Hillsboro city council member Patty Day (second from left) reads from her notes as council members (l-r) Claudia Klein, Tom Eichinger (back), Greg Maurer and Mark Middleton look on. Also pictured in background is clerk Kimberly Newman. (HCP Photos/Caitlin Forsha)
Hillsboro city council member Patty Day (second from left) reads from her notes as council members (l-r) Claudia Klein, Tom Eichinger (back), Greg Maurer and Mark Middleton look on. Also pictured in background is clerk Kimberly Newman. (HCP Photos/Caitlin Forsha)
During over two hours’ worth of meetings Monday, July 12, Hillsboro city council members passed several items of legislation, including a resolution for the 2022 tax budget.

Prior to council’s regular meeting, a hearing was held on the 2022 tax budget. Auditor Alex Butler told council during that hearing that in 2021, he “erred on the side of caution” due to uncertainty with revenues due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It looks like things have been good to us in 2021,” he said.

The 2022 tax budget proposal presented by Butler shows estimated revenues of $4,804,075, up $300,000 over 2021, and estimated expenditures of $4,554,450, a little more than $250,000 over 2021.

Butler pointed out that this also reflects an “estimated carryover of $249,625.”

“The takeaway is we anticipate to bring in more than we spend,” he said.

Council voted 7-0 to approve the resolution adopting a proposed 2022 tax budget for the city of Hillsboro.

Also during Monday night’s meeting, council voted 7-0 to suspend the three-reading rule and to approve and adopt a resolution to declare a blighted area of the city.

As previously reported, four separate ordinances proposing the establishment of Tax Increment Equivalent funds (TIFs) were presented at the June city council meeting, and they had their second readings Monday. Respectively, these ordinances would 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.”

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.”

Safety and service director Brianne Abbott told council last month that “because Fenner Ridge Apartments are residential in nature,” it was determined that “additional legislation” would be necessary.

During the committee reports, street and safety committee chair Adam Wilkin reported that his committee met to discuss the proposed legislation. According to Wilkin, the committee spent most of the meeting speaking to public works superintendent Shawn Adkins and economic development director Kirby Ellison and asking questions about “what TIFs are and how they work.” The committee shared that information with the rest of council prior to Monday night’s meeting.

Committee member Patty Day pointed out that also discussed was the definition of “blight,” which Wilkin read to council Monday, taken directly from the Ohio Revised Code. One of the stipulations for declaring land “blighted” includes property that is “vacant or contains an abandoned structure,” he said.

“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. “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.”

When the resolution was introduced, Abbott said the city was requesting “the suspension of the three-reading rule, since this needs to take place prior to the passage of” the proposed ordinance to establish the TIF, which is due for a vote in August.

Council voted 7-0 to suspend the three-reading rule and to approve and adopt the resolution.

Also during the ordinances and resolutions portion of the meeting, a resolution to bid paving related to the pedestrian bridge connecting Liberty and Shaffer parks was introduced.

According to the resolution, “Sunesis was awarded the bid for the bridge and some paving, and the award came in much lower than the estimate so additional paving was added via a change order and a quote from Sunesis was obtained. Sunesis’ quote for the additional paving is much higher than anticipated, therefore, it is in the interest of the City to bid that new portion of the project and accept the lowest and best bid.”

“We’d like to request that council allow us to seek new bids, with the anticipation of a much lower cost,” Abbott said. “If council would like to see the project happen this year, we would need to suspend the three-reading rule for the legislation due to the timeline and weather. Otherwise, without the suspension, the project would happen in the spring.”

Council member Ann Morris asked about the original bid.

“Sunesis was awarded the bid, and the bid came in significantly lower than the engineering estimate, so we were able to add paving at Shaffer Park for both the girls’ and boys’ diamonds,” Abbott said. “But Sunesis subcontracts the paving; therefore, it’s much higher than what we could potentially get if we were to rebid just the paving portion.”

After a question from Day, Abbott clarified that the money is “already appropriated” and available.

Council voted 7-0 to suspend the three-reading rule and to approve and adopt the resolution.

In other action, council voted 7-0 to approve a resolution to supplement appropriations within the recreation fund of the city in the amount of $1,000, to reflect a donation from a local veterans’ organization for volunteers of the Liberty Park Veterans Memorial maintenance to use “at their discretion,” according to Butler.

• As mentioned in a separate article, council also voted 5-2 (with Day and Morris dissenting) to pass a resolution to approve and ratify Resolution 20-47, which was passed in November despite the legislation never having been drafted. (For more, go to: https://highlandcountypress.com/Content/In-The-News/In-The-News/Article/Hillsboro-council-debates-Colony-sign-potential-conflicts/2/20/69985.)

Council also heard the second reading of a resolution to amend and codify Chapter 30 of the Hillsboro Code of Ordinances as to council rules.

There were also two other items of legislation on the agenda that were ultimately not considered.

A proposed “resolution to make findings on [the] culvert failure” on North High Street and to “order repairs and declare an emergency” was tabled, as Abbott said the city is hoping the property owner will resolve the issue.

“We were unable to make any contact with the property owner for several weeks, after initially making contact the night of [the incident],” she said. “However, Shawn made contact with the property owner today, and he has the intent to remedy the situation. Unless that does not happen, you will not see this legislation again.”

Day asked if the property owner was able to give “a timeline” of when the repairs may be made. Abbott said that Ellison is helping research possible “funding opportunities” to offset some of the expenses.

Also on the agenda was an “ordinance to repeal the license fee associated with amusement devices in the City of Hillsboro,” introduced by Morris.

“I would suggest that since there’s been no discussion about this at all, that I would like to move this into the finance committee to review, and then we’ll actually have a formal first reading at the next council meeting,” Eichinger said.

• • •

A resolution to authorize the mayor to enter into an agreement with the Community Improvement Corporation for the Railroad Street City Park property also had its second reading Monday and some discussion in the committee reports.

According to language in the resolution as well as mayor Justin Harsha’s comments to council in June, this is being proposed “for economic development purposes.”

Committee chair Claudia Klein discussed the community enhancement committee’s meeting to discuss the resolution. She said that the committee voted 2-0, with Morris abstaining, to recommend that council suspend the three-reading rule and approve the resolution. However, she told council Monday that she had changed her mind.

“After looking over everything, I am not going to recommend that it go through the suspension of the three-reading rule,” Klein said. “It only has one more reading. Thirty days isn’t going to make that big a difference, so we shouldn’t waste a suspension of the three-reading rule when it’s that close to being finished.”

Morris also commented on the committee meeting, which was attended by Eichinger, council clerk/city administrative assistant Kimberly Newman, economic development assistant/code enforcement officer Lauren Walker, Ellison and Adkins as well as the three councilwomen who serve on the committee, despite it being held at “3 o’clock in the afternoon on a Wednesday.”

“At the beginning portion of the meeting, the council president took the meeting over from the committee chair, and several attendees also spoke without being recognized by the committee chair, which is protocol,” Morris said. “There was only one topic on the agenda, and 30 minutes were spent by the city building attendees disagreeing with me about my stand, my vote and my opinion on Resolution 21-33 [the Railroad Street Park resolution]. I will not be subjected to this behavior in the future.”

During the citizens’ comments portion of the meeting, Hillsboro planning commission member Tracy Aranyos made similar allegations to Morris’s comments.

“I’ve talked to several committee members, and there’s more than me that feel this way,” Aranyos said. “We feel like when we have our committee meetings, some of the administration goes to all of our committee meetings, and it seems like they kind of hijack, or kind of take over, and instead of kind of listening, they kind of take over and try to persuade you how to vote or convince you how they’d like you to go.

“We have disagreements, things get heated and we start exchanging sarcastic comments or bad comments before, during and after. I would hope that we can stop that and maybe take a new path.”

• • •

In other discussion:

• After the reading of the monthly reports by title only, Day — who is also a member, albeit not the chair, of the utilities committee — asked to speak about some of the reports in council’s packet. She said she contacted department heads with concerns and questions about the reports.

The wastewater treatment plant report included mention of “a wiring issue causing the influent screens and compactors to not run properly” and another wiring issue causing actuator problems.

“I asked him if he had any suggestions or comments to council as a whole that would help us improve a better understanding of what his needs are in the future,” Day said. “With regard to the faulty wiring, the transformers are being looked at because right now, putting in a transformer may help with the faulty wiring issue with the new actuator.”

Day also discussed the high level of wastewater treated per day, which she said the city needs to “take an additional look at” to address “these issues,” and she suggested that the utilities committee visit the wastewater treatment plant.

Although she said she had not yet received a reply on the water department report, Day told council that she had questions on the year-to-date totals for 2020 put on the report for comparison and the “significant drop in all areas” — water, sewer and storm sewer sales — compared to other years.

Ellison said that drop was attributed to the pandemic. “A lot of places did not have to pay their utility bills, and a lot of business were not working,” she said. “Schools were not in session. The water just was not used.”

Day said that she thought “there would be more use because everyone was at home, but if you’re looking at businesses, that would make sense.”

• Although she did not have a committee report, Morris gave “a shoutout” to Rick Tipton and Sherry Hixson for their efforts at Liberty Park.

For more from Monday night’s meeting, click the links below.