Pictured (l-r) are Hillsboro city council members Mary Stanforth, Claudia Klein and Ann Morris. (HCP Photo/Caitlin Forsha)
Pictured (l-r) are Hillsboro city council members Mary Stanforth, Claudia Klein and Ann Morris. (HCP Photo/Caitlin Forsha)
City finances were at the forefront of numerous votes and discussions at Hillsboro city council’s Tuesday, Dec. 10 meeting, as council approved a temporary appropriation ordinance prior to finalizing the 2020 budget and discussed other related legislation.

Council voted 6-0 to approve an ordinance to make temporary appropriations for current expenses and other expenditures of the city of Hillsboro during the fiscal year ending Dec. 31, 2020.

Finance committee chair and mayor-elect Justin Harsha told council that the official 2020 budget has not yet been finalized. Since the last regular council meeting Nov. 12, the finance committee has met twice to discuss the budget, Harsha said.

 



In the first meeting, held Dec. 5, Harsha said that the committee determined that “across the board, each department is looking for a three-percent pay increase, and health care premiums continue to rise.”

Harsha said the temporary appropriation ordinance was approved by the finance committee at the Dec. 5 meeting “in case the full budget can’t be done before January.” Last December, council approved a similar ordinance, before eventually approving the 2019 budget at their February meeting. “Most of the line items carry over from last year’s temporary budget,” he said.

The finance committee also met Tuesday evening, prior to the full council meeting, to make several modifications to the temporary ordinance and to continue discussing the 2020 budget.

“Kirby [Ellison, city administrative assistant] has been working real hard at entering all the budgets, and right now with the submissions, it looks like we are about $500,000 in the red,” Harsha said. “We have some work, but it’s not out of the ordinary to have this come up. We just have some work to do.”

The temporary appropriation ordinance can be viewed in the sidebar at right.

• • •

After a heated discussion between Harsha and current mayor Drew Hastings, council voted 5-1 to approve an ordinance “providing for the issuance and sale of not to exceed $3 million of special obligation development revenue bonds, Series 2019 (Leo Capital/Morlii Project), of the City of Hillsboro, under Chapter 5709 of the Ohio Revised Code, for the purposes of paying the cost of certain public improvements; authorizing a pledge of and lien on certain service payments to secure such bonds; authorizing the exception and delivery of a trust agreement to secure such bonds; and authorizing and approving related matters.”

This ordinance is related to the one approved in a special meeting Oct. 28 by city council to establish a tax increment financing [TIF] district for a proposed multimillion-dollar hotel project in the city of Hillsboro, near the state Route 73/Harry Sauner Road intersection.

In September, Hillsboro mayor Drew Hastings described the proposed development as “an 83-room Marriott hotel property with two franchise sit-down restaurants on site as well,” with a “total market value of … about $23 million.” In October, both city council and Hillsboro City Schools voted to approve the TIF district for the hotel development.

Council president Tom Eichinger said that Tuesday night’s ordinance “allows the city to sell bonds to generate funds to pay for the infrastructure work as it happens because the TIF won’t pay for it until the property is developed.”

“This is basically the next step in that sequence of events that must happen in order to keep this thing moving forward,” Eichinger told council.

After council member Mary Stanforth asked a few questions about the ordinance, Harsha said he “would really suggest that this be put in the committee, at least to look over a little bit.”

“Some questions have been raised by the auditor [Gary Lewis], and he just got this a few days ago,” Harsha said. “This is a lot of money we’re talking about. I don’t want to hold the project up, but I would suggest putting this into committee and having a first reading tonight.”

Eichinger asked safety and service director Dick Donley to respond. “It’s extremely important that we go ahead and do something because they’re hoping to start developing after the first of the year,” Donley said.

Eichinger asked if the city would “run into a problem with the developer and the funding plan” if a vote on the ordinance was pushed back until January. “For a definite answer, I don’t know,” Donley said. “I do know it’s going to take a while for the bonding to take place.”

“It would seem that if our auditor had any real, valid concerns about this, he wouldn’t have been absent for the last six months here,” Hastings said. “Not only that, he would have engaged in conversation. Apparently he’s had conversations with the mayor-elect about this, but no one else. Is that right?”

Harsha told the mayor that Lewis “just recently” received a copy of the ordinance.

“But he’s known about this TIF funding for months,” Hastings said. “It’s of no concern or sweat off of his back after another two or three weeks from now, and it falls into Mr. [auditor-elect Alex] Butler’s lap to deal with.”

“I think that’s another point of concern, with a new auditor coming in,” Harsha said.

“Well, he’s going to have to be up to speed on this stuff,” Hastings said. “You have a Marriott hotel coming in here, and somebody better be up to speed on this.”

“That’s exactly why I’m suggesting putting it into the finance committee,” Harsha said.

“And what exactly is it you hope to understand further in his finance committee meeting?” Hastings asked.

“So I know everyone’s on the same page and knows what’s going on,” Harsha said. “Three million dollars is a lot of money we’re talking about.”

Donley said that he spoke to Lewis “personally at least two weeks ago” and “told him we were reaching out to do a bond through” their bond counsel, Richard Spoor. “Mr. Lewis mentioned at that time we had dealt with a bonding agency for the firehouse and things like that, and he mentioned they would probably be available,” Donley said. “He said if you get the bonding for $3 million, you need to make sure that is what’s necessary for the developer because if you don’t use the $3 million, the auditors might take exception to that.”

Donley said Spoor and the hotel developers “felt very safe in saying that when the project is completed, considering everything that will be necessary, it will probably be close to $3 million.”

Hastings reminded council “this bond doesn’t take place, and no money absolutely is ever released, until certain benchmarks are met by the developer.”

“This isn’t a bond that’s issued and money doled out, if you will, prior to a lot of benchmarks and legal contingencies being met,” Hastings said. “This is not something we’re going to pass tonight and somebody’s getting a check for $3 million. Far from it.”

Council voted 5-1 to suspend the three-reading rule and 5-1 to approve and adopt the emergency ordinance, with Harsha voting no both times.

• • •

• A resolution to establish a 2020 appropriation item for funding through the Hillsboro Area Economic Development Corporation for the demolition and development of the Gross-Feibel property was presented to council Tuesday.

If approved, the resolution would “authorize and direct the City Auditor to incorporate in [council’s] final appropriations for fiscal year 2020 funds in the amount of $135,000 payable to the Hillsboro Area Economic Development Corporation for the purpose of developing the Gross-Feibel property.” The resolution would also “authorize and direct the Safety and Service Director to enter into an agreement with the HAEDC for development of the Gross-Feibel property in order to remove the blighted conditions and make available real property for economic development in the City utilizing the funding authorized herein for that purpose.”

According to the resolution, in August 2017 the administration “identified the former Gross-Feibel plant property as a blighted area and acquired” the property for the city’s Community Improvement Corporation (CIC), the Hillsboro Area Economic Development Corporation.

“The administration has obtained favorable terms from Evans Excavating for the removal of the structure and the restoration of the ground for economic development,” the resolution says. “Council desires to prioritize the removal of the structure and completion of the development in fiscal year 2020.”

As previously reported, during council’s November meeting, Hastings told council that Evans Landscaping has given the city an estimate of $135,000 to demolish the property. Donley added that the estimate is for demolition “clear down to the ground,” including resealing and leveling the property to make it “very attractive for someone wanting to do a small industry in that area.”

During his report Tuesday, Hastings spoke about the ordinance for the proposed Gross-Feibel property demolition.

“The demolition that will be allowed by this ordinance will make this site shovel-ready for any developer to approve the property,” Hastings said. “I believe there’s a lot of positive signs that the site can be readily developed. I think there’s probably interest for a small industrial park.”

In his report, Donley said he would “encourage council to continue its effort to clean up the Gross-Feibel site.”

However, during the finance committee report, Harsha said that due to the $135,000 request from administration, his committee had discussed “whether that was a needed project or not” and whether the Parker House’s demolition should take priority.

Eichinger said the resolution would only require one reading and asked council for their opinion. Harsha moved to table the resolution in light of “the outlook and the $500,000 deficit,” which Stanforth seconded. Council voted 6-0 to table the legislation, and Eichinger asked the finance committee to further consider the proposal during their 2020 budget planning.

• • •

Council also voted to approve a resolution to authorize and direct the safety and service director to make repairs and improvements to the west side of the 100 block of North High Street. According to the resolution, property owners have agreed “to pay half of the costs associated with the project through placement on the owners’ real property tax in the amounts of $8,264 and $1,693.93, with the city paying $11,578.50 of the costs of the project.”

The resolution covers “repairs to the west side of North High Street in the 100 block in front of the properties extending from Governor Trimble Place to Beech Street,” including 125, 127, 135, 137 and 139 North High Street.

Donley said the city “would like to have this passed as emergency” because “the property owners approached the city and would like to get the sidewalk repaired and a new one put in, and both of them have signed an agreement that they will authorize the cost of their share of the replacement of the sidewalk.”

“I think it’ll look very good where the Orpheum is now and with that brick installed,” Donley said. “I’m hoping some of the other people around town, business owners, when they see the opportunity they have to add this on their property taxes that they might want to do likewise.”

Donley added that while a contractor will be used to implement the sidewalk repairs, city public works superintendent Shawn Adkins will “oversee” the work.

“With the concrete and freezing weather, is this a project that needs to be done right now?” Harsha asked. Adkins said that the project can be completed in cold weather.

“Is a project that is actually going to be done in the next two months? Do you have time to do that?” Harsha asked.

Adkins said that he has already selected a contractor and has a purchase order ready once he can find a date that “doesn’t conflict” with events at the Hillsboro Orpheum, one of the affected properties.

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

Related article: https://highlandcountypress.com/Content/Default/Letters-to-Editor/Article/Hillsboro-council-allowed-themselves-to-be-bullied-one-last-time-/-3/87/54293
For more on Tuesday night’s council meeting, please click the link below.