Pursuing a new hotel in the uptown area, extending sidewalks from uptown to Southern State Community College, paving more streets and widening Harry Sauner Road are some of the projects on tap for 2016 in Hillsboro, Mayor Drew Hastings told Hillsboro Rotarians on Tuesday.
Hastings also encouraged residents to submit ideas on which areas in the city should be addressed because of blight, and also urged uptown businesses to take advantage of the city’s façade improvement program, which has more funds allocated this year, he said.
Hastings alluded only briefly to the criminal investigation that is ongoing by the Highland County Sheriff’s office into allegations involving a $500 vacant property fee he had paid and which was later refunded to him, and charges that he has used city dumpsters to dispose of items from personal properties. Sources say investigators are looking into other allegations as well.
Hastings opened his remarks Tuesday by joking, “What can you say about Drew Hastings that hasn’t already been alleged?”
Later, he said several city projects can be completed “when we get some of these distractions behind us in the next couple of months.”
Otherwise, the mayor devoted himself to touting achievements and future plans. He said the city is experiencing a 7.5% increase in tax revenue. He said the street, curb and gutter project on North East Street will continue block by block all the way to SR 138, noting the increase in traffic in the center of town when North East was closed for the first phase of the project.
He said the hotel project will benefit the city in a number of ways. “It would be a big deal to get a decent hotel in town,” he said. Hastings has said previously that the city has met with developers about a new hotel.
Hastings said the city hopes to win about $450,000 in Capital Budget funds, a subject on which he met recently with Ohio Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger. He said the new pedestrian bridge near Walgreens and Kmart is part of an overall project that will allow people to walk all the way from the center of town to the college if the funding is approved.
The mayor said the façade project, in which store owners can qualify for matching grants from the city to upgrade building fronts, is an effort to improve the appearance of Hillsboro and “get some of the historic look back.”
He said a grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources will help fund a dog park at Liberty Park, an idea originally pursued by private citizens. He said he hoped to see that project completed in the spring.
Hastings said a curb and gutter project along South High Street using Community Development Block Grant funds is set to continue this year, and $735,000 will be spent to widen Harry Sauner Road and install sidewalks from Pizza Hut to Kibler Lumber. He also noted the recent completion of Hobart-Carl Smith Drive, giving county Engineer Dean Otworth most of the credit for making that roadway a reality.
So far, Hastings has not let the ongoing criminal investigation prevent him from performing his daily routine as mayor, or keeping his schedule of appearances.
On most weekends he has continued to perform his standup comedy routine at various venues around the region, including a show over the weekend in Indiana. He appeared again last week on the nationally syndicated “Bob & Tom Show” on radio. On Monday night he was the featured speaker at the Clinton County GOP Century Club dinner.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.