Hillsboro: 2017 was a year for completion

Hillsboro citizens gathered May 4 for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open the new facility for Hillsboro Community Hospital. Five and a half years after the ground-breaking, HMC/CAH Consolidated Inc. completed construction on the $11.4 million facility along U.S. Highway 56.Several significant construction projects that were years in the making came to completion in Hillsboro during 2017.

“I think 2017 was a really exciting year for Hillsboro,” said Delores Dalke, who completed 24 years as mayor as 2017 ended. “A lot of the things that had been worked on over a period of time kind of came together all of a sudden and became reality.

“We had a lot of grand opening celebrations last year,” she added. “I think it was a wonderful year for that.”>Delores Dalke completed 24 years as Hillsboro’s mayor on the last day of 2017. Aside from the many city projects she helped shepherded to completion during her tenure, Dalke provided several “firsts.” She is the first woman to serve as mayor of Hillsboro, and served longer in that role than any other person.

Making the year unique was that the five major projects that were completed during the year were initiated by the private sector with an estimated investment of $32 million.

◼ Hillsboro Hometown Pharmacy was the first project completed, with a ribbon-cutting in late February at the new location at 507 N. Ash St.

◼ The city celebrated its long-awaited new Hillsboro Community Hospital facility May 6 with a grand opening at its location at U.S. 56 High­way and Industrial Road.

Construction of the $11.4 million project began nearly 51⁄2 years after HMC/CAH Consolidated Inc., owners of the for-profit hospital, hosted a groundbreaking ceremony at the site in 2010.

◼ MB Foundation, a stewardship ministry of the Mennonite Brethren denomination, officially opened the doors to its new headquarters along D Street on June 7.

The building is located at the former site of an abandoned convenience store with EPA issues. With the dedication of MBF leadership, and assistance from the city, the location has been radically transformed.

◼ Last, but certainly not least, the largest private construction project in the city’s history was officially dedicated as the Shari Flaming Center for the Arts on the Tabor College campus the first weekend in December. (See Page 7B.)

Construction of the $13.1 million facility began in 2016. In connection with that project, the city is currently replacing three blocks of B Street that were damaged during construction. Construction on six twin homes for the Vintage Apartments project was completed late in 2016, but in 2017 the 12 affordable-housing units became occupied.

In the meantime, a $1.4 million affordable housing project called Vintage Apart­ments was completed as well. The project was comprised of six twin homes. Four of the twin homes were built on North Lincoln Street, one on North Ash and one on South Cedar.

The project was initiated by Mark Cox, owner of Vin­tage Construction LLC, general contractors and part­­­ners. The units are managed by Mid-Kansas Com­munity Action Pro­gram.

City projects

Reviewing her final year as mayor, Dalke cited several significant accomplishments credited to city government.Two city staff members were welcomed into leadership roles during 2017. Steve Fast is the part-time museums director

The first was the hiring of Steve Fast as part-time museums director.

“I think Steve is perfect for that job,” Dalke said. “I realize he needs more hours to get a lot of things done, but he was hired for 15 hours per week.

“I think he’s working a lot more than that, but he’s wonderful at researching things, knowing the local history, and working with the museum board. I think that was a really good move.”

In part because of Fast’s leadership, the city received a state grant to complete needed repairs at the Adobe House museum.

“We were very fortunate to get almost $70,000 from the Heritage Trust Fund to make repairs to the Adobe House,” Dalke said. “By getting that grant money, they were able to make it go a long ways. That was very, very fortunate.

“Steve was able to do all the paperwork and keep up with everything that needed to be done there.”Two city staff members were welcomed into leadership roles during 2017. Anthony Roy is Hillsboro’s new economic development director.

Dalke also cited the hiring of Anthony Roy as the city’s new economic development director.

“Anthony Roy is young, and he was doing (economic development) on a county-wide level where he came from,” she said. “He brought a nice attitude about looking outside, more than just Hillsboro. He seems to be fitting right into it, as far as working with everybody. I think he has a wonderful personality for that kind of a job. We were really, really pleased that was able to happen.”Hillsboro leaders and residents gathered with pharmacy staff for the ceremonial ribbon cutting at the new Hillsboro Hometown Pharmacy March 1. Owner Eric Driggers prepares to cut the ribbon. >Staff and supporters of MB Foundation participated in the June 7 ribbon-cutting for the ministry’s new headquarters. The project transformed the location of an abandoned convenience store into a home for a first-

Recreational projects

Two citizens groups received support from the city for new recreational projects for Hillsboro. One project is building new basketball courts in Memorial Park; the other is developing a splash pad feature in downtown Hillsboro.

“I’m excited we were able to reserve the space for some outdoor basketball courts in the park, and that we were able to put together a committee that is out raising money for it,” Dalke said. “I think they’re doing a good job doing that—they are approaching everybody.

“It was nice to have that open space in the park, but it will be lot nicer if something is happening there,” she added. “I just think basketball is one of those things where we have people who like to play.

“The fact that (the courts) will always be open, plus the lighting and all of that—I think it would be great for Hillsboro.”

In May, the city council approved an expenditure of $11,000 to resurface bathroom floors at the Family Aquatic Center.

“We think of it as being a new pool, but as many years as that pool has been there, it was already needing quite a bit of repair done to it,” Dalke said. “All those expenses came out of the Public Building Commis­sion.”

In June, the city applied for a grant to build an eight-foot-wide, lighted sidewalk on the former railroad bed that runs through town.

The sidewalk would start at Main Street, then head east to Industrial Road, then north to the hospital campus along U.S. 56. The actual size of the grant was increased to $628,054 with a 20 percent local match.

“That was one (project) that was very controversial—that we would spend that much money on a sidewalk,” Dalke said. “It’s not just a sidewalk. It’s for bicycles and everything else. I think it’s one of those things that will be used a lot more than people think.”

Dalke said one city decision that received a lot of affirmation was the council’s vote not to add a beer garden to help finance the annual Marion County Fair, based on Police Chief Dan Kinning’s concerns.

“Some fair board members weren’t happy, but we sure got a lot of good compliments on the fact that we said no to that,” Dalke said.

One of the council’s last actions for the year was approving a purchase contract for the east half of the facility used by the former home of Hillsboro Com­mun­ity Hospital. he Hillsboro City Council approved a purchase agreement for $400,000 from EmpowerHMS, which plans to turn the empty facility into a medical clinic for veterans, and expects to employ as many as 50 medical staff.

EmpowerHMS offered $400,000 for that part of the facility; it will be used to provide local medical services for veterans.

“I think that’s exciting for Hillsboro,” Dalke said. “They are supposed to bring 50 (medical) people in to work there. It’s quite an economic development project.

“I had met with (the buyers) several times and they seemed to know exactly what they plan to do there. I think that building will come back to life again in no time flat. It’s exciting that we could get something like that.”

Leadership transition

Having worked through some health issues in the past year or so, Dalke made the choice to end her mayoral tenure with no regrets.

“It’s been fun” she said. “Based on my own personal health over the past couple of years, I just can’t continue.”

But that doesn’t mean Dalke’s involvement with the city won’t surface in other ways.

“Of course, I want to be involved,” she said. “But I do not want to stand in the way of what the new mayor thinks needs to be done. I’m going to have to be a bit careful about that, But I can’t imagine I won’t get involved in something or another. I’m sure I will.”

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