Cleanup of a collapsed building on West Main Street in Hillsboro is pending an engineering plan to keep an adjacent building stable and the signing of a liability agreement by the owner, the Hillsboro safety and service director told city council at its monthly meeting Monday.
Meanwhile, the new owner of two buildings down the street told council that he has an engineering report that contradicts the stance of the city’s code enforcement officer, who deemed the buildings unfit for habitation in April.
David Osborne of the Southern Ohio Historical Preservation Group, an Adams County limited-liability company, said during the public comment portion of the meeting that the buildings are not as far gone as the city says they are, and that only one is in need of serious structural repair.
Osborne also alleged that Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings, at a meeting in April, threatened him with legal action if he purchased the buildings.
Hastings said on Tuesday that he “did not do anything to coerce him, to keep him from buying the buildings. Absolutely not.”
The mayor said he did inform Osborne of the structural issues with the buildings.
The buildings Osborne’s company purchased are the former home of a local AAA office and an adjacent building formerly housing a popular local diner. Those buildings were owned by local developer Jack Hope for years before Osborne’s company purchased them.
Those buildings, along with the old Parker House along an alley, which is still owned by Hope, were deemed uninhabitable in April, and city officials say court hearings for argument are upcoming.
Osborne said he wants to work with the city, not against it, to save the buildings.
Also during public comment, Karen Cundiff of Cundiff’s Flowers, a shop across an alley from the collapsed building at 119 W. Main St., asked when she could return to her business, and Mayor Drew Hastings said he hoped cleanup would begin in a few days.
In Safety and Service Director Mel McKenzie’s report, which was read aloud by Council President Tom Eichinger due to McKenzie’s absence at the meeting, McKenzie said cleanup work on the collapsed building will commence when the adjacent building owner signs an agreement releasing the city from liability if it falls. City officials said that building was left vulnerable to collapse after the 119 building came down last Monday.
McKenzie also said crews are waiting for an engineer to draw a plan for keeping the adjacent building stable during cleanup.
The safety and service director said the site has been cleared of environmental and health issues.
According to McKenzie, the eastbound lane of West Main Street (U.S. Route 50) will remain closed along the whole block due to the unstable buildings down the street.
McKenzie said the city is in a “waiting game now” with those buildings.
“My patience is running thin and the city will be acting soon,” he said.
In other matters, Rick Lemonds, president and CEO of the South Central Power Company, said the business is relocating to a facility east of town in late winter or early spring, eventually completing the move about two years from now. He said more information on the move will be forthcoming.
Dale Campbell, a local resident, asked about the status of the city’s Gross Feibel properties, which are heavily deteriorated. Hastings said the city does not have the funds for demolition or cleanup this year.
Council also heard a first reading of an ordinance establishing a stormwater utility, a new public works department funded by a utility bill hike. Billing would be based on the area of a property where rainwater cannot penetrate the ground, according to Utilities Committee Chairman Brandon Leeth.
Leeth said the stormwater utility is being created to repair, replace and create new paths for the city’s failing storm sewer system over the next 11 years. According to Leeth, clean stormwater is running into the city’s wastewater treatment plant, effectively causing the plant to treat water that is already sanitary.
In the mayor’s report, Hastings said he and some council members recently met with a developer interested in constructing a hotel at the intersection of Harry Sauner Road and North West Street (SR 73). He said the developer requested that tax increment financing (TIF) be established in the area. TIF diverts a portion of property tax in a given area into a fund that can be used for infrastructure and other improvements in the same area. Council approved that legislation later in the meeting.
Hastings said he would attend the upcoming Ohio Mayors Conference, welcomed Nicole Chambers to the Design Review Board, thanked his staff for keeping his office running smoothly in the midst of staff changes, and said Hillsboro’s Movies Under the Stars program begins June 28. More information on that program can be found on the city website, he said.
In committee reports, Councilman Justin Harsha said his Finance Committee recently tapped two new members for the Tax Review Board, and council approved the recommendations.
The Property Maintenance and Restoration Committee, chaired by Councilwoman Ann Morris, recently discussed possibly selling the old Hillsboro fire station uptown and using the funds to create a new council chambers in the City Building across the street.
Councilwoman Mary Stanforth said her Civil Service and Employee Relations Committee recently decided structural changes at the Hillsboro Police Department were “appropriate,” and discussed other matters.
Hastings said the Hillsboro Planning Commission recently discussed upcoming changes to municipal building code and Imagine Hillsboro, the city’s comprehensive plan.
Council approved by a 4-2 vote a resolution authorizing the Hillsboro Planning Commission to be a local appeals board for the height, design and location of buildings in Hillsboro and Highland County.
Council also approved a resolution outlining an agreement for an Ohio Department of Transportation sidewalk project.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570.