Hillsboro targets 90-day reserve for city utilities

The Hillsboro City Coun?cil agreed at its Jan. 6 meeting to work toward the goal of having a 90-day cash reserve for each of its key utilities.

The decision came as the next step following two previous discussions in Decem?ber.

City Administrator Larry Paine said the city has nine funds ?that we ought to have some reserve policy on.? The council had been focusing on developing reserve funds for the four primary service utilities: water, electric, sewer and trash.

With the target agreed upon, Paine said the next step in the process will be to determine a reasonable timeframe for reaching it.

Paine said the biggest challenge will be getting to a 90-day reserve for the city?s general fund and electric fund. The trash utility is already at the 90-day level, the sewer fund could be there within a year or two by delaying debt payments, and the water plant debt will be paid off in 2015, which could allow for reallocation of some of those funds.

Paine noted that some funds, like the aquatic center, are driven by sales tax revenue. He said the impact of the recent closure of three local businesses?Alco, Heartland Foods and Quick Flick/Radio Shack?needs to be taken into consideration.

?That?s something we?re going to be watching like a hawk until some of the properties are reinvested,? Paine said. ?We don?t know (the impact) yet.?

Paine said some people have suggested the Alco or Heartland Foods buildings could be used as a fire station.

?They might make great fire stations, but from my perspective, we have more need to make sure those are sales-tax production properties,? he said.

?For as long as you employ me as an administrator, I?m going to advocate those two pieces of property would never be a fire station. There?s better places for it.

?There?s going to be a demand for retail space around here,? he added. ?Giving up that property for that purpose is probably not, in the long run, brilliant.?

Paine said he and Clint Seibel, the city?s economic development director, have been looking for potential retail businesses to fill the void.

Option withdrawn

Hillsboro businessman Craig Dodd withdrew his option to purchase a lot in Hillsboro Heights during the meeting.

Dodd addressed several issues that were reported when the council discussed, and ultimately rejected, Dodd?s contract proposal during its Dec. 16 meeting.

He said the contract he presented for Lot 3 was identical to the one the council unanimously accepted when he purchased Lot 2 sometime ago. The two lots adjoin his business, Chisholm Trail Outfitters, situated on Lot 1.

Dodd challenged the notion that his $500 non-refundable deposit on the purchase amounted to a monthly rental payment of $20.83 over the life of the two-year option. He also noted that taxes on the lot amounted to $186 per year.

Because he intended to use the lot to expand the display area for his outdoor buildings, Dodd said the city would still be far ahead given the taxes it received through sales.

?Based on my last year?s sales of those buildings off that lot, it brought the city and the county $900 to $1,000 a month in sales tax,? he said. ?My retail business is generating money for the city. I know they share it with the county, but that?s a pretty good sum of money.?

Dodd said he would withdraw his offer until the city decided what the lot was really worth. The sale price on the contract was $6,750.

To illustrate the impact of a clause within the purchase contract at the previous meeting, City Attorney Josh Boehm said if a second buyer came in and offered $20,000 for the lot, Dodd would only have to pay the posted price of $6,750 to acquire it.

Dodd said Lot 3 was actually reduced to maybe 80 percent of its original size when the city enlarged the drainage area for another property owner.

?Based on that, I don?t think another business is going to want to pay $10,000 to $20,000 for that property when its only 80 percent useable,? he said. ?When the council or the city decides what it wants for that property, I?d be happy to propose a contract again.?

Compost site search

City street supervisor Dale Dalke and co-worker Mason McCarty came to the meeting to receive input from the council regarding a new location for the city?s compost dump.

Dalke said the current compost dump will need to be relocated because the property the city had been renting from USD 410 has been sold to Grace Com?munity Fellow?ship for a future building project.

?They do not have immediate plans to construct a church there, but they are in process of working out details,? City Administrator Larry Paine said. ?They have given notice to us that we need to relocate the site.?

Dalke said, ?We moved the site recently, so it?s a little bit costly. I want to get a site picked that?s hopefully forever, that serves the community well, and they can get to it, and we can maintain it as city personnel.?

Dalke presented a list of eight potential sites, but none emerged as an obvious choice. He said none of them matched the advantages of the current location.

?Where it is right now is perfect for us,? Dalke said. ?We can kind of keep an eye on it, and I think it cuts down on people dumping stuff they?re not supposed to dump. We?ve talked to people (about it), and pointed them to the tree dump. And we can get there with a loader in seconds?it?s handy.?

A couple of the council members said they favored a site on the north edge of town, allowing the south winds of summer to push odors away from residential areas.

Paine said the city could wait as long as a year to make a decision.

Other business

In other business, the council:

? heard a request by David Anderson, 314 S. Birch, that the city notify property owners or occupants before taking major tree-trimming projects on the property.

Anderson said city workers removed several sizable trees from along the alley behind his house while he and his wife were out of town. They had intended to use the trees as a ?natural fence.?

Anderson said he was pleased with the way city staff responded to the problem, and accepted the city?s offer to replace the trees.

? accepted the low bid from Marion National Bank to finance the purchase of a new box blade for the street department. Citizens State bank, Hillsboro State Bank and Central National Bank also submitted bids.

? approved Mayor Delores Dalke?s appointment of Bob Dalke to the Hillsboro Housing Authority board.

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