By Laura Fowler Paulus
The Free Press
The March 19 Hillsboro City Council opened with Hillsboro Code Enforcement Officer Ben Steketee’s update on the property at 312 West Grand. In December, the homeowners had been given more time to bring the property up to city codes.
“I removed the lack of sufficient or proper fire resistance rated construction. That has not been remedied but that is an interior construction concern and this report is limited to exterior so I removed that,” said Steketee.
“The address numbers have been installed. There are still holes in the exterior walls. The unsafe electrical on the front porch was a porch light that had bare wiring. That has been fixed.”
Several other items remained on the list as unresolved including the perimeter of windows and doors are not weather resistant or watertight, exterior deck guard not in place, and bare wood not protected from the elements.
“The dwelling is a blight to the surrounding properties. That has not been corrected. But the unsecured, increasing risk of accidents or other calamities to children has been taken care of,” said Steketee. “Of the ten items, we have five left.”
City Administrator Larry Paine said, “At this point, what we have seen is a lack of follow through on action and I’d like to recommend that the council move to initiate the abatement process.”
Several members asked for an explanation for what abatement would mean.
“It’s already been found and the resolution has been published that it is unsafe. So you can say work is progressing and allow additional time. You can find that there’s been a failure to follow through to faithfully prosecute their affairs and then the city should abate. If you choose to abate, the first step is essentially Ben’s report with the work that needs to be done. Then contact contractors and see who is willing and able to complete that work,” said City Attorney Josh Boehm.
He went on to explain that the notice would consist of information on what contractor is coming and when. The work would then be completed and billed to the city. The city then bills the homeowner.
“This is not work that the city, in my opinion, can just go out and do. So Ben needs to put together a job list so we can find a contractor to do it,” said Boehm.
“So then we’ll essentially be paying the bill and then charging the owner?” Councilor Jonah Goering.
“Right, and if it’s not paid, then August 1st ish, Jan certifies the taxes to the county, and we can add it to the property tax rolls, any unpaid portion,” said Boehm.
“I feel like we’ve given pretty good leniency. To continue that is not very wise,” said Goering.
“I think we owe it to the neighbors, the people in that neighborhood, who are affected by that property, and in the case, we have an absentee owner. We certainly want to be fair to the property owner, but at the same time, there are a lot of people around there who have been impacted and have been for years. You can’t push these things forward and then fail to act,” said Mayor Lou Thurston.
The Council voted unanimously for abatement.
Darin Neufeld, a professional engineer with EBH Construction Services, gave an update on the waterline street project.
“After talking with staff, we believe the best recommendation is to award this project to Vogts-Parga (Construction, LLC of Newton) for the base project, which is First Street and Wilson, plus alternate one which is CS Street from Adams to Kennedy, and then alternate two which is Kennedy Street from A down. The total award for those three would be $1,031,777.25,” said Neufeld.
The second project is East Grand with four options to include Adams on the right, Hillsboro High School and Jefferson in the middle and street, curb and gutter in concrete completely across all four blocks.
The first add-on alternate for concrete paver surface option for Grand from Washington and Adams street will not be done.
The other two add-on alternates which will be done, include No. 2 for four off-street parking areas on Grand from Washington to Jefferson streets; and No. 3, two off-street parking areas on Grand from Jefferson to Madison streets.
After award and during construction, a change order will be done to add in two more parking areas, one more at the school and one more in front of the Schaeffler House.
“The low bid for this configuration would be to Hett Construction. For the base bid plus alternate one and two, it would be $468,248. The other two pieces would bump up roughly by $35,000. That leaves us open to the option of putting the brick back with community involvement,” said Neufeld.
The brick would be added to the straightaway sections of Grand, in front of the Schaeffler House and the three blocks of the high school, and not the intersections or the half block going into Adams.
“What are your thoughts to just doing the brick in front of the Schaeffler house?” asked Goering. “People can step off the curb to get their picture.”
“That’s the nice thing about awarding this one. We have time to make the decision and figure out how much you want to tackle in house,” said Neufeld.
“Our biggest issue is going to be getting enough volunteer work,” said Councilor Brent Driggers.
“Volunteer work and whatever that doesn’t provide, how much city labor we are going to have to put in,” said city employee Dale Dalke. “When you put numbers to it as far as labor, it adds up in a hurry.”
“My concern is this sounds good until you have to do the work,” said Driggers.“It’s still a lot on the city regardless of the effort from volunteers.”
Both projects and the contractors were approved unanimously.
In other business, the council:
◼ approved the closing of the block of Main Street from Grand to First Street for the Community Block Party on April 16.
◼ approved sending in an application for a grant for adding turning/bipass lanes to the intersections of Industrial and Santa Fe.
◼ approved the city’s insurance rates for 2019-2020.
◼ approved the transfer of $30,050.02 from the general fund to the Public Building Commission fund as well as $7,974 monthly transfers going forward, to secure rent for the hospital. After the city gets paid from the hospital for land rent, a check is written from the PBC fund to the trustee bank in Kansas City to keep everything current.
◼ approved new turf grass for the golf course at a cost of $17,000.
◼ approved appointing Rachel Winter to the Hillsboro City Library Board.
◼ approved minutes of last PBC meeting.