After expressing some doubts about the plan, the Hills?boro City Council agreed at its Dec. 17 meeting to open the local volunteer-run recycling center on a 24/7 basis for a trial period.
Previously, the center has been open only on Saturday morning and Thursday afternoon. The new plan went into effect immediately.
Andrew Sensenig made the request, citing the possibility that with 24-hour access more people would participate. He also cited the growing challenge of recruiting volunteers for the two weekly shifts.
Sensenig submitted the proposal on behalf of the Mission Committee from First Mennonite Church, which has been managing the center the past four years.
City Administrator Larry Paine said another factor that allows for 24/7 accessibility was the county?s decision earlier this year to remove its cabinet for storing hazardous household waste. The county?s license requires that such cabinets not be left unattended.
Council members said they hoped recycling might increase with the change, but wondered, based on past experiences, whether an unattended center will be used respon?sibly by all recyclers.
Paine said city staff have reported that some people have simply dumped their recyclables rather than placing them in the appropriate bins. Some have dumped non-recyclable garbage. Some continue to drop off household hazardous waste?even with no cabinet on site?rather than hauling it to the county?s solid waste facility in Marion.
Sensenig acknowledged such incidents, but said he intends to have someone from the committee check the center each day.
The council also was reminded that aluminum cans have been removed from the center in the past because of their value.
Sensenig said income from aluminum cans is what makes it financially feasible for McPherson Area Solid Waste to be the city?s recycling partner.
But Sensenig said he doubts that the loss of cans has been substantive, given the challenge of removing them from the relatively small openings near the top of the igloo-style bins.
Despite their concerns, council members agreed to move ahead with the plan and monitor the results.
?If we want to try it, I have no problem with it,? Councilor Byron McCarty said. ?But it could cause a lot more work…. If Andrew wants to (expand hours), he?s the one who will have to clean it up.?
As part of the discussion, Councilor Shelby Dirks suggested the city research a way to have a cabinet on site for household hazardous waste to lessen the probability of people disposing of it through garbage pickup.
The council continued its discussion about utility rate increases in 2014, but made no decisions.
Increases have been deemed necessary to cover the cost of providing residents with water, electric, sanitation and sewer services, but also to build sufficient emergency cash reserves for each utility.
An preliminary proposal from Paine at the previous meeting would have raised the combined rate for those services by 12.8 percent.
After council members expressed concern about a large single-step increase, Paine offered four alternative options at Tuesday?s meeting.
One option that seemed to resonate with the council was phasing in increases over five years rather than one.
Late in the discussion, Council Marlene Fast suggested a modified version of Paine?s proposal: that the city increase rates in 2014 only enough to cover costs, then begin phasing in the cash-reserve increases over five years starting in 2015.
At one point, Dirks pushed Paine on his statement at the previous meeting that the city needs to be run like a business. Dirks said a business can respond to tight budgets by raising prices, but also by reducing expenses. Dirks said he had seen no sign of expense reductions in the proposal.
Paine cited a couple of examples how city departments try to run more efficiently, including taking advantage of price discounts for quantity purchases.
He said department heads don?t submit ?fluff purchases? because they know the council is monitoring city expenses.
?It is a self-throttling process (when) people are looking over your shoulder,? Paine said. ?We can cut budgets, but right now that means (cutting) people.?
?I just want people to know we?re doing everything we can to keep expenses down,? Fast said.
The council asked Paine to gather utility-rate information to see how Hills?boro?s rates compare to comparable communities.
Mayor Delores Dalke said, based on her review of rates in the past, that council members will be pleased with the comparisons.
Water for Peabody
During the discussion about utility rates, Paine said Hillsboro will adjust the price for the water it sells to Peabody after discovering in recent days that the selling price was lower than what he had thought it was?and below Hills?boro?s cost to produce it.
At the previous meeting, Paine had reported the selling price as $1.84 per 1,000 gallons?only to discover that a memo written in 2005 had set the price at $1.48. The current cost to produce water is $1.77.
Paine said he believes the discrepancy may be the result of an accidental transposition of numbers in the memo.
At Dirks?s request, Paine researched the impact of the low price and discovered the situation cost the city about $104,000.
Paine apologized for not checking documentation before quoting a price at the previous meeting. He also took responsibility for not monitoring the situation more closely. Paine said the new contracted price with Peabody will cover the cost of production.
Councilor Bob Watson suggested the council review the contracted rate annually.
As part of the plan to build turning lanes along U.S. Highway 56 at Adams Street next year, the council approved a pair of ordinances that enable the city to annex three parcels of private property as well as U.S. 56.
The Kansas Department of Transportation requires highway annexation for the city to use the grant funds it has received. In order to proceed with the bidding process, the property must be within the city limits.
After adopting ordinances 1238 and 1239, the council approved Resolution 2013-09, which officially designates the boundaries of the city limits for 2014.
?The resolution is used for a number of purposes, including census work and determining areas subject to revenue distribution,? Paine stated. ?Since the property annexed is not inhabited, little impact will result from this year?s annexation.?
The council reviewed Paine?s summary of the results of a council survey asking them to express their interest in potential capital improvements. At the council?s previous meeting, Paine had issued a list of 67 potential projects to consider.
Thirty-eight of those projects received at least one vote from the four city council members. No project received four votes, but the following received three votes: parking on Grand Avenue in front of the high school, including pavement curb and gutter; completing street replacement on South Cedar and South Birch, and installing a electric line for the proposed new hospital.
?My next step in developing the potential CIP list is to prepare individual project scope and projected costs,? Paine wrote in his memo to the council. ?Once we do that, I will take the list to the planning commission?a requirement in CIP funding?for a ?blessing.??
The final list will become a multi-year proposal that will require council approval.
In other business, the council:
? approved Ordinance 1237 which raises the per-household fee for recycling from $2.12 per month to $2.19.
? approved amend??ments regarding the 2013 budget, following a public hearing that generated no comments,
? approved the renewal of ceral malt beverage licenses for 2014 to the follow applicants: Hillsboro Golf Associ?a?tion, Casey?s General Store, Ampride, Vogt?s Hometown Market doing business as JTJ Inc., and Alco.