No documentation for 1910 boundary change, Hillsboro attorney says
Somebody tried to shrink the town of Hillsboro in 1910 but it looks like they didn't go through all the necessary steps.
Although the county tax office and election board use a 1910 survey as the official town boundary, Hillsboro attorney Eugene Simmons said he and his staff have been unable to find documentation that would make the purported change official.
According to Simmons, in the absence of proper documentation, the 1886 boundary would remain in effect.
The attorney briefed Hillsboro council at its regular meeting on August 10.
Simmons said he and his staff had conducted an "exhaustive search" of courthouse records, "book by book and page by page," but had not found a court order making the 1910 change official. The attorney said a circuit court order is required to make a town boundary change official.
"We've done - I think you could say - a very exhaustive search, insofar as the town's records; insofar as the circuit court's records, all the way back to the 1800s," he said.
"There isn't anything in the records which would indicate a change since the original time of 1886."
The 1910 change purported to shrink the town from 326 acres to 146 acres. If the more-inclusive 1886 boundary is reinstated, it would encompass McCoy's Market, the Kennison Addition neighborhood and the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace.
Several potentially-affected residents attended the July 13 council meeting and told Mayor Anne Walker they didn't want to be part of the town. Walker assured them the town was not on a mission to acquire new land, simply trying to determine its correct boundary. Walker said the main reason for the clarification was primarily to determine who could vote in town elections.
The council will consider at future meetings whether to have a new survey performed, at an estimated cost of $5,000.
After receiving the attorney's update, the council moved to other agenda items.
Walker told council the town would probably have to raise sewer rates.
The mayor distributed a report by treasurer Sandy Simmons that showed the town was losing more than $7,000 annually under current rates. An increase of about 14 percent, or $7.49 per month, for the utility's 149 customers is necessary to balance the account, according to the report.
Walker said an increase in operating costs, along with no rate increase for the last five years, had combined to create the shortfall. The mayor said legal costs for the phosphorus appeal and installation of a sewer line to the former town office had added $11,500 to the shortfall.
Councilmember Sandy Gladwell said $7.49 was a lot of money for elderly residents who live on fixed incomes and expressed concern about their ability to pay.
"If we consider seven dollars there and we consider the electric is probably going to go up again and all that, some of these people are going to be in very bad shape," she said.
Councilmember James Johnson said the town was already ranked 183 out of 344 in sewer rates and suggested the possibility of reducing the minimum usage charge.
Walker said the state could take control of the town's sewer system if the account was not balanced.
The council will consider the matter further during September's meeting, when Simmons is expected to give an update.
During the mayor's report, Walker informed council that White Sulphur Springs mayor Debbie Fogus had offered to include Hillsboro as benefactors of a lobbying contract with law firm Steptoe and Johnson regarding water quality standards, at no cost to the town.
"They are offering to let us in with the lobbying - to receive the benefits of the lobbyists - and they are offering to pay our portion," she said.
Walker said the White Sulphur Springs council was "extending an arm of generosity" because Hillsboro had paid more than its fair share of legal costs during a joint appeal of new phosphorus discharge limits, which was successful.
On July 15, the West Virginia Environmental Quality Board struck down the new phosphorus limits and ruled that the Department of Environmental Protection had not used sound science when establishing the permit limitations.
Walker said Fogus had checked with the Municipal League and state ethics commission and found no objection to the deal.
The item will be placed on September's agenda for a vote.
Walker reported that the sewage treatment plant discharge report indicated no violations for the previous month.
In other business, the council:
- voted 5-1 to approve the sale of a trailer formerly used as a town office, to Richard Workman for $25. Johnson voted nay.
- Unanimously approved to hire Rose's Excavation to dig up a fire hydrant in need of replacement.