State OKs grant for Lincoln St. water line

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Residents along most of Lincoln Street in Hillsboro can look forward to getting a new water line for their houses in 2005.

The Hillsboro City Council was informed by City Administrator Steven Garrett at its Jan. 18 meeting that the Kansas Department of Commerce has approved Hillsboro’s Community Development Block Grant application for $155,000 to replace 3,700 feet of water line.

The line to be replaced begins at the railroad right-of-way in the 200 block of North Lincoln and continues to the south end of the street.

In addition to laying the new line, the project includes replacing valves, removing fire hydrants and reconnecting service connections.

Storm followup

Garrett said he was pleased with the progress being made to remove tree limbs and branches following the recent ice storm.

“My goal is to try to get the branches cleaned up as quickly as possible to try to get us back to normal,” he said.

Garrett said the city will take responsibility for removing branches that are broken but still hanging from trees situated in the city’s right-of-way along streets ad alleys.

Garrett said he was hoping to hear later in the week whether the Federal Emergency Management Agency would declare the area a federal disaster. Doing so would qualify government entities such as the City of Hillsboro to be reimbursed for response-related expenses.

Garrett reiterated his appreciation for the work done by city workers in the wake of the storm, particularly the electrical department crew headed by Mike Duerksen.

“Mike and the crew were out there all night doing their thing,” Garrett said. “We would have had electricity throughout the whole thing if Westar would have stayed up. But while Westar was down, (city crews) took the opportunity to remove the limbs that were leaning on the line.

“Right now Mike and his boys are my heroes,” he added. “They did a good job.”

Garrett said the tree trimming done by the city during good weather kept Hillsboro from suffering some of the extended outages experienced in places such as Newton and Wichita.

Restroom remodeling

The council authorized Garrett to spend up to $10,000 to make the restrooms in city hall compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Garrett said the project would also take care of odor problems and other issues that have made the restrooms less than pleasant.

“One of the first things I said when I came to Hillsboro was, ‘These bathrooms stink and we’ve got to do something about it,'” he said. “Four and a half years later I’m finally getting to it. They’re awful.”

Garrett said making the restroom ADA compliant needed to be part of the project because once remodeling begins on a government building, it must address those requirements, too.

“When you begin the process of improving, you’ve got to go all the way,” he said.

Mayor Delores Dalke appreciated Garrett’s desire to keep the cost of the project as low as possible, but she also instructed him to make sure it’s done professionally.

Other business

In other matters, the council:

— approved an amendment to Charter Ordinance No. 14 that would enable the Public Building Committee to use bonds to finance improvements related to public recreation areas, not just the local hospital.

The effect of the ordinance is to enable the city to implement the funding plan if voters approve at the April 5 election a proposal to build a $2.5 million family aquatic center.

A resolution will be acted on in February that officially would call for a vote on the project, which would be paid for with a half-cent increase in the local sales tax rate.

— voted to sign a contract for auditing services with Swindoll, Janzen, Hawk & Loyd, which is based in McPherson.

— authorized work to commence on the design phase of the city’s proposed sewer project at a cost of around $7,000. The authorization was necessary to proceed with city’s application for Rural Development funding.

The $7,000 fee will be covered temporarily through the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s revolving-loan program, which will then be paid off with Rural Development funding.

— approved Ordinance No. 1098, which outlines the city’s decision to vacate a portion of the alley on Elm Street and give the property back to the lot from which it was taken originally.

— heard from Garrett that the first of three public hearings regarding the city’s revised comprehensive plan was held Monday at city hall. No one from the general public showed up.

“Frankly, it’s just not exciting,” Garrett said about topic matter.

Additional meetings are scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight (Thursday) at the Scout House and 7 p.m. Monday at city hall.

— heard from Garrett that city utility staff will meet for two five-hour classes on safety issues as part of a new program the city is participating in through Kansas Municipal Utilities. The first class was schedule for Friday, Jan. 21, the second for Monday, Jan. 24.

— heard from Garrett that a list of former utility clients that left town without paying their bills has been turned over to a state-run program that will recover the funds if the violators ever receive a tax refund from the state. For the service, the state will keep 18.4 percent of what is recovered.

The total owed by persons on the list is $17,099.

“We’re not going to collect all of this,” Dalke said.

Councilor Shelby Dirks added: “But it’s a way to get the majority of it.

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