The Lexington council began making changes Tuesday to Mayor Jim Gray’s $345 million proposed budget, which includes $7 million for a youth sports complex on city-owned property on 130 acres near New Circle and Versailles roads.
The Urban County Council gave tentative approval at a Tuesday meeting for $7 million for the youth sports complex. But many on the council questioned spending money from bond funds for the proposed complex, which is expected to cost about $25 million. The Bluegrass Sports Commission, a nonprofit, has spearheaded efforts to build the complex on land the city owns. It asked the city for $18.75 million.
Geoff Reed, general services commissioner, said the $7 million will only be a place holder in the budget and the council will not have to issue bonds for that project until it hears more details and is satisfied the sports complex will be a good bet for taxpayers. The sports commission has pledged $6.5 million in private funds.
“There are also competing communities for this project,” Reed said. ”We felt the $7 million was sufficient to move forward.”
But some on council said they still didn’t know enough to support the $7 million allocation.
Councilman Russ Hensley said the proposed park will be in his council district yet he has had limited conversation with the Bluegrass Sports Commission about the project. Some neighborhoods near the proposed sports complex say they oppose it because of the destruction of wildlife, the uptick in traffic, and light and sound pollution.
“It’s a project that has not been discussed,” Hensley said.
Councilman Richard Moloney, however, countered that there was private money pledged for the project. The land was donated to the city with the intent that it be used for a park, Moloney said. It cannot be sold.
“We’ve got private money coming into the project,” Moloney said.
Vice Mayor Steve Kay pointed out the $6.5 million in private money was from naming rights, soft drink and other deals. The city could also get those same deals if it built the park itself, he said.
Although the $7 million for the youth sports complex is still in the budget, Tuesday’s vote was only the first step. Also on Tuesday, the council tentatively approved moving $250,000 for sidewalk construction out of a $1 million economic development fund. If the council takes a final vote on the transfer, the total amount the city would have for building sidewalks would top $750,000.
The council also agreed to add $130,000 to the budget for the Fayette County attorney’s office for health insurance and tentatively approved an additional $15,000 for the purchase of a development rights program, which is designed to protect farmland.
The council has until June 30 to pass a budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The council will meet again Thursday to continue budget discussions.