Phase 2 of Main Street project to begin around June 1

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Construction on the second phase of the Main Street renovation project will probably begin around June 1, the Hillsboro City Council was told at its Feb. 3 meeting.

The second of three phases, the project will include about two blocks, starting from the railroad right-of-way on North Main and moving north to Third Street.

City Administrator Steven Garrett said surface and drainage issues are the key improvements that will be resolved by the project, which is projected to cost $220,000.

The project is being scheduled for completion by Sept. 1 to accommodate the Hillsboro Arts and Crafts Fair, set for Sept. 18.

Asked if a June 1 start would ensure completion by that date, City Engineer Bob Previtera of Reiss & Goodness Engineers said he had every reason to believe it would.

He said because of the preparation work that needs to be completed before construction can begin, he didn’t think they could move the starting date any earlier.

Besides, he added, “Ninety days will be ample time (to complete the project), no matter what weather we get.”

Water issues

Council members were informed by Garrett that construction on the major upgrades planned for the city’s water-treatment plant, which had been targeted for 2004, likely won’t begin until January 2005.

“We’re about a year away,” Garrett said.

The pace of the project has been slowed for several reasons, he said, including the city’s decision to change engineering firms in midstream.

Garrett presented what he said should be a reliable timeline: bids will be solicited between June 1 and Aug. 1 of this year; the bids will be opened between July 1 and Sept. 1; the project will be approved by various agencies sometime between Oct. 1 and Dec. 1; and construction should start sometime between Nov. 1 to Jan. 1.

Given changes that have been made to the original plans, the cost of the project isn’t known yet. But Garrett said he expected to be able to report “real numbers” by the council’s Feb. 17 meeting.

One of construction changes was approved at this meeting. After hearing about three options, the council accepted a recommendation from Morgan Marler, senior water-treatment technician for Hillsboro, that the city use a non-chemical, ultraviolet disinfection system to treat its water.

The other two options she described were both chemical based: one was an ozone process that adds oxygen to the water, and the other involved using chlorine dioxide.

All three processes were said to do “a really good job” of killing impurities in raw water, but using ultraviolet would eliminate the need to monitor for harmful by-products that result from using chemical alternatives.

As for cost effectiveness, the expense of using ultraviolet falls between the two chemical alternatives.

“Cost is not driving this (recommendation),” Garrett said. “We just want the best product.”

The ultraviolet system will not be in place until the upgrades are completed.

Until that time, the city will use chlorine dioxide to treat the water. It will also use it as a backup to the ultraviolet system.

While plans proceed for the upgrades, Garrett said Hillsboro and Marion officials have agreed to participate in a grant-funded study that will explore options for cooperating in the production of potable water in the years ahead.

Garrett said this is a topic that officials from both cities say should have been studied 20 years ago.

“And if we don’t do it now, 20 years from now we’ll be saying the same thing again,” he said.

The grant will pay for 50 percent of the study up to $12,500. The two cities will pay the difference.

Garrett acknowledged the study comes “at an awkward time,” when both communities are pursuing plant upgrades to meet tougher testing standards from the Environmental Protection Agency.

“But it’s something we need to do,” he said.

Settlement reached

Following a 15-minute executive session with City Attorney Dan Baldwin, Mayor Delores Dalke announced the city had reached a settlement with Reiss & Goodness. It pertained to a bill the city had received for preliminary plans that had been developed for the water-plant upgrades. The work was completed before the city decided to change engineering firms.

Reiss & Goodness had billed the city just over $93,000 for the work, Garrett said. The city will pay $65,000 under the terms of the settlement.

“It’s not money down any drain because we always felt we owed the engineer something for his time and effort,” Garrett said Wednesday. “What that amount should be is where we disagreed. We did get some benefit for the time (the engineer) was out here, though.”

Garrett said the cost of fighting the billing in court didn’t make economic sense.

“Nobody wants to go through a legal battle for something as silly as this. We might still question the value (of the work), but it finally came down to a settlement issue so we can move on with our lives.”

Snow removal

Council members praised the work of city crews to remove snow from the downtown business district following the weekend storm.

At the same time, the council discussed ways to improve the process.

Councilor Len Coryea said someone with snow-removal experience had suggested to him that the city consider equipping a city truck with a front-end blade that could be purchased in used condition from the state’s transportation department.

Coryea said he was told using a front-end blade speeds the process and all but eliminates the chance of damaging streets or curbs with gouging.

Garrett said he wasn’t sure if such a blade could be mounted on the front of city trucks, but would look into the possibility.

The council also discussed briefly the idea of applying a calcium brine to streets before snow starts to fall as a way to keep streets clear.

Garrett said workers had applied the calcium mix at downtown crosswalks this weekend. It seemed to be effective in melting the glaze of ice on Saturday, he said, but did not seem to make a noticeable difference once the heavy snowfall began.

Garrett said city crews will experiment to see what effect increasing the calcium level might have.

The council also discussed ways to clear Main Street of parked cars when snowstorms strike. During the recent storm, a single car parked along North Main impeded the removal process, Garrett said.

The council talked about declaring Main Street as a snow emergency route, which would give the city the authority to remove parked vehicles in such instances.

Councilor Matt Hiebert said a phone call or two to vehicle owners might be all that is needed since the problem was not widespread.

Other business

In other matters, the council:

n heard from Garrett that the city is close to establishing a new “chain of command” with the Hillsboro Historical Society. The change will require passage of an ordinance before it goes into effect.

He said the new organizational structure, developed with the help of Stan R. Harder, director of museums, will “give us the kick to get more and better results with the museums.”

n heard from Garrett that the Hillsboro Planning Commission is developing an ordinance that would strictly regulate any adult-entertainment business seeking to locate in Hillsboro.

Garrett said he knows of no plans to start such a business in Hillsboro. But the commission felt the city should be proactive on the issue after businesses were established along Interstate 70 near the exits for Wilson and Abilene.

Garrett said courts have ruled that the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech means adult-entertainment businesses cannot be banned outright. But they can be regulated to make their viability difficult.

Garrett said once the commission drafts an ordinance that accomplishes its goal, the ordinance will be forwarded to the council for public input and a council vote.

n heard from Garrett that the Planning Commission likely would be recommending the creation of a new “college and institutional” zoning category for the city. Currently, the college and public schools in Hillsboro are located in areas zoned for residential use.

n approved the following board appointments recommended by the mayor: Cynthia Fleming and Martin Rhodes as new members of the Tree Board and Richard Wall as a reappointed member; Max Heinrichs as a new member of the Hillsboro Recreation Commission.

n was informed of a letter from Hillsboro Community Medical Center clarifying the amount of money owed for past utility purchases as being $9,755. HCMC had inadvertently been billed twice for one month’s usage.

n approved an updated policy for refueling city-owned vehicles. The policy will have the various departments continue to purchase fuel from all participating vendors on a rotational basis. The lineup of vendors had changed since the policy was instituted in April 1997.

n voted to renew the city’s membership in the Kansas Municipal Utilities for another year at a cost of $2,161. Garrett said being a member of KMU has benefited Hillsboro in regard to natural-gas issues.

n heard from Megan Kilgore, executive director of the Hillsboro Management Board, that Jared Jost, new Chamber of Commerce president, had sent a letter to the Kansas Department of Transportation, asking that Hillsboro be included on the exit sign at McPherson on Interstate 135.

The letter also was signed by the mayor and by Mike Kleiber, president of the Hillsboro Development Corp.

“It’s a real need,” Garrett said in affirmation of the letter. “We can’t even get recognized on signs along U.S. (Highway) 56.”

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