MURRAY – During Thursday’s Murray City Council meeting, Mayor Bob Rogers said the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet had recently informed him that the next round of funding for the U.S. 641 Business Loop is imminent.
Rogers said he and City Administrator Jim Osborne recently visited Frankfort to meet with state agencies and legislators. One of the things Rogers said he wanted to confirm was that the funding to construct the Business Loop is indeed in the next budget as he had previously been told.
“It’s in the next two budgets – $3.5 million one year and $4 million (in the next year) for a total of $7.5 million,” Rogers said. “That project is ready for construction, so I'm assuming that the ‘24 budget starts July 1, and therefore, hopefully, we can bid this project and get it going. It's been talked about since 2014, if not before, so that was good news.”
Rogers said he was also able to confirm that a total of $700,000 had been approved for a TAP (Transportation Alternatives Program) grant to construct sidewalks on South 16th Street. Gov. Andy Beshear presented a ceremonial $500,000 check last May while visiting Murray last May, but Rogers said he had heard conflicting information and wanted to confirm the project’s status. The city will match 20% of the total, while the other 80% will come from the state, Rogers said.
In addition, Rogers said the city has been approved for a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant of more than $2 million to deal with flooding problems on North 16th Street close to The Keg and a nearby apartment complex.
“(It has) flooded at least five times since I've been mayor, and it’s really a serious problem,” Rogers said. “Our thanks to Mr. (James) Oakley, our floodwater guy, for staying on this grant because the FEMA grants aren't real easy to get.”
Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator Gene Pierceall gave a report at the beginning of the meeting about the plant, and opened by talking about an award the plant was recently informed it had won.
“About three weeks ago, we got notified that we were nominated for the Water and Wastewater Plant Operation of the Year by the western chapter of the (Kentucky) Water and Wastewater Operators Association,” Pierceall said. “They came in last Wednesday and they did a tour of the plant and then they called us on Thursday to let us know that we had won that award. This is the second year in a row that we have won that award. … One of the requirements for this award is no violations for at least three years. The last violation we had was in 2017.”
In other water-related business, the council unanimously approved a recommendation from the Long Range Planning Committee to use some of the city’s Clean Water Act grant money for the design, location and engineering costs for a north water project.
The council also passed a resolution creating an Energy Project Assessment District within the city, establishing a program to advance, conservation and efficient use of energy and water resources.
“It's a program in the state of Kentucky whereby developers – whether it be industrial, retail and other uses – can access funding from approved lenders, and essentially, the city would put a special assessment on the property tax for whatever property that it is,” Osborne explained. “Then we remit that special assessment every year to the lender to pay back the loan. This is very attractive to developers because the loan stays with the property. So if they’ve got a 30-year loan and they sell it 10 years in, that loan stays with the new owner. The city can charge a fee for our costs to collect the assessment, so there's no cost to the city and it's a real help for developers that want to come to Murray.”
The council also unanimously voted to pass a resolution expressing opposition to proposed legislation that would mandate that all local elections in Kentucky would be partisan. House Bill 50 and Senate Bill 50 would both amend several Kentucky statutes to require candidates running for mayor, city council, boards of education, soil and water conservation boards and others to have a partisan primary or partisan election and to declare their political party affiliation on the general election ballot.
Osborne said the current statute allows city councils to decide for themselves whether or not to have partisan elections, and that is essentially what the resolution was endorsing. Danny Hudspeth, the longest serving council member and former mayor, said the city elections used to be partisan, but he thought the council might have decided in the early 1990s to take political party out of the equation..
Rogers said that out of 104 incorporated cities, only six had decided to have partisan elections.
“My first thought on (the bills) was that our country is divided enough as it is, so why would we want to divide it more?” Rogers said. “I mean, this is what this would do, and whether you’ve got a ‘D’ or an ‘R’ beside your name, I don't know that that decides how you feel about every issue. I don’t even know whether you all are D’s or R’s or I’s, and I don’t care.”
“I think we have a lot of examples where the polarization is not healthy for the community or for anybody,” said Councilwoman Rose Ross Elder. “I think we see plenty of examples of that all the time.”
“I agree, and it would be more expensive as well,” said Councilwoman Bonnie Higginson.
“I personally am a little insulted by it because it makes it sound like we as a city and the people in the city of Murray can't make a decision on our own about what’s best for us,” said Councilman Joe Darnall.
The cancel also approved several board appointments and re-appointments. Tom Timmons, Joy, Waldrop and Cindy Chrisman-Veach were all reappointed to the City Beautification Committee, while Pat Seiber was appointed as well. Dan Miller, Paula Edwards Willis, Scott Seiber, Dale Swift, Alice Rouse, and Terry Strieter were all appointed to the Tree Board. All the terms will expire Dec. 31, 2024.
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