A revised ordinance designed to more fairly bill water usage at multi-unit dwellings in Hillsboro had its first reading by Hillsboro City Council on Monday after an effort to pass the legislation as an emergency did not garner enough support.
Even though they indicated support for the legislation, council members Bill Alexander and Rebecca Wilkin said they wanted the legislation to have three full readings so citizens would have more time to weigh in. Wilkin is chair of the Utilities Committee, which recommended passage of the legislation. Council member Justin Harsha also indicated that he would not support suspending the rules so the legislation could take immediate effect.
Council member Tracy Aranyos had made a motion to suspend the rules, with council member Claudia Klein seconding the motion, but Aranyos withdrew her motion after Alexander, Wilkin and Harsha indicated they would not support suspending the rules, which requires approval of six of the seven voting members.
As Mayor Drew Hastings described the legislation, the ordinance “captures households that were not recognized by our water billing department” when there is just one water meter installed for multiple units. He said the legislation would bring in another $120,000 annually to the city, and resident homeowners would be the “big beneficiary.”
Hastings has said that water rates for most homeowners are higher because residents of multi-unit complexes are not separately paying the base rates that other residents are required to pay. He has likened the current system to an apartment complex that pays for one cable TV bill, but splices the cable to provide cable TV to all apartments within the building.
Wilkin described meetings her committee has held on the subject, saying the change would create a more “uniform” system, making each unit responsible for usage “instead of one meter serving several units.”
Some landlords have expressed concern that the legislation will increase costs and make it more difficult to rent apartments.
Hastings thanked Wilkin and the committee, along with Nancy Matthews from the water department and Todd Wilkin, the safety and service director, “for all the work on this.” The legislation will have its second reading in April.
In other business, Todd Wilkin told council that with the city’s planning commission working on an update to current zoning code, the city is seeking public input from citizens. A survey is available online at http://goo.gl/forms/WRlT0BmVId for citizens to provide input on zoning. Wilkin said the survey will take about 10 minutes to complete.
Wilkin also asked council President Lee Koogler to place a revision project for the city’s civil service manual into the Civil Service Committee, chaired by Alexander. Wilkin said the manual was last updated in 1985, and many guidelines are outdated. He said that while Bob Cross, the city’s labor negotiator, is helping with the update, “I would like for Mr. Alexander’s committee to be involved in this process as well.”
Wilkin said, “This will help the city insure the civil service rules are accurate, up to date, and adhered to.”
In other matters during a relatively short meeting:
• Wilkin reported that Evans Landscaping has been identified as the most qualified and lowest bidder to demolish the old water treatment plan.
• Wilkin said the city is in the process of hiring a code enforcement officer and another police officer to help combat the drug issue.
• Wilkin said the second annual Family Fishing Day will be held at 11 a.m. April 16 at Harmony Lake.
• Hastings reported to council on his formation of a Citizens Advisory Board to offer input and advice to the police department, as previously reported in The Times-Gazette, with the mayor asking council members for recommendations for board members.
• Hastings said the Design Review Board has been working in conjunction with the uptown revitalization effort to make sure the city’s “historic look and integrity” is maintained.
• Hastings reported that the planning commission heard from Liz Fields, the zoning consultant working on a new zoning plan, and the “zoning diagnosis” will take about four months.
• Council heard city Auditor Gary Lewis report that the city has about $6.1 million on hand, and that the city is still on track for a $700,000 year-end carry-over.
• Council heard council member Ann Morris, chair of the Property, Maintenance and Restoration Committee, report that the committee will recommend waiving the sign fee when businesses replace an existing sign with the “same type” of sign, although the new sign will still be subject to approval by the Sign Review Board.
• Council heard Harsha report that he met with the Festival of the Bells Committee, although he said he had no direction from the administration or council on what to ask, but did hear suggestions from the festival committee.
• Council heard Aranyos report that her Zoning and Annexation Committee met to discuss annexation of the county engineer property, and on proposed legislation prohibiting first-floor residential apartments in the uptown area, with existing apartments grandfathered in, along with a prohibition against more gas stations in the uptown district with the exception of the existing Flagway station on East Main Street.
• Council heard Klein report that her Community Enhancement Committee is still examining a yard sale ordinance.
• Council heard council member Dick Donley report that the Finance Committee met to discuss the purchase of the “Armintrout building” from John “Buck” Wilkin, which is already in the form of legislation which had its second reading Monday, as well as a request for funding from Grow! Highland County, which the committee was not ready to recommend yet.
• Council approved routine appropriation changes requested by Lewis and a resolution authorizing the mayor to enter into an agreement for Community Development Block Grant activities.
• Council heard local resident Richard Stiffler again urge council not to proceed with the purchase of the Armintrout building or the creation of a new uptown plaza.
• And council heard from Wilkin that 27-year employee Cherri Pitzer is the February employee of the month, with Wilkin thanking her for her “many thankless hours” working on new requirements associated with the Health Care Reform Act.
All council members were present Monday.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.