Danville buys building for Art Center expansion; City opposes legislation that would require partisan elections
Published 3:21 pm Thursday, March 2, 2023
The Danville city commission signed closing documents for the building at 415 W. Main St. at its meeting on Monday.
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The city had previously signed a purchase contract to buy the building for $525,000 from the Art Center of the Bluegrass. The city will lease the building back to the Art Center for $1 a year, and the Art Center will renovate it for their expansion.
The Art Center is doing a multimillion dollar fundraiser for the project. The building will house a Stephen Rolfe Powell museum and expand the Art Center’s offerings and community programs.
A citizen at the previous commission meeting expressed concern at how fast the purchase came about, as taxpayers were given hardly any notice that the city was purchasing it. Commissioner Jennie Hollon, who was not at the previous meeting, agreed.
“I was in favor of the project and thought it would be a good use of ARPA funds; it would be a valuable asset to the city and we would get a good return on investment,” Hollon said. “Personally, and it could be just me, but I felt a bit rushed.”
Hollon also expressed concern about parking for the museum. Commissioner Rick Serres said their idea is to tear down the old Central Fire Station building, which is now empty, and put a parking lot in its place.
Another Danville resident at Monday’s meeting spoke against the city’s purchase of the building. Local real estate broker Dan Campbell challenged the purchase. With an appraisal background, Campbell said in his opinion, the purchase amount is overpriced for the building. He also questioned the validity of using APRA funds.
City Manager Earl Coffey said the project is eligible for ARPA funds, but Campbell said citizens have not been shown documentation that states this project is an allowed use of ARPA funds.
“In my opinion, it’s quite apparent that the lack of transparency between the city council, the city management and the citizens needs to be addressed and corrected,” Campbell said. “As a taxpayer in Danville, I’m opposed to the purchase of 415 Main Street using ARPA funds.”
The commission also passed the lease agreement for the Art Center to rent the building for $1 per year. That resolution will go into effect after the city’s acquisition of the property.
The agreement is very similar to the current agreement with the Art Center’s Federal building. Danville has been paying the Federal building’s utilities, and they will pay for the new building’s utilities.
However, City Attorney Stephen Dexter said those payments can blend in the budget, making it hard for citizens to notice what the city’s paying. The new system will be that the Art Center will pay for utilities, and will be reimbursed by the city.
The commission passed a resolution to oppose House Bill 50 and Senate Bill 50. Both bills would force local offices to be partisan instead of nonpartisan.
Some Boyle County offices are currently partisan. But Danville, Junction City, Perryville, school board and other small offices are nonpartisan.
Both bills would require candidates for county commissioners, city councilors and commissioners, mayors, school board members, soil and water conservation officers, and county clerks to list their political affiliations.
Coffey said that the Kentucky League of Cities is opposing this legislation, arguing that the bills are in conflict with home rule, which constitutionally allows cities to self-govern.
“This becomes a slippery slope for the things that the city commission chooses to do,” Coffey said.
Hollon said they have already talked to representatives about opposing the bill.
In other business, the commission:
• Passed the first reading of Ordinance 2007 for an Insurance Premium Tax decrease from 10% to 8%. Finance Director Leigh Compton said that in 2020, the city increased insurance premium tax from 8% to 10%. This was to generate $300,000 to $400,000 more income. But Compton said passing this tax decrease will save citizens money and not affect the city’s budget significantly.
• This Friday and Saturday is Downtown Employee Appreciation Weekend, when employees who work downtown get discounts at downtown businesses.
• On Monday, March 6, the Utilities Office at City Hall will be closed from 8:30 a.m. – Noon for employee training. During that time, please call the Danville Water Treatment Plant at 859-238-1241 with non-emergency utility matters, not related to your customer account information.
• Passed a resolution to allow City Engineer Josh Morgan to search for an engineer firm to take a look at issues with Stormwater Sub-basin F. That stormwater system goes from West Main Street to Streamland Drive, and has had issues for many years. The firm will determine ways to fix the issues.
• Downtown business owner Kate Snyder, who is banding together with other downtown businesses after the Heart of Danville closed, said they plan to bring back Third Thursdays. The event keeps businesses open late for extra shopping. It will be regularly scheduled from April to October.
• Appointed Don Moser to the Airport Board.
• Passed the first reading of Ordinance 2008, which gives local limits to sanitary sewer pretreatment.
• The city is working on a new comprehensive plan for Planning and Zoning that will be a joint agreement between Danville, Boyle County, Junction City and Perryville. They will likely work with Bluegrass ADD, whose proposal is for $48,725 and was the cheapest bid.
• Compton said the Finance Department is now listing business licenses issued on their website every month.