Hillsboro tables decision about county plan

For the second meeting in a row, the Hillsboro City Coun­cil declined to make a decision July 18 about the city’s participation in the newly formed Marion County Community Econo­mic Development Corp.

As before, the council’s overarching concern was the city’s 2018 budget proposal, which at this meeting was indicating a 5-mill increase for the coming year.

The July 18 proposal included the request from MCCEDC for a $44,500 contribution each year for five years to become a full partner in the new venture. The funds would give Hillsboro two representatives on the countywide board.

Marion has already committed to be a full partner, and Peabody is a contributing partner at $25,000 annually for five years. The county itself has authorized $156,000 annually for five years.

As she did at the July 5 meeting, Mayor Delores Dalke said she appreciates the goals of MCCEDC, but is not in favor of a local mill increase this year.

“We increased (the mill levy) by three last year, and I don’t think we can continue to do that,” she said. “I will feel very bad if I have to go into the community and tell them that we raised their mill levy 5 mills this year.”

Dalke added: “We have no idea what (mill levy request) is going to come from the county, but I can’t help but believe that they’re going way up on their mill levy.”

Russell Groves, a Hillsboro resident who serves as interim chair of the MCCEDC board, repeated his request for full participation by Hillsboro.

“We can move forward with our mission without Hillsboro’s cooperation, but it leaves a gap,” he said. “We believe a unified presence for Marion County is going to be seen inside and outside the county as a big plus for a favorable atmosphere for locating in this county.”

Though council members generally affirmed aspects of MCCEDC, they expressed concern about the financial commitment needed for full participation in a tight budget year.

Paine said putting the $44,500 commitment into the city budget would equate to about half of the projected 5-mill increase.

Councilor Byron McCarty said he had visited with 15 local business owners; 12 of the 15 owners said they did not want a mill-levy increase “to give money to the county.”

“Some of them said most of the businesses we have in town are homegrown anyway—and we already have a (city economic) director here,” McCarty said.

Groves responded, “I recognize Hillsboro has been quite successful in growing businesses, but we think that can be built on a wider emphasis.

“The business climate doesn’t stop at the edge of corporate boundaries,” Groves added. “Marion County is an economic community, but we’re part of a regional economy as well. We need more people who can learn trades.”

Later in the meeting, after the council voted 4-0 to table the MCCEDC request until after its Aug. 1 budget public hearing, Driggers asked Paine if he could identify some budget-reduction options.

Aside from the MCCEDC request, Paine said the council could reduce or eliminate the $70,000-plus funding that was initiated as “taxpayer protection” when the city approved a $1.25 million construction bond to help finance the new hospital project.

Paine reminded the council that the city is bound by charter to provide funding via property taxes for the following departments: a maximum 4 mills for the library, and a maximum 1 mill each for recreation, the industrial park, and special law and fire needs.

Paine said in past years the council has agreed on a mill-levy target, then authorized Paine to identify reductions and present them for council approval.

“We can fuss about this for the next two weeks, then at the public hearing Aug. 1 we can make the adjustments we need,” Paine said.

Other business

In other business, the council:

• affirmed by a 4-0 vote a plan developed by a citizens committee to develop two full-length concrete basketball courts at the site of old swimming pool in Memorial Park.

Committee member Cord Werth said, “We think it would be a great place for kids to come, and give students a place to come and hang out. It’s a great opportunity for youth in the community to come together and play basketball. We kind of have a long history of hoops in our town.”

Werth said the committee will raise private funds for the concrete and basketball goals, which he estimated to be $12,000.

• following an executive session to discuss trade secrets, the council voted 4-0 to waive rent for Salem Home until Oct. 1.

• while in session as the Public Building Commis­sion, members voted 4-0 to pay the July and August utility bills for the space formerly occupied by Hillsboro Community Hospital.

During that time, the city will review past utility bills paid by Salem Home to determine if the funding formula for utilities needs to be adjusted now that the hospital has moved its operation to the industrial park.

Also, Paine said city staff will begin investigating the possibility of installing separate meters in anticipation of finding a future renter for the space the hospital had occupied.

• approved Ordinance 1278, which commits the city to the Standard Traffic Ordinance, and Ordinance 1279, which commits the city to the Uniform Public Offense Code.

Updated versions of both documents are provided by the Kansas League of Muni­cipalities.

• approved the mayor’s appointments to the following boards: Karol Hunt, recreation commission; and Tim Schellenberg, Hillsboro Museums Board.

• continued from last meeting the conversation with resident David Zeller, 108 S. Birch, about electrical outages he has been noting since the start of 2017.

The council encouraged Zeller to keep reporting outages, since city staff otherwise would have been unaware of some of them.

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