Traugott says state of the city is strong
Calling his annual state of the city address a “scoreboard and a game plan,” Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott described 2016 as a year of many successes, said the state of the city was strong, and issued a lengthy list of goals for 2017. Most of his 24-minute speech, which began with a deliberate and humorous exaggeration of the size of the crowd in attendance – 13, but Traugott said it was 3,000 – focused on goals for this year. Most of them will require city funding and council approval. Among the achievements listed for last year was the council’s approval for the possible purchase of the old St. Leo School as the location for a new state-of-the-art police station. Traugott signed an executive order creating the Committee to Design and Construct Versailles Law Enforcement Building, which will be co-chaired by council member Ann Miller and Police Chief James Fugate. Near the end of the meeting, the council unanimously approved spending up to $19,999 to modify vehicles to serve as “bait cars” to catch people who break into vehicles or attempt to steal them. Before that, Traugott proposed an ordinance to require Knox boxes that provide “non-destructive emergency access,” which Traugott said will help first responders get into buildings after-hours in an emergency to better protect property and reduce the chance of damaging doors. With the city’s bond obligations for the Falling Springs Arts and Recreation Center expiring in three years, Traugott said he will propose escrowing funds for major repairs there. Later in the meeting, Parks and Recreation Director Rich Pictor noted that the center will soon need a $178,000 air conditioning unit and said the Parks Foundation, long dormant, will meet next week to discuss contributing to the project. Traugott said he would renew efforts to discuss merged government by asking the council to again consider an ordinance creating an independent commission to study the matter, adding that he hoped the county will participate this time. Traugott said he would request an opinion from the state Attorney General regarding term limits for the office of mayor, and that if he received a favorable opinion, would recommend an ordinance to that effect. “While I believe there is benefit to having a mayor who has years of experience heading city government, I give more merit to the potential that fresh eyes could bring to this position,” said Traugott, who took office in May of 2013. Two traffic-related proposals will require state approval: removing the option to turn left onto Lexington Road from the Kroger entrance/exit by the store’s fuel center. Traugott called the option an unnecessary hazard, as a signaled exit is only 600 feet east. Another, more ambitious change would straighten the curve between the U.S. 60 Bypass and Lexington Road and change the signal timing, which he said would “bring improved safety and convenience to this area of Versailles.” Traugott recommended providing “some funding” for the Court Appointed Special Advocates who represent abused and neglected children in the Family Court system. He said he’d ask the council’s Administrative & Legal Committee to consider proposing minimum care standards for domestic dogs and cats, saying “the least we can do is protect them from extreme temperatures and negligent care.” Traugott said his budget proposal this spring will include funding for a part-time downtown events coordinator and said city officials are in discussions with a private business to provide free downtown Wi-Fi access at “very little expense” for taxpayers. He also announced the creation of a Downtown Planning Advisory Committee to be chaired by freshman council member Laura Dake. “This group will look at strategies to improve our downtown and make it more attractive for residential and commercial purposes … (and) examine the feasibility of establishing a downtown TIF (tax increment financing) district. … We must also not lose sight of our vision to have a public downtown gathering place and improved permanent home for our farmers’ market,” Traugott said. After the speech, the council and several attendees gave Traugott a standing ovation. Nicklies to sign $50,000 note The council unanimously approved a resolution backing what Traugott said was Nicklies Development’s pledge to sign a $50,000 promissory note or lien on property in the Kroger shopping center. Traugott said the company finished infrastructure work in January of 2016 and the performance bond was lifted, but a “defeat security” should have been put in place to pay for possible water line or street problems. The note/lien will be in effect through January of next year. Charitable banners The council unanimously approved an ordinance amending the city’s zoning laws to allow banners to be placed on poles and fences for charitable events. Historical society Traugott said he and council member Owen Roberts visited the Woodford County Historical Society last week and learned the group has serious funding problems. He suggested giving the non-profit organization an additional $4,000 and a motion to that effect passed unanimously. Council member Ken Kerkhoff cautioned that the council should be careful, as lots of groups need money, and Dake asked whether the $4,000 would be enough to help. Roberts replied it would “keep the doors open.” Human Rights Commission Mary Nehring celebrated her birthday by attending the council meeting and being appointed to the Human Rights Commission. Her term will expire at the end of the year. “I’m missing a birthday dinner for this,” she joked. Mower The council unanimously approved Public Works Director Bart Miller’s request to purchase an unbudgeted mower to replace one that broke last year. The price, after trade-in of the old unit, was $7,079.