Nine candidates for Perryville Council participate in forum
Published 6:53 am Thursday, October 4, 2018
Nine people participated in the Perryville City Council candidate forum Tuesday night at the Perryville Jamboree, answering questions in the fields of historical preservation, running Main Street Perryville and what they’d do with grant money.
A common thread among candidates was reinvesting into the town’s historic attributes in order to bring more tourism and new businesses to town. The forum was organized by the Danville-Boyle County Chamber of Commerce.
Although 11 have filed to run, two incumbents — Steve Bailey and Amber Noakes — did not participate. Bailey withdrew from the race due to health complications. “I enjoyed working with the people. I may come back for another run in two years,” said Bailey, who took in the forum from the audience.
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Noakes said she will also be withdrawing due to a new business venture. “I love being a part of the city and being able to help, but I want to be able to give them my all, and it’s not possible right now.”
Moderated by John Funkhouser, the questions were developed by the Chamber of Commerce’s Public Policy Committee. Council candidates included incumbent Julie Clay and new candidates Adam and Kelly Gray, Chad Blackwell, Trent Bottom, Conan Dallman, Sam Irvin, Carlos Miller and Susan Parks.
During opening statements, Adam Gray said he and wife Kelly were personally invested in the community, had bought several properties in town and were fixing them up.
“Just so you know where I stand, I’m against historical preservation ordinances and the fact you can be sued, and we are currently being sued for that right now, so you don’t want those,” Adam Gray said. He was referring to a lawsuit filed against them by the Kentucky Heritage Council in September, which claims a property they previously owned at 409 E. Third St. is a historic structure they’ve damaged by multiple alterations, in violation of a preservation conservation easement that allowed the Grays to benefit through reduced property tax payments.
Funkhouser asked candidates, “The Boyle County Fiscal Court currently funds the city’s Main Street program to the tune of about $40,000 for the salary of its director. Should Perryville help fund its own Main Street Program, and why?”
All of the candidates agreed MSP is a “vital part” of the community and should be funded, but a few made comments about “personal issues” between it and the city plaguing the operation.
Irvin said the program should be funded “if we have the budget for it, I’m not sure what’s in the budget … and work more together and talk together and not get mad.”
“Should we fully fund the $40,000? I don’t think the City of Perryville can afford that at this point,” Adam Gray said. “I think we need to work better together. There seems to be some animosity between the city and Main Street Perryville, so that needs to be corrected. And I think with new leaders, that animosity will go away.”
“I do think that the two entities should work together; we all have the same goals … if we’re working against each other, that’s never going to happen,” Kelly Gray responded, adding she’s a former MSP board member. “We need to put all personal qualms and grudges aside.”
Clay, who resigned from the board due to claims by the public during a prior city council meeting that it was a conflict of interest, disagreed.
“As a former Main Street board member and current city council member, I can tell everyone here that I held out for a budget that included some funding for it this year.” She said the budget was very tight and city council did what it could. “I don’t know what you all are talking about with the conflict. I think we’ve worked pretty strongly together and we’re going to show that to the world this weekend,” she said, referring to the Battle of Perryville commemoration event.
The issue of a possible crematorium was also discussed. Walden Funeral Home owner David Walden has informed the city he would either be constructing a crematorium beside the funeral home or building onto the existing structure; Funkhouser added it “has been a very hot topic.” He asked if they supported it, and what they say to the citizens opposed to it. All candidates were in favor of the crematorium project and said citizens shouldn’t be worried since they operate successfully all over the country.
Clay said as far as all of the people who are opposed to it, “there’s a great deal of fear and perhaps misinformation. A modern crematorium is effective, it emits nothing and you’d hardly even know it was there. But I would prefer it be a stand-alone building that could be made to match our 19th-century village.”
Dallman said he had done some research, and as long as the safety regulations are followed, he’s “OK with it.” He said he made a trip to Nicholasville and spoke to citizens who live around a crematorium. “They smell nothing, they don’t hear anything, and they don’t have any long-term effects, they said, so I agree with it.”
Miller said he not only saw no problem with it, but that “in fact, it would benefit Perryville by starting another business and creating revenue for the city.” He said it will also bring more people into the city from surrounding areas to use it.
“I definitely would support it,” Parks said. She said it’s “the way of the world and the way we’re going,” and said both of her parents were cremated, but the funeral home had to send their bodies to Lexington, which added cost, stress and time.
“I agree it’s a must …” Blackwell said. “And the Waldens are great people that I think we need to support.”
Adam Gray said he’s 100-percent in favor of it, but added, “I don’t think we can stop it, regardless. It’s grandfathered in; they can just attach it to their building.” He said the candidates had all mentioned how the town was in great need of new businesses, “and there’s a new business.” He said he felt concerns were all addressed during a prior city council meeting. “That’s really the only avenue you have, or you can sell your property and move.”
The one thing Perryville needs
Candidates were asked what the one thing is they’d like to see happening in the city, and all said new businesses are greatly needed. Some mentioned a park and more emphasis put on family events.
Parks said she agreed with all the candidates that new businesses are needed, but that the city needed to “start at the bottom.” She said the first thing that would increase business would be if the “mayor and council voted for our own planning and zoning.”
“Because folks who want to open their own business go to Danville and pay $400 and maybe get told yes and maybe get told no, but they keep the $400 regardless. I think we need to have a plan to bring in more businesses, grants, incentives, things like that …”
“I would like to see the city sell all of the property that it owns,” Adam Gray said. “I don’t think a city should be in the business of owning property. Businesses don’t come because they don’t have an opportunity to own a building on Merchant’s Row … let’s sell and let the businesses come in and buy them. Private ownership is the best.”
Irvin said he’d like to see the historical property cleaned up and brought up to date, and a new river walk to be extended. “As far as the city selling their property, I don’t know if we should do that or not. But we should give an opportunity for businesses to come in and buy whatever they need … businesses are not going to come in unless you make it attractive.”
Miller agreed that more businesses do need to come in. “The city owns a lot of vacant property that needs to be fixed up and give people an incentive to come in and fix them up and start businesses.”
Clay said, “I’d like a comprehensive plan that addresses everything that everyone said, and also ties in the tourism with the park. There are very few places in the world that can say they have ‘the battle of’ in front of them. We do, and we should take more advantage of that.”
Kelly Gray said there are “lots of things” she’d like to see in Perryville, but the No. 1 thing she’d like to see is that “people are actually considerate of each other and show compassion to each other. We live in a town of 700 people … if we don’t support each other but expect support from communities all around us … it’s not going to work …”
If you had $1 million
Candidates were asked, “If the city received a $1 million grant, what would you do with it and why?” Many said they would put the money back into Merchant’s Row, or repair sidewalks and other beautification items.
Adam Gray agreed, saying the city should start rehabbing Merchant’s Row, what he feels is the real draw of the city. “That’s where I would stick the money, but I wouldn’t put an ordinance with it, wouldn’t do all these restrictions with it, I think that’s what’s gotten us in trouble. I would keep good records of where the money was spent and on what; I think we ran into that with that ISTEA money (regarding the easement referenced in the lawsuit against them) — nobody knows what was spent and where it was spent …”
“You said $1 million?” Kelly Gray asked. “Obviously we need a restaurant and a nice place to eat … that was large enough to accomodate a large number of people … that would generate more revenue.” She said the properties on Merchant’s Row have been maintained “to the best of the volunteers’ of Main Street Perryville’s ability.” She said there are many properties that have an “immense amount of work to be done to them, and that would be astronomical in improving those and still maintaining historical values. Of course I don’t think they need an easement or any sort of ordinance to go with them, because when people are putting their own money into something, they don’t want somebody else telling them how they can spend it.”
“Well, since Main Street only has about two and a half of buildings to complete, it would only take about $400,000 to fix those…” Clay said. “ … then I would start a jobs program for local people to work in the buildings and have them open for tourism … and a new fire truck.”
“I’d take the million and go to Boyle County Fiscal Court and ask for their assistance and see what grants are available, and do my best to get a public library branch in Perryville,” Parks said. “Because I believe that having those resources for children and families are what takes us where we need to go, and I think we lack in those areas severely so.”
Blackwell said he’d spend it on creating a “proper park in the city that we can take our families to that would help get families involved. We also could use it to help preserve historic buildings, and put some things out there that would bring business back in.”
Bottom said he’d like to see the money used for historical preservation and building renovation. “Also, I think Perryville needs a good restaurant or diner … we’re right in the middle of a lot of other cities, we could draw some of that traffic in.”
Read tomorrow’s Advocate-Messenger for a story about candidate forums for Perryville mayor and Magistrate District 1, which represents western Boyle County, including Perryville.