• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

Traugott makes offer on Soper EDA hire

Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott has made a counter-offer to the two other top elected officials in Woodford County regarding the continued service of John Soper as chairman of the Woodford Economic Development Authority (EDA) and other related matters. In a letter to Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift and Judge-Executive John Coyle, Traugott said the proposal would "grant Midway more representation on two intergovernmental bodies, require all parties to pay a fair share, alleviate any existing concerns that political hot potatoes do not pop into the equation and (keep) our main downtown arterial roads from getting more traffic." The letter proposed giving the city of Midway another appointee to the EDA and the Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Planning and Zoning Commission, both of which Vandegrift asked for at the Nov. 21 Midway City Council meeting. It proposed that the city of Midway increase its Planning Commission funding from 11.1 percent to 24 percent of the total, but pay $12,098 to the EDA - far less than Traugott's initial recommendation of about $27,000. Presently, Midway pays $5,000 a year to the EDA. It also suggested a clause prohibiting the EDA or its chairman from advocating "anything even remotely similar to the Northwest Versailles Mobility Corridor (aka Versailles Bypass), along with a requirement that any new proposed industrial facility located in Midway Station include an analysis of the impact of that project on truck traffic on Midway Road and Main Street in Versailles." Midway city officials and others lobbied against the proposed Versailles Bypass, arguing that, among other things, it would increase traffic on Midway Road. There is no money in the state's six-year road plan for the project. At the Nov. 21 Midway City Council meeting, Soper and Vandegrift sharply expressed their differences over Traugott's initial EDA proposal. Vandegrift suggested other candidates should be invited to apply for Soper's position as chairman. Soper gave several reasons why the restructuring was sound and suggested a new EDA chairman would face a steep learning curve involving current and future economic developments at Midway Station. Tuesday morning, Vandegrift told The Sun that he appreciated Traugott's counter-offer, which covered some of the concerns he expressed at last week's council meeting. "I don't think we're going to have this current council look at it. There's no point - there's only one more meeting," Vandegrift said, adding that he believed the council would cancel its second December meeting, as it traditionally does. "I will say that I'm going to recommend that we ignore the Planning and Zoning offer . but I think the new funding of the EDA is interesting and worth looking at it," Vandegrift said. At the Nov. 14 Versailles City Council meeting, the council voted 4 to 0 in favor of a Traugott-penned resolution that would result in Soper, presently the unpaid EDA chairman, being paid for that job. The resolution included a $60,000 annual salary for Soper, plus $721 a month for benefits. After retiring from the Bank of Lexington at the end of 2015, Soper was hired by the city of Versailles to provide economic development services for $5,300 per month. That first six-month contract was extended by the council through the end of this year. The Versailles City Council resolution included an opt-out of the city's portion of the EDA's $42,000 annual contract with the Bluegrass Area Development District for the services of Craig McAnelly, who is the EDA's executive director. An in-depth EDA restructuring would have to be approved by all three governmental entities, likely in a new interlocal agreement. Last week, Soper sent a fact sheet to The Sun showing the fruits of the EDA's labor, much of it at Midway Station, since the beginning of 2015. According to statistics Soper said were based on projections by the state Cabinet for Economic Development, the EDA helped create 821 new jobs worth $812,729 in annual revenue from occupational and property taxes. Coyle told The Sun that he'd present Traugott's letter to Fiscal Court after the Midway City Council considers it.

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