The Richmond City Commission voted unanimously, without discussion, to approve the installation of an all-inclusive playground Tuesday night.
The project, brought before commissioners by the nonprofit foundation Kendyl and Friends, an organization dedicated to kids and adults with special needs, requested the city consider this project.
Kendyl and Friends does all of the fundraising and construction for the project so that it costs nothing to the city.
After much discussion and concerns expressed at both the Richmond Parks and Recreation Board meeting and the previous Richmond City Commission workshop, the project was approved, which brought a lot of smiling faces to the crowd of nearly 20 people who came in support of the foundation and this project.
Crimson Claycomb, the organization's founder and CEO began the foundation after she could no longer carry her daughter, Kendyl, who has severe special needs, on their hometown playground in Harrodsburg.
She then founded the organization, building not only an inclusive playground in Mercer County, but in five other locations in Kentucky as well.
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After years of planning and already one extension on the West Main Street Project, the commission, per the request of City Manager Rob Minerich, approved a motion that requested the order be tabled to discuss further by the city commission.
The four-phase project has seen continuous delays due to a debate of whether or not the removal and relocation of utility poles is going to be the city's responsibility, or the responsibility of Kentucky Utilities.
The city of Richmond deems the project a road improvement project, which would make KU responsible for the utility pole movement and would be no cost to the city. KU, however, sees the project as a beatification project and deems the responsibility fall on the city, requiring them to pay nearly $80,000 to the utility company to relocate the poles.
This was something the city was looking to agree to, as the project has been delayed for so long.
But recently, it came to a screeching halt because of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, which agrees with the city, claiming that the pole relocation is the responsibility of KU and that the project is in fact a road improvement project.
KYTC warns that if the city were to move forward with a payment of $80,000, they would be inadvertently giving permission for KU to set the stakes.
"I don't want to see the project delayed any further as well," Minerich said in agreement with Commissioner Jason Morgan. "But the problem is, if we go ahead and pay Kentucky Utilities to go forward with this amount of money, then we need to plan on paying that same amount for phase two, three and four. Because it sets the example upfront that we are accepting it's a beautification project."
Minerich explained that up until now, the debate was ongoing with only the city government, and now, the issue is being handed up to the state to hash out with KU.
"We have been talking about this project for years now," Morgan said. "Why at the eleventh hour is the state coming in and saying, 'Hold on, hold on?' They knew we were going to go this route, and for them to essentially pass an order, it doesn't bode well with me. I don't play those games."
Morgan went on to say, "My brain says vote yes for tabling, but my heart says no because I fear that it is going to delay the project for more years."
Minerich predicts the commission will have a decision from the state within 60 days. The commission voted to approve to move the project back for tabling.
In other business
• After coming out of executive session, the commissioners approved the promotion of Sam Kirby, the city's current assistant fire chief, to Richmond fire chief. This follows the resignation of the former chief, Robert Carmichael, who submitted his resignation to the commission at the end of January.
"Assistant Chief Kirby has a compelling story," Morgan said. "Anyone that starts the position as a volunteer and then works his or her way up from firefighter I to battalion chief, to assistant chief -- when you can promote from within, and you can hire one of your own, it's a good day."
• The commission approved hiring two candidates for the police department: Colette Cole and John Baugh.
• Mayor Robert Blythe read a proclamation declaring April as Fight Hunger Awareness Month, along with Empty Bowls Committee members. The Empty Bowl project helps raise money in which 100 percent of the proceeds go to feed the hungry of Madison County through several programs.
The next Richmond City Commission meeting will be held April 9 at 6 p.m. at the Richmond City Hall Commission Chambers.
Reach Taylor Six at 624-6623 or follow her on Twitter @TaylorSixRR.