By Jeff Jobe, Community Publisher
Barren County Progress, JPI
More lies, false hope and skirting responsibility from City Councilman Patrick Gaunce.
It has been such a telling example of what is wrong with Glasgow by watching how Gaunce manages to ignore codes and regulations that other tax payers and property owners must comply with.
As a community publisher, downtown property owner, founding member of the Glasgow Downtown Business Association (GDBA), and appointed member of the Glasgow Historical Preservation Commission, I have bent over backwards to quietly support and encourage every property owner to work together and help one another present a better downtown community.
This is true for Gaunce as well. On August 10, 2021, I sent him a personal note saying, “Congrats on the building purchase. There has been more than 21 buildings sell or renovated within one block of downtown. If there is any insight our group can offer to help you renovate let us know. Downtown Glasgow is looking so much better. Your help would be appreciated. Sincerely Jeff Jobe.”
Seeing no work and knowing his property was overlooked as a possible courthouse location, I felt an update would be good so I asked again on December 9, 2021, for one to share with the community.
This same day, he responded in writing, “Yes sir-Met with Cheryl Pina (Code Enforcement) last week-Have called Botts to get on their schedule-She and I went over things to do to make it look better-Waiting on them to free up-And part of reason of delay was being in final for courthouse-As you I think that would be a great place for it-Obviously that’s some self serving. Patrick Gaunce.”
I sat and watched as other property owners would get their letters (more than 20) from the city codes’ officer and comply with suggestions, and I visited with dozens of others helping to formulate plans and ideas to help improve their properties. This entire time, Patrick Gaunce was never fined and nothing was done to improve his personally-owned downtown properties.
I watched as he voted as an elected councilman to not sell city-owned property to the county for the new courthouse and knowing of his personal interest in selling his own; I believed then, and still do today, it was an ethics violation because of the conflict of interest.
Few among us would be so oblivious to not see at least the possible conflict, and the Kentucky Attorney General has written that an elected official should guard against even the perception of a conflict.
This newspaper exposed the fact in our October 19, 2022, issue and Gaunce stepped out in a video posted on his personal Facebook account on November 4, 2022, making amazing promises just four days before his next election.
Promises that some were sure to believe. He promised to develop his buildings to include a new ice-cream shop, barber shop, photo studio, a much needed restaurant/bar, and retail outlets with second floor downtown apartments. He said there was just too much money to be made not to do the renovations.
No word on renovation until the July 13, 2023, Historical Preservation Commission (HPC) meeting in which he informed Mayor Henry Royse, commission members present, and some guests that he had decided to give the back properties to the city and let them tear down to build a pocket park. All he needed to do was make sure there was no conflict for him with his attorney. He also indicated he expected to get awards for the mural work done on the side of the building. This advertisement mural was paid through his local “Bridge” charity by donations made to the non-profit.
Mayor Royse said in this meeting, “This is the first I have heard of this.” There was no discussion because these buildings are located inside the historical preservation district and it is our mission to save old buildings not celebrate tearing down two more of them.
This isn’t the first time we saw a building torn down with no discussion or approval. Former county official Micheal Hale pushed through a purchase of an old building and had it demolished with no public bid, notice, discussion, or even approval from county magistrates. The Barren County Progress (BCP) has yet to find any payments approved for any funds what-so-ever in this tear down.
Now, it seems Gaunce is indicating it was Glasgow City Employee April Russell’s idea for the tear down and in building the pocket park. She has been quoted as saying she spoke to Mayor Royse before approaching Gaunce with the idea. These statements do not support Royse saying it was the first he had heard of it in the July 13, 2023, HPC meeting.
The BCP also had conversations with Barren County Judge-Executive Jamie Byrd as far back as April about plans to offer steps and a small green space in the vacant lot created by Hale.
Russell and Gaunce are pushing for $115,000 of our taxes to be used just for the tear down, tens of thousands to rebuild the retaining wall, and this doesn’t even reference more park equipment/tables and landscaping.
Once again, it seems Gaunce and his legal team aren’t worried about an appearance of conflict for profiting from getting a $70,000 tax break, skirting code penalties and having a park built next to another building he still owns with terrible violations itself. He is making no commitments to do anything to his remaining dilapidated building.
It is not at all a plan this newspaper would endorse and we can’t believe it is one Mayor Royse will support. We believe him when he said he had no knowledge of it as of July 13, 2023.
We suggest the City Attorney Rich Alexander take all legal actions against Gaunce and force the code mandated-improvements be made or sell the properties at a public auction just as they have done to dozens of others over the past few years.
I personally understand how costly these renovation projects can be in not only finances but time as well and not everyone can afford to do it. If Gaunce can’t afford it, he should sell them with a clear mandate for a new owner.