Written by Don Ratzlaff Tuesday, 25 October 2011 17:29
The Hillsboro City Council approved at its Oct. 18 meeting the formation of a citizens committee to explore the development of a new fire station for the city.
The recommendation came to the council from Mayor Delores Dalke, City Administrator Larry Paine and Fire Chief Ben Steketee.
“We are looking at a committee that is somewhat like the (Marion County) jail committee that will bring recommendations back to the city council,” Paine stated.
“In addition, we want the committee to work like the (city’s) playground committee, where they will be actively involved in securing funding for a station building that will limit the amount of public financing—meaning city of Hillsboro taxes—in the project.”
Among the issues the committee would discuss are location, financing and the composition of included fire departments, according to Paine.
Councilor Bob Watson questioned the idea of exploring the construction of a city fire station without first clearing up the future relationship of the fire department with surrounding rural townships.
A few months ago, a committee representing township boards suggested establishing a unified fire district with the city rather than maintaining the current arrangement in which the city fire department contracts to serve the townships and the townships provide some of the department’s fire-fighting vehicles.
“We might build (the fire station) different if we have a new fire district,” Watson said.
Paine said the citizen committee could recommend a plan that would include space for all of the vehicles at the departments disposal. He added that it would be good for the city to know what its needs are if the discussion continues with the township boards.
Watson also said he wasn’t sure “what members of the public know about building a fire station.”
Paine said the biggest mistake the county made regarding its first proposal for a new jail was not identifying a clear plan for financing it, which led to the project’s defeat at the ballot box.
He said citizen input regarding a financing plan for a fire station would be beneficial, assuming the committee were to recommend such a project.
Dalke said she favored forming the committee because the topic of a new fire station has surfaced several times in recent years, and several sketches of a facility design have been suggested, but “until we have a committee (to explore the project), nothing is going to happen.”
Two council members spoke in favor of Steketee’s suggestion that a representative of the township group be appointed to the new citizens committee in order to enhance communication between the two groups.
In the end, the recommendation passed by a 4-0 vote. The mayor will recruit candidates to serve on the committee, and approval rests with the council.
In other business, the council:
• approved a liquor license for La Cabana restaurant.
• tabled discussion regarding a request made by J. Fred Hambright Inc. for an oil and gas lease for city-owned property east of Hillsboro. Paine said he was waiting for additional input from the city attorney.
• agreed to extend the city’s franchise agreement with Westar Energy for another year.
• heard that Hillsboro Ford will submit a bid for a new patrol car for the police department.
Originally, the bid process had not included Ford because it was understood the company was no longer making the Crown Victoria. Paine said Terry Hagen, co-owner of the local dealership, informed him that Ford would be coming out with a patrol option in 2013.
• was notified that city judge Bryson Mills resigned for health reasons and Randy Pankratz will step in as interim judge, effective immediately.