ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
In the course of reorganizing and making annual appointments, the Hillsboro City Council voted 3-1 to make the Hillsboro Free Press Digest its official newspaper for the next six months.
At the end of six months, the decision will be reviewed for “cost and service.” The publishers of the Free Press Digest and the Hillsboro Star-Journal, which had been the city’s official newspaper, may be asked to rebid for the service.
As the city’s official newspaper, the Free Press Digest will be the publication of record to carry the ordinances and legal notices the city is required by law to publish.
In the past, that privilege annually has generated several thousand dollars in revenue for the newspaper so designated.
A proposal submitted earlier by Joel Klaassen, publisher of the Free Press Digest and the Free Press, stated the city’s legal notices would be printed in the Digest, which is published weekly and has 15 paid subscribers, at the established rate.
The proposal also stated notices would be published again, without charge, in the Hillsboro Free Press, which is mailed weekly to every home with a Hillsboro postal address.
Mayor Delores Dalke, who raised the issue of appointing an official newspaper at last Tuesday’s meeting, said the price quoted by the two publishers was identical.
She also noted that Hoch Publishing Co., publisher of the Star-Journal, wanted to stipulate the size of the type while Klaassen’s proposal indicated the city should make that decision.
Type size would affect the cost of publication because it affects the amount of space required to publish a given notice.
Council member Leonard Coryea suggested the council appoint the official newspaper based on bids and that the appointment be reconsidered every six months.
Council member Wendell Dirks picked up on the suggestion, saying the city has alternated providers of services in the past when more than one local provider was available and the bids were competitive.
“I think we should give this a try for six months,” he said.
Council president Mike Padgett agreed with the notion of alternating the appointment, but said he preferred the appointment be made for a full year-as is the case when the city selects banking services.
Dalke noted that typographical errors made by the Star-Journal over the past six months had on more than one occasion forced the city to republish a notice.
“I think it’s time to give the other paper a chance,” she said, referring to the Digest and Free Press.
In the end, the council voted to appoint the Free Press Digest and then review the decision in six months. Padgett cast the dissenting vote while Coryea, Dirks and Matt Hiebert voted in favor.
The issue resurfaced near the end of the meeting. Carol Klenda, Star-Journal general manager, who was not present when the issue was first addressed, asked why the council had taken action without notifying representatives of their company.
Dalke said the issues surrounding the decision had been discussed openly several months earlier and was being addressed now as “part of the agenda” of making appointments.
Klenda then asked if the council had gotten a legal opinion from City Attorney Dan Baldwin about the qualifications of the Digest to serve as an official city newspaper.
When Klenda asked for a copy of the opinion, Baldwin declined, saying he had issued it to the council as a confidential memo in executive session.
Klenda then suggested the council might want to delay a decision because at least one other state was reviewing the issue.
The exchange became spirited when Rick Hattersley, the Star-Journal reporter assigned to cover the meeting, said, “I hope to heck that this favoritism doesn’t lead to trouble down the road for you.”
Asked by Dirks to repeat the comment, Hattersley obliged.
“How can you accuse us of favoritism when we’ve talked about nothing but fairness?” Dirks asked. “Even King Solomon offered to cut the baby in half.”
“Oh, suddenly God is being invoked here,” Hattersley retorted.
The May 2 issue of the Star-Journal reported that Hattersley was later reprimanded by his employer “for making an audible comment of disgust when his attempts to obtain a copy of the city attorney’s opinion were rebutted.”
Eric Meyer, vice president of Hoch Publishing, was quoted as saying he understood Hattersley’s frustration, but “it is never appropriate to express frustration publicly while exercising responsibilities as a journalist.”
Meyer said Hattersley would issue a written apology to the council and to the city attorney.
The Star-Journal also reported that on the same evening the decision was made, Klenda and Meyer hand-delivered a letter to each city council member and to the city attorney asking the council to request a legal ruling on the issue from the state attorney general.
Mayor Dalke said later the council has no plans to pursue the Star-Journal’s suggestion.
In other business, the council:
— having temporarily adjourned to hold a meeting of the Public Building Commission, approved a request from Michael Ryan, chief executive officer of Hillsboro Community Medical Center, to reimburse HCMC from of the PBC’s Plant, Property and Equipment Fund for expenses totaling $23,420. Nearly $17,500 of those expenses were for upgrading the hospital’s computer system.
While still in session, the following PBC officers were appointed for the coming year: Wendell Dirks will continue as chair, Matt Hiebert was appointed vice chair, and Jan Meisinger will continue as secretary.
— unanimously approved the following appointments for the coming year: Keith Collett, municipal judge; Steve Garrett, city administrator, city treasurer, and zoning administrator; Dan Baldwin, city attorney; Johnnie E. Liles, city superintendent; Glenda Wodke, deputy city clerk, Janice K. Meisinger, city clerk, Kermit Dirksen, public officer; and Dan Kinning, police chief.
— agreed to the following committee and board assignments: Mike Padget to the Hillsboro Development Corporation, Board of Zoning Appeals, and Hillsboro Golf Association; Len Coryea to Convention and Tourism, Historical Society and Museum, and Recreation Commission; Wendell Dirks to Airport Board, Tree Board, and HCMC; Matt Hiebert to Community Planning and Development Commission, Housing Authority, and the Swimming Pool Task Force; and Delores Dalke to Library Board.
— agreed to pay an invoice of $2,419.65 to BG Consultants, Inc., for engineering work completed on the Prairie Pointe housing development during December, January and March.
— authorized Mayor Dalke to sign a proclamation making May 6-12 “Hospital Week” and “Nurses Week” in Hillsboro, and May 13-19 “Nursing Home Week.”
In his report, City Administrator Steve Garrett told the council:
— Hillsboro will begin supplying water to the city of Peabody “within the next 10 to 15 days;”
— the city’s new promotional marque sign should be erected an functioning in Hillsboro Heights “well in advance of Memorial Day;”
— the city has applied for matching-grant funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency on behalf of the Hillsboro Fire Department to replace equipment, including one fire truck;
— that Hillsboro has been officially proclaimed a “Tree City, USA” for 2001, thanks to the work of Paul Jantzen, a member of the Hillsboro Tree Board.
— that he recommended the Hillsboro Arts and Crafts Association be given permission to erect a sign in the northwest corner of Hillsboro Heights along U.S. Highway 56 that announces the annual art fair;
— that swimming pool passes again be issued to the local motels for $150; the passes entitle guests to use the city pool at no charge.