Hillsboro again delays MCCEDC funding decision

The Hillsboro City Coun­cil, at its Aug. 1 meeting, once again put off a decision regarding the city’s involvement in the new countywide economic development initiative.

The meeting began with a public hearing for the 2018 budget, but it generated no public comments.

Once the council meeting resumed, discussion focused on the 5.673 mill increase that would be required to fund the budget if it were to be approved as published.

City Admini­strator Larry Paine said he was aware the council likely would not approve a budget with a large mill increase.

To prepare for the discussion, Paine had done a “test reduction” that eliminated the full $44,500 requested by the Marion County Com­munity Economic Develop­ment Corp., as well as a $71,000 contribution to the Public Building Commission hospital fund.

Eliminating those two items, Paine said, would reduce the mill levy from 48.499 to 42.004, which would put the 2018 levy slightly lower than the 2017 rate.

Councilor Bob Watson, having listened to input from Russell Groves, MCCEDC’s interim board chairman, at the previous two meetings, said he would like the city to “do something” regarding funding.

“As the largest city in the county, it’s something we should be involved with,” he said.

Watson suggested that for the next budget year, the city could designate $25,000 for MCCEDC and settle for one board member instead of two board members the city would be allowed for the full $44,500.

Groves said MCCEDC would welcome that arrangement. He noted the level of cooperation already existing between the county and the economic development directors employed by Marion (Randy Collett) and Hillsboro (Anthony Roy).

Councilor Brent Driggers said he favored cooperation, but given the financial support Hillsboro residents have already provided for local economic development efforts, he did not want local taxpayers to bear a heavier load.

Late in the discussion, Watson put his initial suggestion in the form of a motion, but the room turned silent. Moments later, Mayor Delores Dalke declared the motion dead for lack of a second.

Prior to the public hearing, Paine had reminded council members they were under no pressure to make a decision or take action at this meeting. The city’s final budget won’t be due at the county clerk’s office until Aug. 25.

The budget discussion will continue at the council’s Aug. 15 meeting.

Other business

In other business, the council:

• voted 4-0 to suggest Groves as a potential representative from Hillsboro for appointment by the county to the MCCEDC board.

• heard Councilor Dave Loewen report a suggestion from a resident that the city consider building a sidewalk that would connect the Willow Glen and Carriage Hills housing developments so children could have a safer walk to town.

Paine said he, too, had been contacted, but the sidewalk grant program the city has applied for doesn’t provide funding for sidewalks that connect residential areas.

• re-approved Resolu­tion 2017-06a because the council’s previous approval did not allow the required two-week notice. The error was discovered in time to pull it from publication.

The resolution addresses the house at 311 Eisenhower St., which experienced a significant fire in February. City Attorney Josh Boehm said the structure now has a new roof, but safety concerns such as water damage and mold still exist in the interior.

• voted 4-1, with Watson opposing, to approve the priority ranking of 13 local street projects that will be submitted for grant funds through USDA Rural Development and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Watson questioned the need for a $1.371 million project to initiate automatic meter-reading.

• received from Paine a sample draft of a debt-management policy. Paine said approving such a policy could enhance Hillsboro’s bond rating with Standard & Poor’s, which affects interest rates.

“As we go through the decisions for the debt financing before us now, this policy discussion should give us an idea of how we want the policy to work,” Paine said.

• approved a recommendation from Steve Fast, Hillsboro Museums coordinator, to approve a bid of $6,145 from Funk Electric of Goessel for electrical and lighting upgrades, plus the installation of a sump pump at the Adobe House.

“We’ve only got $2,500 in the grant to cover this (project), but there’s a contingency of $14,400 to cover (the remainder),” Fast said.

Hillsboro Museums was awarded a $69,000 grant from the Kansas State Historical Society for a variety of preservation projects.

• appointed Watson and Dalke as voting delegates to represent the city at the League of Kansas Munici­pal­ities convention Sept. 16-18 in Wichita. Paine and Byron McCarty were affirmed as alternate delegates.