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City mulls food truck regulations

Commission discusses park and sidewalks

Robert Moore
Herald Staff

The Harrodsburg City Commission is considering enacting regulations on food trucks.

The Mercer County Lodging and Restaurant Association is asking the commissioners to consider nine recommendations for regulating the growth of food trucks here in Mercer County which are based on what other communities are doing, said Tim Kazimer, who represented the Lodging and Restaurant Association on Monday night.

While food trucks are not new—vendors sold olives, roasted meat, stewed octopi, cheese and fruit from hand carts called lixae in ancient Rome—they have exploded in popularity over the last decade. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimated food truck sales reached $2.7 billion in revenue in 2017 while the food truck industry has grown at an average rate of 7.9-percent per year since 2011. Once confined to large cities on the coasts, they have spread out to the suburbs and to small towns like Harrodsburg.

Kazimer, who owns Kentucky Fudge Company with his wife, Jennifer,  called food trucks a “national trend.”

Among the nine recommendations Kazimer brought before the commission were prohibitions on operating food trucks within 75 feet of dining establishment as well as within 50 feet of an intersection and prohibitions on the use of government parking lots for the operation of food trucks. Food truck vendors would need permission from established vendors before operating near them, would need to provide their own trash receptacles, allow 48 inches of space for pedestrians on sidewalks and would have to vacate the premises when not in operation. If enacted, some of the ordinances would not be in effect during a festival such as Oktoberfest.

Kazimer said the recommendations were not an attempt by established restaurant owners to kill competition from food trucks.

“I’m not afraid of competing. That’s not the issue here,” he said. But he questioned the wisdom of allowing a food truck to park in front of a brick and mortar establishment that had made a much more substantial investment in the community.

Kazimer said the restaurant association is seeking to be proactive and help the city ward off potential problems.

“I think this is a good conversation starter,” Kazimer said.

It’s one thing to enact an ordinance. It’s another thing to enforce it. Food truck owners must apply for business licenses and comply with health regulations, but Commissioner Jack Coleman, who operates Triple J&C Barbecue in his spare time, said he wasn’t sure all the local food trucks are  compliant.

“Education is key,” said Kazimer, who stressed the need to inform applicants of all pertinent city ordinances during the application process.

The commissioners took no action Monday night. While City Attorney David Taylor questioned the wording on some of the recommendations, Mayor Art Freeman said he’d take the information under advisement.

“Good reccomendations,” Freeman said. “Thank you for making them.”

In other business, the Harrodsburg City Commission:

• Discussed people misusing the city-owned Olde Towne Park on Main Street after the 11 p.m. closing time. Commissioner Charlie Mattingly said there were problems with graffiti, vandalism and stolen city equipment. Mattingly said some people are sleeping and bathing in the park late at night. The commissioner asked for  Harrodsburg Police Department officers to patrol the park on foot at night.

Mattingly also recommended neighboring businesses to install wireless cams which would be monitored by dispatch. There are already two cameras at the park. While they don’t capture everything, they did photograph a man who stripped naked at 4:15 in the morning and used the waterfall as a shower, said Albert Moore, the public works supervisor.

Moore said many of the people who show up at the park at night appear to be homeless. There are as many as eight of them who sleep in the grass at the park and use the outlets to recharge their lap tops and cell phones. One regular is a woman who claims to be from Chicago, Moore said.

Mayor Freeman said they were going to have to expand the fence and begin locking the park at night.

• Discussed sidewalks with   Connie Allen, whose consulting firm, Salt River Engineering, is on Poplar Street. The sidewalks on Poplar Street have been an ongoing subject of discussion for quite a while. And while the condition of sidewalks are generally the responsibility of the property owners, Mayor Freeman said the downtown sidewalks are a city problem because of the foot traffic.

The stubs of parking meters that were removed by the city are still sticking out of the sidewalk. Freeman called it “a safety issue.”

“The whole sidewalk is a safety issue,” Freeman said.

While the city can get rid of the stubs, the other problems at Poplar are not so easy to solve. Commissioner Charlie Mattingly said one estimate he’d received for replacing a section of the sidewalk was $17,000.

Connie Allen, whose consulting firm specializes in utility financing, construction management, engineering and design services, volunteered to serve as a grant writer to apply for funding to repair the sidewalks.

However, the sidewalk project on US 68 has to be closed before the city can apply for more federal funds. The US 68 project are in the process of getting easements and construction is not estimated to begin before 2020, city leaders said.

Mayor Freeman asked Allen to search for other grant opportunities while Commissioner Mattingly seeks other estimates.

• Gave second reading on ordinance 2019-21 amending ordinance 2003-18 section 12.1—alcohol beverage control covering server training to allow servers to use another course besides the state one.

• Accepted Tony Godbey’s retirement and Jeff Lewis’s retirement from the public works department, both effective Oct. 1. The commission also voted to offer conditional employment to four applicants pending background and drug test. Two successful applicants will be hired as public service worker II at $12 an hour.

• Announced leaf pickup will begin in October and continue through December. Pickup will be Oct. 16–Nov. 5 and Dec. 2 to Dec. 6 on the east side of US 127. From Nov. 20 to Nov. 27 and Dec. 9 to Dec. 13, leaf pickup will be on the west side of US 127. From Dec. 16 to Dec. 19, leaves will be picked up on both sides of Harrodsburg. Any leaves left after that should be bagged and left with garbage, Mattingly said. Leaves should be raked to the edge of the curb for pick up. Bagged leaves and leaves mixed with grass clippings, trash or brush will not be collected.

• Transferred a 2008 Ford F150 from water to public works department.

• Voted to adjust a water bill for Pizza Hut based on fluctuating water meter readings. The commissioners also heard from Jamie Thacker who owns a four-plex apartment complex with her father. Thacker said they found a leak after receiving a “monstrous” water bill. While the city already adjusted the bill down about half, Thacker was asking for help with her next water bill, which she predicted would also be big.

“If you lowered it to $290 that would really make my day,” Thacker said.

The commission deferred to Coleman, who oversees the water maintenance department.

The next meeting of the Harrodsburg City Commission will be Monday, Oct. 14, at 6 p.m. at Harrodsburg City Hall.

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