Couple exploring new dining, entertainment option

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Purchasing the former dairy-plant property was the biggest real estate deal discussed at Tuesday’s Hillsboro City Council meeting, but not the only one.

Stan and Jolene Thiessen of 212 N. Ash revealed plans to develop their residential property into an enterprise they are calling “Hearth Court Inn, Bed & Breakfast.”

The Thiessens came before the council to ask if they could use adjoining city-owned property as a parking area for their new business.

The Thiessens said their enterprise will “accommodate a combination of live entertainment in an elegant dining experience and be the choice for events like receptions, reunions and business seminars.”

The lodging portion of the business will include four bedrooms.

The project would entail a significant addition to their existing home, plus the development of a spacious courtyard. In all, the business will be situated on three city lots.

The Thiessens said when the project is completed-which they expect to be June 2003-the dining facility will be large enough to accommodate nearly 200 patrons. The capacity could be doubled if the courtyard also is used.

The Thiessens said they expect the business to attract more than 10,000 visitors from outside Hillsboro during its first year of operation.

To provide adequate space for parking, the Thiessens were asking to use the property currently being used for parking by the local senior center and occasionally for bus-tour participants.

The Thiessens said their business would not interfere with the use of the lot for those purposes.

As part of their proposal, the Thiessens said they would provide landscaping, gravel and maintenance at their own cost in exchange for using the property.

Mayor Delores Dalke spoke positively about the project, but suggested it needed to be reviewed first by the Hillsboro Planning Commission.

“To me, it sounds like a great idea, but I don’t want to bypass anyone who might want to have a say in it,” Dalke said.

Council members agreed with the mayor, and asked the Thiessens to present their proposal to the Planning Commission.

In the meantime, the council authorized City Administrator Steven Garrett to check the city’s requirements for parking areas, and City Attorney Dan Baldwin to draw up a potential contract for such an arrangement-if the project is approved by the Planning Commission.

In other business, the council authorized Hillsboro Police Chief Dan Kinning to issue proposals for purchasing a new police car.

Kinning said the department planned to trade in its 1997 Ford Crown Victoria police package with about 90,000 miles on it.

“I know that doesn’t sound like a lot of miles,” Kinning said, “but those are city miles.”

Putting on many more miles on the car likely would not be to the city’s economic advantage because of probable maintenance issues.

“Not only would it nickel-and-dime us, but there’d be a danger of major engine and transmission problems,” Kinning said.

The department does not have funds budgeted for major repairs, he added.

Councilor Len Coryea noted that the department currently has one car for each officer, and asked if the department could get by with one less car and then rotate the vehicles among the officers as needed.

Kinning said he had reservations about that idea.

“We’re all subject to call-out,” he said. “Three or four of us at a time are called out sometimes. If we (try to get by with one less car), we may have no way to respond.”

Coryea also noted the city wants to add an officer to the force through grant funding. Would the city need to purchase an additional vehicle if an officer was added?

Kinning said he did not have a recommendation to make, but the city could opt to keep the Crown Victoria for a time instead of trading it in.

That issue may be moot, Garrett interjected. It was his sense that the city likely would not receive the grant funding this year to add an officer.

In other matters, the council:

approved an addendum to Garrett’s employment contract that would increase his salary from $53,500 to $56,800. The vote was taken after a lengthy executive session to evaluate Garrett’s job performance after one year.

“He got very high marks from the council,” Dalke said after the meeting. “There was some counseling going on, too, with things we wanted to visit about with him. But overall he received a way-above-average rating from each of the council members. We’re very pleased with what he’s doing.”

heard from Garrett that the recent street-sealing project was completed quickly and efficiently by Hi-Plains Sand.

“If this is the kind of work they do, then I’m impressed,” Garrett said.

heard from Garrett that the city, because of its efforts to update its safety procedures, had qualified for a “gold medal” from the Kansas Municipalities Insurance Trust.

The award will result in a 5 percent rebate of the city’s premiums-about $900 for the current year.

“Kicking our safety program into high gear is paying off,” Garrett said.

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