Paducah city leaders talked Saturday about top priorities for the city’s strategic plan and how to use nearly $20 million in bond proceeds, which were originally intended for the recreation/aquatic center project.
“For us, it’s a guide,” City Manager Jim Arndt said, about the plan.
“It’s a roadmap for activity and purpose. It helps us to figure out on a day-to-day basis, what we’re supposed to be doing, and guide us in our decision-making process — help us to understand what we need to do as a team to better Paducah, in the eyes of the elected officials.”
Mayor George Bray and city commissioners met Saturday for the second day of an annual strategic planning retreat at the Julian Carroll Convention Center, where officials went over various issues and priorities for the strategic plan.
Day 2 spanned several hours and wrapped up before 1 p.m. It followed Friday’s meeting, where city department heads presented their top two priorities and city staff went over the existing strategic plan, “Our Paducah.”
On Saturday, staff wrote down 12 priorities for display in front of the commission, as the discussion went on about what officials wanted to see.
The list included: the 911 system, intentional minority inclusion (employment and boards, etc.), downtown Paducah (such as the City Block project and building occupancy), stormwater, the Southside area, sports (the athletic complex project), a remote workers program, enhanced communication with the community, city facilities, housing and annexations (planned growth).
“We did discuss a relocation incentive program to incentivize people to move here to Paducah that the staff is going to be exploring. With COVID, I think that’s an opportunity for us to incentivize people to see what a great community that we all live in,” Bray said.
He also added that the city recognizes that it needs to spend time and effort on diversity and inclusion.
“We don’t have enough people of color who are city employees, and we don’t have enough people of color who, particularly, are on the police force,” he said. “There were discussions about that back during the unrest last year, and those are focuses that we are going to be working on with the city moving forward.”
A sizable part of Saturday’s conversation focused on where to earmark approximately $19.7 million (after design fees) in bonds. The list was: the 911 system, the airport terminal, stormwater, parks, city facilities and miscellaneous qualified projects.
Bonds were sold in January 2020 for the recreation/aquatic center, which was later paused because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The new commission voted last month to terminate the project’s design and construction management services agreement with a Nashville, Tennessee-based firm, leaving decisions about how to use the proceeds.
Bray said they debated about these projects and didn’t arrive there “without a lot of discussion.”
“We probably had less discussion about the airport than anything because that bill’s coming and I think we’re all aligned that it makes sense to pay the money out of those bond funds, but every other item was really debated and discussed at length, so I think it’s a really good list of projects,” he told The Sun.
He also shared his thoughts on the sports complex project that the McCracken County Sports Tourism Commission is working on. The sports tourism commission unveiled the project’s master plan Friday, and it included many potential amenities for the Bluegrass Downs site and Stuart Nelson Park.
“We sold bonds for an athletic facility, so we decided not to build the wellness center (or the recreation/aquatic center), but those funds came from taxpayer money and were intended for sports. And so, we think that sports park is aligned with what some of those funds should be spent for,” Bray said.
“We’re on board with being a good partner with the county and we appreciate their leadership on this initiative. We have to make sure that we have an interlocal agreement between the two organizations that’s fair to both parties, but we are absolutely on board.”
Meanwhile, Bray said the city’s stormwater infrastructure issue is one that needs to be solved over a long period of time and it doesn’t have a “quick fix.”
“The only way that can be addressed is to identify new revenue sources,” he said. “That revenue source has to come from ... a combination of residents and businesses in our city. We have a stormwater plan that suggested a stormwater utility. Where we go from here is to dust off that plan, and to once again look at what is most equitable to all concerned, and try to balance the equity between residents and businesses.”
The Sun also spoke with commissioners Sandra Wilson, David Guess, Raynarldo Henderson and Carol Gault, after the planning retreat concluded Saturday.
“I think that’s a really good comprehensive list for us to be considering,” Wilson said, regarding priorities for the bonds. “We don’t have firm estimates on some of those things, what it would take, but this gives us some time to review those and this gives us the direction of the ones that we feel are the priorities.”
In his remarks, Guess said he thought the strategic planning retreat was a “good discussion,” while Henderson is happy that Southside was part of the strategic plan’s mix. He had also spoken some about the need for inclusion.
“Not trying to suggest anything that’s not there, but I do think that too often Black and brown minorities are often skipped over,” Henderson said. “There’s a whole lot of qualified people out there. It’s a matter of our being intentional about trying to find them and incorporate them into what our plan (is) and what we’re trying to do. I’m excited that it’s there and that’s why I brought it up.”
Meanwhile, Gault referenced the priority for the 911 system. It came up a lot during the discussions, as the system is aging and needs upgrades. She also served on the E-911 board in her previous tenure as a city commissioner.
“I’m partial to the 911, but that’s because of my experience with it, knowing what can happen and knowing that it’s important,” she said, adding that safety is a major thing with citizens and “it’s time.”
“We need to do that and I think that’s just a major important part to our community.”
Regarding what’s next, Arndt explained that city staff will take what it received from elected officials, package it together and bring it back to the city commission. The updated strategic plan will go up for final adoption through a municipal order at a future commission meeting.
The city’s strategic planning retreat on Friday and Saturday was livestreamed by WPSD Local 6. It may be viewed through its website or social media page. The city’s current strategic plan also is available online at paducahky.gov.