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Council scales back inauguration to save funds

The Urban County Council will hold a scaled-down inauguration on Sunday.

Instead of being held at the Kentucky Theatre, the ceremony will take place in a room that will quickly become a second home to the newest council members — council chambers in the Urban County Government Center.

The inauguration will be held on a tight budget because Mayor Jim Newberry doesn't want to spend any city money for the ceremony and the council doesn't have any money.

Newberry sent the council a letter saying he would like the council to follow his lead from 2006, when he raised private donations to pay for his inauguration. He also offered to donate $1,500 left over from his inauguration fund for Sunday's event.

"Especially at this difficult economic time, we must watch every dollar spent and demonstrate fiscal responsibility to the public," Newberry wrote. "I would like to request that the district council members raise funds privately for the 2009 event, and would request that all 16 elected officials do the same in years to come."

Council members, including the two who will be sworn in for the first time, say they agree the city shouldn't spend taxpayer money on the event and are OK with holding the ceremony in council chambers.

"In this economic environment, I think it's wise for the city to try to cut expenses where they can," said Cheryl Feigel, who will be sworn in as the representative for District 5, replacing Councilman David Stevens. "If it means a smaller party, I certainly think it's appropriate."

Diane Law less, the other new councilwoman who will be sworn in, said she doesn't care where the inauguration takes place.

"I agree that we don't need to be using city funds to swear in our council," said Lawless, who will replace outgoing District 3 Councilman Dick DeCamp.

Traditionally, Lexington inaugurations have been held at the Kentucky Theatre followed by a reception at the government center.

Two years ago, the inauguration and reception for Newberry and the council was held at the Lexington Civic Center. Newberry privately raised $29,900 and spent $28,149 on the event.

Vice Mayor Jim Gray said the council appreciates and graciously accepts Newberry's contribution of $1,500.

"We're even going to try to do it for under $1,000," he said.

Initially, the council planned to hold Sunday's inauguration at the Kentucky, but the theater wasn't available, Gray said.

After receiving Newberry's letter, the council began considering low-cost options and decided to maximize the city's resources by holding the ceremony at the government center.

Newberry decided to send the letter after several council members brought up the fact that the mayor's office has traditionally paid for inaugurations, said Susan Straub, a spokeswoman for Newberry. "We strongly felt that inaugurations should be privately funded, especially in these times of tight budgets."

Councilman Tom Blues said he was excited about being inaugurated in council chambers.

"My grandchildren have never been in chambers, so I think it will be kind of nice for them to see that and be a part of it," Blues said. "So I'm happy. I have no regrets about having it there and having a somewhat lesser scale than the previous inauguration."