High-tech mapping to verify water lines

The Hillsboro City Council decided Tuesday it’s worth up to $18,000 for the city to have a detailed map of its water-line system.

“It’s a lot of money, but it has to be done,” said Mayor Delores Dalke. “We cannot serve the public the way we are now.”

Dalke said she’s been lobbying for a map of the system since at least 1991. The department has relied on the memory of employees to identify where lines and valves have been added or relocated.

“We were always told (by city workers), ‘We don’t have to write it down, we’ll remember,'” she said. “Remembering is not working anymore.”

Added City Administrator Steven Garrett: “We’re one train wreck away from having no one knowing where it is.”

Lack of information has contributed to occasional problems with water quality when leaks and breaks have occurred in the system, Garrett said.

The new mapping process will involve global-positioning satellite (GPS) technology, Garrett said.

The $18,000 estimate is the high end. If the city supplies some of the labor, which has been proposed by the mapping company, Garrett speculated the project would probably cost the city around $12,000.

The money for the project will likely come out of the city’s capital-improvement budget.

Councilor Matt Hiebert asked if the expense could be added to the water-treatment-plant project that will begin after the first of the year. Garrett said he would find out.

The new electronic map will belong to the city when it is completed, Garrett added, and should be relatively easy to update.

In other business, the council approved an ordinance for publication that indicates the new charge the city will assess residential and commercial customers for solid-waste services after Jan. 1.

At that time, the county will officially “be in the trash business” following its purchase of the transfer station in Marion, Garrett said.

After the first of the year, the county will begin assessing property owners for the cost of transferring trash from Marion to Topeka, including tipping fees. The fee assessment will be added to property-tax notices.

Under the current arrangement, the transfer-and-tipping cost has been added to the city’s billing. That money was then passed on to KC Development, the former owner of the transfer station.

Under the new arrangement, the city’s charge to pick up the trash will remain the same, the council was told. The monthly billing from the city, though, will be $6.25 lower for residential customers and $10 lower to commercial customers.

Dalke said the new ordinance merely subtracts the transfer and tipping fees from the city’s billing rate.

“As far as our (trash) department, this holds us totally harmless,” she said of the ordinance. “Our fee (for trash collection) remains exactly what it was before.”

Dalke added that residential customers won’t be paying much more for transfer and tipping fees when the county takes over the billing process, but some commercial customers will notice a significant increase.

The council also agreed to revisit the city’s ban on the sale and use of fireworks. Dalke said the ban was instituted in response to an unusually hot and dry summer in 1980. The county then instituted a county-wide ban.

Dalke said this year the county issued some 55 fireworks permits for the July 4 holiday. If so many permits were going to be allowed, she said, why not remove the city’s ban and let a civic group profit from the sale of fireworks instead of sending potential customers out of the county?

Dalke said prior to the ban, the local Boy Scout troop raised enough money by selling fireworks to fund its annual camping trip.

She added that if hot-and-dry weather created a significant threat of fire in the future, the county still has the authority to initiate a burn ban, which would include the use of fireworks.

“I think we should let our kids know how much fun fireworks can be,” she said.

In other business, the council:

n approved the reappointment of Tina Olsen and Becky Nuss as Hillsboro representatives on the Marion County Economic Development Council, and of Terry Hagen, Edith Darting and Mike Knak to the Airport Board.

n appointed Martin Rhodes as the city’s “public officer.” The additional title was necessary to keep the city in compliance with wording used in some ordinances related to housing regulations. Rhodes began working this month as the city’s new building inspector and code-enforcement officer.

n tabled action on a final invoice of $13,294 from Flaming Metal Systems Inc., until the council hears from the company about some questions it has regarding the construction of the city’s new utility building.

n approved an invoice of $1,800 from Tom Chavey for inspection work he did on six houses participating in the city’s rehabilitation program. The money will come from the Community Development Block Grant.

n heard from Garrett that a pre-bid meeting for the lighting project at the airport will be Dec. 2. He said several companies have expressed an interest in the project.

n heard from Garrett that the engine in one of the city’s two sludge trucks broke down and would cost $5,000 to rebuild. He said it would probably be more prudent to buy a different truck than to invest that much money in a 1978 model.

n heard from Garrett that he would pursue an inspection through the state’s Insurance Service Office that could raise the city’s fire-protection rating from 7 to 6. He said the change wouldn’t benefit homeowners much, but could help some commercial-property owners. Mayor Dalke added that a better rating also would lower insurance premiums on city hall, too.

n heard from Garrett that some electrical upgrades will be necessary to prepare the former AMPI offices as the new home for the Hillsboro Police Department.

He said most of the work would be done by Rhodes, who is a licensed electrician, so the expense should be minimal.

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