Council tables local proposal for Wal-Mart land

The Hillsboro City Coun?cil tabled action at its Sept. 23 special meeting regarding a contract it received to purchase property in Hillsboro Heights that is already under contract for the construction of a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market.

The group submitting the contract was identified as United Partner?s, with local businessman Jon Hefley acting as the signer for the group.

The desired property, Lot 8, Block 3, is located roughly in the middle of the 3.7 acres under contract with Wal-Mart.

City Administrator Larry Paine noted in a pre-meeting agenda memo to the council that ?the purpose of this purchase contract is to keep Wal-Mart from building their project.?

Paine said Hefley submitted the contract because he presumed Wal-Mart?s purchase contract with the city had expired when, in fact, it is still valid.

Paine said confusion about the status of the contract arose from comments made during the Aug. 19 council meeting, when the council approved the sale contract from land agent Ben Hawkins.

The terms of the contract stated that closing would occur 20 days ?after the last government approval,? which Paine had interpreted to mean 20 days after the council?s Aug. 19 decision to vacate the utility easements within the property, as Hawkins had requested.

Instead, Paine said, an attorney from Wal-Mart had clarified that the ?final government approval? was the issuance of a city building permit.

Paine said last week that the building plans for the Wal-Mart store arrived at the city office Sept. 22, one day prior to the council meeting.

The building plans currently are being reviewed by the city?s code enforcement officer to ensure that they meet local requirements, a process that could take up to three weeks, Paine said.

Initially, Paine had recommended that the council accept the Hefley contract as a contingency offer that would come into play only if Wal-Mart does not close the deal or retracts the approved contract.

But Councilor Bob Watson said he preferred tabling action on the contract because the property already has been sold and Wal-Mart has publicly announced its intention to build a store on the designated property.

?I think we have reason to believe they are going to proceed with that, so I don?t see any reason to take any action,? Watson said.

Beyond the timing of the latest purchase contract, the property requested by United Partner?s does not have street access, according to Economic Development Director Clint Seibel, who presented the proposal to the council.

While street access to Lot 8 is indicated on the Hills?boro Heights plat, the street does not yet exist.

?Since there?s no street there, and then somebody buys that lot and says they want to put something there, are we obligated to put in a street?? Councilor Bob Wat?son asked.

Seibel said the agreement signed by Hefley stipulates that the city ?has no obligation to put in a street at this time.?

Paine said, ?I think this is one of those cases where the proposal does not make sense, and describing how we?re going to deal with that particular lot in the middle of an undeveloped street?it just doesn?t make sense.?

In the end, Watson made the motion to table action on the United Partners contract and return to Hefley the $500 check he submitted as earnest money.

New endowed fund

The council authorized Mayor Delores Dalke to sign documents to create a ?Hillsboro Community Development Fund? that would enable people to donate tax-deductible gifts of $250 or more in support of ?community enhancement and beautification projects, particularly those that serve to attract young families and youth to Hillsboro.?

Donations to the new endowed fund, which can be received by the city, would be placed with the Hillsboro Com?munity Foundation or the Central Kansas Com?munity Foundation.

The funds would be channeled to the designated project of choice through the appropriate city fund.

The memorandum of understanding identified two projects that may benefit from the fund: the Hillsboro Youth Center, including Tabor College Bluejay Lanes, as well as projects that assist business entrepreneurs and provide them with education and training.

Seibel presented the plan, which was initiated by the Hillsboro Development Corp. in cooperation with the city.

Other business

In other business, the council:

? approved specifications submitted by Police Chief Dan Kinning to solicit proposals for a new police car.

The department?s 2006 Dodge Charger with 75,000 miles and 5,000 hours will be used as a reserve car and the department?s 2003 Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor, with about 105,000 miles and a failing transmission, will be disposed.

? meeting as the Public Building Commission, approved a bid of $26,550 to have the asbestos removed from the boiler room of the city-owned building now occupied by Hillsboro Com?mun?ity Hospital.

Removing the asbestos is required as the city moves toward selling the property, Paine said. He added that the city was fortunate that more asbestos wasn?t found in the building.

Asked if this was the city?s only bid, Paine said it was: ?The marketplace for this (kind of work) is pretty thin.?

Dalke asked Paine to make sure the company is adequately bonded before moving ahead with the project.