Dear Editor:

After reading Gail Mooney’s letter in last week’s Banner, I feel compelled to provide a city perspective and provide a different viewpoint for Banner readers.

I question Gail’s ability to come to some of the conclusions she did by only doing a touch and go at one commission meeting. The last meeting was a rather unusual one due to Commissioner Levi Reese’s tendency to grandstand rather than gather facts and communicate with the commission.

I appreciate Gail as a citizen who recognizes the need for orderly meetings, but the readers need to understand that Robert’s Rules of Order is only a guide for conducting meetings.

In a small town like Hillsboro, having a chance to address the commission is important, not only for the citizen, but also for the commission to hear concerns that may need to be discussed. As far as open meeting laws are concerned, if a citizen doesn’t call ahead to ask to be put on the agenda, they don’t have to be recognized to speak. As the president of the commission, I prefer to let citizens have a chance to address the commissioners.

The city auditor and I have been discussing how to make the meetings more efficient and orderly for the last couple of months. The last meeting has pushed us to recommend needed changes at the next commission meeting and ask for approval.

If approved, it should prevent some of the controversial issues experienced at the last meeting and maintain order at future meetings. 

Gail’s observation of a large crowd at the last commission meeting was accurate and I assume was an organized effort on behalf of Reese, based on information that was brought up by the public at the last meeting known only to commissioners.

It is incumbent on the commission to police the actions of all the commissioners when their actions don’t conform to the standards and legal requirements.

Most of the heated discussion that night was about the reporting, in the Hillsboro Banner, of Reese being corrected during the previous meeting. I, for one, think the Banner reported on those issues correctly.

What most of you don’t know is currently the city is being audited by state; the issue of how the commission handled the severance of the previous auditor has been discussed with them. I’m sure, Gail, that you aren’t suggesting that as a commission we should turn a blind eye when a commissioner has usurped their role and assumed a responsibility of the city auditor or another commissioner’s portfolio.  

When it comes to Reese’s concerns about me being the president of the commission and supporting the establishment of a business in town, he needs to deal in facts and not perceptions. In this instance he raised a concern about a building permit and a supposed special meeting that Planning and Zoning had.

For the record, I have contracted with Abentroth Brothers Construction for construction of the new building.

They were the ones who applied for the building permit and coordinated with Mike Kress, who has the Planning and Zoning portfolio, to sign the permit so that they could expedite the cement work before the weather turned cold.

Mike, like he always has done, made sure all setbacks for the footprint were correct according to city ordinances and signed the permit.

I was planning to meet with some of the contractors at the site the day Mike called about meeting for a discussion about the building planning. I approached it as an informational exchange and answered questions that I could while Casey and Mitch Abentroth, along with their contractors, answered the questions that I couldn’t.

I would have gladly answered any questions that anyone would have asked had they been brought to my attention.

Neither Reese nor any resident ever reached out to get details of the project or procedures being followed prior to the commission meeting where he chose to criticize Mike and myself. 

In my eyes Reese, who instead of gathering the facts and coordinating with other commissioners and the city auditor, was negligent in being unable to answer the questions of the citizens of Hillsboro.  

Finally, I would like to address Gail’s concerns about our auditor asking about CARES Act funding.

I as the president get emails about items that the funding will cover, such as signs, websites and IT equipment that is covered. I asked the auditor to meet with the county commission to see how they are using the funds and the digital sign was one item included in the request.

The current sign on Main Street and Caledonia needs repair to function fully and replacing the sign with CARES funding could be an option

 This was an opportunity to open a dialog with Traill County about how to fund or pay for COVID-related expenses for cities within the county.

Other counties split the CARES funding based on a percentage of the sheriff’s department that was funded by each city.

Based on information from the state of North Dkota, Traill County received $501,946.28. Hillsboro provided 17 percent, Mayville 25 percent and Hatton/Portland 12 percent of the sheriff budget last year.

Using disbursement information from other counties Hillsboro should receive $85,330.87, Mayville $130,506.03 and Hatton/Portland $60,233.55.

 The remainder of the CARES funding could reimburse the county for COVID-related expenses with the remainder being used to offset property taxes.

I asked our auditor to meet with the county commission and they decided to put the fund in a savings account and the cities could submit invoices to the county. I think it would be detrimental to Hillsboro to not seek answers to questions like these for the future of our city.

Banner readers, the Hillsboro City Commission and city auditor have been stepping up since I have been the president of the commission.

I appreciate Gail’s commentary, but I felt it was important to provide the facts so that the readers can do their own critical analysis of these issues.  

Terry Sando

Hillsboro City Commission president