Hillsboro Mayor Justin Harsha presented a State of the City address during the first Hillsboro City Council meeting of the year last Thursday before the council considered a long list of legislation.
The meeting began with council president Tom Eichinger welcoming Jo Sanborn as a new city council member. Sanborn was recently selected by the Highland County Republican Central Committee to replace the council seat vacated by Patty Day, who was appointed as city auditor.
Council also selected member Greg Maurer to serve as president pro tempore for the council for the 2023 calendar year at the onset of the meeting.
Mayor Justin Harsha said Hillsboro has made a great deal of progress during the past three years during his speech to city council. “When I took office a little over three years ago, the state of the city wasn’t near where it is today,” he said. “The budget was super thin, and every department saw major cuts on an annual basis. Our projected carryover for 2020 was approximately $200,000 compared to this year’s budget with a projected carryover of $1.5 million with no major cuts to report.”
Harsha cited the Roberts Lane expansion project, the West Main Street Greenspace project, Phase 3 Storm Sewer Project, and the downtown pedestrian crosswalk project as signs of economic growth in the city.
“We’ve been able to capitalize on many opportunities, and I can say to you now that the progress of our city is stronger today than I could have ever imagined,” said Harsha. “Despite the economic hardships faced in the past few years, growth in Hillsboro has picked up at an amazing rate.”
During her report to the city council, Hillsboro Safety and Service Director Brianne Abbott said the city received 154 commercial building permits and 101 residential permits during for the 2022 calendar year. She said an environmental study for the Marriott Hotel project in the city is underway, and a final report on endangered species is being completed before the report is finalized.
Upon completion of the environmental review, the county will hold a public hearing prior to making funding decisions about the project.
Abbott said the city has received notification of a dilapidated barn on the city’s newly purchased property on Fenner Avenue that will be demolished by the Highland County Land Bank in the coming weeks. She said several private developments are in the planning and construction phases with tentative openings planned in 2023.
A resolution to adopt the 2022 version of the Hillsboro Policy and Procedure Manual passed unanimously after its third reading before council. The new version of the policy will allow the travel reimbursement rate to reflect the current IRS mileage rate.
An ordinance amending sections 3401 of the codified ordinances of Hillsboro in order to comply with Ohio law regarding residence of city employees was passed unanimously.
Council heard the second reading of three pieces of legislation. An ordinance to designate the zoning classification of a certain parcel and modify the zoning map, a resolution to amend the Hillsboro 2019 Comprehensive Plan “Imagine Hillsboro” and a resolution to establish an Imagine Hillsboro Select Committee were moved to a third reading at next month’s city council meeting.
An ordinance to authorize and direct Abbottr to enter into an agreement with the Highland County commissioners to provide for indigent defendant council passed unanimously as an emergency to comply with time constraints in the terms of the agreement.
An ordinance authorizing the mayor to enter into an agreement for delinquent debt collection services with the Ohio Attorney General was passed unanimously as an emergency. Harsha said there is no cost to the city for the services. Abbott said past efforts by the city or contracted debt collectors have not proven to work well.
An ordinance authorizing all actions necessary to effectuate an opt-out electric service aggregation program and directing the city to submit a ballot question to the electors was approved unanimously as an emergency. The issue will be placed on the May 2 primary ballot for Hillsboro voters and allow them to consider an opt-out electric service aggregation program.
“The basics of the program are that by creating an aggregation it enables negotiating for the lowest rate,” said Utilities Committee Member Jason Brown. “There are no fees to the citizens, current billing statements and accounts do not change, and anyone can opt in or out at any time.”
Eichinger said the program would allow “the city and our citizens” to lock in lower electricity rates.
A resolution transferring the former Hillsboro firehouse at 108 Gov. Trimble Place to the Hillsboro Community Improvement Corporation was moved to a second reading at next month’s city council meeting.
A resolution to enter into a contract with DLZ Ohio, Inc. for the design of the Roberts Lane Development was passed by a 5-1 vote with councilman Jason Brown voting against the resolution after it was unanimously put up for an emergency vote.
The cost of the design project, according to the legislation, is not to exceed $712,835. The project will include the design of two roundabouts and a section of roadway connecting Roberts Lane and S.R. 73. It is a requirement to completing the entire project, which has an estimated cost of $9.6 million.
A resolution to authorize and direct the safety and service director to enter into a grant agreement with the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services was unanimously passed as an emergency. The legislation will allow the Hillsboro Police Department to receive a grant of $55,476 to purchase 10 new body-worn cameras.
A resolution to authorize and direct the Abbott to enter into a lease agreement with Statewide Municipal Lease for police cruisers was unanimously approved as an emergency. The legislation will allow the Hillsboro Police Department to purchase three Ford Explorers for a total cost not to exceed $181,082.
A resolution authorizing the city to prepare and submit an application to participate in the Ohio Department of Transportation’s Transportation Alternative Program (TAP) passed as an emergency by a 6-0 vote. Abbott said the city plans to apply for funding for a Rails to Trails Community Trail Project through this program and needs to comply with a shortly upcoming application due date.
A resolution authorizing the city to prepare and submit an application to participate in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grant program was moved to a second reading at next month’s city council meeting.
A resolution authorizing the city auditor to file an application for a credit card in the name of “The City of Hillsboro” with Merchant’s National Bank in Hillsboro passed unanimously as an emergency. According to Day, the city’s current credit card charges an annual fee and is in the name of the former auditor, and she plans to close that account.
An ordinance to make supplemental appropriations in the amount of $10,600 to make available the proceeds from the sale of a skid steer and dump truck passed unanimously.
An ordinance making supplemental appropriations in the amount of $5,200 and a resolution approving then and now certification were approved to allow payment of an Ohio Water Development Authority loan.
Reach John Hackley at 937-402-2571.