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Hillsboro gets 1st look at plaza plan

Staff writer

Hillsboro city council members Monday got their first good look at plans for a community plaza.

“I think we’ll be really successful with this if people will make it their own and take ownership of it,” city administrator Matt Stiles said.

Taking ownership will mean residents putting “sweat equity” into the project to cut construction costs, Stiles said. The estimated construction cost if a contractor had to be hired to do all the work is $355,000.

Stiles said he thought help could be recruited for the labor.

“It goes back to the ownership issue and having it belong to the community,” he said.

The plaza will have a “natural” playground with climbing structures and trees.

A fire pit is to be built between the stage and the play area.

A stage will be built in the later stages of development. It could be used to show Tabor games and other events, and could be rented out.

Leftover street bricks from work on Grand St. will be used to build the stage.

“We might not have quite enough bricks for that,” Stiles said.

Stalls with roll-up doors will be part of a pavilion and can be used for vendors.

A spray park/splash pad area with several water features will be the highlight of the plaza.

Stiles said the park will provide a gathering area and draw people to downtown.

The first phase of the plaza is planned for completion by the end of July. Phase 1 includes determining an internal action plan, securing splash park equipment, and working on architectural specs for a container building.

Stiles said he’d like to get the splash pad done during summer and keep it open on weekends after school begins as long as weather is warm.

“I think this really dovetails well into the things we’re thinking about for the future,” mayor Lou Thurston said.

Walking and biking trail

Engineer Zach Collett updated council members on the city’s walking trail project.

“Right now we’re about 1,300 feet short of coming to Adams St.,” Collett said.

Once that job is completed, work on US-56 entrances to the city will begin.

During work on the Industrial Rd. entrance, traffic to and from the hospital will use Industrial Rd. south of the facility.

Utility charges changed

Council members voted to discontinue charging a $125 refundable utility deposit to start service and switch to a nonrefundable $50 utility connection fee.

Stiles told council members the utility deposit system is cumbersome for employees and requires a significant amount of monthly paperwork.

“The idea here is that someone who doesn’t have the proper credit won’t leave town without paying their utility bills,” Stiles said.

Thurston said if someone does move away from town without paying their final bill, the $125 deposit is not likely to be enough money to pay the final bill.

“It just seems to me this would be a smoother way to go, and streamline our operations at city hall,” Thurston said.

Customers who have deposits on their accounts will be refunded on their next monthly bill.

Council members also hiked utility reconnection fees to $50. Current reconnection fees are $10 during working hours and $25 for after-hours reconnection.

Engineering services

Council members earlier decided to seek bids for engineering services because they were unhappy with delays and lack of timely communication with EBH Engineering.

After four applicants were interviewed, the panel recommended appointing EBH, in part because of the city’s 20-year relationship with the company and in part because of the company’s knowledge of Hillsboro.

“We had some issues in the past and everyone acknowledged those,” Stiles said. “EBH said they will make some changes to address that.”

Instead of a retainer paid for services, the agreement will mandate a set of fees for work. In a year, the city will evaluate the arrangement and decide whether to renew the contract with EBH.

“Just to be clear, this would be an enhanced relationship that we’d have with EBH that we haven’t had in the past,” Thurston said. “I am very appreciative of the relationship that we’ve had with EBH and I’m excited to formalize that relationship. We have responsibility to the people of our city to make sure projects get done in the most timely and fiscally responsible way.”

Possible scammers in town

Stiles advised council members that a couple people are going behind where new fiber optic line is being installed by TCI Wireless and trying to sign people up for high speed Internet service.

They are not associated with TCI Wireless, so people should be cautious about signing up with them, he said.

A public hearing on tax abatement for development at Countryside Feed is scheduled for 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Last modified April 22, 2021

 

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