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Hillsboro City Council members bicker over food vendor ordinance; OK minimum water rate policy

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Pictured (l-r) are Hillsboro City Council members Adam Wilkin, Mary Stanforth, Greg Maurer, Jason Brown, Dan Baucher, Don Storer, Jo Sanborn and Tom Eichinger. (HCP Photo/Stephen Forsha)
Caitlin Forsha, The Highland County Press

Hillsboro City Council members argued over a revision to a food vendor ordinance and agreed to set minimum water rates during a special meeting to consider their regular agenda Tuesday, May 21. 

The meeting was held five days later than usual, as the regularly scheduled meeting Thursday, May 16 was canceled due to lack of a quorum. That marks the second such occurrence this calendar year, as the regular Hillsboro City Council meeting scheduled for Jan. 11 was also canceled but rescheduled for a special meeting Jan. 31. 

Council president Tom Eichinger called attention to this issue in comments to council at the start of Tuesday’s meeting.

“I want to point out that the regular meetings that we have are actually part of our ordinances, and the city council actually voted on having those meetings on a particular day of each month,” Eichinger said. “It is published at the beginning of the year, or actually prior to the beginning of the year, so everybody, both in the public and in council, is aware of that.”

As noted by Eichinger, city council members voted in January 2022 to change the long-standing meeting schedule from the second Monday of the month to the Thursday after the second Monday. Six of the seven current voting council members were seated at the time of that vote.

“The administration makes plans based on when they expect these meetings to take place, and when there are problems in order to have the right number of people present in order to move forward on things, that can upset a lot of different situations that are trying to get done,” Eichinger said. “Some of the legislation, as you well know, needs to be acted on quickly because of government regs that come down from the state or even from the county, etc. 

“I realize that there are things that come up, and there are things that just can't change in some circumstances. But I would like to demand all of you to take a hard look at that schedule, and do everything you can to make yourself available on the dates that we said we would meet, so we don't have to do as many special council meetings like the one we're having this evening.”

Things got chippy again later in the meeting during discussions of a revised ordinance amending section 114.08 of the codified ordinances of the City of Hillsboro pertaining to mobile food vendors.

As previously reported, a different version of the ordinance had its first reading in April. That legislation proposed to keep the current fees — “a $200 per calendar year fee or $100 one-time use permit” — but lists the Highland County Fair, Hillsboro Festival of the Bells or the Hillsboro Farmers’ Market as being “exempt from mobile food permitting and fees.”

Council member Jo Sanborn, who is on the street and safety committee that reviewed the matter, said in April that she “does not feel the farmers’ market” should be included in the legislation, and as a result, Eichinger asked the committee to look at the proposed legislation again before its second reading.

According to committee chair Adam Wilkin, during an April 24 street and safety committee meeting, the committee voted 3-0 to instead recommend waiving all fees altogether for food vendors.

The revised ordinance says, “Effective Jan. 1, 2025, any person submitting a mobile food vehicle or cart application shall no longer pay the $200 calendar year fee or $100 one-time use permit fee.” It continues to list the Festival of the Bells, Highland County Fair and Hillsboro Farmers Market as being exempt from fees in 2024.

“Currently, the city has a $200 fee for food vendors that is good for a calendar year and a $100 fee that is good for one day,” Wilkin said in his report. “This committee decided that we would like to see all permit fees removed for all vendors beginning in 2025. We would also like to see the permit fees waived for special events that are coming up in 2024. Those events are the Highland County Fair, the Festival of the Bells and the Hillsboro Farmers’ Market.

“To be clear, the food vendors will still be required to get a permit as usual, but beginning in 2025, no more fees.”

Later in the meeting, when the second reading was held, Sanborn read a prepared statement speaking out against the legislation.

“I just want to acknowledge the fact that all the permanent businesses in that town are required to pay property taxes, which is what I was trying to say at the last meeting,” Sanborn said. “One of the reasons the mobile vendors were asked to pay a permit fee of the $200 was to charge something, since no property taxes are charged. It wasn't necessarily to generate a lot of revenue for Hillsboro. It was to make it somewhat fair for the structural businesses that do pay taxes. If we don't charge any fees. I do agree it will bring more food vendors and just overall vendors, mobile vendors, to Hillsboro, and I'm not against that. But as we all know, the issue will remain parking. 

“I was told that no mobile vendors could be in the historic district, which is uptown Hillsboro, unless it's deemed a city event. That means that if the city does want to make every weekend from, let's say, April through October a city event, the mobile vendors could basically be in historic uptown Hillsboro, and customers could take up all the parking in front of all the businesses to walk down to the green space or wherever the vendors may be set up or beside the courthouse. Again, this potentially takes away the parking for the businesses actually paying property taxes that do generate revenue for the city.”

(Editor’s note: Sanborn’s family owns a restaurant business in uptown Hillsboro, approximately one-tenth of a mile from the farmers’ market and two-tenths of a mile from the green space, aka Crossroads Park.)

Wilkin pointed out that Sanborn seconded the motion by committee member Greg Maurer when they discussed waiving fees, as the committee’s recommendation to council was unanimous.

“We spoke about this during committee, Jo, and you were on board with moving forward,” Wilkin said.

Sanborn responded that she “wasn't getting my point across” during the meeting, which sparked a back-and-forth between the two council members Tuesday.

“I don’t understand, then,” Wilkin said. “Why did you vote yes?”

“It was going to be two against one anyway,” Sanborn said.

“So you went ahead and voted yes anyway?” Wilkin asked.

“We would have moved it anyway,” Sanborn said.

“That doesn’t mean you had to vote yes,” Wilkin said. 

Sanborn responded that Wilkin and Maurer “were talking over me, literally, because you were talking over me” during the committee meeting.

“Jo, I asked you plenty of times if you had anything to add,” Wilkin said. “I didn’t exclude you from the meeting.” 

Sanborn again said they were “talking over me,” but “that’s OK.” 

“No, I don’t think I was,” Wilkin said.

“That’s OK,” Sanborn said. “We can all have our own opinions.” 

Eichinger then cut them off by saying the ordinance “will be coming up for a possible vote next month.”

Council member Mary Stanforth asked if the food vendors pay taxes on their sales. 

“They file with the income tax office, so they are paying some tax,” Eichinger said. “We are not privy to that information.”

Council clerk Whitney Aliff explained that “part of the permitting process” for mobile food vendors is the “income tax [office] signing off” on the application. 

“They won't sign off on the application until they are processed through their office,” Aliff said. “There's confidential information that we're not allowed to receive, but that is part of the process, and it is in place.”

As proposed, the ordinance stipulates that food vendors will still be required to “obtain a license” from the city and to file with the City Income Tax Office.

However, Sanborn said that she “was talking about property taxes, not income taxes,” in her argument.

In other legislation, council voted 7-0 to approve and adopt an ordinance amending section 51.076 of the codified ordinances of the City of Hillsboro pertaining to water rates, following its third reading.

As explained by utilities committee chair Maurer in March, the committee recommended “to make an ordinance to make there be a minimum monthly bill for water customers that shut off meter to property.” They debated between making the fee $25, he said, and determined to set it at the current minimum bill of $15.08.

Eichinger pointed out in March that in the proposed legislation, it specifies that “The minimum monthly rate, as set forth in the water rate schedule, will be payable irrespective of whether any water is used during any month.” Public works superintendent Shawn Adkins added that this minimum fee was proposed due to individuals leaving their houses in the winter and due to landlords “shutting the water off so they don’t have to pay their water bill until they get their places rented.”

Under first readings, passed unanimously as an emergency was a resolution authorizing and directing the mayor to enter into a joint partnership agreement with the Highland County Commissioners for program year 2024 Community Housing Impact and Preservation (CHIP) program to address local housing needs.

“This is an annual partnership between the county and the city to help address housing needs for citizens,” Hillsboro Mayor Justin Harsha said. “The housing director position has changed, and the requested legislation was submitted to the city on April 26.

“The suspension of declaring an emergency will allow the application to be submitted and processed as soon as possible to address the housing needs in the area.”

According to the legislation, Highland County Community Action is partnering with both the county and city on the application, with approximately $400,000 to be designated for the county and $300,000 for the City of Hillsboro.

Also passed as an emergency was an ordinance approving the solid waste management plan for the Ross-Pickaway-Highland-Fayette Joint Solid Waste Management District.

“This legislation will approve and adopt the solid waste management plan,” Aliff said. “The city — myself, actually — has a seat on the policy committee. The EPA requires updates to the plan. The last time the plan was adopted by council was in 2018, and the request for an emergency and suspending the three-reading role is to be compliant with timelines set forth by the Ohio EPA.

“This is just a formality of approving and adopting.”

In other action, council approved four separate, unrelated ordinances making supplemental appropriations. Those included a $9,000 donation from the Cassner Foundation for the Hillsboro Police Department; a $3,955.58 insurance payment to repair a damaged police cruiser; $23,190 in Shaffer Park registration fees and donations; and $1,528,939.10 in additional funds from the OWDA reimbursement for the Roberts Lane extension project. 

Council also heard the second reading of a resolution establishing staggered four-year terms of office among members of Hillsboro City Council and an ordinance amending section 10.18 of the codified ordinances of the City of Hillsboro pertaining to the official emblem, with no further discussion on either item of legislation.

In other news, Harsha presented $2,000 scholarships to three graduating Hillsboro High School seniors during his report. See more at:….

Check back to for more from Tuesday’s meeting.

(Editor’s note: Stephen Forsha contributed to this article.)

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David Anthony Mayer (not verified)

27 May 2024

Because they need to pay something makes no logical sense if they pay income tax. As to parking, use the Crossroads Park which is vacant most all the time except for FOTB and movie night. Just charge a per day use fee. Unused days are generating zero revenue.

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