Council approves sewer rate hikes
The Versailles City Council Tuesday voted unanimously to approve three 18.5 percent increases in sewer rates to pay for a new $20 million wastewater treatment plant. The rate hike applies to customers who live in Versailles and outside city limits; the latter already pay higher rates. A lightly attended public meeting was held on the issue Dec. 17. On Tuesday, during the public comment portion of the council meeting, no one asked to speak, nor did any council members before the votes. The council also unanimously approved a measure that will raise sewer rates by 2 percent a year for seven years beginning in 2019, and water rates by 2 percent a year for a decade, beginning in July. Soper hired In an unusual move, the council unanimously approved a contract to hire Woodford County Economic Development Authority (EDA) Chairman John Soper to “provide economic development services to the city of Versailles …” The contract is for six months, and Soper will be paid $5,300 per month. After the meeting, Soper said that he retired from his position with the Bank of Lexington at the end of the year. He will continue to serve as EDA chairman, and said his paid position with the city of Versailles will not affect his unpaid work with the EDA. “I don’t see it any different than the role I had when I worked with the Bank of Lexington. My day job was Bank of Lexington, my off-times and other times was for EDA, so it’ll be essentially the same thing. In the past, we’ve had EDA members who’ve been city council people, so there’s really not a conflict there. That’s something, obviously, we checked and Bill (Versailles City Attorney Bill Moore) checked, and so forth … I see it as a way of focusing 100 percent of my time on economic development, both for the city and the EDA,” Soper said. Soper said he had not told members of Woodford Fiscal Court or the Midway City Council of the move. He said Versailles was on the cusp of attracting a number of new businesses. “It’s going to take a lot of attention to bring them to fruition, so the stars kind of aligned that this made sense …” Soper said. “I was ready to do something different and discussions led us down this path.” The EDA chairman is selected by members of the EDA, who are appointed by the three governmental bodies in the county. The county and city of Versailles have three appointments to the body, while the city of Midway has one, Soper said. Told of the decision by The Sun, Coyle said, “It’s news to me.” Coyle said he wasn’t concerned that some might feel Soper would be inclined to work harder to attract businesses to Versailles than the rest of the county. “I’m sure John will divide his time up appropriately, and his new employment by the city of Versailles, I feel, will not hinder his enthusiasm to do the job for the whole county as EDA chairman,” Coyle said. “There are plenty of projects all over the county that John is involved in and knows about, and as opportunities come along, I’m sure he’ll continue his top-notch level of service to the EDA board.” Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift was not immediately available for comment. City audit The first 15 minutes or so of the meeting featured a presentation from Heather Cochran of the Lexington accounting firm RFH. Cochran presented the highlights of an audit of the city’s finances for the fiscal year ending June 30. “… Overall, I think you all had a pretty good year. … On the general fund side of things, your revenues were over your budget, expenditures were under your budget; you always want to hear that, that’s always a good thing,” Cochran said. “The key point to me, though, is that we’re under budget. We’ve consistently conservatively budgeted lower than our actual intake, and that gives us a cushion in case there’s some kind of unplanned problem. Just like you do at your own home,” said council member Ken Kerkhoff. Highlights included an increase in city assets, from $5,890,698 in 2014 to $6,055,829 in 2015; a decrease in liabilities, from $1,645,761 to $1,630,852; and a corresponding general fund balance increase, from $4,244,937 to $4,424,977. Quotes The council unanimously accepted low bids of: • $2,600 from Quality Tree Service of Versailles to remove a large pin oak tree on Stout Avenue. • $3,295 from Rawdon Myers, Inc., of Milford, Ohio, for a new influent flow meter at the city’s wastewater treatment plant. Appointment The council unanimously approved the two-year appointment of Mike Hall to the Architectural Review Board.