Commissioner focuses on positive city improvements

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By Mark Mattmiller

It is an interesting phenomenon that negative information and comments always get more attention than the positive. As a people, we just seem to dwell on the negative. As Grandma used to say, “bad news travels fast.” Surely we have heard a lot of negatives about our city over the past few years, and certainly, some of it is deserved. Nonetheless, it is my belief, that this would be a great time to highlight some positive accomplishments of the City of Cynthiana.

First, I would point to the extraordinary turnaround of our water treatment facilities. Our water situation has been blamed over and again as the reason that industry would not locate in Cynthiana, but this can no longer be said. Under the supervision of Harry Johnson, the plant has moved to the top, and has been nominated as this year’s Kentucky Water Treatment Plant of the year! A grant for $800,000 from the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority has been obtained to install new pumps and upgrade the system with state-of-the-art technology at Devil’s Backbone where we are now pumping water from the Main Licking. Work should begin in July, and when it is completed, Cynthiana will be second to none in water supply, efficiency, and purity. Commissioner Tommy Clayton was instrumental in getting Harry Johnson here and Commissioner (now Mayor) Jack Keith has supervised much of the turnaround.

The new Wastewater (sewage) Plant is running efficiently and being kept spanky-clean by supervisor Kenneth McCarter.

In March, the city hired Gary Royalty as Director of Public Works and Utilities. Mr. Royalty is an engineer, and a businessman as well. He coordinates the work of the Water Treatment, Wastewater, and Public Works departments. His contributions to the city have already started to show in a big way. He has extraordinary organizational skills and a relentless work ethic. Under his supervision, and with the help of Public Works Supervisor Alan Moody Swinford, the old wastewater site that got us in hot water with the EPA has been cleaned up. A Water Distribution Team has been established to take a pro-active stance to the maintenance and repair of our aging infrastructure. Mr.Royalty and his crew have completed hundreds of other projects and repairs in a timely manner.

The City employed David Kennedy as a part-time Administrative Assistant to oversee special projects and grants. Dave is an architect by education and his services, abilities, and gifts for dealing with the public are unequaled. He is currently overseeing the completion of the Main Street sidewalk project and the $247,000 Safe Routes to School project. We are lucky to have Dave!

The city has purchased new trucks, new cruisers, and new tools, while getting rid of a lot of junk. We have a new Police Chief (Ray Johnson) and a new Fire Chief (Jay Sanders) who are both working overtime to reorganize their departments and upgrade their equipment.

Then, of course, there is the code enforcement issue. There has been much accomplished in this area, but there is more to do. Two commissioners, the code enforcement officer and the city clerk are now working to reorganize and streamline the whole process. We believe we are making progress!  It is an important first step to have our city looking good.

Finally, this commission has a firm commitment to inform and educate the citizenry about exactly what is going on. The issues are being discussed in an open format and in front of the television at every meeting. Transparency is stressed and since January 1, 2009, no decision has been made behind closed doors. Advertisements and letters have been sent to the paper (look for the code violation notice in the Shopper). All phone lines have been open. During the last four months, the commission has operated with cohesiveness and a sense of cooperation even with the absence of a mayor.

Most of the recent initiatives that we have implemented have been costly, but it is the feeling of this commission that we must be prepared to function without a misstep if the economic conditions get worse. We are moving to create an efficient city government that can get through bad times and prosper during the good times. We hope that our efforts will be seen as positives and somehow, eventually prevail over the negatives.