Council hears billing concerns from residents

The Hillsboro City Council meeting opened on Tuesday, Sept. 20 with concerns brought forward by residents Roger and Cynthia Fleming. The Flemings brought up the method used to average sewer bills.

They were upset that they had been watering a new lawn later into the year and some of that usage was captured on the sewer bill. This caused an inflation of the sewer average charge which is applied all year.

City administrator Matt Stiles explained that the winter averaging is used to get a more accurate idea of what baseline sewer use is for customers. He said that using winter months is the best approximation of water use that is then put into the sewer because things like water yards, gardening or filling swimming pools aren’t included in that use.

The ordinance states that “the amount of water used for billing purposes shall be determined by an average of water used per month during a four-month period from December through March. The average use shall be computed in April of each year for every sewage utility customer. The average

shall be applied against the above rate structure effective with the May sewage billing and shall remain constant for future billings until the average water used is recalculated in the following April.”

Cynthia Fleming stated that she had an issue with the wording of water used versus water billed.

“That is why we are here. We are just wanting fairness,” she said.

Stiles said, “Historically that has been computed by averaging the bills for the month of December through March. However, the billing cycle means that bill received in December is for usual from the mid-October to mid-November. With weather being warmer later into the year, it might be good to adjust the winter averaging formula to reflect usage from mid-November to mid-March or the January to April billings. It may even make sense to drop down to three months rather than four. To do that there would need to be an ordinance change.”

Stiles explained that altering the months and reducing the number of months used for averaging might be advisable. He said it may also be worth considering removing commercial users from an averaging system.

“Typically, non-residential customers don’t fall under averaging. Sewer use in commercial and industrial customers is more closely tied to water consumption as business consumption is not normally as seasonal,” said Stiles.

The board also heard an update on the status on the dilapidated home at 114 S. Birch. The home has shown no visible improvements since the initial report and hearing in June from Code Enforcement. According to Doug Dick’s last report the structure at 114 S Birch was found to be a structure unfit for human occupancy and a dangerous structure or premises.

“It’s been confirmed by neighbors there that the only thing that happens there is the lawn gets mowed,” said Stiles. “There is a caretaker who cares for the house and I did speak to her and let her know.”

He said there did not appear to be any attempt to be selling the house at this time.

“Somebody probably could remediate this facility if they wanted to, but I couldn’t tell you the amount or what the cost-benefit analysis would be. The city could reclaim it and remediate it if the owner doesn’t do something with it,” said Stiles.

Mayor Lou Thurston asked Stiles to try to explore the possibility of the owners selling the property so the house can be saved and used for much-needed housing in Hillsboro.

The board voted to proceed with the resolution, giving the homeowner 45 days to repair the structure and authorizing the City proceed with remediating the property after that period.

Stiles updated the council on a grant he is working on for Marion County.

“I’m putting together a SEED grant application for a KDOC program. The KDOC is only giving one grant per county so we have been working through our E-Community channels to collaborate with

county partners,” said Stiles.

He explained that one of the specific funding areas in the grant is for rural grocery providers, so he is working with Peabody (POS upgrade), Goessel (energy efficient food cases) Tampa (LED lighting), Marion (lighting) grocery stores along with Dales Supermarket (flooring) to get funding for those stores.

Stiles said, “The City of Marion is also a partner applying for funding for a mural. The total max grant is $50,000 with a 10 percent match. The way it is proposed, the city would get the award then disperse it.”

KDOC would have agreements with each entity to meet the terms of the grants.

Thurston said this is a great opportunity to partner as a county and enhance our grocery stores which are vital to each community.

In other business, the council:

n heard from the Hillsboro Family Aquatic Center Director Cara Duell about the season.

n learned that the Annual Arts and Crafts was well attended and went off without any major incidents.

According to the Hillsboro Police Department, the crowd was bigger than last year and appears to be coming in earlier in the day.

Stiles said, “It’s a good sign for the health of the event in a post-Covid environment.”

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