Pros say fire repair cost is $440,000

A company that specializes in restoring buildings following a fire estimated that the cost to repair damage caused by a fire in late April at the city-owned former AMPI building to be more than $440,000.

At a special meeting May 14, the Hillsboro City Council reviewed an initial estimate from Wichita-based National Catas?trophe Resoration Inc. that totaled $440,087.

The council also reviewed an alternate estimate for a locally based effort that projected the cost at just under $86,609.

The building was not insured at the time of the fire.

The local estimate was pulled together by Martin Rhodes, the city?s building inspector and code-enforcement officer.

In his written evaluation of the situation at the building, Rhodes noted, ?The nature of this fire is the most time-consuming type of fire to clean up? because the main fuel was plastic, ?which emits a very sticky kind of soot.?

Rhodes, who said he has had experience in these kind of projects in his employment past, said the soot can only be removed by a two-step process:

(1) all metal surfaces in the four rooms that are damaged must be blasted with corn cob or walnut shell blasting media;

(2) all surfaces must be power-washed to remove any blasting media from the surfaces in preparation for aluminum paint, which seals all surfaces that will emit smoke odor in the future.

The council deferred making a decision on the issue, except to seek a second bid from another company in the business of fire restoration.

Rhodes did encourage the council to move expeditiously to fix a hole in the roof of the building that was created by firefighters during the incident. With every rain, the moisture entering the building would cause additional damage.

Swimming pool passes

The council accepted an operations proposal from Judy Helmer and Marci Cain, newly hired co-managers at the Hills?boro Family Aquatic Center.

Among other things, the policy makes available a season pass for individuals and families?something the council had chosen not to offer during the center?s first year of operation.

?That was the biggest complaint we received last year,? Mayor Delores Dalke said. ?Most people (at the old pool) didn?t use them enough to pay for them, but they wanted them anyway.?

After checking with policies at other aquatic centers in area, the price for a season pass at the Hillsboro pool will be $50 for an individual and $125 for a family.

The policy also allows parents to enter the pool area without charge to monitor a child?s activity. But parents cannot enter the water without paying an admission fee.

Day passes for children age 4 and under will be free; children over 4 years and adults will be charged $2.

In order to run the operation more efficiently, the city will be hiring fewer support staff than a year ago, but will maintain a staff of four lifeguards on duty at a time.

Carnival location

The council resumed the discussion with the representatives from the Marion County Fair board from its previous meeting about where to locate the carnival during this year?s event.

Most of the options mentioned at the previous meeting were touched upon again, including the use of the Memorial Field outfield, the parking area immediately north of the field and the possibility of closing off two lanes of D Street to accommodate the carnival or patron parking.

In the end, a decision was deferred until additional information could be gathered.

Amended budget approved

Following an explanation about procedures by city auditor Scot Loyd of Swindoll, Janzen, Hawk & Loyd of McPherson, the council approved the publication of a public hearing to hear input on the city?s amended 2007 budget.

The budget, as it had been originally prepared, did not pass review by the Kansas Depart?ment of Administration.

?This (original) budget was really screwed up,? Loyd said. ?It wasn?t just a little screwed up.

?If you don?t have a published budget, you can?t spend the money.?

Support for CIS

The council reversed a decision made a year ago to discontinue city support for the Community In Schools program in Marion County.

Linda Ogden, CIS director, and Charles Rempel, an assistant, said the value of the program could be seen in part in recent statewide statisctics that indicate the rate for tobacco use and binge drinking among Marion County youth is well below the statewide norm.

Ogden also mentioned that CIS conducted a check of convenience stores that sell tobacco products in Hillsboro. Youth from out of town were recruited to ask clerks to sell them tobacco products to see if the clerks would ask for proof of legal age.

?All of them sold to those kids,? Ogden said. But she added that when the stores later were checked by the state, they did ask to see proof of age.

?They learned from that, and that?s a good thing,? Ogden said.

In the end, the council voted unanimously to reinstate the city?s $1,000 support of CIS. Dalke said when the previous decision to cut funding had been made, the council was bothered by a financial arrangement a former employee had developed to essentially be paid by both the city and CIS for work done in connection with some CIS-related after-school programs.

Other business

In other matters, the council:

n discussed its tax-abatement policy with its financial adviser, Larry Kleeman, but did not reach any decisions.

n approved a proclamation making May 18 the local Arbor Day for Hillsboro; having a local observance is required to be considered an official ?Tree City.?

n authorized the purchase of a new bucket truck for the city electric department at a cost not to exceed $135,000.

n authorized the purchase of a new ice machine for the aquatic center at a cost of $1,997. The machine purchased for the aquatic center a year ago had not been winterized and was needing extensive repairs.

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