Hillsboro council OKs annexation for church project

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
The Hillsboro City Council approved at its Tuesday meeting the annexation of land for a church and residential development and also gave a green light to the idea of developing a race track for remote-control vehicles at the Sports Complex.

Acting on the recommendation of the city’s Community Planning and Development Commission, the council approved by a 3-0 vote the annexation request initiated by the Hillsboro Mennonite Brethren Church.

The congregation, which lost its meeting facility on Washington Street in a March 2004 fire, is purchasing 16.3 acres within the Prairie Pointe housing development on Hillsboro’s east side.

The plan designates 11.2 acres for the location of a new meeting facility and 5.1 acres for a separate residential development along an extended Prairie Pointe Street that would eventually run from C Street to A Street.

The housing portion of the project would be directed and financed by an independent developer, not the church.

The council also approved Ordinance 1117, which changes the zoning of the property from “agricultural use” to “low density residential.”

Agenda items recommending approval of the preliminary and final plats for the project were deferred to the Dec. 6 meeting because some details still needed to be addressed.

The annexation recommendation was approved after a brief discussion. After the vote, Councilor Len Coryea asked whether the new development would be required to include sidewalks along Prairie Pointe Street-an issue raised by the Community Planning and Development Commission.

While city code dictates the addition of sidewalks in new residential developments, the requirement has not been consistently enforced, Coryea noted.

Darrell Driggers, representing HMBC, said the congregation wants to include sidewalks, whether or not the city would require it.

Remote-control race track

Matt Dalke, city recreation director, and Jessey Hiebert, a local enthusiast for remote-control vehicle racing, presented the proposal to develop a permanent track in the Sports Complex for that purpose.

The plan, which has been affirmed by the Hillsboro Recreation Commission, is being instigated by a core of around 15 hobbyists. It calls for an area of ground within the Sports Complex that measures 90 feet by 90 feet and would be situated between the east tennis courts and the fairgrounds arena.

The development would be enclosed by a 4-foot-high chain-link fence that is intended to keep spectators from entering the track area and to enhance its appearance.

Flexible 6-inch drain pipe would be used to create a retaining barrier within the course.

According to the proposal, the project would require existing grass to be scraped away and several loads of low-quality dirt dumped inside the area, using hand tools and a skid loader to shape it.

The project would be funded, built and maintained by the enthusiasts. An initial materials budget indicated an expense of just over $1,740, which would be raised privately.

Dalke said he supported the project on a philosophical basis, noting that it would provide a recreational outlet for children and adults who are not interested in traditional athletic programs.

Dalke said the track would be available not just to owners of the sophisticated nitro remote-control vehicles, which can cost several hundred dollars, but also “the $30 to $40 remote cars you can buy at Quick Flick.”

Noting Hiebert’s employment as a Hillsboro police officer who frequently leads drug-dog demonstrations at the schools, Dalke said having the track could provide one more positive connecting point between law enforcement and youth.

“I see a lot more than a remote-control-car driving course,” Dalke said. “I see kids and adults spending time together and having fun-which is what I think recreation is all about.”

Dalke said the site selected for the track would be easily accessible to the public and would make use of what he called the “desert” area of the complex grounds.

Another benefit of the track, he added, would be the likelihood of sponsoring official racing events that would attract enthusiasts from around the area, bringing more tourism money to Hillsboro.

During the ensuing discussion, council members spoke in favor of the project but wanted assurances that the project would not have to be underwritten with city funds, whether for construction or maintenance.

The only financial impact on the city budget, Hiebert said, would be the cost of operating the city’s skid loader and a tractor with a post-hole digger for a few hours in the initial stages of construction.

“After that, there would be no need for equipment other than hand shovels and rakes,” Hiebert said.

As for ongoing maintenance, Dalke said he was confident the group of enthusiasts would follow through on its promise.

“I know these people, I know their work ethic-I know it will be taken care of,” he said.

Coryea asked about the potential for dust problems on windy days when tennis tournaments are under way.

Hiebert said he couldn’t guarantee the track wouldn’t produce some dust on occasion, but the dirt race paths would be hard-packed from use.

“I can’t imagine it would cause any more of a dust problem than the (fairgrounds) arena,” he said.

Asked how the track would be protected from potential vandalism, Hiebert said the city’s “law enforcement presence” would provide the same level of protection that seems to be sufficient for the tennis courts and ball diamonds.

With encouragement to check out potential drainage issues in that area of the complex, council members unanimously gave their blessing for the group to pursue the project.

No more free use of a city truck

Following up on a discussion several weeks earlier, the council voted 3-0 to terminate the city’s “Reserve a Dump Truck” program that gives residents one-time free use of a city truck each year for the removal of landfill materials.

Mayor Delores Dalke said the program has generated “great PR value” for the city, but that the cost of maintaining the program has become prohibitive.

She noted city workers must leave their other tasks a half-hour early on Fridays to park the trucks at the appropriate residences, then return first thing Monday morning to retrieve and unload the trucks. Because the county transfer station doesn’t open until 9 a.m., workers often do not resume working on their assigned tasks until 10 a.m. or later.

“By the time you add up lost time, salaries and benefits, plus the fees we have to pay at the transfer station, it becomes an expensive program that I’m not sure we can afford anymore,” the mayor said.

Sunday alcohol sales

The council deferred action on an inquiry by representatives from Casey’s General Store about allowing the sale of cereal malt beverages from noon to 8 p.m. on Sundays, in accordance with a state law that went into effect Nov. 15.

Deb Gray, district manager for Casey’s, said they were not necessarily lobbying for permission to sell beer on Sundays, but wanted to know what position the city wanted to take on the issue. Some communities where Casey’s has stores have voted to allow Sunday sales, she said, while some had declined.

During the discussion, Coryea said he opposed Sunday beer sales, saying the former ban reflects the “quirks and values” of Hillsboro.

“Sometimes I think that’s what makes a community,” he said.

Mayor Dalke and Councilor Shelby Dirks, meanwhile, spoke in favor of keeping revenue from such sales at home, noting that Marion and Marion County have both approved Sunday sales.

“Why should we tell people to shop out of town for that when they’re already here to buy groceries?” Dalke asked.

The council agreed to solicit input from all local vendors of cereal malt beverages before making a decision at their next meeting, scheduled for Dec. 6.

Later in the meeting, City Attorney Dan Baldwin said the state law that took effect Nov. 15 “changes the landscape” regarding alcohol sales in Kansas by making all laws uniform at the local level.

“All cities are now ‘wet,” he said.

Baldwin said the law makes it necessary for a city to initiate licensing procedures if it wants to have a say in the establishment of liquor stores within its city limits.

Without taking that initiative, a person wanting to open a liquor store in town need only become licensed by the state. No other local permission would be required.

The council asked Baldwin to draw up a licensing procedure for it to consider at a later meeting.

Other business

In other business, the council:

  • approved Ordinance 1115 that, in essence, removes the city from being involved in the collection and removal of construction and demolition waste in amounts exceeding the one-cubic yard per week the county transfer station allows without additional fees.

    With the new ordinance, homeowners and commercial operators will need to make their own arrangements to remove the materials.

  • at the request of City Engineer Bob Previtera, authorized the mayor to sign documents related to the completion of the waterline-replacement project on Lincoln Street.

    The council also approved a final payment of $38,761 to Mies Construction, the project contractor, and of $3,842 to Reiss & Goodness Engineers for inspection and engineering services.

    The cost of the project totaled $332,751, which was covered by a combination of state loans and grants, plus $21,751 in local funds.

    “That was a good project,” Delores Dalke said. “It took care of a lot of people.”

  • approved a revised version of a personnel policies and guidelines document pertaining to city staff. Among other things, the new document requires employees to put in 40 hours on the job before qualifying for overtime pay in a given week. Paid-holidays will no longer count as a day’s work.
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