City officials talked about two major projects Tuesday — McCracken County’s proposed outdoor sports complex and the needed infrastructure upgrades for Paducah’s aging 911 system. Both are listed as top priorities for city officials, and funding for them has been a topic of discussion.
The sports complex, involving the former Bluegrass Downs site and Stuart Nelson Park, has a projected cost of more than $40 million, while the 911 project had an estimated cost of between $8 million and $14 million, according to a now-outdated 2017 study. The radio system’s infrastructure is at its “end-of-life,” and the project is a public safety priority, officials said.
The projects are potential uses for a portion of more than $19.7 million in the city’s bond proceeds. The funds were originally intended for the recreation/aquatic center project. The city also anticipates getting more than $6 million in funds through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, said City Manager Jim Arndt.
“In order to decide — finally, the amount of money that we’re going to put into the sports park, is really kind of, from our standpoint, determined by where we go with 911,” Mayor George Bray said during Tuesday’s Paducah City Commission meeting.
“... Whether we want to be or not, we’re sort of locked at the hip a little bit, in terms of how we proceed. Because from my view, the city needs to understand what we’re going to do with 911, in order to make the commitment that we need to make on the sports park.”
The city and county are currently waiting for an updated report from Federal Engineering Inc. regarding the 911 system’s costs, options and needs.
“I think we have a meeting of the minds, as it relates to the amount of money that each the city and the county would put in on the sports park,” Bray added.
“I think we have alignment with our commissioners on what that would be and what that would look like. We’ve talked about it ad infinitum. We feel pretty good about that. What we don’t have is an understanding on how to proceed with 911.”
In addition, Bray also noted the operational funding needs for the 911 system.
He said the city and county will spend “just short” of $800,000 and $700,000 on 911 this fiscal year, respectively. Bray added that a fee on landline phones has historically been used to help fund 911 operations, but landline phone use has declined over the years, meaning a new funding mechanism is needed, such as a possible user fee.
Bray later said they need to be creative and “put the work in,” indicating a desire to get a group to “sit back down” and talk about 911.
“And because of the importance of it, we can add one of (the commission) to the team that’s working on it,” he said.
“We can add a county commissioner. That might be a good idea — to broaden the conversation and make sure that everybody’s hearing the same thing and understanding what people are saying, particularly the fire chief and police chief, who are dealing with it everyday.”
The Sun reached out to McCracken County Judge-Executive Craig Clymer Tuesday night about the 911 project, after the commission meeting ended. He noted there are a “lot of unknowns” and many different options with it.
“We do want to try and partner with the city on 911, but we don’t know what that’s going to look like,” Clymer told The Sun.
He indicated that a refreshed consultant study about 911 infrastructure and upgrades will have an impact on what they do.
Back in April, the city and county approved splitting costs to update Federal Engineering’s study from 2017 regarding the 911 infrastructure. He anticipates the refreshed study to be available in August.
“But the sports complex — I think it’s a much simpler idea,” Clymer added.
“We’re just going to split it and have half and half. We know pretty much what’s going to happen, but that 911 just has so many variables. I think we’re still going to be committed to partnering with the city. We just don’t know what the cost is going to be. We don’t know how we’re going to fund it. A lot of things to work through on that.”
The commission’s meeting discussion may be watched online through the city’s YouTube channel, @paducahkygov. The next regular commission meeting is scheduled for June 22.
In other business:
• The commission approved a municipal order that extends Arndt’s employment contract through July 31. It was previously set to last until June 30. The city is searching for a city manager to replace Arndt, who announced in January that he plans to move back to Illinois and start a business. In-person candidate interviews are expected to start soon.
• The commission introduced an ordinance to approve the city’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2022. The proposed budget includes all annual debt service obligations, allows for a minimum 10% General Fund reserve requirement, includes the state mandated 12% pension contribution increase, and also appropriations for outside agencies. It will be up for adoption later this month. The next fiscal year starts July 1.
• The commission introduced an ordinance for a $2.9 million budget amendment, which will be used as matching funds for the floodwall rehab project in Paducah involving the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
• Human Resources Director Stefanie Suazo introduced a new city employee, risk safety manager Braden Throgmorton.
• The commission approved an amendment to a section of the city’s Code of Ordinances that’s specific to dogs on leashes in city parks. The amendment brings the code up-to-date and allows for unleashed dogs in city parks, which have been designated as dog parks.