Hillsboro council approves fee hike

After hearing the objections of about a half-dozen citizens at its previous meeting, the Hills?boro City Council did approve a recommendation at its Nov. 3 meeting to add $8.70 to residents? monthly sewer fee.

The intent of the action is to save the city about $2.75 million in interest by paying off its 40-year bond in about half the time.

The increase will take effect Jan. 1.

The council vote was 3-1, with councilors Bob Watson, Kevin Suderman and Shelby Dirks in favor and Byron McCarty opposing.

McCarty said after the meeting that he was opposed to the timing of the fee, not the fee itself.

Residents who spoke at the Oct. 20 meeting had expressed concern about four utility-fee increases proposed by the city in light of the current economy, the number of residents on fixed incomes and the likelihood of new tax assessments coming from the county to construct and operate a new county jail.

Proposed increases for recycling, electrical and water were approved at that meeting, but the sewer increase was tabled because it was an optional increase not necessitated by the city?s operating budget.

Suderman said prior to the vote, ?I don?t like paying $8.70 more than anyone else, but this is something I think we should be doing.?

The $8.70 increase would generate an additional $100,000 a month toward paying off the 40-year bond the city accepted to build the new water-treatment system as required by the state. As a result, the bond would be paid off in about 20 years at a significant savings in interest expense for the city.

Paine also made the case at the Oct. 20 meeting that the city likely would have to upgrade the system in 20 years anyway.

?By paying it off early, we pay for what we use during the period of time that we use it,? Paine said.

Dust problem

The council heard that the city will not apply an oil emulsion to D Street after all in an effort to reduce the dust problem that has lingered after the main thoroughfare was chip-sealed with limestone gravel.

He said conversations with Joe Palic of the Kansas Depart?ment of Transportation office in Marion convinced him that the emulsion would cause more problems than it would solve.

?If we sprayed (the emulsion), the material would be on people?s cars,? Paine said, and it likely would not eliminate the dust problem.

KPP extension

In other matters, the council approved a 10-year commitment with the Kansas Power Pool, a consortium of cities that pool their energy needs and resources in order to negotiate better prices from major suppliers like Westar.

Paine said the best part of the extended agreement is that Hillsboro will have its fuel price locked in for 10 years at a rate ?very close where we are now.?

The downside to the extension, Paine said, was that the city would be locked in for 10 years. Its current arrangement with KPP allows the city to leave the consortium two years after issuing written notification.

Paine said it is much more likely that energy costs will increase down the road rather than decrease, so the extension should work to the city?s advantage.

Paine said he was comfortable recommending the longer commitment because his confidence in the KPP has increased after observing how it operates.

?I feel it?s doing more as a power agency for municipals than I would have expected,? he said. ?I have no problem with 10 years.?

Other action

In other action, the council:

n authorized city attorney Dan Baldwin, after an executive session, to file a claim against the bond Carruthers Construc?tion used to build the Hillsboro Family Aquatic Center in 2006. Three years after the pool was built, a ?punch list? of projects remains to be completed or fixed, according to Paine.

n authorized Baldwin, after an executive session, to write a letter notifying the homeowners association of the Willow Glenn subdivision that they do not have authority to make changes in its declaration of covenants and restrictions. (See full story, Page 1.) The city owns nine lots in the subdivision.

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