Hillsboro authorizes special assessment

The Hillsboro City Council authorized a special assessment tax on construction of sanitary sewer improvements on certain real properties running along Third Street and in close proximity to it at the July 17 meeting.

The total cost of the improvements is $125,455, with Groves First Addition Sanitary Sewer Improvements along Third Street paying $10,100 of the benefit district’s $115,293.

Larry Paine, city administrator, said the remaining amounts would be levied and assessed against the other lots, parcels of land liable for these specials in the district.

Russell Groves, developer, said he wanted to thank the council for its consideration of the project with the first house completed and for sale.

“What is wonderful about the action taken is that the sewer line is not just for the 16 lots running on Third Street,” he said.

“This sewer line is sized to accommodate not just future development on my land, but also for the Hillsboro Development Corp. and Grace Church. It opens up that entire area for future development projects not even planned yet.”

In addition, Groves said the sewer line was oversized because when there was growth in that area, the city will be ready for it.

“So the vote you took today is a vote for future development we don’t even have on the books yet,” he said.

Mayor Lou Thurston said he wanted to thank Groves as well for having faith in Hillsboro, and making an investment in this community.

Thurston also recognized commission candidates in District 1 and offered each of them a few minutes to talk.

“Craig Dodd asked for the meeting,” Thurston said, “and he should go first.”

After introducing himself, Dodd said he wanted to let the council know that he believes it is important to attend all city council meetings in District 1 to learn what is need in this particular area.

“My priorities,” he said, “are in being professional, having non-condescending meetings, and a back-to-basics approach.”

He said he wants to see business development and talked about the two years of drought producers have faced.

“With new taxes going into effect, it’s hard on small retail businesses. I also want to look at line item budgets and cut the fluff out now,” Dodd added.

Later when maybe there are windfalls those “fluff” items could be brought back, but he said he considers the biggest problem is taxes and its effect on business development, schools and taxpayers.

If businesses can’t afford the taxes, they will be leaving.

“Taxes, budget and the (commission) meetings themselves as priorities,” he said. “One thing we need in Marion County is distributors and small manufacturers. If we don’t get something outside the county bringing money into it, the taxes will be put back on the residents,” he said.

With the average age in the county at 63, and too many people having to wait for medical attention, another priority is the EMS service, he added.

“We also must have a business person on the commission. I have worked for major corporations and recognized as a Kansas State Business of the Year,” Dodd said.

Kent Becker, who filled the unexpired term of Lori Lalouette, said he has served as the District 1 commissioner for 1.5 years. He said he has also been privileged to have a good rapport with former Mayor Delores Dallke, the current mayor and city administrator Paine.

Becker said he thinks the city of Hillsboro is blessed to have such strong leadership and council members because some of the other communities lack the strength and commitment that is present here.

“I was born and raised in Marion County,” he said, “and was active in the banking business for 39 years. Mr. Dodd has most of it correct, but I have also been a business owner, I own a farm, and in the early 1970s and early 80s owned an insurance agency.”

Economic development is a big keyword in the county, he said, and in addition to his county duties, he serves as director/consultant at Hillsboro State Bank, which keeps hims involved in the community, banking and economy.

Larry Cushenberry is also running for District 1 commission seat, but said he was unable to attend the council meeting because his father was hospitalized and he needed to be there.

Cushenberry was contacted later by phone and expressed his reasons for running for the position.While there are many reasons why he said he is running, one thing he believes is the biggest is keeping taxes down.

“We have three trailer manufacturers to include Donahue Trailers, Circle D and Hillsboro Industries. As far as industries, the First District has Barkman Honey, Countryside Feed, Container Services, and dealerships like Hillsboro Ford, but there’s a lot more,” he said.

“We also have the highest concentration of high-value homes, largest concentration of population, and we are paying close to, if not at least, one-third of the taxes in the county.

“But the way our taxes keep going up, some businesses are having a hard time making it. I was talking to guys in Lehigh, and they were telling me they are paying out $83 an hour to keep their businesses open and only making $85.

“How can we expect these businesses to stay open?” Cushenberry said.

Growing up, he said, he was taught that unless somebody steps up and tries to do something different, than nothing changes.

“I am trying to step up and approach things differently,” he said.

Each of the three candidates are submitting in more detail why they are running and what the issues are. Those answers will appear in the Aug. 1 edition of the Free Press.

In other business, the council:

◼ heard from Warren Deckert at 311 Eisenhower about items needing to be done to the property related to a fire at that address. Deckert said he completed the list, but didn’t contact Ben Steketee, code enforcement officer, for final approval. The council gave him until the Aug. 7 meeting to meet with Steketee before the matter is completely resolved.

◼ the public hearing for the 2019 budget is scheduled for 4 p.m. Aug. 7, but Paine said he would continue to look at options for keeping taxes down. After the budget is published, but before the hearing, the numbers could reflect differences, Paine said. Becker also said that valuation is up a lot this year.

“The two reasons for that,” he said, “include Hillsboro Community Hospital, but also the state of Kansas had a huge valuation on railroads impacting Marion County. Those reasons will go into determine the county budget for 2019.”