GLASGOW – Barren County Judge-Executive Michael Hale addressed the Glasgow City Council on Monday about a concept calling for a proposed judicial center and downtown park in the same area.
The location consists of roughly 5.82 acres and is one block west of the downtown public square between West Main and West Front streets.
Hale told the council he has been talking to Wes Simpson, chairman of the Downtown Park Committee, about the idea of locating the projects in the same area for the past several months.
“We’ve been trying to find a way to make this work,” Hale said.
Included along with the judicial center would be an amphitheater, the Bounty of the Barrens’ farmers’ market, a splash pad and a playground.
“Again, this is just a concept,” he said.
Hale presented the council with a conceptual drawing and said the space is large enough to do it all. Not included in the conceptual drawing are two businesses now located in the space. One is the Dollar General store at West Main and Ford streets.
Hale said a portion of Ford Drive would also have to be closed in order to make the project work.
“I would like to see Water Street there between the farmers’ market and the splash pad and the playground closed and just to make it one big area,” Hale said.
Hale invited Tom Potts, lead architect with Silling Architects, the architectural firm working on the judicial center project, to speak to the council. The judicial center will likely be a three-story building and all of the public areas of the building would face a green space, which would easily be viewed by motorists traveling toward the public square along West Main Street, he said.
“That truly would be to my mind a very powerful, real entry gate into the city,” Potts said.
The conceptual drawing showed roughly 156 public and 30-plus staff parking spaces.
Potts also shared information about two projects similar to what Hale is proposing that involve bringing state and community projects together. One was in Pulaski County, and the other was in Pike County.
Councilman Patrick Gaunce asked Simpson if he thought the concept made sense to him from the standpoint of a new city park.
“I absolutely believe this is something we can work with,” Simpson said, adding he thought there were some aspects of the project that need to be tweaked, but that it was something that was very workable and beautiful. He also said he would like the plans be presented to the Downtown Park Committee.
Gaunce, too, said he thought it needed to be presented to the Downtown Park Committee and then brought back to the council.
Councilman Joe Trigg asked if the design-build request for proposal the city council approved in June would be put on hold while it considered the new concept for the project.
The RFP, which has not been advertised, could be amended to reflect the new concept or an addendum on the RFP could be sent to potential bidders, Simpson said.
There was also a question regarding the amount of seating available in the amphitheater with the new design. The amphitheater’s seating is not likely to change much. Originally, the Downtown Park Committee was looking to seat 4,000 people in the amphitheater, but with the new concept of the project, the amphitheater will likely seat 3,250 to 3,500 people. The plus side of losing amphitheater seating is gaining public parking spaces.
The second and third portions of the project involve the existing Barren County Courthouse and Barren County Government Center.
Councilman Joe Trigg questioned what would happen to the courthouse.
Hale explained that every office currently located at the county government center would move to the courthouse. Those offices are county clerk, sheriff, property valuation administrator, drug task force and judge-executive.
“By the time this AOC (Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts) project is done, you, the taxpayers, will owe roughly $750,000 on (the) courthouse,” Hale said. “Currently, we are putting money back to where we can pay that off as soon as we take ownership of it. That way we will own it free and clear because we have already paid off our government center.”
The county government center would then become a business incubator.
“That’s the vision that I have,” Hale said.
The judge-executive would also ask the council to consider the sale of 3.88 acres spanning from West Main to West Front streets for the project, he said.
An appraisal on the land has been conducted. Hale declined to share what the appraisal price of the land is for fear it may effect the price of land around it.
City Attorney Danny Basil told Hale that aspect of the project would have to discussed in closed session, but Hale said he was not interested in meeting in closed session. The judge-executive also said that if the county came to the council with such a proposal, the price of the 3.88 acres would be at fair market value.
Trigg asked for clarification on who would actually be purchasing the 3.88 acres.
“It would be the state purchasing it on behalf of the county,” Hale said.
Gaunce then asked if the county would maintain the project if the state purchases the land on behalf of the county.
“No, but what we would do is give a lifetime use agreement for that amphitheater and that farmer’s market,” Hale said.
Councilwoman Chasity Lowery questioned the judge-executive about the county’s interest in purchasing the land for the amphitheater and the farmers’ market.
“We’re just trying to help out the city of Glasgow,” Hale said, adding the judicial center project would not only help the downtown project with the amphitheater and the farmers’ market, but it will also help the city of Glasgow.
Councilman Terry Bunnell asked if the 2.2 acres the city council voted to sell to the county for the judicial center project would no longer be needed under the new design, and Hale said that would be correct if the new concept for the project was chosen.
Bunnell also asked if the park project is not approved will the county move forward with the judicial center in the location that was presented Monday night.
“It is my hope that we make these projects work,” Hale said. “I think it would be very detrimental to our community if we don’t make these two projects work.”
He also said the new concept could be the “shot in the arm” the community needs.
No action was taken Monday on the new concept for the project. Hale was asked to have a proposal to present to the council at its next meeting.