Pictured at the June 10 meeting are Hillsboro City Council clerk Heather Collins and council members Brandon Leeth and Adam Wilkin. (HCP photo by Caitlin Forsha.)
Pictured at the June 10 meeting are Hillsboro City Council clerk Heather Collins and council members Brandon Leeth and Adam Wilkin. (HCP photo by Caitlin Forsha.)

After months of meetings and discussion conducted by the utilities committee, Hillsboro City Council heard the first reading of an ordinance to establish a stormwater utility for the city of Hillsboro Monday, June 10 during their regular meeting.

The idea had been suggested in 2017 by Gary Silcott of Stantec Engineering, who at the time was serving as “consulting safety and service director” for the city. Silcott has also given presentations to the city on how to implement this program.

According to the legislation, “with a base charge, the storm sewer improvements will increase the value and use of parcels in the city.”

“The number of parcels in Hillsboro is approximately 8,813, and the amount of revenue the storm sewer utility would generate at expected ERUs [Equivalent Residential Units], with the cost of loans, the annual service debt through DEFA would approximate $244,000 a year,” the proposed legislation says.

Brandon Leeth, who is the chair of council’s utilities committee, explained the proposed stormwater utility Monday night.

“As everyone in Hillsboro knows, we have a problem with our stormwater diversion,” Leeth said. “It slowly deteriorates the streets, deteriorates the sidewalks, and it needs to be put in its proper place.”

With assistance from grant writer/administrative assistant Kirby Ellison and public works superintendent Shawn Adkins, Leeth said the city “took the budget from the street department and the water distribution department and the sewer collection department, and we mimicked that budget to create a department itself that will be specifically designed to take care of the stormwater utility.”

Leeth said “most cities around the area actually have a stormwater utility program that’s separate from another department.”

“That’s going to create a couple new positions,” Leeth said. “Of course, everybody should ask, ‘Where’s the money going to come from?’ Well, the money’s going to come from all of us within the city of Hillsboro.”

As written, the legislation says an ERU is “equal to 2,899 square feet of measured impervious area and is equal to the average amount of impervious area of typical residential properties within the city.”

“All properties having impervious area within the city shall be assigned an Equivalent Residential Unit (ERU), or a multiple thereof, which will be at a minimum one ERU,” the proposed ordinance reads. “All improved single-family residential properties are assigned one ERU. A flat rate will apply to all single-family residential properties."

“All properties having an impervious area which are not improved single-family residential properties are to be assigned by the Director of Public Service an ERU multiple based upon the properties’ estimated impervious area (in square feet) divided by 2,899 square feet (one ERU).”

The charge is proposed as “$5 per month per ERU,” beginning Oct. 1, if the ordinance passes.

“We’re thinking $500,000 per year is what it’s going to take to run the department,” Leeth said. “We’ve really done our homework, and we’ve really looked at everything it takes to create a utility and to run that department.”

Under the ERU calculation, Leeth said, “you could see a bill for $5, $8, $10” each month.

“To give you an example, places with big parking lots, they have a lot of ERUs,” Leeth said. “An ERU is an amount of area that the rainwater runs right off. For a house, it would be your roof and it would be your driveway. For someone like Walmart, their roof is 10 times bigger – their parking lot, their roadway. We went through each area and determined a cost value for each area.”

Through the money generated through this proposed ordinance, Leeth said the city will be able to “repair the stormwater runoff lines.”

“We have to dig these lines up, and we have to replace a lot of piping,” Leeth said. “We’re going to have to dig up the street, so when we dig up the street — whatever we have to do to it when we dig it up, we have to put back.”

Leeth said it will be a “twofold benefit” as it will help in repairing the streets damaged in the process of repairing the stormwater lines, but “at the end of the day, we’re all going to have to pay for this.”

“It’s something that this city, we feel, really needs,” Leeth said. “This is going to take many years.

“We’ve got the engineers from Stantec and we do have a plan, and we’re going to do this in phases, starting with the lowest point going back to the highest point. It’s going to take about 11 years to do. It’s not going to be done tomorrow, but it is something that I think that you guys in five years are all going to be like ‘wow, this was amazing.’ But it’s something that’s going to cost money.”

Council president Tom Eichinger asked if the committee had conducted any “public hearings” on the proposal. Leeth said that “several” such hearings had been held, with the city receiving input from some citizens whose properties have had flooding due to the stormwater issues.

Adkins also asked to speak regarding citizens with flooding issues, after Leeth said “back in the ’70s, people thought it would be a great idea to connect your downspouts to the sewer lines,” which is “definitely not” the case. Adkins said his department has inspected six such houses thus far and invited other homeowners to look into a program offered by his department.

“We’re doing a pilot program right now,” Adkins said. “We’re going to pay to disconnect your basement drains. We’ll put a sump pump in and put a new lateral in and make sure all your downspouts are disconnected. I budgeted $100,000 to do it, so when the $100,000 is gone we’re going to hopefully try to do it again next year, but we’ve only had six people contact us. We’d really like to get some more participation.”

Leeth encouraged citizens with questions regarding the stormwater utility to contact him.

• • •

South Central Power president and CEO Rick Lemonds announced to the city of Hillsboro administration and council during Monday night’s meeting that they will be moving their business outside the city limits in the next few years.

South Central Power’s Hillsboro office has been located at 110 Danville Pike for decades.

“Officially, we decided that we will be moving our location,” Lemonds told council and city administrators Monday. “We’ve acquired a piece of property nine miles east of the city, and we’re in the process of doing preliminary architectural and other engineering. We expect to break ground sometime late winter or early spring.”

Lemonds thanked the city administrators for their assistance but said that the company has “started to focus more heavily east of town.”

Council member Claudia Klein asked if the company knew when they would be moving out of the city.

“We do not yet have our architectural agreement signed,” Lemonds said. “All indications are probably two years from about right now. That’s what I would say is our goal, at least.”

Lemonds said a formal announcement from the company is forthcoming.

• • •

In his report, Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings said that he and several city council members met with potential hotel developers from Michigan, who are interested in a property at the intersection of state Route 73 and Harry Sauner Road.

“The developer wanted to know if the city would be supportive of this effort, which I assured him we would be,” Hastings said. “They wanted to see a TIFF [Tax Increment Financing Funds] designation on that site.

“I told him we would do everything possible in this regard.”

Council voted unanimously Monday to suspend the three-reading rule and to approve and adopt an ordinance “declaring improvements to parcels of real property located in the City of Hillsboro to be a public purpose under Section 5709.40 of the Ohio Revised Code, exempting such improvements from real property taxation and establishing a tax increment equivalent fund.”

The ordinance, council president Tom Eichinger said, is “the first of many steps” for the proposed hotel development and “establishes the possibility for a TIFF property.”

As previously reported, in May council passed a resolution to commit $200,000 of currently held TIFF (Tax Increment Financing Funds) money to the drainage infrastructure at Harry Sauner Road and state Route 73 for “a proposed project for construction of a facility beneficial to the commercial development of the city of Hillsboro.”

Hastings said he would also be meeting with a “TIFF attorney” to “see how to best structure one for this particular project so as to be beneficial for both the developer and the city.”

Hastings also announced that Nicole Chambers has been appointed to the Design Review Board.

• • •

In the Hillsboro Planning Commission report, Hastings said that the commission discussed “changes of standards and verbiage in the residential code by the OBBS” — the Ohio Board of Building Standards. According to the OBBS website, the changes will be going into effect July 1. Hastings said that city officials will be attending “informational sessions” to learn more.

In related action, council voted 4-2 to approve and adopt a resolution “to authorize the Hillsboro Planning Commission to control the height, design and location of buildings in the City of Hillsboro pursuant to Ohio Revised Code 713.04.”

Council member Mary Stanforth asked if this resolution referred to historic or residential properties.

“This is primarily new construction or additions to existing properties, as I understand it,” Eichinger said.

Hastings said it would affect “all residential properties within the city and county” under the new state guidelines.

“All we’re following is what the state of Ohio is now giving us,” Hastings said. “Part of the reason that they’re forming this is they’re probably required to by the ORC.

“The Ohio Building Department wants each municipality to, I’m sure, oversee some of this.”

Eichinger said “the board is simply going to be the review board if there is an appeal.”

Leeth asked why the city needs to appoint a review board if it’s “already in the ORC.”

City law director Fred Beery responded that “rather than set up another board” to review appeals based on the building department, safety and service director Mel McKenzie requested that the planning commission be appointed by council to hear appeals.

Eichinger encouraged city officials to attend the aforementioned meetings to learn more about the changes to the Ohio residential code.

Following the discussion, a motion by council member Ann Morris to adopt the legislation passed, with Leeth and Stanforth voting against it. Beery confirmed to The Highland County Press after the meeting that suspension of the three-reading rule was not required for that resolution.

• • •

In council committee reports:

• Finance committee chair Justin Harsha recommended two appointments to the Tax Review Board, Tim O’Hara and Tara Pendell. Council voted 6-0 to approve the appointments.

• Morris reported that the property maintenance and restoration committee is continuing discussions on possible uses for the former Hillsboro firehouse property. Members of the committee are conducting research on a possible renovation of the building into a permanent council chambers location, including obtaining quotes on furniture and blueprints and researching financing options. Members will discuss their findings at their next meeting, Morris said.

• Stanforth reported that the civil service and employee relations committee met and reviewed Ordinance No. 2019-04, which was introduced at the May meeting. The committee also began reviewing the updated personnel manual and noting recommended changes.

• • •

In other action:

• Council voted 6-0 to suspend the three-reading rule, and to approve and adopt, a preliminary resolution outlining an agreement between the Ohio Department of Transportation and the City of Hillsboro to perform a sidewalk project in the fiscal year 2022.

• Council heard the second reading of an ordinance to amend section 32.30 of the city code to provide for the composition of the police department. 

For more on the meeting, go to: https://highlandcountypress.com/Content/Default/Rotator-Articles-/Article/City-investor-debate-over-uptown-properties/-3/546/50908