Politics & Government

Council to continue discussions on spending remaining $4 million surplus

Lexington Herald-Leader

The Urban County Council will continue its discussions about how to spend the remaining $4 million of a $12.5 million surplus on Tuesday.

Over the past two weeks, the city has set aside more than $8.3 million for new ambulances, fire trucks, police cruisers and other capital improvements.

During a special meeting Tuesday to discuss the city's surplus, much of the discussion was about how much money was needed to finish the Legacy Trail. City officials said that about $1.1 million was needed to finish the 12-mile stretch of trail, which is scheduled to be completed by 2015.

But Keith Lovan, project manager for the city's Division of Engineering, said only $100,000 of the $1.1 million could be used in the next year. The remaining money would have to be used for design and other aspects of the trail, which is supposed to stretch from the Kentucky Horse Park to the Isaac Murphy Art Garden on Third Street. An 8.4-mile stretch of the trail opened in 2010. The city is in the process of finishing the remaining 4 miles. It has funding for all but $1.1 million of the project.

Many Urban County Council members said during Tuesday's meeting that they supported the completion of the Legacy Trail but wondered if the money would be better spent on "shovel ready" projects.

Councilman Julian Beard said that the majority of Fayette County's population probably hasn't used the Legacy Trail and questioned if taxpayer funds should be spent on replacing police cruisers or fire trucks — things that benefit all citizens.

But Councilman Steve Kay said he was concerned that the trail would not be completed if that money is not allocated. The total cost of completing the trail will likely top $15 million.

"My concern is that if we don't allocate this money now, when we get to the point when we need it, we won't have it," Kay said.

Councilwoman Diane Lawless ultimately suggested lowering the allocation to $600,000. Lovan told council members that the $600,000 could be used for design and other aspects of the remaining portions of the Legacy Trail this fiscal year. The council voted 13-1 to approve the $600,000 for the trail.

The council also voted Tuesday to spend $45,000 on renovations to a bus shelter and sign on Alexandria Drive in the Gardenside Shopping Center. Councilwoman Peggy Henson's district includes the bus stop, which dates to the 1950s. She said that replacing the bus stop has been on the city's to-do list for years. The new bus stop will cost more than $53,000, but Lextran has said it will give $5,000. Additionally, private money will be used to revamp the bus stop, which is part of the public art project Arts in Motion, she said.

But many city council members said they opposed using taxpayer dollars on the bus shelter. Councilman George Myers said he thought it was Lextran's responsibility to replace the bus stop. "Last time they were here, they had $13 or $14 million in reserves," Myers said.

The council voted 8-7 to approve the $45,000 for the shelter.

Also on Tuesday, the council voted to spend $400,000 on a new kitchen floor for the jail. But council members ultimately decided not to spend $31,000 on iPads for building inspectors and code enforcers.

The council will return next Tuesday to determine other projects to fund with the surplus funds. Items up for consideration include $67,000 for the expansion of the Charles Young park and $250,000 for the redesign of Man o' War Boulevard.

The votes are preliminary. After a final list of projects is drafted, it must have two readings and a final vote by council before the list is approved.