When they write a new state budget this winter, Kentucky lawmakers will likely revisit cuts in state funding for childcare. The program, which helped provide working-class parents with affordable day care, stopped accepting new applications last spring. Income guidelines are also affecting thousands of families.
Just as Lexington’s mayor is about to begin the process of building a city budget plan, there’s a slight glitch. Lexington Finance Commissioner Bill Omara told council members Tuesday that revenues are strong, but not as strong as predicted.
One of central Kentucky’s best known social service agencies is refining how it delivers services to thousands of low income residents. The Lexington-based Community Action Council serves 30 thousand people in four bluegrass counties. Just last year, Director Malcolm Ratchford says his agency saw a one million dollar cut in state and federal funding. As a result, the Head Start pre-school program lost spots for 80-children. With funding scarce, Ratchford says they could charge fees for some services in the community at large.
The most experienced member of Lexington’s City Council has announced her plans to leave government service. By the end of 2014, Lexington Vice Mayor Linda Gorton will become the longest serving Council member since local government was overhauled in the 1970’s. She made a formal announcement Thursday before a crowded city hall lobby.
Hoping to improve the appearance of downtown buildings, Lexington city leaders are considering a set of design standards. The idea is to give the inner most downtown core a look that’s attractive to new businesses, new residents and out-of-town visitors. Plus, Council member Steve Kay says such rules and regulations could protect Lexington’s history.
Given the scope of Lexington’s sewer overhaul, the paperwork could overwhelm the council. Currently, it must approve many changes because usually there’s also an increased cost. But, some of that responsibility could be shifted onto Lexington’s administrators.
A committee of the Urban County Council unanimously approved an ordinance Tuesday providing benefits to domestic partners of employees. The vote comes nearly a decade after the city first tried to implement benefits that include same-sex partners. The ordinance must get final approval from the full council. It is not expected to face opposition. If it passes later this month or in early December, Lexington will join Louisville, Covington and Berea as Kentucky cities that offer domestic partner benefits in a state that does not allow same-sex couples to marry. Read more...
Portions of the Fayette County Circuit Courthouse building will reopen this morning. The four story structure has been shut down since Monday, October 21 following a water line break. The break caused extensive damage to sections of the first through the fourth floors. Most of the first and fourth floors plus courtrooms on the second and third floor will open up today.
Trick or treating in Lexington has been moved to tomorrow night. It will still run from six until eight p.m. The weather forecast calls for strong storms to move into the Bluegrass later today. Lexington Mayor Jim Gray says the decision to make the switch comes with weather predictions which the mayor says have ‘gotten worse.’ For families who can’t change their plans, Gray adds there is still indoor trick or treating at Fayette Mall, the Lyric Theater, and the Kentucky Horse Park.
Significant clean up and repair work at the Fayette Circuit Court building continues this week. It was a week ago Sunday when water was seen spilling out an upstairs window. Damage occurred on all four floors of the downtown structure. But, Fayette Circuit Judge Pamela Goodwine says work is proceeding along pretty well.
As Lexington city leaders work to make decisions on spending surplus money, questions persist regarding the police and fire pension fund. A January agreement between the Mayor and police and fire union representatives was hailed as a ‘fix.’ But, Council member Kevin Stinnett noted this week the need for additional city support does raise concern.
Lexington city leaders are taking a first step toward widening a major roadway in Fayette County. The Council this Tuesday voted to spend a quarter million dollars to study improvements to Man O War Boulevard. Council member Shevawn Akers questions whether cost estimates done now will be relevant years later.
What’s being called a ‘broken toilet’ has shut down the Fayette Circuit Courthouse. The leaky toilet was situated on the fourth floor. Lexington Fire Battalion Chief Jeff Nantz says there were inches of water on all four floors.
Lexington Council members are expected to take up an economic development fund proposal Tuesday. Mayor Jim Gray is suggesting two million dollars be set aside in what he labels a ‘jobs fund.’ Gray made a formal pitch to the Council during the last work session. “See it does not mean that we are writing a check for that tomorrow at all. This represents gap financing, loans, principally for local companies that are growing and adding jobs,” said Gray.
Some 80 sanitary sewer projects in Lexington over the next decade will impact many neighborhoods. With that in mind, city officials are working to notify residents to when bulldozers may be coming to their area of town. Mark York, with the Division of Environmental Policy, says a project manager will look for ways to lay pipe in the most cost efficient manner.
A new property tax on certain downtown businesses and residences is under consideration in Lexington. It would create a downtown management district…which would work to beautify the neighborhood. Renae Jackson, who’s president of the Downtown Lexington Corporation, says it would eventually improve the value of their property.
The problem of garbage piling up along Lexington streets has city officials considering new enforcement and collection methods. Waste often accumulates outside rental units and other residences, especially after an eviction. Often old furniture is left on a curb, and it in turn attracts additional garbage. Plus, garbage pickers are a problem. By sorting through piles of waste, city official say they create a safety hazard. Councilmember Peggy Henson believes current enforcement efforts don’t work.
Lexington Council members are seeking more information about costs associated with hiring consultants. It surfaced during a discussion Tuesday at city hall. A request for a 50 thousand dollar consultant fee sparked a larger debate. The money is for advice sought on the creation of an office for homeless services. In the end, the Council asked for a report on money spent on consultants during the last three years.
Council members argue security at entrances to Lexington city hall should be tightened.
A review of security at Lexington’s government buildings is underway. General Services Commissioner Jamshid Baradaran says police patrols and video cameras protect some 25 city-owned buildings. Baradaran says it will likely take time to develop security recommendations.
Lexington leaders are still working on a plan to spend surplus funds. There's a lot more money than they first anticipated. Council members first considered setting aside specific amounts for each member...who would then decide how it's spent. After dropping that idea, Council decided to pool the money and prioritize projects. Tuesday, the Budget and Finance Committee briefly reviewed dozens of proposals submitted by council members and the mayor.
Domestic partner benefits for city employees are winning strong support at Lexington city hall. Members of the General Government Committee today unanimously backed a motion for a draft ordinance. Council member Steve Kay chairs the panel.
Lexington officials Monday opened the first extension of the Brighton East Trail, Fayette County's first rail trail. The one-mile extension takes the trail along an old railroad bed into the country as far as Walnut Grove Road.
Credit Tom Eblen / Lexington Herald Leader
The system of recreational trails in central Kentucky is growing by another mile. Lexington officials today celebrated the extension of the Brighton East Rail Trail. The 12-foot wide trail, with serves pedestrians and cyclists, now runs from Bryant Road to Walnut Grove Lane. Project Manager Keith Lovan says the region’s trail system is increasingly interconnected.
Lexington City leaders will again try to decide how to spend over two million dollars in surplus funds. The third time may be a charm. Council has twice delayed action, but a final vote is scheduled for Tuesday. As initially proposed, the money would be divided evenly among council members, who each would decide how it's spent. Now, a revised proposal has the entire council setting priorities for that pool of money.
Several social service agencies plus Lexington government will benefit from the settlement of a lawsuit filed by state attorneys-general against mortgage lenders. They were accused of unfairly foreclosing on thousands of homes during the recession.
The creation of a waterfront park in downtown Lexington could also improve water quality in Town Branch Creek. There are plans to resurrect the subterranean stream, which runs beneath the downtown area, and create a park. Landscape architect Kate Orff says a park’s vegetation would remove contaminants from the creek.
The creation of a public mural on a wall adjacent to City Hall has been presented to Lexington’s council. Danny Mayer, who publishes a community newspaper, says the proposal is the compilation of ideas submitted by Lexington residents.
Citizens get a chance Wednesday afternoon to comment on the revitalization in and around Rupp Arena. Architects for the Rupp Arena and Town Branch Trail projects will be on hand for the two hour program. Communications Director for Lexington’s mayor, Susan Straub says their primary aim is to gather the thoughts of local residents.
A downtown landmark in Lexington is back in the spot it occupied for 80 years on Main Street. During preparations for the World Equestrian Games, the Skuller’s Street Clock was removed for repairs. After the needed funds were raised, the clock was refurbished by the Verdin and Company of Cincinnati. Tommy Verdin’s family has managed the business for six generations.