Invocations now will be allowed to take place before city commission meetings are called to order, and a lengthy document adopted at Tuesday’s meeting lays the ground rules to make sure it is done with respect to all religious sectors.

“The commission intends, and has intended in its past practices, to adopt a policy regarding opening invocations that does not proselytize or advance any faith, or show any purposeful preference of one religious view to the exclusion of others,” the order reads.

The commission previously received a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union that addressed concerns the organization had about the commission’s regular practice of beginning each meeting with an invocation.

The invocation was pulled from commission meeting agendas, but Commissioner Robert Blythe made a motion at a meeting in late November that an order be created to allow invocations without resulting in any civic violations.

City Attorney Garrett Fowles said he wanted to create an order that was broad enough to cover all community congregations.

The order includes seven specific stipulations to avoid showing favor to one particular religion.

A congregation list of local churches from all denominations will be created, and the leader of each church or organization will be invited to volunteer to give the invocation before each commission meeting.

The order also mandates that each commission meeting agenda contain the following disclaimer: “Any invocation that may be offered before the official start of the commission meeting shall be the voluntary offering of a private citizen. The views or beliefs expressed by the invocation speaker have not been previously reviewed or approved by the commission, and the commission does not endorse the religious beliefs or views of this, or any other speaker.”

Commissioner Rita Smart voiced her concerns that the order, which calls for a letter to be mailed to each community congregation leader, would cost the city a lot of money in postage, but Blythe said Tuesday he would reimburse the city for any postage expenses.

In other business:

• The commission acknowledged the retirement of City Clerk Betty Houghton, who will be leaving her position on Dec. 31.

She addressed a letter to commissioners stating: “In reminiscing, I have worked with five city attorneys, four city managers, two mayors and three deceased city commissioners,” she wrote. “I have always heard that one will know when it is time to retire and I now know this is true.”

Houghton has worn several hats since becoming an employee of the city.

She began in 1990, serving as the police department’s administrative specialist, and also has had the positions of disbursements clerk, human resource specialist and city clerk under former Richmond Mayor Ann Durham.

“I decided to take the city clerk’s position after the former city clerk retired in 2007,” she said. “Since I was certified as city clerk in 1994, I thought it was fitting to fill the position since I was already certified and had knowledge of the position. Also, I had served as a city clerk in a smaller community in the ’80s.”

Houghton said she already has an idea of what she wants to do during her retired years.

“I would like to visit antique malls — not buying, but selling,” she said. “I also would enjoy some volunteering, particularly with Project Read, Senior Citizens and the Humane Society. Maybe I should continue working. I think I will be busier when I retire.”

She also has plans to travel that include a trip to Italy with her daughter next year.

The commission also acknowledged the retirement of Planning and Zoning Clerk Anna Kelley, Deputy Finance Director Nancy Kettler and the resignation of city administrative assistant Rella Evans. Evans is the wife of former city manager David Evans and has served the city for about 11 years.

City employees are now mandated to work a 40-hour workweek, according to an order adopted Tuesday.

This mandate will go into effect before the end of the year, perhaps even by the next pay period, commissioners said.

Under the city’s current rules, employees are working 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., but are given one hour for lunch.

“I don’t think the city should pay for hours that aren’t worked,” said Richmond’s Interim City Manager Jimmy Howard.

Commissioner Bill Strong said Tuesday he wanted employees to understand that their current pay rate was not being reduced, but that they simply would be paid only for the hours worked.

Howard said it would be up to each city department administrator to work out employee schedules to ensure they receive a full 40 hours of pay each week.

The commission passed the final reading of an ordinance that will raise city residents’ tax for 911 emergency telephone service from 83 cents to $3.50. A definite date as to when the fee increase will be implemented has not been established.

Two ordinances were passed Tuesday that will increase the city’s building project plan review fees and building permit fees. Call the Richmond Code’s Enforcement Office at 625-6400 for a full list of revised fees.

The zoning classification for 91 acres on Four Mile Road owned by TBDET, LTD., which is a Kentucky Limited Partnership based in Richmond, will be changed from agricultural use to a mixture of business use, single- and multi-residential housing.

The commission adopted an order authorizing the Richmond Police Department to trade a 2004 Dodge Intrepid for a 2005 Dodge Durango valued at $14,089. The vehicle will be purchased with drug forfeiture money, according to the order.

The next regular meeting of the Richmond City Commission is scheduled for noon Tuesday, Dec. 22 at city hall.

Ronica Shannon can be reached at or 624-6608.

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