Hillsboro council agrees to town survey
Hillsboro took a step toward resolution of its boundary issue when town council voted during its September 14 meeting to have a survey of the town's boundary completed.
Councilmember James Johnson said the matter needed addressed, as well as the larger issue of how the town serves its residents.
"I'm still of the opinion that it's an issue that has lingered, ever since I've been involved with this - for 10 years," he said. "It needs addressed, but I think we should be able to offer all of the residents here an equal and functioning town government. We don't have that. We don't have an ordinance that anybody can or will enforce. I think we need to address that."
Town attorney Eugene Simmons reported at last month's meeting that the original 1886 boundary was the last legal boundary on record for the town. The attorney said a purported 1910 boundary change, that reduced the town area by nearly half, was undocumented, and therefore, unofficial. The county tax and election offices have used the 1910 boundary since it was established.
Robert Kelley owns a home outside the 1910 boundary and inside the 1886 boundary.ﾠ If the more-inclusive 1886 boundary is reinstated, his property tax bill would go up from $249 to $329
Kelley told council an independent boundary determination and survey should be done and that there could be a conflict of interest with attorney Simmons, who owns property in the town.
"I think you should have it surveyed, from this standpoint," he said. "The way the old one and the new one - the way the two kind of lapse - with Gene Simmons down there - if you throw his house out, it could be a conflict of interest."
Council voted 5-0 to have a survey done, if the cost is $5,000 or less. If the cost is more than $5,000, council will reconsider the issue. Councilmembers Lois Wilfong and Sandy Gladwell were not present.
Mayor Anne-Marie Walker wrote in a September 17 email that she did not know if the surveyor would simply plot the 1886 boundary or perform an independent determination of the correct boundary.
"We've not contacted a surveyor, as of yet, so I can't answer this question," she wrote.
Moving to other items, council discussed an increase to town sewer rates.
Treasurer Sandy Simmons reported that the town's sewer operation is operating with an annual shortfall of $7,144, and said cost increases for electricity, testing and chemicals were the main reasons for the deficit.
Simmons and Walker developed a proposal to balance the sewer account, which the mayor discussed with council.
Under Walker's proposal, the base bi-monthly sewage charge for town customers would increase from $30.31 per two months to about $31.25. In addition, all customers would pay a sewer rate of 75 cents per 1,000 gallons for water usage over 3,700 gallons - the amount currently charged for commercial customers only.
Walker said including a usage-based charge for residential customers was more fair than an across-the-board increase for all customers.
"To keep everybody from paying a $7.50 increase across-the-board, if we go with a usage-based rate, instead of using a flat rate, I think it will distribute the use a little bit more fairly," she said.
The council took no action and will consider the rate change at next month's meeting.
Council discussed the need for a new town office building.
The mayor said Wilfong had obtained two estimates for materials, ranging from $6,500 to $10,000; and two estimates for labor, ranging from $7,500 to $15,000 - a total cost range of $14,000 to $25,000, not including excavation, concrete pad, plumbing, electrical, sewer/water hookups and necessary land.
Walker said she thought the town could get the building "under roof" for under $20,000.
"I think that the $20,000 that we had for getting it under roof and putting the slab down - I think we'll be able to meet it - just based on the estimates that Lois got," she said.
Johnson said he wanted to see more cost estimates before voting on construction.
"I'd like to see some figures for all of this work," he said.
Council will consider construction of the building at next month's meeting.
During the mayor's report, Walker said she had met with attorneys and state legislators at a conference in Charleston to discuss new Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) phosphorus discharge limits for permit holders along the Greenbrier River.
"Basically, what came out of the meeting was that the legislators that we met with
wanted more study of the phosphorus done in the Greenbrier River," she said. "They're talking about involving WVU Extension and the State Soil Conservation districts and collecting data and giving it further study."
Walker said the town would need to build a new sewage treatment plant to meet the proposed phosphorus limits.
Hillsboro partnered with White Sulphur Springs for a successful appeal of the limits at the Environmental Quality Board, which ruled that the DEP had not used "sound science" to establish the limits and ordered the agency to revise or remove the phosphorus limits after further study.
DEP has appealed the ruling.
Walker said State Senator Walt Helmick would be updating her and fellow mayors after a meeting with the DEP in the next couple of weeks.
The next Hillsboro council meeting is scheduled for October 12, 7:30 p.m. at the Hillsboro Library.