Hillsboro to propose producing water for Marion

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
The city of Hillsboro plans to prepare a proposal that would make it the producer of water for Marion.

City Administrator Steven Garrett told the Hillsboro City Council at its Tuesday meeting that such a proposal would be a “win-win” situation for both cities, and that Marion has expressed an interest in seeing such a proposal.

Garrett said a recently completed feasibility study exploring the possibility of creating a water district with a joint-use water-treatment facility made no specific recommendation for action.

But he added, “I get the feeling that Marion would be more interested in looking at a new plant (to serve both cities) or rehabbing our plant.”

Garrett said he floated an
alternate idea to Marion leaders that would have Marion contracting with Hillsboro for its water, much like Peabody currently is doing.

That approach, he said, would be the most cost-effective way to produce water for Marion, Hillsboro and Peabody.

Presently, Marion and Hillsboro each operate a water-treatment plant, and both plants would require major upgrades to meet new state and federal standards.

Garrett estimated that a refurbished treatment plant at Hillsboro could produce water for between $1.90 and $2 per thousand gallons, while building a new plant to serve a proposed water district would mean a cost of $2.50 per thousand-or even more.

“It just makes sense to have one plant,” Garrett said. Adding Marion as a customer would give the local plant the “economy of scale” needed to produce water more efficiently for all parties.

“It’s a benefit to us both,” he said. “Our benefit is that it keeps our water rates low, it gives us good water and it’s only one headache instead of two,” referring to the ongoing maintenance requirements of water-treatment plants.

Because of the feasibility study, the city of Hillsboro had delayed moving ahead with soliciting bids to complete the upgrades that are being required at the local plant.

Garrett asked the council to give him the authority to move ahead with the bidding process so he can better estimate the cost of water production if Marion would sign on as a customer. Garrett would then use the information to make a specific proposal to the Marion City Commission.

“It’s a good move for us, it’s a good move for everybody in the story if we can make it fly,” he said.

Councilors Matt Hiebert, Shelby Dirks, Byron McCarty and Len Coryea voted to move ahead with the bidding process and pursue such a proposal with Marion.

In other business, the council:

— presented service awards to five employees for milestone anniversaries with the city: Gary Andrews 10 years, Joe Alvarez 15 years, Michael Duerksen 15 years, Glenda Stoppel 20 years, Gary Penner 20 years and Jan Meisinger 25 years.

— agreed with a recommendation from Garrett that the city review its ordinances regarding door-to-door salespersons. Garrett said he believes the city should significantly increase its fee for a “peddler’s license” from $5 to perhaps as high as $75 to discourage door-to-door sales calls.

The issue surfaced because of a recent effort by out-of-town salespersons to sell Kirby vacuum sweepers door to door in residential areas.

“If we raise the permit fee, they’ve been known to go somewhere else,” Garrett said.

Dalke said any new ordinance about peddling should also include commercial businesses, which are not covered by the current ordinance.

— approved two facility-use agreements.

One was a rental policy regarding the Hillsboro Sports Complex and Memorial Field for individuals and institutions that want to use them. The charge for renting the softball/baseball fields is $75 per day, per field. The rate for tennis courts is $50 a day, which would include all eight courts.

The scheduling needs of the Hillsboro Recreation Commission, USD 410 and Tabor College varsity softball will take precedence over requests by other organizations, groups and individuals.

The other agreement was between the city and Tabor College regarding the use of the school’s gymnasiums. No rent will be charged for HRC-sponsored events.

— agreed to a request from the Convention and Visitors Bureau board to release the $1,500 allotted in its budget for projects. The money was needed to pay for new brochures that promote the city’s attractions.

— approved Mayor Delores Dalke’s appointment of Gayla Ratzlaff to the Hillsboro Housing Authority. She will succeed Walter Kleinsasser, who has decided not to be reappointed after many years of service.

— heard from Garrett that 55 people have already signed up for automatic payment of their utility bills, a service which the city recently offered. Garrett was strongly encouraged by the mayor to also have the city office certified to accept credit and debit cards.

— heard that city is dealing with fewer injury claims from its staff since it began participating in a safety-education program promoted by Kansas Municipal Utilities, an insurance provider. The city receives a 5 percent reduction in its premiums for participating.

Noting the reduction in claims, Mayor Dalke noted, “Either the safety program is working or we’re lucky.”

— met in executive session to discuss trade secrets with Craig White, developer for Windover Hillsboro, and City Attorney Dan Baldwin. No action was taken following the session.

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