Written by Don Ratzlaff Wednesday, 26 March 2008 08:28
Hillsboro may be offering residents and guests a downtown park in the not too distant future if funding and maintenance issues can be reasonably resolved.
The Hillsboro City Council approved such a park in principle at its March 18 meeting, and gave the initiators of the project, the Hillsboro Tree Board, permission to pull together cost estimates and work through other components of the proposed park.
Jonah Kliewer, chair of the Tree Board, distributed a preliminary drawing of park, which would be located along North Main between the post office and the next private property line to the north.
The small park would feature two shelters suitable for picnic use. As envisioned, the shelters would have metal roofs as well as supports that would aesthetically incorporate old city street bricks.
In addition to providing an outdoor gathering area downtown, the park could become a launching or resting point for an extended walking trail that the board has also envisioned for the city, Kliewer said.
He said the Tree Board has had only preliminary conversations about possible trail routes. The park could be developed with or without walking trails.
Kliewer and the board were invited to present the idea to the council by Mayor Delores Dalke, who said she was aware the board had been talking about the idea for a year or two and felt the board needed to get feedback from the council regarding the concept before investing more time in it.
“I love downtown parks,” Dalke said. “I think it would add a lot to the downtown area and make the downtown more friendly for people.”
Each of the four council members voiced support for the park in principle, recognizing that construction and maintenance costs need to be considered, as well a variety of permission issues related to the walking-trail idea.
One issue is ownership of the proposed property. The city owns much of the targeted area, but a strip of about 15-20 feet along the north boundary of the post office property is believed to be owned by the Hillsboro Kiwanis Club.
Councilor Bob Watson, a Kiwanis member, encouraged the board to visit with Jayson Hanschu, club president. Watson said he was not aware of any plan for using such a narrow strip; the club might consider contributing it to such a project.
Dalke also advised the board to check with the owner of the property that is leased for use by the U.S. Postal Service, to make sure the owner would not be opposed to the project.
In other business, the council:
n exchanged greetings and introductions with Jules Glanzer, who became Tabor College president Feb. 1. Glanzer thanked the city for its support of the college in the past and indicated his desire for the positive working relationship to continue under his leadership.
n approved a Class A club license for the American Legion building.
n accepted the contract for sewer-line cleaning, which included a rate increase from the previous contract from 44 cents to 56 cents per linear foot. The current project involves about a third of the city.
Dalke said since the city started cleaning the lines on a rotational basis “we don’t have (sewage) backups anymore.”
n heard Councilor Byron McCarty say he’d like eight vacation days restored for city employees that have served the city for 10 years or more. The extra vacations days had been cut as a cost-saving measure.
City Administrator Larry Paine said the city’s current vacation policy is in line with what other Second Class cities in Kansas offer employees. He called adding additional days “a significant budget buster” since the city is required to have cash in the bank to pay out those days if necessary. The move to restore the lost days “would be worth a couple of mills,” he estimated.
McCarty said he did not want to raise the city mill levy.
Paine said he would bring more information to the council at a later date.
n heard Paine report that he is working on refining the details of an additional Neighborhood Revitalization Plan for the city, and asked the council to set 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 15, as the date for a public hearing on the issue.
The newly targeted NRP area would include property all along D Street, and north along Ash Street west to Cedar Street. The plan was initiated in response to a request from developers of the building formerly owned by the McDonald’s Corp. along East D Street.
n awarded a three-year summer concessions contract for the Sports Complex to the Hillsboro Lions Club. The club’s offer “is in line with what they’ve always done,” according to Paine.
n accepted a bid from Glasgow Construction to remove the old ceiling in the Visitors Center at the Mennonite Settlement Museum grounds, and a bid from Supreme Floor Co. in Hillsboro to replace the carpet in the building. The two contracts, bid competitively, totaled about $6,000, and are part of a grant-funded effort to renovate and update the Visitors Center.