Pictured (front, l-r) are Hillsboro city council members Ann Morris, Patty Day,  Greg Maurer, Mark Middleton and Adam Wilkin and (back) council president Tom Eichinger and clerk Kimberly Newman. (HCP Photos/Caitlin Forsha)
Pictured (front, l-r) are Hillsboro city council members Ann Morris, Patty Day, Greg Maurer, Mark Middleton and Adam Wilkin and (back) council president Tom Eichinger and clerk Kimberly Newman. (HCP Photos/Caitlin Forsha)

Hillsboro city council passed a dozen ordinances and resolutions during their Monday, Aug. 9 meeting, including four ordinances establishing Tax Increment Equivalent funds, a revision to council rules and a resolution addressing the North High Street culvert failure.

All six items up for a three reading Monday were approved. Among those were four separate ordinances proposing the establishment of Tax Increment Equivalent funds (TIFs), each of which passed by a 6-0 vote.

As previously reported, the ordinances were presented at the June city council meeting and also were considered by the street and safety committee. Respectively, these ordinances impact Fenner Ridge Apartments, The Porch Restaurant, White’s Bakery and Magic Tunnel Car Wash.

According to the ordinances, “certain public improvements in the City,” including the planning, design and construction” of public street improvements, utilities and land use; creation and/or enhancement of public service facilities and operations; and the purchase of property rights of way and easements of other rights in property necessary for the completion of these public improvements “are necessary as a result of the development of the parcels of land.”

According to the legislation, “a portion of the improvements” for each parcel “shall be exempt from real property taxation” for 10 years, and “such portion shall be 75 percent of the assessed value of the improvements.” The property owners “shall be required to make annual service payments in lieu of taxes,” with service payments to be “used to finance the public improvements.”

Last month, council also approved a resolution to declare a blighted area of the city as “additional legislation” required for the Fenner Ridge Apartments ordinance, according to safety and service director Brianne Abbott.

“The reason that’s important is because there is a resolution this evening to declare one of the areas that we are looking to TIF as a blighted area,” council president Tom Eichinger said at the July 12 meeting. “Because what’s being proposed there is residential — it’s going to be apartments — that needs to go through a different process. It has to be refurbished, if you will, from being a blighted or unused area. That’s got to be granted first, and then the TIF can be issued.”

Also up for a third reading was a resolution to authorize the mayor to enter into an agreement with the Community Improvement Corporation for the Railroad Street City Park property. According to language in the resolution as well as mayor Justin Harsha’s comments to council in June, this was proposed “for economic development purposes.”

The ordinance passed by a 5-0 vote, with council member Ann Morris abstaining.

Morris asked in June if the park would be transferred to “the new CIC.” Harsha said it was. During Monday night’s meeting, she said, “There’s still two CICs, so that’s my reason for abstention.”

As previously reported, Hillsboro city council voted to “withdraw from involvement” in the previous Hillsboro Area Economic Development Corporation and to establish a new CIC during their Jan. 11 meeting. The HAEDC was established via council resolution in May 2015 “for the purpose of advancing, encouraging and promoting the industrial, economic, commercial and civic development of the city of Hillsboro.”

According to the ordinance, once the articles of incorporation for the new CIC are filed and the “establishment of the City of Hillsboro Community Improvement Corporation pursuant to the terms of this ordinance” is finalized, “the City of Hillsboro shall withdraw from involvement in the Hillsboro Area Economic Development Corporation (HAEDC), and the matters previously entrusted to HAEDC shall hereafter be entrusted to the City of Hillsboro Community Improvement Corporation.” However, Harsha told The Highland County Press in January that “it will be an HAEDC board decision to continue on or dissolve” once the city ceases doing business with that CIC.

Abbott confirmed to The Highland County Press Tuesday that “council did vote to withdraw from all involvement from the HAEDC and to establish a new CIC” earlier this year. “At this time, we are not free to comment any further,” she said. 

The sixth and final item of legislation receiving its third reading Monday was a resolution to amend and codify Chapter 30 of the Hillsboro Code of Ordinances as to council rules, which passed, 6-0.

Updates include the time frame for council to receive meeting agendas; the section for “order of business at the council meeting,” which will reflect current proceedings; permitting council members with a “potential or actual conflict of interest” on an issue to attend any discussion of such legislation; slightly adjusting the section on “appointments to city boards and commissions,” including permitting immediate family members of council members to serve on the boards and commissions if “such council member shall have recused himself or herself from any deliberations or vote on the subject of the appointment;” and reflecting the need for 24 hours’ notice for a special meeting.

More background on the resolution is available in the June council story at https://highlandcountypress.com/Content/In-The-News/In-The-News/Article/Hillsboro-City-Council-hears-proposals-for-TIFs-park-transfer-council-rule-updates/2/20/69389.

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Council also approved six resolutions and ordinances introduced at Monday night’s meeting, including one addressing a needed culvert replacement on North High Street and one authorizing the city to participate in a proposed opioid litigation settlement.

As previously reported, crews from the City of Hillsboro responded to a North High Street 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 Aug. 9, the culvert pipe remains in the parking lot, and there is damage to the driveway.

Adkins told council that he recently spoke with the property owner again, who asked the city to consider “several questions.”

For one, the property owner asked “how much it would cost the city” to “tear out the culvert” and make repairs, which Adkins estimated at around $10,000.

“He asked if we would put that $10,000 toward him putting the culverts back,” Adkins said. “The other thing he requested is if we would pay for the whole thing and assess his taxes.

“I think there’s enough money in the general fund balance to do that if council would want to do that. He just said COVID’s been hard on him, and he doesn’t have the money to do it right now.”

Adkins said that the property owner had just made that proposal and that he didn’t have time to officially present it to council, but asked them to consider that for possible legislation. He also indicated that the situation is going to continue to worsen.

“We’ve already lost two more feet toward 62, and if you go down and look now, there’s a big crack about four or five feet into the asphalt,” Adkins said. “The next big rain will probably take another four or five feet out toward 62.

“If he doesn’t do anything pretty soon, we’re going to have to do it anyway, and it’s going to be at our expense because it is our waterway, but the driveway is his.”

Eichinger said the city was asking council to pass the resolution to “make findings on the culvert failure at a North High Street property and order repairs and declare an emergency” Monday. 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.”

“If we do have any other issues, and it begins to encroach too closely on High Street, it can be taken care of,” Eichinger said of the resolution. “As far as the other questions, that would require some additional legislation.”

Morris asked what the city would do if the property owner “doesn’t purchase a culvert.”

“I’d hire someone to take the rest of it out,” Adkins said. “I had to hire somebody to come in and help us that night. We would hire someone to take the culvert out, slope the banks, line it with rock, put a curb on High Street and a catch basin and a pipe to catch what water comes down through there.

“Then he [the property owner] would have to do something on his side, to keep people driving off into the ditch.”

Council voted 6-0 to suspend the three-reading rule and to approve and adopt the resolution.

Hillsboro Police Chief Eric Daniels briefly gave a presentation on another resolution passed after suspension of the three-reading rule: a resolution authorizing the city to participate in a proposed opioid litigation settlement plan of claims against distributors in the suits against Amerisource Bergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson.

As previously reported in a press release from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, on July 21, “Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced a historic $26 billion nationwide agreement with the three largest distributors of opioids and Johnson & Johnson for their roles in the far-reaching and devastating opioid epidemic,” including a proposal that the “three distributors collectively will pay up to $21 billion over 17 years.”

“This is something that has just come forward recently,” Eichinger said. He likened it to a “class action” lawsuit.

The resolution reads, in part, that “Hillsboro is among a number of municipalities in Ohio that may be eligible to participate in the settlement of claims brought against manufacturers of prescription opioids, whose products are alleged to have contributed to the national opioid crisis, mass addiction and overdose deaths, which in turn has had a financial impact on many communities, including in terms of the costs of first-responder services.”

“The settlement is based upon municipal government participation,” Daniels told council. “Once certain thresholds are met, it will trigger certain payouts.”

According to Daniels, if the state reaches 70-percent participation from municipal governments, Hillsboro could receive $99,711.70. If the state reaches the “95- to 100-percent” threshold, the payout for the city could be $142,445.28.

“Again, this is based upon those number of municipalities and government agencies who can potentially sue against the big three,” Daniels said. “Once they sign on, and once they reach a certain threshold, those monies would become available. It’s my understanding, though, once we sign on, this is a settlement and we would lose our right to sue the three big manufacturers at a later date.”

Daniels said the city was facing “a deadline of August 13” to submit their participation and “would forever lose any monies from the settlement” if they didn’t pass the resolution.

“I don’t know if there’s any strings, how the money’s to be allocated and to whom they are allocated,” Daniels said. “I just know that they gave us two tentative figures to the city of Hillsboro.

“The entire country’s been impacted grossly as a result, and we’re no stranger to it. If it’s there, I think we should participate.”

Eichinger asked Daniels to discuss “how impactful” the opioid problem has been in the city.

“It’s been devastating to the community for a number of years,” the police chief said. “It’s constantly ongoing. I think we all see it on the streets.”

Daniels said that the city goes through “spurts,” depending on what drugs are entering the city, where they see “a string of overdoses.”

“It’s sporadic,” he said. “You can’t put a rhyme or reason to it. We just have our good days and bad days.”

Also approved were:

• Two ordinances to vacate alleyways, including one between the 200 block of West Main Street and the 200 block of West Beech Street (on the old Highland Enterprise property) and one at the 400 block of North West Street. A public hearing had been held prior to Monday night’s council meeting.

Adkins asked the city to “consider suspending the three-reading rule” on both. “For one, The Porch is wanting to open by October, and we want to do the paving and everything,” he said. “The other is to get the deed for a generous citizen donating property to the city.”

The Porch is a restaurant in the process of construction on North West Street, while the Highland Enterprise parcels were donated to the city and accepted via council ordinance in April.

Both ordinances passed by a 6-0 vote, after council voted 6-0 to suspend the three-reading rule on each ordinance.

• Preliminary participatory legislation from the Ohio Department of Transportation for resurfacing a portion of SR 73 in 2023. According to Adkins, that would be North West Street, from the Hillsboro corporation limit to Main Street (US 50). “That is one of our worst streets,” Adkins said. “All of our state routes will be paved then.”

The resolution passed by a 6-0 vote, as council also voted 6-0 to suspend the three-reading rule.

• A resolution to supplement appropriations within the Recreation Fund of the city, reflecting a $500 donation for the Veterans Memorial at Liberty Park, was passed, 6-0.

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In addition to the 12 items of legislation passed, council also heard the first reading of one resolution and one ordinance.

• A resolution amending city policy to reflect the Juneteenth federal holiday had its first reading. According to Harsha and Eichinger, city employees are allowed to “pick one additional day [off] they can use this year for that holiday,” due to the timing of the federal order establishing the holiday. Next year, it will be officially recognized by the city, according to this resolution.

• An ordinance to establish procedures for destruction of records within the city was also introduced. Council clerk Kimberly Newman said that this was based on a recommendation from the city’s audit last year.

Although there is not legislation drafted yet, council member Patty Day made a proposal for possible legislation regarding council’s sign-off level on administrative purchases to be placed in committee.

“Recently, I had done some review and spoke with Governor DeWine’s office,” Day said. “The statute that we currently have is to allow administrative executive spending to be at $50,000 per purchase. I was informed by the governor’s aide that fields questions that for many of the cities in the state of Ohio, that max is $25,000.

“I would like to request respectfully that this be moved to a committee to be discussed and reviewed.”

She said she had spoken to city law director Fred Beery about this already.

Eichinger placed the matter in the finance committee and asked Day to “share Mr. Beery’s input, “along with your input, to that committee so it can have a full review before any actions are taken.”

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In an update from administration, Harsha read Abbott’s report in her absence as a joint mayor/SSD report.

According to that report:

• A “promissory note was extended until September 30” for the Marriott Hotel project.

Plans for the proposed development near the intersection of state Route 73 and Harry Sauner Road 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.

“They’re still working on some funding through the state, so we need some more time,” Harsha said.

• City departments have been working with several other prospective or confirmed businesses, including the Hillsboro Planning Commission approving a site plan for a new Dunham Sports store on North High Street; a new Goodwill store on Harry Sauner Road submitting a permit application; and the city meeting with Marshall’s representatives to discuss possible development on Harry Sauner Road.

“The building department over the past month received 24 permits, so they’re busy in the building department,” Harsha said.

• North East Street paving and improvements on Springlake Avenue and Northview Drive are “projected to begin in the next couple weeks,” but crews “had some issues with some equipment.”

• A portion of Danville Pike was closed in late June due to production crews working on the film “Bones and All.” Abbott and Harsha thanked the city street, public works and police departments for their assistance as well as Hillsboro City Schools for their collaboration. The production company also gave the city a donation, Harsha said.

• The city congratulated Walker Real Estate/Hess Auction Co. and White’s Bakery on recent ribbon-cutting ceremonies and business openings. 

• Harsha invited the community to attend the Highland County Historical Society’s Pioneer Day, set for Aug. 14 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Scott House.

“The city will be there with some old photos of the city, the way it looked back in the day,” Harsha said. “Come on out there on Saturday.”

• • •

In his report, city auditor Alex Butler discussed the city’s ongoing annual audit and income tax collection, both of which he said were “nearly complete,” as well as American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.

“By this time next month, we’ll be able to discuss in more detail how [the audit] turned out,” he said. “I don’t anticipate any big surprises or big problems, but I want to thank all the department heads and staff for their help through that process.”

Regarding the income tax, Butler said “the lion’s share has been collected for this year.”

“You’ll notice in the monthly reports you get that the percentage of where we are up over from last year will be decrease, but that just means we’re not ahead as much, but we’re still ahead, if that makes sense,” he said. “For example, last month it showed us 20-percent up over last year. This month, it shows 13 percent. We’re still ahead, but that indicates that most of the money has been collected year-to-date so far.”

Butler also told council that guidance on ARPA funds has changed, including the amount the city will receive. Instead of the previously announced “just shy of $1.3 million,” the city is now slated to receive $343,269.22 in 2021 and 2022, for a total of $686,538.44, according to the auditor.

Along with the change in funding amounts, Butler said the ARPA funds have a much longer timeline than previously awarded COVID-19 relief money.

“The money can be allocated any time this year up until December 31 of 2024,” he said. “The money needs to be spent by December 31, 2026, so we’ve got plenty of time to expend this money.

“I would encourage you to start to do research at this point in time. The guidance is out, although like time, everything’s not clear as crystal as we would like it to be.”

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There was only one report from standing committees, as Stanforth discussed the finance committee’s July 28 meeting. For more, see the story at: https://highlandcountypress.com/Content/In-The-News/In-The-News/Article/Hillsboro-finance-committee-rejects-proposal-to-repeal-amusement-license-fees/2/20/70363.

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During the citizens’ comments portion of the meeting, Aaron Brown told council he was working to improve his property after a discussion with the building inspector (a conversation he alleged was “irresponsible”) and encouraged the city to “tackle the drug issues in the community.”

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At the beginning of the meeting, council voted 6-0 to excuse the absences of Abbott and council member Claudia Klein.