Fayette County

Council allocates funds for Hamburg Y and Woodhill, but old courthouse fate undetermined

The Urban County Council allocated surplus funds for the planned Hamburg YMCA, Wood hill Park and other projects, but it took no action Thursday on Mayor Jim Gray's request for more money for the old Fayette County Courthouse.

The council will return Tuesday to determine how to spend slightly less than $1 million of remaining surplus funds.

On Thursday, the council allocated $1,237,850 of the $2.2 million surplus for a host of projects that long have been on the city's to-do list. The surplus was from the fiscal year that ended June 30.

During the special meeting, the council decided to allocate $253,000 to the YMCA of Central Kentucky for the new YMCA at Hamburg, $300,000 for site preparation for a new community center at Woodhill Park and $100,000 for beautification efforts for the 2015 Breeders' Cup.

Other allocations included $69,850 for an independent study to determine where to put new fire stations, $35,000 to remove hazardous trees inside the city limits, and $80,000 for tree and vegetation removal on county roads.

Much of the discussion involved a request by Gray's administration for $450,000 for schematic designs for the old Fayette County Courthouse.

Council member Julian Beard questioned whether the city was spending too much on the courthouse, which has been shuttered since July 13, 2012, because of lead paint, asbestos and other hazardous materials. This summer, some areas around the building were fenced off because of structural deterioration.

Beard said a study several years ago showed it would take $16 million to restore the building — Lexington's fourth courthouse — to its original condition. During Mayor Jim Newberry's administration, a study showed it would cost at least $18 million.

"God knows what it would cost now?" Beard said. "Where are we going to get that money?"

Council member Ed Lane said he supported efforts to save the building but questioned whether the city was spending the money on the right thing. The city already had allocated $250,000 from last year's surplus funds for a study.

"The Urban County Government has done a woefully inadequate job protecting that building," Lane said. "We need to go in and make repairs to that roof system."

Sally Hamilton, the city's chief administrative officer, said the study probably would be completed in January. It will provide the city with information about what it would take to restore the building, possible uses and possible funding sources.

The funding options could include private and public money, she said.

The council ultimately decided to delay voting on the $450,000 request until Tuesday. In addition, the council has a list of about 20 parks projects to go through. It has $962,150 left to allocate.

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