It took three extended discussions, but the Hillsboro City Council voted 3-1 at its Aug. 15 meeting to keep $44,500 in the proposed 2018 budget to enable the city to participate as a full partner in the newly created Marion County Community Economic Development Corp.
The motion passed with one caveat, however.
The city council agreed to review its decision at a 4 p.m. special meeting Aug. 22 to decide if potential by-law changes have created an even playing field for all municipalities in the county.
The following Thursday, the MCCEDC board approved the by-laws change as requested by the council.
“Looking at the language, it appears we can nominate either an employee or an elected official,” said Larry Paine, city administrator.
At all three meetings, Russell Groves, interim chair of the MCCEDC committee, provided input and responded to questions.
Councilor Dave Loewen read a prepared statement to start the Aug. 15 discussion. He described his experiences as a lifelong Marion County resident with connections to both Marion and Hillsboro.
Loewen concluded: “I believe there is a possibility that the (MCCEDC) may not be as successful as we hope for it to be, and the ways that we hope it achieves that success. However, if a greater sense of cooperation between the communities and county is achieved, I believe we will become the richer for it.”
Loewen stating his position publicly for the first time seemed to provide a needed nudge toward resolution.
At the Aug. 1 meeting, Council Bob Watson had expressed his desire that the city participate, even as a lesser partner. But his motion to that effect died for lack of a second.
Councilor Byron McCarty indicated more than once he was against joining—based on feedback from local business owners who didn’t want to raise the municipal tax levy 2.5 mills to support a county-initiated program.
Councilor Brent Driggers, meanwhile, had expressed affirmation about the need for cooperation, but wondered about the strategy.
Change of heart
Toward the end of the Aug. 15 discussion, Driggers said he had been swayed by Groves’ input.
“I think my opinion has changed over the course of this meeting,” Driggers said. “I don’t know if it’s going to succeed or not, but if we’re going to try to do something as a county, we should do it in a way that puts our best foot forward.”
Groves told the council, “Regardless of the outcome of this vote today, I want to reassure you that MCCEDC will continue to cooperate with the city of Hillsboro in every way we possibly can.
“Whether you have votes on the board or whether you are advisory to the board, we are one large family in this county and we need to behave that way.”
The item to be reviewed at the Aug. 22 special meeting was MCCEDC’s decision regarding by-laws for representation on the permanent board.
Specifically at issue was the appointment of Roger Holter, Marion city administrator, to the permanent board even though the by-laws denied the appointment of city government personnel, whether employed or elected.
Groves explained that Holter was “grandfathered” onto the board because Holter was one of the founding members of the committee that led to the creation of MCCEDC.
“Roger is willing to serve, but he would have preferred not to,” Groves said.
Paine, meanwhile, made the case that appointing elected officials to the board was a better direction.
“Your elected officials are there to represent the communities and speak on their behalf,” Paine said. “I think if you don’t take that resource, then I really think the committee will not have the resources to recognize what is going on to help that community succeed.”
Groves responded, “As elected officials, you are not elected to specifically carry out every governmental function. You are delegating those functions to your department heads and your employees. This is a matter of delegating as well.
“I think you have to have faith in your employees and your representatives to carry out the wishes of the government without having to serve as an elected official on one more board.”
Watson said, “I almost think it has to be one or the other. You have to say city employees (or elected officials from all communities) can serve on the board, or none of them can.”
Groves responded, “We are trying in every way we can to treat the entire talent pool in the entire county as fairly and equitably as we can possibly do.”
As the discussion moved toward a vote, Mayor Delores Dalke summarized the issue this way: “Marion County has decided (MCCEDC) is what we need, and our choice is—are we willing to pay above what we’re already paying to Marion County (in taxes).
“That’s what it boils down to, the way I see it.”
With the decision to contribute the $44,500 for a year, the council, meeting as the Public Building Commission, agreed to not appropriate $71,000 to a fund that serves as a cash reserve for the former hospital facility owned by the city.
Funded at $671,000, the fund is intended for bond protection relating to the city’s $1.25 million loan to support construction of the new hospital, and to address maintenance issues at the former facility.
Not contributing the $71,000 would reduce the proposed mill levy by three mills, putting the 2018 mill levy at around 45.499 mills, which represents an increase of 2.673 mills from 2017.
Paine reminded the council that it merely approves the dollar amount needed to keep the city operating; the actual mill levy is determined by the county based on valuation.
In other business, the council:
• approved Ordinance 1261, which will change the property at 108 N. Birch from “multi-family residential” to “central business district.” The Lumberyard requested the change since it was using the property for business purposes.
• approved an estimated bid of $31,000 from Elcon Service Inc. to separate the electrical service meters at the facility used by Salem Home and formerly the local hospital.
In a related action, the PBC authorized the city office to pay the facility’s electrical bills for the next three months, or until Elcon’s electrical project is completed.
• approved Ordinance 1280 to authorize the filing of an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a waiver of the “must-purchase” requirement of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 and adopting rules for compliance with FERC’s PURPA regulations.
• authorized payment of invoices turned in by companies participating in the repairs at the Adobe House Museum. The money will be reimbursed to the city through a grant from the Kansas Heritage Trust Fund.
• approved a change to the city’s Policy 41 that would add the position of museums coordinator to the invitation list for the city’s staff Christmas party.
• heard Paine report that Standard & Poors has awarded the city an “A stable” bond rating for the third year in a row.
• heard Paine report that the city sent electrical workers to Kiowa for two days to help restore electricity there following a storm. Additional towns sent crews as well.