Hillsboro mayor highlights recent months of progress

In the past 22 months we have seen a lot of things accomplished in Hillsboro. Streets and waterline improvements probably top the list in terms of financial investment. D Street was resurfaced, Grand, 1st and Wilson Streets have been rebuilt with new water lines under them. AMR (Automated Meter Read) water meters have been installed in the areas where we made these improvements, which will help us track and bill more efficiently and accurately.

A new Trash Truck was purchased that allows us to reduce the manpower required to pick-up the trash and with the efficiency improvements we have been able to add curb side recycling to our Trash Service.

The entrepreneurial spirit is still alive and well in Hillsboro. We saw a developer place a new housing area on 3rd Street. We have seen new businesses come to Main Street from Rhubarb Market, Mama C’s Take and Bake as new start-ups to new ownership at Panda Kitchen.

Hillsboro was built on that entrepreneurial spirit and are pleased that it continues to thrive, delivering the necessary goods and services that make Hillsboro a great place to live.

We have started new traditions, celebrated milestones in others and even rekindled some old ones. We held our first Annual Prairie Smokin’ Festival and BBQ Competition that brought multiple teams to compete and about 500 attendees were able to enjoy some of the best BBQ to be had anywhere. The granddaddy of all our Hillsboro traditions turned 50 this year. The Hillsboro Arts & Crafts Festival team put together not only a fair to be proud of but a mini celebration on a hot night in July that saw a nice crowd out for meals and a mini craft fair.

Finally we rekindled our Down Home Christmas celebration with a new Christmas tree and a lighting ceremony.

All these things expose Hillsboro to a lot of people from around the country (and around the world). We want people to know what a great city we have and maybe, just maybe, have them consider joining us on a more permanent basis.

The most impactful piece of legislation we have passed recently, at least the one that had the most citizen participation was our updating our Dog Ordinance. With strong citizen input we were able to pass an ordinance that strengthens our ability to deal with dangerous and nuisance animals while protecting the rights of responsible pet owners.

Probably the biggest event that I am most proud of is how our community has banded together to support our hospital and work collaboratively to ensure that it continues to offer the citizens of Hillsboro the access to the life-saving and life enhancing medical care that they deserve. From the heroic employees who continued to work even though they weren’t getting paid or their benefits provided for, to the Bank of Hays and Cohesive Healthcare who have provided funds and leadership to keep it going, to our City of Hillsboro legal team led by Tyler Heffron at TWG who helped put together a plan to get the hospital away from previous ownership, everything has been done so that Hillsboro continues to have a hospital, period!

Not far behind that is the volunteer spirit of Hillsboro. Who would have thought that we would see over 100 people come out to help lay bricks on the two blocks of Grand Street during some of the hottest weather of the year? We had all ages represented, from toddlers to seniors. It was truly amazing and inspirational. I can’t thank those that became “The Grand Street Paving Company” enough. A job well done!

Another thing that I am proud of is how we have been able to control the mill levy and utility funds

while at the same time upgrading and making necessary improvements to insure that we operate as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. As part of the process this year we have been able to refinance two of our oldest bond issues and reduce the interest rate and decrease the years required to pay them off, all while realizing savings to the Hillsboro taxpayer of over $1 million dollars.

Looking Forward

There are many projects still in process at this time. We still have street projects to finish, Kennedy Street, C Street, North Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson Streets.

We will also be installing AMR metering throughout Hillsboro in the coming year. When completed, no meter reader will have to manually visit every water meter and take a physical reading.

We have our Hospital Hike/Bike Trail project that is still yet to be constructed. This project utilizes an 80/20 KDOT grant that we were awarded. In 2020 we will see an 8 foot wide lighted concrete trail built along the old railroad right-of-way, starting on the East side of Main Street and extend East to Industrial Road where it will turn North and end up at the Hospital. Trails like this are amenities that we need not only to serve current citizens, but it is what people considering Hillsboro as a place to live, are looking for. It will promote a healthy and safe community and I am very excited to get it built.

We have a new turn-lane project on Highway 56 at Industrial Road to make getting to the hospital both safer and easier. This will likely be constructed in 2020/2021 timeframe as we understand things now.

Of course, Tabor College has broken ground on a new Welcome Center project. This project will add to the function and beauty of the Tabor campus and to the D St. streetscape as well. The partnership this community enjoys with Tabor continues to expand and deepen, to our mutual benefit.

Probably my favorite project that is in process is the Hillsboro Community Plaza Project. We have seen progress in 2018/2019 with the purchase of the property directly South of the Hillsboro Dental Care clinic on East Grand Street. The HCP will occupy the rest of that half of the block bordered by Washington and A Streets. We will be removing the three houses that are on the south end of the property in the next six months and we hope to begin construction on the plaza in 2020. Ultimately the Hillsboro Community Plaza will contain a splash pad, restrooms, a stage with multi-media screen, a pavilion and some playground equipment. It will be a place for people of all ages to come and gather in downtown Hillsboro. We believe (as has been proven in other communities) that it will help revitalize our Main Street corridor.

My hope for Hillsboro continues to be that we pursue responsible economic development, maintain and enhance our essential services, ensure that Hillsboro is an affordable and family friendly place to live and that we work collaboratively with citizens, businesses, schools, county and state governments to continue our positive growth that is built on the solid foundation of Hillsboro’s heritage.

We will be working in the next year to create more opportunities for citizen participation in city government. We will be looking for new ways to expand and enhance our communication and be transparent as we work together to make Hillsboro the best it can be. I appreciate the feedback I have gotten so far and encourage anyone to reach out to me with questions, concerns and most importantly, ideas to improve our community.