Pensions, Capitol Projects Focus of Mayor's Address
In his annual speech on the condition of his community, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray says ‘thinking and behaving like a mature city is our responsibility.’ During the ‘State of the Merged Government’ address, Gray indicated he thinks it’s occurring in central Kentucky. Lexington is a maturing city in many ways, according to its mayor. That includes its population. Mayor Gray announced Lexington officially has over 300-thousand residents. He also talked about job creation and efficient local government. Just last Friday, the city and its union agreed to a plan that stabilizes the underfunded police and fire pension fund. Now, Gray said there’ll be more money for other projects.
“It means that we will not need to continue bonding for the pension and it liberates us to focus on capital improvements and capital investments, the way bonding was intended to,” said Gray.
A number of high profile, capital projects are already in the planning stages. Among them is a revitalized downtown development anchored by rebuilt Rupp Arena. Gray says Lexington voters should have the power to finance such major projects with a special tax. A measure to give local communities the right to levy a local sales tax is expected to come before state lawmakers. Meanwhile, several options for funding a Rupp rebuild are under consideration.
“We’ve got 14 revenue sources that are being considered. Those 14 revenue options may expand, depending on the financial, the financial consultant recommendations,” added Gray.
The mayor also joined in the talk surrounding another downtown project that returns Town Branch Creek to the downtown landscape. The mayor hopes a resurrected creek would serve as the backbone to walking paths and a waterside park. Renae Jackson with the Downtown Development Corporation says the Town Branch project still needs a firm commitment.
“Cause you have to think in all these other cities we try to emulate such as San Antonio and Greenville that he mentioned, that in those cities, at some point, there was a moment in time where it was do it or don’t do it. And I feel like we’re there. And I hope we have the leadership and the will to do it,” said Jackson.
With Lexington’s population exceeding 300-thousand, there’s also a growing number of senior citizens. In response, Gray says there may soon be more information released about a new senior citizens center. Some details could come as early as next week, when Social Services Commissioner Beth Mills says the Council will hear about potential sites for a new center.
“So the next step after that will be a more in depth look at the sites that they’re gonna present to council on the 29th. Barriers and positives to all sites and funding possibilities,” said Mills.
To promote local agriculture, Gray says the city will also hire help in marketing of locally grown foods”
During the mayor’s address, an old idea resurfaced. Hoping to trim the time it takes to travel across, the city is working to better synchronize traffic lights on main roadway arteries..
Given all these new initiatives, Council member Kevin Stinnett notes finding sufficient funds will remain a challenge.
“It’s gonna take to fund some of these ideas. We need to make sure our basic services will still be met in the future and we need to start more outreach to our private businesses here in our community and create more of those private-public partnerships that’s got us to this point,” said Stinnett.
The mayor is building a budget proposal now. Spending will be the subject of his next speech to Lexington’s Council. That’s set for April.