Water crisis over, but city council addresses related business

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
With its 22-day water emergency apparently resolved, the Hillsboro City Council had the luxury at its July 1 meeting of taking care of relatively routine business again.

Some of that business still related to the emergency, but without the sense of urgency that prevailed while the city’s water- treatment plant was off line from Marion Reservoir.

The water plant was back on line Friday afternoon after lab tests confirmed that the plant was able to produce safe water despite the presence of an anabaena algae bloom in the lake.

Topping the council’s water-related agenda was the passage of Resolution No. 2003-09, which officially ended the prior declaration of a water emergency in the city-and with it, ended all restrictions on water usage required of residents and businesses.

Even though the resolution officially was still in effect until Tuesday’s action, the city had ceased enforcing the mandatory water restrictions as soon as the water plant came back on line.

The council also got a taste for the economic impact of the water emergency when City Administrator Steven Garrett asked members to give him the authority to pay a bill from Gorges Dairy, which provided a tanker truck and driver to haul in water from McPherson and Rural Water District No. 4 while the water plant was off line.

The bill, which totaled $13,750, covered only the first 10 days of emergency. Garrett told the council he would be able to present them with a more complete financial accounting in a few days.

Prior to the meeting, Garrett had estimated the crisis would likely cost the city around $30,000.

In one more related act, the council approved an agreement officially making Rural Water District No. 4 its backup water source in case of a future shortage.

The agreement allows the city, at its own expense, to construct a valve and hookup system to enable access to RWD No. 4’s water line that runs just north of town along U.S. Highway 56.

The agreement also states the city will pay any expense associated with the district modifying its water-use permit with the state.

During the water emergency, RWD No. 4 was charging the city $1.50 per thousand gallons of water. Under the new agreement, the city would pay $2.40 per thousand gallons.

The higher price “is a more accurate reflection of the district’s cost of acquisition,” according to the agreement.

“That’s higher than I would want to pay, but this is one of those beggars-can’t-be-choosy situations,” Garrett said of the new rate. “We need a backup.”

Mayor Delores Dalke agreed the city had few options.

“I think we should sign this (agreement) and then pray we never have to use it,” she said.

City Attorney Dan Baldwin noted that the agreement states the district can exercise “unfettered discretion” when considering a request from the city to actually use the hookup-meaning, the district is not obligated to grant the request.

Save the trees

If an affordable plan can be devised, the two golden rain trees growing in front of Emprise Bank will survive the downtown street renovation project.

Bob Watson, senior vice president of the bank, told the council he had understood the two trees would need to be removed to accommodate the project. But, as word spread of the trees’ demise- and the construction deadline drew near-customers and bank employees had expressed hope the trees could be saved after all.

“They’re probably not the world’s greatest trees, but we’d like to keep them,” Watson said.

Because of the shade they provided, the trees had become something of a gathering point for customers to briefly socialize, Watson said. He also said the trees aesthetically “softened” the building’s stone exterior.

If the expense was reasonable, Watson said the bank would pay for project modifications to keep the trees around.

Bob Previtera, the city’s engineer, said accommodating the trees would definitely require changes in the design because the trees are growing right along the decorative brick line.

Because the bank’s request caught him unprepared, Previtera said he needed time to come up with a plan, and to estimate the cost of implementing it. He said he would meet with Watson later with more information.

As part of Previtera’s report to the council, the council approved a final sketch for how street renovations will change the access area in front of city hall.

The council had decided at its previous meeting that the curb line in front of city hall along the north side of Grand should be changed to conform to the curb line in front of Emprise Bank.

To accommodate sidewalk-slope requirements, Previtera’s design incorporates a two-foot-wide planting area in front of the building.

Previtera did not indicate how much the changes would cost.

Two other project-related concerns were raised during the meeting. Garrett asked Previtera to speak with the contractor about trying harder to avoid hitting water service lines when digging along the west edge of Main.

“It’s becoming a regular thing,” Garrett said, “and I’d like it to not be a regular thing.”

Previtera said the problem is that the service lines are unmarked and the city has no record of where they are located.

He said the contractor could probably take a few more precautions, but given the situation, “if they hit, they hit it.”

The other concern had to do with the thickness of the new sidewalks. Councilor Len Coryea asked if the sidewalks would break if business owners used tractors to clear snow from sidewalks in winter-as some had said they have done in the past.

Previtera said the news sidewalks are 4 inches thick because they are intended for foot traffic, not vehicle traffic. He said anything beyond “a large lawn tractor” could pose a problem.

Garrett said the new sidewalks will require some changes in past practices.

“This is a community and we all need to use our heads,” he said.

In other project-related matters, the council approved a second pay estimate from APAC Kansas of $128,551.65 for past work, and a pay estimate for Reiss & Goodness Engineering of $5,337.

Other business

In other matters, the council:

met as the Public Building Commission to approve a resolution authorizing the city to refinance bonds of $1.18 million at a lower interest rate. The bonds had been initiated in 1998 when the PBC acquired the facilities of what is now Hillsboro Community Medical Center.

approved a request from HCMC to delay payment of its utility bill by two weeks. Mike Ryan, HCMC chief executive officer, made the request to accommodate a temporary cash-flow shortage created during the transition to being a “Critical Access Hospital.”

Because agencies needed time to update their records to reflect the new arrangement, Ryan said HCMC had not filed any Medicare claims since June 2, when the designation became official.

Ryan said the situation would correct itself within 10 days or so. Until then, the hospital was pursuing “aggressive cash-flow management,” including the possibility of establishing a temporary line of credit with a financial institution.

As a condition to accepting the delay, Garrett said he would work with Ryan to get HCMC current on its payment procedures. Generally, utility payments have been coming in up to 60 days late.

accepted four pay estimates for work done to houses through the city’s rehabilitation program on the north side of town: $5,955 for work done at 301 N. Lincoln; $19,200 for work done at 307 N. Lincoln; $9,710 for work done at 309 N. Lincoln; $6,325 for work done at 316 N. Main.

The council also approved bills from Business & Technology Institute in Pittsburg totaling $5,640 for tests and assessments related to the project, and from Tom Chavey for $900 for inspection work done on three of the properties.

approved the following reappointments recommended by Mayor Dalke for city boards: Kyle Cederberg to the Board of Zoning Appeals, and Steve Berg, Hank Wiebe and Don Ratzlaff to the Convention and Visitors Bureau Board.

authorized Mayor Dalke to sign a proclamation making Aug. 8 “Hillsboro Relay for Life Day” in the city of Hillsboro.

heard from Megan Kilgore, executive director of the Hillsboro Management Board, that the annual Marion County Fair parade will move its route to Ash Street this year because of the renovation work on Main Street.

Kilgore also reported the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce has designated July as “Neighborhood Block Party Month” in Hillsboro.

She also said the Convention and Visitors Bureau would be delivering bags of ice and informational packets about Hillsboro to visitors at Marion Reservoir on Thursday evening.

heard from Garrett that he and the Hillsboro Historical Society Board were in the process of interviewing candidates for the position of museum director.

heard from Garrett that, because of the wet weather, the efforts of city workers to replace sidewalks around town was proceeding slower than he would like, but he expected progress to pick up over the next month with the likelihood of hotter and drier weather.

approved an amendment to the city’s fireworks ordinance that would bring it in compliance with the state fire marshal’s code. The city’s ordinance had allowed the sale of fireworks from June 20 through July 5; the state sets the parameters from June 27 through July 5.

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