City to help fund renovations at HCMC Long Term Care Unit

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
If its request for tax-credit funding through the state is approved, Hillsboro Community Medical Center will receive sufficient contributions from the city for major renovations to the exterior of the hospital’s long-term care unit.

The Hillsboro City Council agreed at a special meeting Wednesday to provide an estimated $114,000 through its Public Building Commission to help finance the project, which is intended to create a more inviting environment for potential residents.

The $114,000 would be provided by the city if HCMC’s request for $250,000 in tax-credit funding is approved by the state to finance the estimated $364,000 project. The council authorized a letter to that effect to go with the grant application.

The tax-credit program is the same one HCMC used to pay for most of the cost of its new main entrance, which was completed in late 2005.

Mayor Delores Dalke noted the exterior improvements for the long-term care unit are in addition to the $60,000 the council approved earlier this year to make interior improvements to the long-term care unit.

The exterior project would:

fill in and regrade the existing parking lot and install a new parking lot required for a new upper-level entrance.

improve the existing day room and living room spaces;

remove the existing northwest entry canopy and construct a new sun porch day room.

Dalke said the project would complement the culture-change strategies the LTCU already has implemented.

“They have done a lot of things inside,” Dalke said. “It’s a lot more resident-friendly now than what it was.”

HCMC will find out July 1 if its request for tax-credit funding has been approved.

Hillsboro Heights pricing

The council agreed to consider a proposal at its next meeting to increase the sale price of the remaining lots in the Hillsboro Heights commercial development along U.S. Highway 56.

Dalke acknowledged that raising the price for the lots runs counter to the recent trend of cities giving away lots to lure economic development.

“(Locating in Hillsboro Heights is) becoming desirable because of who’s out there; it’s drawing more people to the area,” she said.

“If we have to work with a prospect and make some concessions, we can do that. I just think we’re selling them way too cheap at this point.”

Currently, lots in Hillsboro Heights are priced in three tiers: the row of lots nearest the highway sell for a per-acre price of $20,000, the next tier for $15,000 and the tier furthest from the highway for $12,000.

Dalke said she will develop a new pricing schedule for the next meeting. It will be based on a higher per-acre rate, but will be communicated to potential buyers on a per-lot basis.

Dalke said the activity within Hillsboro Heights has been bolstered by the increase in highway traffic in the past year or so.

“When you look at the traffic maps and the amount of traffic that goes past there now, you have to go almost to McPherson to pick up the amount of traffic,” she said. “That’s a desirable place to be.”

As for competing with communities that give away land to lure new businesses, Dalke said she learned at a recent conference that free land isn’t a significant factor in the recruiting process.

“You cannot give away stuff for economic development because there will always be somebody offering them less than what you are,” she said. “You have to convince them you’re the place they want to be. You have to have the other things to go with it. Cheap land is not one of the things that gives you economic development.”

Progress on lake water

In his report to the council, Garrett said he felt some progress was made at a meeting earlier in the week about the blue-green algae problem at Marion Reservoir.

The meeting involved a variety of officials, including city, county and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“I think we’re getting closer to something where we can have some action on these various issues,” Garrett said.

Chief among them is launching a study through the Corps of Engineers to evaluate the situation and possible solutions. Completing the study is necessary before any money will be designated toward solutions.

“We’re going to have to work with the Corps if we’re ever going to get federal funds in order to cure the problems,” said Dalke, who also attended the meeting.

She added that even if the study begins expeditiously, it will be 2010 at the earliest before it is completed-and then potential solutions must enter the funding phase before any are applied.

“I don’t think most of us will be around this table by the time the solution comes-unless you guys are going to be here as long as I’ve been here,” she said to the council members. “But if we don’t start it will never get there.”

Other business

In other matters, the council:

heard Garrett said he and Mike Duerksen, head of the city electrical department, attended a recent meeting of the Kansas Power Pool, a consortium of municipalities joining forces for more negotiating leverage when individual contracts with Westar expire in 2007.

“I think that puts us in good stead, when our contract with Westar is up, to know the best way to go to keep our utilities at the most affordable price,” Garrett said. “We’re in the best position of all the communities around us.”

Coryea noted “there is a dump-truck load of sand” in the the gutters along the Main Street business district, and said he’d volunteer to run the street sweeper once a week if it would help.

Garrett declined the offer, but also challenged Coryea’s suggestion that the sand was coming from the brick ribbon along the Main Street sidewalks. Garrett said most of the sand was more likely blown into town by strong winds this spring.

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