Hillsboro who recently passed: Sam Whitlow, Ron Merriman, Garry Williamson, and Gerald Stark. He asked they and their survivors be lifted in prayer. Lastly he spoke about the good week Hillsboro had just experienced, with the announcement that a Smithsonian exhibit is coming and the appearance here of Governor Pritzker and State Senator Doris Turner.

City Planner Jonathan Weyer thanked the present council for its decisions that brought about last week’s announcements; and he credited the 2015 council, led by Mayor Brian Sullivan, that initiated the programs that enabled the Business District and TIF Districts to exist. He emphasized that the activity along Main Street has caught the attention of central Illinois and areas beyond.

The council next meets on Tuesday, Sept. 28, at 7 p.m. in city hall.

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