By HEATHER TOMLINSON CJ Staff Writer
Somerset City Council may soon explore the possibility of converting a downtown Somerset street from a one-way to a two way road.
City Councilor Pat Bourne stated during Monday’s Somerset City Council meeting that he’d been approached by a citizen about making the one-way sections of North Maple Street and South Maple Street into two-way streets to allow for easier access to downtown businesses.
“Someone was wondering why it couldn’t be a two-way street making it accessible getting to the post office and the (Pulaski County Judicial Center),” Bourne said.
South Maple Street, which connects to East Mt. Vernon Street and runs in front of Lynn’s Lunchbox and the judicial center plaza, is a one-way only street starting from its intersection with Market Street and going toward East Mt. Vernon Street. It remains a one way across East Mt. Vernon, where it runs between the Commonwealth Journal office and other downtown buildings. The street becomes a two-way once it intersects with Columbia Street.
Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler said a study could be carried out to determine whether the conversion would be possible.
“Some of the businesses may object,” Mayor Girdler said.
“Someone’s going to object, regardless,” Bourne noted.
Bourne said the issue came about when a citizen complained to him that a person cannot travel from the Somerset Post Office to the judicial center easily. The one-way Maple Street requires that drivers traverse Fountain Square to go from one point to the other.
Mayor Girdler said he would look into a study on the street to determine any future plan of action.
“It’s not a bad idea,” Mayor Girdler said.
In other news from Monday’s city council meeting:
• Councilor Bourne inquired on any updates of the Somerset City Cemetery. The city is in the process of transferring operations and property ownership from the cemetery board, which had overseen the cemetery operations, to the city.
Somerset City Attorney Carrie Wiese said the process to transfer the board’s cemetery trust into the city’s trust is underway and told the council she’ll soon bring the case before them to determine what they’d like to do next.
• Councilor Bourne also asked whether the city should make any quick moves concerning possible annexation along Ky. 914 to the West Ky. 80 area in response to a recent Commonwealth Journal article detailing the annexation plans for Burnside. The southern Pulaski County city has already secured right-of-way annexation up South U.S. 27 to Ky. 914, and had made its intentions known about expanding westward along Ky. 914, but the City of Somerset stepped in to object to the move earlier this year.
Since then, the mayors of both cities — Mayor Girdler and Burnside Mayor Ron Jones — have come to an agreement in which Burnside will back away from their westward annexation plans to allow Somerset to choose what it wants to do about the Ky. 914 and West Ky. 80 area.
Mayor Girdler told Bourne Monday that he chose not to schedule any work sessions on the annexation because the council had stayed busy with plans for the new Somerset Water Treatment Plant.
Groundbreaking for that was held on Tuesday.
Mayor Girdler said more than 20 different options have been prepared for the council to study in a future work session, which he said should be scheduled within the next two to three weeks.
Mayor Girdler emphasized that Burnside will not do anything until Somerset decides what it’s next step will be.
• Councilor Jim Mitchell asked Wiese about any updates on the firefighter back pay issue for the city. Wiese said she’s still awaiting word from the administrative law judge on the case. That judge, she said, is awaiting a response from the Supreme Court to a request that calculations for the back pay be clarified.
“I don’t think we have to wait on that,” Councilor Mitchell said. “We know we owe it, everybody else has already paid it.”
Wiese confirmed that several cities in Kentucky have paid what they owe, but she emphasized that a slightly different calculation would result in the city owing much less than the approximate $400,000 the State Labor Cabinet says the city now owes. A new formula would knock about 2/3 of that amount off, she said.
Wiese also stated that an article detailing the back pay case that ran in the Commonwealth Journal recently had alluded that the city’s attorneys’ fees were quickly approaching what they owe in the case. She said that is incorrect and noted their fees aren’t “anywhere near” the $400,000 they currently owe.
“It’s a fraction of what we would owe,” Wiese said.