Jan. 4—Mayor Randall Weddle had to be the deciding vote on several issues during Monday's city council meeting as council members split 3 to 3 on reading of some ordinances. That came after Greene requested to table some of the ordinances on the agenda, stating she had not received the documents. Weddle said he wanted to discuss some of the ordinances, and cast the deciding vote on both the reading and the passage of several.
The reading of Ordinance 2023-06 addressed proposed annexation of areas not currently included in city limits. That area would loop around KY 229 and back along U.S. 25. A map of the areas not currently included in city limits was displayed for council members.
Weddle and Bryson both said the annexation would be voluntary by land owners in the areas. The roadway is the boundary line for those.
"This will be good for the businesses and for our city," Weddle said, with council members voting in favor of the proposed annexation.
They also voted yes to annexing the property for Happy Xpress, located on U.S. 25 near the Levi Jackson Park entrance. Annexation can take place by request of a property owner if the property is adjacent to existing city limits. The business meets the qualifications for annexation, with council members voting to accept the resolution to allow Happy Xpress to pursue their intent to annex.
Council members were split, however, on the reading of Ordinance 2023-02 addressing the city attorney's salary. Greene again asked for the issue to be tabled and was joined by council members Stacy Benge and Kip Jervis. Holly Little, Philpot and Young voted to read the ordinance. The tie vote sent the issue before Weddle as the deciding vote.
That ordinance eliminates the $1,400 retainer fee for the city attorney but does set an hourly rate. After discussion, the motion to allow Weddle to set the city attorney's salary passed. Greene recused herself from that vote, but it carried by a majority vote.
The establishment of a London Development Board also hit conflict, with a 3 to 3 vote, and Weddle casting the deciding vote. Ordinance 2023-05 would establish a grant writer position to assist existing businesses. Council members specifically asked Weddle whether that board would affect the London-Laurel County Economic Development Authority with Weddle answering no.
Weddle said LLCEDA executive director Paula Thompson has done an excellent job in recruiting businesses to the area but that grants are available for existing and startup businesses. Weddle proposed establishing a London Development Board to assist businesses, adding that London Downtown focused on businesses on Main Street.
"I have people with businesses that are not on Main Street that never get help," he said. "There is money out there for businesses — we just need someone experienced in grant writing to get that money."
When addressed by council members, Thompson said she works with the Cumberland Valley Area District Development board (CVADD) for grants. Weddle responded that CVADD works with various counties and that he wanted someone to focus on London and the county. He added that funding for a grant writer position was available with the retirement of Special Officer Stacy Anderkin from the city police department.
Council members questioned the need for a board for that purpose, favoring creating a position for a grant writer. When the vote came, it again was 3 to 3, with Weddle casting the deciding vote in favor of establishing a city development board.
A split vote came again when a truck route ordinance was discussed. Weddle explained that semi trucks traveling through downtown had become a problem that needed to be addressed. He added, however, that the ordinance citing fines and penalties "could not be enforced."
The complication comes with Main Street (U.S. 25) being a federal roadway that is overseen by the state transportation department. City ordinances cannot override federal or state road maintenance but Weddle explained that in order to install signs deferring Hal Rogers Parkway and KY 192 as "truck routes," the city had to pass an ordinance. The Commonwealth's Transportation Cabinet could then install those signs.
That brought up much discussion with councilman Justin Young asking for more specifics on the ordinance. Young operates an excavating business and stated that some of his trucks travel on city streets.
Weddle said the restrictions in the ordinance were simply to allow the state road department to install signs to designate the two roads as a suggestive truck route. He added that the designation was to address out of state drivers who were not familiar with U.S. 25 going through downtown London. Exceptions to the penalties were trucks delivering to downtown businesses or residences, any locally owned truck that must travel U.S. 25 to reach the owner's business and any person living within city limits that uses a truck to and from their home to work. The ordinance defines "truck" as being a semi-truck and trailer weighing 80,000 pounds or more or a dump truck with over 26,001 pounds of weight capacity.
Another issue addressed was Ordinance 2023-03 to designate the London Utility Commission as an SPGE (Special Purpose Government Entity) and redefining its members, appointments, terms and responsibilities. Weddle added that there was no documentation of either the city tourism commission or city utility commission as being SPGE in the city records. He also addressed issues with the city's ethics board.
The city's ordinance regarding nepotism was also addressed, with Weddle stating that hiring of family members by the Mayor's office would continue to be prohibited. His concern was primarily for first responders whose children or close family members wanted to work in that field. The ordinance does state that a supervisor could not directly oversee a family member.
Following an executive session to discuss "property acquisition," council members then voted to end the lease between London City Tourism overseeing the London Community Center. Weddle stated on Tuesday that he could not comment on any specifics of that lease cancellation at this point. Currently the offices for London Community Center staff, the offices for the City Tourism director and Parks & Recreation director are housed in the community center as well as a community meeting room in the basement.
The meeting was live streamed and can be viewed in its entirety on the City of London's Facebook page.