FULL REPORT: Hillsboro City Council, May 5

The Hillsboro City Council agreed at its May 5 meeting to designate about $800,000 in leftover funding capacity for additional projects, equipment and materials related to the city?s wastewater-treatment system.

City Administrator Larry Paine said he was confident the city would have at least that much money available once all of the expenses from the recent lagoon project are covered.

To fund the project, which replaced the city?s outdated treatment plant with an expansive lagoon system east of town, the city was approved for a $4.552 million loan and a $750,000 grant through USDA Rural Develop?ment Agency?$5.3 million total.

Paine said it appears the city will spend just over $3.87 million for construction and to refinance three existing bond issues. That should leave about $682,110 in loan capacity, plus all of the $750,000 grant.

RDA policy allows leftover funding to be used for improvements to the city?s overall wastewater system. It also requires that the loan be fully spent before any of the ?free? grant money can be tapped.

Determined not to overcommit to ?extras? before knowing final project expenses?as occurred during the water-treatment plant renovation a couple of years ago?Paine identified $800,000 as a ?safe target? for an initial phase of add-ons.

Those add-ons will include odor-control equipment, renovation of three older pumping stations, mowing equipment for the lagoon berms, a camera for sewer-line inspection, manhole rehabilitation and at least 10,000 linear feet of sewer-pipe liner.

If funds are still available after those items are paid for, a second phase of improvements will be pursued.

Paine said the importance of manhole rehab and pipe liner was reinforced after a recent heavy rain increased the number of gallons running through the sewage treatment plant from the usual 400,000 to 500,000 gallons per day to 1 million.

Paine attributed much of the spike to rainwater seeping into the system through faulty manholes and cracked sewer lines.

USED VACTOR TRUCK

Despite the objections of Mayor Delores Dalke, the council voted 3-1 to acquire a used vactor truck to clean city sewer lines. The truck, a 1992 Ford, was offered through Sellers Equip?ment of Salina for $30,000 plus a set of nozzles for $4,000.

A vactor truck had been on the list of potential add-ons for the extra RDA funding, but Paine said he decided it was economically ?foolish? to fund a 17-year-old truck through a 40-year loan. Instead, he suggested negotiating a short-term lease-purchase agreement with Sellers.

Financing aside, Mayor Dalke said she opposed acquiring the truck for several reason.

Dalke, a non-voting member of the council, said she was leery of maintenance issues if the city acquired a 17-year-old truck. She cited the frequent repair bills after the city purchased a used Suburban for the fire department several years ago because it was thought to be ?a great deal.?

Dalke also said she was not convinced the city staff had sufficient time to clean sewer lines, referring to problems that arose in the past when the task was attempted internally.

She said those problems led the city to hire a professional company, Mayer Speciality Services, to do the work??with no headaches for us.?

The company, currently under contract with the city for two more years, also provides video inspection?which the proposed truck is not equipped to perform.

In response, Councilor Bob Watson said he believed the assessment of Mike Duerksen, sanitation supervisor, that city workers would have sufficient hours available now that the new lagoon system is online.

The council also was told that the technology of vactor trucks has changed significantly in recent years, making the cleaning process easier to accomplish.

Councilors Watson, Byron McCarty and Kevin Suderman voted to purchase the truck while Councilor Shelby Dirks voted against the acquisition.

NO EXCEPTIONS

The council decided to ?stick to the rules? regarding two requests from the public for exceptions.

The first request involved the city?s Neighborhood Revitaliza?tion Program. A resident had made improvements to his house that would qualify for NRP tax abatement, but did not file an application until more than a year after acquiring his building permit. Guidelines require an application within 60 days.

According to Paine, the resident claimed he had mentioned his intent to apply to a city official, and assumed the official had taken care of it. The guidelines state it is the applicant?s responsibility to complete the process.

Council members concluded the NRP guidelines are communicated clearly to those interested in participating, and making an exception could open ?a whole can of worms? in the future.

In the second case, Kent Funk, on behalf of First Menno?nite Church, asked the city in a letter to make an exception to its sidewalk-replacement policy. The policy stipulates that the city may provide concrete at no charge to replace old sidewalks if the resident making the request provides the labor.

The letter asked the city to make an exception to the policy?s ?residential property? requirement and provide $420 worth of concrete for the church as a non-profit organization.

Council members declined the request, noting that many non-profit organizations in the community could make similar requests in the future if the exception was granted.

OTHER BUSINESS

In other business, the council:

— declined a funding request of $30,000 for Community In Schools from Linda Ogden, CIS director.

Ogden said budget cuts are prompting school districts to reduce funding for mental health counseling services. She said the contribution would save the city money in the long run by reducing the need for social services, mental health and substance-abuse treatment and incarceration.

In response, council members said the city also is facing budget restrictions and did not have funds to contribute on ?short notice.?

— agreed to purchase about $5,500 worth of shoring equipment to enhance the safety of city workers when they are involved in trenching projects.

— conditionally approved the plat for the new Hillsboro Com?munity Hospital facility at the corner of U.S. Highway 56 and Industrial Road.

— heard from city engineer Bob Previtera that the Ash Street improvement project, to be funded with federal stimulus money, may not begin until next spring because of delays built into the approval process through the Kansas Department of Transportation.

— was shown a plaque the mayor received on behalf of the city for its effort to financially support local Emergency Medical Services volunteers.

— presented a plaque to Shane Marler for his two years as a member of the council.

— approved the reappointments of Keith Collett as municipal judge, Paine as city treasurer and Dan Baldwin as city attorney.

— organized itself for the year, reelecting Dirks as council president and Watson as chairman of the Public Building Commis?sion.

— appointed McCarty to replace Marler as a city representative on the Surface Water Advisory Board, and Watson as an alternate director to the Kansas Municipal Energy Agency.

— approved the appointment of Alan Goldsby to the Planning and Zoning Commission and Matt Cox to the Hillsboro Housing Authority.

— heard Paine?s assessment that the local economy is ?doing OK? amid reports of recession woes on either coast. He said some local employers who laid off workers earlier have done some rehiring. He also noted the local sales tax report indicated an increase of $9,000 from the same time a year ago.

— heard Clint Seibel, executive director of Hillsboro Ven?tures Inc., say a representative from Mennonite Housing in Wichita will be featured at a ?working lunch? May 28 to talk about affordable-housing opportunities in Hillsboro.

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