OPAC grant tabled

Apr. 3—A $725,000 grant for a new city-operated OPAC facility will be the topic of a special-called meeting of the London City Council.

The four members present for Monday's meeting — Donnie Philpot, Justin Young, Stacy Benge and Kip Jervis — said they wanted to take a vote on the issue when all members of the council could attend. Council members Holly Little and Kelly Greene were absent for Monday's meeting.

The issue arose in January when city/county grant writer Maggie Kluesner said the city could apply for a $2M grant for a new building on city property. The property focused on a section of land currently owned by the A.R. Dyche Cemetery.

Kluesner said the grant was for $725,000 — considerably less than the first announcement of $2 million — but added that the Laurel County Fiscal Court had agreed to split the matching funds of $112,500. That would leave the city and county governments footing $56,250.

The London Cemetery Board submitted a letter to the council regarding the cemetery property proposed for a new OPAC facility. The property proposed for the new building was purchased to expand A.R. Dyche Cemetery, from which the plot sales generate operational funds. Council member Justin Young said he opposed the OPAC located in the cemetery area.

"That property was bought for the expansion of the cemetery," he said. "I'm in favor (of OPAC), just anywhere but there."

Benge voiced his support for the OPAC program, but not in the cemetery property. London Cemetery board member Harold Dyche said locating OPAC on the cemetery property would end $1.5 million income for the cemetery by the loss of plots that they could sell.

London Mayor Randall Weddle said the City doesn't own any other suitable property for that project and that purchasing land would increase the cost.

With two council members absent for Monday's meeting, Benge proposed to table the issue until a full council was present to further discuss that idea. The project was tabled from the March meeting to allow a response by the cemetery board. Weddle discussed scheduling a special meeting to discuss the issue, which could be set for next week.

Council members approved two resolutions — one for creating a splash pad at Levi Jackson Park and allowing UTVs and golf carts on city streets. The vehicles would require the owners to obtain a permit and carry insurance.

Kristie Shrader with Laurel County ASAP (Agency for Substance Abuse Policy) spoke about London applying as a Recovery Ready community. Shrader said the comprehensive list to qualify focuses not just on treatment, but prevention as well.

"One that is dear to my heart is the prevention, which is putting more emphasis on prevention in our community. It would be a more upstream approach, so instead of us going to the bottom of the river and pulling people out and trying to offer them treatment or recovery, we can send a team upstream and figure out why they're falling in the river in the first place," Shrader said.

Part of the information Shrader presented to city council members referenced the opiate abatement funds and tools on how to promote the program. Shrader also addressed the "situation table" which involves discussion of a round-table type to discuss individuals or community sectors that "seem to be stuck in that revolving door."

"Then we'd try to address that with respect and dignity for them so we can help them get out of that revolving door effort and stop the generational case of why they find themselves in that situation that involves substance abuse."

She stressed the importance of reaching children at a young age to teach them the dangers and risks of substance abuse and for the community to take a proactive role in those situations.

Council members approved that motion, authorizing Mayor Randall Weddle to begin the process for that certification.

The Mayor's Office was also authorized to work with Volunteers of America in funding an employee to work in the Laurel area for treatment centers. Council members said the proposal from VOA asked for a 10-year contract. Weddle pointed out that opioid funds would cover the cost for several years, but that the city and county would be responsible to fund the position after that time. Council members voted to allow the Mayor's Office to disperse the funds.

Jane Williams with Parkinsons in Motion addressed the council regarding the 2nd annual 5K/Walk set for April 27. She said the walk route would be the one approved by the London City Police Department. That was approved unanimously.

Independence Day will bring another 5K Walk for the Ladies of the Rhubarb Pie. Karin de la Pena spoke to council members regarding plans for that event, set for July 4 at Farmers Market.

A patriotic parade on the same day is another facet of the event that will take place on the same day. That parade would focus on veterans and children on bikes, she said.

Ladies of the Rhubarb Pie launched several years ago and was centered on helping people in need, although the COVID pandemic stopped several of their events.

"Our mission is to help those in need in our community," she said. "We started by helping mostly grandparents raising their grandchildren about seven years ago. We have a Derby party, we have a Halloween party, and have had pie contests in the past."

de la Pena added that many people "fall through the cracks" by not qualifying for assistance, but still struggle. School supplies, air conditioning units, washers and dryers and other needs are some of the assistance the group supply as funding allows, she said.

A 5K Walk is a popular activity that would accent their fundraising. That action was approved unanimously.

Another 5K run/walk for the Kiwanis Club was approved for Saturday, June 1.