ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Hillsboro residents who want to see live trees in front of Emprise Bank when the downtown street renovation project is over earned a split decision at the July 15 meeting of the Hillsboro City Council.
Live trees will be growing in front of the bank-but they won’t be the two golden rain trees that have been there for more than two decades.
In fact, the golden rain trees were removed the following day.
Bob Watson, senior vice president at Emprise, had asked the council at its July 1 meeting if a way could be found to save the trees. He said the bank would be willing to cover the extra expense, assuming the cost was reasonable.
But after exploring the options, Watson and Steven Garrett, city administrator, had concluded that the root system of the trees was too shallow to survive the engineering requirements of the project.
“It’s roots are right in the paving pattern,” said Bob Previtera, the city’s engineer through Reiss & Goodness. “We’d have to take some roots out.”
Watson said, “It appears that by the time we get through with the plan, the trees probably won’t survive.”
Instead, with Watson’s affirmation, the council approved a change order that would alter the original plan of the renovation project, creating a designed area in which the bank could plant two new trees better suited for the location.
Watson said the new trees would be planted with trunks up to 3 inches in diameter.
The bank will cover the cost of the project alteration-estimated at $3,259-plus the cost of new trees.
Watson said the bank also would take responsibility for acquiring a park bench for the area after hearing it would cost almost $2,100 to put in the bench proposed by the contractor and engineer.
“We’d be willing to put in a bench there that’s acceptable to the city,” Watson said.
The council voted unanimously to make the Hillsboro Free Press Extra its official newspaper for the coming year, based on bids it received from the Extra and the Hillsboro Star-Journal, which had been the official newspaper.
It took considerable public discussion-and about 15 minutes spent in executive session-before the vote was taken, though.
City Attorney Dan Baldwin said the two publications meet the criteria set by state statute to be considered a legal newspaper, but added the criterion requiring a newspaper to be of “general circulation” was ambiguous.
“The statute is there for what it is, but there has not been a tremendous amount of case law or anything else to help define what all the terms mean,” he said.
Baldwin cited a 1997 opinion from the Kansas attorney general that stated “general circulation” means a newspaper “where the people in a community would go for the news.”
Bill Meyer, representing Hoch Publishing, the Marion company that publishes the Star-Journal, said the Star-Journal fits that criterion but the Extra doesn’t.
When asked, Meyer first said he didn’t know what the Star-Journal’s paid circulation was in Hillsboro, but then offered that it was “over a thousand” once newsstand sales were added.
Joel Klaassen, publisher of the Free Press Extra and the Hillsboro Free Press, said the circulation of the Extra was about 180 with newsstand sales.
But Baldwin said state statutes say nothing about numbers in reference to “general circulation.”
“There is no number requirement or percentage requirement that you can really go from,” Baldwin said.
He said his only concern about the law’s ambiguity was the possibility that several months down the road, someone could challenge whether the Extra meets the statutory definition because there is no clear legal standard.
Meyer said such a challenge was more than a possibility.
“I’m not saying I’m the one that would do it, but there are a number of newspapers around the state that are looking at this,” Meyer said. “I’m sure you’d probably have a lawsuit over it.”
Garrett said no one had proved that either publication was not qualified to be Hillsboro’s official newspaper. Based on that conclusion, the council focused on the bids the two publications had submitted at Garrett’s request.
With a discount for electronic submission, the bid from the Extra was 72 cents a line for 6.5-point type while the bid from the Star-Journal was 87 cents per line for the same size type.
But Meyer argued against using “itsy-bitsy” type because it would be hard for elderly citizens to read it. Besides, he said, running type smaller than the size normally used by the Star-Journal (9 point) wouldn’t save the city any money.
“It’s in the (state) statute that the smaller the type, the more you pay per line,” he said.
Asked by Garrett about Meyer’s assertion, Baldwin said he did not know of any such stipulation in the statute.
As the discussion wound down, Meyer offered to run the legals in the size type the city had asked for, but at a new rate: $5 per inch, or 50 cents a line.
Garrett said the deadline for bids had passed.
“I have to go with what was sent in,” he said.
In other business, the council:
heard from Mayor Dalke that the plans are in the works for having a community celebration Sept. 4 to mark the completion of the Main Street renovation project. The celebration would include a ceremonial lighting of the new decorative street lights.
approved two pay estimates for work done for the housing rehabilitation project on the city’s north side: $18,260 at 305 N. Washington, and $21,000 at 309 N. Jefferson. The council also approved paying $600 to Tom Chavey for inspection work.
RoseMary Saunders, with Reiss & Goodness, said that construction is now complete on this project. A project performance meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., July 22.
approved the recommendation from Dalke that Janice Porter and Pat Nuss be appointed to the Convention and Visitors Bureau.
heard from Garrett that negotiations are continuing with the Lehigh City Council to make the Lehigh Fire Department a sub-station of the Hillsboro Fire Department.