Electric rate to increase by 5%

? Cost increase fuels Hillsboro council vote.

Hillsboro residential customers can expect to see the impact of a 5.2 percent rate increase for electricity when their city bill arrives June 1.

The city council passed Ordinance 1260 by a 3-2 vote at its April 7 meeting, authorizing the increase to offset the rising cost of power across Kansas.

City Administrator Larry Paine, with help from Kansas Power Pool staff, developed a projection model showing that an increase from 10.99 cents per kilowatt hour to 11.58 cents would meet the projected budget expense for 2015 of $3.15 million.

Paine?s model also projected the need to increase electric rates again in 2016 by 4.6 percent to 12.11 cents per kwh as the cost of power to the city is estimated to increase to $3.37 million. That estimated increase was not acted upon.

With the new rate, the average residential customer will see an increase of about $5 per month, Paine said. At the council?s March 17 meeting, the initial projection was a month?ly increase of $9 or $10.

?These (latest) numbers look a lot better,? Mayor Delores Dalke said.

Prior to the vote, Coun?cilor Shelby Dirks stated his opposition to the recommendation.

?I know there are areas of the budget that can be cut to absorb this increase,? Dirks said, citing a 44 percent increase in employee salaries over the past seven years.

Byron McCarty joined Dirks in voting against the rate increase while Bob Watson and David Loewen voted in favor. Dalke then cast the tie-breaking vote.

After the meeting, Paine said he reviewed the spreadsheet from which Dirks cited the city?s salary increase and discovered a ?logic error.?

The salary expense in 2007 was artificially low, Paine said, because he and the city?s economic development director had not been employed by the city the first half of the year. Also, the building inspector position was vacant for the second half of 2007.

?The better choice would have been to compare years with full staffing, like 2008,? Paine told the Free Press. ?In that case, the percentage increase from 2008 to 2014 would have been 22.17 percent. That is an average (increase) of 3.65 percent each year for six years.?

At the request of the council at the March 17 meeting, Paine also developed a billing projecting based on a higher rate during the high-use summer months, but asked that it not be considered for 2015.

Other business

In other business, the council:

? approved the low bid of $159,360 from Maguire Iron of Sioux Falls, S.D., to repair the city?s ?little water tower.? The job includes routine repairs as well as replacing the tower?s cover, which was blown off by a windstorm Sept. 1.

Because the 1927 water tower is on the National Historic Register, the city received a Heritage Trust Fund grant of $197,300. The state?s maximum share of the cost is $103,500; the city will pay the balance from its capital improvement budget.

? approved a sound permit for Tabor College to accommodate the annual Taborstock outdoor music festival. The permit allows amplified sound from 10 a.m. to 9:15 p.m. May 9.

Sara Sigley, the college?s student activities adviser, said local residents are welcomed to attend the event.

? unanimously approved a job description for the next economic development director. Developed by Brad Bartel and Lyman Adams of Hillsboro Development Corp. and Paine and Dalke from the city, the job description will be used to recruit a successor to Clint Seibel, who will be retiring from the position at the end of June.

? heard that a ?mud jacking? company from Hesston has been hired to raise sidewalks to the height of the curb in the downtown business district. The company uses hydraulic power to force ?mud? beneath the sidewalk to elevate it.

Once the sidewalks are leveled, Paine said the surface beneath the red-brick ribbon will be repacked so the bricks are level to the sidewalk. Paine said the cost of the three-day project will be under $5,000.

? approved the mayor?s appointment of Shelly Acton to the Hillsboro Library Board, and the reappointment of Pete Richert to the Community Planning and Development Commission.

? heard the effort to refurbish a rescue truck for the fire department has been completed. Paine said several businesses contributed time and services to the project.

? heard that the two directional signposts at Main Street and Grand Avenue that indicate the location of downtown business are being updated to reflect changes.

? heard that street supervisor Dale Dalke is organizing a citywide single-stream curbside recycling ?experiment? the week of April 27 to May 1. Residents are asked to place mixed recyclables in a separate cardboard box or plastic tote at the curb on their trash day. Recycla?bles in trash bags will not be collected.

? heard Paine report that he had declined a request from the Hillsboro Museum Board for a 50-50 city match for the $20,000 Bartel House project.

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