The issue came before the council because Reimer was asking the city to return the $1,000 he had submitted as earnest money.
The council noted that in most real estate transactions, earnest money is forfeited if the buyer changes his mind. But after further discussion, the council voted unanimously to return the money to Reimer—less the termination fee that would be assessed to the city for halting the title process.
Other city expenses related to the property, such as surveying and platting, would have been made eventually anyway, the council reasoned, even if Reimer had not become involved.
In his annual report to the council, Fire Chief Ben Steketee said the 19 volunteers under his command have a combined 222 years of experience with the local department. The time they invested in emergency responses and training events in 2007 totaled 831 hours.
Steketee said while the department will be better equipped in 2008 with the addition of a new pumper truck funded by surrounding township fire districts, the department continues to have need for a second ambulance and a rescue truck.
Steketee said placing a second ambulance would be a county decision. But funding and staffing shortages make the placement unlikely in the near future.
Acquiring a rescue truck would be a local decision, he said. A rescue truck carries equipment such as the jaws of life that often is required when the fire department responds to a traffic accident.
Departments in Marion, Florence, Goessel and Lincolnville are equipped with rescue trucks, Steketee noted. When Hillsboro needs one, they must wait for the Marion unit to respond.
“It can be a long 10 to 15 minutes waiting for it to arrive,” he said.
Steketee also noted that Hillsboro’s application for grant funding to enlarge the current fire station was not approved.
Council members praised the involvement and professionalism of the Hillsboro Fire Department under Steketee’s command. They acknowledged the value of adding a rescue truck but said they needed to review budgeting priorities before making a decision.
The council deferred action on an initial presentation from Paine about the need to upgrade the phone system in city hall. The current system was believed to be installed during the 1980s and is not being serviced by any company.
Paine called the upgrade “mission critical” for city staff.
“We’re not even working with cars and trucks that are 30 years old,” he said. “The last time there was a problem (with the phone system), no one was willing to come and repair the problem.”
Paine presented an estimate for a new system of $24,188 from Phone Connection of Salina, a company he used satisfactorily for a similar upgrade while employed with the city of Concordia. The new system would enable the office to transfer calls to city staff in the field.
The council acknowledged the need for a system upgrade, but deferred action to consider where the expenditure should rank on its list of budget priorities.
In other business, council:
n set a schedule for a “strategic planning discussion” regarding budget priorities and potential city projects. The council agreed for a lunch session on Monday, Jan. 8, and a followup session at 4 p.m. Jan. 9. The council also will meet for a session about utility rates and related issues at 4 p.m. Monday, Jan. 14.
n authorized Paine to replace the current office copier with a new black-and-while model for a monthly lease fee of $263.51. The monthly fee for the current machine is $319.18. The new machine will enable staff to scan printed documents.
n agreed to maintain and enforce the city’s current traffic code that allows 30-minute parking along the east side of the 100 block of North Ash. Elcon Service had asked that the city to ease the restriction in front of the building the company inhabits at the corner of Ash and First streets. The council agreed that allowing a vehicle to park in that location for an entire day creates a traffic hazard because drivers approaching the intersection on First Street cannot see northbound traffic along Ash.
The council noted that when Elcon moves into a new building it is proposing for Hillsboro Heights, the city will remove parking privileges long that block all together, thus making that block consistent with the rest of Ash.
n heard from Paine that sales-tax revenue in 2007 was $15,000 ahead of the previous year. Dalke said that was a significant accomplishment for businesses in Hillsboro considering the loss of $1 million in sales when McDonald’s closed its door in the final days of 2006.