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Hillsboro residents fret over Wal-Mart

News editor

Two Hillsboro men took Hillsboro City Council to task Tuesday for what they alleged were inconsistencies between zoning regulations and the implementation of the proposed Wal-Mart, as well as issues they had with the conduct of the council.

Mark Pankratz touted his experience as a zoning official in Kansas City as he delved point by point into discrepancies he said existed between Hillsboro zoning regulation and the execution of the Wal-Mart land sale. Saying he preferred the answers to his questions in writing by Friday, Pankratz rushed through his critique as the council largely listened.

“I kind of feel like this might be a waste of my time, because a lot of these same questions I asked at another city council meeting and was told they’re insignificant, irrelevant, or not an issue at this point,” Pankratz said.

Pankratz opened his remarks with comments about the seating arrangement of the council.

“I’d like to see government officials face the people they serve, and not have their backs to us,” he said.

Next, Pankratz questioned the salary of Hillsboro economic development director Clint Seibel, claiming he earns around $80,000.

“It seems about three times higher than other towns our size, probably four times what the average citizen in Hillsboro makes,” Pankratz said.

“Now wait a minute,” council member Bob Watson responded. “So you maintain the average citizen in Hillsboro makes $20,000 a year?”

“If you’d average them out, probably,” Pankratz said. “We’re talking laborers who are making minimum wage to probably $12 an hour. It’s not the rich people.”

“I understand that,” Watson said. “I don’t believe it, but I just wanted to clarify what you’re saying.”

Pankratz rolled out a list of complaints about the Wal-Mart proposal, citing such things as the confidentiality agreement, parking lot and road requirements, building size and setback lines, and potential lawsuits.

“Are you asking questions, or are you just on a diatribe?” Watson asked at one point.

“I’d like answers, but last time I got insignificant, irrelevant, or nonissue,” Pankratz retorted. “Sorry I’m getting out of hand, but I’ve been treated rudely, and I think you treated Jon (Hefley) rudely by claiming that he was trying to buy that piece of property just to block development. He has as much right to that as anybody. Anybody that was a business owner in town would be a fool if they didn’t want to block Wal-Mart.”

Hefley was in attendance, and he criticized the council for “making fun” of his counter-offer for the Wal-Mart property discussed at a prior meeting.

“Somebody sitting right over there said he had another comment and everybody got a good chuckle over it because I was after that piece of ground,” Hefley said. “That’s what the paper said and that’s what some other people told me, too.”

“John, I want to apologize,” City Administrator Larry Paine said. “It’s not necessarily the way I wanted it to come out. I was looking for a different word to say what my concerns were. I couldn’t think of that word. I was looking for a $5 word.”

“A derogatory one,” Pankratz interjected.

“Mark, I was not looking for a derogatory word,” Paine said. “That’s your opinion, and I’ll let you have an opinion, but that’s not what I was coming up with.”

Hefley also criticized the time of council meetings, saying the 4 p.m. schedule wasn’t conducive to business people attending the meetings. He also echoed Pankratz’s comments about the seating arrangement.

The council did not actively discuss any of the issues raised by the two men until after they left the meeting. Paine then suggested Pankratz’s zoning criticisms were based on an outdated draft of the zoning regulations instead of the current ones.

“These are things we found seven years ago,” Paine said. “I know the one I have here has been corrected.”

Mayor Delores Dalke explained that the seating arrangement of the council around the table resulted when a former council member who was hard of hearing moved to the opposite side of the table from other council members in order to hear better. The arrangement hadn’t been changed since then.

“I don’t care where you sit,” Dalke said. “You do not have assigned seats, you can all come in here and sit in here in a different place, move your chairs around wherever you’d like to. It was the hard-of-hearing thing that caused somebody to start sitting there.”

Paine said before responding to Pankratz’s list of questions that he wanted to consult further with the council.

In other business, Paine told the council he is looking into the feasibility of using the top of a water tower being removed in Haven for the old water tower, which lost its top in a storm Labor Day weekend. He also said the tower would be inspected to determine the overall integrity of the structure before investing money in repairs.

Last modified Oct. 9, 2014

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