Hillsboro City Council on Monday approved a temporary budget for the first quarter of the year as the city is poised to sell its fire station on North East Street to the Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District and join the district later this month.
Finance Committee Chairman Justin Harsha said at council’s December meeting that his committee decided earlier this month the city should approve a temporary budget that will cover the city’s expenses until the Paint Creek matter is resolved, since Hillsboro will likely have to pay Paint Creek for a one-year contract until the district can collect revenue from a 5.5-mill levy that will be put on the books next year if the city joins.
Council unanimously approved the temporary budget, which amounts to $1,062,687 of the full $4,250,750 for 2019, according to Harsha. The budget includes $650,000 to cover the estimated Paint Creek contract price for the year, Harsha said. The city previously paid Paint Creek $570,000 yearly for fire coverage out of its General Fund.
As previously reported, the city voted last month to join the district instead of contracting for fire service as it has in previous years, although Paint Creek last month suspended its offer for Hillsboro to join until the city sells the district its fire station on North East Street, which Paint Creek currently occupies.
Officials now say the parties are on the verge of closing the deal. Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings told council on Monday that the city recently presented the district with a clear title for the fire station and is ready to proceed with the sale, but he said Hillsboro will not close until Paint Creek votes to accept the city as a member. Paint Creek board President Dan Mathews said the board will likely hold such a vote at its meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 18.
The purchase price for the North East Street station will be $720,000, officials have said, and in exchange, Hillsboro will take ownership of Paint Creek’s former firehouse on Governor Trimble Place. The proposed agreement says Paint Creek will pay $5,000 per month in rent for the North East Street station that will be counted toward the purchase price until bonds on the building are mature in 2022 and the deed can be transferred.
But with the deal currently pending, council members agreed Monday that a permanent 2019 budget should not be approved until all is set in stone.
Harsha said after the meeting that council will hopefully have a complete budget to approve in February.
In the mayor’s report, Hastings expressed concerns about the possibility of a number of group homes being constructed in the area by the Highland County Community Action Organization. Hastings said such group homes could be open to people recovering from substance abuse, and while he is “by no means opposed to some types of group homes,” he is concerned about group homes not being on the tax rolls and being exempt from zoning.
Hastings also swore in two new reserve officers for the Hillsboro Police Department. HPD Chief Darrin Goudy said Ty Smith and Billy Foster have completed training and will be on the job soon.
Safety and Service Director Mel McKenzie said in his report that city crews recently completed a culvert/storm sewer project on West Main Street as well as paving on Governor Trimble Place and Governor Foraker Place.
In the Utilities Committee report, Chairman Brandon Leeth said he recently found that city council does not decide the city’s policies on trash pickup, that responsibility instead being on the safety and service director. Leeth referenced a draft ordinance creating a municipal trash pickup service by having local waste disposal businesses bid for quadrants of the city so residents’ trash bills could be centralized on their water bill every month.
The ordinance was met with resistance from local trash collectors and citizens, and Koogler placed the matter in Leeth’s committee. On Monday, Koogler told Leeth that council can still make recommendations to the administration for trash pickup policies. The matter will remain in the Utilities Committee for further discussion. Koogler also passed along a citizens’ petition against the trash pickup ordinance.
Council approved legislation that compels the city treasurer to provide detailed monthly finance reports to council, although some council members said the city auditor would be charged with the task since the auditor’s office completes many of the treasurer’s statutory duties. The motion carried 4-3 with Wendy Culbreath, Ann Morris, Claudia Klein and Mary Stanforth in favor and Justin Harsha, Adam Wilkin and Brandon Leeth against.
Hillsboro Auditor Gary Lewis was not in attendance Monday.
In new business, Leeth said he had received complaints from some locals about the Hillsboro code enforcement officer telling business owners to make changes to their properties that were not in line with city code. Koogler told Leeth to discuss the matter with McKenzie.
In the citizens’ comments portion of the meeting, Dale Campbell thanked council for improvements in the Josie Avenue area.
Council also completed the following:
• Approved a resolution moving $25,000 from the General Fund to Bond Retirement.
• Approved a resolution to increase appropriations in the Sewer Debt Retirement Fund.
• Approved a resolution to increase appropriations in the police budget to accommodate the annual Shop with a Cop program in the amount of $2,000.
• Approved a resolution to increase appropriations in the General Fund and advance funds from the General Fund to other funds as needed, which Koogler said was a routine year-end resolution.
• Approved a resolution to enter into an agreement with the Highland County Commissioners to provide legal counsel to indigent defendants.
• Suspended the three-reading rule and approved an ordinance expanding the living and occupational requirements of members of the Design Review Board. Hastings said it has been difficult to recruit board members due to restrictive requirements for where they must live and work in order to be members.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570.