Hillsboro looking at $4.5m water-line project

The Hillsboro City Coun­cil affirmed at its Feb. 7 meeting a list of water-line related projects identified around the city that were projected to cost in the neighborhood $4.5 million.

The affirmation did not authorize the projects, but provided City Admin­istrator Larry Paine with direction for the scope of work needing to be done to upgrade the city’s water lines.

Paine said he has been discussing the water-line issues with Morgan Marler, the city’s senior water treatment technician, and EBH & Associates, the city’s engineering firm.

Paine said a $4.5 million price tag would not reach the minimum requirement to qualify for Rural Develop­ment grants.

“According to our budget, we wouldn’t be eligible for grant funds until the project got over $10 million,” Paine said. “This is mostly due to the fact that Hillsboro does not have greater than 51 percent low-to-moderate income residents.”

Paine led the council through a list of potential projects:

• Replacing the original water lines along Wilson Street, from First to C streets, which has had 90 water-line leaks since the area was developed in the late 1950s (Cost estimate, $702,000.)

• Put in new 6-inch PVC pipe along Kennedy Street ($180,000).

• Remove remaining asbestos concrete water line near the city’s water tower adjacent to the Tabor College baseball field ($33,000).

• Replace water line with 4-inch PVC pipe in the alley between West A and West B streets, and the alley between Grand Avenue and West A ($61,000).

• Abandon the 2-inch water line in some areas along Floral Street.

• Put in 8-inch PVC line along Grand, from Ash to Hickory; later, the concrete street would be milled and resurfaced with an asphalt overlay ($600,000).

• Remove cast-iron water line along a portion of Ash Street from D to F streets, and replace it with 8-inch PVC line ($116,000)

• Remove asbestos concrete water line with 12-inch PVC pipe in the Hillsboro Industrial Park ($776,000).

• Switch the city’s meter reading from manual to automated ($1.9 million).

Of the project presented, the council expressed concern about automated meter reading, citing the cost and expressing concern whether the benefits of the new system would recover the investment of funds.

Long-range project

Although it was not part of the project package Paine presented at this meeting, he did mention the possibility of a larger, regional water system project that would bump the total project beyond the $10 million minimum and thus qualify for grant assistance.

The regional system would involve upgrading the supply line from Marion Reservoir to Hillsboro, making some water-plant upgrades and building a water line from Nighthawk and 190th to Marion.

“We have been having back-channel discussions with the city of Marion and Marion County to determine how they want to proceed, and if there are other partners that would like to be part of the project,” Paine said.

He said the three entities could conceptually contract an engineering study to determine the feasibility of building “a more robust regional system.”

Paine said the Hillsboro water plant would be producing water for the participating partners, and has the capacity to do so.

Other business

In other business, the council:

• agreed to write a check for $3,800 Randy Hagen to offset damage to his house at 907 E. C St. that was not covered by the city’s liability insurance resulting from sewer line cleaning.

Paine reported he spoke for 70 minutes by phone to EMC Insurance claim adjusters. They said the have denied the claim for two reasons: the city cleaned the line within industry standards and did nothing negligent in the process; also, identifying the actual date of the incident was problematic.

The council agreed that the city wasn’t obligated to notify residents of cleaning procedures, but has begun doing so. The council voted 3-0 to write the $3,800 check without admitting any negligence.

• authorized the city clerk to notify the county clerk that Flint Hills Indus­tries is qualified to receive another year of property-tax abatement after meeting its employment goals as agreed upon.

• agreed to revise Policy 49 that would extend the purchasing authority of the city administrator from $5,000 to $10,000. Paine said he has been required to purchase water-plant chemicals and electricity transformers that exceed the $5,000 limit.

• authorized city staff to proceed with an early payoff of the city’s lease on a John Deere box blade ($43,890 remaining) with money from the city’s Equip­ment Replacement Fund. The city will then solicit bids for a new front-end loader for the street department.

• heard Paine report that the city will be addressing two nuisance abatement issues. One is regard a car parked and abandoned at a residential address, and the other a motor home setting in a backyard on the west side of town but can’t be moved because it won’t run.

• heard Paine say he provided testimony to the Kansas Municipal Utilities lobbyist regard a HB 2241, a bill in Topeka that would quadruple the price of surface water for cities such as Hillsboro and Marion. The increase is an effort to raise money to implement Gov. Brownback’s water plan.

Paine said he wasn’t against paying for the plan, but felt the cost should shared by all entities drawing surface water for their use, including irrigators.

“Fairness across the board is what we’re all about,” Paine said. “If we all pay our fair share to ensure there is sufficient water for all citizens of Kansas, I don’t have any problem with that.”