Local News Politics

William Summers IV Retiring From Metro Government

After 44 years in city government, Chief Administrative Officer William Summers IV will retire.

Summers was most widely known for serving as deputy to former Mayor Jerry Abramson from 1985 to 1999 and again from 2003 to 2010. New Mayor Greg Fischer asked Summers to stay on staff to guide the transition. Summers oversaw police, fire, EMS and public works.

Summers will step down on March 1st and move to the Bi-State Bridges Authority. He will fill the seat vacated by former GLI head Joe Reagan.

Interim Police Chief Ishmon Burks will replace Summers in the Fischer administration.

Environment Local News

Fischer Announces Creation of Tree Advisory Board

Louisville’s urban canopy isn’t as dense as other southern cities’, and many of the big trees the city has have been lost to storms and disease.

Citing the health and environmental benefits of a healthy tree population, Mayor Greg Fischer announced today that he’s creating a tree advisory board. The board will be responsible for developing policies to better care for Louisville’s existing trees, as well as planting new ones.

The board will be a 12-member committee appointed by the mayor and approved by the Metro Council. Duties will include providing input on tree placement on city-owned property and gathering data about the city’s trees for an annual report. The board will also create a public tree fund with private donations.

Fischer says he plans to appoint members of the board before the end of the year.

Local News

Safety Violations in KY Mines, Transparency in Contracts between Public Workers & Metro Government, College-Readiness in JCPS Students, Infant Mortality in West Louisville: Afternoon Review

The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration has cited five Kentucky coal mines for safety violations. They were among 20 nationwide with a history of compliance problems targeted in MSHA’s special impact inspections.

An ordinance supported by the majority of Louisville Metro Council Democrats would exempt the cost of contracts between public workers and Metro Government from being subject to mandatory reports. Democrats says Republican lawmakers are probing the process in an attempt to discredit unions as part of the larger “War on Workers”, but council Republicans say they are concerned about cost to the taxpayers and the overall lack of transparency.

Like 40 percent of school districts in Kentucky, JCPS has not met college and career readiness goals — but communication between students and the state has improved and now has a single focus. This year’s new accountability system will focus on whether students are ready for life after high school. For some that means college; for others it means work. Students who are college and career ready are proficient on state-wide tests or earn a certificate from certain industry-related programs. School districts are expected to increase student readiness rates 50 percent over a 5-year period.

The Healthy Start Initiative of Louisville’s health department will hold a town hall meeting tomorrow on infant mortality. Health department spokesman Dave Langdon says much of the discussion will focus on infant mortality rates in west Louisville neighborhoods.

Local News

Merger 2.0 Survey Results Revealed

Louisville’s Merger 2.0 Task Force survey results were revealed on Wednesday. Of the five main Metro services, transportation issues produced the most dissatisfaction.

The survey measures the public’s response to the services they receive from Metro Government, including police, fire, EMS, waste and transportation. Over 1,000 phone interviews were conducted in July for the survey and while it’s considered a random sample it does include people from diverse income levels and ethnicities throughout Jefferson County.

Most people reported being happy with what Metro Government offers. Seventy-one percent were satisfied with police services, with few mentioning corruption or abuse.

For fire, 90 percent said they were highly satisfied. There was slightly lower satisfaction with EMS around the mid 80s with mentions of response time. In waste services, 78 percent were satisfied and a majority of dissatisfied people paid a private company.

While other Metro services received higher levels of satisfaction among the sample, transportation issues were of most concern. Only 50 percent said they were happy with public transportation in the city.

Those with less income were more satisfied with TARC, but also wanted more bus routes and better bus stops. Those who make more than $80,000 said they are less interested in TARC and would like to see a light rail.

Over 50 percent said they’re satisfied with the city’s ability to serve its citizens.

Eight percent of the survey admitted they didn’t know that a merger in 2003 happened. A large portion were unsure what exactly merged and how residents throughout the county are taxed.

Click here to see the full Merger 2.0 Task Force survey results.

Local News

Merger 2.0 Task Force Requests More Data

The Louisville Merger 2.0 Task Force subcommittee on data and communications met on Wednesday and has asked for more information about Metro Government’s Urban Services District.

The task force was formed in January to review the 2003 merger between county and city governments. But because most cities still have separate taxes and separate services, this also means that the data is hard to collect.

“I think the collection of that kind of data and a central clearing house of that is probably something that’s needed–not just for the Urban Service District but all of Jefferson County,” said Jack Will of the Jefferson County League of Cities.

Some subcommittee members were concerned with the relationship between Louisville Metro and small cities in the county that have their own governments and tax systems. The subcommittee requested information about the amount of local agreements that Metro Government has had with other cities.

The subcommittee may want to consider the dependency of outside money within individual cities, said William O’Brien with the County Attorney’s office.

“There’s an invasion of that sovereignty, the ability to make your decisions. Because your decisions on whether you can provide something may be contingent on whether or not the other entity can provide money,” said O’Brien.

But Parkway Village Mayor Mary Rose Evans said it’s not uncommon to have a local agreement with other cities in the county.

The next subcommittee meeting is scheduled on Aug. 10. Results from the Merger 2.0 Task Force telephone survey are expected to be announced.

Local News

Metro Government Won’t Apply for Federal Disaster Relief

Residents and business owners in Louisville can apply for federal disaster relief money to cover recent flood damage, but Louisville Metro Government cannot.

The floods did not force the city to spend more than $2.4 million in emergency or recovery operations. That’s the threshold Metro Government would have to cross to qualify for federal relief.

But individuals in Jefferson and several other flooded counties can apply to the federal government individually, though mayor’s spokesperson Chris Poynter doubts many Louisvillians will.

“Very few people are likely to do that because most of the affected homes are along River Road and they already have national flood protection insurance, and that will most likely cover them for most of their losses.”

The floods will require the city to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on cleanup and overtime. Poynter says that money will just have to come out of the budget, though he’s not yet sure if any cuts will be necessary to cover the costs.

“That’s’ something we won’t know for certain until several months from now. The biggest costs to us are through our Public Works Department—people who had to barricade the roads and then clean the roads and Waterfront Park once the water receded.”

The city will have to spend at least several hundred thousand dollars repairing flooded streets and parks and paying workers’ overtime.

Local News

MSD Still Calculating Cost of Running Pumps

The Ohio River has been higher than average since February, and the Metropolitan Sewer District is starting to pay the price for holding the water back.

But Executive Director Bud Schardein says the prevention of flooding has been worth the extra labor and energy costs. “It’s all been what I consider a success,” he says “but it comes at a price, we don’t have energy or fuel costs calculated yet, it’s too soon for that, but we’re running an approximate total on personnel hours and we can dedicate probably 300,000 or 350,000 over regular hours.”

Schardein says the cost could have been much higher had some of the pumps failed.  While not necessarily a regularly used utility, he says the flood protection system’s dependability is extremely important.

Local News

Parking Meter Costs, Technology to Change

The cost of on-street parking in downtown Louisville is going up.

Starting in July, metered parking will cost one dollar per hour, marking a 25 cent increase. The Parking Authority of River City approved the change this week, and it’s expected to generate a half million dollars in additional revenue each year. But despite the shortfall in the city budget, PARC business administrator Tiffany Smith says the money can only be used by the authority.

“All of our operating revenue goes back into the PARC budget,” she says. “So it goes back to finance any of the parking garages, the surface lots, any of the equipment, the capital repairs, anything associated with the meters. Our revenues are not commingled with those in the general fund.”

Smith says the parking rate increase will be used to pay off debt on bonds for parking garages and to install credit card readers for on-street parking.

“We went into accepting credit cards approximately two years ago in our off-street locations. It’s been a great success. It’s been very well-received. And this will allow parkers that go to on-street parking that don’t have change, don’t have a smart card to still utilize one of the parking spaces,” says Smith.

Money from parking tickets and other citations goes to Metro Government. The structure of those fees was changed last year. At that time, more than $5 million in citations was uncollected.

Local News

Louisville Officials Calculating Flood Damage, Considering FEMA Aid Request

Louisville Metro Government officials have been surveying flood damage to see if the city qualifies for federal aid. So far, they’ve come up about $1.7 million short.

So far, about $600,000 has been spent to keep the city’s flood pumping stations active. An additional $100,000 will likely be required to clean and repair streets. That’s short of the $2.4 million in damage necessary for the city to qualify for federal assistance. But Emergency Management Director Doug Hamilton says there may be some costs that haven’t yet been tabulated.

“So we have asked all public agencies that have been involved in this effort to report their costs by close of business Monday to see if we can meet that threshold,” he says.

If the city crosses the threshold, Hamilton says Metro Government will ask the Federal Emergency Management Agency for funds. Louisville has been granted federal relief for three disasters in the last three years, though not all of it has been paid.

“We have some categories that are still out for the wind storm, actually, of 2008; some from the ice storm; and a small claim left from the third disaster, of August 4th 2009,” says Hamilton.

Hamilton says he’s confident the money will be paid.

Individuals may also apply for disaster relief funds for any uninsured flood damage.

Local News Politics

Without State or City Bonds, Kentucky Kingdom Redevelopment Company to Regroup

Louisville businessman Ed Hart will discuss the various options for renovating and re-opening the Kentucky Kingdom theme park Wednesday.

The park closed last year when Six Flags declared bankruptcy. Hart, who owned the park before Six Flags, then proposed a spate of improvements and a plan to re-open the facility by next summer. Hart’s proposal relied on the General Assembly’s approval of a $50 million bond to finance the renovations.

The legislature didn’t take up the issue. Hart then entered into talks with state and local officials about the possibility of Metro Government issuing a $20 million bond for the park, which would still allow for a 2012 re-opening, but without many of Hart’s proposed improvements. Those plans also fell through, though a spokesperson for the Kentucky Kingdom Redevelopment Company says the proposal was one of several put forward.

It’s not known whether the park can still re-open next year. Hart is expected to talk to the media at 10:30 Wednesday morning.