City discusses strategies for growth, success

Work session included utility rates

Staff reporter

It serves as a road map for city officials to follow, in an effort to predict future needs and shortcomings.

The Hillsboro City Council has been spending many hours discussing and determining the city's "road map" for the future.

Two work sessions were held Jan. 8 and 9 to discuss the direction the city wants to take.

In the end, the council will have to determine where the city might be in 10 years and then retrace the steps to chart the proper course.

City administrator Larry Paine explained to the council that there are two approaches — one could be a "full blown" citizen involvement team approach which takes about a year to complete, and the other is what Paine called "strategic planning lite" which takes just four to eight weeks. The council chose the second option which involves the governing body and city staff.

"The main difference is the amount of time of getting everything put together," Paine said. He continued that the city will end up with the same result using the less-involved method.

An updated strategic plan also will aid Paine in helping the city obtain goals, and in turn, Paine will know what his goals should be.

A series of questions were presented to council members and brainstorming sessions resulted in a direction for the city in the next five to 10 years.

'Where are we going and how are we getting there?'

Paine asked the council, "What, in your opinion, will Hillsboro look like in 10 years?"

Will the population be larger? Will there be more businesses and industries? Will there be less advantageous things happening?

Council members were asked to describe positive elements of change. An example of population growth could mean more jobs to sustain the population, more economic opportunities for both buyers and sellers, and more job-related opportunities. The next exercise was for the council to describe the negative elements of a 10 percent population growth such as housing issues and impacts on schools.

Paine then asked the council to flip the discussion to determine how the city could influence the future so the negative issues won't happen.

If Hillsboro has growth and a lack of housing, the city should work toward improving housing inventory and find ways to develop more housing.

"When looking at a negative side of an issue, the idea of strategic planning is to turn a negative into a positive," Paine said.


The council then did the exercise of SWOT — strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

The council was asked to think about the strengths of the community or the things that the community is doing right.

"There are a lot of things that fit that category," Paine said.

The next question asked was "What should the community stop doing?" Those concerns were considered weaknesses.

Some of these weaknesses are issues the city can address but some are not.

The next step was identifying the threats or the most important problem or project the community needs to address.

A standard answer was more good restaurants.

Another exercise for the council was to identify five significant external factors that will affect local government in the next two to five years. Those items were issues or events that are out of the control of the city such as tornadoes and fuel prices.

The council then looked at five internal factors that affect local government in the next two to five years. One issue that was discussed was the possible turnover of council members with elections of the two wards and mayor occurring on an annual basis.

Other future aspects

The council discussed the demographics of Hillsboro regarding age. The common dilemma is how smaller communities should deal with an aging population. However, in Hillsboro's case, there are more residents between the ages of 35 and 40 than retirement ages.

A change in ethnic diversity also could be in Hillsboro's future. With additional population comes issues of possible unemployment.

The council also discussed the national economy and other external factors such as farm prices, fuel, and mortgages being controlled outside of the community but directly affecting Hillsboro.

Technological advances change day-to-day activities now. Ten years from now it may be even more apparent, particularly for businesses.

Other issues included environmental and political.

Elections and international politics also could affect how Hillsboro residents live and buy commodities. Paine said war could affect the availability of and cost to purchase certain items.

Additional work sessions will be planned to further determine the future "look" of the city.

When the city and council can determine where the city might be in 10 years, then officials will go backward to the present to determine the steps that are needed to be followed in the immediate future for a positive outcome.

Utility rates

Another work session was held Jan. 14, when city officials discussed utility rates.

Paine had said at a previous council meeting that he was concerned about the amount the city charges its electrical customers because it doesn't cover possible future expenses.

"For the most part, we are losing ground in terms of a cash balance," Paine said. "The cost of buying electricity is . . . increasing and we can't sit on the same rates."

The same is true of water rates because of the new water treatment plant and sewer rates with a new sewer plant in the works.

"Cash balance reserves in the bank are nil and we need to build those up over a period of time," Paine said.

Cash reserves are necessary for the city to maintain to rely on in case of disaster. Otherwise city officials will be faced with imposing another bond issues which would increase costs.

Experienced in planning

Paine has been helping with planning for various cities since 1990. It's been an important and valuable aspect with every job he's had as a city administrator.

"I can sit, learn, and examine all of the strategies I can look at but until the governing body instructs me, it's a waste of time," Paine said.

"This is the most important part of the work that I do for the City of Hillsboro," he said.