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Legislation for staggered election terms, updated city emblem among items considered by Hillsboro City Council

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Pictured (l-r) are city law director Randalyn Worley; auditor Dawson Barreras; mayor Justin Harsha; public works superintendent Shawn Adkins; and safety and service director Brianne Abbott. (HCP Photo/Caitlin Forsha)
Caitlin Forsha, The Highland County Press

The official introduction of a resolution to change council members’ election terms, a proposal to update the city emblem and legislation related to Shaffer Park were among the items considered by Hillsboro City Council at their Thursday, April 11 meeting.

Council heard the first reading of a resolution establishing staggered four-year terms of office among members of Hillsboro City Council, as proposed at their regular March meeting.

During “new business” at the March 14 meeting, council voted 7-0 to recommend that city law director Randalyn Worley draft legislation to change the terms for the ward representatives on city council for one time only, in order to stagger the terms for council members.

Current ward representatives are Adam Wilkin (Ward 1), Don Storer (Ward 2), Dan Baucher (Ward 3) and Mary Stanforth (Ward 4). The at-large members are Jason Brown, Greg Maurer and Jo Sanborn.

According to council president Tom Eichinger, this is an idea he presented at a recent council workshop, to avoid a situation in which, potentially, all eight city council members could be replaced in an election. Council clerk Whitney Aliff said that the council members were polled, with the majority indicating that they would rather change the ward seats to two-year terms in the next election and leave the at-large seats as four-year terms. 

“This resolution allows the city council of Hillsboro to instruct the Highland County Board of Elections at the next election cycle for all ward council members to establish the term for two years, and then in the following election cycle and ongoing from that point forward, the ward council members would be reestablished to have terms of four years, thus staggering council's terms and maintaining a level of council continuity,” Eichinger said Thursday. 

According to the language of the ordinance, the four-year council terms were established via resolution in 1987. If approved, the change for the ward seats will be “effective in election year 2025, for terms commencing Jan. 1, 2026, [to] become two-year terms of office for one term.”

In unrelated introduction of legislation, council also heard the first reading of an ordinance amending section 10.18 of the codified ordinances of the City of Hillsboro pertaining to the official emblem. 

Hillsboro Mayor Justin Harsha said it is part of a modern “rebrand” for the city, as the existing emblem was adopted via legislation in 1985.

“The modern new logo will generate a universal and more cohesive branding effort,” Harsha said. “An objective to enhance the city branding efforts has been highlighted in our comprehensive plan, Imagine Hillsboro.”

Brown asked for an “estimate of what this is going to cost” the city.

“So far, it has cost us zero,” Harsha said.

Brown pointed out that there will likely be a cost involved with “lettering vehicles, and city entrances, and probably awnings.”

“City vehicles, there will be some vinyl involved, which is not going to be a whole lot,” Harsha said. “The main thing is going to be like letterheads and everything, which they’re already printed anyway, so it's just simply changing that out. As far as the city entrances, the logo is actually not on the city entrances right now, so I don't foresee that being a cost.”

Sanborn then asked whether the city will have to “get bids” to put the updated logo on city property.

“There are certain things that our internal staff can do,” Harsha said. “With letterheads, it's just as simple as changing it out. As far as vinyl on vehicles, I don't think we have the capabilities of doing that vinyl, so we would obviously have to farm that out.

“We're not looking at a great cost here. We're just looking at rebranding the city and moving the city into the future.”

The proposed new city emblem

Also having its first reading was an ordinance amending section 114.08 of the codified ordinances of the City of Hillsboro pertaining to mobile food vendors.

Wilkin had asked for his committee to review the mobile food vendor policies again, which they did at their April 3 meeting. He said Thursday he feels vendors should “receive an exemption from paying the city’s fees if they are set up at “a special event,” meaning either the Highland County Fair, Hillsboro Festival of the Bells or the Hillsboro Farmers’ Market.

“This committee decided that these special events should receive an exemption,” Wilkin said. “This is because the vendors at these events are in town for only once a year. They pay a heavy fee to be at the event to begin with, and we don't think it would be a good idea to add more fees on top of what they already must pay to serve our community at these special events.”

The legislation keeps the current fees — “a $200 per calendar year fee or $100 one-time use permit” — but lists those three events as being “exempt from mobile food permitting and fees.”

Sanborn, who is on the street and safety committee that reviewed the matter, said Thursday that she “does not feel the farmers’ market” should be included in the legislation.

“It’s not just once,” she said. “It’s multiple times throughout the summer.”

Eichinger asked the committee to look at the proposed legislation again before its second reading.

In other legislation: 

• Council voted to approve an emergency resolution authorizing the mayor to prepare and submit an application for the FY2024 Community Development Allocation Program.

According to Harsha, the city wishes to apply for funding through the Highland County Commissioners Office to pay for fencing improvements at Shaffer Park. The resolution was introduced as an emergency in order to meet application deadlines.

“The city will be asking for $150,000 through the Highland County Community Development Allocation Program,” Harsha said. “The city RLF, the revolving loan fund, has already committed $73,841.88 toward the project with stagnant CDBG [Community Development Block Grant] funds. Basically, those stagnant funds, if we didn't find a project for them, they would have to be sent back to the state, so the revolving loan fund [committee] decided that that is a good project.

“The city is also asking for another $46,158.12, which is actually going to be coming from reimbursements from the Harmony Lake project, so the total reimbursements from that project will be $120,000, so after the committed 40-some thousand, we'll still have a good bit leftover. That is the city’s match.”

As previously reported, the City of Hillsboro has assumed operations at Shaffer Park as February 2024. 

“We've kind of gone through Shaffer Park, and the fencing is terrible,” Harsha said. “That's going to be a priority for us, so that's what we're looking to do.”

Council voted 6-0 to suspend the three-reading rule and 6-0 to approve and adopt the resolution. 

• Also passed as an emergency was an ordinance amending section 36.056 of the codified ordinances of the City of Hillsboro pertaining to change funds, as that legislation is related to Shaffer Park as well. 

“This is just allowing us to have a cash drawer at Shaffer Park, mainly at the concession stand to be able to make change,” city auditor Dawson Barreras said. “We are asking to pass this as an emergency before the baseball season starts.”

The ordinance amends a city-wide cash handling policy approved in August “to allow the parks department to obtain a change fund for daily operations,” with a limit of $500.

• Council voted 6-0 to approve three separate appropriations-related ordinances. 

The first ordinance was to appropriate $16,000 “from baseball registration to be able to maintain Shaffer Park.” 

The second ordinance appropriated $1,250 donated for the city’s annual Hillsboro High School Scholarship Program, as the city plans to award three scholarships this year, according to Harsha.

Finally, council approved a $90,000 appropriation to make the final payment to Distel Construction for the phase three storm sewer project.

“This funding will be reimbursed right back to us through a house bill from the state, and we should be getting that any day now,” Barreras said.

• Council voted 6-0 to approve an ordinance amending section 110.99 of the Codified Ordinances of the City of Hillsboro pertaining to amusement device penalties, after hearing its third reading.

As explained by finance committee chair Stanforth in February, the current code says that penalties for violations related to amusement devices, billiard parlors and arcades “were to be determined by the city council,” which they do not legally have the authority to do.

“It is up to the law director to get it to municipal court, and they will determine those,” she said.

The current language in the city code, which was last updated in 1980, says,  “Any exhibitor who fails, refuses or neglects to pay the tax or obtain the license required by 110.15 through 110.17, shall be subject to a fine as determined by City Council,” which is later raised to “a first-degree misdemeanor” after “conviction of a second or subsequent offense.” Separately, violations of sections 110.30 or 110.31 are classified as a “minor misdemeanor,” then raised to a fourth-degree misdemeanor. 

The new ordinance will change the language to say that violations of any of those sections “shall constitute a minor misdemeanor, upon the first violation within one year, and shall be punishable by a fine not to exceed the maximum penalty for a minor misdemeanor described by law.” Any subsequent violations would be raised to “a fourth-degree misdemeanor,” the new legislation says.

If “any owner, operator, manager or any combination thereof of a particular billiard parlor or amusement arcades or of any licensee of one or more amusement devices” is found to be in violation for a third time in a one-year period, they are subject to suspension of “the licenses for all amusement devices located therein … for a period of not less than 15 days and not more than year, upon application for suspension to the Hillsboro Municipal Court by the Law Director of the city,” the ordinance says. This is in keeping with the current code.

Worley told council that the “level of misdemeanor” classified in the revised legislation is “set by statute.”

• An ordinance amending section 51.076 of the codified ordinances of the City of Hillsboro pertaining to water rates had its second reading, with no action or discussion.

• Council voted 4-2 to approve an Ohio Department of Transportation resolution for a long-discussed pedestrian safety project in uptown Hillsboro. Read more at:….

In other discussion:

• Safety and service director Brianne Abbott reminded citizens of the need to adhere to the city’s “dog control regulations” during her report to council.

Earlier in the meeting, during citizens’ comments, local resident Pam Limes suggested that “maybe the whole town needed a refresher course in what they need to do to contain their dogs.

“Some people are not following the leash laws,” Limes said. “Most people do, but it has caused some problems in people walking their dogs and then the dogs fight.”

Abbott said she had met with Limes to discuss her concerns, while the city has “received a few other inquiries in regards to loose and vicious dogs.” She referred the community to review Chapter 90 of the city’s code, which includes sections on vicious dogs; dogs on streets or public grounds; noisy dogs; dogs trespassing on the property of another; and rabies control/inoculation. Regulations on animals can be found at:….

In other news, Abbott announced the city has hired a new code enforcement officer, Seth Brose.

“I know many of you have met him, either at city hall or attending select committee meetings,” Abbott said. “He is off to a great start with enforcement of the city code of ordinances and property maintenance codes. With spring upon us, we wanted to remind council and residents of some of the items Seth will be enforcing. Those items include tall grass; swimming pool enclosures; keeping sidewalks/driveways in proper repair; parking location compliance, namely parking in landscaped areas; and disposal of rubbish. 

“If anyone has questions in regards to the matters of compliance, I would invite you to meet with Mr. Brose to discuss.” 

Also in her report, Abbott told council that the city was not among the initial Appalachian Community Grant awardees, as the city applied for funding for their planned amphitheater project at Crossroads Park.

“However, additional award dates are expected in the upcoming weeks,” she said. “Fingers crossed that we will be selected in those funding rounds.”

For updates on other ongoing park projects, construction on a new ADA-compliant playground at Harmony Lake and pickleball courts at the Railroad Street Park are “anticipated to start installation next month,” Abbott said.

Regarding infrastructure improvements, Abbott said that the Roberts Lane extension project is still on track for an August completion; “the North High Street lead line replacement is set to begin this spring, and there are additional punch list items that will be completed for the phase three storm sewer project;” and the city is reviewing bids for previously announced paving on various city streets.

“The bids came in quite a bit lower than the estimate,” Abbott said. “With that being said, there's a possibility that we can add additional paving for this year, and if so, you'll see legislation coming before you soon.”

At their December 2023 meeting, council voted to approve “$1 million worth of paving” in 2024, including some or all of West Walnut, Johnson, East South, East and West Pleasant, Oak, Vine and South Elm streets. 

Abbott reported eight commercial and nine residential permits issued by the building department in March, while the department is also working with Marriott Hotel developers on “revising plans for compliance.” The developers “have advised that they intend to break ground in the third quarter of this year,” she said. 

In other private developments, Abbott said the city was told that Horizon’s fiber to home project is not being impacted by the company’s recently announced merger/rebrand.

Upcoming city events outlined in Abbott’s report include a trout fishing day at Harmony Lake planned for April 27 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.; the “Burgers in the Boro” community cookout uptown, set from May 3 from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.; and the return of the Hillsboro Farmers’ Market uptown, scheduled for May 18.
• Along with discussing the aforementioned food vendor legislation, the street and safety committee reviewed park security, two-hour parking at their April 3 meeting, according to chair Wilkin.

At the last regular council meeting, Wilkin said that the “committee heard from Mr. Tim Hamilton, who already handles security systems for some of the city’s other properties,” on Feb. 26 and asked Hamilton to provide a plan and quote for park security services. Discussion of the specifics for that plan was held April 3 in executive session, Wilkin said, but the cost would be $289 per month. The committee has recommended “to bring this offer to full council” for further discussion.

Wilkin said the committee is still reviewing options for uptown parking and is “reaching out to the community before making any decisions.” 

• Storer reported that the parks committee met March 21 to discuss the possibility of acquiring the Hillsboro pool formerly owned/operated by the Hillsboro Swim Organization. 

Since the HSO has since voted to sell the pool at auction, Storer asked to have the pool removed from his committee.

• Although utilities committee chair Greg Maurer was absent, Eichinger read an update from senior energy consultant John Theibert of Aspen Energy regarding the first five months of the city’s electric aggregation program.

According to Theibert, participants have saved a total of $329,394.44 since November with a fixed price of $0.0659 compared to AEP’s current rate of $0.1132. Savings have ranged from $26,316.40 the first month to as much as $91,747.62 in the month of January. 

“It's been quite well received, as far as saving money for people,” Eichinger said. “I'm sure we'll be getting additional updates on that as the year goes on. 

“If you haven't switched, you might want to look at it, because obviously people are saving money on electric by signing up.”

• During the citizens’ comments portion of the meeting — along with speaking about the leash laws — Limes presented a petition to city administration for paving Westover Drive and Meadow Lane, as she said the document had 48 signatures.

“I’d asked the question of when we might be able to get some paving on Westover and Meadow Lane,” she said. “There are two people in administration that live on those streets, and they will not do the paving or anything until they're no longer in office.”

Limes said the residents are asking the city to “just consider it.

“We're not, you know, trying to say we want to be first or whatever,” Limes said. “If we could get on the budget, maybe, for ’25 or ’26, we’ll take it, but right now we have no chance.”

Limes said that in addition to paving, “we have very bad water lines out there,” with low pressure. She asked if the city could look into that as well.

Hillsboro resident Leah Rose also shared a handout with administration and council members, particularly the parks committee, to review regarding suggestions for park security and electricity. Council thanked her for the information.

• At the beginning of the meeting, council voted 6-0 to excuse the absence of Maurer, due to work commitments.

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Good ol boys (not verified)

16 April 2024

And who would benefit from changing the logo as the mayor said it's just a small charge? This just stinks.

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