Some buildings on West Main Street in Hillsboro that have been designated by the city as uninhabitable are not in as bad shape as the public has been led to believe, a pair of visitors said at Monday’s city council meeting.
Jeff Parks, representing the Southern Ohio Historic Preservation Group (SOHPC), said his group has major concerns and that it “doesn’t understand what’s going on with your city.”
The SOHPC purchased a former home of a local AAA office and an adjacent building that formerly housed Momma’s West Main Cafe. 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 by the city in April.
“We’re being treated awfully special by the city of Hillsboro,” Parks said. “We’re tired of being treated special. We never wanted to be special. We just want to come in here and do a good job and restore some beautiful buildings and turn them into something you all can be proud of. That’s really not working out for us right now, and that’s a real problem.”
Parks said former Hillsboro Building Inspector Anton Weissmann, who has since been fired, “had no idea what in the world he was talking about” when he ruled the buildings the SOHPC purchased uninhabitable, and that Weissmann had a conflict of interest since he was interested in helping renovate the former Wanda’s Grill in Hillsboro’s uptown area.
He also said the SOHPC had been threatened by Mayor Drew Hastings.
“The buildings need stuff, but it’s all addressable,” Parks said. “Why do we have stickers all over our buildings?”
“All we want to do is get our contract honored and the deed transferred into our name,” Parks added. “These guys are here to stay. They’re your friends. They’re qualified. They’re your allies. How about no more threats? How about just treat us like everybody else?”
Jeretta Barr, an owner of Momma’s West Main Cafe, said the business had been closed for 70 days and counting, leaving 10 area residents unemployed. She said local residents that supplied meat and produce to the restaurant had also been negatively impacted. She asked council to reverse an injunction that closed the buildings, to remove the stickers, and let remodeling begin.
Both Parks and Barr said they have had engineers look at the buildings and that they were told there were no major issues with them.
Hillsboro Safety and Service Director Dick Donley said the issues would be addressed accordingly and that the city would try to resolve them.
In other business, Ann Morris, chair of council’s Property Maintenance and Restoration Committee, said it met July 17 to discuss the Parker House, what to do with the old firehouse, possibly putting council chambers for the second floor of the City Building, possible new signage at the city’s entrances, and the possibility of charging stations for electric cars.
Hastings was excused from the meeting since his father passed away earlier in the day.
Prior to the meeting, Samuel Knight with the U.S. Census Bureau addressed council, saying that an accurate count of the city’s residents was imperative for the city to receive its fair share of funding and representation.
He said the 10-year sentence is the largest peace time undertaking for the government, and that citizens can responded to the census online, by mail or be telephone. If that does not happen, he said a census representative will visit the home. He pointed out that the Census Bureau does not call anyone and that if someone receives a call from anyone representing themselves as being with the Census Bureau, it would be a fraudulant call.
“Our goal is to count everyone once, and only once, and in the right place — where one rests their head the majority of the time,” Knight said.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522.