Commission extends appreciation

Dec. 10—ASHLAND — Longtime Ashland commissioner Marty Gute was in a thankful, jovial mood at Thursday's city commission meeting, stating he would "hold office as long as the good Lord gives me life."

During commissioner comments, Gute said it had been a year and a week since he left the hospital — he said "every day this year has been a great day for me."

"We've had so many accomplishments this past year," Gute said. "I want to thank all our department heads and all our city employees who made this possible."

Putting on his coaching hat for a second, Gute called finance department heads Tony Grubb and Michelle Veach as well as the entire sanitation department "all-stars."

Gute also read a "personal testimony" from social media written by a person whose parents lived in Ashland. The testimonial stated that the garbage men kept an eye on their elderly parents and assisted them no less than three times when they fell.

"They're the very best," Gute said. "Stories like that are powerful."

Turning to blighted properties — which City Manager Mike Graese later reported 34 are "locked-in" and seven have been torn down, showing before and after pictures — Gute said he got to see one tore down since the last meeting.

Recalling days of yesteryear, Gute joked he "went over the hill to find a bottle of Boone's Farm I heaved over about 50 years ago." The commissioner reported he did not find it, with a laugh.

Commissioners Cheryl Spriggs and Josh Blanton also voiced their gratitude about all the work in utilities, paving and the fight against blight the city workers have done over the last calendar year.

Mayor Matt Perkins said he "shared the sentiments of his fellow commissioners."

"We are the elected body of this city, but the real work is done by our city workers," Perkins said. "It's been a tough year, but made all this happen."

Here are some highlights from Thursday's commission meeting:

* The commission approved on second-reading about $100,000 in demolition contracts for 15 blighted properties in the city. During Graese's presentation to the commission on progress made in the effort, the city manager said finance is currently working to see if there's any more room in the budget to put another 25 properties on the demolition list. The city commission also voted on first-reading to extend the contracts by 150 days for six properties slated for demolition.

* The commission voted on some major moves with the fire department. On first reading, the commission approved a $3,287.87 change order for a fire truck, increasing the amount for the truck to $513,904.18. Of that money, $453,575 is being paid with a FEMA grant. The commission also approved on first-reading accepting $1.3 million FEMA grants to purchase equipment for the fire department and approved two applications for grants for more equipment that could result in an additional $42,000 in grant money.

* The commission voted on first-reading to submit a loan application for $25 million for the sewer treatment plant expansion project. Debt service will be $1.8 million annually, while interest will be $132,276 if approved.

* The commission voted on first reading to approve the donation of two tracts of land to make way for generators by water pump stations.

* The commission voted unanimously to approve settlement documents with the opioid distributors involved in a federal class action lawsuit. City Attorney Jim Moore said the vote was in order to meet certain cut-off dates and the settlement is still up in the air. Moore estimated the city would see $1.2 million in settlement money, to be paid out over nine years into a special fund.

* The city commission approved entering into an interlocal agreement with the city of Grayson for policing. Police Chief Todd Kelley said the interlocal agreement is to do with the local drug task force.