City OKs sale with split vote on contract

 The Friesen Mill will benefit from improvements costing about $21,900. The project includes interior wood repair and exterior painting. Having to choose between a potentially unwise policy precedent or the sale of a property in Hillsboro Heights resulted in a rare split vote during the Sept. 3 Hills?boro City Council meeting.

In the end, Mayor Delores Dalke broke the 2-2 deadlock by casting a vote in favor of selling the land.

On the table was the sale contract for 2.85 acres in the northwest corner of Hills?boro Heights for the expansion of Jost Fabricating.

Owners Kevin and Angy Jost had proposed purchasing about one and one-half lots at the west end of Western Heights Street for $25,000 to build a sales office and new fabrication facility.

The council had originally approved the contract during its June 28 meeting, but with wording that would have changed a stipulation that the property be exempt from special assessments, unless the owners agreed to accept them.

Instead, the new wording limited the exemption to 10 years based on the principle that an indefinite exemp?tion could handcuff a future council.

Clint Seibel, the city?s economic director, came to the Sept. 3 meeting to report that the Josts were holding firm to the original wording in the contract.

Councilor Bob Watson raised the same concern he expressed in June about exempting a single property within a development.

?If we?re going to do that, we might as well pass an ordinance that we will never put specials on any of the properties in that development,? he said.

The example discussed at the meeting was the prospect of someday extending Hickory Street north to D Street and south to U.S. Highway 56, where it would pass along the western edge of Hillsboro Heights and the Jost parcel.

Mayor Dalke said no business in Hillsboro Heights has ever been charged specials because the city picked up the entire tab for install?ing streets and infrastructure in 1998.

?We?ve never charged specials out there so far, and we?ve never charged specials in the industrial park,? Dalke said. ?Both of those (developments) were put in with other money. So the realism is we probably won?t charge specials?but we don?t know that.?

Watson said, ?But we?ve never signed anything, to my knowledge, that said we never could.?

Seibel said the exemption clause would remain in effect only so long as the Jost family owned the property.

?It is a contract with the buyer; it wouldn?t be a contract for a third party,? he said.

?But it could be in the family for a long time,? Watson said.

Council members said they thought selling the property to the Josts was a good thing, but also expressed reservations about the policy precedent.

?I think we?re down to the point that if we want to sell it to them, these are their requests,? Dalke said. ?We either sell it to them, or we don?t sell it to them.?

Councilor Byron McCarty then made the motion to approve the contract; Fast seconded it.

Those two voted in favor, but Watson and Shelby Dirks voted no. As mayor, Dalke then cast the deciding vote, as is stipulated in case of a tie.

Mill improvements

The council approved a plan from the Museum Advisory Board to paint and repair the Friesen Mill in the Mennonite Settlement Museum complex at a cost of $21,900.

The project will be financed with $17,000 of donated money from the Friesen Mill Trust, and $4,900 from capital-improvement funds the city will be receiving from the Kansas State Historical Society related to the rehabilitation of the Schaeffler House.

City Administrator Larry Paine said he and the board had been working for more than a year on a bid process to move the project forward. Several attempts to solicit bids failed to generate one.

?Contractors either thought (the project) was too big or too small for them,? Paine said.

MAB member David Brown told the council the board finally contacted Koehn Painting Co. in Newton, which initially offered to paint the structure?s exterior for $4,980.

Inspections indicated the mill also needed repairs. Miller Construction of Newton, who has worked with Koehn Painting in the past, submitted an initial bid of $19,154 to do the repairs, making the total bid $24,134.

Brown said the board requested a lower bid. Koehn reduced its estimate by $600 and the board agreed to Miller?s suggestion that fiber cement replacement siding, which is less expensive than wood, be used for the mill tower.

Lease extension

The council approved a five-year extension of a lease with Cooperative Grain & Supply for 38 city-owned acres north of the sewer lagoons near Hillsboro. CG&S is using the acreage as a crop-demonstration plot.

?They are planning on dividing the property in a grid fashion to do soil analysis that will give them a plan for soil amendments that will improve crop production,? Paine said. ?They need some time to see how the special treatment will affect production.?

At $75 an acre, the lease would generate $2,850 per year for the city.

Pain said because the land has been zoned for commercial use, ?If there is a compelling economic develop?ment project where this land would be the best location, the co-op would release the property.?

The project would have to have a minimum capital improvement value of $250,000, Paine added.

Other business

In other business, the council:

? approved the appointment of Dalke and Fast as voting delegates, and Watson and Dirks as alternate delegates, for the business session at the League of Kansas Municipalities conference Oct. 12-14.

? approved Ordinance 1231 that sets the penalties for violations related to the enforcement of the Uniform Property Maintenance Code at a maximum of $500, three months imprisonment, or both. Lesser penalties can be assessed at the municipal court judge?s discretion.

City Attorney Joshua Boehm said the penalties would be assessed only at the end of a process that would include: (1) a letter of notice from the city, including a timeline for correcting or appealing the violation; (2) if the appeal is denied, a timeline for correction; (3) if the violator still does not comply, the case will be cited to muni?cipal court.

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