A number of hot topics in local politics will be discussed by Hillsboro City Council members and the public in an array of meetings set for Monday — the eve of the 2017 General Election.
The meetings, which will be held in the municipal courtroom at the Highland County Justice Center, will include a public hearing on Downtown Redevelopment Districts, an economic tool designed to redirect a portion of property taxes back into the area, as well as a special council meeting with agenda items including further discussion on whether or not the city should join the Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District as a member or continue utilizing its services on a contract basis, and legislation on Tax Increment Financing, legislation similar to the redevelopment districts.
Also, a meeting of council’s Employee Relations Committee, set for earlier in the evening, will apparently continue discussion regarding Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings’ social media comments.
As reported by The Times-Gazette, a group of more than 30 people on Oct. 20 heard from an economic development specialist about two Downtown Redevelopment Districts being considered by Hillsboro City Council.
DRDs, first created in state legislation last year, are an economic development tool to incentivize property owners in an established 10-acre area to improve their properties by redirecting a portion of their property taxes back into the area. Council is considering two such districts for the uptown area and the former site of Union Stockyards.
In another meeting Oct. 20, council members discussed with the public whether or not the city should join the Paint Creek fire district as a member or continue utlizing its services on a contract basis.
If the city joins Paint Creek, a 5.5-mill levy would be imposed to pay for its services, equating to about $152 annually per $100,000 valuation for residential properties and $192 annually per $100,000 valuation for commercial properties. A number of people at that meeting said the city should not join. No decision will be made Monday on the Paint Creek issue, officials said.
Council president Lee Koogler, who called the DRD hearing and special council meeting, said the decision to schedule the meetings for the evening before the election — in which all seats on Hillsboro City Council are being decided — was not intentional.
Koogler said he intended to call three meetings each on the DRD and Paint Creek issues to give the public a chance to provide input, the first of which were held Oct. 20, and he wanted all the meetings to be finished before the holiday season.
“I had always said I would do three public meetings, and at the first meeting, I went through with everybody what dates they were available, because I didn’t want to put it too close to Thanksgiving,” he said.
When asked if the decision was related to the election, Koogler said, “Not for the meetings I called, no.”
Another meeting on a contentious issue set for Monday night is a gathering of the Employee Relations Committee, which met in September to discuss Hastings’ social media comments.
The September meeting, which lasted two and a half hours, grew heated at times when a number of individuals heavily criticized Hastings for his leadership decisions and behavior toward others, and said his social media posts were racist and otherwise offensive.
Hastings said during the meeting that his posts on social media were intended to be humorous.
The public notice for Monday’s committee meeting says the group will discuss “professional deportment,” presumably referring to Hastings’ conduct.
Committee chairman Bill Alexander, who called the meeting, did not respond to calls for comment Friday.
During the initial meeting in September, the Employee Relations Committee, comprised of Alexander, Rebecca Wilkin and Claudia Klein, voted 2-0 (Klein did not vote) to have the city law director draft a resolution disapproving of Hastings’ social meda posts, although Klein said a draft of such a resolution had already been given to her before the meeting began.
When asked what he expects to happen during the meeting, Hastings said Friday that he has no expectations.
“When it comes to that committee, I never have any expectations,” he said. Referring to the meeting notice’s reference of a discussion of “professional deportment” as its topic, he added, “I assume they’re going to deport me.”
Hastings said he hopes the DRD hearing and special council meeting will have a favorable outcome for Hillsboro citizens.
“I hope what will be accomplished is in the best interest of our citizens,” Hastings said. “If meetings are specifically planned to impact Election Day, then they probably aren’t planned in the best interest of the citizens. I have long given up on trying to figure out how some elected officials think.”
The schedule of meetings is as follows:
• 5:30 p.m.: Employee Relations Committee
• 6 p.m.: DRD public hearing
• 7:30 p.m.: Special council meeting to discuss fire district and TIF legislation
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.