Before a packed house Georgetown mayor Tom Prather rattled off a litany of reasons citizens should feel good about the city — with one caveat.
“An issue we must address is growth,” Prather said during his State of the City address at the Georgetown/Scott County Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon Monday. “I believe our central challenge today, is the same as 32 years ago when I first walked into the mayor’s office.
“How do we balance our economic opportunity with what has made Georgetown a special place for more than two centuries? That question is more relevant today as ever and one we must continue to explore together.”
The challenges presented by record-breaking growth and how the city was meeting those challenges was the theme for much of the mayor’s speech ranging from the need to spent $12.4 million on a public safety communications system to investing $7.5 million in Lanes Run Business Park to expanding congested roads and creating access to I-75.
But the message was overwhelmingly positive.
“The state of our city is dynamic, robust and engaged,” he said on multiple occasions. “It is full of opportunities and a willingness to address the related challenges.”
At the beginning Prather noted he has been in elected office for 35 years, serving on the city council, mayor in the late-1980s, county magistrate and now mayor again. He praised Scott County Judge-Executive George Lusby who was also served during that time in similar positions, although Lusby has been judge-executive for almost three consecutive decades.
The mayor reeled off a list of accomplishments including designations by magazines Money, U.S. News & World Report and Southern Living of Georgetown as a “best” place to live or getaway. He also acknowledged Old Friend’s Farm as the state’s second best attraction behind the Kentucky Horse Park, of which its “best 200 acres rest in Scott County.” He praised the council members, city employees, police, fire, public works and the Georgetown/Scott County Tourism Commission.
He noted Capt. Anne Willett is the city’s first female fire captain and Sgt. Sara Duke is the city’s first female police sergeant.
Through a PowerPoint presentation, the mayor showed a chart with 11 industries making $144.1 million in investments creating almost 700 jobs. He purposely did not include Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky’s $1.33 billion upgrade investment.
“This is an incomplete list, but it represents ongoing job growth,” he said. “It is important to note our tax structure. Our property taxes are so low they present less than 10 percent of our revenue. Our revenue growth is driven by job growth, so we must balance residential growth with jobs.”
Another chart showed Georgetown’s growth patterns from a population of 18,080 in 2000 to 33,440 in 2016. During most of that time Georgetown has been ranked first or second in Kentucky in population growth.
Another chart showed some 728 new business licenses were issued in 2017 — an average of 60 per month, the mayor said.
“This is an indicator of economic health and vibrancy for our community,” Prather said. “But I must repeat. It comes with responsibility.”
Another chart showed the city has built reserves of $20.9 million, and then Prather showed a chart with over 40 projects that are needed. Of those, the mayor singled out three projects of immediate priority.
The first and largest financial investment would be the purchase of a communication network serving all public safety agencies. This would be done through an inter-local agreement with the Scott County Fiscal Court and is estimated to cost some $12.4 million, the largest cooperative project ever between the city and the county.
“The system we have now was purchased used 19 years ago and was never fully installed,” he said. “There are dead spots in our communication system, and they aren’t just in the outlying areas of the county.
“This is something we feel we must do to protect our public safety employees. The life of teh system should be 20 years and the towers we will need to build should last 50 years and may offer some revenue opportunities.”
Improving infrastructure and a road that better connects Lanes Run Business Park with Cherry Blossom Way and I-75 is under way at a cost of $7.5 million.
“Our intention is to do these two projects without incurring any debt,” Prather said.
— Improving and adding turn lanes to Lemons Mill Road at a cost of $735,000. the project was started last year and should be completed this spring. The city, county and state each participated in the project.
—The city has a grant to address traffic and congestion problems at Cardinal Drive and Long Lick Pick, created because five schools are located in the area. A study is underway and the schedule has designs on an improved roadway to begin this summer.
— Sidewalks on West Main Street are needed but this will take time, Prather noted.
“Nothing happens as fast as we would like,” he said.
Finally, Prather warned the pension situation would be expensive. Another chart showed pensions for hazardous duty employees are expected to increase more than 75 percent and non-hazardous employees about 45 percent.
“The problem is real and everyone must have a part in the solution,” he said. “It will be expensive. This is a significant increase and we will feel it as we prepare our budget.”
— The city is working with United Way to create a 2-1-1 information network.
— “Ping,” a citizen portal where problems can be reported among other services will be unveiled this summer.
— The city has a full-service broadcast studio purchased with grant funds. The city will have full control of the studio May 1.
Mike Scogin can be reached at email@example.com.