Hillsboro mayor Justin Harsha, in foreground, gives a report to Hillsboro city council as (back, l-r) council members Tom Eichinger and Greg Maurer, council clerk Kimberly Newman and Hillsboro Police Chief Eric Daniels look on. (HCP Photo/Caitlin Forsha)
Hillsboro mayor Justin Harsha, in foreground, gives a report to Hillsboro city council as (back, l-r) council members Tom Eichinger and Greg Maurer, council clerk Kimberly Newman and Hillsboro Police Chief Eric Daniels look on. (HCP Photo/Caitlin Forsha)
A possible road extension, a new police vehicle and a property owner’s request regarding a culvert failure were among the proposals presented by the mayor of Hillsboro during the Tuesday, Oct. 12 Hillsboro city council meeting.

Hillsboro mayor Justin Harsha discussed initial plans for a proposed extension of Fenner Avenue at the beginning of his report to council Tuesday evening. (The monthly meeting was delayed a day due to the Oct. 11 holiday.)

“We’ve been working at the city building, planning and trying to get things moving on the Roberts Lane/Fenner Avenue extension,” Harsha told council. “It’s always been a possibility of backing behind the hospital and coming down Roberts Lane in front of the urgent care and Mexican restaurant.

“We need some more room for commercial land. We’re kind of running out. We’re working on some plans. We’ve got some preliminary drawings, but nothing solid. We will be presenting that to the planning commission and having a public hearing on that to get some comments on it.”

As previously reported, a hearing will be held Oct. 18 at 5:30 p.m. at the old firehouse on Governor Trimble Place. Anyone interested may comment during the hearing, submit a written comment or request to view the related documents by contacting Kimberly Newman at 130 N. High Street, Hillsboro, Ohio 45133 or (937) 393-5219.

“It’s a big project, very much needed for Hillsboro,” Harsha said.

Council member Patty Day said that previous discussions have indicated that “it’s difficult to expand out our city limits because of our sewer issues that we’ve had.” She asked how this new proposed extension “would impact our sewer problems.”

“Any plans we’re looking at are going to include streets, curbs, gutters, sidewalks, lighting and all the infrastructure,” Harsha said.

He referred the question of “sewer problems” to public works superintendent Shawn Adkins, who said, “That’ll be a new system.”

“We do have some agreements with the property owners for this project in place for construction and permanent easements,” Harsha added. “We’ve done some groundwork on it. There’s not even use talking about it unless the property owners were all on board with the project.

“This is kind of the very beginning of everything, and I’m sure you’ll be hearing a lot more about it moving forward.”

Also during Harsha’s report, he discussed a proposal for a new police utility vehicle, using funds already appropriated in the police budget.

As previously reported, in April, council passed a resolution to increase appropriations by $35,000 to the Police Department Professional Services line item. At that time, council was told that the money would be used to pay for repairs to the police department building’s roof, which would later be paid for by the city’s insurance.

Harsha told council Tuesday that the city “didn’t think insurance was going to” pay for the roof but later did, and the money is still appropriated in the police budget.

Harsha said Police Chief Eric Daniels indicated “there’s a need for a utility vehicle for a few purposes,” including to “monitor our trail systems” and to use during uptown events.

“A lot of other municipalities are using those now,” Harsha said. “I think it would be a big help.”

Council member Greg Maurer asked about the “cost of the ATV versus” the appropriations made for the roof repair. Harsha and Daniels said the utility vehicle was estimated to be approximately $29,800, compared to the $35,000 appropriated.

“What happened was earlier in the year, we had a leaky roof,” Daniels said. “The initial assessment from the insurance, they alluded that they were not going to pay for the damage.

“Lo and behold, sometime during the process, the insurance finally said they were going to make a payment, so I have $35,000 sitting in a line item.”

Daniels told council that the department could use the utility vehicle to safely access the trails without “offroading,” as well as for monitoring events such as “the Festival of the Bells, or 5Ks, or uptown enforcement.”

“My understanding was the original appropriation did not specifically mention the roof,” council president Tom Eichinger said. “The money is not officially earmarked for the roof, so it could be diverted to this. If you have an issue with that, you need to speak up. Otherwise, I think it should be able to go forward.”

Council member Ann Morris asked what council was told “the money was for” when the original resolution was introduced. “There probably was a reason given,” she said.

“The roof,” city auditor Alex Butler said. “It was mentioned in discussion, but the legislation did not specify that.”

Both Morris and Day said that they felt the reasons for the legislation should be included in the legislation itself. Day said that it would serve as a “paper trail.”

“As far as how appropriation increases are presented, I just use the standard format that has always been used,” Butler said. “If council would require a different format, that’s fine. I would just need to know how that needs to be presented.

“My understanding is it’s specifying the line item and dollar amount, and then it’s always in discussion, the driver behind the piece of legislation. I don’t recall legislation to increase appropriation that’s been presented where the driver behind that has not been disclosed, but it’s not part of the actual legislation.”

Morris again said it would be “good practice” to include the purpose in the legislation text.

“I’m not opposed,” Butler said. “I just want to be clear that appropriation increases are not presented to council, or have not been presented to council, where the motivation is intentionally ambiguous.

“That’s why we’re having the conversation that we just had about the ATV. The discussion of that legislation — the driver of that legislation — was to replace, or to repair, the police department roof. That’s what you were told when you voted on it. Circumstances have changed, so now we’re having that conversation again.”

Council member Mary Stanforth asked if a motion was required for the police department to move forward. Eichinger said “not necessarily,” but that they “surely could” if they wanted to.

“We don’t need new legislation,” he said. “We can just do it as a motion on the floor.”

Daniels pointed out that it’s “not a diversion” of funds, as it’s “already in the budget.”

Day moved for “an affirmation” that the funds originally approved for roof repairs may be used for the ATV purchase. The motion passed, 6-0.

For a fourth straight meeting, a culvert failure on North High Street was also addressed, as Harsha asked that a request from the property owner be placed in committee.

As previously reported, crews from the City of Hillsboro responded to the Hillsboro Plaza shopping center during the overnight hours of June 18-19, after a culvert pipe was washed out of a ditch during a storm, causing a large sinkhole. As of Oct. 12, the culvert pipe remains in the parking lot, and there is damage to the driveway.

In August, council voted to pass a resolution to “make findings on the culvert failure at a North High Street property and order repairs and declare an emergency.” The resolution was, among other things, “directing” the property owner “to fill or drain the lot, remove the putrid substance or the obstructions, and if necessary, enlarge the culverts or covered drains to meet the requirements thereof.”

Harsha said Tuesday that “there are a few things we need to discuss” in committee, including “whether the city can help with funding” the repairs. The property owner is requesting that the city “upfront the costs and assess taxes,” according to the mayor.

“My understanding was that the owner is hoping to be able to put this on his taxes over a 10-year period, but if that happens, the city has to front that [money] first,” Eichinger said. “He was also asking us to donate some money to the project. Is that also correct?”

“He’s looking for help funding it, yes,” Harsha said.

Eichinger placed the culvert issue in the finance committee.

Also included in the mayor’s report:

• Harsha told council that Hillsboro Police Officer Tim Bell is retiring “after 33 years of serving and protecting our city.” A retirement party will be held Oct. 30 from 2-4 p.m. at the Hillsboro police station.

“This has been an amazing commitment given to our community, and I would like to personally thank him for his hard work and dedication to Hillsboro,” Harsha said. “I wish him all the best, and he will be greatly missed.”

• Harsha announced the appointment of Bill Sims to the Hillsboro Planning Commission as well as the resignation of Avery Applegate from the Design Review Board.

He thanked Applegate “for her many years of volunteering for the city, not only as a member of the DRB but also for her efforts in the beautification of the Colony Park.”

• The mayor said that he visited with Hillsboro kindergarteners the previous week, as they visited the old Hillsboro firehouse and decorated cookies from White’s Bakery for a field trip.

“I was fortunate enough to go over there and meet all the kindergarten students,” Harsha said. “It was a lot of fun.”

• Council also approved seven ordinances and resolutions, including authorizing a resolution for the installation of car charging stations in the city that will be fully funded through a grant.

For more, see the story at: https://highlandcountypress.com/Content/In-The-News/In-The-News/Article/Hillsboro-City-Council-OKs-grant-funded-car-charging-stations-other-legislation/2/20/72175.