Seniors hear about BID

By Carol Walker

At the monthly birthday lunch at the Hill City Senior Center last week, Brett McMacken, city administrator, explained the BID project which will involve an addition to the senior center. McMacken and Buzz Grover, BID Board committee member, spoke to the crowd and fielded questions.

After about a dozen meetings of the Business Improvement District (BID) Board, Brett McMacken, city administrator, and Buzz Grover, board member, brought pertinent information to a full house at the Hill City Senior Center last week following the seniors’ February birthday luncheon.

McMacken said after much discussion on potential projects for the BID Board to pursue, they have “dialed it in to the specifics.” A drawing of the potential addition to the senior center was distributed to each table, so people could look at the proposed construction, which would include enlarging the kitchen, adding a meeting room and particularly, bathrooms, which are to be accessed by the public. McMacken stressed that money for the project would not become a tax burden for the public as it will be funded by a $2 room tax at the six largest lodging establishments in town. All of the hotel and motel owners involved are in total agreement with the project.

“There were three or four different ideas for the project, but it came down to the senior center, which will be easily accessible from downtown,” said Grover.

The first question voiced was, “What is going to happen to the scout hall?”

The log building next to the senior center is used by the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, as well as the Evergreen Garden Club and the Lions Club. Grover said the building is slated to be moved, and eventually the city council would be responsible for putting out bids for moving the building, perhaps to the area surrounding the Visitor Information Center.

Merlene Broer asked if the log building could be incorporated into the whole design and reconstruction of the senior center. Grover said that would hinder the construction which is going in that direction, and McMacken said there could be a problem with drainage if that were included. Pat Forrer asked, since the building is a historic structure, could it be moved over 20 ft. to allow for the new construction?

“The Boys and Girls Club, the Scouts and the Garden Club have written letters. Your voices are being heard. The hearing on Feb. 26 is the time to voice your concerns,” said Jim Peterson, city council member.

The crowd was told that concerns can now be voiced to the following BID Board members: Eileen Hamm (chairman), Grover, Shane Schriner, Chuck Voorhees, Dennis Krull, Doug Peters and Rachel Taylor.

Chris Van Ness, representing the Heart of the Hills Economic Development Corporation (EDC), said she has heard from Voorhees and Brian Rupert, both involved with the scouting program in Hill City. They do like the scout hall but they would prefer to have heat and bathrooms, which the log building does not provide. Forrer said she didn’t think there was enough storage.

“The plan could be modified to add more storage. We need to plan for the future,” said VanNess.

Both Dee Schrier and Lonnie Feddersen expressed their concern that in making this more of a community center, the identity of the senior center could be lost and they don’t want that to happen. Feddersen said as people drive by they need to know this is the senior center.

The crowd of primarily seniors was told that there will be an attempt to assess everyone’s needs. The town could benefit from a community center and there is a way to share space and coordinate activities. It was commented that in a town this size, there is not the luxury of wasting space.

McMacken said they expect to take in about $110,000 per year on the room tax, and the expected cost of the total project as it stands now is about $400,000. Board members are hopeful the BID could be paid off in four to five years.

Maxine Wilkinson asked if this would affect the sidewalk project that has been a part of city conversation for at least 15 years. McMacken said no.

“The sidewalk project comes from a different pot of money. It is funded through grant money and city funds and it is still moving forward. We are hopeful we can see the construction move ahead in about October of this year, after the tourist season,” said McMacken.

McMacken also explained the process for the BID project which will require two hearings, the first one on Monday, Feb. 26, and the second one to be determined. When it is approved, money will be collected by the lodging owners, and at the end of each month they will send a check directly to the city.

Everyone in attendance was encouraged to attend the next BID Board meeting on Thursday, Feb. 22, at 5 p.m. at city hall, as well as the BID hearing during the city council meeting on Monday, Feb. 26, at 5:30 p.m. at city hall.