The Hillsboro City Council approved at its Feb. 20 meeting an engineering contract with EBH & Associates to separate the former hospital building into two separate properties.
The initiative became necessary when the city council agreed to sell the former facility at 701 S. Main to EmpowerHMS for $400,000.
The not-for-profit company is planning to develop its part of the facility into a medical clinic that would enable military veterans to receive health care near their home community rather requiring them to go to a Veterans Administration hospital in a large city.
Salem Home, which occupies the remaining part of the facility at Hillsboro, will continue to serve its residents without interruption.
Because the process of separating the building is not fully known, the contract with EBH includes three “not-to-exceed” estimates totaling $19,000.
“Most contracts don’t have those caps in it, but we usually have a better idea of what we’re doing on a project,” said Josh Boehm, city attorney. “This project is a little bit more fluid.”
Mayor Lou Thurston said, “If we’re looking at March 9 as our next step with this hospital sale, we just really need to get this done. At some point we’re going to have to visit the Salem piece as well, but we need to get this going now.”
Thurston reported the city has hired the law firm of Triplett Woolf Garretson to represent the city’s interest in this project.
The council voted 3-0 to approve the final year of tax abatement for Flint Hills Industries Inc., operating as Hillsboro Industries.
The city’s Tax Abatement Review Committee, which includes J.T. Klaus, bond counsel, had unanimously recommended the extension to include 2019.
“They have increased the total number of employees and increased payroll, increased gross sales and revenue and meet all the criteria for continuation of the abatement,” Thurston said.
Phil Wyssenbach, representing the company, said it is their intention to continue to grow.
“Our goal is to increase,” he said. “Our biggest challenge right now is finding the people. That’s a common theme right now.
“We’re working with the (welding) school down here with Hutch (Community College, there’s a lot of positive things going on,” Wyssenbach said. “I think the trend is changing back to kids wanting to be more in the technical field, but it’s taken time.”
Thurston said, “From the city side, we certainly recognize the need to attract workers with the requisite skills and the requisite work ethic to fill the jobs that we have.
“That’s kind of Job 1 for us as a community to create that environment that has the right people, the right housing, all the requisite things that go along with that.
Wyssenbach responded, “You guys from the city have been incredibly helpful the last 10-12 years. I can’t compliment you guys enough.”
He said the company has tried to offer “reasonable pay” that would appeal to workers.
“We try to take care of our people, but it’s been tough at times,” he added. “But we’ve got some good people out there, and we want to continue growing.”
In other business, the council:
◼ approved three of the mayor committee appointments: Doug Huxman and Peter Richert be reappointed to the Planning and Zoning Board, and Kakim Kunantaev to the Board of Zoning Appeals, to fill the void created by the departure of Courtney Boehm.
◼ heard the City Administrator Larry Paine, currently on medical leave, had stopped by the office in recent days. Thurston reported that Paine’s next round of surgery is schedule for Feb. 27.
◼ heard Thurston said he had planned to introduce the interim city administrator, Don Osenbaugh at the meeting. Given the poor driving conditions that day, Thurston said he would reschedule the introduction time.
◼ heard from Thurston that the new automated time clock program has now been implemented following training.
“We’ve had good participation,” he said. “Our team is to be commended, and that’s going to save us a lot of time, a lot of money and more accuracy on our payroll system.”
◼ approved Resolution 2018-01, which allows the city to use the cash basis method of accounting rather than “generally accepted accounting principles.” The GAAP waiver has been annually approved.
◼ heard Joyce Barkman thank Thurston for accompanying her recently to deliver meals through the Hillsboro Senior Center.
“He was setting a very good example for all of you,” Barkman told the council. “So now I’m going to wait to call over there and say what day you would like to help deliver meals with me.”
Thurston responded, “Just to reiterate what Joyce said, the senior center does great work in our community, and it was really great to get out and see some of the people who don’t get out and get around as much.”