Where should Berea go from here? It’s a question Mayor Bruce Fraley and members of the Berea City Council pondered during a recent brainstorming session with facilitators from the Kentucky League of Cities. With input from the public, officials hope to craft a strategic plan that can be used as a blueprint for the city’s future.
The meeting took place last Monday when officials outlined some preliminary goals, then made plans to host public meetings to seek input and encourage a community-wide discussion about the city’s strategic plan.
Among the top goals mentioned at the session was the completion of Phase II of the Berea Bypass. Mayor Fraley noted that is an especially important objective because it has the potential to spur economic development while easing some traffic issues in the center of town.
Steve Caudill, meanwhile, named developing a long-term plan for both the former Tolle building and the Berea Welcome Center as a high priority, noting said plan will impact the city’s overall tourism and hospitality strategy.
Jerry Little expressed concern about roads, stating the city needs to make plans to deal with future infrastructure costs and needs, since Berea has many miles of streets and sidewalks to maintain. Little, who chairs the council’s Public Works Committee, has raised concerns about the growing costs of maintaining streets and other infrastructure.
Emily LaDouceur cited social issues as a priority, suggesting the city should dedicate resources for addressing issues like local homelessness as well as helping disadvantaged individuals gain entry in to the workforce. In addition, LaDouceur said finding ways to reduce employee turnover in the Berea Police Department should also be pursued.
As chair of the council’s Economic Development Committee, Jim Davis said attracting new retailers, such as a major grocery store, is a worthy goal. How difficult that will be to achieve was a matter of speculation, however. LaDouceur asserted, for example, that without the ability to sell alcohol in their stores, it may be challenging to attract a major grocery store to come to Berea. But Steve Caudill interjected that a recent study contracted by the city indicated Berea could support another grocery store.
Another high priority identified by council members is securing future water resources by completing the Owsley Fork dam improvement project. Currently the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has given the go-ahead to draft a building plan to raise the dam, though final approval for construction is still pending.
On the topic of Berea’s energy policy, Caudill said that due to the complex nature of the electric power issues, the council should begin the process in 2019 for selecting an energy provider, though Berea’s current arrangement with American Municipal Power will not expire until 2024. The city’s agreement with Kentucky Municipal Energy Agency (KyMEA) for transmission is contracted on a year-to-year basis.
Addressing economic development, Ronnie Terrill raised two issues. First, he said he would like to revisit the use of the restaurant tax funds to focus on bringing more foot traffic into Berea, and to find ways to promote the city’s image as business and development friendly.
While officials explored a number of possible priorities Monday, the next important step will be to seek the input of the public by staging one or more public meetings. In the meantime, Bobbie Bryant and Tad Long of the Kentucky League of Cities said they’ll resubmit a draft a list of some of the priorities discussed in preparation for a public meeting. The date, location and time of the meeting has yet to be announced.