City OKs bonds for aquatic center

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
The Hillsboro City Council formally made the financial commitment to build a family aquatic center for the city by approving a $2.63 million bond proposal at its Oct. 4 meeting.

Jerry Rayl, the city’s financial consultant, said the improvement revenue bonds include the $2.55 million needed to cover construction-related expenses plus $80,000 for the cost of developing the bond package.

Rayl said the bonds will commit the city to an average payment of $201,000 a year for 20 years. The interest rate will range from 3.15 percent to 4.75 percent with an average rate of 4.507 percent.

The annual payment is higher than the $175,000 revenue currently projected to be generated each year by the new half-cent sales tax increase that went into effect Oct. 1 for the purpose of paying for the project.

At its Sept. 20 meeting, the council reaffirmed its plan to transfer funds from the electrical reserve account to cover the payment difference for the first few years, with the expectation that an improved local economy will increase sales-tax revenue.

A report from the state treasurer’s office, included in the agenda packet, indicated that revenue from the city’s original half-cent sales tax through September 2005 was 8.5 percent lower than the revenue generated one year ago.

After hearing Rayl’s input, the council recessed into a Public Building Commission meeting to authorize the issuance of the bonds, then reconvened the council meeting to approve the accompanying ordinance (No. 1113) and authorizations to move the proposal forward.

Contract for utility advice

In anticipation of becoming a member of the Kansas Power Pool-a consortium of municipalities for energy-rate negotiations-the council approved a contract with EMG, a consulting firm that will work with the city to maximize its association with KPP by evaluating the city’s current energy system and strategies.

City Administrator Steve Garrett said “our (energy) world will change dramatically” when the city’s contract with current supplier Westar Energy expires in October 2007.

A new contract with Westar may require a rate increase of as much as 100 percent, Garrett said, with cities like Hillsboro having little leverage to negotiate a better deal on their own.

That’s why membership with the KPP is important, Garrett said, and why the city needs the services of EMG to maximize its position.

“We’ll need to know more (about energy usage) on a day-to-day basis and we’ll need someone who knows and understands the issues and the lingo,” Garrett said.

The contract will cost the city $1,000 a month, but Councilor Matt Hiebert, who made the motion to approve it, noted the fee may be “a drop in the bucket” compared to what EMG could save the city over the long haul.

Other business

In other matters, the council:

— agreed to pay $1,157.21 in voluntary membership dues to Kansas Municipal Utilities, an organization that lobbies on behalf of cities before federal and state energy agencies.

KMU has needed the voluntary dues to hire attorneys to intervene in a Westar request for an $11.5 million annual increase in transmission fees, according to a letter from Colin Hansen, KMU executive director.

The mayor and council agreed the dues were a small price to pay to have KMU “fight the good fight” in Washington, D.C.

“That’s where it all begins,” Dalke said, referring to energy rates.

— approved resolutions 2005-14 and 2005-15, which commit the city to help neighboring communities in the event of natural or manmade disasters and to establish the National Incident Management System as the system to be used when such disasters occur.

— tabled two documents outlining agreements between the city and Unified School District 410. One agreement addresses the school’s use of the city-owned tennis courts and the other agreement addresses improvements planned for Memorial Field.

Action on the documents was tabled pending feedback from Superintendent Gordon Mohn, who had not seen them yet.

— agreed to pay dues of $691 to continue Hillsboro’s membership with the National League of Cities.

Citing Lindsborg as an example, Dalke said “other progressive cities in the state are there, even of our size,” and “the benefits of us being there seem to be great.”

— voted to put into effect one addition and one change in the city’s personnel policy.

The addition declares that city materials that become salvage will remain city property until the council decides otherwise. The intent of the policy is to prevent employees and others from removing such salvage for personal use or sale.

The addition also forbids the use of city shops for personal use.

The change in policy, discussed at a previous meeting, stipulates that a city employee must put in 40 hours on the job in a given week before being eligible for overtime compensation.

The intent of the change is to eliminate paid holidays from being considered as time on the job.

— authorized payments related to the water-system improvements project: $14,310 to Pittsburg Tank & Tower for work done to repaint the city’s main water tower; $176,400 to Utility Contractors Inc. for work done at the water-treatment plant; $90,959.70 to APAC Kansas for work done to replace waterlines in the area of Juniper Street; and $30,088.13 to EBH & Associates for engineering work.

— authorized payments related to the waterline-replacement project along Lincoln Street: $18,804.10 to Mies Construction Co. for work completed and $1,933.75 to Reiss & Goodness for engineering inspection.

At the request of the council, city engineer Bob Previtera said he would check with Mies officials to ensure the company was using “Kansas Blend” fescue grass seed to reseed affected areas in residential lawns, as was contracted. Some concern had been expressed that the seed being used was of a lesser variety.

— made a point to express appreciation for the work of the city’s volunteer fire crew after discovering that remarks made at the council’s previous meeting had been “misinterpreted” as being critical.

At that meeting, Garrett said having increased participation of volunteers at training sessions and fire calls would help to lower the city’s fire-insurance rating, which in turn could result in lower premiums for residents.

“They do an important job,” Garrett said of the volunteers. “They need to know that we appreciate them. I know I’m not fireman material, but I’m glad that they are.

“We just think training equals better service…. We need to think the best of each other.”

— called for a 30-minute executive session to discuss personnel. No action was taken following the session.

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