Candidates for Versailles council participate in forum
Three of the nine candidates vying for six seats on Versailles City Council participated in a candidates' forum on Oct. 10. None of the four incumbents seeking to retain their council seats participated in this forum hosted by Woodford Forward, a citizens group, and SPARK Versailles, a community activism class at Woodford County High School. Participating candidates Larry Britton, Laura Dake and Tim Middleton were each given an opportunity to introduce themselves at the start of the forum at Woodford Theatre. Britton, a lifelong resident of Woodford County and real estate agent, said he will focus on the needs of youth in the community. "They are my top priority," said the father of four. "Next . I'm very concerned about a lot of traffic issues as much of you in the room probably understand - and these (issues) are nothing new to any of you." Describing himself as honest and transparent, Britton said he's "willing to listen." Dake, who has lived here for 24 years, said she's running for a council seat "because I believe Versailles is at a critical juncture in its history - particularly as it pertains to how it grows." The mother of three described herself as a good choice for council because of her interest in working with community members on a shared vision. Middleton, a Fayette County school teacher, who has lived here his entire life, said, "I do believe in progress, but it has to be the right kind of progress." He said his goal as a councilman is simple: "Do the right thing for everybody in Woodford County . not just one group of people." Communication and dialogue must occur for positive change to happen, Middleton said. During the forum's question-and-answer session, the three council candidates voiced their views on a variety of topics. Britton and Dake voiced support for hiring someone to focus solely on economic development in Versailles, Midway and Woodford County. Middleton said he doesn't know enough to have strong opinion either way, "but I'm willing to listen." On a related topic, Dake and Middleton said they understand concerns that may arise when trying to balance industrial growth with the county's rural character. "Any opportunity to bring more jobs - good jobs that have good insurance - to town is a great idea, but I think you have to balance that with other things," said Middleton. Given the low unemployment rates in Woodford County and surrounding counties, Dake wondered where people are going to come from to fill newly created jobs here. Britton said he supports the expansion of existing industry so those employers will want to remain in Woodford County. None of the candidates voiced support for a merger of local governments without further study, which they do support. All three candidates acknowledged that traffic issues do exist in the City of Versailles, but none of them embraced an extension of Falling Springs Boulevard to Frankfort Road (U.S. 60) at or near Midway Road (U.S. 62) as the solution. Without money in the state's six-year road plan for that project, Britton said this question might become more relevant "six years from now." Dake agreed. "I would like us to try some less-expensive solutions to our traffic problems first," she said. Dake also doesn't support an expansion of the Versailles urban services boundary. Instead, she'd "really like to see us" grow inside the boundary before any expansion occurs. Middleton said he's unsure whether or not he supports an expansion of the Versailles urban services area. "I do believe in progress," he said, "but I do believe it should be a progress that's planned." Britton pointed out that the existing Comprehensive Plan was "put there as a guideline for us to go by. "Regardless of whether someone is for or against extending the boundaries," he explained, "I feel it's something that should be discussed when the new Comprehensive Plan is put out." The Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Planning and Zoning Commission has already begun work on updating the current Comprehensive Plan, a land-use guide for the cities of Versailles and Midway as well as Woodford County. All three candidates supported the adoption of an "empty box" ordinance that would require a property developer to post a bond covering the demolition costs for a large retail or commercial building that's been abandoned or vacant for a year. All three candidates also supported term limits for Planning Commission and Board of Adjustment members. "And not just that," said Britton, "but I think there should be term limits for the council. "I think that any elected official or anybody that's in an appointed position should have term limits. I absolutely agree with that." Earlier, all three participating council candidates said they support the installation of the necessary infrastructure to bring the highest-speed Internet service to Versailles, Midway and Woodford County. "I do feel like it's something that's very important that we need," said Britton. Middleton said his only reservation moving forward on the infrastructure for high-speed Internet would involve cost. The candidates' forum was co-moderated by Tom Martin and Eli Bradshaw, a student in Woodford County High School's community activist class. After their questions were asked and answered, members of the audience were given a chance to ask questions. The only question posed by an audience member was one asking the council candidates to share their feelings about a fairness ordinance for the City of Versailles. Dake and Middleton said they would support a fairness ordinance in Versailles. "I believe in equity - everyone should be treated equally," said Middleton. "As a minority, I can't feel any other way with that." Britton said he was not sure how he feels about a fairness ordinance at this point. In his closing remarks, Britton voiced his disappointment that other candidates were unable to participate in Monday night's forum. "I know that there's conflicts and stuff that happen, and folks can't make it to these forums," said Britton, "but I think it's very, very important - regardless of whether you agree with me or disagree with me - that we can agree to disagree sometimes . It's important for you to know where everybody stands before you go into that voting booth." The Chamber of Commerce will host a forum for Midway City Council candidates today, Thursday, Oct. 13, beginning at 6 p.m. at Midway University; a forum for Versailles City Council candidates on Monday, Oct. 17, beginning at 6 p.m. at Woodford Theatre; and a forum for state and federal elections on Thursday, Oct. 20, beginning at 6 p.m. at Midway University.