State Auditor Adam Edelen, with Lexington Mayor Jim Gray to his right, announced the results of an audit conducted on HealthFirst's finances during a press conference Thursday. The audit began in May at the request of Gray and amid concerns about construction of a clinic at 496 Southland Drive.
Credit Charles Bertram / Lexington Herald Leader
HealthFirst Bluegrass pre-selected developer Ted J. Mims as project manager for its $11.7 million clinic construction project and created a conflict of interest that could potentially jeopardize the federal grant for construction, according to a state audit released Thursday. HealthFirst also has cash-flow problems that threaten its financial viability, according to State Auditor Adam Edelen. The audit began in May at the request of Lexington Mayor Jim Gray and amid concerns about construction of a clinic at 496 Southland Drive. Read more...
WEKU's Stu Johnson reports series explosions frighten neighbors, as Bluegrass Army Depot detonate obsolete munitions.
Residents of Madison County heard a disturbing wake-up call Thursday morning. They heard explosions coming from the Blue Grass Army Depot. It was a typical summertime detonation of obsolete munitions at the Madison County Army installation. But what wasn’t typical, says Depot Public Affairs Officer Mark Henry, was the number of calls from worried neighbors.
A former Madison County Clerk has been formally accused of theft. William Gabbard is scheduled to appear in Madison Circuit Court in mid-August for arraignment. The state Attorney General says the investigation into Gabbard started in November 2009 after a state auditor's review of his office. Gabbard’s accused of changing social security numbers in the Automated Vehicle Information System. Allegedly, it allowed Gabbard to register his personal vehicles without paying taxes, interest and penalties.
WEKU'S Stu Johnson reports on early findings of Heroin Task Force
New strategies will be tried as police attack Lexington’s problem with heroin. Lexington’s problem with heroin can be measured in the number of users who die from an overdose. Police Lieutenant Scott Blakely says heroin related deaths have gone from five in 2011 to 28 fatalities so far this year. And, heroin accounts for nearly 70 percent of all drug overdose deaths in 2013. Blakely says many pushers are from other cities.
One of the bridges that pass over New Circle Road in Lexington.
Credit Kentucky Transportation Cabinet
A busy stretch of New Circle Road in south Lexington will likely see increased congestion over the next several weekends. Repair work will be done on eight bridges. The overpasses carry traffic over Richmond Road, Tates Creek, Lansdowne, and Chinoe. State Transportation Department Spokeswoman Natasha Lacy says it will involve extensive work.
The architects and construction firm that will reinvent Rupp Arena and develop a convention center have been named. NBBJ Group along with local architects will do design work and Hunt Construction Group will rebuild Rupp and a separate convention center. Financing for the project, which could cost hundreds of millions of dollars, is not yet firm. Lexington Center Board Chair Brent Rice says an online capital drive could collect contribution for the projects.
For the first time in recent memory, time restrictions may be placed on door-to-door sales in Lexington. Council Member Peggy Henson says the original proposal banned door-to-door sales between 9:00 pm and 9:00 am.
Instead of a high rise residential and commercial complex, the site in downtown Lexington set aside for CentrePointe remains a grassy field.
Efforts to revive a commercial-residential development in the heart of downtown Lexington continues. The Centre Point Project was first proposed in 2008, but stalled when sufficient financing couldn’t be obtained. Since then, the high rise hotel-condo-retail-and-office structure has been scaled down. Developer Dudley Webb now needs the council’s help as he seeks additional state and local tax breaks.
One of Lexington’s most-used public parks got a little scrutiny this week. Some city leaders say they would like to see a wider distribution of recreational sports leagues. Masterson Station Park is a popular location for youth soccer, and, for years, has been the primary home for the Lexington Youth Soccer Association.
A refurbished Phoenix Park in downtown Lexington should complete by this time next week, just in time for Independence Day. Now, the city hopes to reduce the number of homeless residents who gather there.
Elderly activists this week pushed Lexington leaders for their own, brand-new senior center. An active search is underway for a new location, but, the Y-M-C-A has also offered to expand its facilities. Tony Higdon would prefer a center specifically designed for senior citizens. The elderly Lexington resident says expanding the YMCA won’t be good enough.
Lexington’s biggest festival of the year offers an opportunity to grow the local economy. The four day Fourth of July event the first week of July attracts thousands of visitors from beyond the Bluegrass Region. Lexington Downtown Development Corporation President Renae Jackson says hopefully it won’t be a one-time visit.
A well- known fitness and social activity organization is proposing a way to help the city of Lexington meet the needs of its senior citizens. The plan was heard, but not immediately endorsed by city leaders. There’s general agreement Lexington needs at least one new senior citizens center. The aging center on Nicholasville road just can’t meet all the service demands today. City leaders have been considering sites for building a new larger facility. Now, the YMCA of Central Kentucky is offering a different plan.
Lexington city leaders are working to finalize a new budget. Tuesday afternoon they were surprised to find just over three million dollars in additional funding is needed to cover police and fire pension obligations. Finance Commissioner Bill Omara says the need for more funding comes because pension reforms are not fully in place yet.
Lexington’s City Council has completed the tedious process of last minute budget refinements. The panel of 15 council members spent the better part of Tuesday considering additions to the Mayor’s spending play. In the end, the Council opted to borrow almost two million dollars more and spend another $885,000 in cash. Vice Mayor Linda Gorton said late in the afternoon the end product is good.
In writing a budget for next year, Lexington leaders will assume a two-and-a-half million dollar increase in city revenues. The money could come from a tax hike on Lexington utilities, but a final decision on the tax hike was postponed until August. Nevertheless, spending money they don’t yet have leaves Vice Mayor Linda Gorton uneasy.
Lexington leaders have rejected a web-based project that promised to put more information on city activities into the hands of residents. The ‘Code for America’ program provides three web-experts who spend a year reworking a city’s software. Saying current city accounting methods fall short, Council member Ed Lane argued against the new service.
Hoping to better direct downtown pedestrians, Leadership Lexington is calling for better signs, and more of them. Pastor Ron Edmondson, who speaks for the organization, predicts signage that specifically targets walkers could improve downtown business.
Hoping to improve interaction between taxpayers and city leaders, Lexington might join an innovative, year-long, web-based effort. Promoters also hope it will boost Lexington’s reputation as a friendly place for ‘new technology’.
Four architectural firms will offer up suggestions on refurbishing Lexington’s Rupp Arena. The companies vying for the Rupp Arena job come from Lexington, Kansas City, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Sweden. In a statement, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray said ‘these are the firms with the imagination to reinvent Rupp Arena and ignite the surrounding blocks with a new level of excitement and activity.
Brenna Angel, a reporter for the University of Kentucky's public radio station who is being sued by the school, has left the station to work in the office of Lexington Mayor Jim Gray. Angel started work Monday as the assistant communications director, specializing in social media and the city's website. She said it was not a job that she had pursued, but she was pleasantly surprised to be approached about it. "It was an opportunity I couldn't pass up," Angel said early Monday afternoon. Read more...
Kentucky American Water Company President Cheryl Norton
Credit Kentucky American Water Company
Formal hearings begin Tuesday on a rate increase requested by Kentucky American Water. And, state regulators have already heard some tough talk from Lexington’s mayor. Hoping to cover the cost of infrastructure improvements, computer upgrades and declining usage, Kentucky American Water Company seeks a 14 percent increase in rates. If approved by the State Public Service Commission, the average water customer would pay an extra five to six dollars a month.
It’s getting down to crunch time for local governments across Kentucky as councils and commissions prepare to vote on new budgets. In Lexington, city leaders will make some adjustments over the next couple of weeks. Vice Mayor Linda Gorton says council members should get an update Tuesday on how much money is available.
New zoning regulations proposed for facilities that care for Lexington’s adult residents concern advocates for Lexington's homeless and disabled residents. The proposed change would require Adult Day Care Centers to seek city permission before opening up in areas zoned for business and professional. David Christensen with the Central Kentucky Housing and Homeless Initiative says the rules seem to target Lexington’s homeless.
Zip line enthusiasts lobby council members at Lexington city hall.
Credit Stu Johnson / WEKU News
Hoping to promote and regulate adventure tourism in rural areas, a Lexington work group has proposed a series of zoning restrictions. During dozens of public meetings, the working group discussed the need for green space, the potential of eco and agri-tourism, and the environmental consequences. Vice Mayor Linda Gorton created the panel
A remedy is in the works for a debt owed by the Children’s Museum to the city of Lexington. The ‘Explorium’ owes the city about 194-thousand dollars. Lexington Finance Commissioner Bill Omara says the proposed remedy has the museum organizing 24 community events a year until the debt is paid off.