City Tourism sets new budget and discusses events

June 24 – Full-time City Tourism employees will receive a 5% cost-of-living increase, approved during the passage of the City of London Tourism’s 2022-23 budget.

It came during Monday’s regular monthly meeting of the city’s tourism board, with executive director Chris Robinson explaining the increase had been included in the budget which will start on July 1.

The budget lists revenue of $5,196,000, with the local 3% tax on restaurants expected to generate $2.9 million next year. It also lists the Levi Jackson Park pool as generating $10,000, although park manager Steven Holt said the pool has already surpassed that amount this year.

“The budget shows pool revenue at $10,000, but the first month the pool was opened, we’ve already earned $24,000,” Holt said.

The London Community Center’s expected revenue for the coming year was $35,000, while the Levi Jackson campsite and store are expected to generate $525,000 in the coming year. Treetop Adventures is expected to bring in $15,000.

With many projects being discussed for future development, commission members also voted to establish a SWEEP account with a local bank for “Capital Improvements”. This account requires a minimum investment of $50,000 which will increase with interest.

Council members also accepted bids for cleaning services, and Cochrane’s Commercial Cleaning won the bid. Tourism chairman Starr Handy said Cochrane’s initial offer had been renewed and several people had picked up packages, but Cochrane was the only company to submit an offer. The previous bidding process also made Cochrane the sole bidder. The service will include $14 per hour per person and will provide weekly cleaning of the tourist office, with the farmer’s market costing $125 per month. An additional $25 per cleaning fee for cleaning the Farmers Market kitchen was also included in the offer.

Commissioners also heard from CPA Robert Abner, who underlined several notes during a recent audit. Abner added that their audit was usually already complete, but the special audit from the state auditor’s office had delayed their review. Abner listed many of the same items identified by the state audit, but added that most of the items noted had already been fixed. These included the payment of bonuses to employees, incomplete personnel records and undefined salary classifications, and the commission’s failure to submit reports to the Department of Local Government.

“A lot of them have already been fixed,” Abner said. “There was an element related to reporting to the DLG but since you became SPGE, it’s done.”

Another item mentioned in Abner’s audit report was the procurement process, which commissioners voted on a new policy at Monday’s meeting. These policies include:

—According to the adopted budget, requiring the approval of the President of the Commission or a member of the Board appointed by the President, of all expenditures and requiring two signatures of the members of the Board on all cheques;

—All expenditures over $10,000 must be approved by the board prior to purchase;

—The committee chair has discretion to approve items under $10,000;

– All expenditures will be made in accordance with KRS 424.260 and will require bidding for items over $30,000, either in single purchases or in aggregate.

Robinson added that the commission and employees are now accepted into the state health care plan, which also includes state pension contributions.

Mackey Williams, director of parks and recreation, said the pickleball courts are complete and should open on Tuesday, June 21.

“This pickleball court has given me most of my gray hair, but it’s expected to be open for play tomorrow,” Williams told the commissioners.

With the takeover of the state park from City of London ownership, the commissioners discussed obtaining new signage to reflect the change in ownership. Currently, signs still point to Levi Jackson State Park. Commissioner Mike Holt said widening US 25 near the park entrance was to remove the rock pillars and set them back farther down the park road. But signage on KY 229 still reflects state park ownership which another commissioner said needed to be changed. Tourism officials are currently set for a conference this week with branding specialists and discussions about what the state Department of Transportation plans for new signage at the entrance to US 25 will take place. soon.

The downtown concert kicked off on June 3, with one of the largest crowds attending the opening of this year’s concert series. Robinson said the next concert is scheduled for Friday July 1 and will feature an 1980s theme. Phil Smith, who is a tourism commissioner but also organizes the annual Red White & Boom event, said things are going well with some additional attractions this year.

“We have more food vendors than ever, we have contests, and this year we’re going to have two Black Hawk helicopters instead of just one,” Smith said. “Our entertainment will be Nick Black Band and Brennan Villines. McKane, which is Brooks Kidd’s band, will open the entertainment.”

Smith said regular features of the Independence Day celebration would return — stilt walkers, inflatables, skydivers, and hula hoop and limbo contests.

“Of course, fireworks were more expensive this year, so we reduced our spending in other areas to keep the fireworks the same,” he said. “We bill this event as the largest fireworks display in Southeast Kentucky, so we didn’t want to cut those.”

Smith added that the fireworks show starts with a big fireworks display, followed by 20 seconds of silence. He became emotional as he explained this process, paying tribute to his late brother, Randy, who started the Red White & Boom event years ago. Randy Smith was a long-time director of the Laurel County Chamber of Commerce in London and organized the Christmas on Main and Red White & Boom parade. Smith died after a battle with cancer in 2010 – ironically on the very date of the Christmas parade that year.

“We always shoot one firework and then wait about 20 seconds for the next one to go off,” he said in a hushed voice. “That one is for Randy because he’s the one who worked so hard to organize this celebration. So if you hear people asking why there’s a delay, you can tell them the first one is for Randy.”

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