Local purchasing sparks discussion by Hillsboro council

In a session marked by lively give and take, the biggest accomplishments of the Hillsboro City Council at its May 3 meeting seemed to be accepting a proposal to buy two trucks for the city and approving the usually routine voucher payments for the month.

City Administrator Steven Garrett had asked the three local dealerships to submit a proposal for the purchase of two half-ton pickups with air-conditioning.

Hillsboro Ford-Mercury submitted the lowest price of $14,385 for each pickup. The total for both vehicles was about $1,000 less than the price submitted from Irv Schroeder County Motors and about $2,600 less than the price from Wright’s Chrysler Plymouth Dodge Jeep.

All the vehicle had comparable standard features, according to Councilor Shelby Dirks, who had been asked to study the proposals prior to the meeting. The vehicles proposed by Wright’s had a longer drive-train warranty.

Councilor Len Coryea noted that Irv Schroeder County Motors had one of the vehicles already setting on its lot, which could be an advantage to the city.

He also questioned whether it was fair to pick a proposal based on lowest price alone since all three dealerships were local and Hillsboro Ford-Mercury had supplied the previous vehicle the city had purchased.

After some initial discussion, Mayor Delores Dalke acknowledged, “(Purchasing) vehicles is always the toughest decision for us” because the three dealerships offer vehicles with different features and programs and council members often have personal preferences about vehicle makes.

A motion by Coryea to buy one vehicle from Hillsboro Ford and one from Irv Schroeder County Motors was seconded and supported by Councilor Byron McCarty, but councilors Dirks and Matt Hiebert voted against it.

Following the policy that the mayor breaks a tie vote, Dalke voted “no,” saying the proposals had been based on the purchase of two vehicles, not one. She said the price might change if the request was only for a single vehicle.

McCarty said he agreed with the mayor’s point and offered a motion that both vehicles be purchased from the low bidder, Hillsboro Ford. His motion passed, 3-1, with Coryea voting no.

That debate followed one early in the meeting about the monthly vouchers, which included 64 payments for purchases made from 38 vendors.

Coryea identified a two or three items on the list he thought could have been purchased locally, including fertilizer and wave petunias for the park project.

“We screwed up a couple of times this past year,” he said. “We’re buying too many things out of town.”

When it came time for a motion to approve the vouchers, Coryea said, “I’m opposing it.”

Dalke responded, “Four people around this table and the mayor agree with you (about shopping locally when possible), but we have to pay our bills. The way to deal with this issue it to talk to the people who authorize these purchases. It’s not the vendors’ fault.”

Coryea said he simply was trying to drive home a point, and if a second council member decided to vote with him on the issue, “then we’d have problem.”

In the end, the vote to approve the vouchers passed by a 3-1 margin with Coryea dissenting.

During the discussion, Dalke did ask about a voucher from ServiceMaster Professional Cleaning for $533.47 regarding a sewer-related incident at 212 Elm.

Garrett said he had personally authorized the expenditure because it happened while the city crew was working on a sewer-line project at a neighboring property.

When Dalke asked how this incident differed from others that occur occasionally when the sewer lines are professionally cleared, Garrett replied: “I felt we had some responsibility in this case.”

The council kept up its vigilant posture when it scrutinized three invoices from EBH & Associates from Great Bend.

It deferred one invoice for $92,350 for engineering work done on water-plant upgrades, noting that payment was not required contractually until the project was formally approved by USDA Rural Development, which had not yet happened.

Hiebert said EBH has been slow to move the project along.

The council then adjusted a second invoice totaling $4,137.20, objecting to a charge by EBH of 45 cents per mile for 176 miles when the Internal Revenue Service allows only 40.5 cents a mile. The adjustment would lower the payment by $7.92.

The council approved a third invoice for $4,097.

In other business, the council:

— heard from Garrett that the city will be relocating the miniature mill that has been situated in Memorial Park. The decision was made in response to complaints that the mill was located too close to the Scout House.

A new location for the mill is yet to be determined. In the meantime, it may be moved out of the park and placed in temporary storage.

— appointed Keith Collett as municipal judge, Dan Baldwin as city attorney and Garrett as city treasurer for another year.

— approved Ordinance No. 1104, which renews a franchise agreement with Galaxy Cable Inc. to provide cable television for Hillsboro for 10 more years. The contract does not make Hillsboro exclusive to Galaxy, Garrett said.

The council had wanted a shorter term for the agreement, but Garrett said Galaxy indicated it would not be motivated to invest in local upgrades if it did not have a 10-year deal, particularly since it recently added Internet service to its offerings.

Garrett said the new agreement does increase the franchise fee for the city from 3 percent to 5 percent, as had been requested.

— deferred discussion of fire-protection mutual aid agreements with several surrounding rural fire districts and several communities around the county.

— heard Garrett say a reported increase in electrical rates by Westar Energy was for Wichita residential customers, not for municipalities such as Hillsboro. The increase would have “zero impact on us,” he said.

— heard Garrett say that Hett Construction would soon begin work to replace some curb and guttering on West First Street to correct drainage problems there.

— set dates for two public hearings: 4 p.m., May 17, regarding an economic development grant, and 4 p.m., June 7, for a Rural Development grant.

— listened to a plea by Coryea that the public be informed that the city has tried to respond expeditiously to members of the public, including some who are members of the Hillsboro Development Corp., who have expressed concerns about the development of the proposed waste-water lagoon system east of town.

Coryea said he heard complaints that city hall had been slow to follow through with a tour of an existing lagoon system in Kansas. Coryea said his inquiries into the matter suggest HDC was slow to respond to two letters it received from city hall on the matter.

The trip took place May 5.

— reiterated a previously stated position that the city would not be offering passes to families of city employees for the swimming pool. A letter from the spouse of a city employee had asked the council to reconsider the issue.

— received a report about sales tax collected in March and distributed in April. The city received $12,485 for its local tax, $9,733 for its share of the county, and a combined $2,464 in “use tax” from city and county. Use tax is paid on mail-order and Internet purchases. The total for the month was $24,682.

The total for 2005 is 11 percent lower than the $110,283 received this time last year. The city’s portion is down 17 percent while the county is 3 percent lower.

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