Hillsboro residents will not have to pay a scheduled rate hike in their water-sewer bills for the next 12 months as city council on Monday approved another moratorium on the rates.
This marks the second straight year that annual rate hikes scheduled for water and sewer bills will be put on hold, based on recommendations from the Hastings administration.
Safety and Service Director 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.”
Wilkin said city finances were in solid shape and the scheduled increase was again not necessary.
“I feel confident in recommending another moratorium and reviewing the finances a year from now,” said Wilkin.
Council President Lee Koogler asked City Auditor Gary Lewis to weigh in, and Lewis agreed with Wilkin, adding that a family of four pays about $100 a month or so in its water and sewer bills. “I see no reason to automatically bump it up,” said Lewis.
Rebecca Wilkin, chair of council’s Utilities Committee, said she also agreed with foregoing the rate increase.
Last year, 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.”
Council members Dick Donley, Claudia Klein, Tracy Aranyos, Ann Morris, Rebecca Wilkin, Justin Harsha and Bill Alexander uanimously approved the moratorium.
Rates were due to increase last year by 3.5 percent, and again by the same amount this year, meaning the two moratoriums have prevented a 7 percent increase in water and sewer bills since last year.
In another matter, Joe Mahan, president of the Hillsboro Uptown Business Association, received approval from council to hold the annual holiday parade on Saturday, Nov. 28, with one major change – the parade is moving to the evening hours.
Mahan said this year’s event will be an illuminated parade beginning at 7 p.m. He said a “Santa’s Workshop” will be featured from 4-6 p.m. at The Times-Gazette’s Media Room at 108 Gov. Trimble Place.
Mayor Drew Hastings said the plan sounded good as long as “Santa’s Workshop is not subject to prevailing wage,” foreshadowing a request the safety director would make later in his report.
Greenfield’s holiday parade has been an evening illuminated event since 2012 to positive reviews.
In his report, Hastings announced that the city has won a grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation’s Small Cities Fund for $900,000 to widen Harry Sauner Road from Kibler Lumber to North High Street. He said the work would take place next year.
Hastings said other projects like the pedestrian bridge and sidewalks would start in September to allow for an unencumbered walking route along North High to Southern State Community College.
In his report, Wilkin asked council to consider passing legislation that would limit the use of prevailing wages on work performed in the city through the General Fund.
While acknowledging that the city is required to pay prevailing wage “on most of the work performed within the city,” but said “there are certain monetary thresholds that must be met in order to enact the requirement of prevailing wages.”
Wilkin said, “It is our job to ensure that taxpayers’ money is being spent properly, effectively and wisely. I firmly believe the payment of prevailing wages is a waste of taxpayers’ money. Most of the time the costs to perform the project could be 25 percent higher due to the prevailing wage requirements.”
Wilkin said that if council passed the legislation “it could mean more paved streets, more critical sewer and water line repairs, and more return for the taxpayers’ dollar.” Koogler placed the issue into Dick Donley’s Finance Committee.
Wilkin also reported he has received seven or eight responses from people interested in undertaking the preservation of the Colony Theatre.
As reported in The Times-Gazette last week, the city has advertised for interested parties to step forward with a restoration and use plan for the theater, as well as a means to cover the costs. Otherwise, the city is considering demolishing the rear of the facility to create more uptown parking.
Wilkin said a walk-through of the Colony is schedule for 2 p.m. Thursday for those interested in tackling the restoration of the theater.
Council also heard from Amanda Knauff, troop leader of Girl Scout Troop 134, who said her daughter had won a Girl Scout Merit Award of $1,000 and came up with the idea of creating a mural on the side of a building located on the northeast corner at the stoplight of Walnut and South High streets.
Knauff, who had previously met with council member Claudia Klein’s Community Enhancement Committee, said the mural would replicate the appearance of the same street scene from the 1930s, when Girl Scout cookies were created. She said the troop had raised $2,500 toward the $10,000 cost. She said the property owner had given permission for the mural.
Council expressed its support for the project, and Wilkin said he would work with Knauff to make sure the rest of the money was found. Hastings offered to provide historic photos to be used as references for the mural.
“You’re not far off,” said Wilkin, adding, “We’ll figure out a way to get it done.”
Council also welcomed Japanese exchange student Yuiko Hagashi, who is staying with Todd Wilkin’s family as part of a 4-H exchange program. Koogler read a letter of welcome from council, and Hastings presented her with a plaque featuring a photo of an aerial view of the city.
Wilkin said that tax office worker Sherry Davis was the employee of the month for “outstanding work within the month of July and frankly throughout the entire year,” and told council that Capt. Ron Priest is retiring from the Hillsboro Police Department effective Aug. 27, as previously reported in The Times-Gazette.
“We appreciate Ron’s dedication to the department and wish him well in retirement and his next adventure in life,” said Wilkin.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.