City OKs fireworks for street celebration

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Hillsboro’s community-wide celebration marking the official completion of the downtown street project can include fireworks.

At its Aug. 19 meeting, the Hillsboro City Council authorized City Attorney Dan Baldwin to draw up a resolution that would make an exception to the city’s recent ordinance that restricts the use of fireworks to the Fourth of July and New Year’s holidays.

According to Megan Kilgore, representing the planning committee, the celebration scheduled for Thursday evening, Sept. 4, would feature the official lighting of the new streetlights and include music from local bands, open stores for shopping, and possibly a display of new cars by Hillsboro’s three auto dealerships.

Kilgore said aerial fireworks would be launched away from the crowd and in a controlled area-perhaps overseen by the Hillsboro Fire Department.

Council members quickly voiced their support of the idea. The only question was whether an amendment to the fireworks ordinance would be required and, if so, whether there was sufficient time to publish it properly.

Baldwin said he felt the exception could be addressed through a resolution, which does not require publication.

City Engineer Bob Previtera of Reiss & Goodness Engineers reported on the street project, which is now complete except for the wiring of the streetlights, the striping of the streets and a final inspection.

Asked by council members about scarring on the new streets after they were opened to full traffic, Previtera said scarring caused by sharp turns and quick starts was “normal” when outdoor temperatures reach triple digits, as they had that day.

The ideal temperature for laying 300-degree asphalt is in the 70s, he added.

Previtera said the contractor, APAC Kansas, will repair any scarring and replace any damaged bricks before Previtera gives the project his final OK.

The only other task still to complete is for the city to erect a protective railing in front of the elevated step built at the entrance of the storefront now occupied by Vicky’s School of Dance at 107 West Grand.

Council members expressed their pleasure with the appearance of the overall project.

“It looks very nice,” said Councilor Leonard Coryea, a sentiment echoed around the table.

City Administrator Steven Garrett said Cline Gronau, APAC’s project foreman, complimented the city of Hillsboro as well. In similar projects in other communities, Gronau said he and his workers encounters”head-butting almost constantly.”

Given the time the project took, plus the heat of summer, Garrett said Gronau had been impressed and grateful for the patience and support of the community.

Garrett confirmed Gronau’s observation.

“I think folks here have been pretty understanding and pretty patient,” he said. “And now we’re at the end of it ahead of time and I think everyone came out ahead.”

Surcharge official

In other business, the council passed Ordinance 1073, which would create a $5 surcharge per hook-up for every residential and commercial customer.

Garrett and the council had decided the new surcharge, which will show up on city utility bills after Jan. 1, is a fairer way to raise revenue for the city in lieu of state cutbacks than to raise property taxes. A surcharge spreads the financial burden on all who benefit from city services, not just those who own property.

Garrett estimated the surcharge would generate $84,000 a year.

Asked if the surcharge was fair to businesses and institutions that have multiple electrical hook-ups, Garrett said, “I think it is business friendly because it saves (owners of the property) on taxes.”

He said such owners would pay less with surcharges on multiple meters than they would through a property tax increase adequate to raise the same amount of revenue for the city.

Reluctant CIS contribution

With some reluctance, the council voted to contribute $1,000 to the Community in Schools program for another year.

CIS, which primarily organizes after-school programs for children, was again asking all cities in Marion County to contribute on a sliding scale based on population.

Members of the council affirmed the value of the program, but questioned the appropriateness of asking each city to contribute money rather than going to the county as its funding source.

Councilor Matt Hiebert said cities are getting “double hit,” and that the same concern had been raised the last time CIS asked for a contribution.

Added Coryea: “I think this program is wonderful; they do good things. But we’re doing so much to help youth already and we give in so many different ways…that are free-will giving. When we throw out money from (the city), it’s forced giving, and not a fair way to ask.”

Garrett said every other city in the county had agreed to contribute, and he was concerned what would happen to CIS at this late stage if Hillsboro declined to participate.

Mayor Delores Dalke said Hillsboro has not had an after-school program other than what CIS initiated. She said in the future, Hillsboro might be able to contribute “in kind” rather than direct contribution by having city recreation commission personnel lead some of the CIS activities as part of their job with their city.

With that said, Hiebert recommended that the city make the contribution this year as requested. The motion passed 3-0 with Shelby Dirks absent.

Bucket-truck purchase

The council authorized Garrett to spend up to $39,000 to buy a smaller bucket truck for the city.

Prior to the vote, the council moved its meeting outside to look at a 2000 demonstrator model that was being offered for sale. The council was told the truck had 35,700 “mostly highway” miles and was fully insulated for protection from electrical lines. The asking price was $39,500; a new truck would cost around $69,000.

Garrett said a smaller truck would be useful for alley work, where quarters are often cramped, as well as working on the new streetlights and hanging banners on Main Street.

He said money for the purchase was available either from the fire insurance payment the city received last year after its maintenance shop burned down, or from the capital improvement budget.

Housing grant

RoseMary Saunders of Reiss & Goodness reminded the council that a public hearing has been set at city hall for 4 p.m., Sept. 2, to receive input regarding a grant application that would fund the second phase of the housing rehabilitation project on the city’s north side.

A public hearing is required as part of the application process through the Kansas Department of Commerce.

Saunders also presented the final two invoices related to Phase I: a $300 charge from Tom Chavey for inspection done on work completed at 307 N. Lincoln, and a charge of $1,959 from Business Technical Institute for lead testing completed on houses.

Both invoices were approved for payment from grant funding.

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