Council votes

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
The Hillsboro City Council voted unanimously at its July 6 meeting to keep open the 100 block of South Washington.

Councilors Len Coryea, Byron McCarty, Matt Hiebert and Shelby Dirks voted to decline a request from the Hillsboro Mennonite Brethren Church to vacate the stretch of South Washington that separates property the church owns on either side of the street.

Prior to the vote, Darrell Driggers, trustees chairman for the church, said vacating the street would not only be advantageous for the church, which was exploring the possibility of building a new facility on a unified campus, but also would have benefits for the city.

Driggers said the hard-surfaced parking lot the church is interested in building would give the city additional downtown parking as well as an open area for staging community events.

He said removing the street would save the city money over the long term because the city would not have to spend money to make needed repairs to the street.

Driggers said the congregation has expressed the hope of continuing to be a “downtown church” and, among other things, he hoped it could once again provide the downtown area with a storm shelter it has lacked since the former structure was demolished following the March 7 fire.

Coryea suggested the church’s request to vacate the street was premature because it technically does not own the former Vogt’s IGA property. City ordinance requires that all property owners along the street must agree to a request to vacate it.

Driggers responded that the church has a contract to buy the property. The only reason the sale hasn’t closed is because the former owner has not yet cleaned out the building, as the contract stipulates.

City Administrator Steven Garrett said the issue of vacating the street generated mostly negative responses at a June 24 public hearing, as well as at “lots of little public hearings about it.”

He said the arguments against vacating the street-primarily safety and traffic related-may or may not be significant. He told council members that ultimately they would have to “vote according to your heart” on the issue.

Dirks responded, “My heart tells me to keep the street open.”

Hiebert added: “I’d have to say the same thing.”

After Driggers suggested that the actual number of negative responses at the public hearing was few-“maybe five people”-Coryea responded, “That doesn’t count the calls I’ve gotten” from people who spoke against the request but did not come to the hearing.

Hiebert added that several people along the 100 block of South Lincoln, on which he lives, had expressed concern about such issues as extra traffic, drainage and their backyard view.

“We are elected to do what people tell us,” he said. “Since the whole issue started, I’d say 90 percent of the people I’ve heard from are in favor of keeping the street open.”

Hiebert also said he hoped the church would rebuild at the same location if the street remained open.

“I think everybody would like to see that,” he said.

“A no vote doesn’t mean we won’t work with you,” Coryea added, referring to code variances the church may require in a rebuilding project.

When the discussion wound down, Coryea made the motion to keep the street open and McCarty seconded it.

Street striping

The council accepted a bid of $11,250 from Traffic Control Services Inc. to repaint the striping on all city streets that have double yellow lines, white dashed lines, cross walks, stop bars and parking spaces.

The only exception will be school crosswalks, which city employees will do, according to Garrett.

The project will be done in conjunction with the completion of the North Main Street renovation, progress on which has been stalled because of frequent rains.

Hiebert said he hoped a better quality of paint will be used so the striping doesn’t fade within three months like it did the last time D Street was striped.

Garrett said a better quality paint will be used.

Water study

The council approved a contract with Professional Engineering Consultants to conduct a study on water-production cooperation between the cities of Marion and Hillsboro. PEC would conduct the study for the $25,000 fee allowed by a Kansas Department of Health and Environment grant.

City Attorney Dan Baldwin reported that earlier in the afternoon, the Marion City Commission had approved the same contract.

The purpose of the feasibility study is to explore the creation of a wholesale water district with one treatment plant producing potable water for the entire district. Currently, Marion and Hillsboro each operate its own water-treatment plant.

Other business

In other business, the council:

— approved an option to purchase 80 acres of land currently owned by Clariece Schroeder and located along Kanza Road north of 190th, commonly called the Ebenfeld Road.

In a later interview, Garrett said the city is exploring the possibility of using that land for a new lagoon-based strategy for sewage treatment.

— approved the purchase of three adjoining lots on the north end and east side of North Lincoln Street. Those properties were once targeted for a low-income housing project, but Garrett said the use of those properties has not yet been determined.

— accepted a bid of $17,938 from Wray Roofing to fix the roof leaks in the former AMPI building now owned by the city. Garrett said in spots the pit roof “leaks horribly” and Dalke said mold is growing in some areas because of the leaks.

Wray Roofing was the only company that responded to the city’s request for bids.

— approved a bid of $35,000 from Wilcox Construction to tear down and level the lagoons on the AMPI grounds in response to a directive from KDHE.

— heard from Mayor Delores Dalke that Hillsboro Community Medical Center had been approved by the Kansas Department of Commerce to sell up to $250,000 in tax credits. The funds generated by the sale of the tax credits will be used to make the hospital handicap accessible.

— heard from Garrett that he and Dalke had attended a workshop in Burns on community development block grants in anticipation of applying for one to replace the water line on Lincoln Street.

— approved paying a bill of $20,419 from APAC Kansas to pay for the work the company has done to this point on the North Main renovation project, and a bill of $2,520 to Reiss & Goodness Engineers for inspection work done on the project.

— met in executive session for 20 minutes to discuss trade secrets. No action was taken in public session.

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