ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY CONNIE FABER
It wasn?t difficult this past year to see signs of growth in the City of Hillsboro. Entering the city from the south, one drove past the newest housing development, Willow Glen.
To the north, motorists along U.S. 56 could easily track the progress of Hillsboro Heights, the city-owned light commercial development.
?These kinds of years are fun,? said Mayor Delores Dalke.
?I?ve said it many times, the year 2000 will have a lot of projects but they won?t show in the same way as 1999,? she added. ?They are all extremely necessary projects?they improve our infrastructure?it?s just not as glamorous as 1999 with the addition of Hillsboro Heights.?
Hillsboro Heights officially opened in October. Dalke says there has been strong support for the development.
?There is lots of confidence in the project,? Dalke said. ?Lots were under contract before anything was completed.?
During 1999, the open land on the northwest corner of Hillsboro was transformed as streets, drainage, a water system, water drains, sanitary sewers and electrical work was begun or completed.
Sales have been good for the first year, Dalke said. Eight properties have been sold with some investors purchasing more than one lot.
Sonic, a fast-food drive-in, opened for business in October and Country Haven Inn, a 24-room motel, is scheduled to open in May. Construction resumed on the Dollar General Store in early January.
The city has also completed its share of water line, sewer and sanitation installation in Willow Glen, the housing development owned by Bruce and Sherry Kunkel, and has arranged for bids on other utilities. In addition to a model home, one home has been completed and sold and a third is under construction.
Work in the Industrial Park has included the installation of water lines on Centennial Street east of Santa Fe, sewer lines for a new business and developing plans for an entrance to Centennial Street off Highway 56, Dalke says.
Enhancing the old
Another significant project in 1999 was planning for water plant improvements totaling $1 million.
The city also finalized a contract to supply water for the City of Peabody. Hillsboro will begin supplying the water as soon as Peabody installs certain equipment and water lines between the two cities.
?Selling more water makes our plant run more efficiently,? Dalke said.
She is also pleased by the number of eligible business and home owners who are interested in participating in the new Neighborhood Revitalization Program. The city council initiated the program in hopes of encouraging property improvements in the city?s older neighborhoods. Property owners can receive tax advantages for up to 10 years on their improved property.
The city also completed its first year of an employee merit pay plan designed to reward employees ?based on the job that they do,? Dalke said.
Projects on the city?s docket for 2000 are less visible, but no less important than those completed in 1999, Dalke said. The city has targeted improvements for several services often taken for granted.
In addition to significant water plant improvements, the city will also build a new electrical substation. Dalke anticipates the substation, projected to cost $500,000, will be completed by July.
Because the facility will be built at a new location?near the city shop along U.S. Highway 56)?it can be built and go on-line without interrupting electrical services.
?Our needs have changed dramatically,? Dalke said, citing both an increase in population and in the amount of electricity used by businesses and residents, particularly air conditioning.
Electrical overloads, common during peak times in 1999, will be significantly reduced by the new substation.
The city will also replace the Washington Street sewer line. This major line, which is the original line laid in the 1920s, funnels the majority of the city?s waste to the sewage plant.
Other projects for 2000 include completing the city?s share of utility services to Prairie Pointe, a housing development located on the east edge of town, doing some work at the airport on the tarmac and tie-down areas, landscaping the Hillsboro Heights lake and extending Santa Fe Street in the Industrial Park. The storm sewer inlets along D Street will be repaired and the street resurfaced.
Promoting the census
City leaders are anxious for Hillsboro residents to participate in the 2000 federal census to help lay groundwork for future economic growth. The spring census has important local implications, Dalke said. The results will affect the amount of tax money the city is eligible to receive from the State of Kansas, the federal government and Marion County.
In an effort to encourage Hillsboro residents to return the census form within one day, the city council will sponsor special give-aways for those residents who return the forms April 1 to designated collection sites.
Dalke says the census at group facilities such as the nursing homes, the Parkside Homes apartments and Park Village, will be taken the third week of March, while Tabor College students will complete the census form during the second semester registration process.
?It is very important that everyone be counted,? Dalke said. ?This is the official census for the next 10 years.?
Good for law enforcement
When Hillsboro Police Chief Dan Kinning looks back on 1999, he counts two events as personally memorable.
?We had an excellent year at the Arts and Crafts Fair,? he said. ?There were no crimes reported and no injuries.?
A similar report for New Year?s Eve also tops Kinning?s list. ?This was the quietest New Year?s Eve I?ve seen in my 15 years of law enforcement,? he said.
Kinning says 1999 saw a slight increase in minor thefts. ?Just two or three people who commit just a few crimes can really bring your statistics up,? he said. The number of significant crimes was down, he added.
Thanks to a three-year federal grant, the department hired a fifth officer. The additional officer helped reduce overload, giving the officers a 42-hour week.
Kinning began serving as police chief in October, replacing Byron McCarty, who retired from the post after about 18 years of service.
?I really couldn?t tell you how many years I?ve been here,? McCarty said. He remained with the force to help with the transition in leadership and will continue to work with the department until spring.
McCarty isn?t the only officer who will be leaving the department in 2000. Officer Randy Brazil has resigned. so Kinning is looking for two new officers.
Attracting new officers will be a challenge, Kinning said, but the city is working to address the issues of wage, equipment and available technology.
?At this time we can?t afford some of the technology,? Kinning said, ?and at this point we really don?t need it.?
Kinning adds, ?KBI (Kansas Bureau of Investigation) resources are still there for us but they?ve also been cut back.?
The recent resignation of Marion County Sheriff Dan Harper is also of concern to Kinning. ?That position affects police departments more than people realize,? he said.
Kinning said he?s enjoyed working with Harper and hopes to enjoy a good working relationship with the new sheriff.
?We would like a sheriff who works with us,? he says. ?That office is a focal point in local communication.?
Kinning?s long-range goals include a new safety center for the city. It would be centrally located in the downtown area, and would serve the fire, police and emergency medical services departments.
New post office coming
Hillsboro postmaster Norman Bouwie has just one wish for 2000.
?The number one goal for 2000 is to move into the new building,? Bouwie said.
The site of the new post office has been finalized and drawings have been completed for the new building, which will be located on the west side of the 200 block of North Main.
?The best-case scenario is that the building will be built and we will move in by the Arts & Crafts Fair,? Bouwie said. ?It?s possible. Buildings can be built in five months.?
Bouwie added, ?It would be nice to have a state-of-the-art building to showcase?especially during the Arts & Crafts Fair.?
Bouwie says the facility will not only include a much-needed larger work area, but will also benefit the customers.
For example, current post office box customers cannot pick-up parcels after hours. That will change with the new parcel locker system.
After 30 years of service, city letter carrier Chuck Abrahams left the post office Jan. 3. A new full-time employee will be hired for his route, but ?it?s hard to replace that knowledge and experience,? Bouwie said. ?He really knew his customers.?
Other changes in 1999 included a one-cent increase in the cost of mailing a first-class Jan. 10. Another one-cent increase was announced a few weeks ago.
The U.S. Postal Service also introduced delivery confirmation, which allows customers, for a small fee, to confirm the arrival of letters or parcels. Bouwie said customers are taking advantage of the service, especially businesses.