A.R. Dyche Cemetery board asks city for financial assistance

May 17—The reconstruction of the A.R. Dyche Cemetery Board has brought some rude awakenings to board members — who are now taking their concerns to other entities for help.

With expenses continuing to rise and a severe lack of operational money, board members have asked for financial assistance from the city tourism commission to offset their costs.

Jeanie Cochrane and Karlyle Young, board members for the newly re-organized cemetery board, approached members of the city tourism board to ask for assistance with maintaining the cemetery.

Cochrane said the city employee who had been overseeing the cemetery operations had been removed by the city, leaving the board with questions on how to maintain the operations needed.

Cochrane and Young said the cemetery is classified as a "memorial park" and thus could be considered as a part of the city tourism's oversight. The City of London, however, owns the property which is designated as a city cemetery. Cochrane explained that the cemetery's only revenue is generated by lot sales but funds are still needed for the overall upkeep which includes mowing the cemetery and working with families for burial sites. That includes opening and closing of graves and setting up tents at the time of funerals.

Young and Cochrane said the cemetery is also used for a walking area for residents — many of whom feel is a safer place than along city streets.

Tourism commissioners questioned whether the tourism commission's delegation of funding could be applied to the cemetery as it is not a tourism draw. Cochrane and Young said the cemetery draws tourists who come to visit the site of loved ones and the fact that many people utilize the area as a walking track could be construed as a "park." That prompted their request for an annual $45,000 in funding to assist with the operational costs of the cemetery.

After some discussion, board members voted to table the issue, conduct some research and verification and address the request at the next tourism meeting. Commissioner Todd Roberts said he felt the cemetery had "no bearing on tourism" and Commissioner Phil Smith said he didn't "see how a cemetery could be a tourist attraction" before executive director Chris Robinson suggested tabling the issue for another time.

Lawrence Kuhl, treasurer of the Scott Rose Foundation, addressed tourism commissioners with an update on the sensory park addition at the Wellness Park. The park is now open but will host a ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony in June.

"This will be a big event," Kuhl said. "This will be one of the last events for the Scott Rose Foundation and we're going to have the Rose family and other special guests here."

Robinson updated some upcoming events, which include the Kentucky ASA state archery qualifier on May 27, followed by the ASA archery tournament from June 1 through June 4 and the Scholastic 3D archery tournament from June 9 through June 11. The Town Center summer concert series kicks off on June 2 with County Wide opening for country music star Sammy Kershaw.

The RTP (Recreational Trails Program) Trail Grant has hit a snag, Robinson said, with the city tourism not eligible to apply for one grant due to another still being open. The trail grant would create a connecting trail around the entire College Park property back to the Wellness Park area. That walking area would be 10 feet wide, which would accommodate bicycles.

"We don't allow bicycles at Whitley Branch due to so many people walking there but that trail (Wellness Park) would have plenty of room for bicycles," he explained.

Robinson said the city could still apply for a Water and Soil grant that could offer as much as $250,000 — but the grant is a 50/50 matching grant that would require a $125,000 investment by city tourism. Commissioners voted to apply for the grant.

The fate of the London Community Center is still up in the air, although Robinson said the city could sell the building to the city tourism commission. Currently the city leases the community center to city tourism but city council members voted to end the lease earlier this year. When the lease was ended, the community center was being considered as a new location for the two departments due to age of the police headquarters and more space needed for both.

That created concern over the fate of the community center, although Robinson and London Mayor Randall Weddle reported earlier that the two entities were working together for a solution. Robinson said that a feasibility study showed that the community center did not have the space to accommodate the staff of City Hall and the London Police Department.

"We have learned that the city could sell the community center to tourism," Robinson said.

Parks and Recreation Director Ben Sizemore said progress on Shelterhouses 3 and 4 near the museum in Levi Jackson Park has hit a delay, due to having to relocate an electric box in that area. A new playground for that area is also being bid out, with Robinson reporting that four companies are interested in bidding on the playground project.

"The splash pads are working and will be open for Memorial Day weekend," Sizemore told commissioners. "And the pool will be open on Memorial Day. We're having to wait until Memorial Day because most of the lifeguards for the pool will be doing their high school graduation that Saturday, so that delayed the pool opening until Monday."

Commissioner Todd Roberts then addressed his proposal to install "tiny houses" at Levi Jackson Park campgrounds as another revenue source for the park. Roberts said companies are producing the models for tourist sites like Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg with great success.

"These can sleep eight people," he said. "I suggest we bid for one to five units. These can be rented out for $159 to $179 a night."

Those would be installed in the campground area. The removal of the dilapidated cabins near the clubhouse prompted questions about installing the tiny houses in that area, but Robinson and Sizemore said that location was not as easily monitored as the campground area and it would be easier to connect to water, sewer and electric in that area.

Bids for a movie projector system were also approved. Robinson said the projector could be moved to show movies at both Levi Jackson Park and Town Center.

Commissioners also voted to purchase a mower for $16,802 that would replace an eight-year-old model. The new equipment would be used to mow at Levi Jackson Park, including the fairgrounds area. Trading a large excavator for a smaller model was also approved. Sizemore explained that the current model is large, requires a special trailer and requires the driver of the truck to have CDL license. The smaller model, he said, would eliminate the CDL license, special trailer and would be just as effective as the larger model.