City Council Passes On ‘Lex Bucks’ Proposal

Effort Designed To Help Local Businesses

Lexington City Council last Thursday voted to spend some of its unallocated funds from the last fiscal year on several projects, but it declined to fund a small “stimulus” program to help local businesses.

Over $800,000 of unallocated funds were carried over from the last fiscal year into this one.

City Council unanimously agreed to spend roughly $77,500 of the $836,536 on a speed monitoring trailer for the police department, a mini excavator for public works, and a website update that would serve the city administration and city schools.

Council did not move to allocate, however, around $42,200 from the general fund for an effort that would provide support to downtown businesses during this particularly unprofitable time of year, that is, post-Christmas and midpandemic.

Council members worried about both fraud and the effectiveness of the method in helping truly down-and-out businesses in the plan pitched by the director of Main Street Lexington, Rebecca Logan.

Main Street Lexington proposed sending all residents $20 vouchers in their utility bills, which they could then use at any of the small, noncorporate businesses around town that opted in. The working title for this was “Lex Bucks,” and the ‘bucks’ would expire some time in April.

All City Council members agreed that this program would not necessarily serve as a shot in the arm for struggling stores and services, but rather as a way for businesses to continue building relationships with customers. And it would be a fun gift for community members, too.

“I look at it personally as a good neighbor gesture,” Mayor Frank Friedman said.

Council member David Sigler, however, came out strongly against the measure.

“Let’s say we wanted a business to get $1,000,” he said. “That means that they need 50 customers, at a minimum … to walk in and redeem this. I get concerned that this might not happen.”

Logan said that, after floating the idea with business owners, the general sentiment was, “If we get three, four, five new customers coming into the store that never walked into the store, then we would participate,” she summarized. “It’s a relationship building situation.”

Encouraging people to patronize businesses during a pandemic is tricky. Both Council members Marilyn Alexander and David Sigler felt squeamish about this.

“Some of our residents might say, ‘You put an expiration date on this, and you want me to go out during a pandemic? So you’re encouraging me?’ I don’t know,” Sigler said.

Ultimately, no one on Council offered a motion to go forward with the plan.

The News-Gazette

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