Four new members of Hillsboro City Council were present Monday evening at the Highland County Justice Center for council’s first meeting of the year.
Prior to the meeting, Council President Lee Koogler conducted orientation and assigned committees to newly elected council members Mary Stanforth, Wendy Culbreath, Brandon Leeth and Adam Wilkin, as well as returning council members Claudia Klein, Justin Harsha and Ann Morris.
New committee chair assignments are as follows:
Finance Committee: Justin Harsha.
Property Maintenance and Restoration Committee: Ann Morris.
Civil Service and Employee Relations Committee: Mary Stanforth.
Street and Safety Committee: Adam Wilkin.
Utilities Committee: Brandon Leeth.
Zoning and Annexation Committee: Wendy Culbreath.
Community Enhancement Committee: Claudia Klein.
Morris and Klein’s committee assignments were the same as the previous council.
Also Monday, Justin Harsha was voted in as council president pro tempore.
Harsha and Morris were the only two nominated for the position.
Wilkin, Leeth and Stanforth voted for Harsha, while Culbreath and Klein voted for Morris. Harsha and Morris abstained from voting on the matter.
During the mayor’s report, Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings welcomed new council members to local government.
Hastings said his “office is always open,” and, among other remarks, told council members he is a guest at council meetings, adding, “Sometimes you have to deal with things just by your presence here that you shouldn’t have to, because I’m here, because some people don’t understand that I’m merely a guest.”
Hastings also said his role as mayor is “to make hard decisions,” and “to make it easier for you (council) to make harder decisions.”
“This administration and city council has achieved much over the last six years, and our city shows it,” he added.
Hastings also said Administrative Assistant Debbie Sansone will be out of the office for some time since she recently lost a family member.
Koogler said Sansone tendered her resignation from her role as clerk of council in October. Koogler appointed Heather Collins as the new clerk of council.
In the safety and service director’s report, Hillsboro Safety and Service Director Mel McKenzie also welcomed the new council members, saying 2018 is set to be a busy year for the city with a number of upcoming projects, including major resurfacing, critical infrastructure rehabilitation, parks and trails upgrades, and sidewalk replacements.
McKenzie also said the City of Hillsboro has agreed not to make property tax assessments on properties where the city has replaced sidewalks, and any revenue the city has gained from prior sidewalk replacement assessments will be refunded to the owners of those properties.
According to McKenzie, sidewalk replacement costs will instead be covered by “previously budgeted monies.”
McKenzie said notification processes in prior years were incorrect, “Thus, to avoid the development or further spread of distrust or discontentment among community members, I am advocating for the decision of not assessing the properties.”
Koogler placed the matter in the Street and Safety Committee for further review.
Also Monday, council heard a second reading on a resolution to join the Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District as a member.
Council also suspended the three-reading rule and approved as an emergency two resolutions authorizing the city to apply for grant funding from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Clean Ohio Trails Fund.
Hillsboro Auditor Gary Lewis said a portion of the funds will be used to pay for a bridge and trails connecting Liberty Park and Shaffer Park. Other funds will be used for a trail project in the Railroad Street area, McKenzie said.
Council also heard a first reading on two routine financial resolutions.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.