Council clears Hillsboro to celebrate 120th with a bang

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
The Hillsboro City Council gave its official permission Tuesday for a fireworks show May 29 to celebrate the town’s 120th birthday.

Mayor Delores Dalke, who also serves on the planning committee for the celebration, brought the request to the council.

The city ordinance allowing the sale and use of fireworks within city limits, passed in January 2003, restricts usage to the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve holidays. But it also allows for fireworks to be used at other times of the year with the approval of the council.

Dalke said Austin Pyrotechnic Productions of Wichita will produce the display, which is set to begin at 9:54 p.m., Saturday, May 19, at the Sports Complex.

The show will follow the Hillsboro High School all-school reunion and other events related to the Hillsboro Family Festival, which is held each year during Memorial Day weekend.

Dalke said she is anticipating an impressive fireworks show because Austin Pyrotechnics creates such displays across the country. She said the company had already secured a $10 million liability policy for the event.

Insurance coverage actually was the primary reason the council called a special meeting for Tuesday. The city’s general policy was due to lapse April 1 and a new policy needed to be approved.

Presenting the new policy were Brian Martin and John Coleman, representing Insurance Management Associates in Wichita.

IMA was chosen by the city to present the insurance package, which is carried by Employers Mutual Casualty-the same carrier used in previous years but sold through the Insurance Center in Hillsboro.

“The main reason we’re here is to provide a certain amount of service that may not have been provided in the past,” Martin said.

He and Coleman walked the council through the policy, highlighting various components of the coverage, from city-owned vehicles to wrongful acts by public officials.

After suggesting a couple of revisions, the council approved the package, which carries a premium of about $57,100-about an 8 percent increase from a year ago.

Asked about the increase, Coleman said it simply reflected the trend in the “hard market” that had developed in the insurance industry the past few years.

At the end of the meeting, Jared Jost, Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce president, asked the council why the city had contracted with an out-of-town provider when it could have kept the business in town.

City Administrator Steven Garrett said the decision had been made on the base of “administrative preference and being a good steward of public funds.”

The council also voted to give Garrett the authority to sign an agreement committing Hillsboro to a feasibility study with Marion that will explore options for cooperation in the production of water for the two cities.

Currently, each community operates its own water-treatment plant.

Noting that this study should have been done 20 years ago, Councilor Matt Hiebert asked if the study would affect the commitment both cities have made to making high-dollar improvements in their respective plants this year.

Garrett said Hillsboro’s improvement project will proceed as planned.

“We’re full steam ahead in two different directions,” Garrett said with a smile.

In his report to the council, Garrett said he was planning to turn in some of the expenses the city incurred fighting the Hillsboro Mennonite Brethren Church fire March 7 to State Farm Insurance, the company that holds the church’s policy.

He said the city normally doesn’t charge for its services. But this fire, which took some three days to fully extinguish, required an unusually high level of city involvement.

Garrett said he wasn’t planning to pass on a bill for the 1 million-plus gallons of city water used to battle the blaze, but he did intend to submit expenses related to such things as crowd control during the blaze and site control after it.

Councilor Len Coryea asked what Garrett planned to do if the insurance company refused to pay on those claims. Would he submit the bill directly to the church?

“If insurance doesn’t pay, that’s as far as I will take it,” Garrett said. “But I feel that’s why we have insurance.”

In other business, Garrett:

— reported the Hillsboro Community Planning and Development Commission would soon begin the process of rewriting its comprehensive plan because the old plan was based on 1990 census figures. He said the “fun project” could take up to a year.

— reported that the land the city has been asked by Parkside Homes to annex should not cause a problem for the city even though some of the land is in a flood plain.

The land would be zoned as “agricultural flood zone.”

“That doesn’t prevent construction, but don’t try to build it where it floods and then say you didn’t know (it was in a flood zone),” Garrett said.

The annexation proposal will be considered at the council’s April 6 meeting.

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