The Paducah City Commission on Tuesday passed an order for a $2 million Better Utilization of Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant contract to engineering firm HDR, Inc. for river port projects including a landing area and an excursion wharf.
Commissioners also approved a resolution pledging $50,000 in support over five years for a Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grant application to expand Friendship Road.
Commissioner Sandra Wilson called the pledge “a small price to pay” to fully fund the $35 million project rather than fragment it.
“Because of the things that are happening with the economy, the infrastructure bill (at the federal level), there seems to be an opportunity to accelerate the project,” Mayor George Bray said.
Kentucky Transportation District 1 project development engineer Chris Kuntz said selection for the grant was dependent on local financial support.
“We’ve tried to narrow down the projects that we think fit each grant category, and based on the criteria…we think Friendship Road would be a very strong candidate for this pot of grant funds,” Kuntz said, adding that construction would begin again this fall. for the first phase.
The commission also addressed renovations to the Robert Cherry Civic Center, with two strategies budgeted at $1.5 million or $1.8 million, affecting seating capacity, among other variables.
Commissioner Raynarldo Henderson said he was concerned that not being able to host large NAACP events could hamper growth.
The ensuing discussion focused on concerns of favoritism or liability if the city undertook too much for one organization.
“I don’t want to disadvantage the NAACP or anyone, really, (but) I think it’s going to be an improved space that people will enjoy,” Bray said. “I just find it hard to spend the extra $300,000 to $350,000 on events (for larger seats), if there are opportunities for them to be comfortable or happy elsewhere (in the city).”
The commissioners discussed the allocation of funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The city has $2.4 million unallocated of an original $6.4 million.
City Manager Daron Jordan suggested allocating $400,000 from ARPA — combined with $200,000 in the current fiscal year and $400,000 from miscellaneous windfall — to eventually set aside $1 million. dollars for a facility improvement fund.
Jordan said there is currently $6-8 million in facility upgrades needed due to deferred maintenance over the years. The commission will discuss the issue in more detail at a future meeting.
During the meeting, the commission also adopted priorities for 2022, including upgrades and funding for the 911 radio tower, city beautification and incentives for minority inclusion.
Bray referenced a recent community meeting at House of Hope Ministries to list the Northside neighborhood of Paducah on the National Register of Historic Places. Some participants expressed dissatisfaction with a $20,000 spending threshold to receive tax credits.
“Which I think forces the city to think about how we can get people to fix their homes on a lower level,” Bray said. “We have to look at that and invest in that.”
Another priority was the protection of historic and cultural resources, with the Columbia Theater renovation project cited as a significant cost.
“I believe there are historical and cultural treasures in our community that we are going to have to intentionally preserve. There are treasures that we cannot leave out,” Wilson said. “Some have a lot of volunteers working there…but I think they’re all reaching points (where) the city needs to offer help in some way.”
Other priorities included Southside improvement projects, such as The Dunlap at the former Walter C. Jetton Junior High School. Wilson expressed his desire for more concrete plans to help developers.
In response to a priority involving the City Block development project, Bray cited the health of downtown merchants as a key priority.
• City Commissioners have approved a City Ordinance on a Deed of Transfer of Buckner Lane Property to advance the Buckner Lane Bridge Replacement Project.
• Commissioners have passed an order for the consensual annexation of 185 Lion’s Den Lane, where the gym Tenacity Training plans to move.
• Meeting also included first readings of zoning text changes, including a streamlined Paducah Planning Commission submission process for developers, a lower size requirement for planned units to improve housing density and reduce construction costs, and a proposal to allow cryptocurrency mining in certain commercial areas for buildings under 105,000 square feet.