This year had more than its share of memorable events

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Residents of Hillsboro encountered an eventful year in 2003, highlighted during the summer by a major renovation of Main and Grand streets in the downtown business district, which was planned, as well as a 22-day crisis in its water supply, which was not planned.

It was a year of tight budget, new initiatives and a few controversies sprinkled in.

Following is a month-to-month summary of key events.

January

Gerald and Angela Diederich of McPherson are the parents of the first baby born at Hillsboro Community Medical Center in 2003. Brooklyn Danae was born Jan. 4.

The Hillsboro City Council launched an initiative to crack down on “nuisance” properties that violate the city’s housing code. The code had not been enforced until now because the city lacked the staff to do so. That changed with the addition of Martin Rhodes as a full-time public building inspector and code-enforcement officer in November 2002.

The good news for the Hillsboro City Council was that the city would not lose an estimated $135,000 if Gov. Bill Graves’ state spending cut is upheld in the courts. The bad news: the city would lose about $50,000 instead.

The USD 410 Board of Education approved the purchase of a computerized temperature-control system for Hillsboro Elementary School at a cost of $109,635. The system was expected to save the district about $23,000 in utility expenses per year and pay for itself within five years.

The Hillsboro Police Department moved its headquarters from the southeast corner of Main and Grand to the newly remodeled office area at the former AMPI building now owned by the city.

Judy Hiebert announced her intention to resign as vice president of student development at Tabor College. She had been serving in that role since 1995, having started her career at Tabor in 1979.

February

Alex Blecha, a Hillsboro High School senior, threw his hat into the ring for a seat on the USD 410 Board of Education. He joins six other candidates running for four open positions on the board.

Incumbents Len Coryea from the West Ward and Matt Hiebert from the East Ward were the only citizens to file for their seats on the Hillsboro City Council. Mayor Delores Dalke also filed for reelection.

Officer Jerry Schmidt retired from the Hillsboro Police Department after 22 years of service.

The Tabor College education department received a Title II grant in the amount of $53,000 from the Kansas State Department of Education for the purpose of preparing for KSDE and National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education standards.

The USD 410 Board of Education moved closer to formalizing guiding principles for teacher performance and the tenure-review process at the board’s monthly meeting.

A winter storm dropped 4 inches of snow on Hillsboro Feb. 22.

Four Hillsboro residents were officially naturalized as U.S. citizens at a ceremony in Wichita Feb. 21. They were Kakim Kunantaev and Karla Teljanova, who came to Hillsboro from the former Soviet Union state of Kazakhstan, and Arnot Munguya and Womba Munguya, who came from Zambia.

City Administrator Steven Garrett told the Hillsboro City Council that some citizens are “up in arms” about the prospect of an affordable-housing unit being built on the city’s north side. He encouraged citizens who have such concerns to talk to him directly.

Rod Koons and Gary Andrews outpolled Kevin Suderman in the Feb. 25 primary election to earn the right to run against each other for the District 7 seat on the USD 410 Board of Education in the April 1 election. This seat was the only one that had more than two candidates who filed.

March

In its first month, the city of Hillsboro’s efforts to clean up “nuisance properties” around town made positive progress, according to Martin Rhodes, the city’s code-enforcement officer. He said his office sent out 41 letters to violators in the initial weeks of the campaign. Six situations had already been cleared up and the rest were being addressed.

The Hillsboro City Council agreed to continue full tax abatement for Container Services, Inc., after a review by council members.

The Hillsboro City Council heard the initial warning at its March 4 meeting that the city will need to consider major changes at its sewer plant in the near future. The changes are prompted by tougher environmental standards initiated by the state.

Superintendent Gordon Mohn told the USD 410 Board of Education at its March 10 meeting that the district may need to cut up to $200,000 from next year’s budget because of declining revenue and escalating costs. The board agreed to solicit public input on where to make those cuts.

The official enrollment for Tabor College’s spring semester was up by 10 percent, according to the college. This was due in part to the highest retention rate ever recorded by the college from the fall semester. The head count on the Hillsboro campus was reported as 427 students and the full-time equivalency as 414.

The Hillsboro City Council decided it would extend the completion date for the Main Street renovation project from July 25 to Sept. 5 in order to save about $106,500 on the project.

April

The Hillsboro City Council approved a lease agreement that was later accepted by the Kansas Highway Patrol to move its district field office from Marion to the former AMPI property now owned by the city.

About 30 patrons of USD 410 gathered April 1 and 20 more gathered April 3 in the technology center of Hillsboro High School to participate in a discussion about school-budget cuts that might be as high as $300,000 for the 2003-04 school year.

Incumbent Debra Geis and newcomer Rod Koons won the contested races for school board in the April 1 election. Winning uncontested seats were Dale Klassen and Mark Rooker. In city elections, Mayor Delores Dalke and council members Len Coryea and Matt Hiebert all won reelection in uncontested races.

Arson was suspected in a bush fire that damaged the offices of the Hillsboro Mennonite Brethren Church April 11.

The late Kenneth “Bud” Bruce, publisher of the Hillsboro Star-Journal from 1954-88, was inducted into the Kansas Newspaper Hall of Fame April 11 during the annual Kansas Press Association convention.

This year’s Mennonite Relief Sale in Hutchinson generated an estimated $422,000 for world relief and development, according to organizers of the event that was held April 12 in Hutchinson.

Pat Call resigned in his ninth year as principal of Hillsboro Elementary School to become superintendent of the Hill City School system. He said he would begin his new post July 1.

The issue of building a new swimming pool in Hillsboro resurfaced at the April 15 meeting of the Hillsboro City Council. City Administrator Steven Garrett said the city is nearing a crossroads of deciding whether to renovate the old pool or build a new one.

The Main Street renovation project officially began April 23 with the removal of the city’s only stoplight, which was located at Main and Grand. It will be replaced by four-way stop signs. The first phase of the project closed the north-bound lane on Main and the eastbound lane on Grand.

The USD 410 Board of Education voted at its April 28 meeting to cut one full-time certified teaching position in an effort to reduce its anticipated budget shortfall for the 2003-04 school year. To get there, though, the board voted to nonrenew two current contracts and issue a new contract to a third certified staff member who resigned from one full-time job with the stipulation of being hired for the other. Superintendent Gordon Mohn lowered the projection for budget cuts from $300,000 to “$200,000 or below.”

May

Hillsboro High School’s Trojan Band received all “I” ratings at the Branson Ozark Band contest in early May.

The Hillsboro City Council approved the location and lease for building a new telecom tower within city limits at its May 5 meeting. Construction was not likely to start for several months yet, the council was told by a representative from Alltel Telecom Services, the company planning to build the 150-foot tower.

The city of Hillsboro began looking for a new director of its recreation program after Lonnie Isaac was dismissed from the position. Isaac began working as director in 1998 under the guidance of the Hillsboro Recreation Commission.

Sixty-three seniors were graduated from Hillsboro High School May 18.

David Faber, who teaches philosophy and humanities at Tabor College, received this year’s Clarence R. Hiebert Excellence in Teaching Award May 16.

Hillsboro officials were given the green light by the city council to continue exploring the possibility of the Hillsboro Fire Department taking over responsibility for the fire station in Lehigh.

Early-morning rain showers dampened the start of this year Family Festival May 24, but by afternoon the sun was out and so were the people. Even so, attendance was projected as being lower than it was for the 2002 festival.

June

Hillsboro city leaders decided to temporarily cease water production at its treatment plant following the discovery June 5 of a rare and potentially toxic anabaena algae bloom in Marion Reservoir, which is the city’s water source. As part of an emergency water-use plan, outdoor water use and excessive water use were prohibited until further notice. While officials try to figure out how to handle the algae bloom, the city’s water supply was being replenished by trucking in water from McPherson and from Rural Water District
No. 4.

The Hillsboro City Council was told at its June 2 meeting that the contractor for the Main Street renovation project was “concerned but not scared” by frequent rain delays in the early stages of the project.

Albert Klose received a plaque from Hillsboro Postmaster Norman Bouwie honoring Klose as Hillsboro’s oldest living recipient of the Purple Heart commendation. The presentation coincided with the issuance of a new Purple Heart stamp by the U.S. Postal Service.

The second half of the Main Street renovation project began the week of June 23.

The city’s water-emergency ended June 27, some 22 days after the discovery of the algae bloom at the reservoir. Tests results revealed the city’s water-treatment plant was capable of producing safe, potable water regardless of the algae situation at the lake.

July

Many positive reports were received from residents following the city’s first Fourth of July with fireworks after an 18-year moratorium on the sale and use of such items.

Holly Swartzendruber and Pamela Woodman accepted teaching positions on the Tabor College faculty. Swartzendruber will be assistant professor of vocal music and Woodman will be an instructor in psychology. Adam Wathen accepted the position of director of library services.

Tena Loewen, 8, was among area children named Reading Rainbow young writers and illustrators by KPTS-TV Channel 8 in Wichita. Her short story, “Sam Makes it Right,” was included in the “Kreative Kids”collection published by KPTS.

The USD 410 Board of Education voted to charge a $75 fee for each child that takes driver’s education this coming school year. The board was told the fee was still a bargain compared to many other districts charged.

August

Three new teachers were hired for Hillsboro public schools for the coming year. Nathan Hiebert will teach business, Monica Leihy will teach family and consumer science, and Stuart Holmes will teach social studies.

USD 410 received word that it had been approved for a $54,000 federal grant through he Kansas State Department of Education for a program to help at-risk children in the high school. Janette Brubacher was hired as coordinator for the program, effective in October.

Stan R. Harder was appointed the new director of Hillsboro museums. Harder’s resume included 20 years as curator of the Old Cowtown Museum in Wichita.

The USD 410 Board of Education approved a 2003-04 budget that included $70,000 for reserves. Superintendent Gordon Mohn said the reserve was necessary because he anticipates the need for substantial spending reductions for the 2004-05 budget.

Don Krebs was named interim student dean at Tabor College for the upcoming academic year. He succeeded Judy Hiebert, who had resigned in spring.

The Hillsboro City Council approved a special request for fireworks intended for a city-wide celebration planned for Sept. 4 to mark the end of the Main Street renovation project. The idea of fireworks was later nixed because of a lack of funding.

Sunshine Artist magazine, a leading arts festival publication, ranked the Hillsboro Arts & Crafts Fair 55th among the nation’s “100 Best Predominantly Fine Art & Design Shows.”

September

Hillsboro native Matt Dalke was hired as the new recreation director for the city of Hillsboro. He began his new duties Sept. 8.

A heavy rain resulted in water seeping into several business along the west side of North Main Street only days after the street and sidewalk were redone. The contractor said the water most likely ran through the ribbon of brick in the sidewalk, but the problem should be remedied relatively easily.

Volunteers from the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce and city crew washed the storefronts of Main Street businesses Sept. 2 following completion of the summer-long street renovation project.

An estimated 900 people turned out Sept. 4 for the city-wide celebration marking the completion of the Main Street project. The city served 804 free hot dogs, the community band and Schnigglefritz Band performed, and a variety of gifts were given away. The new city streetlights were turned on for the first time as dusk descended.

Near-perfect weather attracted between 40,000 and 50,000 people to this year’s Hillsboro Arts & Crafts Fair Sept. 20.

Hometown Development Co. of Lawrence announced its intention to develop a 30-acre site north of Third Street and east of the former AMPI plant in Hillsboro into an affordable-housing project. The project could hold as many as 135 homes. Hometown Development uses factory-built homes.

The Hillsboro City Council generated public discussion when it authorized the city attorney at its Sept. 23 meeting to draft an ordinance that would allow the consumption of alcohol on designated public properties. The council dropped the idea before its next meeting.

October

Seniors Danielle Johnson was picked as queen and Daniel Yoder as king for this year’s Hillsboro High School homecoming festivities.

Heavy rains Oct. 9 sent the South Cottonwood River out of its banks south of Hillsboro. The heaviest rain fell further upstream. The Hillsboro area received between 3 and 5 inches.

Tabor College announced the start of the public phase of a $10.6 million capital campaign, the largest campaign in the school’s history. At the heart of the drive is the construction of a new residence hall to replace the current men’s “quad.”

November

Hillsboro High School presented “The King and I” Nov. 13-15 as its fall musical. Clinton Schneider and Kelli Just played the lead roles.

Kirby Fadenrecht, vice president of business and finance at Tabor College, met with the Hillsboro City Council Nov. 3 to describe preliminary plans to hard-surface a number of gravel alleys and parking lots on its campus.

Alumni of the former Lehigh High School completed a sizeable memorial to their alma mater on the grounds where the building stood before it was razed last year.

Officials at Tabor College and Hesston College signed an articulation agreement Nov. 18 that would enable students to transfer more easily between the two schools.

The Hillsboro City Council officially declared the Main Street project complete at its Nov. 18 meeting after a list of corrections had been completed by the contractor.

About 100 people toured the Schaeffler House during the annual Christmas Open House Nov. 30. Prairie Flowers won a contest to decorate rooms in the Victorian home.

December

Eight Hillsboro High School seniors were inducted into the local chapter of the National Honor Society Dec. 1: Gina Andrews, Katie Baltzer, Marissa Diener, Sara Hamm, Kelsey Kaufman, Caleb Marsh, Emily Railsback and Emily Ratzlaff.

The Hillsboro City Council got its first look at a contract that would make fire protection in Lehigh the responsibility of the Hillsboro Fire Department.

Recent acts of vandalism and defacement at the Hillsboro Post Office prompted Postmaster Norman Bouwie to say he will shorten the hours the lobby is open if this kind of activity persists.

The Hillsboro Planning and Development Commission approved Dec. 18 the preliminary plat for Windover at Hillsboro, the affordable-housing project being developed by Hometown Developers of Lawrence.

Christy Wulf, 35, was appointed as director of the Hillsboro Arts & Crafts Fair, succeeding Donna Diener, who had served in that role for the past three years.

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