Hillsboro Mayor Justin Harsha and Safety and Service Director Brianne Abbott are pictured at the Aug. 11 Hillsboro City Council meeting. Also pictured (in background) is Hillsboro Planning Commission chair Rob Holt.  (HCP Photos/Caitlin Forsha)
Hillsboro Mayor Justin Harsha and Safety and Service Director Brianne Abbott are pictured at the Aug. 11 Hillsboro City Council meeting. Also pictured (in background) is Hillsboro Planning Commission chair Rob Holt. (HCP Photos/Caitlin Forsha)
Reports from Hillsboro City Council members and city administrators at the Thursday, Aug. 11 council meeting included updates on a proposal for a city DORA, concerns over rising expenditures and information on ongoing city projects and events.

In council committee reports, street and safety committee chair Adam Wilkin gave an overview of a recent “fact-finding” meeting to discuss submitting a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) application for the city.

According to the Ohio Department of Commerce, “Per R.C. 4301.82, a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area or ‘DORA’ (aka Outdoor Refreshment Area or ‘ORA’) is nothing more than a specified area of land that a local legislative authority has designated as exempt from certain open container provisions as defined within the legislative act that created the DORA.

“Thus, patrons within a DORA that purchase an alcoholic beverage for on-premises consumption from a DORA designated liquor permit holder can leave the permit premises with an opened alcoholic beverage container and continue consuming it within the DORA.”

Wilkin said that Chillicothe and Wilmington are among the Ohio cities that currently have a DORA. As previously reported, the Village of Greenfield has engaged in similar discussions recently.

“In simple terms, this would be a district that will make legal the ability to be outside within a certain area in the city with beverages sold by local establishments that contain alcohol,” Wilkin said. “The city administration asked for this to be placed in committee for a couple of reasons. The main reason is to promote the walkability of our city.

“The district ideally will be located in such a way that would include the established restaurants we have, as well as other businesses and shops that are already here or that may come to Hillsboro’s uptown area in the future. The idea is to incorporate much of the uptown area within the DORA.”

Wilkin said that if approved, the city “would have the ability to set the guidelines” for the DORA, including its size, the number of districts, location(s) and hours of operation.

Wilkin said that “many of the uptown business owners and our very own police chief are in support of this idea.” However, he said the committees are planning to hold additional meetings and obtain additional public input before making any official recommendations.

Patty Day, the chair of the community enhancement committee, said that in addition to meeting with street and safety committee, she has had “no update” from Horizon Telecom regarding their request in June to set up a new Point of Presence site for expanded internet services at a city-owned property.

• • •

During her report to council, Safety and Service Director Brianne Abbott announced that the Roberts Lane extension project funding proposal was ranked first at the Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission’s second-round county caucus meeting in July.

The city has already secured some funding for the estimated $8.6 million project, including a $2.3 million roadwork grant from the State Controlling Board for the extension of Roberts Lane to connect Fenner Avenue, State Route 73, Te Mar Way and Fairground Road.

As previously reported, the city has also received a $336,000 pedestrian safety grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation that will include the creation of “new high-visibility crosswalks with the installation of pavement markings, refuge islands and pedestrian beacons” in the historic uptown district, according to Abbott.

Abbott told council Thursday that city and ODOT officials have begun preliminary talks on the pedestrian safety project, with a site survey conducted in July.

“The construction is not going to begin, I believe, until 2024, so it'll be a little while, but planning will start soon,” Abbott said.

For other city project updates, Abbott said the North West water line replacement project was slated to begin Aug. 22, and the new tornado siren was in the process of being installed as of Thursday.

In other discussion, Abbott told council that the Hillsboro Police Department recently conducted a mass casualty incident preparation training with Hillsboro City Schools.

“No one really wants to talk about it or think about it, but it's really important to be proactive in light of some of the events going on,” Abbott said. “All the officers and dispatchers toured the facilities in case of a terrible event, which hopefully we never have to worry about.”

For economic development updates, Abbott reported that the city received 11 commercial and 12 residential building permit applications in July.

New businesses, or new locations for existing businesses, are in various stages of development, except for the new Hillsboro McDonald’s building, which opened this week. Other projects under construction include Buckeye Family Eye Clinic, Fenner Ridge Apartments, the Marriott Hotel, Marshall’s and Patriot Public House.

The city is also continuing to host events, including the uptown farmers’ market every Saturday morning; two “Movies Under the Stars” events set for Friday, Aug. 12 and Saturday, Aug. 13 at the West Main Street green space; and a community cookout slated for Sept. 2 from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. at the old firehouse on Governor Trimble Place. Abbott invited council members to attend and/or help serve food at the cookout.

In Hillsboro Planning Commission news, Abbott said the commission has “approved a certificate of appropriateness for 24 Deli and held additional conversations in regard to the Imagine Hillsboro master plan.”

• • • 

In addition to reviewing the preliminary tax budget, Auditor Alex Butler discussed Thursday the city’s tax revenues as well as their expenses, both of which are higher than anticipated.

As of July 29, the city has received $3,037,966.39 in income tax revenues, a 14.4-percent increase over the same time frame in 2021, according to Tax Commissioner Sherry Davis.

“I feel confident that by the end of the year, we will exceed what we have projected to collect this year,” Butler said. “On the other hand, expenses have been challenging, as we anticipated, this year.

“Utilities, our insurance costs, fuel costs — I know that will resonate with all of us. Chemicals for the water plant, [public works superintendent Shawn Adkins’] materials and the things that he needs to keep his department going, have been a challenge to the budget.”

Butler said that although the city “did anticipate” increased costs and have been able to cover the price hikes, he warned that the issue may need to be “revisited” by council before the end of 2022.

“We might need to revisit that by the end of the year and increase appropriations to make sure we have enough to get us to the end of the year,” Butler said. “We don’t know yet. We'll see how things go over the next couple of months, but in October or November, we may be having that conversation, so I just want to get that on your radar.”

Council president Tom Eichinger asked, “When you say we need to appropriate, that’s from money we have that has not been officially budgeted? So it’s not a matter of being short on money?”

Butler said Eichinger’s clarification was “correct.”

In other discussion, Butler gave an overview of the city’s American Rescue Plan Act payments, as they received their final expected relief payment in July.

According to Butler, the city received $343,269.22 in September 2021; $1,370.41 (from unclaimed funds) in March 2022; and $344,639.63 in July 2022, “which brings the total to $689,279.26.”

“I am not expected any more payment of ARPA dollars coming to the city, so that is what we've got,” he said.

• • •

Mayor Justin Harsha, who was unable to attend the July council meeting, dedicated his report to the city employees who helped make the 2022 Festival of the Bells a success.

The three-day festival took place July 7-9 at its new location at the City of Hillsboro’s green space on West Main Street. Abbott said in July that the city’s “public works and police departments were an integral part” of this year’s event.

“I just wanted to personally thank some of the people who put in a lot of extra hours and got called in late at night to help,” Harsha said. “We had some people from the water and sewer department, the street department and the storm department.”

As noted by Harsha, after the Thursday night concert, the stage at the green space was moved. He said that crews worked late Thursday night into Friday morning, getting home around “three in the morning.”

“It was a long night, so I really appreciate the extra help to get that stage moved,” Harsha said. “Some of the other people were involved with getting the grass ready and working on the electric and everything involved in getting the festival up and running. I think it turned out to be a great event, and I think we found a permanent home the festival, so I’m excited about that.”

Harsha also recognized crews for working third shifts in recent weeks to complete a crack sealing project on city streets.

“I don't know if you've seen some of the little black squiggly marks on the pavement through town, but that is our crack sealing machine that we're finally getting to use,” Harsha said. “We're hoping the work on the streets is going to keep potholes from popping up in the winter.”

Harsha added that although Adkins “doesn’t want any” recognition, he has played a major role in both projects.

“We have a great crew working for the city,” the mayor said.

• • •

Also on Thursday:

• During the citizens’ comments portion of the meeting, one resident, Aaron Brown, spoke about concerns with a house, where he alleged drug use is occurring with children in the household. He gave Abbott additional details after the meeting.

• At the start of Thursday’s meeting, council voted 6-0 to excuse the absence of council member Greg Maurer, whom Eichinger said was “out of town on training.”

• In a rare occurrence, the council president cast a vote to break a tie at the Thursday, Aug. 11 Hillsboro City Council meeting, leading to the passage of an ordinance implementing a ban on consumer-grade fireworks in the city. For more on that vote and other legislation considered by council, see the story at: https://highlandcountypress.com/Content/In-The-News/In-The-News/Article/Hillsboro-City-Council-president-casts-rare-tiebreaking-vote-council-debates-purchase-of-vacuum-truck/2/20/82462.