Thursday, April 22, 2010

Council to discuss budget Mon.; denial of request for proposal is appealed to attorney general

The Midway City Council has scheduled a special meeting for 5:30 p.m. Monday, April 26 at City Hall to discuss the proposed city budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The budget discussion was scheduled for the regular meeting this past Monday, but was delayed because Mayor Tom Bozarth was out of town due to the death of his brother-in-law in St. Louis.

Bozarth has given the budget proposal to council members, but has declined to make it public, saying it will not be released until the council adopts it. The Midway Messenger made a written request for a copy of the proposal during the finance committee meeting last week. Bozarth orally denied the request and Council Member Sharon Turner, the committee chair, backed him up. In a written response dated Friday, April 16, Bozarth said the proposed budget is "purely preliminary" and will be released when all council has "taken action that finalizes the budget."

This week the Kentucky Press Association appealed the denial to the attorney general's office, decisions of which have the power of law in open-records and open-meetings matters. The appeal arguues that the exceptions in the Open Records Act for “preliminary drafts” and “preliminary recommendations” are very limited. “Recommendations are by nature preliminary, so the adjective in the latter phrase compounds its limiting nature,” the appeal says. “Likewise, the former phrase does not simply say ‘draft’ or ‘preliminary document,’ but uses two limiting words together. A proposed budget is a document that by nature usually goes through a lengthy process of drafting, consideration and adoption. A proposed budget being circulated among employees of a public agency might be considered a ‘preliminary draft,’ but our position is that it ceases to fit that phrase once it is distributed to and discussed by members of a public agency at a public meeting. After all, a budget is the basic policy document for a government, and KRS 61.871 says, ‘The General Assembly finds and declares that the basic policy of KRS 61.870 to 61.884 [the Open Records Act] is that free and open examination of public records is in the public interest and the exceptions provided for by KRS 61.878 or otherwise provided by law shall be strictly construed, even though such examination may cause inconvenience or embarrassment to public officials or others.’”

Bozarth attached to his written response the first page of an attorney general's opinion that denied a newspaper access to a proposed city budget, but the appeal argues that the opinion does not apply “because that case did not deal with discussions by members of a public agency at a public meeting. Other parts of the law support disclosure of documents being discussed by members of a public agency at a public meeting.” For a PDF of the appeal, click here.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Corman signs Lexington lease for dinner train

A dinner train is likely to run to or through Midway, now that RJ Corman Railroad Group has signed a lease with the Lexington Center Corp. for a track and platform that would serve the train and its customers, Beverly Fortune reported in the Lexington-Herald Leader.

The train "might very well be available for the holiday season," Corman Chairman Fred Mudge told the newspaper. Work cannot begin until completion of the Newtown Pike extension, scheduled for September. Corman operates a dinner train out of Bardstown. (Read more)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Reclassification bill dies with legislative session

The bill that would have Midway a fourth-class city, with more power to regulate sales of alcoholic beverages and collect license fees from those sales, died today as the state Senate abruptly adjourned.

House Bill 325 would have also moved up the fifth-class cities of Guthrie in Todd County and Junction City in Boyle County. Opposition arose to the Junction City provision, so interested legislators agreed to take the bill to a conference committee and remove it, Rep. Carl Rollins, D-Midway, said tonight. However, the Senate adjourned at about 3:30 p.m. after the Republicans who run that chamber decided not to pass the House's proposed continuation budget for the executive branch of state government.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Committee keeping proposed city budget to itself

By Heather Rous
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

At the Midway Finance and City Property Committee meeting on Tuesday, called in part to review the proposed 2010-11 city budget, the proposal was distributed to members but Mayor Tom Bozarth declined to give it to the Midway Messenger.

The meeting was called to discuss revenue streams, reviewing the budget draft, and reviewing any updates on city properties, according to the meeting notice and agenda. However, Bozarth informed the committee that discussion of the budget would be delayed until the meeting of the full city council on Monday, April 19.

“We’ll go over it with everyone on Monday at the meeting and spend some time with it and then come back and go over it again at our first meeting in May,” said Bozarth. “That’s my thought. If you have any questions let me know and I’ll try to answer them to the best of my ability.”

Bozath is not a member of the committee, but committee chair Sharon Turner agreed with the approach.

A copy of the current budget was distributed, and when Al Cross, publisher of the Midway Messenger, asked Bozarth for a copy of the proposed budget, Bozarth declined.

“It’s a proposed budget, Al,” said Bozarth. “So we’ll give you a copy when it’s been approved by council.” He said the council would discuss the budget at its next two meetings, but noted that the budget does not have to be approved until June.

Cross and this reporter then submitted a formal, written request for a copy of the proposed budget. Cross told Bozarth and the committee that the situation represents a gap between the state open-meetings and open-records laws. The request for the budget argues that documents discussed by members of a public agency at a public meeting should be made available for immediate inspection.

“Based on how the laws are written, it’s open for interpretation,” Cross told the officials. “It’s never even been decided by the attorney general.”

The law states that “preliminary drafts” and “preliminary recommendations” are subject to inspection only on court order. Those are very limited phrases, Cross said after the meeting. “Recommendations are by nature preliminary, so the adjective in the latter phrase compounds its limiting nature,” he said, adding:

“A proposed budget being circulated among employees might be considered a ‘preliminary draft,’ but our position is that it ceases to fit that phrase once it is distributed to and discussed by members of a public agency at a public meeting.”

In 2000, the attorney general’s office ruled that a newspaper reporter was not entitled to a copy of a proposed county budget that had been distributed to the Fiscal Court, but not discussed at a court meeting. The draft budget was voluntarily released to the reporter.

Turner said that it was her understanding that she and the other committee member present, Charlann Wombles, were following state law. She said the committee’s understanding has always been that proposed documents, until they’re approved at council, are not subject to open-records laws.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Council budget and streets committees meet Tue.

Two City Council committees have scheduled meetings for Tuesday, April 13. The Finance and City Property Committee will meet at noon at City Hall "to discuss Revenue Streams, review budget draft and review any updates on City Property," the meeting notice says. The Streets and Lights Committee will meet at 5:30 in the upstairs Coimmunity Room to discuss sidewalk issues, which had budget implications last year.

Council seeks zoning amendment for temporary RV campground at Midway Station

The Midway City Council voted at a special meeting this morning to ask the Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Planning and Zoning Commission to amend the county zoning ordinance to allow a temporary recreational-vehicle campground at Midway Station during the World Equestrian Games in late September and early October. The amendment is still being drafted, but Mayor Tom Bozarth said in calling for the motion that it would "allow RVs in all zones at Midway Station."

The vote was 4-0. Council members Aaron Hamilton and Sandra Cooke were absent. (From left: Bozarth and council members Charlann Wombles, Diana Queen, Sharon Turner and Doris Leigh) The motion also asked that a public hearing be held in Midway on April 29. At a recent council meeting, City Attorney Phil Moloney said the ordinance might need to be amended to allow the campground, which was originally set to be located on Margaux Farm in Scott County, just across South Elkhorn Creek (the county line) from the Midway area. Scott County zoning officials blocked the proposal. The star on the MapQuest image below marks the bridge across the creek to Margaux Farm. Midway Station is the area with streets at the northeast corner of the Interstate 64 interchange. It is a failed industrial park that a prospective developer hopes to turn into a commercial and residential development.

Margaux Farm has sued to overturn the Scott County zoning officials' action or be compensated for loss of the campground, but Bozarth said that there is no chance the campground can still be located there. He said Nashville RV dealer Raymond Brody will hire contractors to dispose of sewage from the RVs and has been in discussions with health officials about permits and procedures.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Bill to reclassify Midway as fourth-class city left hanging as legislature adjourns until April 14

Legislation to reclassify Midway as a fourth-class city, giving it more power to manage its own affairs, was among the bills left hanging as the General Assembly adjourned yesterday for almost two weeks. Legislators will return April 14 to reconsider any bills vetoed by Gov. Steve Beshear and pass other legislation that would not be subject to an override of a veto, including an Executive Branch budget.

Among the bills in the balance is House Bill 325, which would move Midway from the fifth to the fourth class of cities. It would do likewise for Guthrie in Todd County and Junction City in Boyle County. It would also move from sixth to fifth class, Sadieville in Scott County and Wurtland in Greenup County. None of the cities appear to meet the minimum population of 3,000 that Section 156 of the state Constitution set for a fourth-class city, but Section 156A repealed that section and gave the General Assembly power to reclassify based on other criteria. The Midway City Council requested the classification. For an item on that, click here.

The bill originally dealt only with new restrictions for the Kentucky League of Cities and the Kentucky Association of Counties, but the Senate amended it to include the classification measures. After considering and then dropping a floor amendment related to the original bill, the Senate passed the bill yesterday, 33-3. The House adjourned without taking up the revised bill, but could pass it on April 14  or 15. However, Rep. Carl Rollins, D-Midway, above, said House leaders have a high threshold for suspending the rules to send Beshear more bills in the veto-override session, and the sponsor of HB 325 is unhappy with what the Senate did to it.