Hillsboro Aims To "Cross The Finish Line" In 2021
The City of Hillsboro had planned for 2020 to be one of the biggest on the city’s record, chalk full of projects ranging from the completion of Gundersen St. Joseph’s new facility to the installation of a new river walk, pier, and pedestrian trail to the completion of the Hillsboro dam and the restoration of the lake.
While COVID-19 called for a rapid re-shifting of priorities in order to help support local businesses through the shutdowns, closures, and restrictions, 2020 was still a year in which Hillsboro got quite a bit done.
New housing developments were brought to life on Salsbery Circle. The County Highway FF bridge was expanded to help the surrounding area better withstand any future flooding—and to give Land o’ Lakes better security for future facility upgrades and expansions. The Gundersen St. Joseph’s team was able to complete their new facilities and successfully moved into the new building last summer, all while contending with an encroaching pandemic!
The dam, which suffered heavy damages in the severe flooding events of 2018, was completed after a few delays due to COVID-19. Today, the dam is fully operational and ready for use—all that’s left is restoring the lake itself. A bit of additional work to prep the lakebed for full restoration might yet be required, but Hillsboro City Administrator Adam Sonntag hopes to see the lake restored come the spring thaw.
Work on repairing and updating Elm Avenue, as well as installing a pedestrian walkway to better connect the local parks and make the area around Elm Avenue more pedestrian-friendly, has been largely completed. The installation of the new river walk and pier is still ongoing, with a temporary halt due to the winter season.
After a year with so many projects, Sonntag has indicated that 2021 is going to be focused primarily on finishing up what remains with the projects and focusing a bit more economic development and our local businesses.
“2021 is just crossing the finish line on all these projects,” says Sonntag. “2020 was a big year;  is a year to re-evaluate.”
As last year’s projects are finished and the final touches are put in place, Hillsboro will be looking forward to new projects and endeavors. Many of the projects the city took on last year were the cumulative efforts of years’ worth of planning, so with these projects now handled and completed—or close to completed—the time has come to start the process over again.
For the immediate future, Sonntag wants to focus a bit more on developing the local economy by drawing in new businesses and maintaining the ones already operating in Hillsboro. A couple new businesses have already expressed interest in setting up shop in Hillsboro, including a new coffee shop and a meat-processing venture spearhead by the Bisareks. Sonntag has expressed interest in possibly developing a local organization dedicated to working with and supporting local businesses.
In addition to economic development, Sonntag has expressed hope that the city will be able to resume the acquisition of two engines that once serviced the Hillsboro Railroad. The engines were discovered a little over a year ago and the city council voted to purchase the engines and bring them home for restoration and display. The onset of COVID-19 resulted in the trains’ holder requesting a temporary halt on the relocation, as he was considered to be at high risk of contracting COVID. As the year progresses, it is possible that efforts to relocate the trains to Hillsboro can resume.