Hospital sale tops mayor’s list of 2008 advances

ButlerCCRibbonPA150032cmyk.jpg
ButlerCCRibbonPA150032cmyk.jpg

With Mayor Delores Dalke ready to wield the oversized scissors, Butler Community College dignitaries prepare to cut the ceremonial ribbon to officially open the new welding training center in Hillsboro in November. The project was a cooperative effort of BCC, the city, the local school district and private industry.

It?s probably not surprising that when Mayor Delores Dalke made a list of the events in 2008 that will contribute to the future health and well-being of Hills?boro, she had an appropriate choice for top honors.

?I do say that the No. 1 thing that happen 2008 for our community is the sale of the hospital, and the fact that they?re working on getting everything ready to start building the new hospital,? Dalke said.

HMC/CAH Consolidated Inc., a Kansas City-based company, reached an agreement in mid-June to acquire the assets of Hillsboro Commun?ity Medical Center from the city of Hills?boro, and construct a $10 million, 15-bed, critical-access hospital over the next three to five years.

By the end of 2008, the project was making progress toward the start of construction this spring for the newly named Hillsboro Com?munity Hospital.

?That is so important for a community our size?that the somebody would see us as being prosperous enough to want to come here to do that,? Dalke said of the project.

Beyond that development, the 13-term mayor had 10 more things on her list that she believes will impact Hillsboro?s future:

n Rate adjustment for city utilities, and the Kansas Power Pool.

The rate increase for electric, water, sewer and refuge will better reflect the actual cost of providing those utilities, Dalke said, and the contract with KPP, a consortium of communities in central Kansas, will prevent the city from being vulnerable to the whims of Westar Energy.

?We will know what we?re going to pay for electricity now in comparison with when we were with Westar,? she said.

n Cooperation with Tabor College in planning for the athletic facility improvements in partnership with USD 410.

?There is no way that a town our size can end up with $5.5 million worth of athletic improvements if it not for the college,? Dalke said about the project to build a new football stadium and track-and-field facility.

?Yes, we (patrons of USD 410) have a bond issue for a little more than $2 million, but Tabor is getting money from clear across the United States,? she said.

?We don?t appreciate what we have here (in Tabor), and how people from Oklahoma, and California and Colorado will be willing to send money to Tabor for these athletic improvements that we will use, too.?

n Working with Butler Community College, the school district and Hillsboro Industries in starting a welding training center here.

?We got a grant from the Kansas Department of Commerce to help with that,? Dalke said. ?That?s very significant because this is another economic opportunity for people in our community.

?It was a total public/private collaboration all the way through,? she added. ?We spent (city) money out there to help make it happen.?

n Zebra mussels discovered at Marion Reservoir.

?It?s not a good thing,? Dalke said, ?but it?s significant.?

The small mussels, which reproduce exponentially, have created a significant nuisance at other Kansas lakes.

n Selling two lots in Hills?boro Heights that were developed for business use.

?One was sold to Elcon Services and one to Reimer Classics?and they both went ahead and built,? she said. ?That was important for Hillsboro.?

n Establishing Hillsboro Business Park and including it and the former AMPI property in a local tax increment financing district.

?We have a contract to sell a lot out there (in Hillsboro Busi?ness Park),? Dalke said. ?And that project seems to be moving forward.?

n State grant money to improve the local museum and the airport.

Hillsboro Museums received a $12,000 grant from the Kansas Humanities Council to create an orientation exhibit at the Men?no?nite Settlement Museum, and the airport received a grant from the Kansas Department of Trans?portation that paid for 90 percent of the cost to install PAPI (precision approach path indicator) lights.

n Plans under way to develop a downtown park.

The Hillsboro Tree Board has spearheaded the effort to develop the small park just north of the post office along Main Street.

?I think that?s exciting and something good for the future of Hillsboro,? Dalke said.

n Construction of the wastewater lagoon system east of town.

?That is almost complete now,? Dalke said of the $5.3 million project that will bring the city in compliance with state regulations. ?That will make us ready for more development, too, because we will have the capacity to handle it.?

Economic gains and challenges

Dalke said, 2008 appears to have been strong economic year for the city. She said the local retail sales-tax revenue increased by 15 percent from 2007, thanks in part to strong prices for most crops.

Meanwhile, the news was less positive for local housing starts and sales, according to Dalke, who is a real-estate broker.

?Sales have been very slow this past year,? she said. ?They started out pretty good, but then it came to almost a complete halt for a while. Toward the end of the year they took off again.

?We do need more housing,? she added. ?We saw a lot of demand for rental housing. I think that says something about the local economy when people want to rent instead of buy. But it?s also good that people are wanting to live here rather than someplace else.?

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