In 2020, Hillsboro will undergo more change than at any time in its 217-year history. Residents gathered at the Old Stone School on Saturday morning to celebrate the town’s accomplishments and to prepare for challenges that may test their patience in the months ahead.
During the three-hour State of the Town program, residents enjoyed a community breakfast, got a detailed update on construction plans for the Rt. 9 traffic calming project and applauded the work of individuals for their service to the community.
“As in any year, 2019 had its highs and low for us here in Hillsboro. I really never imagined that we could have more highs and lows than we had in 2018, but I was mistaken,” Mayor Roger Vance said, kicking off the program. But 2020 will be a transformational year for the town, he said.
The major challenge during the past year was moving the Rt. 9 project to construction. After facing significant hurdles when contractor bids came in well above cost estimates and commuters in neighboring jurisdictions pushed to stop the project, Vance said the town emerged with a solution that should better serve the entire community. The key element of that was the ability to reduce the construction period from three years to about 14 months.
“We were able to do that through cooperation, creativity and trust between ourselves and VDOT. … We came up with real elegant solution to the problem. As we had hoped, common sense won. Good governance won the day,” Vance said.
The construction clock is expected to begin March 4, when the notice to proceed will kick-off the 428-day contract with Archer Western Corp.
It’s not just the road project that is in play. The town also is building a new well-sourced water system that, when complete, will end the years-long requirement for residents to boil water before use. Town leaders also are planning to build the first wastewater treatment plant, a project that is in the early stages of securing funding.
“With these physical changes and infrastructure improvements, our whole reality will also change. I just want to stress the unique opportunity that we have to help shape the future course of Hillsboro. It’s going to require some pretty extraordinary focus over the next 14 months and over the next years,” Vance said.
While there is reason for optimism, the mayor cautioned residents that their push for progress won’t be easy.
“We’ve got a full plate of getting everybody ready for what’s to come …. It will be difficult, but I’m sure we’re going to be able to power through. We’re going to have to understand we’re going to be living in a work zone. We’re going to have to kind of look out for one another and be civil and respect our workers. And just know it is going to be over before you know it.”
Another highlight of the State of the Town program was the announcement of a new Environmental Sustainability Committee, in part modeled on Middleburg’s Go Green Committee. Vice Mayor Amy Marasco said the initiative is laid out in the town’s comprehensive plan and would focus on activities such as securing grants for vehicle charging stations, monitoring the currently-under-construction Rockwool manufacturing plant in Jefferson County, WV, promoting tree canopy growth and preservation and encouraging the planting of native species.
Town leaders also presented awards to highlight the contributions of several area residents.
Bud Siegel was presented with a lifetime achievement award for his role in helping the town overcome obstacles with the Rt. 9 project. Siegel, then a VDOT program manager who now works for the Town of Leesburg, was credited with convincing town leaders that they could act as their own project managers in the effort to move the project forward.
Hillsboro Charter Academy STEM teacher Megan Tucker was presented the Innovation Award for her contributions in helping to build a curriculum that has quickly earned the school’s national reputation. Town leaders noted the school is operating at full capacity, with an equal number of students on the waiting list.
Tina Ryan was named the Volunteer of the Year. The Community Service Award was presented to the Western Loudoun Community Church. The town Planning Commission was presented the Good Governance Award. The Business Service Awards were presented to Dot Shetterly of Silverbrook Farm Bed and Breakfast and Manuel Rivas and his team at Northern Virginia Property Services.