Richmond City Commission candidate Bobby Johns is no stranger to the race. This election season marks his second time running for a seat on the four-member commission.
Annual pay increases for city employees and promotions based on performance are just two of the issues Johns said he would support if elected.
Johns is outspoken in his criticism of the city commission’s rezoning of property at the corner of Lancaster Avenue and Barnes Mill Road so a private builder could construct a student housing complex.
He also is critical of changes in fire protection service and city personnel policy.
“One of the first things I wouldn’t have done is to rezone the (John) Lackey property,” he said. “Secondly, I would not have closed Fire Station No. 5. I also wouldn’t have taken away the vacation from the city workers.”
Many cuts were made to city departments to compensate for the city’s growing debt, which has now turned into a $3 million surplus this past year.
“I would be in favor of restoring some funding if the need is there,” Johns said. “I know the playgrounds are in need of mulch and the basketball court at Lake Reba needs to be resurfaced.”
He is speaking about things taken care of by the city’s parks and recreation department, which received one of the biggest funding cut of all city departments in the 2012-13 budget.
“We don’t have enough firefighters,” he said. “I also would recommend that we re-open Station No. 5 on Duncannon Lane. I also understand that some of our firefighters are occupying different ranks instead of promoting to that position. If they are performing duties at a higher rank, then they should be paid for that rank.”
The city should aggressively seek grant funding to perform a mandated upgrade to its storm-water system, he said.
“We need to try to apply for grants from both the state and federal governments,” he said. “I would hope that we could use the $2.10 meter tax to help pay for these projects. We are going to need $1 million for the next 20 years. I would be in favor of selling bonds to cover these projects if we can’t get enough grant funding.”
A proposed “Fairness Ordinance” that would include protection of members of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations also has generated controversy this year.
“There is a federal law which protects everyone from discrimination,” Johns said. “You just can’t terminate an employee without proper cause or because of their sexual preference.”
During his first term as city commissioner, Richard Thomas has helped make some major decisions for the city as well as seeing a lot of controversy.
Working to cut expenses and reduce the city budget shortfall was one of the commission’s most challenging tasks, Thomas said. The parks and recreation as well as the fire department saw the biggest funding cut.
Now that the city is operating with a budget surplus, Thomas said, “I’m not opposed to budget increases in the next fiscal year for any department as long as they are justified.”
Despite the closure of Fire Station No. 5, Thomas thinks Richmond residents still have adequate fire protection.
“I would hope in the next fiscal year’s budget, the city commission, city manager and the fire chief can come to an agreed standard for the number of firefighters our city needs. I believe our firefighters can and will continue to provide adequate protection.”
The city’s storm-water upgrade needs to have a better approach, he said.
“A storm water management evaluation completed in March 2012 noted the lack of a comprehensive approach to our problem,” Thomas said. “Our Public Works Department does an outstanding job in responding to storm-water issues, but we have not provided an adequate budget to support their efforts. Richmond is required by the state Division of Water to meet certain goals each year. This process requires over $100,000 per year. This study showed there are 23 projects needing to be completed in the next 20 years. A storm-water user fee of some measure seems inevitable.”
The change in zoning classification at Barnes Mill and Lancaster Avenue “is a win-win situation for both the city and residents of this area,” Thomas said. “If this project had not been undertaken by a private enterprise, EKU could have purchased this property and used it for any purpose they deemed appropriate without the approval of the city or the residents of the area.”
As for human rights in Richmond, the Human Rights Commission “is a vital organization to our citizens,” he said.
However, the commission is not able to adequately enforce a a so-called “Fairness Ordinance,” he said.
“There are already a number of state, federal and city laws to guarantee all citizens protection from discrimination due to race, religion, sexual orientation, disabilities, etc. I will continue to support all efforts against discrimination of any nature.”
If re-elected, Thomas said he hopes to work toward resolving the city’s storm-water issues and continue the “sound fiscal state that we have established in the last two years.” He also wants the city to continue providing a safe environment for its residents and explore more areas of cooperation between Richmond, EKU, Madison County and Berea.
Ronica Shannon can be reached at rshannon@
Richmond City Commission candidates
- Local News
Madison Central teacher to perform tonight on NBC’s “The Sing-Off”
The assistant director of the Madison Central High School choir will be performing on national television tonight.
Lexington man charged with robbery at Super Save grocery store
A Lexington man was charged with robbery Thursday after he attempted to take a $20 package of meat from a grocery store and then assaulted an employee, according to a Richmond Police Department report.
Richmond man uninjured in fatal Estill County collision
A Richmond man was involved in an accident Saturday afternoon in Estill County that resulted in the death of a woman.
Richmond gas stations robbed over the weekend
Two Richmond gas stations were robbed at gunpoint this weekend.
The first robbery occurred at 10:30 p.m. Friday at the D & G Citgo Food Mart, 1699 East Main St., according to the Richmond Police Department.
Berea police look for van involved in hit-and-run
Berea police officers are asking for the public’s help to find a van that was involved in a hit-and-run incident Friday that injured a pedestrian.
Register hosting open house Tuesday
The Richmond Register is inviting the public to an open house from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at its 380 Big Hill Ave. office.
In addition to being an opportunity for readers and customers to meet the newspaper’s staff, the open house is a way for the Register to say “thank you” during the holiday season, said publisher Ann Laurence, who joined the newspaper about six month ago.
Mayfield teaches community about ‘Christmas Around the World’
Hallmark needed third-grade Mayfield Elementary students to create holiday cards to teach the community about Christmas traditions around the world, their teachers told them.
With this fictional challenge in mind, students went about researching, creating, assembling and selling their own custom-made Christmas cards over the past nine weeks. The proceeds from the card sale will help fund a trip to the Louisville Zoo in April.
Christmas party at the library
The Madison County Public Library hosted its annual Christmas party Saturday at the Richmond branch. Children and their families enjoyed visits with Santa, ornament making and hot chocolate. Each child received a book as a gift.
Holiday Happenings Annual Craft Show
The Holiday Happenings Annual Craft Show hosted more than 20 booths at Richmond City Hall on Saturday. Visitors browsed throughout the morning and afternoon, talking to crafters and purchasing their jewelry, handmade soaps, candy, paper products and many other items.
Pet Photos with Santa
The Madison County Humane Society, Animal League for Life had its annual Pet Photos with Santa on Saturday at the Madison County Public Library in Richmond. The event raises money for the nonprofit, which runs solely on donations. Photos were taken by J and K Kreations.
- More Local News Headlines
- Madison Central teacher to perform tonight on NBC’s “The Sing-Off”