Jerry Little urges citizens to work with the city when it comes to infrastructure repair

Berea Gutter Construction
Workers pour new gutters and sidewalks along U.S. 25, a mostly state-funded, $8 million investment in Berea. But while new infrastructure is added, the city works to maintain older infrastructure as well.  

Who is responsible for streets, curbs, and other infrastructure in the greater Berea area? It’s not always clear, as Berea City Councilman Jerry Little pointed out Tuesday night. Little raised the issue during a report about the activities of the city’s Public Works Committee.

In recent months, one group of citizens has complained that the city is not maintaining its infrastructure, Little said.  But some of the time, the infrastructure in question is not actually the responsibility of the City of Berea, he added. He noted that some infrastructure, for example, is on private property. Or, in some cases,  property has been annexed into the city, but the city does not have easements to work on issues like drainage, said Little. That can lead to confusion among the public. “Sometimes the city gets blamed for things that are out of our control,” Little noted.

As chair of the Public Works Committee, Little said much of Berea’s infrastructure is aging, but that the city is making an effort to keep up. “We can’t take care of all the problems. We try to take care of what is most needed, because we just don’t have the manpower to take care of everything,” Little said.

Little recommended devising a new system for handing infrastructure complaints, then recording and prioritizing them. In the meantime, he urged patience. “We’re trying to do the best job we can and we’re trying to address all the problems. Just try to work with us and we’ll try to work with you to get things done.”

According to a report released last year, the City of Berea has invested over $20 million in major infrastructure projects since 1997, including upgrading the city parks and improving roadways in the industrial park.

 

                                                 CITY OF BEREA MAJOR PROJECTS
PROJECT DATE PROJECT DESCRIPTION FINAL PRICE
1993 Berea Community Park $  2,300,000.00
1993 Intergenerational Building $     350,000.00
1995 Landfill Closure $   4,000,000.00
1998 Sidewalk Project (Various) $        93,077.99
1998 Valley/Boone St. Drainage $       112,725.50
1998 Forest St. Drainage Project $         48,347.96
1999 Glades/1016 Intersection $       225,032.00
1999 City Hall Renovation $       500,000.00
2000 Post Office Renovation $       903,507.77
2001 Glades Road Reconstruction $     1,834,261.75
2002 Logston Lane Reconstruction $       119,613.38
2002 N. Broadway Reconstruction $       737,508.12
2002 Intergenerational classroom add. $       102,280.00
2003 Boone Street $       190,112.12
2003 Ball Field Refurbish $         73,723.05
2004 Shirley Street Reconstruction $         95,434.75
2004 Glades/Rash Rd. traffic signal $         49,000.00
2004 Ellipse/Jefferson Traffic Signal $         33,345.00
2005 Utility and Public Works Build. $       655,000.00
2005 Park Storage Bldg. and Office $         49,900.00
2006 Maintenance Garage $       185,810.00
2006 Blythe Court Reconstruction $         99,223.00
2007 Shortline Pike Reconstruction $       405,315.75
2007 Chestnut Street Park $    331,698.00
2007 Forest /Center Street Intersec. $         54,287.00
2007 Boone Street Improvements $       238,000.00
2008 McKinney Right Turn Lane $         23,538.65
2008 Berea Industrial Sewer Line $       286,626.96
2008 Industrial Pk. Rd. (Farristown) $       874,805.00
2008 Jane Street Connector $       184,205.90
2008 Mayde Road Reconstruction $     2,339,900.00
2009 1016 Sidewalk (Cemetery Hill) $       139,515.75
2010 Park Expansion Contract #1 $     1,049,999.75
2010 Park Expansion Contract #2 $       651,610.40
2010 Park Expansion Contract #3 $       162,926.00
2010 Prospect St. Reconstruction $     2,253,978.00
2011 Welcome Center Renovation $       535,352.00
2011 Baldwin Street Bridge $         36,509.00
2011 Folk Center Roof $       118,836.00
2012 Shortline Pike Extension $       179,223.88
2012 Menelaus Pike Design $       414,005.00
2013 Mayde Road Bike Path $       109,415.00
2013 Prospect Street Lighting $         26,203.00
2013 Folk Center Kitchen $         81,294.00
2013 Menelaus Road Utility relocate $         77,137.76
2014 Bratcher Lane Reconstruction $     1,074,733.25
2014 Pumphouse Chemical add. $         11,615.00
2014 Indian Fort Trail and Bridge $       377,631.00
2015 Water Street Drainage $       291,183.26
2017 Richmond Road Design $       687,883.00
2016 Ford Building Renovation $         33,185.00
2016 Food Bank Addition $         76,042.00
2016 Salt Bin Expansion $         17,702.00
2016 County Clerk Renovation $       101,301.00
2017 Cumberland/Hughes Street $       277,585.00
2018 Filtration refurbish $         40,000.00
2018 Splash Pad at Berea Pool $       225,000.00
2018 Berea Community Stadium $      225,000.00
TOTAL $ 26,771,145.70
1997- Present Total $ 20,121,145.70

Angel: Berea tourism coming back to life

Things were looking grim for Berea tourism in March of 2020 as the trade came to a standstill with uncertainly about the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

One year later, tourism seems to be on the rebound as visits to the Berea Welcome Center in March of 2021 exceeded the numbers from just a year before. According to Donna Angel, director of tourism and economic development for the City of Berea, there were 9008 visitors to the Berea Welcome Center in March of 2021. That’s up from 7,745 in March of last year. Angel revealed the numbers last week during a meeting of the Berea Tourism and Convention Commission.

Combined with the fact internet searches and inquiries on social media about Berea are climbing, particularly in the northeastern states, Angel said things are definitely looking up as consumers look to move beyond last year’s pandemic lockdowns. “We’re coming back. We’re starting to live again,” Angel said.

The trend may bode well for Berea’s increasing popularity in the motor coach industry, which was growing significantly in the months before COVID hit. Last weekend, Berea welcomed visitors in Old Town, who enjoyed live music, as well as art and craft demonstrations in the city’s art district.

Chestnut Street Pavilion still on track for summer completion

The Chestnut Street Pavilion is on track for completion in June, according to a report from City of Berea Administrator David Gregory. Gregory outlined the latest progress on the facility last week during a meeting of the Berea Tourism and Convention Commission.

The shelter structure is expected to be shipped to Berea on April 30, and will take approximately a day to arrive, Gregory told commissioners. Meanwhile, the cupola is being fabricated and is expected to be delivered to Berea in a few weeks. A new gas line has been run from the old Ford office building to the shelter location, and Gregory said he hopes installation of the concrete pad and shelter structure foundation will occur in the coming weeks. If the project continues on its current schedule, the shelter could be complete by June, with the final punch list completed by July, Gregory said.

The Chestnut Street Pavilion will be the home of the Berea Farmer’s Market, but it is also expected to be available to the public as a performance space, a venue for classes or seminars, and as a space that can be rented by the public for events like family reunions.

Much of the funding for the Chestnut Street Pavilion is coming from the Berea Tourism and Convention Commission, which has budgeted $250,000 for the completion of the facility. The money for the public facility is coming from the restaurant tax. So far, city officials believe the $565,000 pavilion will be completed under budget.

The effort to build the pavilion on Chestnut Street, next to the former Michell Tolle building, began when the city rallied support from local citizens and interest groups, thereafter winning a $250,000 grant from the Kentucky Governor’s Office of Agriculture Policy and an additional $100,000 from the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development division.

Mayor Bruce Fraley, who spearheaded the effort to lobby county and state officials on behalf of the city, said the Chestnut Street Pavilion may well spur economic revitalization of Berea’s commercial district on Mt. Vernon Road, and it may serve as a gateway that will lead to the revitalization of Chestnut Street and Old Town as well. Both of districts are already seeing an upturn of new businesses moving in.

The Chestnut Street Pavilion is just the latest endeavor by the Berea Tourism Commission to put restaurant taxes to use to build attractions that can serve local residents and draw prospective tourists. The commission is also funding the mountain bike/running trail project on J.C. Chambers Lane as well as the city’s network of shared use paths and trails.

BPD: Number of reported accidents remains steady

The number of traffic accidents in Berea for March 2021 remained consistent with accident figures for March 2020, even though there were fewer vehicles on the road last year at this time because of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to reports from the Berea Police Department, there were a total of 33 vehicle collisions in Berea city limits from March 1 – 31, 2021 – one less than during the same period in 2020.

Streets where traffic accidents occurred in Berea were as follows: Chestnut Street, 5 accidents. Meanwhile, streets where there were three reported traffic accidents included Brenwood Drive, Glades Road and Richmond Road, while streets where two accidents reported included Paint Lick Road, Menelaus Road, and I-75 South. One traffic accident was reported on each of the following streets: I-75 North, Holly Street, Prospect Street, Prince Royal Drive, Peggy Flats Road, McKinney Drive, Jefferson Street, George Street, Fork Drive, Farristown Industrial Drive, Ellipse Street, Dogwood Drive, and Brushwood Court.

Meanwhile, the Berea Police Department reported 28 crimes for the month of March, the issuance of 128 citations, one courtesy call, and four responses to persons in distress.  

Drive safely!

Artist Search Committee discusses future of craft brand in Berea

Jeweler Becky Brown is one of three Art Accelerator alums to start craft businesses in Chestnut Street/Old Town, along with woodworker Tim Wade and broom maker Cynthia Main. The Artist Search Committee is considering alternatives to the Art Accelerator program, which was suspended before the pandemic. That effort is part of a larger discussion of Berea’s long term tourism strategy, including whether the city should try to retain its identity as the Folk Arts and Craft Capital of Kentucky.

Will Berea’s identity as the Folk Arts and Crafts Capital of Kentucky fit into a long-range tourism strategy for the city?

The Artist Search Committee, a subcommittee of the Berea Tourism and Convention Commission, discussed that issue last Thursday in an online meeting. Part of the mission of the committee is to determine how to replace to the tourism’s Art Accelerator program, which was suspended last year prior to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tourism Commissioner Rick Thomas revealed the city had applied for a $55,000 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development grant that would fund 75 percent of the cost of a tourism strategic plan facilitator. Tourism pledged to contribute nearly $14,000, or approximately 25 percent of the matching grant if the application is approved. A facilitator would steer the process for developing a comprehensive strategic plan for the Berea tourism industry.

Thomas expressed hope that the city’s brand as the Folk Arts and Crafts Capital of Kentucky will remain an important facet of Berea’s overall tourism strategy. He said the Artist Search Committee should emphasize that point when they make a presentation to a joint meeting of the Berea City Council and the Berea Tourism Commission on April 19.

“My personal feeling is there’s still a lot of information that we need to give and a case that we need to make to the council and to the commission about why the Folk Arts and Crafts Capital of Kentucky brand is important,” Thomas said. “…And…how do we maintain that brand, sustain that brand, revive that brand?”

Encouraging new artisans to open businesses in Berea through the Art Accelerator program was the latest effort to revive the local craft industry. The program launched the careers of three artisans who started brick and mortar businesses in the Chestnut Street/Old Town districts, including jeweler Becky Brown, woodworker Tim Wade, and broom maker Cynthia Main, who serves on the Artist Search Committee.

Aaron Beale, a long-time Berea artists and director of Berea College Student Crafts, said the committee needs to make a strong case for retaining its artisan brand, and that begins with an in-depth analysis and reasoning about precisely why cultivating the craft industry is good for Berea. He said that will be the only way of swaying people who might be skeptical.

Berea City Councilmember/business owner Katie Startzman agreed. “I definitely think at some point there has to be some ‘why’ conversation with the larger bodies [council and tourism commission], because I think there are many people in leadership and also just constituents who do not feel the why.” Startzman said.

Some committee members pointed to a disconnect between what’s happening nationally in the tourism industry and the attitudes of some in the community, who are skeptical about the role art and craft can play in forging a thriving Berea tourism economy.

Cynthia Main has garnered attention in national media for her work, while Beale reported press coverage of Berea College craft has spurred renewed interest in the college and its craft industry. He also noted Startzman’s business, The Native Bagel, which contributes to the city’s identity as an artisan town, has also received national recognition.

“Based on that, I might say that Berea’s brand as the Folk Arts and Crafts Capital of Kentucky is stronger today than it has been in a decade. Certainly, the number of people who have read about Berea as a craft center is much higher to my knowledge,” Aaron said.

Terry Fields, owner of the Top Drawer Gallery, said drawing new artists will be critical to helping the city maintain its identity as a community of artisans.  “We have lost a lot of major artists of influence in Berea, and that’s going to take a toll on the tourism traffic as an economic development tool for Berea,” Fields said. “Bardstown has the bourbon, Lexington the horses, Berea arts and crafts. If we don’t protect that, and start making some changes, we’re going to continue to deteriorate,” Fields said.

Tourism Commissioner Charles Saunders stated that losing that part of Berea’s unique identity could end up affecting the city’s tax base: “If we lose this brand, we lose a lot,” Saunders said.