From left, Hillsboro City Council members Mark Middleton and Adam Wilkin, mayor Justin Harsha and safety and service director Brianne Abbott are pictured Monday, June 14. (HCP Photos/Caitlin Forsha)
From left, Hillsboro City Council members Mark Middleton and Adam Wilkin, mayor Justin Harsha and safety and service director Brianne Abbott are pictured Monday, June 14. (HCP Photos/Caitlin Forsha)
The establishment of four Tax Increment Equivalent funds, transferring a park to the Community Improvement Corporation and updates to the city code regarding council procedure were among the legislation proposed to Hillsboro City Council Monday, June 14.

There were a total of 15 resolutions and ordinances on Monday night’s agenda, with nine pieces of legislation approved and six having their first readings.

As mentioned, four separate ordinances proposing the establishment of Tax Increment Equivalent funds (TIFs) were presented, with all four ordinances involving businesses currently being constructed in the city of Hillsboro.

“The properties that we are proposing are Magic Tunnel Car Wash, Fenner Ridge Apartments, White’s Bakery and The Porch Restaurant,” Hillsboro safety and service director Brianne Abbott told council. “We also learned today that because Fenner Ridge Apartments are residential in nature, we will need additional legislation, probably at the next council meeting.”

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.”

As proposed, “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.”

Council president Tom Eichinger said that the Hillsboro City Schools Board of Education “does not need” to approve the proposed TIF districts, since they fall within the 10-year threshold.

“It only applies to any new valuation once these properties are built,” Eichinger said. “Basically, the city could use up to 75 percent of that new valuation tax to do the infrastructure improvements, and the schools continue with what they’re getting today plus 25 percent of the new amount for the first 10 years.”

Eichinger placed the four ordinances in the street and safety committee, with any further legislation regarding Fenner Ridge Apartments to also be considered by the committee.

The city has previously approved other TIF districts, including a 100-percent exemption for 25 years for a parcel on state Route 73 proposed as the site of a Marriott hotel approved by both council and Hillsboro City Schools in 2019.

Council also heard the first reading of 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, this is being proposed “for economic development purposes.”

Council member Ann Morris asked if the park would be transferred to “the new CIC.” Harsha said it was. (As previously reported, Hillsboro city council voted to dissolve the previous Hillsboro Area Economic Development Corporation and to establish a new CIC during their Jan. 11 meeting.)

Eichinger placed the resolution in the community enhancement committee for further review.

Also presented for a first reading was a resolution to amend and codify Chapter 30 of the Hillsboro Code of Ordinances as to council rules.

Eichinger outlined some of the proposed changes, which he said stemmed from a recent “council workshop” held April 28.

“I indicated that we wanted to take a good look at Chapter 30, which are the ordinances that govern how we as a council operate,” Eichinger said. “We made quite a number of changes, but many of them were cosmetic more than anything else, cleaning the language up and making sure that people are referred to properly because these hadn’t been changed since the ’70s.”

Proposed updates include the clerk “furnishing … a copy of the agenda at least 72 hours prior to the Council meeting or as far in advance of the meeting as time for preparation will permit.” The previous ordinance called for the agenda to be provided “at least 24 hours” in advance of each meeting.

“We do the best we can to make that happen, but that gives everybody a better chance to understand what’s going on and have time to review it,” Eichinger said. “There are times when things show up late or after that 72-hour time frame, and many times we have to add those items because of the criticality of them. Sometimes we can postpone them until the next month, but that’s something we have to decide each time.”

The section for “order of business at the council meeting” was also updated to reflect current proceedings, adding the reading of monthly report titles; changing “public requests and miscellaneous” and “presentation of petitions and communications” to separate items for public requests, written communications and citizens’ comments; and adding the safety and service director’s report and Hillsboro Planning Commission report to the agenda.

“As you can imagine, since the 1970s the agenda did some shifting and changing,” Eichinger said.

As mentioned by Eichinger at an earlier meeting, the current code says that a member with a “potential or actual conflict of interest” on an issue is not only prohibited from voting, but they are also not permitted to “remain in the Council Chamber during the debate.”

“That is really quite extreme,” he said Monday.

The proposed update would permit the council members to attend any discussion of such legislation.

“If you think about it, council members are also citizens,” Eichinger said. “They also may be business owners, and they have their own personal opinion about things. They should be allowed to at least speak their concerns. They are not allowed to vote, but they should be allowed to be present and to speak what they have on their minds.”

The section on “appointments to city boards and commissions” was slightly updated, including saying that they “shall be made in accordance with Ohio Revised Code Sec. 731.05, except when council is specifically directed by law to make an appointment.” Also added at the end of the section is this wording: “This section shall not prohibit any appointment of a city employee if the enabling statutes declare membership on the board or commission as not being a public office or directs that one or more city employees may be appointed to a board or commission.”

The proposed update would also permit 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.”

“There were some questions and concerns about who exactly has the authority to do what with respect to setting up boards and commissions and also who can be on those committees,” Eichinger said. “We had that section rewritten by our law director to better clarify what the roles and responsibilities are.”

In addition to some minor language updates, the ordinance also reflects the need for 24 hours’ notice for a special meeting (the previous ordinance said 12 hours).

Eichinger said that the resolution would have three readings before council votes on it.

• • •

As mentioned, council also passed nine resolutions Monday, including two resolutions related to a proposed street paving project for North East Street from Collins Avenue to state Route 138.

“This legislation is in place due to the low bid for the North East Street paving project,” Abbott said of the two resolutions. “It came in at approximately $69,000. We do not have that full amount appropriated in the street department to proceed with the project.

“What we are proposing to do is to take money from the alley fund to be able to complete the North East Street paving project, and then we will need to reappropriate money back into the alley fund so we can continue to maintain and repair alleys throughout 2021.”

Council authorized supplemental appropriations to the Alley Maintenance & Repair line item in the amount of $14,400 and a transfer of $31,000 from the Municipal Motor Vehicle License Fund to the Street Construction Fund.

For an unrelated improvement project, council authorized “Final Resolution 19-23” in order to comply with Ohio Department of Transportation requirements.

The resolution involves “sidewalk improvements along West Main Street (U.S. 50) between Willettsville Pike and Elm Street, East Main Street (U.S. 50) between East Street and Keys Street, and Chillicothe Avenue (U.S. 50) between East Main Street and Greystone Drive, including curb ramps.”

“ODOT requires this final resolution for all their projects,” Abbott said. “This specific project is for the TAP [Transportation Alternatives Program] grant for sidewalks along Main Street and U.S. 50. Council has previously approved this project via Resolution 17-23 and Resolution 19-23, and again, this is just an ODOT requirement to proceed with the already approved project.”

Eichinger said that the language of the final resolution also reflects “the final amount the city owes,” which is $25,080.

Also approved were:

• Four resolutions to supplement or increase appropriations, the majority of which were to accommodate various donations.

The resolutions included increasing appropriations to the Pro-Services line item of the recreation fund by $255; to the Police Department Small Tools/Donations line item of the general fund by $1,500; to the Community Enhancement line item of the general fund by $1,325; and to three different Engineering line items by $103,746.96, $15,259.09 and $40,263.14, respectively.

• Two separate resolutions to approve “then and now” purchase orders.

One resolution was for an invoice for a partial payment for improvements at Hillsboro parks by Sunesis Construction totaling $66,118.40. The other was a loan invoice from the Ohio Public Works Commission in the amount of $69,971.42.

• • •

In her report to council, Abbott announced the recipients of the city’s second annual scholarship program.

As previously reported, in 2020, the city established a scholarship program as part of an effort to partner with Hillsboro City Schools. Administrators made an announcement seeking participation from businesses or individuals, including offering perks for seniors or accepting donations for the scholarship fund.

Harsha announced in April that the city planned to award two $1,000 scholarships and one $500 scholarship this year.

According to Abbott, Hillsboro graduates Samantha Blair, Stephanie Patton and Kelcie Thornburgh earned this year’s scholarships.

“We were happy to be able to facilitate that program, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the support from businesses and residents who also donated,” Abbott said. “Thank you to everyone who donated for that.”

For infrastructure updates, Abbott said that the city held a pre-construction meeting for the Springlake Avenue project, which she has previously said involves “road reconstruction, widening, curb and gutter, water line, storm sewer and sidewalks.”

“It’s scheduled to begin July 19, assuming that they are able to get all the materials that they need,” Abbott said.

The city also opened bids for the North East Street paving project, as already mentioned.

Abbott also announced that the city has a “new economic development website,” which can be accessed at www.discoverourhillsboro.org.

“It basically highlights all the great amenities that Hillsboro has to offer,” Abbott said. “It’s just going to be a really great source for the community members or anyone looking to visit the area.”

For another city promotional event, Abbott encouraged the community to visit the uptown Hillsboro Farmers Market, which is held each Saturday from 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

“The market is actually now offering more vendors than ever,” she said. “It’s clear wrapped around the whole block with lots of great vendors.”

Also in Abbott’s report, she congratulated Julie Bolender on her appointment as county economic development coordinator.

“She was a great choice,” Abbott said. “Hands down, across the board, she was our first pick. She’s going to be great. Our city economic development team has already begun a working relationship with her and a collaboration with the county.”

In other updates, Abbott congratulated Eden House and the Hillsboro Swim Club on their recent Chamber ribbon-cutting ceremonies and thanked the donors of the uptown flower arrangements and the volunteers who maintain them.

There was no Hillsboro Planning Commission meeting in the past month, Abbott said.

• • •

In his report, Harsha discussed a recent meeting with representatives from the city of Hillsboro, Hillsboro City Schools, village of Greenfield, Greenfield Exempted Village Schools, Southern State Community College and the Highland County Chamber of Commerce. He said that Greenfield city manager Todd Wilkin organized the meeting with Tasha Werry of Building Bridges to Careers from Marietta.

“We had a really nice meeting,” Harsha said. “It was really nice to learn about what they’re doing up there, and we’re going to try to do some of these same things around here to try to help the workforce. It’s a huge problem for everybody right now. Communicating with the schools and business leaders and community leaders, finding out what the needs are and trying to bring everybody together and try to whether it’s job training, certifications, all these sorts of things.”

Harsha said they intend to hold another meeting, but this introduction to the Marietta program was the start of “a very encouraging conversation.”

More on that program can be found in Angela Shepherd’s stories at https://highlandcountypress.com/Content/In-The-News/In-The-News/Article/Local-leaders-talk-workforce-issues-and-solutions/2/20/68173 and at https://highlandcountypress.com/Content/In-The-News/In-The-News/Article/Local-leaders-form-group-to-build-workforce-plan/2/20/69427.

Harsha also thanked city staff for their “hard work,” as he said he “didn’t spend a lot of time in the mayor’s office” in the past month due to work constraints with his personal business.

“I do want to thank everybody at the city for the hard work that they do because everything’s well taken care of there,” he said. “Every department’s just amazing.”

• • • 

In the citizens’ comments portion of the meeting, David Mayer addressed council regarding a digital sign installed at the former Colony Theatre site uptown.

This is the third straight month council has heard concerns regarding the sign and the second consecutive month Mayer has spoken about alleged issues regarding its approval.

“My suggestion is since it has been somewhat controversial, it may be time to have a legal review by Ohio authorities, such as the State of Ohio Attorney General’s office,” Mayer told council Monday.

Mayer also asked when the council meeting minutes are posted on the city’s website. Eichinger said that they are posted after being approved by council, generally after the next scheduled meeting, and signed.

• • •

At 7:05 p.m., council voted to enter an executive session “regarding some real estate activity,” according to Eichinger. They voted to exit the session at 7:21 p.m.