It’s a new cell phone provider for the City of Leitchfield, who has a total of 38 cell phones extended to employees.
Councilman Billy Dallas has taken the lead on this particular issue.
Dallas has continually asked for comparison numbers between the city’s current provider, AT&T, and Bluegrass Cellular.
Dallas handed out a spreadsheet to compared prices between the two companies for the same services. He informed the council that he would be making a motion at their next meeting, and he made good on that promise.
During the meeting on Monday, April 15, 2013, Dallas ran through the numbers for the council.
A survey was taken of the employees with the 38 city supplied phones, and 27 claimed they were dissatisfied with their service provided by AT&T.
The city currently does not have a contract with AT&T and are paying $1,443.23/monthly. If they signed a two year agreement with AT&T, the rate would fall to $1,113.25. If they would sign a two year agreement with Bluegrass Cellular the monthly fee would be $1,072.13, savings of $4,421 a year for the city.
The motion to change providers was approved. Mayor William Thomason was adamant that the contract verbiage be the exact same as what the city is now accustom to.
The employees do not have data plans provided through the city, they must pay for those separately if they so desire a data plan.
The employees will get all new phones but will get to keep their phone numbers.
A slideshow, the work of three council persons - Jerry Schlosser, Margaret Fey and Harold Miller - was presented. The slideshow was a compilation of photos taken by Fey of empty buildings and houses that are sitting throughout the city. Around 50 were shown.
Councilman Schlosser commentated through the slideshow, which was more of a history lesson of Leitchfield’s past, and shared his personal thoughts on various systems in Grayson County, such as education, which he applauded Superintendent Barry Anderson’s leadership of the school district with the building of the new school facilities and the major upgrades.
Schlosser mentioned that the unemployment rate for the nation was 7.7%, 7.9% for Kentucky and 11.9% for Grayson County.
The slideshow demonstrated buildings that once housed small businesses, or businesses that have moved to new locations, such at R.C. Constant Real Estates former office off of the public square.
He also spoke about the Alexander Hotel, saying, “I think there is a landmark, built in 1935 I believe by Alexander Nichols. Kind of a sad story behind that, Mr. Nichols committed suicide in that building and so did Jim Dinwiddie, which I think is sad, but also the sad thing is that is really a good building structurally; a lot of square footage there, plus the possibility of having a theatre there. I now motion theatres are not what they used to be. You know we have people that go and love to get together for music and maybe there could be something, a conversion there with a little stage, I don’t know, it just has some possibilities. I just want us to think a little bit I guess is what I’m saying.”
Other empty buildings shown are now just shells of what were booming “mom & pop shops” on the public square in years past.
Schlosser thinks the empty buildings could leave a negative feeling on passersby, “Imagine the impact on people when they just drive through town.”
He highlighted the vacant lots in town near the WK Parkway and empty houses in the area. Also, he spoke of the old Western Auto store that “at one time” was the 2nd or 3rd largest Western Auto store in the nation, calling its loss a sad shame.
He highlighted the old Ford Motor Company building on Commerce Drive, calling it underutilized. “There is a really good steel building; the costs of those things are outrageous. At one time that was a General Motors dealership and then it was a Ford dealership and right now, as good a building as that is, that basically is sort of a consignment type shop and in the back of the building, which you can’t even tell it from the front, there is a small independent garage there,” said Schlosser.
He showed the old Ben Franklin store and talked how it was a family trip on Saturdays when he was a young boy. There was also a hardware and furniture store that connected to the old Ben Franklin store, but they are empty now.
He showed the old Big O Tires building, the former Houchens building in Indian Hills Shopping Center and empty space at the old Wal-Mart building.
He questioned if there was a lesson to learn from the slide show, saying he thought there was.
He would like to see the council do “some things” to help and encourage these property owners. Some of the things he mentioned the council doing to help property owners are through tax relief. “What if we didn’t charge taxes on new and expanded businesses for a certain period of time; we do that in a way, if they sell bonds through the city, to bring new industry in here for example, they get some tax breaks. Well, maybe we could do this not just for factories but for mom & pop business.”
He also said the city was going to be looking for a place to add a water tower, which he thinks will help draw industry and could help aid in a better ISO rating for the city. He also mentioned having cleanup year instead of just a month.
“Over the years, the last few years 2000 jobs have been lost, that’s kind of sad,” he mentioned.
“I know at one time we were doing some really good advertising in some of the commercial magazines/industrial magazines. Does anyone know if we are still running any of those ads or not?”
Councilman Steven Elder and Mayor William Thomason both responded with a yes, simultaneously.
He talked about the “City of Twin Lakes” branding that really carried the city “very well.” He said maybe the branding needed to be changed but said he wanted a brand and wanted to keep selling Leitchfield by pulling together with the Chamber of Commerce, Industrial board and tourism.
He highlighted the growth of the Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center, and industrial sites. He complimented Industrial Recruiter Dudley Cooper and Mayor Thomason’s work on the growth in that area of jobs.
He said, “Each and every one of us needs to be an ambassador for Leitchfield.”
He gave some solutions for the vacant buildings saying the city had to be careful about mixing the lines of private property and public domain, but said he would like for Leitchfield to model after other cities by forgiving taxes for businesses who are suffering economic hardships. “I’m just throwing something out there,” said Schlosser.
“We need the whole package to draw people,” said Schlosser, after saying maybe the city should look at also extending tax breaks to homeowners.
“I think it would be neat if each councilmember and the Mayor would take an index card and try to come up with 2-3 ideas that might just help promote Leitchfield.”
“So what I would suggest, put one in your pocket and carry it with you this week, if you’re down at Hardees or somewhere talking to someone, say hey, got any ideas on how we can promote Leitchfield and try to push this thing on a little bit? That’s it,” said Schlosser.
Councilwoman Fey said she is hoping to find a way to “cleanup some of these properties or get with the owners to see what we could do together to update them and see if we can create some jobs and fill up 50 buildings.”
Councilman Billy Dallas responded by saying he knew some of the buildings shown on the slideshow had an “astronomical” rental fees attached to them. He also showed concern that the property owner needed to show concern for the buildings appearance and cleanup.
Fey asked if the city advertised any type of buildings on the city’s website now, in an effort to expand small business.
Councilman Elder said, “We’re not going to advertise private property on the city’s site.”
City Treasurer Erin Embry said the state’s economic site advertises industrial buildings and land for industrial recruitment purposes.
Mayor Thomason said, “We can’t get into advertising private homes and businesses on our website, on the city’s website, it’s a conflict (of interest).” He also said the city couldn’t spend tax payers’ money to advertise privately owned properties.
After examples were given as to why it was a conflict of interest by Treasurer Embry and Councilman Elder, Schlosser said, “Well I’m going to tell you this, the people who have been out here and been laid off for 2 or 3 years, and pardon me for putting it this way, I don’t think they give a damn what’s proper, I think they want a job and I don’t think they care. If you don’t like it cause they put it on a website, well too bad I’ve got a job, I can feed my family.”
Treasurer Embry said the Mayor’s email address is listed on the city’s website and he is asked numerous questions and responds; they also direct those inquiries to Industrial Recruiter Dudley Cooper.
Fey asked what the website address was, Embry said it was www.leitchfield.gov and she and Mayor Thomason both mentioned www.growgrayson.com, which is a new initiative started in the past few years.
Elder said the Leitchfield Tourism recently spent $5,000 and a lot of time to brand Leitchfield as ‘Filled with Fun, Surrounded by Adventure.’ He also said Schlossher failed to mention Plastikon and all of the new jobs that have added in the past few years.
Elder said a lot of the small “mom & pop” shops were destroyed when Wal-Mart came to town, calling it a love/hate relationship with the mega store. He said they supplied a lot of jobs and pay taxes but they “destroyed small town America” that used to thrive in Leitchfield and would not come back as long as Wal-Mart is here.
“A lot of things you mention, the Leitchfield Tourism is working on these things. They are working on a video this spring, that’s going to be a great promotional five minute video – partnering with the hospital and industrial foundation. The Ford dealership, I saw you had a picture of them, there’s a hotel or people that would buy that Ford dealership up right now if they could get it at a good price and they would probably build a Holiday Inn Express of Hampton Inn there, and wouldn’t that be nice? But we can’t get people to sell their property, we just can’t,” said Elder.
“It wasn’t really a matter of making them do anything, Steve, it was just like, maybe we could meet with an owner or two of some of these small vacant businesses and see what we could do,” replied Fey.
Elder said they had met with the owners of the of Ford dealership building and went on to say that there are stories behind some of these buildings saying, “We’ve tried, we’ve worked hard, the Chambers (of Commerce) worked hard, industrial foundations worked hard, tourisms worked hard. But I would like to a part of, all six of us, work together issues together.”
“I’ve said it until I was a blue as my shirt, we are among the lowest property taxes in the state, I don’t know how much lower you can get than lowest; we’re at the bottom. I’ll us Mayfield again as an example, theirs is 33%, ours is 11%,” said Elder, “this is a great location to build a house.”
The conversation moved to ordinances to enforce cleanup of properties.
In other city business:
Two streets that were created by the William Thomason Byway, at the backside of Wal-Mart, were given names – Hallee Lane and Cassidy Lane. The property is owned by Jerry Schlosser and George Hack. A rezoning request by Hack and Schlosser for the property was approved. The area was rezoned to RZ.
The council approved for the Humane Society to use the James D. Beville Park on June 15, 2013 from 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. for a Dog Walk.
The city will host their 2nd annual Cleanup Day on Saturday, April 20th beginning at 8:00 a.m. at James D. Beville Park.
The council discussed getting their meetings on the internet where constituents could access and watch the recorded meetings.
The council honored retired Police Chief Bart Glenn.