Sphar project vote on hold until March

The Sphar building got another stay after two potential investors in the project decided not to get involved.

Winchester Mayor Ed Burtner told the Winchester Board of Commissioners Tuesday that two different people, one from Winchester and another from Mount Sterling, looked at the investing in saving the historic former seed warehouse. Ultimately, they said no.

Private investment may be one of the keys to the project continuing at all. The city, through several grants, pledges and other funds, had about $2 million on hand to restore the building and convert it into space for some city offices and other uses.

When bids for the project came in around $3 million, city officials began looking at other options.

Tuesday night, the commissioners decided to let the matter sit until the end of February, to allow one more possible investor take a look at the building. The new contact, Burtner said, came through a conversation with Tourism Commission Director Nancy Turner.

“It might be a long shot Mayor but it’s a shot,” Turner said.

“I’m willing to wait until the end of the month,” Burtner said, “but at the first meeting of (March) it’s time to make a decision.”

The project architects previously offered three options: raise more money, scale the project back to match available funds while stabilizing the building, or ending the project and demolishing the building.

The building is deteriorating and is in poor condition. City Manager Matt Belcher said previously there were three partial collapses during the winter of 2017-18 and he wasn’t sure if the building would survive this winter.

The Clark County Fiscal Court had obtained a $500,000 community development block grant for the project, but let it expire at the end of 2018. Former County Attorney Brian Thomas had also pledged money from his office’s excess fees, but Burtner said he is not sure if those funds are still available after the change in administration.

Later in the meeting, Winchester Police Chief Kevin Palmer addressed the commission about the situation with buzzards and vultures around West Washington Street and the Winchester Cemetery. Palmer said the birds are federally protected and can not be killed without a federal permit. He said the department has received 12 calls in the last decade about the birds, usually when they were circling an area.

Palmer said there is little the public can do other than harassing the birds to leave. The department’s dispatchers have been trained to offer tips to get the birds to leave, he said.

“We can not control it but we can have an officer assist if they have an issue,” Palmer said.

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners:

— approved a resolution to Clark County’s state legislators asking for their support in funding the completion of the Winchester Bypass and the Seventh Street truck route projects.

— approved a street closing request for the Little League parade on April 12.

— appointed Nini Edwards to fill the unexpired term of Cindy Juett on the Winchester-Clark County Recreation, Tourist and Convention Commission.

— reclassified Virgil Estes from mechanic II to mechanic III

— hired Nova Rison as communications officer III.

— accepted the resignations of patient transfer specialist Cooper Wilson and firefighter III/EMT Wesley Bunch.

— hired Rebecca Rehg and Tiason Lockridge as patient transfer specialists.

— terminated the employment of part-time maintenance worker Eric Burton.