An interim police chief for the Hillsboro Police Department will be named soon, and the search is underway for a new safety and service director, Mayor Drew Hastings told Hillsboro City Council on Monday.
Hastings told council he hoped to have an interim chief named “in a couple of days,” following the resignation of former chief Todd Whited, which was effective Friday. Hastings said that Sgt. Steve Browder, who provided security at Monday’s council meeting, is handling scheduling for HPD.
The mayor said he has “started the process” for hiring a new SSD following the Nov. 22 firing of Todd Wilkin, adding that he should have something to report by the January council meeting.
In the meantime, Hastings said the city is operating smoothly, and thanked several city employees and officials for working together to get the Christmas decorations in place over the course of two days.
“It was a great lesson in cooperation,” said the mayor. “The uptown looks great.”
Hastings said he has resigned from the Design Review Board, and asked council to approve his nomination of Tom Clemens, an uptown business owner, to take his place, which council did at the end of the meeting.
Hastings said he hoped that his resignation from the design board would alleviate that concern if it was a reason that any member of council was considering supporting an ordinance to disband the board, an ordinance which had its second reading Monday. Hastings thanked council member Justin Harsha for attending a recent design board meeting.
Hastings said that he recently participated in negotiations with the Fraternal Order of Police, and the sides “came to an agreement in record time.”
In a meeting where several items of business remained in committee, most of Monday’s session was devoted to comments from four citizens.
Local resident Paul Crouch said that in light of recent changes and “turmoil,” he hoped city officials were focusing on maintaining quality services.
“I appreciate Drew providing a vision for the city,” said Crouch, adding that it’s “time to straighten up, time to move on.” He said he has wanted to bring an 8th grade class to witness a council meeting, but he wasn’t sure what the tone of the meeting would be.
Council member Dick Donley, filling in as president pro tem in the absence of council Preisdent Lee Koogler, who was ill, said city officials are “dedicated to their jobs” and expressed confidence that city services would continue to operate efficiently.
Council member Ann Morris said members of council are “all working toward those goals,” with Donley saying he welcomed more involvement from citizens. “I’d like to see a full house every night” at council meetings, he said.
Joe Mahan, president of the Hillsboro Uptown Business Association, thanked city officials for their cooperation this year, saying HUBA and the city “probably had our best year working together in the last three or four years.” He said HUBA sponsored 16 events during the year, including eight “First Friday” events. He said all city officials had been cooperative, but especially thanked Heather Collins, an administrative assistant in the mayor’s office, for her efforts.
Tom Eichinger, a member of the city planning commission, said he was addressing council as a citizen, and urged council not to disband the Design Review Board or the Community Improvement Corporation, which has also been the subject of a disband ordinance.
Eichinger said council needed to consider that the design board is mentioned in two or three other places in city ordinances, and “if the Design Review Board goes away, you need to make sure other pieces are in place.”
Donley said follow up meetings are planned on the design board and the CIC, and encouraged Eichinger to attend. Design board members Mary Todd Hardeman and Avery Applegate attended Monday’s council meeting.
City resident Richard Stiffler, who attends most meetings and is usually critical of Hastings, on Monday brought a video of an episode from “The Dukes of Hazzard” television show, asking council to watch it, and comparing the mayor to the show’s “Boss Hogg” character.
No council member offered to watch the video, but Hastings said he would. Stiffler handed it to him, but at the end of the meeting, Stiffler retrieved the video from Hastings’ table.
In his Planning Commission report, Hastings said the commission denied a request to detach 22 acres from the city, but approved a temporary variance for a multi-unit apartment house to remain considered a two-family unit for one year or until the zoning code is updated.
Hastings said Jim Buck and Loy Lutton are new member of the Zoning Update Committee.
In other business Monday, council:
• Approved a sign variance for Big Ernie’s Pizza at a South High Street location.
• Approved another month’s moratorium on water and sewer rate increases recommended by council member Rebecca Wilkin while legislation is being prepared to permanently kill the pre-planned rate hikes.
• Heard the first reading of ordinances dealing with nonconforming uses in regard to the zoning code.
• Passed a resolution authorizing city Auditor Gary Lewis to advance funds from the General Fund to other funds as needed, a provision Lewis said is rarely exercised.
• Heard Lewis report that the city has more than $7 million on hand.
• Saw the Pledge of Allegiance led by the mayor’s 7-year-old stepdaughter, Willow.
• And heard the mayor say that he has issued a waiver for “Mr. Claus” to conduct his business in Hillsboro on Dec. 24.
Aside from Koogler, all council members were present.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.