Editor's note: This story was updated at 9:48 a.m. on Sept. 14 to correct that Richard Rosen did not rescind his offer to pay for the trees.
The city commission indicated that it would keep its property tax rate the same as last year’s, 19.6 cents per $100 assessed, at its Monday night meeting.
City staff and elected officials stressed that they were not raising the property tax rate although the potential compensating rate — a rate that if applied to the current year's assessment of taxable property excluding new property would produce approximately the same amount of revenue as the preceding year — was calculated at 18.8 cents.
City Manager Laura Hagg said that a second reading of the tax rate, making it final, would likely take place in October.
Parks and trees
Frankfort Parks Director Shawn Pickens and Parks Arborist Alex Cunningham presented on a tree planting plan that the department plans to implement along streets in downtown that have public rights-of-way.
City staff emphasized that this proposal was just phase one of a potentially much larger plan.
A larger tree plan for the city had been completed by Urban Canopy Works well over two years ago, and was previously advocated for by local engineer and philanthropist Richard Rosen. Rosen donated $80,000 to purchase the trees that will be planted by the city.
That plan included most all of downtown and South Frankfort.
Cunningham said that she plans to have a Request for Proposals (RFP) ready for the commission to approve by its October meeting.
“It’s an economic development opportunity,” Hagg said. “… It’s going to be really unique to just have a walking trail where you can see different types of trees throughout Frankfort.”
On a related note, Pickens also presented on the most prominent ‘low-hanging fruit’ recommendation from the city’s recently completed Parks Master Plan: the use of a parks foundation to accept donations for city parks projects.
The parks foundation funds would be set up through the Bluegrass Community Foundation, whose Director of Community Advancement Jane Higgins was present to field questions.
The parks foundation would be composed of three funds. One would be an endowed fund, meant to be invested and pay out at 5% each year to go towards regular maintenance costs. Another non-endowed fund would specifically be for the tree plan, which Pickens said would likely be an ongoing and several-year project. A third fund would be similarly non-endowed, which could go towards specific projects or to generally benefit.
Higgins said that she had previously worked with Frankfort Mayor Layne Wilkerson, and was excited to help with the parks department’s efforts.
David Garza, a mobility and parking specialist with Walker Consultants who helped complete the city’s recent downtown parking study, was on hand to present updates to the city commission regarding his group’s findings.
Garza emphasized that downtown Frankfort has a solid parking stock, both public and private, but that it needs to do a better job of encouraging and informing drivers to use certain parking space, particularly the Ann Street parking garage along the Kentucky River.
Commissioner Leesa Unger posed a question about how the city would go about encouraging more people to park inside such off-street garages.
Planning Director Eric Cockley said that the city might consider allowing residents of the area to purchase relatively cheap permits along low-volume parking streets or those off-street garages.
Wilkerson suggested that one possibility while the city is trying to get more people in the garage could be to make parking there free of charge.
“I don’t see how we can charge people to park there when the occupancy is so low,” Wilkerson said.
Garza mentioned that it might be a good idea to continue to charge there to help fund improvements to the garage to make it more attractive.
“It seems like we’ve got plenty of parking,” Commissioner Kelly May said. “A lot of it is on the informational side… at the end of the day, we just need to let people know how to get there.”
Hagg suggested that staff could present a report on the revenue collection potential for parking at its next meeting.
The city commission also received an update from City Grants Manager Rebecca Hall, who informed the group that she plans to bring a grant application before them for the creation of a trail that would connect an existing trail along Wilkinson Boulevard all the way to Cove Spring Park. The grant would be funded through the Federal Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP).
The city’s strategic initiatives consultant Penny Peavler presented on a proposal for the city to lease out a portion of the first floor of the old Frankfort Plant Board building, which the city owns at the intersection of Second Street and Conway Street, to the Yes Arts program.
The Yes Arts program provides art classes and programs to the community, particularly to children and adults in recovery.
Peavler said that allowing Yes Arts to operate there, as the building they previously worked out of on Shelby Street was sold, would play a key role in getting the City to fulfill some goals stated in its approved Arts Master Plan.
The city looked at how to “activate” that plan and improve overall access to the arts for Frankfort residents, and Peavler said that this proposal appeared to be a way of making that happen.
“This investment in the arts will result in a positive impact on economic development and will result in a vibrant and thriving City,” Peavler said. “This initial step with the creation of a dedicated space, in a public building, for arts education, administration, and display helps the community deliver the Arts Masterplan goal of reflecting the people of Frankfort and delivering a vision for a creative city where all are welcome and included.”
The lobby area and a few rooms on the first floor would be leased by Yes Arts for about $400 per month for a year’s term.
As an action item, Frankfort Police Chief presented on a proposal to recruit folks leaving military service to the department. The program, called Skillbridge, is an agreement between the City of Frankfort and the Department of Defense.
The agreement would add FPD as a potential employer in a list accessible by someone about to leave service in the military. The military would continue to pay a police recruit’s salary while they train, as opposed to the city footing that bill.
All members of the commission voted to approve the program.