Corbin officials air out expo center complaints
Parking, opening times at issue
Corbin city leaders publicly aired issues with the Southeast Kentucky Agriculture and Exposition Center during the regular monthly meeting of the city's Board of Commissioners Monday.
Front and center was consternation over what some commissioners perceived as the facility not opening early enough on event nights so that ticket holders can go inside. A single entrance to the expo center, which is located on a hill off Cumberland Falls Hwy., coupled with a lack of paved parking areas has caused problems with parking at the arena site.
"We have had numerous complaints," City Commissioner Phil Gregory told Cliff Clinger, General Manager of The Arena. "They just get mad when they have to rush up there [early] to get a parking spot, but then have to wait to get in the doors. I worked in business and if I seen a customer outside and he was shaking and cold I let him in so he won't go anywhere else."
Officials have noted problems with wait times to get in the building, which typically opens one hour before all shows, because so many people are trying to enter at one time through a limited number of entrances.
Clinger said the practice of opening the facility one hour before shows are scheduled to start is "an industry standard from city to city" and that the promoters who rent The Arena don't want the general public inside any sooner.
"That's what the promoter is paying for, an hour. Anytime we open that door earlier, that cost is going to come back to us and come back to the city," Clinger said.
While not opposed to the idea of opening doors an hour and a half or even two hours before a show, Clinger said he could not make any changes immediately because The Arena's current contracts with promoters are already in place.
"I need to put that into some contracts. I can't tell you it will happen immediately, but we are amenable to that. We will certainly implement that."
Frustrated, Gregory pressed the issue by saying the city owns the building and ought to be able to make some decisions about when the doors open. Clinger is an employee of SMG Worlwide Events Management, a Philadelphia based company hired by the city to manage The Arena.
"All we want to do is open the door and let us in to sit down," Gregory said.
Clinger countered by noting that the building does not have a large entryway or closed concourse where people can go while artists are doing light testing and sound checks - times they typically do not want the general public to view.
"I'm not fighting with you and I'm not disagreeing with you," Clinger said. "Just give me a little time to do that."
The Commission set into motion plans to address one of The Arena's other major problems - parking. Currently, a large portion of the planned parking area around the structure is simply gravel or has no improved surface at all. During larger shows, parking has been allowed at nearby churches and empty lots with shuttles taking patrons up to the facility. The commission voted Monday to authorize city manager Bill Ed Cannon to advertise for bids for stone and paving of those areas. He said the move could add up to 400 parking spots.
Commissioner Dennis Lynch said the process needed to be completed as soon as possible to accommodate more vehicles. By law, the city must allow at least seven days from the times a request for bids are publicly advertised to receive them before consideration. Bidding must be closed after 21 days.
Commissioner Bruce Farris expressed concern that short-selling the bidding process could lead to fewer, less competitive bids.
"Is seven days long enough to allow for adequate bids," Farris said. "I don't think we should be in a rush on it."
Lynch said he felt parking improvements at The Arena have been proceeding too slowly.
The state has promised to give the city $300,000 to help with the cost of extra paving at the site. Cannon said the funds would not likely be available until June or July.
In other business, the commission:
* Voted to allow Cannon to seek bids to hire an engineer to assess and come up with a plan to correct a rock and earth slide that is threatening the Corbin Center for Technology and Community Activities.
Corbin Mayor Willard McBurney noted that "just in the last few weeks" the slide has gotten worse. Cannon said he feared it could damage the back wall of the Tech Center, an over $2 million structure.
"The problem has already started," Cannon said. "If you don't address it and correct it you can waste a lot of money and it will just get worse."
Gregory criticized construction on the site as the reason for the slide.
"If that job was done right, we shouldnít even have a slide," Gregory said.
Cannon noted that the problem appeared because the road above it has caused rainwater to run off instead of slowly soaking down into earth and stone that was there before. He said an engineer could design a drainage system and come up with a way to hold the slide at bay.
Lynch criticized the hiring of an engineer as unnecessary, saying the city did not need to spend money on someone to just "tell us it's sliding."
"We got a bad slide up there, but I don't know why we need an engineer to tell us that," Lynch said.
Cannon likened fixing the slid to brain surgery.
"I'd hate to spend thousands of dollars based on somebody that doesn't have the expertise," he said. "If I'm going to have brain surgery I'm going to get a doctor that knows how to do brain surgery."
The Commission, including Lynch, voted unanimously to advertise for engineering services following the moderately lively debate.
* Approved a request for $5,000 from Corbin Economic Development Director Bruce Carpenter. The money will be used to help pay for the Corbin Economic Development Agency's participation in a series of marketing trips planned by the Kentucky Association for Economic Development and the state Economic Development Cabinet. Carpenter said trips to Dallas, Chicago, New York, Atlanta and another to be determined city are being planned. Shorter trips to Indianapolis and Columbus are also on the agenda.
Carpenter said the KAED and the Cabinet have developed a marketing plan for the state. During the trips, economic development directors will get to meet with site planning experts and corporate executives in an attempt to sell the state, and their areas, as a good place to do business.
The Corbin Chamber of Commerce, the Tri-County Industrial Authority, The Corbin Industrial Development Commission and the Southeast Kentucky Industrial Development Authority area all also helping to bankroll the plan.
* Took two bids under advisement for installation of lights at athletic fields at the Corbin Civic Center site.
* Discussed, but decided to not approve funds for four field goals for athletic fields. Lynch questioned the cost of the steel being purchased for the field goals. He consulted Kenneth Pennington, who was in the audience at the meeting. Pennington said he felt the cost of the steel was too high, so the Commission decided to wait until further investigation into the issue is complete. City leaders were being asked to approved $2,500 to $3,000 for the steel.
* Recognized the Corbin High School Dance Team recently returned from national competition.
* Authorized Cannon to advertise for applications for a permanent Chief of Police. For the past two months, retired Kentucky State Police Detective David Campbell has held the position. He has said he is interested in being hired on a permanent basis.
Cannon said the city plans to accept applications until May 1. They will be reviewed by the personnel board and a recommendation on the most qualified candidate will be made at the next regular meeting.
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