Hillsboro City Council hears little news at June 17 meeting

Little new information was revealed at the Hillsboro City Council meeting Tuesday about the ongoing algae problem at Marion Reservoir and its impact on the local water supply.

City Administrator Steven Garrett said the water department is awaiting results from water tests conducted by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Garrett said he expected those results to be released Friday. Some of the results will address issues at the reservoir itself and some will address tests conducted at the city’s water-treatment plant.

Garrett said until the test results come in, the city will continue its current strategy-potable water will be trucked in from Rural Water District No. 4 and the city of McPherson, and citizens will need to conserve their use of water.

In related issues, Todd Jost, representing the local Boy Scout troop, asked to be kept informed about water restrictions and the county-wide burn ban proclaimed by the Marion County Board of Commissioners Monday.

Jost said his troop has been planning to sell fireworks this summer, but if water restrictions and the burn ban are still active, he said he didn’t think it would be responsible to do so.

Garrett said the results of the KDHE tests will likely shed light on that issue, and that the city would keep Jost informed-as well as others who have applied for permits to sell fireworks.

Mayor Delores Dalke reminded council members that, according to the state’s open-meetings law, a “majority of a quorum” of the council cannot gather to discuss city business without first informing the public of the gathering.

Questions have arisen in Marion about whether its city commission violated that law at a closed meeting held Thursday to discuss the algae problem at the reservoir.

Main Street projects

Bob Previtera, the city’s engineer through Reiss & Goodness Engineers, said “things are looking pretty good” regarding the Main Street project now that several days of dry weather have enabled the contractor to work steadily.

Previtera said he expects the project “switchover” to occur Monday, when the contractor will open the renovated side of Main and Grand to traffic, and then begin demolition on the unrenovated side.

Previtera also presented a change order, which the council approved, to add the following things to the project: streetlights east of the alley on Grand to Washington Street; a double light fixture on that corner; and stop signs and streets signs to match the ornate-style streetlights.

Previtera and Garrett also agreed to meet with two Main Street businessmen about replacing driveways in front of their respective businesses.

Todd Jost and his father, Karl Jost, owners of Jost Welding, and Lowell Foth, owner of Foth Service Center, were at Tuesday’s meeting to address their concerns about plans to eliminate the existing driveways in front of their businesses on South Main.

The Josts had addressed that issue with the council at a special meeting June 10. Foth said he was unaware of the plan until he heard about the June 10 meeting.

“Is it inconsiderate to consider people who have a business?” he asked. “Without a driveway, I’m out of business. My concern is, did anybody look?”

Foth and Karl Jost agreed to meet with Garrett and Previtera at 9 a.m. the following day.

Garrett said Wednesday afternoon, after the meeting, that the two businesses will have their driveways replaced, assuming the council will approve the change order to do so.

Revenue declines

The council reviewed and ultimately accepted the auditor’s report for fiscal year 2002.

Jack Blazer, representing the Newton auditing firm of Knudson, Monroe & Co. LLC, walked the council through the 35-page report, but what caught the attention of Mayor Dalke and the council was the statement of cash receipts and expenditures for the city’s general fund.

The statement indicated that in several areas, actual revenue to the city was significantly under what was expected in 2002-in all, receipts were $84,765 below budget.

The most significant line item was interest revenue, where the city had budgeted for $160,000 but received only $86,460-a difference of $73,540.

Another significant shortfall occurred in local sales tax, where the city budgeted for $200,000 and received only $157,107-a difference of $42,893.

State revenue sharing funds also came in lower than budget-$12,559 received compared to a budget expectation of $30,835-a difference of $18,276.

Dalke said those numbers help explain the difficult budget situation the city is dealing with in 2003, and she predicted those numbers would “continue to spiral down” because of continuing low interest rates, the difficult economy and budget problems in Topeka.

On a brighter note, Dalke added, the city’s enterprise funds-revenue generated from the sale of water and electricity-have done well.

“It looks like our rates are set to take care of ourselves pretty well,” she said.

TCT wireless Internet

Scott Braden, owner of Braden computer in Hillsboro, was on hand to alert the council to a potential problem if Tri-County Telephone is allowed to bring its wireless Internet service into Hillsboro.

TCT has been in communication with the city about leasing space on the city water tower for transmitting their service.

Braden, a dealer for DTN Speednet wireless Internet service, said he actually welcomed competition because it would likely benefit the community by lowering prices.

But he said if TCT uses the same bandwidth used by DTN Speednet and the wireless system installed this spring by Tabor College, it will slow Internet service for users of all three systems.

Braden said only four channels are available at the same 2.2 frequency. DTN Speednet uses two channels and Tabor uses one. When Tabor first came on line this spring, it affect service for everyone until DTN Speednet upgraded its equipment.

If TCT wants to use the last available channel, problems could reemerge.

“They could knock a lot of people off line, including Tabor,” he said. “I don’t mind the competition-I just want to try to prevent anyone (among his DTN customers) calling me and yelling at me.”

Braden said another, more expensive bandwidth (5.8) is available for service providers. If TCT plans to use that frequency, the situation would be acceptable, he said.

Garrett said he would find out more information from TCT before the council acts on the company’s lease request.

In other business, the council agreed to pay $300 to Tom Chavey for inspection work done at the housing rehabilitation project under way on the city’s north side. The council had tabled a the issue at their last meeting because of questions about the project.

As it turned out, the questions were unrelated to Chavey’s assignment.

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