Council approves sewer system project

The Hillsboro City Council approved a sewer system modification along the 300 block of North Ash Street project during its Feb. 2 meeting.

City Administrator Larry Paine said the intent of the project is to eliminate the use of a diagonal sewer line that crosses the lot along North Ash Street where Mark Cox, of Vintage Construction, is building a twin home.

The diagonal sewer line would be abandoned, not removed, because the twin home is built at ground level.

The project was estimated to cost less than $25,000, Paine said.

Complicating the project is that the sewer hookups at 303, 305 and 307 North Ash connect to what is essentially a private sewer line that lies between the front of the houses and the street.

Paine said ideally the three residences should be hook up with the new sewer line that runs behind the houses along the alley.

Because of backyard outbuildings, he proposed that the city connect the existing line in front of the three houses to the line along the back alley.

?If there is a problem with the sewer line that is in front of the three houses, we will be requiring that those property owners connect to the new sewer line in the alley,? Paine said.

During the ensuing discussion, Councilor Brent Driggers said forcing residents to remove outbuildings later could upset them. He asked how much it would cost for the city to hook the three residences to the backyard line now rather than later.

Mayor Delores Dalke said it would be worth checking the cost, perhaps offer to cost-share the hook?up with the homeowners.

?We?re not doing any favors for the three homeowners (by not giving them that option),? Dalke said. ?Connecting all of them to the alley (line) makes more sense.?

Councilor Dave Loewen agreed.

?If I knew the city would help me pay for it now, I?d rather do that than pay for all of it later,? he said.

At Paine?s request, the council approved the project by a 4-0 vote; the council can address residential hookups along the alley as a change order. They asked Paine to bring cost estimates to the next meeting.

The project is expected to begin near the end of Febru?ary.

Firefighter approved

Upon the recommendation of Fire Chief Ben Steke?tee, the council approved the appointment of Corey Unruh as a new member of the volunteer fire department.

Steketee said Unruh, who has been attending local fire meetings, had recently served as a captain on the McPherson Fire Depart?ment. Unruh is certified as a Firefighter I and II, is a hazardous materials technician and a state-certified emergency medical technician.

?He?s probably more qualified (to serve) than any of us,? Steketee said.

Even with Unruh?s unanimous appointment, the local department has three openings remaining following the retirement of one veteran firefighter and the loss of two captains.

Statewide gathering

During his city administrator?s report, Paine was asked to describe his experience Jan. 27 at Local Government Day in Topeka.

The event, co-sponsored by the League of Kansas Municipalities and the Kansas Association of Coun?ties, gave city and county representatives a chance to interact?and challenge?their counterparts at the state level, Paine said.

?The chief question relates to the budget-lid statute that was passed at 11:59 in the legislative session last year,? Paine said.

?The budget lid technically is a new statute that requires cities to have an election if the city?or any local government, for that matter?wants to raise the property tax above the level of the consumer price index for that year.?

An irritant for many of the participants in Topeka was the way bill was passed.

?There was no public hearing on it,? Paine said. ?It was just (voted on). As you might expect, local government all over the state said, ?What the heck are you doing to us??

?What it basically does is change the issues around local determination?the responsibilities that a governing body has in order to do their work.?

Paine said the manner in which the Legislature passed the law avoided a discussion on the ?what-ifs? of its impact.

?What I saw was a very angry group of people communicating with the legislators who were present,? he said.

Paine said Senate Presi?dent Susan Wagle of Wichita blamed the state?s ongoing budget problems on terrorist activities in Paris, the mass shooting in San Bernardino and Iranians flooding the stock market.

The Senate minority leader then stood up and said the basic problem was the elimination of corporate state income taxes in 2012.

?Then they opened it up for Q&A, basically the county commissioners were asking, ?What in the world were you guys thinking??? Paine said. ?They made it very, very uncomfortable for the (Republicans) who were presenting at that meeting, and not so bad for the (Demo?crats). It was interesting to watch.?

Paine said conservative Republicans seem to want to do away with representative government in its entirety.

?There is this element of the conservative Republican Party that thinks each and every action that happens around this (city council) table needs to have a commensurate vote of the people to affirm that.

?My beliefs in terms of how local government is managed is that people in the community elect you (council members) to make decisions. If you can?t make decisions, then they find somebody else to do it.?

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