By LISA BICKNELL
CV&T News Editor
James Woolery stepped to the podium during the Irvine City Council meeting on Monday night to address the city’s garbage and property nuisance ordinances and ask that they be better enforced.
Woolery, a veteran and a real estate agent, said, “We’re trying to sell this town.”
He explained that with the chemical weapons at the ordinance on one side and the landfill on the other, it is difficult enough without the added burden of neglected and junked-up properties.
“Why are we not enforcing rules?” he said. He wondered why stickers couldn’t be placed on doors or windows when property owners are in violation, then owners be fined if they don’t clean up.
Police Chief Brad Smith said Woolery’s concerns are “a valid concern,” and he said that he accepts responsibility for sometimes being slow to issue violations.
“How do we change the mindset of the people,” asked Councilman Tim Burkhart.
Woolery said that if they start getting fined for every day, “they may not care [about the appearance], but they will clean it up.”
City Attorney Rodney Davis explained that when the IPD issues criminal violations, that people generally comply with that, but he said that to foreclose on abatement liens costs the city $5,000 to $8,000 each. The city has forced three foreclosures within the last year or so.
Francine Bonny, chair of the Mountain Mushroom Festival committee, reminded the council that there is only two months to go until the festival. She introduced James Maples, assistant professor of sociology from EKU, who led an economic impact study at the 2017 Mountain Mushroom Festival.
Maples said that the study looked at “place attachment,” or how many people are coming back because of ties to the county, state or region, as well as the economic impact. One hundred and eighty people were interviewed.
An estimated 20,000 people visited the 2017 festival, and an estimated $728,000 was spent in the county, mostly on food and gas.
Forty one percent of those polled were new people coming to town. Maples recommended that the city make it easier for the vendors to collect taxes (via wireless internet access), and work with additional local community members, such as the rock-climbing community at the Red River Gorge. He also suggested that an ultra-marathon, 50 miles or longer, would attract people from all over the country, and they would likely stay more than one day. One of the findings of the study, however, was t hat attendees spend very little on lodging in the city of Irvine. He said that typically the amount of money spent in the area on food and gas, etc., doubles when guests stay overnight.
“This is something to treasure,” said Maples of the festival.
Estill Development Alliance director Joe Crawford gave an update to the city on the EDA’s activities, and he said, “It’s a big deal to even have an economic study.” He added that such studies help with the application for grants.
In other business, Mayor W. J. Noland said, “I talked with Mr. Caudill about repairing Laurel Street, and he said they [the state] would take it over if we take care of Park Avenue and Orchard St.”
Council members wanted to check on that further.
“As long as I’m mayor there will be no parking on Laurel,” said Noland.
Attorney Davis checked on the code of ordinances, which he said states that parking areas can be designated by ordinance.
City Clerk Robin Powell spoke of next year’s budget and said the city can expect an increase in rates paid into Kentucky retirement of $42,000.
She also announced that Ron Newlin has applied for a privilege license to open the Bargain Bin at 100 River Drive.
The council went into closed session to discuss litigation.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Irvine City Council is at city hall on Monday, March 12, at 7 p.m.