New auditors find room for improvement in city bookkeeping

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
The Hillsboro City Council discovered at its June 7 meeting that when it comes to auditing the books, new eyes see new issues.

D. Scot Loyd and Amy Burton, representing the accounting firm of Swindoll, Janzen, Hawk & Loyd LLC from McPherson, presented their first report as the city’s auditing firm for the 2004 fiscal year.

At the outset, Loyd said they had identified a relatively lengthy list of issues that needed attention and correction. Because accounting procedures are open to interpretation, he added, it’s not unusual for a first-year auditor to find issues the previous auditor had not identified.

Burton then led the council through 15 issues that were listed in the firm’s management letter, including two statutory violations. In each case, the auditing firm suggested a strategy for addressing the issues.

After hearing Burton’s report, City Administrator Steven Garrett suggested that the council create a committee composed of Mayor Delores Dalke, City Clerk Jan Meisinger, Council President Shelby Dirks and himself to review the recommendations and create a timetable for completing them.

Loyd commended the idea, saying it would be a time-efficient way to complete the changes.

The council affirmed the creation of the committee and then accepted the auditor’s report after limited discussion.

Tabor College plans

Tabor College President Larry Nikkel gave the council early notice of changes that will likely take place on its campus in the next year or so.

Nikkel said sky-rocketing steel prices have made it financially unfeasible to build a dormitory of three stories that has been at the heart of the college’s current capital campaign.

In order to meet the pressing need for more student beds because of growing enrollment, Nikkel said the board has opted to build a complex of townhouses along the west side of the 400 block of South Adams Street.

The college already owns the property, and would raze the three houses that are located on it to make room for the townhouses.

“Our goal is to bring 80 new beds on line as soon as we can,” Nikkel said.

Other components of the plan being considered is closing the 300 block of South Madison Street to create additional green space, and developing additional parking areas.

Although plans are still in the preliminary stage, Nikkel said the goal is to complete construction in time for the 2007 fall term.

In the meantime, Nikkel said the college is projecting to be some 10 to 30 beds short when students arrive on campus this fall-even though the college has purchased three houses near the campus that should accommodate 22 students.

Dalke noted-and Nikkel agreed-that a housing shortage because of growing enrollment is a good problem for the college to have.

“This is the best news I’ve heard in a long time,” she said.

Public hearings

During the meeting, the council recessed briefly for a pair of public hearings, neither of which drew input from the public.

The first one dealt with adjusting the bond arrangement approved earlier for Parkside Homes’ $8 million development project. The amount of the bonds remains the same; the change had to do with a later closing date caused by delays.

The other public hearing was regarding the proposed wastewater lagoon system for Hillsboro. Garrett said having a public hearing was one of the requirements for participating in the Rural Development funding program.

Garrett said the city had explored other options for handling its wastewater, and had considered more than one location on which to build the lagoon system. The site extending east of Hillsboro Industrial Park was determined to be best suited for the project.

Other business

In other matters, the council:

— approved an increase in the speed limit on a stretch of Ash Street, roughly from the Cooperative Grain & Supply elevator to A Street, from 20 mph to 30 mph.

Dalke said now that CG&S has changed the dumping strategy at its elevator, there is no need to slow traffic to 20 mph. She said that stretch of Ash had become little more than a “speed trap” that served little useful purpose for most of the year.

— approved changes to the city’s policy regarding residents who want to reserve a city dump truck for the removal of landfill items.

The changes clarify that a resident can reserve a truck for no charge one time during a calendar year, and stipulates a penalty fee not to exceed $500 if the truck bed includes items not allowed by the policy or causes an increase in fees at the county transfer station.

— heard from its engineer that bids have been received on all three components of the water-treatment-plant project: improvements to the plant itself, installing new water line on the south side of town, and painting the water tower.

Action on the bids was deferred so the engineer could review them and check references on the companies that submitted them.

— deferred action on an ordinance dealing with the amount of construction and demolition waste that can be set out for trash pickup in residential areas.

— approved payments of $80,617 to APAC-Kansas Inc. and $5,775 to Reiss & Goodness Engineers for work completed on this summer’s Main Street improvement project from A Street to D Street.

— approved payment of $19,000 to Reiss & Goodness for work done on the water-line project on Lincoln Street.

— ratified Dalke’s reappointment of Lowell Goering and Shawn Edwards to the Board of Zoning Appeals.

— affirmed the city administrator’s position that once an insurance company rules the city is not liable in regard to injury claims filed by a city employee, that the city has no obligation to negotiate an additional financial settlement with that employee.

“Why would we spend taxpayer money for something we’re not liable for?” asked Dalke.

— expressed its intent that Memorial Field should be used exclusively for recreation, and not as a parking lot in the off season. That would enable the city to fully enclose the park with a fence, which would enhance both the appearance of the field and the safety of athletes who use it.

— set a special meeting for 9:30 a.m. Monday, June 13, to meet with Nancy Ronto of Burbach Aquatics about the design of the city’s aquatics center. (See article below.)

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