The steam locomotive on Water Street in downtown Paducah is the backdrop of many photographs, but it doesn't make a very pretty picture in its current state.
As a part of its draft budget for 2015, the city is looking to allocate $80,000 for repainting both the locomotive and coal tender, which is based on an estimate from a company in Stearns. The project has not been bid.
"We've been talking about (painting) the locomotive since I started in the commission, and we've never been able to do it," Paducah Mayor Gayle Kaler said. "It's been seven years. It's ours. It's a responsibility of the city of Paducah."
Previous estimates for repainting ran as high as $225,000, said Steve Ervin, planning director.
Commissioner Allan Rhodes felt even the lower estimate was too much to spend.
"I'm a certified train fan," he said, "but I think this could be done cheaper in house."
The city is only able to consider an investment like this due to a 3.6 percent increase in revenue in the upcoming fiscal year and an overall improvement to its general fund.
The investment fund represents $5.31 million of the overall $51.46 million budget. In addition to a $275,000 cash carryover, the city will be able to redirect $265,750 from its general fund to the investment fund this year. The general fund represents $30.38 million of the total budget.
"This is one year in isolation that we have some capability to do this," said Jeff Pederson, city manager.
Commissioner Sandra Wilson agreed that the locomotive was an asset, helping to draw people to downtown, but she wanted to see more money devoted to the Paducah Arts Alliance.
The alliance is a consortium of agencies that approach the city for funding as a group. Members include the Paducah Symphony Orchestra, the River Heritage Museum, Market House Theatre, Yeiser Art Center, the Carson Center, the National Quilt Museum and Maiden Alley Cinema.
"I don't think there is a better promoter of Paducah than all of these organizations," Wilson said.
"When I think about drawing people to downtown, to eat at the restaurants, these art groups are the key to that," she said.
The consortium requested $191,000 from the city in the next fiscal year. As it stands, the city has allocated $125,000 to it, the same amount as the previous fiscal year. Wilson hoped to find additional money in the budget to meet the alliance's request.
Commissioner Carol Gault, although complimentary of the alliance, felt the city's contribution should remain the same in light of other financial obligations on the horizon, such as City Hall renovations.
"I don't want to see them become increasingly dependent," Gault said. "I'd like to see it be the other way around."
Discussion about the investment fund and other 2015 projects will continue at tonight's commission meeting. Any revisions to the draft budget must be finalized, as the first reading of the budget ordinance is set for June 10.
Contact Carrie Dillard, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8657.
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