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Hillsboro City Council OKs sign code update, parks director ordinance in abbreviated meeting

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Pictured (l-r) are Hillsboro City Council member Jo Sanborn, City Law Director Randalyn Worley and council members Don Storer, Tom Eichinger and Dan Baucher. (HCP Photos/Caitlin Forsha)
Caitlin Forsha, The Highland County Press

In a brief meeting with unusually low attendance from city officials, Hillsboro City Council members were limited to a few committee reports and the consideration of legislation Thursday, Sept. 14.

Those not in attendance at the regular monthly meeting included Hillsboro Safety and Service Director Brianne Abbott, Public Works Superintendent Shawn Adkins, Auditor Dawson Barreras, Police Chief Eric Daniels, Mayor Justin Harsha and council member Greg Maurer. Council voted 6-0 to excuse the absences of Abbott and Maurer, as they are the only two (of those listed) whose attendance is required.

Since council had no reports from city administrators, the meeting was done in 22 minutes, with the agenda including nine ordinances and reports from several standing committees.

Council voted 6-0 to approve an ordinance amending section 155 of the codified ordinances of the City of Hillsboro pertaining to signs, after its third reading.

“We had public hearings on this,” council president Tom Eichinger said. “It changes the zoning code to make the sign structure much more consistent and flexible with respect to all areas.”

As approved Thursday, changes to the existing sign code will include:

• Adding “signs approved and permitted that have been weathered, damaged or destroyed that are replaced true to their original permitted design;” construction signs six square feet or less; and holiday decorations for religious or national holidays to the list of signs not requiring a sign permit.

• An addition to the sign computations (area, height and setback) section of the code regarding free-standing signs along the roadway.

• An addition to the sign illumination section of the code stating that illuminated signs in the Historic and Business “G” Zoning District “must be rated at a ‘color temperature’ of 3000k or less.”

• Changing the maximum wall sign area from 1.5 square feet two square feet per foot of building frontage; the maximum wall sign area from 1.75 square feet to 2.25 square feet for each foot of building fringe for buildings set back more than 200 feet from any right-of-way; and the maximum wall sign area from two square feet to 2.5 square feet for buildings set back more than 400 feet from any right-of-way.

In addition, the proposed update adds: “For multi-storied properties with multiple tenants, ‘bonus signage’ of 30 square feet is permitted for each eligible frontage. This may be increased by 10 square feet for each additional building floor. The sign must be placed at the height at which the bonus has been granted.’”

• Adding more information on the regulations for projecting signs, including that “projecting signs may be attached to the building wall or canopy and project at an angle of approximately 90 degrees from the building wall and may project at a 45-degree angle from the building wall or canopy for a distance of not more than four feet. In no instance should a projecting sign of either configuration project over another owner’s property or any public or private drive.”

The maximum area per sign face for projecting signs was removed, as the signs are now proposed to be “permitted in addition to the allowable wall signage as regulated” in the Wall Signs section. Projecting signs would also now be permitted to be “internally illuminated,” which was previously prohibited.

• Increasing the maximum wall sign area for wall signs in the historic district from 1.25 square feet to 1.5 square feet for each foot of building frontage.

In unrelated action, council voted to suspend the three-reading rule in order to approve an ordinance to adjust compensation for certain city employees following its second reading. As proposed, this would establish a salary for a new position for a parks director.

The “ordinance to adjust compensation for certain city employees” was introduced in August, with the only modification to the existing pay schedule being to add the recreation parks director position. It has a proposed salary range of $52,000 to $66,560.

“The last time that we met, the question was raised — was there a job description defined for this position? — and in fact, there was not at that point,” Eichinger said. “My understanding is that there is now a formal job description for the purposes of hiring.

“As was requested last month, it's being requested that the three-reading rule will be suspended, so that this can be voted on this evening, so that they can begin to search for a candidate as early as possible, which would be 30 days after it’s approved.”

Council member Mary Stanforth asked if council could “see what the job description is” now that it has been drafted. Eichinger said they could reach out to the city to obtain a copy.

“However, council really has no role in dealing with the actual job description itself,” Eichinger said. “It's more a matter of — is it there to support the ordinance?”

After that discussion, council voted 6-0 to suspend the three-reading rule and 6-0 to approve and adopt the ordinance.

Also approved, after their respective first readings, were two related ordinances for appropriations: an ordinance making appropriation transfers between line items in the amount of $24,954, and an ordinance making supplemental appropriations in the amount of $24,950 to the Signs, Signals & Markers line item of the Street Department.

“The situation here is that a traffic signal cabinet was damaged with an accident,” Eichinger said. “It was destroyed, and it needs to be replaced.

“One [ordinance] is doing a transfer, and the other one is adding supplemental appropriations to the necessary line item so that this traffic signal can can be replaced in an appropriate time so that we can have it working properly again.”

Eichinger added that Barreras advised “once the insurance claim has been paid, all of this will be recovered from the insurance company, but we need to get it working now.”

Along with the appropriations measures, several ordinances had their first readings Thursday.

The first was an ordinance amending Section 34.17 of the city’s codified ordinances, pertaining to the Clerk of Council.

“We discovered that there was an old ordinance on the books that indicated that the clerk of council was paid semiannually,” Eichinger said. “That has not been in practice for years, so what we have done is we asked the law director to rewrite that ordinance to be consistent with what the practices are now.

“The clerk basically gets paid semi-monthly — or every two weeks, basically — as part of the regular compensation. It’s simply added to that line item.”

The current ordinance, which has been in place since 2004, says: “The salary of the Clerk of Council shall be payable semi-annually from the General Fund, in an amount established by ordinance from time to time.”

The proposed change reads: “The salary of the Clerk of Council shall be determined by the President of Council and shall be paid bi-weekly.”

Stanforth asked if the practice has always been for the clerk of council’s salary to “be determined by the President of Council,” as the proposed ordinance says.

“According to everything I've been told, of the time that I've been in place, yes, that's the way it has been done,” Eichinger said. “I don't know for how long that has been the case, but that’s what [former city law director] Mr. [Fred] Beery informed me of when I took this role.”

In a similar “language cleanup” issue, an ordinance amending certain language referencing the tax commissioner and deputy tax commissioner in the codified ordinances of the City of Hillsboro was also introduced.

According to city law director Randalyn Worley, the city tax commissioner, Sherry Davis, notified her that her title “should really be tax administrator, not tax commissioner,” in the city code.

“I did my research,” Worley said. “We have references in our code for tax administrator and tax commissioner. The Ohio Revised Code refers to a city tax administrator, not tax commissioner, so we're cleaning up our codified ordinances.

“All references to the tax commissioner will now be tax administrator, and deputy tax commissioner will be deputy tax administrator.”

According to the legislation, the ordinance will serve as an “amendment to the Codified Ordinances” of the city, which is “in the best interest of the City of Hillsboro Tax Department.”

The final piece of legislation having its first reading was an ordinance modifying the zoning classification of Parcel 25-14-101-003, from Business “C” to Residential “B.”

The zoning and annexation committee met Sept. 5 to discuss a request to rezone the parcel on state Route 124, according to committee chair Jason Brown. Present for the meeting was Hillsboro Planning Commission member Bill Sims.

Sims advised that the Hillsboro Planning Commission had met with the property owner, who said he was having an “issue trying to find interested buyers with the current zoning and that the layout of the property would be a better fit for Residential B zoning,” Brown said. The committee voted 3-0 to recommend the zoning change.

According to the legislation, a hearing will be held Oct. 12 at 6:30 p.m. for public comment on the proposed zoning change.

Council also heard the second reading of two proposed ordinances.

The first was an ordinance to establish a one-way street in the City of Hillsboro on Johnson Street. According to street and safety committee chair Adam Wilkin, this legislation will be reviewed again at the committee’s Sept. 20 meeting, prior to the legislation’s third reading in October. The proposal was met with criticism from neighborhood residents during a public hearing in August.

Also heard was the second reading of an ordinance repealing sections 32.038, 32.040, 32.042 and 32.043 of the codified ordinances of the city.

Abbott said in August the ordinance was introduced to remove “several sections of the current city code” that contradict the collective bargaining agreement with the Hillsboro Police Department. The affected sections involve the number of police dispatchers; the hours in a work week for Police Department staff; an annual “allowance” for uniform purchases; and residency requirements for Police Department employees, all of which will be repealed if approved by council.

In other discussion:

• Stanforth reported on the Sept. 6 finance committee meeting, where the group recommended to increase the auditor’s salary to $64,740, instead of $70,000 as previously recommended.

An ordinance to adjust the salary of the city auditor was introduced and subsequently tabled at the August meeting. Stanforth had reported that the finance committee agreed to recommend raising the pay for council members and for the city auditor, although the city auditor’s pay was the only one included in the now-tabled ordinance. She pointed out in August that “the average auditor’s pay is $64,740” in Ohio and that she felt there needed to be “further discussions.”

Also pointed out at the August meeting, by Brown, was that council had already voted within the last year to raise the auditor’s salary. As previously reported, council voted in July 2022 to increase the city auditor’s salary through an emergency ordinance. As noted in the ordinance, the city auditor’s salary had not been increased since 2008. That ordinance set the position’s annual salary at $57,500, effective immediately — up from its previous rate of $45,000 per year.

Stanforth said the committee voted 3-0 to compromise on the $64,740 raise and that she would be meeting with Worley before a new or revised ordinance comes before council.

“The average salary of the auditor in Ohio is $64,740,” Stanforth said. “The committee discussed rewriting the ordinance to adjust the auditor's salary.”

• The civil service and employee relations committee met Sept. 4 to review several parts of the “Hillsboro policy and procedures manual,” chair Dan Baucher said, including compensatory time off maximums and payouts, health insurance and overtime.

According to Baucher, the committee reviewed a recommendation from Adkins to “consider increasing comp time from 80 hours to 120 to save the city money on overtime” and voted to recommend doing so, as well as changing some of the wording for overtime.

Also discussed, but not acted on, was “eligibility and concerns” regarding health insurance, Baucher said.

• A group of uptown Hillsboro business owners attended the meeting to inquire about parking and a planned pedestrian safety project in the uptown area for a second straight month.

The citizens’ comments portion of the August meeting included backlash from property owners concerned about the projected loss of parking spots in the uptown district. According to the press release from the Ohio Department of Transportation, “The crosswalks at the Main Street and High Street intersection will be replaced with new high-visibility crosswalks including new pavement markings, center median refuge islands and solar-powered pedestrian-activated beacons.

“The project will remove 15 parking spaces. East Main Street will lose four parking spots, South High Street will lose five parking spots and West Main Street will lose six parking spots.”

As no city officials were present to give the business representatives answers, the group left after the first individual to speak under citizens’ comments, Heather Hughes, addressed council to ask for updates.

“With the city members not being here this evening, council would not have that information,” Eichinger said. “That's where it would come from. I know that they have been in conversation with ODOT, and what I don't know is whether a particular solution or change has been actually put into place yet.
“I would recommend that you reach out to the city, probably next week.”

• It was noted, although no action was required on council’s part, that there was a clerical error during the Aug. 17 meeting. A resolution number has been changed from 23-35 to 23-38.

• Eichinger said that he was informed that Hillsboro residents should expect “contact letters about opt in and opt out” for the electricity aggregation program “very shortly.

“The ball is moving forward quite quickly on that, so we will hopefully see how many people choose to sign up,” he said.

In June, council approved an emergency ordinance approving a plan of operation and governance for the municipal electric aggregation program of the City of Hillsboro. The ordinance was in response to the ballot issue on aggregation approved by voters in the May primary election.

The goal of the program is to allow participants to have lower energy rates. Participation is voluntary.

From left, pictured are Hillsboro City Council member Mary Stanforth, clerk Whitney Aliff and council members Jason Brown and Adam Wilkin.

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