An otherwise routine Hillsboro City Council meeting Sept. 7 ended with one council member chastising his fellow members and the city administrator regarding a proposal for funding the city’s economic-development position.
Following the completion of the meeting agenda, Councilor Shelby Dirks said in a prepared statement that he was “very disappointed” that the council approved a funding agreement at its Aug. 17 meeting that would transfer funds from the electricity utility to subsidize the salary of the city’s full-time economic director.
Dirks was not able to attend the Aug. 17 meeting.
The agreement, made in partnership with Hillsboro Development Corp./Hillsboro Ventures Inc., calls for the city to provide 86.83 percent of the director’s $63,954 salary-and-benefits package, with HDC and HVI each contributing 6.7 percent.
For the 2011 city budget, that would require a transfer of $39,558 from the electricity utility. The remaining $18,406 of the city’s share would come from tax revenue that feeds the industrial fund, including a 1-mill property-tax levy that should generate $15,863.
Dirks, who was appointed by the council to join City Administrator Larry Paine as the city’s negotiators with HDC/HVI, said he was under the impression the proposal was still in the negotiation stage.
Further, Dirks said he felt strongly that the position should be supported entirely from the industrial fund, and not through a fund transfer from the electricity utility, a strategy he called “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
Dirks said the decision “stinks,” and if the electricity utility has that much cash available, he “better not hear of any (electricity) rate increases any time soon.”
Dirks also questioned Paine’s motives for putting the item on the agenda at a meeting Dirks could not attend.
While Dirks was absent from the Aug. 17 meeting, Mayor Delores Dalke did convey Dirks’ belief that the agreement should be funded entirely through the industrial fund.
Paine stated at the same meeting that it was too late to create a ballot initiative to increase the mill levy for the industrial fund in time for the 2011 budget. But he also said council members could instruct him at any time to begin the ballot process in anticipation of the 2012 budget.
As soon as Dirks finished his remarks at last Tuesday’s meeting, he moved for adjournment. The motion was seconded and approved without further comment. Dirks then left the meeting.
Afterward, Paine declined to respond to Dirks’ comments. Late in the week, he said that after conferring individually with members of the council, the next agenda would include a discussion about initiating a ballot referendum for a mill-levy increase.
During a discussion about progress on eliminating sewer odors through an experimental injection of ozone into the waste stream, the council and mayor expressed a desire for more information about engineering costs and procedures related to the recently completed lagoon project.
Council members Dirks and Byron McCarty said they recalled that Jim Kohman, the project engineer for Evans, Bierly, Hutchison & Associates, had talked during the planning stages about including aeration rollers in the lagoon ponds, and yet none had appeared in the project plans.
Aeration increases the oxygen level in the waste flow, which destroys odor-producing anaerobic bacteria.
Mayor Delores Dalke also mentioned that the current odor issue may have been precipitated by a decision years ago by city staff to seal the holes in manhole covers in an effort to satisfy citizen complaints about odors.
Dalke said the holes are commonly used to enable oxygen to interact with the waste stream.
Dalke suggested that the council be proactive and ask EBH to give an accounting of the project, both the costs and the procedures.
Meanwhile, Paine reported that the experimental ozone-treatment project had shown both positive and negative effects. The positive effect was an increased oxygen level in the waste flow. The negative effect was that the ozone has had a corrosive effect on the rubber ring in the lift-station check valve.
Paine said to alleviate that problem, the ozone will be injected only when the pump is running rather than continuously.
Paine said the ozone equipment will be moved to the lift station near the Zion Lutheran Cemetery for additional testing.
In other business, the council:
• approved the purchase of a 2002 half-ton Chevrolet pickup with 29,000 miles for $11,500 from Federal Surplus. A pickup with 60,000 miles had been priced at $15,000 by Hillsboro Ford.
The pickup will replace the one that was totaled earlier this year in an accident at the corner of Ash Street and U.S. Highway 56. The driver, Chris Brewer of the street department, has not yet returned to work because of accident-related issues.
• approved specifications for the purchase of a new patrol car for the police department. The bid will be limited to a 2011 model Ford Crown Victoria, Dodge Charger or Chevrolet Impala. The city will be trading in its 2000 Impala with 72,000 miles as part of the transaction.
• appointed Dalke and Dirks as voting delegates to the League of Kansas Municipalities’ annual meeting in October. If Dirks is unable to attend, Bob Watson was appointed as an alternate.
• appointed Dalke as Hillsboro’s delegate to the National?League of Cities annual meeting in December.
• adopted the 2010 edition of the Standard Traffic Ordinance and Uniform Public Offense Ordinance, which are updated annually by the LKM.
The council approved the traffic ordinance with the stipulation that its decision earlier this year regarding the use of golf carts on city streets will supercede any law to the contrary.
• approved paying a second invoice from Vogts-Parga Construction, totaling $117,268, for work completed in the Hillsboro Business Park.
• approved the renewal of a liquor license for R&D Liquor. The council also approved an ordinance that would change the city’s requirement for license renewal from every year to every two years, which reflects the change made at the state level.
• approved payment of an invoice for $1,773.50 from William Morris Associates regarding the Bartel House restoration project. The money will come from a fund designated for museum projects.
• approved an invoice for $9,413.12 to EBH & Associates for work done on the odor-control project.