It's more than seven weeks after July 4, and periodically, when the sun goes down, the Bluegrass still goes boom. That's why a committee of Lexington's Urban County Council passed a proposal to ban the purchase and detonation of aerial fireworks including bottle rockets, mortars and loud firecracker explosives.
They’ve heard from citizens across the state, so now members of a tax reform panel must make recommendations. The sixth and final public hearing by the Governor’s Task Force on Tax Reform was held Tuesday in Lexington. Lexington council member George Meyers predicts state lawmakers will make tax changes this time.
Fire crackers and flying fireworks would be banned in Lexington under a proposal discussed today at city hall. Members of the Public Safety Committee voted unanimously to restore the city’s fireworks ordinance of 20-10. A year later, the state legislature approved the expansion of fireworks, but allowed cities to adopt tighter restrictions. Council member Tom Blues says a flood of citizens complaints have come this summer. “It only takes one person to disturb and disrupt and annoy to the point of distraction almost an entire neighborhood,” said Blues.
Funds for road resurfacing are now divided up in Lexington according to the greatest need. But that formula doesn’t work well for Council member Tom Blues. His council district will get 117-thousand dollars, but Blues argues the need is nearly a million dollars in road work. “I’ve got 117 thousand dollars for one of the largest geographic districts in the city. I can virtually nothing with that money,” said Blues. Kevin Wente is with the Environmental Quality and Public Works Department. He says the new formula emphasizes neighborhoods with the biggest problems.
Livestock, like small goats and pigs, remain prohibited in urban Lexington’s backyards. A council committee this week rejected an exemption for those animals. Council Member Steve Kay sponsored the proposal.“I think we gave it a good shot. We may bring it back at some later time. But, I think for the moment, it’s off the table,” said Kay. Critics of an exemption for goats and pigs worry about waste, noise and enforcement. Council member Doug Martin believes the vast majority of Lexington’s residents don’t want pigs or goats living in their neighborhoods.
Property taxes in Fayette County will remain unchanged. The city council stuck with tradition and voted Tuesday to keep the rates at their current level. Given Lexington’s fiscal troubles, outgoing council member Doug Martin was disappointed with the action. “I think it is irresponsible to leave these rates alone, knowing what we know about the financial storm that is headed for this city,” said Martin. Martin has repeatedly expressed concerns about the ever growing cost of police and fire fighter pensions. Council member Kevin Stinnett argued a tax increase would be hasty.
Lexington city leaders come back after a summer break with a taxing issue on their minds. Besides setting property tax rates, council members will seek funds for street lights. Those funds now come from an increased tax on utilities. Now, Vice Mayor Linda Gorton says they might reverse that tax increase and increase the city’s streetlight tax.
A public hearing format new to many in Lexington is being held to consider issues related to homelessness. It’s called ‘Open Space’ and involves constructive group discussion on a public issue. The ‘Open Space’ program is scheduled from nine a.m. until 4:30 Saturday August 25th at Calvary Baptist Church. The meeting is sponsored by the Mayor’s Commission on Homelessness. Under the ‘Open Space’ format, the agenda is not set in advance. The Commission’s meeting will be centered on the question, ‘What should our community think about, know about, and do in order to best address the opportunities and challenges presented by homelessness?’
Lexington is looking to boost the size of its police force. Applications are now being accepted for a police academy. class.Lexington’s police department is authorized for 555 officers. 23 police recruits are being sworn in Friday, but the new count will still be significantly shy of authorized strength. So, applications are being accepted now for a new police academy to begin in February or March.
When citizens complain to the city about poorly maintained properties, they go to Lexington’s code enforcement office. Code violations can include cases of peeling paint, cracked bricks, and unsafe sidewalks. The process for handling those complaints is under review at city. Council member Steve Kay, who co-chairs the committee looking into the issue, says enforcing current regulations is a concern.
More than 400 ideas on ways to improve Lexington have been submitted by its residents. The suggestions, which are being gathered this month, are part of a competition sponsored by the Bloomberg Foundation. Lexington Mayor Jim Gray says these ideas must now be categorized. “Shrink all the suggestions into themes and we’re seeing themes emerge that relate to education, quality of life,” said Gray.
Former Eastern Kentucky University President H. Hanly Funderburk Jr. died Friday night in his home state of Alabama. He was 81. Funderburk was the eighth president of EKU, serving from 1985 until 1998. Following his retirement, he moved to Montgomery, Ala., where he stayed until his death following a long illness, his family said.
A search continued Thursday for an Estill County jail escapee, and Eastern Kentucky University urged its students and staffers to take precautions while the man remains free. Daniel Patterson, who escaped Wednesday from a deputy jailer, is the estranged husband of an EKU employee, according to authorities. Police said Patterson should be considered dangerous.
Police arrested Crystal R. Little, 29, shortly after a bank robbery in Lexington on Saturday morning and charged her in connection with that robbery and three others dating to 2010. Little, charged with two counts of first-degree robbery and two counts of second- degree robbery, was being held in the Fayette County jail.
Richmond resident Joe Castillo has taken his light-projector sand art to the semifinals of the hit NBC television show America's Got Talent in the quest for the grand prize of $1 million. "I am honored, I'm humbled but I'm very happy," Castillo said during Wednesday night's live episode, when he was named one of 16 semifinalists, based on TV viewers' votes. Calling Castillo an "amazing talent," judge Howard Stern said, "You really are a guy with a heart. ... America got it right."
To meet growing demand, a second school for students interested in Chinese language and culture will be established in Lexington. Beginning in mid-August, three hours of class will be held each Saturday at Beaumont Middle School. The classes are designed for children and adults…both Chinese and American-born. Wei Luo is president of the Kentucky Chinese American Association. “One reason is cultural interest. Another reason is some people will travel to China and also they want to do some business in China. They really want to know Chinese,” said Luo.
Two social media town hall meetings are on tap in Lexington today. The conversations with Lexington Mayor Jim Gray will occur on Facebook and Twitter. There are two opportunities to engage in the dialogue. The first begins at 11:30 this morning and runs until 1:30. The second chance to take part in the virtual conversation comes at 6:30.
The double-crossover diamond at Harrodsburg and New Circle roads in Lexington might not be flawless, but state highway officials involved in the road project consider it a sparkling success. It's considered so successful that two more — on Ky. 536 at Interstate 75, and on Ky. 338 at I-75 in Boone County — are planned. Authorities also are considering more double-crossover diamonds in Lexington. The Harrodsburg Road crossover is the sixth of its kind in the country.
The Rupp Arena Arts and Entertainment District project will be led by a subcommittee of the Lexington Center board of directors, which will try to parlay an initial $3.2 million into an urban-renewal project that could cost $300 million.
A rally for passage of a local anti-discrimination fairness law is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in front of Richmond City Hall, 239 West Main Street. Cheri Chenault and Destiny Keith, a lesbian couple who were ejected from E.C. Million Park earlier this month after sharing a kiss there, will attend the rally, according to a news release from the Fairness Coalition.
Disability claims in Lexington’s police and fire divisions are under review at city hall. A Council committee this week discussed the high rate of retirements due to disabilities. Council member Kevin Stinnett says tougher requirements may be needed. “Look at keeping them in their same job now, but have them perform a physical fitness test. If they can pass that, then they can stay on, even though a doctor may say they could be disabled. I mean we have guys working now that haven’t filed for disability, that probably could get it. That’s my point. So they’re already doing the jobs anyway. So, let’s see that standard as well,” said Stinnett.
At age 84, the man who has helped teach every graduate of the University of Kentucky's College of Dentistry since it was founded in 1962 — all 3,227 of them — is set to retire at the end of the month. Mink would have retired last month except for the chance to take part in one of his pet projects at UK: the mobile dental clinic that provides free dental care in rural parts of the state. Mink was instrumental in efforts to start the clinic in the 1990s, and for at least the past 20 summers he has gone with other staffers and students to Eastern Kentucky and set up the 40-foot-long clinic to treat children and teens.
A state advocacy group renewed its call Wednesday for a Richmond fairness ordinance after a lesbian couple and their photographer contended they were kicked out of a park there. "This young couple's plight is a perfect elucidation of the need for a local fairness ordinance in Richmond," Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign, said in a news release.
An expansion in Lexington’s fleet of vehicles powered by natural gas could come sooner than later. Natural gas supplies are currently high, and as a result, the price tag is low. So, council member Bill Farmer says it might be a good time for a switch from gasoline. “I think the opportunity to use natural gas to power potentially our bus system, the school buses our sanitation vehicles, any of our fleet vehicles including personal vehicles. It’s an opportunity we can look forward to,” said Farmer.
A question about collective bargaining led to a sometimes emotional discussion at Lexington city hall Tuesday. Urban County Council member Doug Martin asked if recent action by the council could pave the way for workers in the Division of Waste Management to collectively bargain. “If in the process of gaining more understanding about this ordinance and what this involves, the council wishes to take some action, then that’s gonna be up to the council at that time,” said Martin. Law Commissioner Janet Graham told members the ordinance does not call for collective bargaining for waste management workers. She says it does allow for what’s termed ‘meeting and conferring’ with the administration.
A ‘telephone town hall’ opportunity comes to Lexington residents this evening. It’s being billed as kind of a ‘party line in cyberspace.’ Citizens can join in the conversation by signing up at the telephone town hall web site before one p.m. today. During the call, lines will be open for questions and suggestions. The telephone town hall tonight launches the city’s search for the best ideas for Lexington. Lexington Mayor Jim Gray says it’s all part of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Mayor Challenge.
Lexington Mayor Jim Gray has named 31 people to his Commission on Homelessness. There were some 116 individuals who had volunteered to be part of the commission. In naming the membership, Mayor Gray said, “ A safe and caring community where basic human needs are met is essential to building a great American city.” The mayor says the size of the group reflects the community response on the issue. The commission members include homeless, advocates for the homeless, neighbors, faith community members, business leaders, and council members.
Lexington city leaders could get another look at a ‘noise ordinance’ proposal this fall. Members of the Urban County Council’s Planning Committee reviewed the task force report earlier this year and opted not to pass it on to the full council. The proposal called for the establishment of a ‘noise board’ to help mediate sound issues. Council member Tom Blues brought the report before the council. “We need to have a better mechanism for dealing with noise issues within our community…one that’s fair to everybody…so we do intend to bring it back,” said Blues.
Drought conditions across many sections of Kentucky are prompting some local officials to consider ways to save water. Voluntary restrictions are in place in Richmond. City officials hope residents opt not to water lawns or wash cars this weekend. Richmond Utilities General Manager, Scott Althauser says the level of the Kentucky River continues to drop.
Lexington police are working to reduce crashes on area roadways by cracking down on unlicensed and suspended drivers. Officer Alvin Cook says a safety checkpoint will be set up along Liberty road at Star Shoot Parkway Thursday night. “The problem of unlicensed and suspended drivers is a very bad one here in Fayette County..last year in 2011 we had 684 crashes involving drivers who were either unlicensed or were driving on a suspended drivers’ license…these collisions resulted in 276 injuries…so we’re trying to reduce our collisions and injury rates,” said Cook.