Hillsboro City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved another moratorium on scheduled water and sewer rate hikes, this time for 60 days, while legislation is being prepared to bring the increases to an official end.
And, at the request of council member Claudia Klein, council agreed Tuesday to facilitate the collection of donations and supplies for those impacted by Hurricane Matthew.
As previously reported in The Times-Gazette, the Utilities Committee, chaired by Rebecca Wilkin, met recently and agreed to recommend the continued moratorium on water and sewer rates, which began in 2014 and which has spared residents from seeing their rates rise by more than 10 percent over the past three years.
Wilkin said Tuesday the moratorium is designed to “help homeowners with costs,” and is possible because revenues continue to outpace expenses, as Todd Wilkin, the safety and service director, previously informed the committee.
The currently-scheduled annual rate increases began when city council, in 2008, approved rate hikes to be triggered each September through 2016. The increases were part of a schedule coordinated by the Regional Community Assistance Program (RCAP) to make sure the city could meet the obligations of loans connected to the new water treatment plant.
But in 2014, the Hastings administration recommended the first moratorium on the scheduled hikes. Council unanimously agreed to the moratorium after the Utilities Committee had studied the issue.
Regarding hurricane relief, Klein said that R&L Carriers, for which her son is a driver, is considering donating a 24-foot trailer that would be positioned in Hillsboro for the collection of donations. She noted that city residents did something similar several years ago, and said she recommended providing the supplies to Matthew 25 Ministries in Cincinnati for distribution to hurricane victims.
Mayor Drew Hastings said he thought the project was “very doable… we’ll find a way to help.” Council President Lee Koogler added, “I’m personally supportive and I hope all council will be.”
Council voted unanimously to work with Klein on the project.
In another matter, Todd Wilkin reported on an upcoming project to widen Harry Sauner Road, from U.S. 62 to the “back side of Kibler.” Part of the road is in the city and part is outside the corporation limits, and Wilkin said that Highland County Engineer Dean Otworth is receiving bids for a sidewalk that will run along the new Hobart-Carl Smith Drive to Careytown Road and part of Harry Sauner, to about Walmart.
Wilkin said the city will need to address sidewalks and storm sewers to tie into the county portion of the project. He said he has met with businesses on Harry Sauner to discuss the widening project.
In other matters at a relatively brief session, council:
• Heard the mayor report that he will be attending the upcoming Ohio Municipal League meeting, that the Revolving Loan Fund approved a loan to a local business that will likely hire 4 or 5 more employees, that talks with the Paint Creek fire district regarding the new fire station are ongoing, and that he met with Destiny Bryson, the new director of the Highland County Visitors Bureau, adding that he continues to recommend more city funding for the bureau, something that Finance Committee Chair Dick Donley said would likely be addressed at the next council meeting.
• Heard Todd Wilkin, in response to a question from council member Ann Morris, say that work on the new dog park at Liberty Park should commence next week.
• Heard Todd Wilkin report that the city is pursuing an ODNR grant for parks that is a 50-50 matching grant of up to $600,000, although the city would likely not pursue that much, and that survey letters are being sent to residents asking for input on the parks, with local CPA David Collins providing a $50 Visa gift card to be awarded in a drawing among those who respond to the survey.
• Heard Koogler read a letter from the Highland County Historical Society Board of Trustees in support of the Design Review Board, which stated that the design board “provides organization, guidance and compliance” with historic district guidelines.
• Heard Morris report on a Property, Maintenance and Restoration Committee she chaired regarding the Colony Theatre, as previously reported in The Times-Gazette, with the committee recommending pursuing plans for restoration and renovation of the façade and front portion of the building.
• Approved an ordinance to correct the signage legislation to restore limits on temporary sign duration, with Morris saying her committee would continue to explore concerns raised by Todd Wilkin about clarification on some points and enforcement.
• Approved a resolution to increase appropriations in the General Fund for building inspections.
• Approved an ordinance to agree to the detachment of land from the city in an area surrounded by county property at the request of the landowner, and approved another ordinance to annex about nine acres with the Hillsboro Christian Academy into the city.
• And heard Koogler offer a performance as a Gary Lewis “tribute artist” when he provided the report of the city auditor, who was absent, in what Koogler said was the style in which Lewis consistently presents it, to appreciative chuckles from council members.
Council met on Tuesday rather than its usual second Monday of the month meeting due to the Columbus Day holiday. All council members were present.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.