Lawson and Bryant

Burnside Mayor Robert Lawson (left) swears in new city councilor George Bryant (right), as the latter’s fiancée Renee McAninch stands between them. Bryant replaced Noel Davis on the Burnside City Council at this past Monday’s June meeting. 

Appointing George Conley Bryant to the Burnside City Council? That was a slam-dunk decision.

Bryant, once a basketball star for both the old Burnside High School and later Eastern Kentucky University, where he was twice named All-Ohio Valley Conference, was selected by the council to replace Noel Davis, who issued a letter of resignation due to his moving out of Burnside.

“I have sold my home in Burnside and live in Bronston, so I am not eligible for office in Burnside,” read Davis’ letter. “I still consider Burnside my hometown even though (I’m not) living there presently. Keep up the good work!”

Bryant was present and ready for the mayor to appoint him to the council in Davis’ stead. As a sports figure, Bryant’s name is legendary in these parts. From scoring 30 points a game as a Burnside senior to taking the Colonels to the NCAA Tournament in 1972, where they were beaten by eventual runners-up Florida State (who also knocked out Kentucky and Adolph Rupp in his last game at the school), and eventually playing professional and international basketball, Bryant — son of local clergyman Dudley Bryant — enjoyed a storied career on the hardwood. In 2012, former Burnside Mayor Ron Jones even declared February 27 George Conley Bryant Day in the community. 

At Monday’s June meeting of the Burnside City Council, Bryant was sworn in and immediately took his place at the council table, swiftly thrown into the action at a busy council outing. However, he enjoyed the opportunity, and took a moment at the meeting’s end to show his appreciation to the city and express admiration for the progress it’s made. He echoed those thoughts after the meeting when interviewed by the Commonwealth Journal.

“I grew up here in the City of Burnside; the people did a lot for me,” he told the CJ. “So I’ve been back here for two years and was impressed with what the council has been doing. When Mr. Davis resigned, it was a great opportunity to be a part of what the city is doing. The city council, the mayor, the officials and the city have done a great job, in my opinion have done a fantastic job, and I’m honored to be a part of it.”

Did he feel comfortable in his first meeting? Bryant shot as straight as he would have at the free throw line; “I don’t think I got an option whether I felt comfortable or not,” before adding, “Yes, it did go smooth and I was welcomed. Great people.”

Perhaps the most significant piece of action at the meeting was the passage of the 2021-2022 fiscal year budget, along with the budget amendment ordinance for the current fiscal year. The amendment allows for redistribution of funds between expense accounts for various city departments.

The budget for 2021-22 totals to $1,484,775 for all basic city revenues and expenses, including police, fire, administration and parks. Burnside Police is working with a budget of $41,400, the fire department with $116,600, administration with $589,775, and public works and parks expenses at $337,000. 

Burnside Waterworks is budgeted for $462,920, Burnside Sewer for $202,500, and Tourism and Recreation (which is funded by the city’s restaurant tax) at $413,525.

Overall, the numbers are much more favorable than they were at this time last year. The impact of COVID-19 restrictions on a tourism-based town, where restaurants that couldn’t seat customers provide a large chunk of the tax income, saw the current fiscal year’s belt tighten, down more than a quarter of a million over the previous year. This new fiscal year sees a bounce-back, however, up more than $300,000 overall and larger than the 2019-20 budget even. Tourism is especially getting a boost, effectively doubling last year’s numbers with lots of big plans on the horizon. 

The budget ordinances passed easily with no discussion from the council.

In other Burnside City Council business:

•  Burnside Mayor Robert Lawson said that the water intake barge that had been overturned in Lake Cumberland and was recently removed might be going to the City of Somerset. At any rate, Burnside is trying to find a buyer for it, but Lawson said he’s spoken to Somerset’s Mayor Alan Keck, about the possibility of using the barge to extract water for the planned Horse Soldier Bourbon plant. Lawson would rather make such a government-to-government arrangement — “It’s a lot less trouble” — but if the Somerset angle doesn’t pan out, the city will look at other avenues.

• The mayor raised the issue of debris at Burnside Marina, where he said the mess is preventing people from putting their watercraft in the lake. Lawson learned that if the marina would request the U.S. Corps of Engineers bring a clean-up barge to the facility, they’d take care of it. Now, Lawson is working with marina management to address the issue.

• First Baptist Church of Somerset is the first local business or organization to agree to be a sponsor for one of the planned light displays for the return of Christmas Island this holiday season. The church — appropriately enough — will be sponsoring a nativity scene.

Lawson was responsible for securing that sponsorship and challenged the councilors to jump in and help recruit other Christmas Island sponsors. Burnside Tourism Director Frank Crabtree, Jr., also mentioned TTAI as an interested potential sponsor. The sponsors for each display will marked by a lit plaque visible to people going through the Christmas Island path.

“It’s going to be good advertisement,” said Lawson. 

• Crabtree also mentioned discussing the potential of an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant fishing pier with SPEDA. 

• Trick-or-treating will take place on Saturday, Oct. 30 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Burnside, as approved by the council.

• Crabtree said he was awarded an Southeastern Tourism Society Marketing Scholarship and will attend the organization’s marketing school June 13-18. The scholarships were made possible by the Kentucky Wildlands, which would accept three recipients, as announced in April. 

• Lawson and Crabtree discussed some details about the Labor Day-based “Thunder Over the Island” festival. The event featuring fireworks, music, food and more — which was moved to September last year, and was so successful that the city decided to keep it there rather than go back to the July 4 holiday — will likely charge admission this year, to help pay for the increased number and quality of performers and pyrotechnics.

The city is actively looking for a major sponsor for the event, so any businesses or organizations that would be interested in that should contact Burnside City Hall.

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