Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings told Hillsboro City Council Monday that according to a recent audit from the state, the city’s net position improved by about $4 million in one calendar year.
Hastings said the city’s net position, or net worth in layman’s terms, improved from $10.6 million in 2014 to $14.9 million through 2015, the period covered by the latest audit from the office of state auditor Dave Yost.
“That’s really good,” the mayor later told The Times-Gazette. “It just means our city is a more valuable asset. We did major improvements, and our city is more valuable.”
Hastings said he believes there were several contributing factors, mainly involving infrastructure projects and the city’s aggressive pursuit of grant money.
“Most of that was due to us doing infrastructure projects, including roads,” he said. “Part of the reason we had such an improvement is that we were very aggressive on grants and making sure we had matching funds for available grants. That’s a big deal… We put the city in a position where we have a lot more cash and a lot more money so when opportunities come along, we’re better poised to take advantage of them.”
Other contributing factors, Hastings said, were lower overall city expenditures and efforts to increase revenue.
“I’m just really proud of this number,” Hastings told council.
In another matter at Monday’s council meeting, council member Tracy Aranyos suggested council review the possibility of changing its form of government and becoming a charter city.
Council president Lee Koogler said it would be a “significant change” in the way Hillsboro’s government operates, and placed the issue in council’s finance committee for a review of the financial impacts of the change.
Hastings said he’s interested in seeing where the idea goes.
“It’s intriguing,” he said. “It’s not far-fetched. Many cities now are charter cities.”
Hastings said a charter city is governed by laws it creates for itself rather than being under Ohio Revised Code as it is now. In that way, charter cities have more flexibility than statutory cities.
“It’s not all or nothing,” he said. “You can tweak it.”
Hastings also told council on Monday that the city and the Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District have reached a temporary rental agreement until a sale agreement can be reached for the North East Street fire station. Hastings said he has presented a sale proposal to Paint Creek, and he expects there will be a decision this summer.
Paint Township Trustee Steven Karnes addressed council on Monday, saying he believes the city shouldn’t offer Paint Creek the option to buy the station because the city would lose bargaining power in its service contract with Paint Creek. Karnes said he believes a lease agreement and service contract should coincide with one another.
“Do not sell that,” he said. “If you ever lose an ace in the hole, you will be in trouble.”
In another matter Monday, Justin Crosley, who owns a corner building on High Street, appealed his property tax assessment for an upcoming sidewalk project affecting his property.
Hastings told The Times-Gazette the city is fronting the money for the project, and the affected property owners will pay the city back either up front or through property taxes. Hastings said several have already paid up front, while others, like Crosley, are being assessed for a five-year property tax increase.
Crosley said his portion of the repayment is too expensive – about $12,000 spread over five years – essentially doubling his property tax for that time.
“It was such a big hit for a corner building,” Hastings said, “it has us rethinking for large assessments maybe doing a different financing scenario.” Hastings said a bond may be a viable option for Crosley.
Council will hold a special meeting at a later date to discuss the best way to approach the issue, Hastings said, adding he was unsure when a final decision will be made – although he said he would rather it be sooner rather than later.
Hastings also reported that the city has reached an agreement with Jack Hope, owner of several buildings in the uptown area, to have the building behind the Parker House demolished.
As previously reported by The Times-Gazette, a portion of a wall on the east side of the building collapsed, reigniting an ongoing debate between Hope and the city on code violations.
“He’s been workable,” Hastings said. “I want to keep it that way.”
Aranyos said she feels the city has not been tough enough with Hope in the past, adding that she’s tired of “giving him passes” on blatant city code violations.
“I just want him to do what everyone else is expected to do,” she said, adding that any building in violation of city code should be fined daily.
“Fix it or fine it,” Aranyos said.
On the Colony Theatre issue, interim safety and service director Gary Silcott said eight contractors recently attended a pre-bid meeting for demolition of the back of the Colony. Bids will open on Monday, and Hastings said a decision will be made then so the project can move forward. According to Silcott, the cost for the demolition will be about $95,000.
The city plans to maintain and refurbish the facade and front portion of the theater.
Council suspended the three-reading rule and passed a resolution authorizing the mayor to enter into a contract for the theater’s demolition.
Local resident Tirrell Cumberland attended the meeting representing TC3 Basketball Skills and Development. Cumberland is seeking approval for a pole barn type structure to be built on the city’s old water department property to house a full basketball court in connection with a youth development project.
Koogler said Hastings should proceed with a survey of the property to properly establish its boundaries, which the mayor said he would do.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.