Patty Day smiles after being welcomed as Hillsboro City Council's newest member during the Monday, July 8 council meeting. Day has been appointed to fill Wendy Culbreath's unexpired term. (HCP Photos/Caitlin Forsha)
Patty Day smiles after being welcomed as Hillsboro City Council's newest member during the Monday, July 8 council meeting. Day has been appointed to fill Wendy Culbreath's unexpired term. (HCP Photos/Caitlin Forsha)
Hillsboro City Council welcomed a new councilwoman during their Monday, July 8 meeting, with Patty Day being tapped to fill a former council member’s unexpired term.

Day has been appointed by the Highland County Republican Party to replace Wendy Culbreath, who resigned as the Third Ward’s representative effective June 1. As Culbreath was elected Nov. 7, 2017, Day will be placed on the Hillsboro Third Ward precinct’s ballot for the November 2019 election.

Hillsboro council president Tom Eichinger began the meeting by introducing Day to the rest of council and telling her, “Welcome.”

• • •

Discussion of a collapsed storefront in uptown Hillsboro continued, with safety and service director Mel McKenzie updating council on pending litigation filed by the city against the property’s owners.

As previously reported, a section of a building at 119 W. Main Street in uptown Hillsboro collapsed Monday, June 3. The city of Hillsboro filed legal action June 20 against the owners of the partially collapsed building, as well as the Highland County Treasurer's Office, the Ohio Department of Taxation and the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation.

McKenzie told council that litigation was filed “to make me the temporary receiver to abate the nuisance so that I could go in and take care of anything and the liability would be off the city.” He said that he met with Judge David McKenna for a hearing last week, with another hearing scheduled for Tuesday morning.

Prior to filing the litigation, McKenzie said he took the “proactive” measures of hiring Evans Landscaping as the demolition contractor, as well as getting “shoring” estimates. He told council that the cost “to try to save the neighboring building to the east” — which was occupied by Bon Appetit, up until the adjacent building’s collapse — was estimated at “between $75,000-$125,000.”

“That’s just to stabilize the common wall,” McKenzie said. “That really is not feasible for our finances to do that, and then that’s not even the cleanup on top of it.”

The safety and service director told council that the added cost for cleanup would be $40,000 to $75,000 “just to where the collapse is and where the structure is sound, toward the south side.”

“You’re looking at a lot of money for us to fork out for what amounts to private ownership negligence,” McKenzie said.

McKenzie said his discussions are “on hold” until July 15 when the insurance claims adjuster he has been speaking with returns from vacation.

“From my understanding, they are interested in taking care of the liability in the demo process,” McKenzie said.

Until insurance and pending litigation issues are resolved, the 100 block of West Main Street will remain restricted to one lane.

“It is closed down to the west to the next alley for the same reasons that the 119 [building] collapsed,” McKenzie said. “There’s bulges and issues you can’t predict when it may or may not fall. I can’t predict the future. Neither can our building official. From a safety aspect, we got really lucky as a city that no one was injured in that collapse.”

Council member Justin Harsha asked why the barricades are all the way to the center of the street, saying several citizens have approached him about it.

“Fall radius,” McKenzie said. “The one that collapsed, the bulge was toward the bottom, and it kind of blew out and straight back. The ones going west, the bulges are higher, so if they blow out they’re going to fall out and away.”

Council member Ann Morris also asked if any progress had been made on “the Parker House side” of the 100 block of West Main Street.

“To my knowledge, the property transfer’s still going on,” McKenzie said. “Until that’s done, there’s not much we can enforce.”

• • •

McKenzie reported that the Hillsboro Planning Commission recently met to discuss “two issues,” including a request from Dick Donley on behalf of the Highland County Republican Party. The party was seeking a variance to add a storage building to the side of their headquarters, located at 200 West Main Street, which is prohibited under the zoning code.

“They need to put in a storage building for signage and overflow of items,” McKenzie said.

The commission approved a motion to approve the request, “with the contingency that there must be a maintenance agreement on the upkeep on the utility building in the event they change ownership.”

Also discussed by the planning commission was annexing a property owned by the Fenner estate, which is currently considered county property, into the city. A representative from Lind Media had met with the commission to discuss the digital billboard on North High Street.

“That lot it sits on is actually part of the Fenner property and is actually a county parcel,” McKenzie said. “It’s out of our corporation limits. Apparently, ODOT has jurisdiction over that part of Highway 62 because it is a county parcel.

“Their rule on the route is any billboard has to be within 600 feet of a business. They are not.”

McKenzie said the commission “discussed the possibility” of incorporating the land into the city, although no action has been taken.

“It’s 34 acres right in the center of town that’s not really developable, at least by anyone within the city, because for water and sewer, you have to be in the city limits,” McKenzie said. “I talked to Bill Fawley [county auditor], and he’s going to talk to commissioners because they have to talk to the township trustees.”

• • •

In the standing committee reports:

• Morris updated council on the property maintenance and restoration committee’s most recent meeting. Items on their agenda included acquiring and razing the Parker House building; “the various properties that the city has for sale,” including the pending sale of the former BP station on West Main Street; annexing unincorporated properties into the city; and ongoing discussion on possible uses for the former Hillsboro firehouse.

Morris also said that the committee is discussing “having a new city entrance sign placed at the major entrances into the city” to replace the current signs (which read: “The citizens of Hillsboro warn you. If you sell drugs here, we will put you away. This means you.”).

Council member Mary Stanforth pointed out that a new entrance sign has already been placed on U.S. 62, near Liberty Park. “They didn’t approve that, apparently,” she said.

“I don’t think it had to be approved,” Morris said.

McKenzie said the new sign “was one the mayor had done.”

“Is that what the rest of the signs are going to look like?” Stanforth asked.

“Not necessarily,” McKenzie said, adding that the mayor wanted that sign in place before the Festival of the Bells started.

Morris said that she has received some initial renderings for proposed signs, which will be viewed by the rest of council.

• Stanforth reported that the civil service and employee relations committee met to discuss the civil service manual.

“One of the questions brought up was the need for clarification on discipline issues because the most recent manual approved in 2017 had conflicting resolutions,” Stanforth said. “Also, some questioned why a need for a new manual at a cost of $2,300 was necessary when the most recent manual was approved in 2017 and was acceptable but needed some verifications.”

Stanforth said that at the committee’s recommendation, the manual will be “reviewed by department heads and employees” along with McKenzie.

• Adam Wilkin told council that the street and safety committee met July 1 regarding updates to the Hillsboro Code of Ordinances.

“Some are no longer necessary, such as 32.01, which outlines the composition of a fire department,” Wilkin said. “Others require additional wording or eliminating discrimination.”

The committee does not yet have recommendations for council to approve, Wilkin said, pending review by McKenzie and city law director Fred Beery.

• Harsha, who is also vice president of the Hillsboro Festival of the Bells committee, thanked the city and its employees for their involvement with the festival July 4-6.

“The chief of police [Eric Daniels], I want to thank him and all of his crew for manning the festival,” Harsha said. “They did a great job.

“Seth McCoy came out and hooked up the water taps. Thank you, Shawn [Adkins, public works administrator] for all your help. We appreciate all the help from the city.”

• • •

A three-minute public hearing was held prior to the start of the regular meeting to discuss the 2019 tax budget before approving it for submission to the county. Hillsboro city auditor Gary Lewis explained that the tax budget is prepared annually and “basically serves as a document that says we are spending the tax money that we get in accordance with what it’s designated for.”

There were no comments from city council or the public during the hearing. “It’s one of the most exciting hearings of the year,” Lewis joked.

During the regular meeting, council voted 6-0 to approve a resolution adopting the proposed 2019 tax budget for the city.

• • •

Council also voted 6-0 to approve and adopt an ordinance to amend 32.20 of the City Code to provide for the composition of the Police Department.

The current city code calls for “one Chief of Police, one Captain of Police, four sergeants of police, ten patrolmen and one parking meter repairman.”

Under the new ordinance, the number of sergeants will be reduced to three; the number of patrolmen will be increased to 12; the parking meter repairman position will be eliminated; and four police dispatchers and one administrative assistant will be added. There will still be a police chief and police captain.

• • •

Council heard the second reading of an ordinance to establish a stormwater utility. There was no discussion of the ordinance from council or the public.

As previously reported, if approved, the ordinance will implement a separate stormwater utility program, and through money generated by Hillsboro citizens, the city will fund the repairs of stormwater lines over a period of at least 11 years.

• • •

Council member Brandon Leeth, as well as Hillsboro mayor Drew Hastings, were absent from Monday night’s meeting. Council voted 6-0 to excuse Leeth’s absence.