City of Berea Honors 911 Dispatchers

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The City of Berea joined other local governments in honoring 911 dispatchers when Mayor Steve Connelly proclaimed April 8-14 National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week. Accepting the honor on behalf of Madison County E911 telecommunicators was shift supervisor Jodi Webb.  The proclamation stated the following:

Whereas emergencies can occur at anytime that require police, fire or emergency medical services, and

Whereas when an emergency occurs the prompt response of police officers, firefighters and paramedics is critical in the protection of life and preservation of property, and

Whereas the safety of our police officers and firefighters is dependent upon the quality and accuracy of information obtained from citizens who telephone the Madison County 911 center, and

Whereas Public Safety Telecommunicators are the first and most critical contact our citizens have with emergency services, and

Whereas Public Safety Telecommunicators are the single vital link for our police officers and firefighters by monitoring their activities by radio, providing them with information and insuring their safety, and

Whereas Public Safety Telecommunicators of the Madison County 911 Center have contributed substantially to the apprehension of criminals, suppression of fires and treatment of patients, and

Whereas each dispatcher has exhibited compassion, understanding and professionalism during the performance of their job in the past year;

Therefore Be It Resolved that I, Steven Connelly, Mayor of the City of Berea, declare the week of April 8 through 14, 2018 to be National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week in the City of Berea, in honor of the men and women whose diligence and professionalism keep our city and citizens safe.

 

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Mayor Connelly Proclaims April 3 National Service Recognition Day

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On Tuesday night, Berea Mayor Steve Connelly signed a proclamation designating April 3, 2018 as National Service Recognition Day, acknowledging the valuable contributions of volunteers and professionals who uplift our communities through their service. The proclamation read as follows:

WHEREAS, service to others is a hallmark of the American character, and central to how we meet our challenges; and

WHEREAS, the United States and the state of Kentucky is increasingly turning to national service and volunteerism as a cost-effective strategy to meet their needs; and

WHEREAS, AmeriCorps and Senior Corps participants address the most pressing challenges facing our communities, from educating students for the jobs of the 21st century, to fighting the opioid epidemic, to responding to natural disasters, to supporting veterans and military families; and

WHEREAS, national service expands economic opportunity by creating more sustainable, resilient communities and providing education, career skills, and leadership abilities for those who serve; and across the country, bolstering the civic, neighborhood, and faith-based organizations that are so vital to our economic and social well-being; and

WHEREAS, national service participants increase the impact of the organizations they serve, both through their direct service and by managing millions of additional volunteers; and

WHEREAS, national service represents a unique public-private partnership that invests in community solutions and leverages non-federal resources to strengthen community impact and increase the return on taxpayer dollars; and

WHEREAS, national service participants demonstrate commitment, dedication, and patriotism by making an intensive commitment to service, a commitment that remains with them in their future endeavors; and

WHEREAS, the Corporation for National and Community Service shares a priority with local leaders nationwide to engage citizens, improve lives, and strengthen communities; and is joining with the National League of Cities, the National Association of Counties, Cities of Service, and local leaders across the country for National Service Recognition Day on April 3, 2018.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that I, Steven Connelly do hereby proclaim April 3, 2018 as National Service Recognition Day, and I encourage residents to recognize the positive impact of national service in our community, to thank those who serve, and to find ways to give back to their communities.

Denise Hagan Rubin sworn in for Berea Planning Commission

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In appointing Denise Hagan Rubin to the Berea Planning Commission, Berea Mayor Steve Connelly invoked the memory of the late Mayor Clint Hensley (pictured in the background), who advocated a policy of planned development.

 

Denise Hagan Rubin was sworn in for duty as a new member of the Berea Planning Commission Tuesday night. On Monday, the Berea City Council voted 7-1 to appoint Hagan Rubin to the commission during a special called council meeting. In placing Hagan Rubin’s name into nomination, Berea Mayor Steve Connelly recalled the words of the city’s second mayor, Clint Hensley, who advocated a policy of planned development to ensure the city pursues a high quality of employers as well as stable, long-term economic growth. Said Mayor Connelly:

“Berea has had a planning commission since 1959 and, for decades, has followed a “planned development” approach to growth even in recruiting manufacturing companies As Mayor Hensley recalled about the process of recruiting Parker Seal, Dresser, Gibson, Goodyear, Keller, and Suburban Homes/Hyster, planning was important:

‘We’ve had to be real strict…We’ve got to know they’re not fly-by-nighters. They’ve got to be financially sound….above all, they’ve got to be nonpolluters…we turned down a leather-tanning outfit, and I know where it is, and they’d like to get rid of it. We turned down a fertilizer manufacturing company, and they’d like to get rid of it. We turned down a yarn manufacturing and dying plant, and they’d like to get rid of it. There’s a lot of things that doesn’t meet the eye of the public that we’ve said “No” to, because we don’t want that kind of industry in our community.’

Planned growth for years has led to smart choices and has been a successful strategy for Berea, attracting quality manufacturing plants in successive waves over the years that have yielded a number of manufacturing jobs that exceed Richmond’s. We have also witnessed a steady expansion of general business since I-75 opened at Berea in 1966.

This record of growth over the decades demonstrates that planned growth has not been antibusiness. Those who promote that fiction tend either to ignore the data, deny the impact of national economic trends that dominate our local economy, or use that rhetoric to justify a personal resentment.

Over the years, our planning commission has played an important role in implementing this strategy. Therefore, to support and perpetuate Berea’s continued use of planned growth procedures in regulating our changing local economy for the best interest of all of our citizens, it is my pleasure to nominate Denise Hagan to the Berea Planning Commission.

She is a former member of council and currently serves on the Board of Adjustments. She resides in Berea and has been a member of the Vineyard Homeowners Association for several years. She cares about Berea and will work hard to interpret and enforce our land use regulations fairly and dispassionately.”

City aiming for July 4th opening of new splash pad at Berea City Pool

Splash Pad SketchIf everything goes the right way, the Berea City Pool will open a new splash pad for small children this 4th of July. City of Berea staffers have been tackling a number of details to bring the project to fruition, including the rather delicate task of replacing of the pool’s aging filtration tanks.  Assuming the weather finally begins cooperating, officials say there’s still a chance the splash pad could be ready for the summer holiday. The new facility will replace the toddler pool.

$32 million in BMU investments have paid off for Berea utility customers

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Berea Municipal Utilities (BMU) Director Ed Fortner likens the city’s investment in utility infrastructure to maintaining a family car. To keep a car in working order, the owner makes a lot of small investments in maintenance to help prevent major breakdowns and bigger costs later.

“The city has invested a great deal in the infrastructure of our various utilities – water, sewer and electric – and our administration section,” Fortner said. “That means we’re a modern, reliable sustainable utility. If we weren’t investing back into our infrastructure, it would actually drive our costs up. We maintain our infrastructure to ensure reliability and efficiency.”

BMU has a lot of infrastructure to maintain: 105 miles of sewer lines serving 5,810 customers; 87 miles of water lines serving 4,023 customers; and 81 miles of overhead electric lines and 11 miles of underground lines, serving a total of 5,285 electric customers.

Since about 2005, the City of Berea and BMU have invested over $32 million in infrastructure improvements and upgrades, not including the 2005 purchase of the electric and water utilities from Berea College at a cost of $19 million.

BMU has funded projects that have impacted the quality of life of the entire city, but it has also drawn support from intergovernmental funds and grants and, in one case, Berea College. The list includes:

2016/2018

$200,000 Farristown sewer;

$1 million Owsley Fork Dam project (NRCS Grant Funding);

$200,000 west end tank paint, mixing system;

$50,000 Cherry Road waterline upgrade;

$170,000 landfill upgrades;

2015/2016

$500,000 Walnut Meadow sewer shed/rehab;

$4 million Oak Street substation/conversion;

$1.5 million mini substation (Berea College);

$50,000 fencing;

$350,000 BMU roof at 200 Harrison Road;

2014/2015

$150,000 Woodford/Clay sewer rehab;

$1 million Terrill Branch sewer;

$300,000 Dixie Park electric conversion;

$300,000 water plant lagoon work;

2013/2014

$130,000 solar panels phase III/IV;

$40,000 Fairgrounds Rd water line;

$750,000 Walnut Meadow pump station;

2012/2013

$125,000 Solar panels phase I, II (grant money);

$10 million water plant upgrade;

2005/2012

$10 million wastewater plant upgrade;

$500,000 roof – BMU building;

$850,000 AMR metering upgrade.

 

Some upgrades impacted customers immediately. For example, whereas portions of the city’s electric system were previously subject to unscheduled outages, the 2015 upgrade of the system in Dixie Park, the rebuilding of the Oak Street Substation, and the city’s conversion to a higher voltage system has made for a utility that is more stable and saves energy.

“Our electric system is now definitely on par with any comparative modern electric distribution system in the state, which is very important,” Fortner said. “That’s reflected in our reduced number of unscheduled outages.” Additionally, Fortner said BMU will continue to see returns on that one investment. “Over time, we’ll recoup that money in savings through efficiency, through the loss of less electricity.”

Other positive changes have occurred as a result of upgrades. By implementing automated, wireless meter monitoring (AMR), BMU can monitor a customer’s electric usage in a way that is less intrusive for utility customers. Instead of going into a customer’s yard to read a meter, technicians can gather that information by driving in the neighborhood, then collecting it through wireless technology.

As for the future, BMU is applying for grants for a $2 million sewer project for the Central Park Subdivision. That, too, will be an investment to deliver better service for Berea’s utility customers, Fortner said. “To me that’s just showing good faith and respect to our customers, who expect safe, reliable delivery of these utilities at a reasonable cost. These investments, made smartly, keep our rates down,” Fortner said.

Keeping utility rates low is one way in which Berea customers see a return on the city’s infrastructure investments, said Mayor Steve Connelly. “Berea’s water, sewer and electric infrastructure is often unnoticed and sometimes impossible to see. However, it is fundamentally a business that not only provides essential services to residents and businesses at a reasonable cost, but it also earns a profit for BMU,” Connelly noted. “In a sense, our utilities pay a financial dividend to our citizens who are the shareholders, and by operating this business, the City ensures that the needs of our citizens are paramount in planning and that decisions are made with their best interests in mind.”

Mayor Connelly, Jerry Little voice divergent opinions on KyMEA contract

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On Monday, Berea Mayor Steve Connelly presented the results of a study evaluating the merits of an agreement with the Kentucky Municipal Energy Agency (KyMEA), marking what he said will be a broader public discussion of the city’s energy policies.

The study was initiated in the fall of 2017 after the Berea City Council voted 6-1 to terminate all agreements with KyMEA. KyMEA was to provide transmission of electricity as well as 10MW of capacity – additional power the city could count on in the event of a winter energy crisis. The city has also contracted with American Municipal Power (AMP) to provide 25MW of power. Both agreements commence in 2019 when the city’s contract with Kentucky Utilities ends.

The potential savings the city would theoretically gain by purchasing that 10MW of capacity through KyMEA is cited as one of the city’s main incentives for entering into the agreement. Through the agreement, Berea can maintain a virtual insurance policy of 10MW of capacity during the city’s peak usage period – only during winter months – instead of paying for an entire year of that capacity. Instead of paying $360,000 a year for that 10MW, Berea Municipal Utilities will instead pay $120,000 a year, say city officials. Carrying that savings over the life of the five-year contract, city leaders assert BMU can realize a savings of $1.2 million.

Further citing the findings of the report, Connelly outlined five steps the city will take.

  1. On the advice of legal counsel and a municipal auditor, the city will remain a member of KyMEA, since terminating the contract would be, in the words of one consultant, “highly imprudent.”
  2. Form a policy study group to forge an energy policy and seek alternative energy options after 2024.
  3. Direct staff to have the KyMEA contract amended to allow for termination in 180 days, not the 30 days originally stipulated.
  4. Direct staff to clarify KyMEA’s costs and billing procedures.
  5. Instruct staff to document AMP’s commitment to provide 25MW of capacity and finalize a commitment with KyMEA to provide an additional 10MW of capacity.

Council members Jerry Little, Ronnie Terrill, David Rowlette, Jim Davis and Bruce Fraley attended Monday’s presentation. Little delivered a rebuttal to Mayor Connelly’s remarks after Connelly wrapped up the question/answer session, then turned the podium over to the five-term council member. The mayor went directly from the meeting to give an interview to WBON-TV.

At a few points in his presentation, Connelly praised Little’s initiative and diligence in trying to sort through the complexities of both the contract and Berea’s energy policy. Connelly also noted the city will take steps to address the specific concerns raised by Little, particularly when it comes to the length of the contract, clarifying KyMEA’s billing policies, and clarifying the precise cost of the 25MW of power the city will secure through American Municipal Power (AMP).

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After Monday’s report, Councilman Jerry Little remained unconvinced that signing a contract with KyMEA was the best option for the City of Berea.

 

Little remained unconvinced about the need to contract with KyMEA, however. For example, Little disputes the idea that Berea needs to buy the 10MW of additional capacity. Instead, Little maintains that Berea need not purchase that additional capacity for two reasons. In his opinion: 1. Based on history, it is highly unlikely that the system would face a massive power failure that would necessitate a need for what amounts to a $120,000 insurance policy. 2. That in the event of power failure, AMP is contractually obligated to purchase and deliver whatever power the city needs.

The report disputes Little’s assessment, however, noting the entity that would initially deliver Berea’s energy, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), had declared 10 maximum generation emergencies in the 18 months since the start of the 2016/2017 planning year. Said the report: “Capacity is important because, in an emergency, the first load that MISO curtails is non-firm exports. However, an export transaction that is supported by capacity is deemed a firm export and will be curtailed only as a last resort.”

At Monday’s meeting, Little stated that KyMEA would probably be a “good company once they get started,” but he has consistently voiced concern about contracting with an entity that was formed in 2015. But the city’s due diligence report asserts that KyMEA is an outcropping of the Kentucky Municipal Utilities Association (KMUA), which evolved from the Municipal Electric Power Association of Kentucky (MEPAK) that was formed to serve local municipal utilities in 1975.

Since it’s inception, KyMEA is now serving 10 other municipal power entities in Kentucky, including members from Barbourville, Bardwell, Corbin, Falmouth, Frankfort, Madisonville, Paris, Providence, Benham and Owensboro.

In past meetings, city council members expressed hope that a representative of KyMEA could come to Berea and address the city council.

U.S. 25 N. off to a good start while councilmen lobby to save Berea Bypass II

US 25 NThere was mixed news this week regarding the progress of road projects in Berea. On a positive note, City Administrator Randy Stone announced that the $8 million U.S. 25 N. widening project from Ellipse Street to the Berea Bypass is off to a good start. That work is projected to be finished by the summer of 2019. Less certain is whether Phase II of the Berea Bypass will be permanently dropped from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s six-year road plan. For the moment, that project, estimated to cost between $24 million and $27 million, is not on the state plan. Councilmen Jim Davis, Bruce Fraley and David Rowlette have been lobbying state officials in Frankfort this week in the hope of getting the Berea Bypass Phase II funded. All report they are cautiously optimistic that the project could be saved.