Jake Gibbs stopped at Sunrise Bakery on Thursday morning and heard a common complaint.
Downtown Lexington needs more bike racks, bakery staff told him.
The Urban County councilman, who represents much of downtown, was able to tell them that that problem will be solved soon.
“I am spending $10,000 to put new bike racks all over downtown,” Gibbs said Thursday. More than 20 bike racks should be installed by late spring or early summer.
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The $10,000 came from a $4 million surplus for the city budget that ended June 30, 2015. In November 2015, the Urban County Council voted to divvy up that surplus and assign it equally among the 15 council members to spend on projects. Every council member was allotted $266,666 to spend. Of the $4 million, more than $3.5 million has been allocated. The council has until June 30 to allocate the remaining $500,000, which can be used only for one-time expenses.
The Herald-Leader obtained a breakdown of all the council projects paid for through Feb. 3 through an Open Records Act request.
Search here to find out how council members have spent the nearly $4 million surplus.
Of the $3.5 million allocated so far, the biggest amounts went to parks, trails and other greenspace projects — approximately $1.3 million. Some big ticket items in parks include more than $150,000 to build a sixth baseball field at Cardinal Run Park. Paving streets came in a close second at $1.2 million. More than $625,000 was spent on capital improvements across city government, including more than $10,000 for automated external defibrillators for government buildings and more than $50,000 for temporary enclosures and heaters for Fifth Third Pavilion, which hosts the popular downtown farmers market.
Police, fire and animal control received more than $250,000 from the $3.5 million allocated so far.
Part of that money —more than $50,000 — was for a vapor wake dog, a dog trained to detect explosives.
At-large Councilman Kevin Stinnett allocated the money for the dog, which police had said was a need. There was no money in the current budget for it. Police dogs are notoriously pricey.
“Public safety is a top priority,” Stinnett said.
According to city records, as of Feb. 3, Stinnett had less than $28,000 left to spend. Many council members have spent all of their allocations. Former council members Shevawn Akers and Russ Hensley spent all of their funds by the end of 2016. Hensley resigned in the fall. Akers was defeated in the November general election.
Council members Fred Brown, Jennifer Scutchfield and Hensley allocated all or almost all of their money to paving streets in their districts.
As of Feb. 3, Gibbs had the most money left: more than $170,000.
Gibbs said most of that money will be gone soon. The $10,000 for bike racks will come from the $170,000. Other items include a public art project on a city building, replacement curbs for portions of Mentelle Park, and traffic-calming devices for Richmond Avenue.
“I didn’t rush to spend my money,” Gibbs said. “I was looking for more innovative and interesting projects.”
Gibbs focused on environmental projects and improving pedestrian safety. He allocated money to buy sidewalk snow-removal equipment for the city and partnered with Bell Court neighborhood to buy trees.
Councilwoman Amanda Bledsoe has two of the most expensive council projects — a $125,000 traffic study for Beaumont and Harrodsburg Road, and $150,000 to build a sixth baseball field at Cardinal Run. Vice Mayor Steve Kay and at-large Councilman Kevin Stinnett chipped in money from their allocation to help Bledsoe cover the costs for the traffic study, which should be completed in early April.
“I tried to address the two biggest needs in my district,” Bledsoe said. “The number one complaint I heard was about traffic in Beaumont.”
Cardinal Run off Parkers Mill Road is used by multiple baseball and softball leagues. A sixth baseball field has been discussed for more than a decade but there was never money to build one.
“They will now have eight fields (including two softball fields),” Bledsoe said.
Councilwoman Susan Lamb spent much of her $266,666 on park improvements in her district. She spent more than $70,000 on paving.
“If you improve parks, it benefits the entire city, not just the people in your district,” Lamb said.
Councilman James Brown also spent most of his allocation on parks. Brown spent $160,000 on a new playground in Douglass Park, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2016. He also put $45,000 toward construction of new restrooms and a concession stand for Martin Luther King Jr. park.
Stinnett, Kay and Moloney — who are elected citywide — spent their money in areas all over the city and throughout city departments, records show. Moloney spent nearly $100,000 to make repairs at seven fire stations. Kay gave more than $100,000 for repairs and other upgrades at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning, which is in the former Lexington library.
“I just tried to spread it out as much as I could,” Moloney said.