Private sector steps up with major projects

<p>Five and a half years after the official ground-breaking, HMC/CAH Consolidated Inc. began construction on a $11.4 million facility for its for-profit Hillsboro Community Hospital along U.S. Highway 56. This photo shows the progress as of Nov. 5, 2016.

Coming off a year in 2015 during which city government initiated or assisted with significant and visible construction projects totaling nearly $900,000, 2016 will be remembered as the year the private sector took the lead with five major construction projects valued at nearly $32 million.

“It’s exciting to see these impressive projects and what they will add to Hills­boro,” said Mayor Delores Dalke.

But that’s not all.

Add to that a major remodeling of the former Wal-Mart building to accommodate an expanding Dollar General store, significant remodeling projects at Casey’s General Store and Ampride Convenience Store, and several other substantive business expansions in town, and 2016 has earned the title, “Year of the Private Sector.”

The ‘Big Five’

Mayor Delores Dalke said all of the “Big Five” projects, as well as the smaller ones, were significant for the future of Hillsboro.

• New hospital. One project in which city government played a key role was the long-awaited construction of a new facility for Hillsboro Com­munity Hos­pital along U.S. Highway 56.

Construction began in March, nearly 51⁄2 years after HMC/CAH Consolidated Inc., the for-profit owners of the hospital, hosted a ground-breaking ceremony at the site in 2010.

The promise became reality after the city committed to a $1.25 million bond in late 2015 to expedite the project.

“Anybody who has been on a tour out there is excited about what we’re going to have when it’s finished,” Dalke said. “It’s an unbelievable project. We had to get involved in that, and agreed that we would put in the parking lot and some of those things.

“However, the hospital is paying that back already before they even open,” she added. “They pay us a monthly fee, which we, in turn, pay to the bonding company. So it should not cost the taxpayers of Hills­boro anything. We were a vehicle to help them get started.”

Because the hospital is a for-profit venture, Dalke said the city will be receiving around $13,000 per year in property taxes, with additional property taxes generated for local schools, the county and the state.

Beyond the $11.4 million investment, Dalke said the hospital project brings additional value to the city.

“It’s absolutely invaluable as far as what it does for the people who live here and also for drawing people here,” she said. “Health care is always one of our top issues.

“If you’re looking to live someplace, you look not only at what the physical structure of the building is, but you also look at the doctors and staff that are there. Because we have a new structure, I’m sure that has had something to do with our doctors choosing to practice in Hillsboro.”

Dalke said having a state-of-the-art hospital is critical for Hillsboro’s growth.

“It will assist in bringing more people to town and it will assist in keeping people here,” she said. “It also will help the college in its recruiting because we need to have good medical facilities or else you won’t want little Johnnie or Susie coming to school here.

“Then you have the nursing homes,” she added. “Who would move their parents to a nursing home in a community that doesn’t have a hospital and doctors? As you’re getting older, you need more medical care rather than less.”

Dalke said HMC/CAH is planning a public open house for the project April 29.

• Fine arts center at Tabor College. Dalke said the $16.2 million fine arts center should be a boon not only for Tabor College, but the city as a whole.

“It won’t just draw people to come to visit Tabor, but it also will draw in performers to our city,” she said. “(Tabor) will have a venue where other people can come in and perform. Right now we are looking at applying for some of these national groups to come here to perform.

“It also will encourage people to want to live in Hillsboro, because those kinds of things are happening.”

Dalke believes the project will by a significant resource for the local college.

“I think it will be one of the greatest things that has ever happened to Tabor for its future,” she said. “Athletics is really important, but now it’s time we look at fine arts.”

• Vintage Apartments. Dalke believes the six twin homes built in Hillsboro during 2016, valued at nearly $1.4 million, will help meet a significant need in the city for affordable housing.

“I think it’s a wonderful thing,” Dalke said of the project that was initiated by Mark Cox, owner of Vintage Con­struction LLC, general contractor and partners.

<p>The Vintage Apartments project, comprising six twin homes valued at nearly $1.4 million, were nearly complete when this photo was taken Nov. 5, 2016. The project, with units located on Lincoln, Ash and Cedar streets, can accommodate 12 families with income-based affordable housing. “We just need more housing here,” she said. “It’s not just people in Hillsboro moving around. It’s people from outside the area who are wanting to move here because that project is here.”

Dalke said the units are filling up since they their opening in late fall. Mid-Kansas Community Action Program manages these housing projects units as well as others in south-central Kansas.

Dalke added, “We still need more housing in Hills­boro; that (project) hasn’t solved all of our housing needs.”

• New headquarters for MB Foundation. The $2.1 million project rising at the corner of D and Washington streets will provide a state-of-the-art office building for MB Foundation, the stewardship ministry for the Menno­nite Brethren church family in the U.S.

The project also provided a major benefit for the city, Dalke said. MBF settled on the location in part to eliminate a long-standing eyesore and health hazard formerly known as the PrimeTime convience store.

“It’s a wonderful looking building right next to the Tabor campus, and it kind of expands the appearance of the campus,” Dalke said of the new project. “It also expands the D Street corridor in Hillsboro, which is a very important corridor for our city.”

• New pharmacy building. Eric Driggers, owner of Greenhaw Pharmacy, will be moving his business in early 2017 into a $640,000 building he initiated at the corner of North Ash and Orchard Drive during 2016.

“Not only is that new store for the local people, but when you see how they have expanded and extended their services to out-of-town nursing homes and that kind of thing, it’s impressive,” Dalke said.

“In a time when everyone is being encouraged to order their drugs by mail, this place is giving extra personal service,” she said. “I think it’s a great thing for Hillsboro that people see we’re willing to do the extra things that need to be done.”

City projects and goals

Progress on the new office building for MB FoundationWhile private-sector initiative is the highlight, Dalke noted several highlights that city government accomplished during 2016 and looking toward 2017.

“We have applied for a (Community Development Building Grant) grant to replace some streets,” she said. “We will find out this month (January) whether that was successful.”

The city also is working through USDA to secure funding to replace water lines in Hillsboro that keep breaking.

Wilson Street is a prime target. That residential area, constructed in the mid-1950s, has had more than 80 breaks over the years, Dalke said. City staff estimate that each break costs the city $2,500 to repair.

Progress on the new store for Hillsboro Hometown Pharmacy, formerly known as Greenhaw Pharmacy“They just used different kinds of materials at that time from what we are able to use today,” Dalke said of the Wilson area. “Because we have become more professional in the way we’re doing projects, we’re using newer materials as we put in water lines, electric lines and things like that.”

Other projects Dalke cited in 2016 include:

• Repairing the Scout House deck in Memorial Park. “The deck around it had become rather dangerous, and we were able to ge that all repaired,” she said.

• Gathering permits to move the city compost site west of the city shop so Grace Community Fellow­ship can build a meetinghouse on present site.

“They’ve been nice enough to let us continue using it (for compost), but one of these days they’ll want to put their church up,” Dalke said.

• Repairing and replacing several city streets.

“That includes repairing and replacing the streets damaged by the construction of the fine arts center,” Dalke said. “We’re not complaining about that—we’re happy to have to do it. But we also need to repair and replace the street in front of the school (on Grand Avenue). That absolutely needs to be done because the curbs are in very bad shape.”

• Hiring a part-time museum director. “We’re hoping to get that person in place before too long so arrangements can be made to have our museums shown,” Dalke said.

• Hiring a full-time economical development director. “We need that director so we can continue to go forward,” Dalke said. “This coming year we’re going to have a lot of ribbon-cuttings and that kind of thing, but we need to have the next group (of businesses) waiting in the wings.”

The battle continues

As she reviews the events of the past year or so, Dalke said she’s optimistic about Hillsboro’s future. But she’s also aware of the challenges that face every small rural communities.

“I think it is a constant battle,” she said. “I don’t think it’s something that will go away. We need to realize we will be looking for opportunities all the time. You can’t ever sit back and say, ‘Look what we’ve done.’ You have to keep working at it.

“The minute we get proud about what we’ve been able to get done, we’re going to be in trouble,” she added. “We have to keep working.”

Dalke said the goal for any small town is quality of life of its residents.

“Quality of life is one of the best things we have to offer,” she said. “We need to sell the quality of life that we have here. That’s what businesses are looking for, it’s where people want to live.”

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