Several city officials agreed Monday that a parks district may be beneficial to the city’s parks and pocketbook, as the formation of a parks and recreation committee works its way through council.
Finance Committee chair Dick Donley, sitting in for council president Lee Koogler, placed the matter in his committee during a Monday council meeting after council member Ann Morris requested council create a parks and rec commitee.
Morris said if such a committee is formed, members could discuss the creation of a parks district, a self-funded entity that would be entirely in charge of the city’s parks.
Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings, who was absent from the meeting, said in a written report that the city currently spends a substantial amount of money on maintaining the city’s parks, and a self-funded parks district would save the city financial strains in coming years.
“We pay an awful lot in just mowing,” safety and service director Mel McKenzie said, adding that there are also skilled laborers currently working in park maintenance who may be better used in other areas.
McKenzie said a county-wide levy would be best for funding the district, since many people come from around the county to utilize the city’s parks.
In a recent meeting of the Street and Safety Committee, chairman Justin Harsha said he feels a skate park would make a good addition to the city and a fine use of the old tennis courts at the Hillsboro City Park on Railroad Street.
Pietro Cartaino, a Hillsboro resident who has been skateboarding since 1999, attended both meetings, and has said he would be willing to lead efforts to develop a skate park.
Cartaino and Sgt. Steve Browder, interim Hillsboro police chief, agreed the city should consider measures to prevent vandalism and criminal activity, since previous home-made skate parks in town have been a source of that type of activity in the past.
Browder said he’s not against a skate park being built, but that the city should proceed cautiously, adding that he’s known Cartaino for some time as “one of the good kids,” and that often young people go to skate parks just to have good, clean fun, although “that’s not what’s been the attraction in the past.”
Hastings also wrote in his report that medical marijuana legalization and its economic impact was a primary point of discussion at the Ohio Mayors Conference he attended recently. Hastings said nearby communities seem to be pursuing jobs and revenue that could come with the change, and that he would have more information in the near future.
Hastings also wrote that there was discussion of Governor John Kasich’s “aggressive moves” on the state taking over municipal income tax revenues, and he doesn’t expect the issue will go away soon.
“I believe it should be a priority for us to look for and implement new sources of revenue that we may lose to the state,” Hastings wrote.
Hastings also said the state recently amended a section of the Ohio Revised Code to allow city planning commissions to have a member from outside the city limits.
“This may seem like a small victory but it has large implications,” the mayor wrote. “Now the administration can appoint a member that has long been interested in community involvement from a larger pool and it absolutely helps form a stronger city/county bond by including engaged county residents.”
In the safety and service director’s report, McKenzie said the city will now have to address buildings neighboring the site of the former Colony Theatre, which was torn down last week after it was found to have been structurally unsafe. McKenzie said the buildings are now open to the elements and may need repairs.
According to McKenzie, street paving on High Street will begin Sunday, Aug. 6, and crews will do work overnight for 21 to 30 days in the northbound and southbound lanes. McKenzie said crews will also pave a section of SR 138 within city limits in coming weeks.
McKenzie also said letters have been sent to property owners affected by the North High Pathways Project, and no one has objected so far. The bid deadline for the project is July 31.
Hillsboro City Auditor Gary Lewis asked McKenzie when a new police chief will be installed, since Browder has been in the position on an interim basis for several months.
McKenzie said the administration has already begun discussion on the matter, and it will be further discussed in the Civil Service Committee at a later date.
During public comment, Jennifer Reed went before council complaining of an incident where she said the city mowed landscaping at her Johnson Street address without her permission, after which she was charged with obstruction of official business. Court records show the case was dismissed on the condition that Reed keep up her property.
Reed, who has appeared before council on the same issue several times, said she had been informed by Koogler that if she had new information on the matter, he would place the matter back into a committee for further discussion.
As Reed described the incident and following court case, Donley interjected.
“You’re rehashing old stuff,” he said.
“Your legal counsel recognized that the city was violating my property rights,” Reed said. “Your legal counsel recognized that the city was interpreting this ordinance…”
“I’m going to interrupt you,” Donley said. “Our attorney could not be here… I’m going to put this back in committee.”
McKenzie assured Reed the city would take no further action until the matter had been discussed further.
Reed also said the city should incorporate green space into plans for sidewalk projects.
“Something you might consider when you’re creating some aesthetic is to incorporate some native plants into some of those right-of-ways to where it doesn’t require weekly mowing maintenance,” Reed said. “And look what they’ve done in some places like Cincinnati and Columbus in creating these pollinator beds and the amount of upkeep that would be involved in that sort of thing, and it also might be an attraction feature for the city.”
“OK, ma’am, you’re excused,” Donley said.
Also during public comment, Eleanor Curtis Cumberland came with several friends and family members to thank the city for renaming Baker Street to Curtis Street.
• McKenzie said he learned it will be his decision whether or not to change the veterans memorial at Liberty Park, as several people have suggested the flagpoles be moved due to excessive vandalism. McKenzie said he would be in communication with the concerned parties to make a decision.
• Council heard McKenzie say that making a number of alleys one-way is being explored, including the alley running alongside Downtown Drug, the one along Twenty-Four Exchange deli, and the alley running alongside Wanda’s Grill building which would be one-way headed east off North High Street.
• Executive adminstrative assistant Debbie Sansone reported the Hillsboro Planning Commission further discussed a possible group housing development with representatives from the Board of Developmental Disabilities, and asked them to consider a different building site than one they proposed on North High Street. The commission also held a zoning hearing and approved sign variances.
• In the Street and Safety Committee report, chairman Justin Harsha said the 2017 Festival of the Bells was a success, and commended the Hillsboro Police Department for maintaining security during the festivities. Harsha said the committee met recently, nixed a request to allow hunting within city limits, and recommended council form a parks and recreation committee. Council voted to vacate an easement in the Taylor Court area during Harsha’s report.
• Community Improvement Committee Chairman Claudia Klein said she had no report, but said she has heard from several truckers who no longer have a place to park their trucks after K-Mart prohibited them from parking in its lot. Donley placed the matter in the Street and Safety Committee for further discussion.
• Council also passed readings on a number of routine resolutions.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.