City considering economic development

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By Jonna Spelbring Priester

When the Pleasureville City Commission gathers next week for its monthly business meeting, economic development likely will be on the agenda.

At least two commission members are devoted to revitalizing the city, and if this month’s meeting was any indication, so are many residents.

“A lot of people gripe about how we need to economically develop this town,” commissioner Shawn Mertz said during the March meeting. “Katie (Crotzer) is going to try and help us in this process. We brought all of you in here to help us brainstorm and make improvements to this town.”

Crotzer’s first question for the packed meeting was simple: “How do you see the city of Pleasureville right now?”

Pleasureville Hardware owner Rhonda Carpenter said that while she liked the people in the city, the city itself “seems a bit stagnant.”

Crotzer, who has been involved in revitalization and small town economic development for at least the last 15 years, told the commission that now is the time to grow and “get your city on the map.”

The changes residents typically like to see, she said, are the support of existing local businesses, development of new businesses, balanced growth, and amenities.

City Clerk Verna Stivers said for many residents, simply making the town look better is a goal. “I think a lot of it is that people want people to take care of their properties, and keep control of their dogs,” she said.

Crotzer agreed, but said there’s more to it.

“Right now, I agree, I see homes and commercial buildings in need of repair,” she said. “There’s empty storefronts, trash and debris on the sidewalks, trucks and cars parked in yards. It just appears there’s a lack of pride in the community, but I know that’s not the case because I’ve talked to quite a few people here.”

But she acknowledged that investors aren’t interested in putting money into the community right now. She recommended active code enforcement, a day for cleaning up the city, supporting local businesses, and getting churches and residents more involved.

“Get churches involved, public involvement, with Pleasureville Days, Spring Fling, Fall festivals,” she said. “Anything you can do to get people to your communities. Clean up and paint this town.”

Cost can be an issue in refreshing a community, but Crotzer recommended finding a paint supplier to discount paint, or utilizing not for profit groups that renovate homes.

One resident, who owns some of the historic buildings on Main Street, acknowledged the need to renovate, but said doing so was almost cost prohibitive. “We tried to make (the old Locker) look the best that it could,” she said. “We had several different people come and look at it. But to do any renovation, it’s past that. The only hope for it is tearing the whole back part of it off and possibly salvaging the front. If you take out that huge big hunk right there, look at what it does.

“Are we going to keep a façade and nothing behind it? That’s why we did nothing with our building, because it was past being able to renovate. The roof was gone. There’s all kinds of issues with the buildings…

“What can we do with them? I hate to see them torn down, but what, realistically, could we do? It would take hundreds of thousands (of dollars).”

Perry pointed out that an entire block of historic buildings was demolished in Spencer County, leaving a large, open space. But the owner plans to redo the strip the way it appeared before the buildings were torn down. That, Crotzer said, has been done many times, including within Louisville.

“The buildings on Market Street in Louisville, it was the same thing,” she said. “The buildings were horrible. But facades were kept or rebuilt to look old and (have) a new building.

Crotzer said the city definitely needs a restaurant, and recommended one that served “at least beer and wine” to attract more local business.

“I think it would be much easier for Pleasureville to attract something like that, especially if there were shops here,” she said. “If you have anything that’s a draw… but right now, I’m not sure that would be sustainable. Really, I think Main Street needs to be the focus.”

A Main Street “facelift” would be critical, she said, as would getting residents to support local businesses and revitalization efforts.

Mayor Rodney Young pointed to the trouble that some local businesses, particularly restaurants have had. Pleasures Café, he said, would fix dinner for 50 customers, only to have five show up, or fix food for 10 to 15 customers, and 50 would show up.

Crotzer went on to give the commission and audience a variety of ideas that could help stimulate the city.

“Show the unique character of Pleasureville,” she said. “The biggest growth you’re going to get is people from outside coming here to spend money. That will encourage (existing) businesses and new ones.”

Commissioner Diane Perry said she would like to see a grocery store in the community. “Not necessarily a convenience (store), but somewhere where you could go in and buy meat, dairy. Everyone I’ve talked to said the community won’t support it.

“There’s so many things the community needs, and that’s one of the major things.”

Perry also talked about creating a place for local crafters, artisans and farmers to sell their products.

She also suggested that the local business owners gather, make a plan and have a specific date to get started. “We have to start somewhere,” she said.

Henry County Judge-Executive John Logan Brent, who also was on hand for the meeting, said the city leadership needs to sit down and do “some visioning,” and discuss the town’s strengths and weaknesses. Growing up near Pleasureville, he added, he knew two things about the city. “The best farmland is within five miles of Pleasureville, and No. 2 was the Pool Hall. People know the Pool Hall all over the country. Maybe you should start with a pool tournament.”

Steve Dale, the director of Kentucky Connected, a multi-county economic development organization that includes Henry County, noted that Pleasureville didn’t arrive at its current state in a single day. “And you won’t get out in a day, but you’ve got folks to do things,” he said. “What you need is a little leadership. You need folks who are willing to stand up and do something.

“A lot of folks are naysayers and soreheads… but you might just form a few committees.

“Sometimes you’ve got to stop talking and stick the shovel in the ground. It’s not easy. Little steps lead to bigger ones.”