Council to review new energy code

?Requirements could stymie business growth.

In response to spirited criticism by a local businessman, the Hillsboro City Council likely will be reviewing its decision in December to adopt the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code.

Mayor Delores Dalke reported that, immediately prior to the meeting, she had a ?pretty heated? conversation with ?George? Fei Yang, owner of the former Quick Flick/Radio Shack building at 101 S. Main St.

Dalke said Yang had found someone who wanted to establish a restaurant in the building, but the cost of meeting the requirements of the 2012 energy code would make the project unaffordable.

She said Yang had been advised by his contractor that it would be less expensive to bulldoze the building and start over than to try to bring the aging structure up to code.

?There?s probably not a building on Main Street that would be able to meet the energy code that we adopted,? Dalke said.

?We?re going to have to give this some serious thought regarding the energy code. Do we want to keep it in place, do we want to make some exceptions? One hundred-plus-year-old buildings are not going to meet the code.?

Ben Steketee, the city?s code enforcement officer, said, ?The energy code is not designed to save people money. It?s designed to save energy. It?s more of a global-awareness type of code. It?s like when they started putting seat belts in cars and the car manufacturers went ballistic.

?This is something that?s probably coming,? he said about the requirements. ?Buildings need to be tighter and more energy efficient. There?s an awful lot of fuel that?s been leaked out into the air through the buildings of the world. This is an effort to try and combat that.

?How much energy leaks out of the buildings in Hillsboro, that may or may not be a big issue.?

Steketee added that changing a building from mercantile use into a restaurant raises a variety of other code issues that would need to be addressed.

Councilor Bob Watson asked Steketee if most cities in Kansas had adopted the energy code.

?I?m trying to get an answer to that very question,? Steketee said. ?My best guess is not of lot of communities have.?

City Administrator Larry Paine said it is up to the council to decide what to do with the code it adopted.

?We need to look at this from a policy point of view,? Paine said. ?Do we want to apply all, some or none of the requirements??

Dalke asked that the topic be added to the council?s agenda in the near future.

Cash reserve policy

By a 3-2 vote, with the mayor casting the tie-breaking vote, the council agreed to accept a fund-reserve policy that would aim a 90-day cash reserve for the general fund, several special-purpose funds and the four utility funds.

The decision culminates a series of discussions that began late last year. The intent is to have cash on hand in case a catastrophic event would leave the city unable to serve its customers.

A secondary benefit would be to strengthen the city?s Standard & Poor?s credit rating, which would result in a lower interest rate if the city decides to use bonds to finance future projects.

The narrow vote reflected a difference of opinion regarding the reserve target. Paine recommended 90 days, noting that the city is under no particular timeline to reach that target.

Two council members, Shelby Dirks and Byron McCarty, suggested that a 60-day target might be more acceptable to citizens. Coun?cilors Dave Loewen and Watson favored Paine?s 90-day target, given the city?s flexible timeline to reach the goal.

Bartel House

The council agreed to allow the Hillsboro Museum Board to solicit bids to move the stones at the Bartel House north of town to secure their safety.

Paine said the museum board is concerned the stones that were once part of the pioneer house have now collapsed and will be lost unless they are collected and stored for future use.

The board also expressed concern that the owner of the property where the house stood could become frustrated with the current state of the house if any historical value is lost.

The board has a balance of $36,500 in a fund designated for the recreation or commemoration of the house. Meanwhile, the plan is to stack the stones on pallets and relocate them for safekeeping.

Paine said the city?s only contribution to the project would be storing the stones at the public works yard.

Other business

In other business, the council:

? agreed to extend tax abatements to Container Services and Flint Hills Industries, doing business as Hillsboro Industries, for an additional year.

The city?s Tax Abatement Review Committee had concluded the two businesses had met the requirements of increasing staff and sales in 2014.

? unanimously approved a resolution that would state the city?s objection to SB 171, a bill in the Kansas Legisla?ture that would move all local elections to November rather than the current practice of having them in April.

The bill also would make the election partisan by having candidates declare their political affiliation, and it would eliminate the commission/manager form of city government that has been in place since 1917.

Paine summed up the League of Kansas Munici?pal?ities? objections to the bill this way: (1) there is no compelling reason to change a system that isn?t broke; (2) there is no Republi?can or Democrat way of fixing a pot hole; and (3) moving elections to Novem?ber will cause local elections to be lost in publicity campaigns for other offices.

? unanimously approved a resolution that identifies specific conditions the city has deemed ?unsafe and dangerous? at the site of the former Prime Time location along D Street.

? unanimously approved a new employee policy manual for city staff; it has been updated to address new federally required policies.

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