City council opts out of WRAPS funding

The Hillsboro City Council decided Monday (Aug. 28) not to contribute toward a funding commitment the county had already agreed to cover regarding a study planned for the Marion Reservoir watershed.

Following several conversations the past few weeks between Marion County commissioners and Hillsboro, Marion and Peabody officials, the Hillsboro council decided not to contribute toward the Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy study.

Several weeks earlier, county commissioners agreed to pay $75,200 in local matching funds required to move forward with the $251,000 WRAPS study.

Commissioners then suggested Hillsboro and Marion split half of that $75,200 — about $18,800 for each city — because the two cities use the reservoir as their source for manufacturing water for residential customers.

Almost as soon as the suggestion was made, Hillsboro council expressed reticence about it.

First, council members said they did not believe the WRAPS study will lead to prompt, direct action to eliminate blue-green algae blooms at the reservoir.

Second, council members said Hillsboro already contributes considerable tax dollars to county coffers. Contributing the additional amount suggested would essentially be “double dipping” into city tax dollars.

Prior to discussing and voting on the WRAPS-funding issue, the council authorized Mayor Delores Dalke to sign and send a “letter of intent” to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers formally asking to begin conversations about working directly with the Corps to find solutions for the algae blooms.

Hillsboro leaders have long contended the Corps must be directly involved in developing a practical strategy to “fix” the algae problem at the reservoir because the Corps owns the infrastructure that holds the lake water.

City Administrator Steve Garrett said the Corps would not be involved in efforts such as the WRAPS study if Hillsboro had not made “trouble” about the need to include it.

The council agreed to accept the offer of Eldred Kunkel of San Jose, Calif., to accept the vacant and undeveloped lots at the Willow Glen housing development in lieu of money owed the city for streets and specials.

Dalke said receiving possession of the land now would prevent the city from paying the county interest on its own money if the city came to possess the property following foreclosure by for back taxes.

Dalke said it would be the intent of the city to sell the lots to a developer or to individual home builders as soon as opportunities arose to do so.

In other business, the council:

— approved a contract with APAC Kansas to complete proposed airport improvements at a cost of $201,218.

— heard the income survey was complete for a Community Development Block Grant that would be used to replace waterline along Cedar and Birch streets. The survey indicated 62 percent of the homes as “low to middle income,” which qualifies the city for the grant.

But Garrett said competition is fierce for the available funding. “I think it’s going to be tough for us this year,” he said.

— approved a revised job description for the next city recreation director. Garrett said he has interviewed four or five serious candidates and is prepared to proceed with second interviews.

Garrett said he would invite input from the Hillsboro Recreation Commission prior to hiring one of the candidates.

Councilor Matt Hiebert said if HRC members want to be involved in the hiring, he hopes they will also stay involved with the recreation program once the new director is on board.

It was noted that HRC has had difficulty in recent months to gather a quorum of members at its meetings in order to conduct business.

— appointed Hiebert as the city’s representative on the newly created county water advisory board that will, among other things, oversee water-quality issues at Marion Reservoir.

Dalke was appointed as an alternate representative.

— deferred a decision on painting the former AMPI building now owned by the city. Garrett was instructed to secure more than the one bid he had received on the project.

— encouraged Garrett to pursue a strategy of repositioning the city’s existing storm sirens rather than purchasing new ones to ensure that all areas of the city can be adequately warned in case of an emergency.

A new siren costs between $6,000 and $8,000, Garrett said.

— authorized Garrett to explore the cost of acquiring a new electric backup generator that would be able to sustain operations at city hall as well as power emergency sirens in case of an outage — something the city’s 66-year-old generator is unable to do.

Garrett said the city’s current generator is operating at about 50 percent efficiency and “parts are hard to come by” when it needs repair.

— approved Ordinance 1133, which adopts the Uniform Public Code, and Ordinance 1134, which adopts the Standard Traffic Ordinance, for the coming year.

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