Judge-exec, mayor talk cooperation for projects

DEREK OPERLE | The Sun

Paducah Mayor Brandi Harless speaks as McCracken County Judge-Executive Craig Clymer looks on during the meeting of the local Lions Club chapter Tuesday afternoon. The local leaders came together to discuss city-county cooperation on issues like emergency communications, recreation, tourism and development, among other things.

Paducah Mayor Brandi Harless and McCracken County Judge-Executive Craig Clymer came together Tuesday at the meeting of the local Lions Club chapter to talk about the fruits of city-county cooperation and future projects between the two governments.

Both officials see working together to be the best path forward for both governing bodies and the citizens who rely on them. Clymer considers cooperation "imperative" to the betterment of the area, and Harless hopes that together they can "maximize the efficiency of the governments" for the taxpayers.

"We can talk about how we like each other and sit beside one another at meetings, but what we have really tried to do is do work together," Harless explained. "We really wanted to take our cooperation one step further."

The pair took the club through a flurry of recent projects, beginning with 911 emergency communications services.

"It's extremely important that people know when they dial a phone that the dispatch is going to be answered promptly and efficiently and that their call will be responded to," Clymer explained. "We're joining together and we're going to spend some money to put together some high-level equipment, hardware and infrastructure."

After the meeting, Clymer confirmed that the county and city are looking at reconsolidating 911 services into a single agency, possibly servicing the surrounding communities of western Kentucky, as well. Though details surrounding the reconsolidation are at this point unclear, the judge-executive hopes to have a clearer picture for the public in the coming months.

Harless then spoke briefly about the recent restructuring of the transient room tax by the city and the county, allowing each body to form a tourism commission and collect a discrete tax from people staying in hotel, motel and AirBnB rooms in order to gather more funds for the development of tourism in the area.

"We all worked together to come up with a new structure to make sure we were leveraging our capacity through the hotel tax," she said. "Now we have a new commission whose focus is ..., hopefully, a new sports and recreation facility."

Harless noted the usage and location of the facility has not been agreed upon, but that the process has started and both governments are in talks with consulting firms to flesh out their respective recreation plans.

"I'm really excited about that. I think our community has been talking about doing more sports and recreation for years and years and years, and we've never quite figured out how to get it across the finish line," Harless said.

Other topics included Harless' detailing of the two governments' upcoming joint Veterans Day Celebration and Clymer providing an update on plans to tie together city and county trail systems, as well as the continued beautification efforts at Carson Park. The judge-executive also briefly spoke on the future development of Barkley Regional Airport and his desire to see industry spring up in west Paducah.

The mayor also commented on the recent transitions of Greater Paducah Economic Development, the reduction in board seats and the hiring of Bruce Wilcox as CEO.

"We've been through some very interesting times over the last two years. I think under Bruce's leadership we're going to see a lot of change happen," Harless said. "We want to see a real aggressive plan on how we're going to sell Paducah. I think we're due for some good wins here in Paducah."

Following their presentation, the judge-executive and mayor fielded questions from the club, addressing concerns about first responders; bike lanes, the first of which in Paducah's history are expected to open Saturday; and the city's pending implementation of a Tax Increment Finance district to develop the downtown area.

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