Plans to build a family aquatic center at Lake Reba are “dead,” Richmond Mayor Connie Lawson said Tuesday. She obviously was disturbed after an order to award the construction bid for the project failed to be adopted by the Richmond City Commission.

Before coming to a vote, commissioners took turns expressing their opinions about spending $7.5 million for the facility.

Lawson sternly ceased all discussion and called for City Clerk Kay Wortham to call the role for a vote.

She and Commissioner Kay Cosby Jones voted "yes," but Commissioners Robert Blythe and Jim Barnes voted "no." Without the vote of Commissioner Mike Brewer, who was out of town and unable to attend the meeting, the order died with a tie vote.

“I’m not bringing up the swimming pool again,” Lawson said. “As far as I’m concerned, the issue is dead. We can all go to Berea and swim.”

Commissioner Kay Cosby Jones, who has been persistent in pursuing the family aquatic center, is not letting the issue die entirely.

“This swimming pool issue is not over,” she said. “We made a commitment to the people of Richmond. Everywhere the mayor has been, the children are excited and are anticipating this pool. Everyone I’ve talked to wants us to build it and are willing to pay for it.”

Last night’s votes not only resulted in the extermination of the facility’s plans, but it also may have negative results that will surface in the months to come, Jones said.

“I really think today’s vote may change the way people vote for us (in the November election),” she said.

Blythe also was not content with letting the issue completely die and never be mentioned again, as Lawson suggested. He wants to reconsider the idea and develop plans that are more affordable to Richmond taxpayers.

“We are still committed to a pool,” he said. “It does not matter to me what this pool costs — but I will say what I said months ago — if the people of Richmond are willing to pay for it, that’s all that matters.”

Jones recommended that the issue be voted on again when Brewer returns for the next meeting. However, based on comments made prior to last night’s meeting, $7.5 million “is more money than the city should commit,” he said.

“We can build a tremendous pool that will meet the community’s needs and also meet our budget needs,” he said. “If we commit to pay another $550,000 year at the same time we’re paying almost that same amount for Gibson Bay, that’s over a $1 million annual debt for the city.”

Barnes stood firmly against the first cost estimate for the facility, which was $4.5 million, which was submitted to the city by the architectual firm of Brandstetter Carol Inc.of Lexington.

“If I was against paying that, you know I’m against paying $7.5 million,” he said. “It’s going to cost the taxpayers around $11 million (over a 20-year period) for something that’s used four or five months out of the year. Now, if you can look in the mirror and think that’s good spending of taxpayers’ money, then I feel sorry for you.”

Barnes is not against building a community pool, but said it should be done in the most affordable way possible and be made available to the entire community.

“We do need a swimming pool, but I will not vote for a monument,” Barnes said. “We should re-evaluate what we can afford. The poor people can’t even use it, so who are we building this for?”

The family aquatic center, being that the plans remain the same as presented Tuesday, cannot be voted on again until next year. The bid was being awarded in the form of an order because it is not something that would be made into a law, but rather an immediate action of the commission.

Orders are either adopted or voted down on the first reading. An ordinance has a chance for two readings. The commission is not obligated to vote on the first reading of an ordinance, but if the second reading is passed, then it is made into law.

In other business which will be voted on the next commission meeting:

• An ordinance to allow the operation of bars until 1 a.m. received its first reading, but was not passed. However, in order to be made a law, an ordinance is required to be passed only on the second reading, which will be voted on at the next commission meeting Oct. 10.

Lawson and Barnes voted yes, Jones voted no and Blythe abstained from voting.

The vote of the first reading bought Jones to tears, but said she needed to keep her “religious backbone.”

Blythe, who is pastor of the First Baptist Church at the corner of Francis and Collins streets, abstained from voting, but emphasized that “adults are going to do what adults want to do.”

He also pointed out that not every person who goes to a bar is a drinker.

“I have never hesitated to go to Kroger or Rite Aid for things and both of those establishments sell beer,” he said.

Another concern for Blythe is the well-being of Richmond neighborhoods, especially those that are notorious for a high number of house parties. If bars were open later, perhaps it would keep the “parties out of the neighborhoods,” he said.

When Barnes was confronted by a bartender during his first campaign for commission, he was asked to promote extended bar hours.

“I told him that when this city gets underage drinking under control, I will support that,” Barns said. “And, I truly think we’ve done that. I am not advocating that we increase hours to allow people to drink more, but to some degree, it will stop people from driving to Lexington after our bars close. If we can save one child from driving drunk, it’s worth it.”

• Vicki Jozefowicz, executive director of the Kentucky River Foothills Development Council Inc. and Ruth Ferrell, president of the board of directors, met with the commission at a special meeting prior to the regular council meeting to request funding for the Richmond Senior Citizen’s Center and a 20- to 22-passenger bus that would provide a transit system for Richmond.

The commission already has budgeted $65,000 to go to the organization. For the senior citizens center, $15,000 was requested and the commission decided that the remainder would be used to purchase a bus for a Richmond route.

The cost is $1 per trip and the general public is welcome to use the bus. However, the routes are specifically designed for the city’s elderly and low-income residents.

Berea has a Foothills transit system and pays $83,000 a year for the service, Jozefowicz said. Berea’s bus routes run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday excluding national holidays.

The two financial requests will be put in the form of an official order to be considered at the commission’s next meeting Oct. 10.

• Governor’s Highway Safety Commission Commander Eric Walker presented plaques of recognition to the commission and members of the Madison County Community Partnership for work done to stop underage drinking in Madison County.

• An ordinance to approve a zone change for the Richmond Industrial Development Corporation received its first reading. The ordinance, if passed, would change the zoning classification of properties at 5075 and 5081 Duncannon Lane from agriculture to industrial.

• An ordinance for a new version of Richmond’s development ordinance was passed. The ordinance has been revised in several areas, with one of the biggest changes being in the description of PUD (Planned Unit Development).

The section referring to PUD went from being one paragraph to 16 pages.

The revised edition states that a PUD zone district is to encourage and allow more creative and imaginative design of land developments than is possible under other district zoning regulations. The entire revised development ordinance will soon be on the city’s Web site, www.richmond.ky.us.

• An ordinance created to establish the appropriate zoning district for adult establishments was passed after receiving its final reading. The ordinance was redefined in depth to create more strict regulations for stores that sell adult material such as videos, paraphernalia, clothing, etc. The ordinance can be read in its entirety by calling City Hall at 623-1000 and requesting a form to view public records.

• Tyler Cole was hired as a temporary firefighter for the city and Alin Tose was hired as a special activities and events assistant in the tourism department.

• Eastern Kentucky University students were appointed as liaison to various city boards including: Michael Gallaway, Tourism and Convention Committee; Rebecca Jones, Madison County Human Rights Commission; Kyle Moon, Downtown Revitalization Committee and Coin Reusch, Richmond’s Citizens Police Advisory Board.

• The commission accepted 2006 Kentucky Housing Corporation Focus Program funds. Richmond was among eight communities to be selected for a pilot program to help offer affordable housing. The $750,000 awarded will help purchase six lots and build six homes for low-income, first-time home buyers. The monthly payment cannot exceed 29 percent of the annual household income.

• Eastern Kentucky University student Elizabeth Thompson was hired as a co-op student for the Richmond Police Department.

• The commission discussed a proposed ordinance that would institute mandatory server training for those responsible for serving alcoholic beverages in the city.

The proposed ordinance states that an alcoholic beverage server cannot be employed unless he or she has successfully completed the training program. The training should be complete within 30 days of a new hire.

The proposal must become an official ordinance and be passed on both readings in order for it to come into law.

Ronica Shannon can be reached at rshannon@richmondregister.com or 623-1669, Ext. 234.

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