Danville leaders discuss ups, downs of working for heavily involved community

Published 8:26 am Friday, December 1, 2017

Great expectations
Danville is well-known for its high level of community involvement, but such a trait can be a double-edged sword, according to comments from some city leaders during the city commission’s annual “retreat” meeting held this week.

“I’m an unabashed supporter of this community, obviously, but if I have a knock it is this: We do more with less, we accomplish more than most, and it never seems to be enough,” Mayor Mike Perros said during the three-hour meeting Wednesday.

Perros offered the City of Lebanon, which is building a new city hall, as an example of what he was talking about:

“I asked the city manager down there … I said, ‘how much heat have you taken for that palace?’ He said ‘none.’ I said, ‘you’re kidding — surely.’ He said, ‘no; none.'” Perros said. “We built ours, what, eight years ago? Ten years ago? And people are still talking about it. There’s where I’m talking about right there.”

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Perros said the recently completed Weisiger Park renovation is another thing residents complain about.

“Let me give you the flipside of that, though,” City Attorney Stephen Dexter said. “I understand how those types of conversations can get old and discouraging, but the flip side of that or the half-full perspective is this: You have an engaged community here that is concerned and they watch things carefully.

“… They’re not going to know the intricate facts to the level that you do, because that’s what you’re charged to do. But the positive is you do have a community that is terribly engaged.”

“It’s like Kentucky basketball,” Dexter continued. “People are going to slam John Calipari because he doesn’t play a zone, but yet they’ve been to how many Final Fours in the last eight years? It’s the price of being on top, I would say — you’re going to get knocked.”

Commissioner J.H. Atkins said the complaints he hears tend to come from “the same 25 to 50 people over and over again.”

“It’s wrong for me to assume, but the majority of people in this town are pretty pleased with what’s going on,” Atkins said. “… You’re right — we do hear a lot of stuff, but I’ve just been OK, because it’s the same people over and over again and I can deal with them.”

Commissioner Denise Terry said “a lot of times, they don’t have all the facts.”

“Most of the time, if you engage with that person and say, ‘here’s the real story’ or ‘here are the details,’ a lot of times, they will say, ‘oh, OK, I didn’t know that,” Terry said. “It does get tiring, and even my husband corrects people all the time.”

Terry said there are definitely “high expectations” for Danville’s government. She noted that while Boyle County’s total population is around 30,000, the county draws more than 100,000 people into it because of work and attractions.

Jody Lassiter, CEO of the Danville-Boyle County Economic Development Partnership, confirmed the 100,000-person draw. He said Danville and Boyle County have made many good decisions that have put them in place to be successful, and others have worse problems to worry about.

“Just looking at those communities that we’re often competing against for projects, I’m amazed that we’ve made the good decisions now,” he said. “And yes expectations are great — lord knows of all the people that’s received criticism, I understand that ‘good enough’ is not good enough for this community. So we just know that we play at a higher standard — we play about our weight, mayor, to use a term you always use.”


Weisiger Park


The commission discussed the current status of one of the sources of complaints — Weisiger Park — later in the meeting.

City Engineer Earl Coffey said the city is getting ready to put light strips stretching along the entire top of the water curtain feature, after which it will add ornamental covers on top of the metal structure making up the top half of the feature.

In light of complaints that the water wall feature was not visible from a distance, the city has looked at different nozzles or upgraded pumps, but a big obstacle to resolving the complaints is “the perception vs. really what it is.”

“It is what it was designed to be, but it doesn’t look like the picture that was provided,” Coffey said. “So I think we’ll be forever trying to overcome that. It looked very robust, it looked like a waterfall … in the rendering.”

Coffey said work is still being negotiated to resolve issues the city has with the water fountain feature in the park. The fountain debuted with a single stream of water that failed to achieve what city commissioners had expected. It’s since been upgraded and gained some positive compliments from members of the commission, but Coffey said the city is still working with the contractor to resolve problems with the installation.

“In my mind, the fixes that have been made seem somewhat temporary and not enduring — and not what the city bargained for,” Dexter said. “So with those in mind, I think there needs to be — when we wrap that project up — some settlement of that issue.”

Terry and Perros both advocated for putting something other than benches in the park to make it more usable. Terry proposed picnic tables or other kinds of tables that people could sit at; Perros said he likes the idea of chairs that could be moved around the park and placed where people want them instead of benches.

Perros said he spoke with another city that has chairs instead of benches and asked them how many chairs had been taken — it was zero.

“Just saying, before you bolt down benches,” he said.

Jennifer Kirchner, director of the Danville-Boyle County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said later in the meeting she thinks Danville should be proud of Weisiger Park.

“I realize when we come to the part of buying furniture and shades, since we’ve already spent so much, that’s the part that often falls off. But that’s the piece that’s going to get people to use the park,” Kirchner said. “… Benches I think are a little boring. I guess my sentiment would be can we get some funky red furniture that fits together like puzzle pieces that would encourage people to want to go play a game or have a conversation? Something that was conducive for people to sit and actually view music on the stage.

“That’s when I think you’re going to start to hear the negativity calm down because the park will be so functional. Right now, you have this big beautiful space and nobody’s hardly ever in it, just because it’s a little hard to use. … My two cents would be don’t skimp on this last part because I think that’s what’s going to make a big difference.”

The Weisiger Park renovation was originally bid to cost $735,000. After years of delays, the city held a dedication for the renovated park in June. Perros announced at that time that the “our staff has been able to complete the park, including all design features, for $594,000 — that’s being under-budget and with a savings of $140,000.”

According to a city newsletter expected to be mailed to water customers in early December, the renovation of the park was “completed ‘under budget’ at a total cost of $672,137” — about $78,000 more than the total announced in June.

“This newest downtown park (or ‘plaza’) provides much-needed space for city events, gatherings or a quiet place to reflect on life,” the newsletter reads.