Updated: Hillsboro City Council delays decision on joining fire district


Mayor says commercial properties may ease levy

By David Wright - dwright@timesgazette.com



Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings and Safety and Service Director Mel McKenzie are pictured during Hillsboro City Council’s June meeting Monday night at the Highland County Justice Center.

Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings and Safety and Service Director Mel McKenzie are pictured during Hillsboro City Council’s June meeting Monday night at the Highland County Justice Center.


David Wright | The Times-Gazette

This story has been updated to reflect that a “catch-all provision” in the City of Hillsboro’s zoning code update was not removed from the document.

Hillsboro City Council on Monday tabled legislation on joining Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District as a member after about 45 minutes in executive session.

The legislation appeared on the agenda at the request of the Hastings administration three months after the same resolution was nixed in March by a 5-1 vote.

As previously reported, the city currently utilizes Paint Creek’s services on a contract basis. If the city joins the district, it would have a seat on the district’s operating board, and a 5.5 mill property tax will be imposed to pay for membership, as is the case for townships that have joined the district.

It has been said the increase in property tax would amount to about $170 per year for each $100,000 of valuation, although Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings has disputed that figure — along with saying last month that he will not sign a long-term contract with Paint Creek until council has thoroughly reviewed the matter.

Hastings said Tuesday that he requested the legislation because “I just believe in not waiting until the last minute” to make a decision.

“I think this is an important issue and we need to plan for it,” he said. “I definitely did not think they were necessarily going to vote to approve it or to disapprove it. I just wanted them to at least consider.”

Hastings said he recently put together new data showing that commercial property in Hillsboro “would pay a large part of the burden” of the levy, which he hoped would assuage concerns of property owners on fixed incomes having to pay extra.

Shortly before adjourning Monday, council voted to enter executive session to discuss security and contract negotiations. Law Director Fred Beery said council intended to discuss the Paint Creek issue.

After the session, council President Lee Koogler placed the matter in the Finance Committee, chaired by Justin Harsha, and the Street and Safety Committee, chaired by Adam Wilkin, for further review.

Koogler said since the city’s current contract with Paint Creek doesn’t expire until the end of the year, council has time to mull the matter over — although he told council members not to procrastinate in their discussions.

“It’s not something I want you to delay on,” Koogler said.

In other business Monday, Hastings swore in Betsy Bryant as the Hillsboro Police Department’s newest officer. HPD Chief Darrin Goudy said Bryant, formerly a dispatcher for the department, worked aggressively to qualify as an officer, and expressed confidence in her abilities.

Hillsboro Planning Commission President Tom Eichinger addressed council during the public comment session regarding a disputed portion of the city’s zoning code update. At a previous meeting of the Zoning and Annexation Committee, Chairwoman Wendy Culbreath said she wanted to revise a portion of the code that said any property uses not specifically allowed are prohibited.

Culbreath said the provision “takes away freedom.”

Eichinger said that kind of wording is common is zoning codes, in order to make it “as unambiguous as possible.”

Koogler said similar clauses, known as “catch-all provisions,” are common in legal documents.

The provision was not removed from the code update.

The code update was set for a third and final reading Monday, but when Koogler called for a vote to approve a number of amendments to the code, the amendments were approved 4-3 with Harsha, Wilkin and Brandon Leeth voting no. Harsha said he voted against the amendments because he hadn’t had time to review them. Council Clerk Heather Collins said the amendments had been sent out earlier in the day.

Koogler said since the ordinance had been amended, it had to revert back to a second reading. A third and final reading will be heard at next month’s meeting.

In the mayor’s report, Hastings said he will attend the Ohio Mayors Conference this week, where he looks forward to discussing “lots of items,” particularly medical marijuana dispensaries around the state.

Hastings said he recently spoke with Jack Hope, the owner of the old Parker House building on West Main Street. The mayor said he told Hope about the city’s blight abatement program, which allows residents to pay for property demolition via property tax assessments, but Hope said he wasn’t interested. Still, Hastings said he felt the conversation “edged a little closer to a resolution.”

Hillsboro Safety and Service Director Mel McKenzie said in his report that an improvement project at Liberty Park will include a three-and-a-half-mile trail, butterfly garden, community garden and new restrooms. A road-widening project on Harry Sauner Road will continue throughout the summer, McKenzie said, and motorists are urged to follow traffic signs.

McKenzie also said a local resident was recently fined for building a structure that did not comply with the city’s zoning code, and residents should review the code before building new structures.

In the Hillsboro Planning Commission report, Hastings said the commission met recently to discuss drafting a master plan for the city, and vacating two alleys. Hastings also said the commission spoke with a local resident about a non-conforming structure.

In the Finance Committee report, Harsha said his committee met recently to discuss selling city property and mowing. Harsha said the committee agreed the city should transfer several properties to the city’s community improvement corporation to post for sale – the old rest area on U.S. 50 on the east end of town, two parcels in the Railroad Street area, and the parking lot on West Walnut Street. The proceeds would be put toward improvements to the empty Colony Theatre lot, Harsha said. Legislation on the sales is expected to be introduced next month.

On the mowing topic, McKenzie told the committee earlier this month that due to a new type of accounting at the Hillsboro auditor’s office, he had concerns about city crews mowing certain city properties, and as a result, he was going to put out a request for proposal from private contractors, Harsha said. McKenzie said Monday that an informative meeting with Beery assuaged his concerns, and that while city employees will continue to mow city properties at the same cost, he will still put out a request for proposal to see if it’s cheaper to contract the task.

Property Maintenance and Restoration Committee Chairwoman Ann Morris said her committee recently agreed to move forward with building a pocket park at the Colony Theatre lot, and that the group is waiting on drawings of a decorative arch mimicking the theater’s marquee.

In the Street and Safety Committee report, Wilkin said his committee is still working to identify funding for a sports complex on Railroad Street. In the mayor’s report, Hastings said the idea is “very doable.” Wilkin said his committee also met recently to discuss revising city ordinances regarding animals. The committee will reconvene after reviewing the code individually.

Community Enhancement Committee Chairwoman Claudia Klein asked that Koogler place in her committee the topic of creating a parks district for the city. Koogler obliged.

Council also approved a resolution to increase appropriations in the Street Fund in the amount of $84,000 to pay for North East Street infrastructure improvements from last year.

Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.

Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings and Safety and Service Director Mel McKenzie are pictured during Hillsboro City Council’s June meeting Monday night at the Highland County Justice Center.
https://www.timesgazette.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/33/2018/06/web1_fcouncil061218-2.jpgHillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings and Safety and Service Director Mel McKenzie are pictured during Hillsboro City Council’s June meeting Monday night at the Highland County Justice Center. David Wright | The Times-Gazette
Mayor says commercial properties may ease levy

By David Wright

dwright@timesgazette.com