New details emerge on controversial $212K Lexington welcome sign

by Paul Oliva, The Lexington Times

Lexington, KY — As construction is set to begin this week on the contentious $211,588.03 Athens Boonesboro Welcome Sign, new information has come to light that further questions the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government’s (LFUCG) priorities. Minutes from the LFUCG’s Corridor Commission‘s August 17 meeting and a recent city email acquired by The Lexington Times reveal additional details about the project, including the project timeline and a controversial choice of ‘blighted’ landscaping.

According to the Corridor Commission’s August 17 meeting minutes, which were released Thursday, two construction groups showed interest in the Request for Proposal (RFP) for the project. The base bid included details like a dry stone wall with a 5-foot grade and a planting bed. Landscape plants are listed as a “bid alternate,” giving the council the flexibility to use their price contracts if deemed more cost-effective. The plan aimed for expedited council approval to complete construction before winter, with landscaping possibly deferred to spring. Indeed, council suspended the rules at their August 31 meeting in order to rush the sign through.

However, the choice of plants has raised eyebrows. According to the minutes, Commission member Mikhail S. Potapov questioned the inclusion of boxwoods in the landscaping plan due to a fungus that has been killing many of these plants. The commission discussed the need for low-maintenance, evergreen plants but ultimately decided to stick with boxwoods for consistency with other signs. Councilmember James Brown stated that if the plants become blighted, they would be replaced.

Boxwoods have been dying all over Lexington due to boxwood blight. (Facebook\davidopva)

This decision to plant non-native boxwoods instead of local flora is yet another point of contention in a project already criticized for its misplaced priorities.

A recent city email confirms that Tekton Construction was scheduled to begin work on Wednesday, with a pre-construction meeting planned for Monday to review the construction schedule and other key project requirements. Interestingly, the email also notes that the project will not be specifically listed on the agenda for the Commission’s meeting on September 21, raising questions about transparency and public input.

City emails show construction on the new welcome sign was scheduled to begin Wednesday. (LFUCG)

The council’s decision to fast-track this project, bypassing regular procedures and public discourse, has been a significant point of criticism. The unanimous vote to approve the sign, apart from the absent Council Member Tayna Fogle, indicates a council and administration more concerned with cosmetic enhancements than addressing urgent social issues.

As construction is about to commence, the Athens Boonesboro Welcome Sign stands as a testament to the council’s current priorities. While the stone for the sign has been generously donated by Vulcan Materials, the ethical dilemma surrounding the project remains. The City’s focus on aesthetic projects over pressing social issues, now compounded by the choice of non-native plants, will likely continue to draw criticism from those who believe the city’s resources could be better spent.

Top photo: Construction plans for the Athens Boonesboro Road Welcome Sign. (LFUCG)