Thursday, March 22, 2007

Fletcher’s “Leadership” is Garbage

This situation is ludicrous. Lexington is our showcase city. Why is our Governor ignoring this disgrace?

From the Lexington Herald-Leader:

Trash of all shapes and sizes clogs the little stream that flows behind Home Depot and Perkins Restaurant and in front of Lexington Mall along Richmond Road. Shopping carts poke up out of the water. Caught in bushes along the banks are beer cans, soda bottles, car batteries, mega-size plastic jugs and fast-food containers. A hubcap, planks, a printer and old tires stick out of the mud. In places, the trash floats on the surface of the water, caught in a sheet of slime. "I'm just appalled," Natasha Collins, senior environmentalist with the county health department, said yesterday as she walked along the stream.

The vacant Lexington Mall, long a source of frustration for the city, is causing new concerns about trash and pollution. Trash from the stream has been known to wash into the reservoir across the street during heavy rains. The city is sending a code-enforcement officer to the property today to investigate pollution of the stream, which runs between the edge of the Lexington Mall property and Richmond Road.

State road officials say the stream is the city's responsibility. A city spokesman said cleaning up the area is already on a list of projects for a cleanup crew from the jail. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the mall's owner said he shares concerns that the mall has become an eyesore. He said the mall will be redeveloped, though he declined to say what shape the redevelopment will take.

Yesterday, the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department sent Collins and an environmental team to the property after the Herald-Leader received complaints about rats being sighted there. No rats were spotted, but along a stream flowing near the back of the mall property, the health department team found an abundance of holes that were identified as rodent burrows. Packets of anti-coagulant that cause rats to bleed to death internally were stuffed into each hole. "You aren't going to see rats running around the parking lot at 1 o'clock in the afternoon.

They come out at night," said Jim Rebmann, the city's environmental planner. He said he recently spotted a rat in the mall parking lot. "When you get an abandoned building, no persons in there except for an occasional street person, rats will be there undisturbed," Rebmann said.

Kentucky American Water voiced concerns yesterday about trash from Lexington Mall that is flushed during rainstorms through a culvert under Richmond Road, into Reservoir No. 1, owned by the water company. "Oh, absolutely we see the trash," Susan Lancho, water company spokeswoman, said. "It's an ongoing challenge. We had guys out there this week cleaning up around the reservoir."

The reservoir is not a regular source of the city's drinking water. The last time it was tapped as a water source was 1999, she said. Debris from the Lexington Mall property can potentially flow through reservoirs 1, 2, and 3, into Hickman Creek, eventually winding up in the Kentucky River, Lancho said. The mall has been cited in the past for litter in the parking lot and pond in front of the mall, said David Jarvis, the city's director of code enforcement. "We've sent crews out there to clean it up," he said.

The health department issued this statement yesterday: "We are concerned about the area and are working with other agencies to determine who is responsible for cleaning up the site."

The trash-filled stream, which flows behind Home Depot and across the front of the mall property, is on a 34-foot right-of-way owned by the state, said Steve Farmer, branch manager in the highway department's district office in Lexington. The state entered an agreement with local municipalities several years ago in which the state maintains the traveled right-of-way, Farmer said. "The cities maintain the rest." The stream flowing beside Richmond Road is the responsibility of the city of Lexington, he said. Lexington Mall is owned by Saul Holdings. Yesterday, company vice president Chris Netter, reached by telephone, was asked if he was concerned that the shopping center property had become a community eyesore. "More so than anybody," he said.

Netter, director of leasing and development, said the property would be redeveloped in time for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. He declined to elaborate on the nature of the redevelopment.

Yesterday, Mayor Jim Newberry's press secretary, Susan Straub, said a city code-enforcement officer will inspect the mall today. "We have contacted Saul about it," Straub said. Straub did not know the timetable for when the jail cleanup crew will start work on the mall property. "We are going to work with all parties and look for the best way to get it cleaned up," she said.

As for the mall property being redeveloped, a Saul representative met with Newberry in January. "They have been in regular contact," Straub said.

Newberry understands that the community is concerned that the vacant mall, on a major corridor leading into the city, is an eyesore, she said. "He shares that concern."

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