Council debates economic development agreement
Divers will inspect extent of zebra mussel infestation
Hillsboro City Council members debated Tuesday whether an agreement with Hillsboro Development Corporation and Hillsboro Ventures Inc. should have been placed on a citywide ballot.
The board voted Aug. 17 to approve an agreement to share the cost of an economic development director. Council member Shelby Dirks on Sept. 7 questioned the decision and said he wanted the issue placed on a citywide ballot.
City Administrator Larry Paine said timing played a part in the decision. The previous contract expired June 30, and there was no interim agreement.
“We probably all thought that wasn’t feasible in the long term, maybe even the short term,” council member Kevin Suderman said.
A $40,000 transfer from the electrical fund to the industrial fund was included in the 2011 budget to pay for the agreement. Suderman said he saw that as an acceptable short-term solution.
“I was relatively comfortable to use that on an interim basis,” he said.
Dirks said he didn’t think taking the money from the electrical fund was appropriate, because that money should be kept for electrical purposes.
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“If you don’t have the funding for it, you don’t fund it,” he said.
Council member Byron McCarty said similar transfers have happened in the past. He said transfers supplemented police spending occasionally in the past.
Council member Bob Watson said the economic development position was more important than where the funding for the position came from.
“I absolutely support the economic development position,” he said.
Dirks asked Watson why he opposed putting the issue on the ballot. Watson said that in representative government, officials are elected to make those kinds of decisions. Most city decisions aren’t put on a citywide ballot, he said.
Mayor Delores Dalke said the public wouldn’t care where funding came from. They’re concerned about the bottom line. She asked what the council wanted to do about the issue. Watson suggested tabling it. The city could put it on a future election, McCarty said.
Dalke said she wouldn’t support putting the issue on a ballot at the same time as city elections. That would lead to council elections becoming single-issue elections, where a candidate’s position on the issue determined voters’ decisions. She said she learned that lesson from a sales tax vote in the 1980s.
Suderman asked Dirks whether he supported the approved agreement, aside from where funding originated. Dirks said he had some other concerns, but was mostly OK with it.
The council voted to table the matter until January.
Divers will inspect water system for zebra mussels
Hillsboro and Marion will share the cost to hire divers to inspect water intake structures at Marion Reservoir for zebra mussels.
Both cities use the reservoir as their primary municipal water source, and Peabody buys water from Hillsboro. Zebra mussels were discovered in the reservoir in the summer of 2008. The dime-sized mollusks reproduce rapidly and can clog intake pipes for water plants and power plants.
“We have found quite a few of them at our pump house at Marion Reservoir,” Senior Water Treatment Technician Morgan Marler said after the meeting.
Paine said the mussels aren’t getting past the city’s water treatment plant, but little is known about how many are between the intake point and the treatment plant.
Marler hopes information from the divers will help the city develop a mitigation plan. There is quite a bit of research on zebra mussels she said, but the water system does have some unique features.
“Every power plant and water plant is different,” she said.
The zebra mussel infestation shouldn’t affect water service to Peabody, because action is being taken to prevent significant blockage.
“We’re trying to be proactive and remedy the situation before the colonization gets so dense that no water can get through,” Marler said.
Hillsboro’s share of the cost is $5,400.
Divers will also inspect water towers and the treatment plant, Paine said.
In other business:
- An electrical franchise agreement for Westar at the industrial park was extended to Sept. 18, 2011. The agreement was originally for 20 years. The council will use the additional year to decide whether to take over electrical service at the industrial park.
- A final payment of $16,380 was approved for Vogts-Parga Construction, LLC, of North Newton for work at Hillsboro Business Park. The total cost of the work was $198,867.
- A final engineering fee of $2,198 was approved for Reiss & Goodness Engineers of Wichita for work at Hillsboro Business Park.
- McCarty requested the city begin work to annex a property on South Adams Street. The property received essentially all the benefits of being in the city without paying city taxes, he said. The council instructed Paine to begin the paperwork.
- The city is considering the feasibility of extending sewer collection to some properties that have failing septic systems on the northwest edge of town.
The next regularly scheduled council meeting will be 4 p.m. on Oct. 5.
Last modified Sept. 22, 2010