Written by Don Ratzlaff Tuesday, 27 November 2007 17:12
When the first big snowfall hits Hillsboro this season, downtown business owners will have a bit more motivation to get their sidewalks shoveled in a timely manner.
The Hillsboro City Council passed at its Nov. 20 meeting a change in the city’s snow-removal policy that would require business owners to clear their sidewalks within 24 hours after the snowfall ends.
Mayor Delores Dalke said most businesses are quick to open their sidewalks to avoid ice buildup. The policy change was motivated by the few that aren’t.
“Where this is going to come into play is with those buildings that either have tenants that aren’t around very often, or there’s a couple of empty buildings that never get opened,” she said.
Councilor Bob Watson asked for clarity about the 24-hour deadline.
“It it snows on Saturday afternoon, I don’t know that most merchants are going to have it cleared off by Sunday afternoon,” he said. “Is it business hours?”
City Administrator Larry Paine said the purpose of the policy is simply to get the sidewalks cleared in a timely manner.
City Attorney Dan Baldwin said enforcement will be a judgment call, to some degree.
“Obviously, it’s when somebody is causing you problems that you’re going to pull the ordinance out,” Baldwin said. “It’s not likely you’re going to be out running around looking for violations.”
Councilor Shane Marler agreed, saying, “I don’t know that anybody is going to be holding a stopwatch as soon as the last flake flies.”
City mailings policy
In another policy decision, the council voted to limit access for advertisement “stuffers” to be mailed with the city’s monthly utility bills.
With the new policy, the only advertisements that will be accepted must have a direct connection to “the corporate affairs of the city of Hillsboro.”
About a year and a half ago, the city began mailing its utility bills to residents in enclosed envelopes instead of as post-card notices. Dalke said the need for a policy about stuffers became clear after a local not-for-profit organization asked to promote an event through the mailing.
“We said we weren’t doing those, and then we got criticized in the newspaper here, there and everywhere,” Dalke said. “We were run into the ground because we hadn’t done that.
“As it turned it out, they were stuffed anyway and (a local business person) paid for it. Then it was said this organization had (been asked) to pay for it, which was not true.
“So we need to have an official policy about when we say yes and when we say no.”
‘Fix’ the budget
The council approved setting a public hearing for 4 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 18, for the purpose of receiving citizen comments about adjusting some line items within the 2007 city budget in order to “fix” an overrun in the capital-improvements budget.
Paine said the 2007 budget had been approved in 2006 with a capital-improvements budget of just under $600,000. When the Adams Street project emerged during the year, the cost to complete it pushed the expense line to about $770,000.
Under state law, a municipal line item cannot exceed the amount previously ratified and published by the city council.
Paine said the procedure required to fix the violation includes calling a public hearing so citizens can respond to the budget line-item adjustments that will be recommended.
“When I use the word ‘fix,’ it’s not saying what is here is wrong,” he said. “It’s because it’s the way life happens.
“We’ve gone through the budget process, some things have needed to be done, and we’ve spent more money than the budget allows. So we amend that (original) budget in order to get to the point where we wouldn’t have any significant budget violations.”
Paine said budget violations are noted in the city’s annual audit report, and the violators sometimes receive “a nasty gram” from the state.
“Does anybody go to jail over this? No, nobody does,” he said. “The worst is that we get a letter from the state and we get a note in the audit report.”
Paine said the adjustments to the 2007 budget will not affect the tax levy for either 2007 or 2008.
The council also:
heard from Dalke that the city has a potential buyer for a lot in Hillsboro Heights. The council authorized the mayor to request a survey of the lot to determine if it will accommodate the proposed building.
affirmed Jessey Hiebert for his 10 years of continuous service to the city through the Hillsboro Police Department. He received a certificate from the League of Kansas Municipalities and a gift from the city in appreciation for his work.
authorized the mayor to sign a document that enables Hillsboro Community Medical Center to lease a new computed axial tomography (CT or CAT) scanner.
The new scanner will enable the hospital to do patient scans of much higher resolution with less radiation exposure, electronically transmit those scans to the appropriate physician or lab and then receive results almost immediately if needed.
“This is really, really good equipment we’re getting at the hospital—something we’ve never had before,” Dalke said.
heard from Paine that the city needs to adjust its fees for installing residential water-meter taps. He said the current fee does not cover the city’s expense for providing the service.