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Bardstown City Council debates, cuts funding for HRB administrator position

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Bardstown Mayor Bill Sheckles gestures during a discussion of funding for the HRB administrator’s position.

By JIM BROOKS
Nelson County Gazette

Tuesday, June 11, 2013, 11:54 p.m. — Funding for the Historic Review Board administrator’s position was again a point of contention as the Bardstown City Council considered first reading of the city’s $42.5 million 2013-14 budget.

Councilman Francis Lydian said there was some confusion at last week’s working session regarding the budget allocation for the Historic Review Board (HRB) administrator’s salary. After some initial confusion regarding what part of the budget line item would be reduced, Lydian said he wanted to reduce the funding for the administrator’s pay from $47,500 to $37,000. That level of funding would still be higher the funding for the position in prior years’ budgets when Pen Bogert served as part-time HRB administrator

The funding line for the administrator’s job includes a $17,500 Heritage Council grant the city believes it will receive to help fund the position. Reducing the funding would not affect the city’s ability to match the Heritage Council grant, Lydian said.

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Councilmen Tommy Reed, left, and Roland Williams look over the city’s proposed 2013-14 budget during Tuesday night’s council meeting.

LETTER QUESTIONS CITY’S COMMITMENT TO HISTORIC PRESERVATION. Mayor Bill Sheckles read aloud a letter he had received from the Kentucky Tourism, Arts & Heritage Cabinet regarding the funding for the HRB administrator position.

The letter noted that Bardstown is one of 23 Certified Local Government programs in Kentucky. The CLG is a local, state and federal partnership that promotes historic preservation and the protection of historic resources.

“Bardstown has been a CLG since 1986, and there’s no doubt the community has benefited from its CLG designation,” the letter said. CLG grants and funding have contributed to the city’s historic preservation efforts.

The letter noted that former administrator Pen Bogert’s work in that position far exceeded the part-time pay he was received at the time and recommended the city return the position to full-time status.

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Councilmen Francis Lydian and John Royalty look over some figures during discussions Tuesday night of the city’s proposed $42.5 million 2013-14 budget.

The letter noted that it is difficult to find a part-time administrator with the training required to be effective in the job. “You were lucky to find Pen, and we feel you are unlikely to find another part-time employee with the same qualifications and experience,” the letter stated.

Sheckles read another letter he received about the issue from Planning & Zoning Administrator Jan Johnston.

Johnston said she was recently contacted by the Kentucky Heritage Council in regard to the City of Bardstown’s pending grant application. “The Kentucky Heritage Council is very concerned about Bardstown’s commitment to historical preservation and its preservation ethic,” Johnston stated in the letter.

Several issues have raised the council’s concerns, including the de-certification of the Bardstown Main Street program, the potential loss of the Anatok mansion on West John Fitch Avenue, and the council’s position on funding the HRB administrator’s position.

“For us to squabble about the amount of money in the budget is really splitting hairs,” Scheckles said. Failing to continue the city’s record of historic preservation doesn’t make sense, Sheckles said.

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Councilman Joe Buckman gestures as he explains the importance the HRB administrator’s position is to historic preservation in Bardstown.

COUNCIL UNMOVED. Councilman John Royalty told Sheckles he felt the letters he had read had been solicited. “In all my time on the council, I have never heard or read the type of letters we have seen and heard here tonight, with them threatening us? I don’t like that,” he said. “Those letter are solicited, and I think its a shame.”

Royalty noted that earlier city budgets had allocated between $25,000 and $29,000 for the administrator’s position under Pen Bogert, and there were no letters complaining about funding for the position.

“I think we need to stay at $37,000,” he said of the funding for the administrator’s position. “It’s about a $10,000 increase.”

Councilman Joe Buckman asked the other councilmen who wanted to reduce the HRB funding how they thought they could recruit someone with the qualifications and experience at that level of pay. “Somebody please explain that to me,” Buckman asked. “With the amount of time involved with this job, are we going to go forward or are we going to go backward?

“You don’t understand the advantages of what we have here in this town,” Buckman said. “The economic impact is phenomenal. If you don’t understand that, then youy haven’t been paying attention to what’s going on here.”

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Councilman John Royalty raises his hand as he waits to comment on the city’s proposed $42.5 million 2013-14 budget.

Buckman’s frustration was evident as he pleaded with the council to fully fund the HRB position, noting the current administrator is willing and capable of filling the job.

“We just can’t stand to not fund this job,” Buckman said. “We’re splitting hairs over money here? I don’t think its a money thing, I think there’s other things involved here, and its said that it is.”

Lydian said he just felt the HRB administrator’s job did not require a full-time position.

The fact that this council voted not to hire a full-time person,” Simpson said. “Now all of a sudden, we’re talking about hiring another one. What happened to that vote?”

Sheckles explained he allocated the money in the budget to help find a qualified person for the job. “All I’m asking is that appropriate enough money in this budget to get a qualified person for this job,” he said. “I think
we’re being short-sighted as a council, but that’s you guys’ call if you want to be short-sighted.”

Councilman Tommy Reed said he had a problem with the HRB administrator’s job description because it also included planning and zoning duties. “We had no in-kind money coming from the county to help pay for that,” he said.

Sheckles finally asked the council to simply come up with the number they wished to submit in the budget for the HRB position.

“You all put in the budget what you want to for the HRB position, and next year we’ll see where that takes us,” he told the council.

Councilman Roland Williams noted he supported making the HRB position full-time; in the interest of reaching consensus he asked the council members to come up with a figure they could live with “so we can get on with our budget.”

Councilman John Royalty suggested $37,000, which includes the total the city may receive from a pending $17,500 grant.

“For that kind of money, you’ll spend an entire year trying to find someone to fill this job,” Buckman said.

After additional discussion, the four councilmen who wanted to cut the HRB allocation agreed to raised the funding to $40,000. Even after a compromise on the funding reduction, Royalty, Lydian, Reed and Simpson were concerned about their vote earlier this year to make the job part-time.

Reed asked if the HRB administrator’s job was part of the city’s job classification plan, and if so, was it classified as full-time or part-time. Larry Green, assistant city administrator said the job was not part of the city’s classification plan.

The council completed first reading of the budget, and will hold second and final reading of the budget at its meeting on Tuesday, June 25, 2013.

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