A proposed law that makes littering a civil violation will go before Lexington’s full council for a vote. By making it a civil violation, Patricia Knight, who chairs “Keep Lexington Beautiful,” says the city could prosecute more litter bugs. “People make the choice to litter, they should take the responsibility for it,” said Knight. Knight says most littering cases currently don’t result in punishment. She says the change would ease criminal prosecutions, but not eliminate them altogether.
A move to exempt the Bluegrass Airport from a tax that funds mandatory sewer improvements has failed. Officials at Bluegrass Airport believe Lexington should give the facility a tax break. They want their runways, taxi ways, and ramps exempted from the city’s storm water management fee. The fee, which is paid by public and private entities, will finance a half billion dollars in sanitary and storm water sewer improvements. Airport officials argue these are public surfaces, much like roadways. Vice Mayor Linda Gorton, who chaired the storm water management task force, says an exemption would set a bad precedent
Talk continues at city hall over a proposed affordable housing trust fund for Lexington. The idea, which has been under study for years, would finance homes for low-income residents. Proponents say the city could raise two-million dollars each year for the fund with a half-percent tax on insurance premiums. Council member Chris Ford says the time to act is now. “Nobody can refute the need. We can leave these chambers right now and drive throughout our districts and recognize the need. The question is will we respond and react to the need,” said Ford.
Fayette County’s criminal electronic monitoring program has grown substantially over the last three years. The ankle bracelet system was reviewed during an Urban County Council meeting Tuesday. Jail officials say 42 people are on electronic monitors currently. 39 of those individuals have not gone to trial. Jail Sargent Chris Toombs says there’s room for growth in the program. “We could have as many as need be. We can get over a hundred if that’s what the community requires and if the judges and city leadership wants to get together, then the jail can make that happen,” said Toombs.
Opening up Lexington to natural gas filling stations was a point of discussion today at City Hall. With natural gas cheap and plentiful, it’s prompting interest among some motorists. Council member Bill Farmer has heard a lot of buzz about the potential of natural gas as a cheap, clean-burning fuel. “I just became familiar with it from a couple of conversations in terms of how much natural gas there is here naturally and how many pipelines this state and this part of the state to supply natural gas to other parts of the country,” said Farmer.
There’s interest in a total overhaul of the Lexington’s historic downtown courthouse. Last week, the city indefinitely closed the building, which sits at the corner of Main and Upper Streets, to the public. Lexington General Services Commissioner Sally Hamilton says the 114 year old building has lead, asbestos and structural problems. “We know we have got a lot of lead in there, but we would like to have something in concrete that tells us exactly where the majority of that lead is and some of the recommendations on how to abate that,” said Hamilton.
Lexington’s effort to redo much of its sanitary and storm water sewer systems brings with it the cost of hiring consultants. The most recent engineering contract presented to Lexington’s council was for a half-million dollars. Council member Ed Lane says it deserves close scrutiny. “This should be the highest due diligence of our council is to make sure that our process is protecting our taxpayers and ratepayers and make sure we’re getting a fair return on our investment,” said Lane. Mayor Jim Gray agrees….saying city officials are closely tracking expenses.
FRANKFORT –The innovative and cost-saving U.S. 68 Double Crossover Diamond Interchange in Lexington has been recognized by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials as one of the 10 best transportation projects in the United States.
Public golf in Lexington is on an uptick. In recent years, the Urban County Government had been subsidizing the five golf courses by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Then last spring the green fees were reduced substantially and a golfer loyalty program implemented. Director of Golf Mike Fields says it has resulted in a turnaround. “I think it allowed us to get our rates in line with what the market demand was. We were out pricing ourselves, we didn’t have any programs in place to create any loyalty for our customers to keep returning to us,” said Fields.
News that Lexmark will lay-off hundreds of local workers has city leaders worried about their finances. The Lexington-based firm will reduce it’s workforce by 350 full-timers and 200 contract employees. According to one city official, such a job loss could result in a million dollar loss in revenues. Mayor Jim Gray says ‘our hearts go out to this folks who have been hit with this bad news, losing their jobs.’ Gray adds there can be no complacency when it comes to job creation.
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."