Berea’s Chief Gregory Receives Children’s Champion Award

Childrens ChampionBerea Police Department Chief David Gregory was honored with the Children’s Champion Award Tuesday night during a meeting of the Berea City Council. In presenting the award to the chief, Phyllis Adams, president of Be a Children’s Champion of Madison County, noted that Chief Gregory was being honored for his leadership in implementing programs such as Too Good for Drugs, which encourages county middle school students to make good life choices and avoid substance abuse.

In a related story, Richmond Police Department Detective Rodney Tudor briefed council members on the activities of High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDA) task force, a regional law enforcement coalition that includes the Berea Police Department and Madison County law enforcement agencies.

Among other accomplishments, Tudor reported HIDA facilitated the seizure of $300,000 in assets from drug suspects, raided three methamphetamine labs, made 75 drug arrests, and confiscated 32 firearms last year.

Tudor encouraged citizens to help police by calling (859) 623-1714 to report possible drug activity in their neighborhoods. He added that some information citizens may deem insignificant could actually turn out to be the difference in helping police make a drug arrest. Tips are anonymous and confidential, Tudor said.

In the meantime, Tudor noted that heroin and methamphetamine activity is definitely increasing in the county. “We have job security,” Tudor said. “There are a lot of drugs out there.”

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Berea working to secure $12 million for Owsley Fork dam improvement Project

Owsley ForkBBerea city officials recently met with a representative from Congressman Andy Barr’s office as part of an effort to secure funding to increase the city’s water supply. The City has been working to gain approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a $12 million project to expand Owsley Fork Dam. The plan calls for raising the wall of the dam, thus expanding the capacity of the reservoir by 50 percent, a move analysts say will secure enough fresh water for the region for the next 50 years. In addition, the city has been seeking approval to treat and reuse approximately 1 million gallons of wastewater that is currently diverted into Silver Creek. So far, federal officials have favored a $14 million plan to pipe water in from the Kentucky River. On a related note, officials note reservoirs have been filled up with the recent rains.

David Rowlette sworn in as new Berea City Council member

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David Rowlette was sworn as the newest member of the Berea City Council Monday night during a special called meeting of the council. Rowlette was approved in an 8-0 vote, replacing Councilman Billy Wooten, who formally resigned from council last week. In a letter to fellow council members, Wooten cited personal reasons for stepping down.

Mayor Steve Connelly’s 2018 State of the City Remarks

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This week, Berea Mayor Steve Connelly addressed the state of city government, touching on issues related to finance, personnel, infrastructure and local politics. Remarking that Berea is on sound footing, both from a financial and operational standpoint, Mayor Connelly warned of challenges that confront local government.  His statement before the council was as follows:

“To satisfy part of my obligation to report on the conditions and needs of city government, I will speak briefly tonight on the financial, operational and political state of local government in Berea at the end of 2017.

Berea’s finances, as you know, are sound. Our last three audits show a steady increase in net financial position—assets reduced by liabilities—$57.3 million in 2015; $61 million in 2016; and $63 million on June 30, 2017. This past fiscal year, General Fund revenues increased by $1 million (including an increase of $326,000 in occupational license fees and $503,000 in net profits revenue) and expenses were reduced by $321,000.

As of January 31, 2018, the City had over $22 million on deposit with local banks (including all city accounts). The City had over $7 million in checking, over $4.7 million in CDs, plus over $2.1 million in capital sinking fund CDs. Utilities had over $7 million in CDs, and Tourism had over $874,000 in CDs.

The operations of Berea’s local government are strong and extensive but face growing challenges.

The City employs 140 full-time and 20 part-time people. It owns 136 vehicles and 20 buildings, and insures 93 structures. The nearly completed Operations Center will contain 44,000 square feet and provide better parking and access to services.

The City has an active parks program situated on 80 acres of land with a pool, sand volleyball courts, baseball, softball, soccer and football fields, concessions, picnic shelters, basketball courts, a skate park, an intergenerational center, and the Russel Acton Folk Center.

The Parks and Recreation Department offers 100 programs, and in 2017, held 13 tournaments, rented the Folk Center to 7,500 people, rented picnic areas for events that served 4,200 people, and hosted 1,805 participants at pool parties.

Our utilities provide sewer service to 5,800 customers, water service to 4,300 customers, and electric service to 5,300 customers.

The Public Works Department maintains 113 linear miles if streets. The police department has 30 sworn officers, and the fire department has 25 firefighters.

Since 1993, the City has completed 59 projects costing over $20 million and since 2005, Berea Municipal Utilities (BMU) has completed over $34 million in projects. Lists of these improvements are on our City’s website.

The operation of our government is performing well, but it is challenged at many levels.

General Fund revenue could drop by as much as $896,000 in fiscal year 2017-18 and expenses could rise by $1.3 million, including $519,000 in regular CERS retirement payments, $104,000 in new health insurance costs, and $265,000 in salary increases.

BMU continues to need access to more raw water. The City has worked for the past several years with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to raise Owsley Fork Dam and to obtain a permit from the Kentucky department of water to reuse 1 million gallons of the 3 million gallons of treated waste water that BMU currently discharges into Silver Creek.

The pending debate over the City providing special retirement benefits to its police and fire who occupy jobs classified as “hazardous” could become an existential challenge. If council votes to enter that program, the City will have limited flexibility to manage an unknown but likely exponentially expanding financial burden remarkably similar to that which the jail has placed on county governments across the Commonwealth. Voluntarily embracing that virtually unmanageable obligation could lead to merging our fire department with the county like we did with 911 dispatch service, and ultimately, merged government.

And finally, the politics of Berea’s local government is divided.

Berea operates under the mayor-council form of government which grants executive authority to the mayor and legislative authority to the council with the admonition that it not perform any executive functions unless assigned by statute.

This separation took effect in 1982 and has developed into a divide probably exacerbated by the public’s acceptance of the talking points that government is the problem not the solution; and that government should be run like a business.

This attitude was exemplified by Ronald Reagan in his 1981 inaugural speech when he said:

“It is not my intention to do away with government. It is, rather, to make it work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride on our back. Government can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it.”

You too may agree that business should trump politics. But more recently, a consensus has developed among scholars that a successful governmental enterprise requires more than just business skills. That is why universities offer courses in business administration and public administration.

Here are six points to elaborate on that distinction:

  1. Government serves the “public interest.” Business tends to focus on shareholders and customers. Therefore, accountability is much broader for government, and it is harder to ignore particular groups or people.
  2. Business performance is measured by profitability. Governmental performance is measured by outcomes and the public good. Not everything that is profitable has a social value, and not everything of social value is profitable.
  3. Compromise is often fundamental to governmental success. No one owns a controlling share of government. The notion of separation of power between legislative and executive authority is fundamental to government but absent from business.
  4. Efficiency is one of the paramount values in business. But government often has to weigh competing values, and the most efficient plan may trample individual rights or disadvantage particular groups.
  5. Government is often faced with a timeline determined by the next election which may cause politicians to seek quick results. Businesses may be more patient and take a longer view.
  6. Government action must take place in public. Businesses rarely explain decisions except to shareholders or regulators.

Government and business may share many traits, but local government must be open, accountable, fiscally prudent, visionary, courteous, lawful, service-oriented and responsible. And to imply that local government is a problem and should be run like a business is equivalent to saying that Tom Brady was a poor quarterback because he didn’t hit enough home runs. He was not supposed to. Such a test applies the wrong standard.

Where does this misunderstanding leave Berea? Our local government has many strengths and significant challenges. We must work to heal our divisions. Probably, the first step is to focus on the values and goals that we share rather than joust over our differences. We need to stop counting the separate trees that we see around us and look at the forest in which we live.”

Move-in Day at the Berea Municipal Police and Fire Safety Building

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It was move-in day Tuesday at the Berea Municipal Police and Fire Safety Building. Workers arrived to install furniture in the new facility, and some city employees began to unpack. Though the whole staff isn’t expected to be fully settled in until the first week of March, the Berea Fire Department may occupy their space as early as this weekend. The new building will provide long-overdue upgrades to training and living facilities for Berea’s firefighters. An open house for the public is tentatively planned for early March.

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Codes Administrator Amanda Haney checked a list of furnishings to be delivered to the Planning and Codes Department’s new offices on Chestnut Street.

Community Room

The new community room in Berea’s municipal building on Chestnut Street is larger than the previous room, providing a spacious venue for staff and local community and civic groups.

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Workers were busy assembling furniture in the offices of the Berea Police Department. Unlike the damp, windowless facilities in the basement of the current police and municipal center, the new building is more secure, provides more security and privacy for the public, and it provides a healthier working environment for officers and staff.

The biggest change order for the $12.7 million project was for $2.3 million in savings when the city opted to purchase supplies directly instead of having them purchased by the building contractor. Currently, the project cost variance is approximately three percent over the original estimated cost, though that cost is expected to drop further after the final change order is submitted.

 

 

 

Phase II of Berea Bypass Nixed from 6-Year Road Plan

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The end of the road? Hopefully it’s not the end say city officials, who believe the bypass could greatly impact Berea’s potential for future economic development.

 

Berea Bypass Phase II has hit a snag after it was recently removed from the state’s six-year road plan.

Berea City Administrator Randy Stone made the announcement last week at a meeting of the Berea City Council, noting the next stage of the roadway didn’t make the cut. The project, which is estimated to cost between $24 million and $27 million, has been in the works for years, and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet recently secured right-of-way that would have enabled the project to proceed. The second phase of the road was planned to run from U.S. 25 N. to Highway 21 E.

Officials expressed concern about the cut, noting the bypass means a lot to Berea’s potential for industrial and economic growth. The matter is currently in the hands of state legislators, and city officials say they have consulted with Senator Jared Carpenter (R-34) in the hope of having the second part of the bypass restored to the state’s road plan. Carpenter aided the city in securing full-funding for the widening of U.S. 25. N.

Champions: Feb. 7 Proclaimed Madison Southern Varsity Football Day in Berea

footballTuesday night at a meeting of the Berea City Council, Mayor Steve Connelly signed a proclamation honoring the varsity football champions of Madison Southern High School. Southern’s 2017 gridiron squad broke a number of school records for achievement, including wins in a season and a Region 3 championship. Mayor Connelly’s proclamation read as follows:

 

Whereas, The Mayor and City Council of the City of Berea value and support the school systems in Berea and their work in educating and training the students of our community to be good citizens and our future leaders; and

Whereas, the Madison Southern High School varsity football team achieved significant accomplishments in 2017, starting with winning the 6th District championship, and then becoming the first Madison Southern team to win the championship of Region 3, and the first to win semi-state and to play in a state championship game, and the first to be Class 5-A runner-up, and in the process, becoming the first Madison Southern team to win 11 games, concluding with an overall record of 11-4;

Now, therefore, to publicize and celebrate the achievements of these young athletes, and to express our community’s pride and respect for their accomplishments, I hereby declare February 7, 2018 Madison Southern Varsity Football Day in Berea and ask all citizens to congratulate them on their performance and to wish them success in their future education and life’s work.