Future projects discussed by city tourism officials

Aug. 23—Projects under the city tourism's oversight are numerous, and several of those were on the agenda for Monday's monthly meeting.

One project is the Levi Jackson Park amphitheater. Architect David Zawko presented two options for a revision — one which would feature an updated and improved stage area with a covering that could also double as a shelter house area. The other featured a double type shelter with an area that would offer a larger area and could be used as a two-sided stage.

The existing stage area is basically a concreted stage area and walkway with a wall and back area that sits at the bottom of a rounded hillside. During heavy rains — such as occurred on Saturday during the Laurel County Homecoming weekend — the rain accumulates at the bottom of the hill, causing the stage to flood. The new design would fill in that area and move the amphitheater up. The existing stage cannot be improved or revised due to power lines running directly across that area of the park.

Commissioner Todd Roberts questioned the proposed costs — around $250,000 for the single-sided facility.

"I just don't see spending that kind of money for something that's only used once a year," he said.

Commissioner Phil Smith, who is also vice president of the Homecoming board, said the existing stage is inadequate for events. The Homecoming Committee spends $3,000 each year to rent a covering for the stage area that also includes sound and lighting equipment. Smith explained that the Homecoming is more than just the Saturday night pageant — that other events during Homecoming utilizes the stage area.

Tourism Executive Director Chris Robinson and Tourism Chair Starr Handy added that the new amphitheater area could double as a shelter house and could be used by other organizations and individuals throughout the year.

Roberts held on to his objection to investing that much money into a project, especially with other projects in the wings. He mentioned the fairgrounds property project, which is still in the wings for future development.

Roberts then explained his proposal to purchase "tiny homes" to be placed in the camping area.

Roberts said he had checked into the tiny homes' cost, which average $105,850 each if five or less are purchased.

"If you get more than five, the price drops some," he said. "We could rent those out for $139 to $259 a night."

Smith questioned the feasibility of those costs and after further discussion, the commissioners voted to hold further discussion on the tiny homes. They had previously voted to put a hold on the amphitheater project as well.

The dilapidated cabins at Levi Jackson Park near the clubhouse were also on the slate for commissioners. Parks Director Ben Sizemore said the cabins were unusable. Tourism officials advertised for bids previously for purchase/removal of the cabins but received no bids.

"The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) called and said it is all good to tear them down," he told commissioners. "They have nothing in them, so they've been deemed nothing more than a chicken coop."

With that, commissioners voted to demolish the cabins and remove the debris.

Equipment necessary for park maintenance was also discussed. Commissioners voted to research purchasing golf carts and utility trailers that would benefit the upkeep of the park.

Fred King, with Farmers Market also proposed some changes to the kitchen and market area. King said he had a vendor who hand ground coffee and utilized the kitchen on those days when the market was open. He added that a vendor also wanted to bake bread and sell it on market days but that the approval of the commission was necessary. In the past, vendors at Farmers Market set up booths and no one had requested use of the kitchen area. King said Farmers Market is booming and adding new vendors would enhance the current population and offerings.

The success of the Farmers Market also prompted King to ask for extended time on its usage.

"We've got so many new vendors and we are asking to continue past October," he said. "We usually shut down in October but with the bread and coffee and other vendors wanting to sell their items, we'd like to stay open longer."

Commissioners then approved King's request, adding that he must continue to notify Community Center Director Brittany Cradic — as has been required in the past — of those kitchen rental dates.

Farmers Market Feast is set for Aug. 31 and features locally grown Kentucky Proud produce.

"We take locally grown produce, steam it in a large bucket and dump it into troughs," King said. "This is one of our largest fundraisers and is held in honor of Bonnie Sigmon, who was a long-time extension agent. If you've never been to one of these, you're missing out."

Robinson reported that the College Park Trail project was still in the works.

"We're waiting on the college (Somerset Community College) to get back with us," he said. "They have a recommended vendor list to conduct a survey."

Whether state funds would be accessible to support the project is another issue, with Robinson stating that there has been no word about the grant application for that project.

Another issue before city tourism officials was the request by a landowner to remove trees along Conley Road.

"The back part of the fairgrounds property extends to Conley Road, which goes into Crooked Creek," said Handy. "A property owner is requesting that we take down three trees that border his property."

Those trees, however, are still living but the property owner feels they are a threat to his construction project. Robinson said the construction is next to the line where the trees are located.

Increased fees for rentals of the London Community Center, Farmers Market and the Farmers Market Kitchen were also approved. Cradic presented commissioners with the fee changes, adding that most of them were slight.

"If you raise them too much at one time, people won't book events," she said.

She did respond to Roberts' question of how the community center fees compared to rentals of the Heritage Hills facilities by stating that the fees were "about the same."

In other actions, commissioners heard from the following:

—Approved a request by Junior Hammons for a truck show next year, to be dedicated to Hammons' son who passed away several months ago. The truck show is set for next year.

—Approved Kentucky Travel Industry Association (KTIA) dues. Robinson said the county tourism had approved $1,000 before the idea of a joint membership was discussed. The total fees are $4,000 but Robinson explained the benefits of membership.

—The next Town Center concert is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 8 and will feature Brady Seals, formerly of country group, Little Texas. Also performing will be Spittin' Image, which is setting its own reputation in the region with their cover and original country songs.

—National Cleanup Day is Saturday, Sept. 16 and falls the Saturday before the annual World Chicken Festival launches. Robinson said volunteers are needed and can sign up online on the City of London Tourism's website.

—Approved items as surplus property, which must be presented before the London City Council for approval and online bidding purposes.

The next meeting of the London City Tourism Commission is set for Monday, Sept. 18 at 5:30 p.m.