City tax receipts are up so far to the tune of nearly $250,000, Hillsboro City Council learned Monday.
In his report to council, Safety and Service Director Todd Wilkin said that city income tax collections are up by 7.42 percent over a year ago. He said the collections are an indication of a healthier city economy.
“As we reflect upon our accomplishments in 2015, we realize we need to jump into our 2016 budget aggressively,” said Wilkin.
Wilkin outlined several projects scheduled this year, including:
• Harry Sauner Road widening, $946,439.
• South East Street reconstruction, $353,841.
• South High Street curb and gutter project, $63,750.
• Dog park and pavilion at Liberty Park, $102,248.
Wilkin said the city is working on filling the position that will be left vacant with the retirement Feb. 29 of Randy Barr, the water/sewer and streets manager.
“We are hopeful to receive the applications next week, have interviews and make a decision the last week of January,” said Wilkin.
Monday marked the first meeting of council since news broke of both a civil complaint filed against Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings alleging malfeasance, and a criminal investigation looking into allegations of forgery and theft in office.
The civil case was dismissed Friday, but the criminal investigation is ongoing. One issue being investigated – and which was the heart of the civil case – involves a $500 refund of a vacant property fee issued to Hastings last summer, based on an authorization containing Wilkin’s stamped signature. According to an affidavit filed with a search warrant on Dec. 16, Wilkin told investigators he did not authorize the refund.
As usual at council meetings, Hastings and Wilkin sat together at a small table on one side of the room. They did not appear to speak to each other throughout the course of the meeting.
Wilkin also reported that FOP negotiations are ongoing, and another meeting is scheduled Jan. 25.
He also reported that mediation is coming up at the end of the month with engineering company CH2MHill regarding the wastewater treatment plant.
“Hopefully we can sit down with the engineer and come to an agreement on the issues at the wastewater treatment plant,” said Wilkin. “If not, our next step will be to proceed to arbitration.”
In late 2014, the city filed a demand for arbitration in an effort to get CH2MHill to pay roughly $1.4 million to the city after the city was ordered by an arbitrator to pay more than $800,000 to the plant contactor. The project began in 2008 and was completed in January 2013 after many construction delays and design issues. The project ended 262 days behind schedule, city officials said later.
“The city administration has since held multiple meetings with the engineer on the project, CH2MHill, to try and negotiate an agreed upon settlement under which CH2MHill would contribute their share to the arbitrator’s award and further reimburse the city for additional costs arising from the failure of plant components,” said Wilkin at the time. “Unfortunately, no agreement has been made with CH2MHill and as of December 6, 2014 the city has filed a demand for arbitration.”
Also Monday, Hastings reported that he had met with Ohio Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger on the city’s Capital Budget request. The mayor said that while the city was unlikely to receive the full $650,000 it had requested, it looked “promising” that a considerable amount of funding would be forthcoming.
In other matters, council:
• Heard the mayor report on a recent Planning Commission meeting, including a meeting with a planning services expert on her ideas to proceed with a planning “makeover” for Hillsboro.
• Heard the second reading of an ordinance to amend the sign ordinance to provide for fee changes and additional sign options.
• Passed as an emergency an annual resolution regarding the payment of legal fees for indigent persons charged with serious offenses in municipal court.
• Placed into committee ordinances on a zoning amendment and the disposition of a building at 120 Trimble Place.
• Heard from Wilkin that Annette Black of the auditor’s office is the employee of the month.
• Approved a sign request for Little Caesar’s Pizza, which is locating in the former Long John Silver’s location on Harry Sauner Road.
• Heard City Auditor Gary Lewis report a balance on hand of $5.9 million.
• Heard a request from Hillsboro resident Steven Williams for council to follow up on a request made in December by several residents for council to rebuke Hastings for Facebook comments made by the mayor.
• And heard a request from county resident James Matticks to council President Lee Koogler to urge the administration to release the source of a $78,000 anonymous donation made to the city in late 2013.
Council briefly adjourned into an executive session during Monday’s meeting in order to consult with Law Director Fred Beery. Council members Dick Donley, Claudia Klein, Tracy Aranyos, Ann Morris, Rebecca Wilkin, Justin Harsha, Bill Alexander and Koogler were all present Monday.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.