Traugott: state of city strong, getting stronger
Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott delivered the “state of the city” address at Tuesday’s city council meeting, outlining what he saw as the best of 2015 and what’s ahead for this year. “If there is one theme that ties them all together, it is that we’re turning old to new again,” Traugott said. Among his 2015 highlights: • Last April’s Sparks Versailles event put on by the Woodford County High School Community Activism Class he said showed the potential of downtown Versailles, and which he hopes will become an annual event. (A website is in place for an April 8 to 10 return.) • The city’s budget for the all-day July 4 celebration that ended with a fireworks show at the Woodford County Park (cancelled in 2014) was “almost halved,” thanks to the support of private donors and the hard work of organizers. •The Christmas Parade, which drew the “largest crowd in recent memory.” •Progress towards turning the old Versailles Elementary School building into “affordable housing” for senior citizens. • The beginning of the design phase of the $20 million wastewater treatment plant expansion, which will require three annual 18.5 percent rate hikes. Traugott praised the council’s political courage for not “kicking the can down the road.” Among the goals Traugott set for 2016: • A new police station, which might go on the site of the old Woodford County Middle School along with other city offices. • A new ladder truck for the Versailles Fire Department and a “review (of) issues surrounding staffing and compensation.” • Further progress on blighted properties, which, along with the recent passage of an ordinance cracking down on junked cars, will “enforce the highest reasonable standards for maintaining property in commercial and residential areas.” • A hotel at the site of the old Versailles Center, which was leveled by the city shortly after Traugott took office in 2013. • Progress on a proposed $1.75 million downtown pavilion, and further incorporation of Big Spring Park into downtown Versailles. • A downtown tax increment financing (TIF) district on Main Street to allow investors to recoup some investor costs, expand the tax base, and “maintain this area as our economic, tourism and cultural center.” Traugott pledged to continue to support the controversial Northwest Versailles Mobility Corridor, which wasn’t included in Gov. Matt Bevin’s budget unveiled last week. “This new arterial passageway would relieve our downtown traffic and allow us to take full advantage of opportunities presented by a pedestrian-friendly downtown. Its impact on smaller residential areas is no less significant,” Traugott said. He also said he will ask the council to enact laws setting minimum food, water, tethering and shelter (during extreme conditions) for pets, saying, “The data is clear that abuse and neglect of animals is a precursor to violence against humans. Plus, it is the right thing to do.” Traugott closed by saying, “The easiest way to govern is to do nothing. Let’s take the hard road, because it leads to a better place. My vision for our community is to elevate economic development, public safety, tourism, and quality of life. These should be our top priorities. …” After the 16-minute address, the council gave Traugott a round of applause. Big Sink annexation The council heard first reading of an ordinance announcing an intent to annex 66.956 acres of property at 494 Big Sink Road owned by Camco Properties, LLC. The city previously annexed 21.46 acres of property at 720 Big Sink Road. A special council meeting will be held at 2 p.m. today, Thursday, Feb. 4, for the second reading. If adopted, the Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the matter and decide whether to amend the Comprehensive Plan and recommend zoning or other land use changes. 4th of July Mike Coleman gave the council an update on planning for this year’s 4th of July celebration, but a vote on whether to accept his recommendation to re-hire the Springfield company that handled the fireworks last year was delayed. Coleman said the company once again offered a 25- to 30-minute show for $12,000, and was willing to sign a three-year deal at that price. Coleman said the theme of this year’s festivities will be “Saluting the Brave.” Disc golf Versailles-Woodford County Parks and Recreation Director Rich Pictor spoke to the council about the disc golf course for which he received the go-ahead at last week’s Woodford Fiscal Court meeting. The 18-hole course should be ready for play in July, he said, with the first tournament possible in October. Such a tournament could attract 150 competitors at a proposed $40 per entry, which would result in a gross profit of $6,000, Pictor said. On non-tournament days, the course will be free. Near the end of his presentation, he noted that he should have said something up front: the course won’t cost the city any money up front, and likely little down the road. The city of Versailles and Woodford County split the parks and recreation budget 45-55.