Pictured, from left, are Hillsboro City Council members Ann Morris, Claudia Klein, Patty Day, Tom Eichinger and Greg Maurer; council clerk Kimberly Newman; and council member Adam Wilkin. (HCP Photos/Caitlin Forsha)
Pictured, from left, are Hillsboro City Council members Ann Morris, Claudia Klein, Patty Day, Tom Eichinger and Greg Maurer; council clerk Kimberly Newman; and council member Adam Wilkin. (HCP Photos/Caitlin Forsha)
Hillsboro safety and service director Brianne Abbott gave updates on various infrastructure projects, as well as on several new businesses and city activities, during the Sept. 13 Hillsboro City Council meeting.

Abbott began her report with an update on the culvert failure at a shopping center on North High Street, as it was damaged nearly three months ago.

As previously reported, crews from the City of Hillsboro responded to the shopping center during the overnight hours of June 18-19, after a culvert pipe was washed out of a ditch, causing a large sinkhole.

Hillsboro public works superintendent Shawn Adkins said that a 72-inch culvert pipe from the Hillsboro Plaza shopping center parking lot collapsed and came out of the ditch during a storm. As of Sept. 13, the culvert pipe remains in the parking lot, and there is damage to the driveway.

In August, council voted to pass a resolution to “make findings on the culvert failure at a North High Street property and order repairs and declare an emergency.” The resolution is, among other things, “directing” the property owner “to fill or drain the lot, remove the putrid substance or the obstructions, and if necessary, enlarge the culverts or covered drains to meet the requirements thereof.”

Abbott told council Monday that the property owner is “in the process of obtaining some cost estimates” on repairing the damage and has been communicating with the city. The property owner was also in attendance at Monday’s meeting.

Paving projects on North East Street and Northview Drive and improvements to Springlake Avenue are “all scheduled to begin this month,” likely next week, Abbott told council. “In addition, the Main Street sidewalk project will begin soon as well,” she added.

Abbott said that there were “a combination of 25 commercial and residential building permits” issued last month. Chief building official Steve Rivera also discussed the building department at the most recent Hillsboro Planning Commission meeting.

On a related note, the safety and service gave updates on a few businesses in various stages of development:

•  Abbott said the promissory note for the planned Marriott Hotel project at the corner of state Route 73 and Harry Sauner Road — which had previously been extended to September — has now been extended to Dec. 30.

Plans for the proposed development have been discussed in city council meetings since 2019. The city of Hillsboro has already approved several resolutions regarding the project, including zoning changes, and both Hillsboro City Council and the Hillsboro City Schools Board of Education previously approved the establishment of a tax increment financing district for the proposed multimillion-dollar hotel and restaurant site.

“I believe they’re working with the county and the state still on funding,” Abbott said Monday.

• Magic Tunnel Car Wash on North High Street is now operational.

• Burke’s Outlet, also on North High Street, will have a ribbon-cutting Sept. 16 at 9 a.m.

• The Hillsboro Planning Commission approved a site plan for Marshall’s for their proposed development on Harry Sauner Road.

• The Planning Commission is also doing an administrative review for Mimi’s Kitchen on East Main Street and the new Buckeye Family Eye Clinic location on North High Street.

For an update on city functions, Abbott thanked Whitney Seitz for organizing an adult softball tournament fundraiser, as she also praised Adkins and city crews for their work to prepare the softball fields at Liberty Park. She also encouraged the community to attend the Hillsboro Farmers Market on Saturday mornings.

• • •

During his report, city auditor Alex Butler announced that the city has received its first of two American Rescue Plan Act fund payments, totaling $343,269.22.

“We will receive another payment in the same amount at this time next year,” he said.

The auditor told council last month that “the money can be allocated any time this year up until Dec. 31, 2024,” and all “money needs to be spent by Dec. 31, 2026.”

Butler said the city has a “very strong” general fund balance in the September report but cautioned council that in the final quarter of the year, money will be transferred into other city funds.

“You will notice, between this month and next month, a decrease in the general fund balance,” Butler said. “That’s not just because of spending, but I will start transferring money out of the general fund into the various funds it subsidizes.”

Both Butler and finance committee chair Mary Stanforth also announced that they are making preliminary plans for the 2022 budget.

“The intention as it stands now is to have a finance committee meeting in October, have another one in November, and then have the finalized budget prepared for you all at the regular council meeting in December,” Butler said.

Stanforth agreed that the budget is the “number-one priority,” as she gave a finance committee report on the committee’s meeting Aug. 26 meeting to discuss a suggestion to lower council’s sign-off level on administrative purchases from $50,000 to $25,000 per purchase. As previously reported, council member Patty Day made a suggestion for possible legislation to that effect during the Aug. 9 Hillsboro city council meeting.

For more on the finance committee meeting, see the story at: https://highlandcountypress.com/Content/In-The-News/In-The-News/Article/Hillsboro-Finance-Committee-debates-lowering-sign-off-level-for-administrative-purchases/2/20/71079.

At the end of her report, Stanforth said that she would be speaking to city law director Fred Beery for more information and that the topic would be reviewed “as information becomes available.” Day asked if there is “a timeline on when this is expected to occur.”

“Our major concern’s going to be the budget,” Stanforth said. “The budget, to me, is going to be the number-one priority in upcoming months.”

During the legislation portion of the meeting:

• Council passed two related resolutions regarding applications for water supply revolving loan account (WSRLA) agreements.

Council voted 6-0 to approve a resolution authorizing the safety and service director to apply for, accept and enter into a WSRLA agreement on behalf of the city for planning, design and/or construction of water facilities and designating a dedicated repayment source for the loans.

According to the resolution, the city “seeks to upgrade its existing water facilities” and “intends to apply for [a] WSRLA for the planning, design and/or construction of the North West Street Water System improvements and facilities.”

“This is for North West Street to replace the water system from Springlake clear to West Main,” Adkins told council. “That’s for the water main service lines. We’re trying to get this done before the paving on 73 so we don’t tear up the new paving. We have a lot of water leaks down on North West Street.”

Council president Tom Eichinger added that the resolution gives the city “access to good rates and funding to do the project.”

The dedicated source of repayment will be the Water Revenue Fund, the resolution says.

Council then unanimously passed a resolution authorizing the safety and service director to prepare and submit an application to participate in the Ohio Public Works Commission State Capital Improvement and/or Local Transportation Improvement Programs and to execute contracts as required for the North West Street Water System improvements.

“Again, it’s the same thing, trying to get more of the money — free money — for this project,” Adkins said of the second ordinance.

• Council also approved two related resolutions related to a clerical error made regarding payments from the Ohio Department of Transportation.

Approved by a 6-0 vote were a resolution to increase appropriations within the Street Construction Fund (Engineering line item) by $68,419.51, and a resolution to authorize a then and now purchase order in the sum of $68,419.51.

A duplicate payment of an ODOT invoice had been made to the city on Dec. 14, 2020 (and on April 16, 2020, the date of the original invoice payment).

“We recently discovered that the Ohio Department of Transportation paid us twice in the year 2020 for repaving projects,” Butler said. “When the city has paving projects on state routes, the city will front the money, and then the state will reimburse the city a certain percentage or dollar amount.

“The city in April of 2020 received a reimbursement for a paving project, and then in mid-to-late December, the city received a second check from ODOT for the same amount.”

Butler said that ODOT is now invoicing the city for the $68,419.51 duplicate payment.

“To do that, I feel the best thing is to increase appropriations in the 201 fund, so this year’s budget doesn’t take the hit, because we were unaware of this invoice until just recently,” Butler said.

Day asked if “this was found on audit.” Butler said “it was.”

“I was told the state didn’t even know they did this until we contacted them,” Eichinger said.

Butler said the state “probably eventually would have found it as well,” but the city alerted ODOT to the error.

Council member Greg Maurer asked if the legislation was “time-sensitive.”

“We have an outstanding invoice, and we know we owe the money,” Butler said. “I’d like to get it taken care of.”

The then and now purchase order is just to refund the money to the state, he added.

• Council voted 5-1 to pass a resolution authorizing the safety and service director to enter into a lease agreement with Southeastern Equipment Company for a loader backhoe.

Adkins explained that the city’s current backhoe is a 2007 model.

“We used to be on a two-year revolving loan with equipment, and we got away from that,” he said. “We don’t owe any money this year. The trade-in on our old hoe will be the down payment for the hoe this year.

“It’s an ’07, so it’s getting a lot of wear and tear on it, and it is the city’s main piece of equipment for digging.”

Adkins provided estimates of terms for different payment plans, including getting back on the two-year rotation, to council members.

“The initial cost is kind of high, but we’re splitting it up between four budgets also — water, sewer, street, storm,” he said. “There will be no money coming out of our pocket this year.”

Day asked if the city “foresees” the estimated costs changing with the pandemic driving various prices up.

“Are we in a position to hang tight the rest of this year with what we’ve got?” she asked.

Adkins said that the city is “having trouble getting repair parts to fix the one we’ve got now” due to the manufacturer discontinuing that type of backhoe.

“Like I said, this is our main piece of equipment for digging,” Adkins said.

Abbott said that the estimates are the “worst-case scenario” and that it’s possible the city will receive more than the $23,666 estimated trade-in value.

Adkins asked council to consider suspending the three-reading rule so he could begin the ordering process. “This isn’t something I’m going to get next month,” he said.

Eichinger asked if the trade-in value of the current backhoe would also be affected if council waited to pass the legislation at a later meeting.

“If we put more hours on it, yes, or if it breaks down, yes,” Adkins said.

Council voted 5-1 to suspend the three-reading rule and 5-1 to approve the resolution, with Day voting no on both motions.

• Council also voted 6-0 to approve a resolution to increase appropriations to the Police Department Small Tools/Donations line item by $750.

• There was one other item of legislation receiving its first reading, as the city introduced an ordinance accepting of the dedication of Fenner Avenue.

According to the ordinance, the city’s “acceptance is adopted to correct a clerical error in failing to journal the prior acceptance by the City of said Fenner Avenue, which has been operated as a city street since 2003.”

“This one gave us a little bit of a scare because we couldn’t find where Fenner Avenue had ever been platted or named a city street,” Abbott said. “We did some digging and finally found some legislation from 2003 where on the actual plat, council had signed off that it was dedicated and that they accepted that street.

“We’ve been maintaining it, we’ve paved it, but we’ve never actually added it to our dedication and acceptance table and the city code of ordinances.”

Abbott said that Beery advised he “would feel more comfortable if council would give it another look and ratify” the unofficial decision from 2003.

Eichinger added that there is “absolutely no rush” and that Beery wanted the ordinance to receive all three readings.

“Pursuant to RC 723.03, the City of Hillsboro hereby accepts the dedication of Fenner Avenue as set forth in the plat of the survey of Fenner Avenue made March 10, 1995,” the ordinance says.

• Council heard the second reading of two items of legislation proposed at the August meeting: a resolution amending the city of Hillsboro’s holiday policy to include Juneteenth and an ordinance to establish procedure for destruction of records.

• Council voted 6-0 at the start of the meeting to excuse the absence of council member Mark Middleton, who was unable to attend the meeting due to a work commitment.

Hillsboro mayor Justin Harsha was also absent.

• At 7:34 p.m., council voted to enter executive session to discuss a pending legal matter. Eichinger said there would be “nothing to transpire” after the session.