Main Street under fire

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Organization president touts its value at council meeting

By Linda Ireland

Main Street President Larry Davis presented a lengthy speech about the benefits of the Main Street/Renaissance program to Hodgenville City Council Monday night.

He listed numerous ways the volunteer downtown preservation organization has improved the city through community programs, a new restaurant, grants for the downtown and partnerships with other groups. He also described the importance of Main Street’s contribution to the Lincoln Bicentennial. Volunteers contributed about 1,500 hours to the city last year, he said.

As he finished speaking, he asked Mayor Terry Cruse to sign the group’s annual recertification and report for the state that must be postmarked by Feb. 13.

“You and I have worked together well in the past,” Davis told Cruse. “We’ve had a bump here recently and I think we can put that behind us and continue to work together as a partnership.”

Cruse balked. By the end of the meeting, he had not agreed to sign the form, although he did ask for a meeting with Davis and interim Main Street manager Celia McDonald on Tuesday. He also asked the council to change Main Street’s articles of incorporation. He wants to alter the makeup of the group’s executive committee to consist of himself, along with two council members, Main Street president, Main Street manager, Main Street treasurer and city treasurer.

He’d like the group to meet 30 minutes before every council meeting to work out any issues.

He offered to sign the recertification if the council complied with the request.

The council did not take action on the mayor’s request, but Cruse and Davis took the opportunity to air their differences.

Cruse cited problems between Main Street and his office, with the group’s articles of incorporation and accountability. He said the group does not communicate well or cooperate with city hall. He was also dissatisfied with the group asking him to sign the form “in the 11th hour.” In the past, he said, he has had more time to look over the information.

“I’d like for us to get along, but at this moment, I don’t know how we’re gonna get along,” said Cruse.

Davis said the report wasn’t finished timely because of budget-crunching concerns. Main Street is funded by the city to the tune of $2,000 monthly. The group’s budget was cut by $500 per month for the remainder of the fiscal year in December.

McDonald said the ice storm – which knocked out power to about 90 percent of the county – and a family emergency also delayed the report.

Cruse took Davis to task over a letter to the editor he wrote to The LaRue County Herald News last week. The letter dealt with possible violations of the Open Meetings Law and a disagreement with the mayor. The Main Street executive board held an emergency meeting about the budget cut without providing media or all members 24-hours notice. Cruse called the Herald News to question the legality of the meeting. The call resulted in a news article about the situation.

Davis said he wrote the letter to the newspaper because he doesn’t feel he got to tell his side of the story and had been asked for details by several people.

He said the mayor should have approached him about the Open Meetings question instead of “going to the newspaper.”

The men differed on the basis of their disagreement.

Davis said Cruse “started it by calling the newspaper.”

Cruse said the problems stemmed from Main Street never giving the city recognition for programming.

Councilwoman Rita Williams, who also serves on the Main Street board, disagreed, saying, “We’re trying to make you look good.”

Williams was concerned that Main Street would be disbanded by the council.

“Are we thinking of what is best for the city, Mayor?” she asked. “A lot of us have given 20 to 30 years of time and energy and money for the benefit of the community ... It upsets me greatly to think that we could destroy it in one meeting.”

Williams said if her volunteer efforts weren’t appreciated, “(I’m) not going to give my time – I’ll go home.”

“That’s everybody’s prerogative,” Cruse replied.

Davis apologized several times and expressed a desire to work things out with the mayor. Cruse said he was “leery” about being left out of the information pool.

“I want Main Street to prosper and I want it to work but at this point I don’t know how to make it happen,” said Cruse.

He added that he didn’t “want any more letters put in the mail against me or me against you and we’ll all move forward.”

Cruse also requested that the Main Street office be moved to city hall. McDonald said it was convenient for her office to remain on Lincoln Square where she was surrounded by people who could answer questions as she learned her new job.

Councilman Otis Smith asked Davis and former Main Street president Iris LaRue what they thought of the mayor’s proposal to reconfigure the executive board. Both declined comment.

Councilman James Phelps Jr. said he doesn’t see a need to change the articles of incorporation as “checks and balances” already exist in the document.

After the council meeting

On Tuesday, Cruse said some headway was made at the Monday meeting. He was surprised that few people on the council, as well as Main Street members, “knew nothing about the articles of incorporation and what the city’s stance is on it.”

“It is not now nor has it ever been my intent to do away with Main Street,” he added. “Their budget has been cut by $500 a month, but I still am paying all their administrative bills.”

He planned to sign the letter of commitment for Main Street after meeting with McDonald and Davis as long as the group agrees to:

•Abide by the articles of incorporation as members of the council requested.

•Works as partners with him and the city for a better future.

•Put behind the mutual animosity that has been exhibited by both parties.

•Have a representative – either the president or manager of Main Street – deliver a report to City Council monthly.

•Bring its finances into the city’s auditing system as requested by auditors. Main Street is in the process of doing this.

“When I took office, I ran on the promise that I would run the city as a business. I feel I and my staff have done a good job in achieving that goal,” Cruse said. “It is not always popular and in many cases stirs up controversy – but nevertheless needs to be done."