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Hillsboro City Council approves utility fees increase

Staff writer

Hillsboro City Council voted Tuesday to increase three utility fees by a total of $60.60 per year after hearing residents’ concerns. The council tabled another proposed increase of $104.40.

At the Oct. 6 meeting, City Administrator Larry Paine presented the council with four ordinances that would increase the base fee for electric, water, sewer, and recycling services.

Resident Ron Brown said he thought the increases, coupled with a $120 annual fee for a new jail that he said he expects, would be too much of a burden for senior citizens on fixed incomes.

“I think you’re forcing people out of Hillsboro,” Brown said.

He said he realized the city has to pay its bills somehow, but there had to be a better way. He said the city already has customers delinquent on utility bills. Raising utility costs would increase the number of delinquent customers.

“Marion County is not a rich county,” resident Karen Wiebe said, but taxpayers have numerous improvements to pay for.

“You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip,” she said.

Paine said the increases were necessary to prevent an increase to property taxes. The equivalent mill levy increase would be around 10 or 11 mills.

Mayor Delores Dalke said the city has made difficult decisions to prevent tax increases. The 2010 budget doesn’t allow for raises for city employees.

“I don’t like this any more than anyone else, to tell the truth,” Councilman Shelby Dirks said.

The council approved a $4 monthly increase in the base fee for electric service, a $1 monthly increase for water, and five cents monthly for recycling.

The council tabled an ordinance that would increase sewer service cost from $16.75 to $25.45 per month, a $104.40 annual increase. The extra revenue would be used to pay off the bonds for the wastewater treatment plant 19 years sooner. That would save the city $2.4 million in interest payments.

The council will address the sewer rate again at its Nov. 3 meeting.

In other business:

  • The city will lease three acres on North Adams Street adjacent to the public works yard from USD 410 for $180 per year. The land will be the site of a compost pile.
  • Paine will pursue a plan to spray an emulsion on D Street to reduce dust problems caused by chip-seal on the road. The council gave him authority to spend up to $20,000 for the project.
  • Paine and City Attorney Dan Baldwin met with the council in closed session for 15 minutes to discuss litigation. No action was taken on return to open session.
  • The council had a special Thursday meeting. The council met in closed session with Paine for 75 minutes to discuss personnel matters. No action was taken.

The next council meeting will be 4 p.m. Nov. 3.

Last modified Oct. 21, 2009

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