Fayette County

New government center eyed

Members of the Urban County Council want to seek public input about the best location for a new Urban County Government Center.

Although the city's downtown facilities master plan identified the current site of the Government Center Annex, the annex garage, police headquarters and the Phoenix Garage as the ideal location for a City Hall, council members aren't so sure.

There's no doubt that a new building is needed, said Councilman Don Blevins Jr., but he isn't convinced that the proposed footprint is the best place for a new building without additional study or public comment.

"We are facing a 50- to 100-year decision here," Blevins said. "This is a government center that is going to last for quite some time. ... So I'm feeling the weight of that decision."

Other possible locations for a new government center include another site downtown or one outside of downtown such as Lexington Mall, Blevins said.

Tuesday marked the first discussion in which council members acknowledged that the city needs to build a new government center rather than continuing to make repairs on its current buildings.

Location became an issue when the council's budget and finance committee was asked, once again, to support hiring FM Solutions to draft a request for a proposal with the specifications to begin the design phase for a new City Hall at the proposed site.

The Phoenix-based facilities management firm completed the city's downtown facilities master plan that determined it would be more cost-effective for the city to build a new government center. Council members did not want to declare the FM Solutions' proposed footprint as the ideal site just yet.

"We must practice what we preach — it is unfair to criticize CentrePointe and then pursue a new government center without public input," Blevins said.

The design of the proposed $250 million CentrePointe hotel, condominium, retail and office project has been roundly criticized by the council and community for being developed without public input.

"Is this the absolute best spot to place it or is it one block up or is it in the Third Street corridor," said Councilman Jay McChord.

"Given CentrePointe and all that has come out of that, the last thing you want is to build a government building that really is public property in the middle of downtown and not have that kind of inclusion," McChord said.

In other city business:

■ The council unanimously voted to set the city's property taxes at the same rate as last year.

Currently, the owner of a $150,000 house pays the city $120 a year in property taxes, $238.50 a year for garbage service and $14.10 a year for street cleaning.

The council had been presented with three options: Setting the rates at the same level as last year, which would leave the city with a projected $586,190 shortfall in property tax revenue; increasing the rates just enough to balance the budget; or raising the rates by 4 percent, the maximum level allowed by law.

The city will probably be able to make up the projected shortfall because the city's general fund has a $2.7 million surplus from the fiscal year that ended June 30, said Kyna Koch, the city's finance and administration commissioner.

The council's decision requires two official council readings for final approval. The second reading is scheduled for Sept. 11, the same night as a public hearing on the topic.

■ A council task force has put the brakes on a proposal to require standardized corrals for newspaper racks in downtown Lexington.

Earlier this month, the services committee approved a draft ordinance requiring standardized corrals in an effort to organize news racks on downtown streets. On Monday, the News Rack Ordinance Task Force unanimously voted to table the ordinance to give publishers time to work with the Downtown Lexington Corporation to develop a plan.

The task force set its next meeting for Sept. 22.