New housing grant may spark more interest in NRP

Noting its increased value to some local residents in the light of a recent state housing rehabilitation grant, the Hillsboro City Council unanimously agreed at its July 3 meeting to continue the Neighborhood Revitalization Plan for at least another year.

An annual vote is a technicality required by the state, but it gave council members an opportunity to be updated about the response to the 10-year program that was approved in spring 1999.

The NRP gives business owners and homeowners in a designated area of Hillsboro an opportunity to improve their properties without paying taxes on the improvements.

Under the plan, commercial buildings where physical improvements add at least 15 percent to the appraised value of the property, and residences where such improvements add at least 5 percent to the appraised value, will receive a tax break through the year 2009 because the property will remain at the original appraised value.

Mayor Delores Dalke reported that 10 applications had been received to date and eight projects had been completed. Six of the applications came from owners of commercial property.

“At first, people acted scared of it, like it shouldn’t be for real,” Dalke said.

The housing rehabilitation grant of almost $270,000 approved last month for Hillsboro should be an incentive for more property owners to take advantage of the NRP, Dalke added.

“Everyone who applies for the grant should also apply for this NRP so they can keep their taxes down after improvements are made,” she said.

Dalke said having the NRP in place helped the city qualify for last month’s grant.

In other business, the council approved Resolution 2001-06 authorizing the public sale of $804,500 in general improvement bonds. Bids will be opened and the bonds sold at a 4 p.m. meeting July 17.

The council also accepted a letter that came through Jerry Rayl, the city’s financial consultant, noting that under Rule G-23 it was aware of a potential conflict of interest in allowing Rayl’s firm, Davidson Securities of Wichita, to submit a bid for the city bonds.

The council also approved Resolution 2001-007 outlining the city’s agreement with the Hillsboro Star-Journal to be the city’s official newspaper.

The resolution stated the appointment will be renewed annually and the city “reserves the right to determine type, size and frequency of publication of all legal publications in accordance with Kansas Statutes.”

In his report to the council, City Administrator Steven Garrett reported he and the mayor had recently attended a meeting with members of the Peabody City Council about glitches that have delayed the sale of Hillsboro water to Peabody.

The sale was delayed when a leak developed in the holding tank located in Hillsboro. Fixing the leak, though, is Peabody’s financial obligation. The repair will cost around $26,000, Dalke said.

“They weren’t happy campers and they communicated that to their engineer,” Garrett said.

Dalke noted the meeting served primarily as an opportunity for Peabody leaders to vent some of their frustration because the delay adds fuel for local critics who have resisted the project from the start.

“I think it’s become a potential hot potato for them,” Garrett said.

The city administrator also reported that Hillsboro’s old electrical substation located at the water treatment facility was dismantled and removed the previous week.

He said arrangements had been made with a vocational technical school in Manhattan to remove the system, which will be used as a learning tool for students.

Not only did the arrangement make good use of the old substation, Garrett said, it also saved the city the cost of removing and selling some 10 tons of angle iron at modest scrap prices.

Garrett also reported the city’s efforts to challenge its Census 2000 population results will be moving forward now that the city has received more details about the results.

“I’ll be trying to figure out where the census takers may have miscounted,” Garrett said.

Two suspect areas were the low number of Tabor College students reported on campus and a suspiciously high number of vacant houses reported.

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