Hillsboro city council members started the new year Tuesday by swearing in new council member Blake Beye, then reviewing accomplishments during 2021.
City administrator Matt Stiles said the city saw much employee turnover with eight retirements and 10 other positions that turned over.
The city prosecutor had to be replaced twice. The first time was in February, when the city hired Kimberlyn Gilchrest from Triplett Woolf Garretson law firm. Later that month, Gilchrest took a different job, and Susan Robson was hired to be city prosecutor. When Robson was appointed district judge in November, the city hired Joe Uhlman as prosecutor.
Despite higher-than-usual turnover, Stiles said he was confident in the city’s employees.
“I will say we have a great team,” Stiles said.
High COVID-19 rates countywide are causing employee absences, Stiles said.
“With the pandemic, right now we’re kind of at a high point again,” he said. “That does affect operations.”
Stiles said the city had depleted its supplies of in-house COVID screening supplies and needed to get more.
Another pandemic-related difficulty is getting other types of supplies. For example, PVC pipe for city projects is very difficult to get, he said.
Not all COVID-related news was bad, however. Two popular annual events — the county fair and the arts and crafts fair — were held in 2021 after being canceled in 2020.
Council members were pleased with completion of a fiber optic Internet program that brought high-speed Internet access to every address in the city.
Mayor Lou Thurston said the fiber project had been worked on for years and it was good to see it come to fruition.
One of the goals the city set in its strategic planning was for a child-care center.
“Work has progressed on our community day care,” Stiles said. “Trinity Mennonite Church is thinking about offering their building.”
Stiles said the church was considering making changes for its own purposes.
Thurston said city finances remained strong despite earlier fears that the pandemic would disrupt financial well-being.
“We thought sales tax revenues would drop because of the pandemic, but that didn’t happen,” Thurston said.
People continued to work, and sales tax revenues remained high, he said.
Total collection of sales tax for 2021 was $872,024.52, which was 23% higher than in 2020.
This year, Stiles said, council members will need to make decisions on equipment to purchase.
“We’ve got a fairly long list of equipment we need to replace,” he said.
City utility departments want to sell two backhoes and replace them with a used excavator, a mini-excavator, and a rubber tire backhoe.
The estimated total for the equipment is $200,000 to $210,000. He estimated that the city could get $35,000 from selling or trading the two backhoes.
Stiles will solicit quotes and provide more complete information at future meetings.