The operation of the Gibson Bay Cafe will taken over by the City of Richmond, after a tied-vote Tuesday left the city with no other choice.

“We need to do something,” said Commissioner Robert Blythe. “We have company coming.”

Blythe was referring to a three-day PGA state amateur golf tournament beginning June 7.

The issue commissioners stalled on was whether to allow Gibson Bay Cafe operator Jeannie Strong a 30-day extension to get through an upcoming golf tournament. Because they could not reach an agreement, the city inherited the cafe’s operation as of June 1.

After being unable to reach an agreement as to which of the two bidders (Strong and local businessmen Bobby Botner and Joe Fleeman) should receive the cafe’s overall operation, the commission pondered the idea of granting Strong a lease so that she could continue operating the cafe during the tournament.

Blythe made a motion that Strong receive a 30-day extension to operate the cafe, including a $1,000 payment on top of the $5,370 she annually pays the city in rent for the facility.

Blythe said Interim City Manager Jimmy Howard previously had reported that it cost the city approximately $1,000 a month to operate the cafe, which is how Blythe came to these figures, he said.

Commissioner Mike Brewer seconded his motion.

When the awarding of the extension came to a vote Tuesday, Blythe and Brewer voted in favor and Mayor Connie Lawson and Commissioner Rita Smart voted against the idea. Commissioner Bill Strong, Jeannie’s husband, excused himself from the commission chambers during the discussion and vote.

Smart recommended that the city’s finance department be in charge of the cafe’s finances.

In the absence of a contracted operator, the operation of the cafe reverts back to its owner by default, which is the city of Richmond, according to city attorney Garrett Fowles.

“Jeannie runs it beautifully, I have no doubt about that,” Lawson said. “My only problem is that I believe in my heart that it’s a conflict of interest. Based on the huge number of people that say that some people don’t have jobs, they’re (the Strongs) are getting money twice, they don’t feel it’s fair. That’s my position, and that’s why I voted no. It is not about Jeannie. Do I think the city can run the (cafe’s) concession stand? Yes I do. Do I think the city can use Jeannie’s employees? Yes I do.”

Lawson continued to say that she believed the city should have been operating the cafe all along.

The current lease of the cafe’s operation expires May 31.

“We need to have another meeting quickly because come June 1, we need to hit the ground running,” Howard said. “On June 1, we’re going to get in the restaurant business. We have to step up to the plate.”

A date and time for this meeting had not been set.

As for who will be the restaurant’s new manager, “... I don’t know exactly how we’re going to do it, but we’re going to do it,” Howard said after the meeting.

Gibson Bay Golf Pro Jason Eberle presumably would be in charge until a new manager is hired, Howard said.

There should not be a period in which the cafe will be closed during the transition, he said.

“We are identifying people internally to help us get through the golf tournament,” Howard said.

There are 17 employees working at Gibson Bay Cafe, Brewer said.

City Finance Director Mike Broyles will have to amend the proposed 2010-2011 budget to reflect the city’s operation of the cafe.

“We have to estimate the (cafe’s) revenue and expenses,” Broyles said. “Jimmy and I are going to be conservative on the revenue. ... We’ll have to meet with Jason (Eberle) to see how many people we’re going to need and what kind of shifts we’ll need.”

In other business:

• Commissioners heard the first reading of an ordinance Tuesday that, if passed upon a second reading, would adopt an operating budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year.

The proposed budget reflects a revenue decrease of more than $2 million when compared to the previous budget.

The 2009-2010 fiscal year budget estimated revenues to be more than $25 million, but this year’s revenues are projected to be $23,067,800.

• An ordinance was passed Tuesday changing the city’s financial reserve fund (or “rainy day” fund) minimum requirement from 20 percent to 5 percent of the general fund balance.

“The establishment of a fund balance policy shall enhance the city’s bond status and allow for funds to be available during emergency situations that may arise,” the ordinance reads.

• An order was adopted authorizing Lawson to enter into a contract with Bluegrass Family Health Care for city employee health insurance in the 2010-2011 budget.

The cost per employee will be $356.73 per month, according to the order.

• The commission agreed to begin soliciting for bids to demolish several abandoned homes in the city limits. There are 10 to 15 properties earmarked for demolition, according to Fowles.

• The final reading of an ordinance was passed changing the zoning classification of land owned by Richmond-based KK & RR LLC from single-family residential to two-family residential duplexes.

The tracts of land are located along Otter Creek on US 227 and in Country Club Heights on Talitha Clay Drive.

• The commission adopted an order authorizing them to file for a 2010 Kentucky Community Development Block Grant for neighborhood stabilization efforts in the Tipton Court area.

• Richmond resident Leda Tilton took a turn during public comments to express her opinion of how the city commission had operated to date and in past years.

“Shame on you for being asleep at the wheel regarding the financial oversight of the budget,” Tilton said. “You blame it on the country’s recession and poor (former city manager) David Evans who was your ‘Yes’ man for many years, and now your convenient fall guy. You are elected and paid a handsome part-time salary to oversee the well-being of the city. Your past history of ineptitude lacked a moral compass and made Richmond the laughing stock of the commonwealth. We have a multi-million-dollar lawsuit pending (involving Camp Catalpa) and are recipients of a less-than-stellar audit. Now, I read in the (Richmond) Register that we are reduced to having a 5K race to raise money for safety equipment for the Richmond Fire Department. Shame on all of you.”

• The commission accepted the resignation of Mike Fore from the Planning and Zoning Commission and Steve Masters, a city laborer.

• Valerie Himes was re-appointed to the city’s Board of Adjustments for a four-year term expiring May 13, 2014.

Ronica Shannon can be reached at rshannon@richmondregister.com or 624-6608.

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