Hillsboro City Council on Monday approved an additional 30-day moratorium on water and sewer rates following a recommendation by Safety and Service Director Todd Wilkin.
Wilkin recommended the 30-day moratorium while the Utilities Committee studies a plan he is proposing to redirect part of a water-sewer surcharge to a new enterprise fund that will address storm water infrastructure improvements.
Wilkin said that the wastewater treatment plant is treating considerably more water than the water treatment plant, indicating that the city’s storm sewer system “doesn’t exist,” or is at least dysfunctional. .
“We are treating rainwater,” said Wilkin.
For two years, the city has placed a moratorium on the annual rate hikes scheduled for water and sewer bills, based on recommendations from the Hastings administration and Rebecca Wilkin’s Utilities Committee.
Last year, Todd Wilkin told council, “Back in 2008, legislation was passed to increase water and sewer rates every year until 2016. If you recall, this subject was brought before council last year and the administration asked that a moratorium be placed on the sewer and water rates.”
He said city finances were in solid shape and the scheduled increase was again not necessary, and council agreed, approving a second straight year with no rate increases.
In 2014, Todd Wilkin said that the increase was part of a schedule of rate hikes coordinated in 2008 by the Regional Community Assistance Program (RCAP), but added, “An RCAP government agency shouldn’t tell us what is best for our citizens.”
Rates were due to increase in 2014 by 3.5 percent, and again by the same amount last year, meaning the two moratoriums have prevented a 7 percent increase in water and sewer bills since 2014.
On Monday, with rates set to automatically increase, Wilkin suggested a 30-day moratorium while he compiles a more complete report to present to council next month.
Council President Lee Koogler said the storm system issue has been “a known problem for years.”
In other matters Monday, council:
• Heard Todd Wilkin report on plans by the Ohio Department of Transportation to conduct a traffic light timing project in the city.
• Heard Mayor Drew Hastings support a change in state legislation that would allow municipalities to seek qualified residents outside the city limits to serve on city commissions and boards.
• Heard Todd Wilkin report that bids for city health insurance were being re-bid for new proposals due to “material deficiencies” in bids that were received.
• Heard that the city and the Fraternal Order of Police are awaiting a final conciliation report, although Todd Wilkin said both sides have now agreed on all issues.
• Approved July 6-8, 2017 as the dates for next year’s Festival of the Bells, based on a request from council member Justin Harsha on behalf of the festival committee.
• Heard Property, Maintenance and Restoration Committee chair Ann Morris report on her committee’s recommendation to save the façade of the Colony Theatre while demolishing the rest of it, possibly creating a parking lot, as previously reported in The Times-Gazette.
• Reviewed a letter of appeal regarding the sidewalk program from South High Street business owner Rory Ryan, with Todd Wilkin saying he is “not sure what Mr. Ryan is appealing,” since he said a letter sent by the city only asked for a meeting to discuss the subject and he has already met with six of 10 property owners in the block.
• Heard Community Enhancement Committee chair Claudia Klein report her committee’s recommendation to move forward with a dog park at Liberty Park, as previously reported in The Times-Gazette.
• Passed a resolution on third reading amending the fee schedule for mobile food vehicles in the city.
• Heard city Auditor Gary Lewis report that the city has more than $7 million on hand.
• Heard a complaint from local landlord David Brown about receiving a bill for mowing the city completed at one of his properties, with Todd Wilkin agreeing to meet with him later on the matter.
• Saw Koogler place a resolution regarding the Hillsboro Area Economic Development Corporation’s request to demolish the Colony back into committee, based on the new plans recommended by the property committee.
• Heard Hastings congratulate the Highland County Visitors Bureau on its new director, and congratulate the Amazing Race on a successful event.
• And heard Hastings report on progress of a new website being designed for the city that he said will operate “more quickly” and be “interactive.”
All council members were present.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.