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City paving proposal, multimillion-dollar park grants discussed at Hillsboro City Council meeting

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Pictured (l-r) are Hillsboro City Law Director Randalyn Worley, Mayor Justin Harsha, Public Works Superintendent Shawn Adkins and Safety and Service Director Brianne Abbott. (HCP Photo/Stephen Forsha)
Caitlin Forsha, The Highland County Press

City administrators shared positive news during the Tuesday, May 21 Hillsboro City Council meeting, with the mayor outlining a proposal for additional street paving and the safety and service director discussing the “transformational” $5.2 million grant recently awarded to Hillsboro. 

A resolution to solicit bids and accept the lowest and best bid for paving various streets was unanimously approved by council members as an emergency. Hillsboro Mayor Justin Harsha shared a map of proposed upcoming paving projects with council during his report. 

As previously reported, 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. 

Highlighted areas depict Hillsboro streets being paved through the city's proposal. (Maps courtesy of Justin Harsha)

“The bids actually came in much lower, so we estimated about $655,000,” Harsha said. “The award was $401,000, so we have extra money to use for paving, and we’d like to move forward with that and try to get as much as we can done. 

“This map kind of shows you both rounds — it's what we'd like to do and what we are going to do.”

According to the resolution, the city is now seeking bids to pave Fenner Avenue, Holmes Street, North Elm Street, Fair Street, Catherine Street and Bell Street, along with portions of West North Street, East Beech Street and Oak Street. 

When the legislation was introduced, Harsha added that “paving is weather dependent, so the sooner we get moving on this, the sooner we're going to get on the list,” which is the reason it was proposed as an emergency.

Council voted 7-0 to suspend the three-reading rule and 7-0 to approve and adopt the resolution.

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

Meanwhile, in her report, safety and service director Brianne Abbott discussed the city’s “really exciting news” announced in the past month, as they have been awarded $5.2 million through the state’s Appalachian Community Grant program to upgrade Crossroads Park.

“I haven't fact checked this, so I struggle to say it, but I'm pretty certain that is the highest grant award that the city has ever received,” Abbott said. “Pretty impressive. We are honored and incredibly grateful for the transformational investment into our community.”

As previously reported, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, Lt. Governor Jon Husted and Ohio Department of Development Director Lydia Mihalik made the announcement May 1 in Chillicothe, with Highland County receiving a combined $12.6 million through the state’s long-discussed Appalachian Community Grant Program.

The City of Hillsboro received $5,204,536 award to supplement already earmarked grant funding for Crossroads Park (formerly known as the green space on West Main Street). The city has already secured $100,000 in state capital funding, through a partnership with Southern State Community College, for the project. The park has served as the site for the Hillsboro Festival of the Bells and other local events, including the city’s Movies Under the Stars and Jeepers Creepers programs.

“The vision of Crossroads Park has been years in the making, with every inch of the park planned through local collaborations,” Abbott said. “The city took action with acquisition, completing environmental assessments, renderings, community input, and began planning events to have evidence-based metrics to gauge the impact and sustainability. 

“Crossroads Park will include an outdoor gathering space, amphitheater, renovation of an existing building to serve as a community center, a water feature, a playground and beautification of the surrounding streetscape. The amphitheater will include a stage and restrooms, a separate restroom, concession stands, a light and sound booth and several lines of paths to facilitate movement and seating. 

“In addition to Crossroads Park, the surrounding area was also incorporated into the planning to future to further the overall visual and regional impact. Basketball courts at Railroad Street have received a facelift, and fundraising efforts are paving the way for future pickleball courts.”

Abbott said that this funding will also coincide with a $1.44 million Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation, awarded in June 2023, for the construction of the Rails to Trails Community Trail in 2026. The project will create a walking and bicycling trail on the abandoned railroad bed and a sidewalk on West Main Street between the trailhead and Taylor Court.
According to Abbott, there will be “over 2.4 miles in trails leading to” Crossroads Park, which “will also serve as a trailhead for this trail. 

“We are still awaiting guidance from the state on grant requirements and procedures,” Abbott said. “However, the project will need to be completed by the end of 2026 to ensure compliance, so a newly developed Crossroads Park on Main Street will be your reality in the very near future. 

“I’d just like to thank everyone tonight who had a role in making this happen, because it's really going to be transformational for the city.”

In other reports, Abbott said that the Hillsboro Planning Commission “held a public hearing last night to hear comment on an appeal application for a denied site plan for an accessory structure” on Willow Street and “approved a temporary use permit for Bell Gardens.” 

The commission is also asking the council’s zoning and annexation committee, chaired by Brown, to look into “standards for auto service and repair stations, revisions to parking lot standards, review of Section 155.067 and a zoning change recommendation on South East Street,” Abbott said.

In other discussion:

• During the citizens’ comments portion of the meeting, Rev. Tom Zile asked council to consider an ordinance amendment regarding drag shows. He said he was speaking on behalf of “the churches and others concerned citizens of our community, with the support of the Hillsboro Area Ministerial Association and the hundreds of congregants that we represent.

“We're here to voice our concern over some of the things that happened in the presence of underage children during the pride celebration at Liberty Park,” Zile said. “We are not trying to shut down the event, even though we may disagree with it. Our concern is for our children. 

“We commend those in charge of the event last year for cleaning up some of the acts that were in question in the performances that took place the year before. So again, our intention tonight is not to shut the event down, but to protect our kids.”

As previously reported, nearly half of the June 15, 2023 Hillsboro City Council meeting was devoted to citizens’ comments, in response to a “Hillsboro Pride in the Park” event. Two residents said that council needed to update the “decency laws” because of the alleged “lewd behavior” occurring in front of children, while representatives of the Hillsboro Pride event said that they had implemented conduct regulations and that inviting the hate group “was the real disgrace.”

On Tuesday, Zile said the group is seeking an amendment to the city’s code, which has a section, 133, titled “Offenses Against Morals.” Ordinance 133.31 prohibits “juveniles on the premises of adult entertainment establishments,” including an “adult arcade, adult bookstore, adult novelty store, adult video store, adult cabaret, adult motion picture theater, adult theater, nude or seminude model studio, or sexual encounter establishment.”

Zile said that “an updated definition is needed to ensure that there is no loophole for inappropriate cabaret performances held at any location.” He is asking council to add this paragraph: “Adult cabaret performance means a performance and location other than an adult cabaret that is harmful to juveniles or obscene and that features topless dancers; go-go dancers; exotic dancers; strippers; performers or entertainers who exhibit a gender identity that is different from the performer’s or entertainer’s gender assigned at birth, using clothing, makeup, prosthetic or imitation genitals or breasts, or other physical markers; or other similar performers or entertainers who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest, regardless of whether or not that performance is for consideration.”    

According to Zile, this language is “exactly what the state is looking at passing right now,” as proposed in House Bill 245.

“We’re not asking for anything that the state is not asking for, but we’re asking that it be put in,” he said. “Like I said, we're thankful that those who were in charge last year took the the initiative to clean it up a little bit, but this makes it so that if new people come in, they can't go back.”

• Street and safety committee chair Adam Wilkin reported on his committee’s April 24 meeting, which included continued discussions on uptown parking.

In recent months, the committee has looked into two-hour parking and various issues, including people who “live and work in the uptown area” and take up spaces in front of uptown businesses.

On Tuesday, Wilkin said it is “still a very controversial issue that this committee is exploring,” particularly in reference to “enforcement against longterm parking. 

“There are still many questions that remain to be answered,” he said. “Some of the questions are: how much time to allow? What will the fines be? What days do we enforce the parking limit? If we do move forward with enforcement planning, what will be the best way to inform the public of the changes? 

“This committee understands that parking is an issue that needs to be dealt with. This is why we're taking the necessary time to come up with the best solution we can. We will meet again soon and would very much like to hear from the public.”

• Under communications, it was noted that the city received notices from the Ohio Division of Liquor Control of license renewals for Sassafras Kitchen LLC and Hillsboro 1st Stop. There was no opposition from council.

• At Abbott’s request, council met in an executive session for approximately 12 minutes to “consider the purchase of property for public purposes.” No action was taken as a result of the executive session. 

• Council members argued over a revision to a food vendor ordinance and agreed to set minimum water rates, among other legislation. Read more at:….

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

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