By Jeff Jobe
Barren County Progress, JPI
Over the past few weeks, Glasgow City Councilman Patrick Gaunce has been trying to “gift or unload” one of his neglected properties to the City of Glasgow.
The property is located at 212-216 West Main Street and sits beside a vacant lot now owned by Barren County Government.
Gaunce’s property doesn’t have structural damage or violations, or at least not any that can be seen with the naked eye or documented by the city codes inspector.
The downtown code violations discovered are associated with his other property facing West Public Square – a property in which he had advertisers pay for painting a mural on its side passing the project through a local charity. As with charities associated with Gaunce, there is no disclosure of whether the charity saw any net funding what-so-ever.
The previous county government fiscal court allowed the former judge-executive to buy and tear down a historical building with no discussion, planning, or even hint of cooperation.
The city had no knowledge of the plan. Subsequently, the lot has been vacant and an eye sore for the better part of four years.
Something needs to be done with the ugly vacant lot. I discussed with several people involved in such things about placing a modest staircase on it connecting the upper city lot to the ground level in that location, similar to the one across the street at the Bounty of the Barrens Museum.
The staircase could be landscaped around it and perhaps even have room for a couple of tables, thus the creation of the downtown pocket park discussion.
I am comfortable Judge/Executive Jamie Byrd will confirm this discussion was the first she had with anyone for the usage of the vacant lot.
We discussed the landscaping wouldn’t be terribly costly and could be coordinated with the Glasgow Garden Club, and the Glasgow Downtown Business Association would help with buying some of the landscaping.
I spoke with Gaunce and tried to explain how it would help him because it would offer access to this particular building with parking up the stairs and he seemed to understand.
But somehow, it has evolved into him wanting to tear down a historical building, getting himself a significant tax credit, building a park which is located behind another building he owns, and using spin to do it.
In government, it is always the spin that exposes a person’s true motives of a project. Rather than Gaunce saying, “I don’t want to fix these properties as promised last election,” he is lining up the rank-and-file government employees to lay across the proverbial train track for him.
Who knows if they said what he indicates, but I will say very clearly, if Glasgow has an engineer saying this building must go to access maintenance of the parking lot wall behind it then we have a sad example of an engineer. There is plenty of room to access this wall and we all know city government has access for such things whether a landowner likes it or not.
Many will remember a sign, “I’m just a tree butchered by EPB.” That property owner had not given approval to access their land and trim the tree. It can just be done.
Gaunce indicates it being the new City Manager April Russell’s idea. I would hope a city manager isn’t in favor of tearing down historical buildings in the city or ignoring a historical commission who has worked so hard to improve downtown Glasgow in the past few years.
A City Manager should understand how important all city committees and boards are to the citizens and help promote truth rather than push through something for a politician friend. Of course finances are important, but it wasn’t fair to finance committee members Terry Bunnell, Freddie Norris, and Marlin Witcher to discuss the Gaunce property at hand with regards to a finance issue when so much of it has to do with ethics, historical, and codes, all of which have their own committees.
My experience with Russell is she seems to work hard at times yet she isn’t timid about placing herself in the middle of political messes, taking sides with politicians rather than the community she is intended to serve. More details to come on examples of these later.
Most news stories evolve when chasing truth and often you never imagine the place a story might end. This is true for the Gaunce write-off historical building as well.
We asked for violations and found only one with this particular building. The out front awning being exposed on one end. A result of the county tearing down a connecting building and not repairing the building attached to it. They should have fixed this back then.
However, when visiting the property because of the claims indicating it needed to be removed for repair, we found something different. The Gaunce building has what could be a beautiful courtyard behind it overgrown with weeds, vines, and scrub brush with some reaching well above the 12-foot wall. It looks terrible, yet no code violations are documented.
This lot was discussed years ago as having weeds hiding a roof from clear view where a partially naked woman was found dead from an overdose. Drug addicts were accessing the lot and buildings. Nothing has been done to the lot long before or since that time.
The Barren County Progress requested copies of properties given in the city that might have codes violations and found examples of how yard maintenance is a significant factor.
There are several but one particular property located on McKenna Street had thousands of dollars placed as liens on it in court because the codes department would hire to have the grass mowed and the brush cut back.
In these documents, there is evidence of discussion between codes, the mayor at that time, and the property owner to give the land to the city. Yet no offers of tax credits or mandates to do specific things with the project as the current councilman is asking. The owner had to pay all court costs, fines, and interest prior to handing his property over to the city. It was done to get out of having to repair a terribly run down property.
It is not consistent to have a councilman’s property go unmaintained while hiring someone to clean up, fine and place liens on properties owned by non-officials.
The city got the McKenna property for free, has now sold it for $4,200 and is now once again getting property tax revenue. With Gaunce’s mandate, they must build a pocket park and it will be off the tax rolls forever.
It is not consistent to refuse a family who owns property at the corner of South Public Square to tear down their property but allow a councilman to mandate tearing down his in exchange for a tax credit.
I have never been one of those “Gotcha Journalists” but I will admit I believed that council vote on Jan. 8 was sure to be a good one. Whether it passed or not it was sure to expose the “Gaunce Yes-Men”. The vote would have went a long way in exposing Glasgow’s true problem, Patrick Gaunce and those he controls.
I commend Councilman Terry Bunnell for pulling this vote off the table and saving his fellow council-members and mayor from controversy once again created by Patrick Gaunce.
We need to look for ways we can agree instead of, in Gaunce’s own words, “Make us swallow it.”