Vision for Oldham County
to tackle growth challenges
guides community-wide study with open mind
Helen E. McKinney
LA GRANGE, Ky. (August 2007) After six months
of examining critical issues facing Oldham Countians and then meeting
seven times to debate them, the Oldham County Vision Council has formed
a collective view of where the county should be in the next four years.
County Judge-Executive Duane Murner appointed 20 Oldham
County citizens to the council in January 2007. He created the council
for the purpose of focusing on the major issues facing the county. He
said he was curious to know what Oldham County would look like
in four years and how to pay for it.
The council stemmed from Murners election campaign promise made
while running for office. His slogan, Together We Can Do Better,
expressed his intent to discover the future path of the county.
The idea was born from his experience as a magistrate and the variety
of opinions he encountered from local citizens. Murner chose 20 members
of the community to represent each area of the county. Some are retired,
some own and operate their own businesses, and others are employed by
small or major corporations.
The council was charged with addressing seven key questions related
to achieving a vision for the future. Each member sought input from
at least 10 to 20 citizens. They then wrote their own vision before
coming together to debate them and reach a final verdict on all seven
In an effort to reach more citizens, a website was established to offer
residents a chance to share ideas and voice their opinions about the
debated issues until June 15. The website contained additional information
about the countys economy, demographics, an agricultural profile
and many more statistics. It also reports findings on the countys
The results were presented July 17 to Fiscal Court. Murner only attended
the kickoff session, letting the council members come to their own conclusions.
Vision Chairman Kevin Eldridge said the process had a funneling
effect. Eldridge had just put in his resignation as chairman of
the Planning and Zoning Commission when Murner asked him to chair the
(the Visions report) will not be put on a shelf.
Oldham County Judge-Executive Duane Murner
His initial thought was, This is a council that
will work together for Oldham County. Eldridge said he thought
the council was a diverse group of people, even though coming to a consensus
was easy, he said.
The seven questions asked concerned the issues of residential-commercial
split in development, destination tourism, public ownership of land,
budget reserves, bonding capacity, utilities, parks and how to pay for
Eldridge said the questions were intertwined, once you got into them.
People want to maintain and keep what weve got, he
Planning was a common thread that linked the questions and suggestions.
The council decided that the Oldham County Comprehensive Plan includes
most of the necessary steps needed to proceed with the vision.
On the issue of residential-commercial development, the council decided
the Planning and Zoning Department should be re-organized to better
accomplish their goals. Current regulations should be used to carefully
monitor all development.
It was decided that the tourism commission must be re-organized to institute
a county-wide logo and should produce a web-based and paper-based brochure
that can be mailed and accessed through the tourism website and distributed
to hotels and rest areas. The council also suggested expanding Westport
Park and the Ohio River front, and exploring the viability of installing
a private-public marina area.
On the question of the parks system, the report recommended that the
county establish a goal of acquiring an additional 1,000 acres of park
land by 2030.
by Don Ward
stroll through the
treelined path at Yew Dell
Gardens in Crestwood, Ky.
The countys utility systems are experiencing growing
pains as the county expands a rural water system when an urban one with
multiple loops for continued expansion is required. The council suggested
contracting with Metropolitan Sewer District (or private operating firms)
or the Louisville Water Co.
It was determined that the countys bonding capacity be used only
for longer-term capital improvements and/or acquisitions that are in
keeping with the countys vision, such as infrastructure, facilities
and public lands. Bonding can create a larger overhead in the future,
resulting in a larger budget. Bonding was suggested as an option for
implementing the parks and open space programs.
The report also revealed the suggestion to only dip into budget reserves
as an exception, rather than the rule. Fiscal Court should not
rely on the availability of a reserve to balance annual budgets,
the report read.
The final report stated the councils conclusion that we
must become and strive to remain the best rural-suburban county in Kentucky.
It went on to say that residents want to preserve the delicate
balance between future growth and the preservation of the countys
Frankie Culbertson, who works for Metts Co. Realtors, served on the
council. Our county is already a great place to live. We just
want to maintain that, he said.
Culbertson, like other council members, said he was honored that Murner
would want his input and ideas for the community vision plan. Murner
was not worried about the outcome of the council. He said that a county
leader was not the only person who gets to decide the future (or vision)
of a county. This should be the responsibility of the citizens as well,
and to debate these issues among themselves, he said.
Oldham County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Deana Epperly Karem
also served on the council. Its important to preserve the
qualities that make Oldham County special while at the same time preparing
it for the future, she said.
She agreed with Eldridge, who said that there is no question there will
be growth within the countys future. It must be addressed
in a manageable way, he said.
These recommendations have been thoroughly discussed with lots
of viewpoints under consideration, said Karem. She believes they
can be used by Fiscal Court as a starting ground for change. These
suggestions set the tone for Fiscal Courts decisions.
by Don Ward
woman takes aim during an open
house at OpenRange Sports Inc. in
Crestwood as owner Barry Laws looks
on. The indoor rifle shooting and
paintball/reball facility has become
a popular attraction in Oldham County.
Fiscal Court has the option to do something about the
vision councils recommendations, do nothing or do something in
between. It will not be put on a shelf, said Murner.
The report concluded that better planning, coordination, and communication
are needed to effectively address future growth challenges. Lack of
communication emerged as prevalent issue during the six months the council
was at work. Members decided the county needed to fill a liaison/public
relations position to better inform citizens about current issues and
coordinate organizations and government projects.
The council recommended Deputy County Judge-Executive Paula Gish to
fill this position, seeing her as a natural choice since it should
be fulfilled by someone vested at a senior level of county government
and would not require hiring additional staff, the report stated.
Culbertson said: We as a county like to know whats happening
around our towns. We want to be able to have one person or one department
to call if information is needed.
Lack of communication is always a challenge when dealing with large
organizations and community issues, said Karem. She suggests first establishing
an atmosphere of collaborating and partnerships, followed by finding
ways to work together.
The council suggested that separate groups working on projects, such
as a Greenways Master Plan, a Parks and Recreation Master Plan, and
a fair-convention-exposition center should communicate better and attempt
to work together to enhance the countys existing assets. By bringing
these groups together and increasing public communication, the countys
comprehensive plan can become a reality.
by Don Ward
and horse riding schools
for all ages are a popular activity in
Oldham County. Tourism officials
are seeking ways to capitalize
on the horse industry.
The council deemed the countys financial situation
serious. To maintain the existing budget, it recommends raising revenues
or continuing to cut expenses. Other alternatives will be considered
first, the report said.
The vision calls for better constituent services and preservation of
Oldham County assets, said Karem. If Fiscal Court will work together
to find ways to increase our tax base and provide quality services,
then I think the future of business an economic growth is positive.
Culbertson believes the vision set forth is attainable. We have
terrific leaders in our county government who will do everything in
their power to make this an even better county than it is now.
A committee has been formed to review the vision report and recommend
any necessary action. Members include Gish and magistrates Steve Church,
Steve Greenwell and Iva Davis.
For more information on the Vision Council
report, visit: www.oldhamcounty2020.com.
Back to August 2007 Articles.