Hillsboro City Council members voted to support a Safe Routes to School grant application Tuesday after a lengthy discussion about how, when, and where money would be spent on the project.
The request came from a committee of parents hoping to submit a plan to the Kansas Department of Transportation for a grant to cover construction of new, wider sidewalks along major routes children walk to school. Council members viewed a map that highlighted sidewalks needing expansion along East A, Adams, Grand, and Ash streets, to name a few.
“I strongly recommend that before we spend a dollar, we have an open meeting for residents along those routes first so they know what we are thinking of doing,” council member Marlene Fast said. “They need to have an opportunity to respond.”
City Attorney Dan Baldwin said the city of Marion undertook a similar project recently with favorable results.
“I don’t remember a single citizen ever complaining about this exact same project,” Baldwin said. “The work came out really nice, the kids used the new sidewalks, and some people even extended the work on their blocks so more sidewalks were replaced than originally planned for. It made the town look very nice.”
City Administrator Larry Paine said the project would extend current sidewalks out to five feet across, using property that was often already city right of way.
“Given what we have already done with Adams and First streets, I think this is absolutely a smart thing to do,” Paine said.
The sidewalk expansion project includes two phases and requires the city to share costs in both phases.
“Phase 1, which is the initial engineering plan, has already been completed,” Paine said. “That will cost the city $1,500. Engineering for the second phase, which includes the sidewalk construction, could be about $35,000 and will be shared with the school district.”
Paine said the plan was important as the school recently declined to reinstate city school bus routes. The parent committee is applying for a grant that would fund the sidewalk project.
“What they need from us is a resolution of support,” Paine said. “That will help them secure the grant.”
Council member Bob Watson looked at the map and said the routes planned made sense.
“I feel better about it now when I see this because it is mostly on major thoroughfares,” he said.
The council approved a resolution of support for the project, as well as authorized the mayor to sign an engineering contract, with the stipulation that a public meeting be held when the grant was secured.
“Until we actually get the grant money, we don’t need to raise everybody’s concern level,” Paine said. “The $1,500 paid by the city for the engineering plan will be reimbursed by KDOT.”
A map of Hillsboro Safe Routes to School plan is available for public viewing at the city office.
Council members also approved a rezoning request from Tabor College for construction of a new student dormitory at 218 S. Madison.
Paine said the City Planning and Zoning Commission met April 19 to approve a change from R2 to S1.
“R2 is residential, S1 is college or institutional building,” Paine said. “The commission is satisfied with this change; staff at the college is satisfied with this change. I see no reason why the council could not support the zoning change.”
Tabor College maintenance representative Douglas Graber attended the council meeting to answer any questions that might arise.
“I have documentation here about parking spaces in case that is needed,” Graber said.
Paine assured council members that parking space was covered in a 14-point zoning review that had already been passed by the zoning commission.
Council members voted their approval for construction to begin at the site.
Council members also voted approval for the demolition of the red brick building at 128 S. Main St., owned by Dennis Gora.
“It was my understanding at the last council meeting that the city wished to have an outside contractor tear down the building,” Baldwin said. “I would estimate demolition costs to be around $5,000, which is what it is for an average residential building.”
Baldwin said a preliminary hearing had taken place and the property owner asked if the city would buy the property from him and take care of razing the building.
“I am not at all in favor of buying that property and doing a lot of work on it and having to foot all of the expense,” Dalke said. “If we wait for a judgment then the city can have it removed and charge the cost back to the owner.”
Watson said he saw the situation as a “pay now or pay later” kind of deal.
“Either way we are probably going to have to pay to get rid of it,” he said.
Council members agreed, as at their last meeting, that it would be better to hire a professional company to come in and demolish the building because of close proximity to other businesses and possibly liability issues. They approved a motion to begin solicitation for demolition bids as due process allowed.
In other business:
- Members discussed developments of an area-wide fire district and tentatively set May 23 as a meeting date for the council to sit down with fire district board members.
- Heard appreciation from Dirks about street department schedules that had been shared with the council. “I really appreciate getting that,” Dirks said. “Start and stop times for jobs are still needed but it is very interesting to see all that they are working on.”
- Paine updated the council on street work still in progress, including curbing laid and the possibility of curb-to-curb concrete being poured next week on Adams Street.
- Discussed the need for new radios in the city police department as at least four did not accept the new narrowband reprogramming recently initiated by the county to meet federal requirements.
The next regular city council meeting is scheduled for May 29.