By Ronica Shannon
Senior News Writer
Berea Mayor Steve Connelly stood next to a glass “half full of prosperity” (tea) as he presented his State of the City address Thursday inside the Russel Acton Folk Center.
The event was hosted by the Berea Chamber of Commerce, which represents several business sectors in Berea and throughout the county.
Connelly focused on past accomplishments as well as future projects and planning.
One of the biggest financial challenges in 2013 is finding the funds needed to begin a federally mandated storm-water system, Connelly said.
He said the project’s cost is unknown, but it could use up all the money the city will have saved after paying off loans and bond debt, he said.
A significant portion of Connelly’s speech was spent talking about the future of alcohol sales in Berea.
“Not having alcohol sales in Berea is a missed opportunity,” he said. “We are kidding ourselves if we think that alcohol sales and consumption are not already occurring in Berea.”
Connelly named off several cities in Berea’s region that allow the sale of alcohol in some form: Williamsburg, Corbin, London, Manchester, Somerset, Burnside, Lancaster, Danville, Harrodsburg, Bardstown, Winchester, Lexington and Georgetown.
“The potential for alcohol sales in Berea is indicated by Danville’s community, which is close to Berea’s population,” he said.
Danville started allowing alcohol sales in 2010. Since then, gross sales have totaled $31.5 million with more than $1.1 million generated by a city alcohol taxes.
Historic hotels in the East Berea precinct are permitted to sell alcohol, but no applications for a liquor license have been filed, Connelly said.
The only business this applies to is Boone Tavern Hotel and Restaurant, owned by Berea College.
City government’s long-term challenges include working to expand city services while paying for rising costs, he said.
Two issues being highlighted in 2013 are entrepreneurship and civil rights and “ways to stimulate local job creation,” he said. Berea College students are studying ways to include more entrepreneurship-based initiatives in local schools.
“The Berea Human Rights Commission is planning ways to educate our community in the area of civil rights,” Connelly said.
“In addition, the city is amending its personnel policies to reiterate that Berea is an equal opportunity employer. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, political affiliation, age, genetics, disability, marital status or sexual orientation.”
The change is part of a systematic update of the city’s personnel policy that, among other changes, also will protect city employees from discrimination based on genetic data, the mayor said after the address.
Under the mayor-council form of government, personnel management is an executive function, and Connelly said he expects to sign an executive order instituting the changes as soon as a draft of the revised policy is completed.
Connelly mentioned several accomplishments made in 2012, including coming to a decision on redesigning the plan to widen a section of US 25 N, the completion of the first part of the Indian Fort Trail, the implementation of a new software program for finance, utilities and codes enforcement, having a clean financial audit, construction of a storm water system on Fourth Street, the resurfacing of six miles of city streets, the completion of an energy-use study and adopting updated goals and objectives for the city’s comprehensive plan.
Ronica Shannon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 624-6608.