The Berea City Council heard the first reading of an ordinance to create a new entity called the Department of Business and Tourism Development. The measure was read for the first time Tuesday evening during a council teleconference.
The stated purpose of the ordinance is streamlining government operations and coordinating business development and tourism functions. If approved, the mayor would be empowered to hire a director of business and tourism development, subject to the approval of the Berea Tourist and Convention Commission.
Berea City Councilmember Emily LaDouceur expressed concern about the proposed ordinance, suggesting
it was an attempt to meddle in the affairs of the tourism department. LaDouceur also objected to the fact that the measure is being considered when the public is unable to participate in public meetings because they are done by teleconference.
LaDouceur asked for an opinion from corporate council about whether the city has the legal authority to implement the proposed change for the tourism commission. No other council members or staffers commented on the proposed ordinance, and it was not stated how the proposal would affect current personnel. The measure will come up for a second reading again on June 2.
LaDouceur later suggested the administration is introducing legislation while public comments are restricted. She urged the council to find a way for citizens to offer input as long as meetings are confined to teleconferencing.
In other business, the council unanimously adopted a resolution accepting funds from Kentucky’s Municipal Road Aid program. The $246,500 will be used for street resurfacing, according to the ordinance.
The council also heard the first reading of a measure allowing for a supplement to the City of Berea Code of Ordinances.
During the City Administrator’s Report, David Gregory announced progress is being made with regard to the Owsley Fork Dam project. Gregory raised the issue in response to a question from City Councilmember Jim Davis.
Gregory said while part of the design has been approved by the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NCRS), there was a delay was due to a new design requirement for a wall in the new structure. Berea Municipal Utilities staffers and engineers have been working closely with the NRCS office in Lexington, and a revised proposal will be passed on to federal authorities. “We hope to have this process completed by the end of the calendar year, and development of bid documents by 2021,” Gregory said.
Gregory reported construction of the Holly Hill sewer project has been delayed because contractors have not been able to receive needed materials due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At that point, Councilmember Ronnie Terrill noted that there is a significant water overflow on O’Donnell Road, leading him to question why that problem was not being addressed before Holly Hill. Berea Municipal Utilities Director Kevin Howard explained that the O’Donnell project, along with projects on Bridge Avenue and Bluebird Avenue, do not yet have an approved design, but they are in the works.
Councilmember Jerry Little stated that the turn lane from Ellipse Street onto U.S. 25 N. is currently unsafe and asked that it be corrected. Gregory said he would contact state officials to remedy the issue.
In other news, Gregory said the city is taking steps toward reopening in the near future, including following the governor’s Healthy at Work. The city continues to conduct extensive cleaning at City Hall and enforces social distancing and other measures, Gregory said. He noted the city may be able to open park restrooms as early as next week. Fingerprinting by appointment at the Berea Police Department is also expected to be allowed soon, he said.
Steve Caudill requested the city aid Berea College in opening the Pinnacles soon, noting that Daniel Boone National Forest will open on June 1.
During Mayor’s Comments, Mayor Bruce Fraley noted the Little Clinic in Richmond will be offering COVID-19 testing Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on the EKU campus. Details can be found on the City of Berea website. Fraley noted four new cases of COVID-19 have been discovered in Madison County, bringing the total to 41. No one is currently hospitalized with the disease, eight are recovering at home, and 32 of 41patients have fully recovered. There has been one COVID-19-related death in the county.
The Berea City Council will meet again by teleconference Thursday at 6 p.m. to review the 2020-2021 budget, then the Audit and Finance Committee will meet at 7:30 p.m. to discuss the city’s spending plan for the next fiscal year.