The Murray City Council unanimously passed the first reading of a new ordinance to accept the $1,637,141 gifted from the state transportation department for the altering of U.S. Highway 121.
The discussed funds will be used by Murray for the relocation of electric and cable utilities to allow the converting of north U.S. Highway 121, from U.S. 641 to North 16th Street and from North 16th Street to the Old Coldwater Road intersection, into a five-lane highway.
These funds and the Highway 121 Five Lane Project were made possible by the passing of House Bill 267 by Kentucky’s House legislators in March 2012.
The bill allocated $10,090,000 for major roadwork, construction plans and bridge replacements in Murray-Calloway County in 2012, $3,010,000 for 2013 and $585,000 scheduled to be utilized for local projects in 2014. This money is part of a larger $3.5 billion budget for similar road plans across the state.
The council also discussed the acquiring of 2.2 acres at the corner of Squire and Robertson roads to be developed into another fire station to allow the Murray Fire Department easier access and faster response times to the south side of Murray.
The city council also voted at its last meeting to increase pay for certified firefighters and police officers. The plan, presented by Matt Mattingly, city administrator, would increase the pay of these professions by $2,080 beginning Dec. 6, and again by the same amount on July 1, 2014.
Mattingly said the salaries of Murray’s firefighters and police officers are below the national average according to the data he had been tasked with collecting. He said increasing pay will make those professionals more likely to stay in Murray and not seek employment elsewhere.
The council voted to pass the first reading of this plan unanimously. This increase in salary would represent a $2 increase in their hourly wage.
To pay for the increase in local police officer and firefighter salaries, it would cost the city an additional $110,000 annually. In part to help balance this, and other amendments made to the city’s budget, the council next discussed levying a tax on all property in the city.
The floor was given over to any citizens wishing to comment on the proposed tax rate for 2013 before a vote was cast.
Carolyn Marcum was the only citizen to step forward and said she thinks with the way the economy is, and with additional costs families must pay, this is not a good time to increase taxes on the citizens of Murray. She said the city council was able to balance its budget last year without the additional taxes.
Mayor Bill Wells said the city has incurred a number of additional costs not present last year, necessitating the tax.
The ordinance was put to a vote after the public hearing and its second reading and passed with a vote of 8-4 with Danny Hudspeth, Pete Lancaster, Greg Taylor, F. T “Butch” Sergeant, Jason Pittman, Mike Faihst, Pat Scott and Robert Billington Jr. voting for and Jeremy Bell, Linda Cherry, Dan Miller and Jane Shoemaker voting against.
The ordinance, now passed, will result in the collection of 42.6 cents for every $100 of a property’s appraisal value.
Shoemaker said that while she hopes and wants the firefighters and police officers to receive the increase to their salaries, she thinks there are other ways the city could explore to raise the money without increased taxation.
Story by Ben Manhanke, Assistant News Editor