City rewards employees, plans youth event

Staff writer

High spirits and a few shenanigans accompanied a ceremony conducted Tuesday by Hillsboro Mayor Delores Dalke when she awarded seven municipal employees with service awards during the regular City Council meeting.

Dalke presented 10-year service awards to electric crew members Randy Jantz and Todd Helmer, and council members Shelby Dirks and Byron McCarty. Receiving 15-year awards were Jessey Hiebert, city police, and Delores Dalke, mayor. Joe Alvarez, maintenance, was recognized for 25 years of service to the city.

Ashlee Gann, executive director of Families and Communities Together (FACT) and Clint Seibel, city economic development director, presented plans to start a youth academy in Hillsboro.

“If we want to retain our youth we need to share with them a behind the scenes look at what city government does,” Seibel said. “We need to plant seeds to show our youth that this town can provide career opportunities for them. It all starts at a young age.”

Gann, who received encouragement from USD 410 Superintendent Steve Nobel to begin a youth retention program, said her research led her to a successful “youth academy” program at Great Bend.

“They hold a special day each summer in which youths get to experience hands-on activities with visits to police, fire, street, waste water, and emergency departments,” Gann said. “They do fun things like shoot water guns, drive heavy equipment, etc., and then they have pizza with city employees for lunch. They exchange ideas with city administrators and get a good idea of the opportunities within their own town.”

Gann said the Great Bend program closed the day with an alumni party in which participants in the academy from earlier years came back to visit with the current youth and provide support as well as examples of successful careers in city government or departments.

Gann estimated the startup costs for a Hillsboro Youth Adventure program, modeled after the Great Bend academy to be around $2,000.

“We expect to raise money from donations and already have some commitments from local businesses,” she said.

Plans are to finalize program details in March, send out recruitment letters to 6th and 7th grade students in April, award placements in May, and conduct the Hillsboro program in June or July.

“We will have to limit participation to 15 to 20 kids per session,” Gann said. “We’re hoping to begin with two sessions in summer 2013.”

Paine recommended the city council endorse program plans and pledge $250 from the special parks fund toward youth event.

“The thing that strikes me about this is that we need to make sure our young people that grow up here are encouraged to think that there is a future for them here in Hillsboro,” Paine said. “A program like this will help them remember the opportunities that are here, even if they go off to college somewhere else.”

Gann said she saw this as an opportunity to get kids excited about serving in and supporting their hometown.

“If kids get excited about it, then parents will get excited about it,” she said. “This will be great for families as well.”

The council voted unanimously to support the formation of a Hillsboro Youth Adventure.

In other business:

  • City building inspector Ben Steketee presented introductory information about bringing city codes up to date. He read the 2012 International Building Code scope, intent, and referenced codes, then answered council member questions regarding changes and costs associated with code adoption scheduled for a vote at the Dec. 4 city meeting.
  • EBH engineer Darin Neufeld briefed council members on bid plans for street improvements on Date, Birch, and Cedar streets.
  • The council approved a recommendation from the airport board to raise T-hanger rental from $45 to $55 per month.
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