Hillsboro sidewalk project on hold after court hearing


The City of Hillsboro will not take further action on a sidewalk project in the uptown area until the completion of the appropriate administrative processes and a vote in council, it was agreed in Highland County Common Pleas Court on Wednesday.

The hearing was held as part of a civil case brought against the city by two uptown property owners who say it’s unfair that they be held financially responsible for sidewalk replacement in front of their properties.

John “Buck” Wilkin, owner of Wilkin & Wilkin Insurance, and Steven Wilkin, who owns another storefront on the same block, both represented by local attorney Kathryn Hapner, attended the hearing, as well as Hillsboro Safety and Service Director Mel McKenzie, who appeared on behalf of the city, which was represented by Columbus attorney Jonathan Downes.

Hillsboro Law Director Fred Beery recused himself due to a conflict of interest.

Both Steven Wilkin and John Wilkin’s properties are in the 100 block of South High Street, where the city plans to replace the sidewalk in order to install more street lights, then place assessments on the property taxes to pay for the project, as reported by The Times-Gazette.

After a recess, judge Rocky Coss issued an order agreed upon by both parties that the city not proceed with construction in the area until the appropriate administrative processes are completed and council passes a resolution on the matter, as described by city ordinance when an appeal is filed.

Wednesday’s hearing was scheduled after Coss overruled a request for a temporary restraining order brought against the City of Hillsboro by John Wilkin and Steven Wilkin, asking the court to prohibit the city from replacing the sidewalk altogether.

Steven Wilkin and Mary Hamilton, a representative of Wilkin & Wilkin Insurance, spoke during a July 10 Hillsboro City Council meeting, saying they didn’t want to pay for the sidewalk replacement.

McKenzie said during the meeting that state law allows the city to place assessments on property taxes to pay for sidewalk repair and replacement.

“Our sidewalk is perfectly good,” Hamilton said. “I don’t understand why we have to be assessed for a perfectly good sidewalk… I don’t feel it should be my expense.”

Steven Wilkin had similar concerns, describing the sidewalk in front of his property as “perfect.”

McKenzie said during the meeting that the city would provide both parties with cost estimates for alternative payment options, and council president pro tempore Dick Donley said the city would continue with the project.

“We’re going to do the sidewalks, OK,” Donley said. “We’re going to do the pavers. It’s in our ordinance that we can do that… The city has control over the sidewalks. What we will do, there will be a cost estimate for what it’s going to take… We’re going to break down the same thing for Ms. Hamilton, we’re going to do a cost estimate… for your two sections of property, and the safety and service director… will get that information to you, and then you can compare the costs.”

McKenzie said the issue was a safety matter in order to increase lighting along the block.

Downes said during the hearing on Wednesday that construction has not yet begun, and that McKenzie was willing to discuss the matter further with the property owners.

Coss said a status conference by phone will be held in approximately 90 days to determine the necessity for further proceedings.

Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.

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From left, Steven Wilkin, attorney Kathryn Hapner, John “Buck” Wilkin, attorney Jonathan Downes and Hillsboro Safety and Service Director Mel McKenzie sit in court Wednesday during a civil hearing.
http://www.timesgazette.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/33/2017/09/web1_sidewalkscourt.jpgFrom left, Steven Wilkin, attorney Kathryn Hapner, John “Buck” Wilkin, attorney Jonathan Downes and Hillsboro Safety and Service Director Mel McKenzie sit in court Wednesday during a civil hearing. David Wright | The Times-Gazette
Uptown property owners challenging sidewalk, lighting work

By David Wright

dwright@timesgazette.com