EASTERN KENTUCKY — Gov. Andy Beshear visited four Eastern Kentucky communities Friday to present grants, support legislation to help miners and discuss key issues affecting families including education and health care.
In collaboration with the Department for Local Government (DLG) and the Transportation Cabinet, Beshear announced nearly $3 million for community improvement projects in Morehead, Sandy Hook and Louisa. Beshear also visited Pikeville to tour the Pikeville Medical Center and discuss health care and other priorities of his administration.
“I believe our people and our communities come first,” said Beshear. “Helping our Kentucky families improve their wages, access and afford health care, receive a high-quality education and protect their retirement while setting a positive and helpful tone in Frankfort is critically important to my administration. Every day, we are working as one team – Team Kentucky – to ensure we are building a bigger, brighter future for all our communities.”
Beshear visited the Pikeville Medical Center and discussed health care and black lung with Rep. Angie Hatton of Whitesburg. Beshear and Hatton, a sponsor of HB 239, called for passage of the bill, which would allow qualified physicians to perform exams for potential black lung cases. Under current laws, only board certified pulmonary specialists can perform exams. There are currently only four pulmonologists in the state that qualify, which forces miners either to go undiagnosed or to travel long distances for care.
“Black lung is a tough disease, and while our miners are tougher, we owe it to them and their families to make it easier for them to get the care they need and deserve,” said Beshear. “We’re here today in Pike County and almost all of our coal miners live in either eastern or western Kentucky – but, in order to get the diagnosis they need to receive treatment, they typically have to travel all the way to Louisville or Lexington. We must pass HB239 and change this. It is unacceptable.”
“At a time when black lung is being diagnosed at near-epidemic levels, miners who suffer from black lung need to have more doctors to choose from and access to clinics in the coalfields,” said Rep. Angie Hatton, D-Whitesburg. “Arbitrarily eliminating radiologists from the list of qualified B Readers serves no legitimate purpose and sends miners the message that their needs are not important.”
Rep. Bobby McCool, R-Van Lear, attended to express his support as cosponsor of the bill.
“Coal mining has provided the economic engine for our communities, state, and nation for generations,” said McCool. “As a former coal miner from a family of coal miners, I’ve seen firsthand the devastation that comes from days and nights spent mining coal. I hope we can provide the resources for these miners and make the remainder of their life as comfortable as possible. God bless our miners.”
Chief Executive Officer Donovan Blackburn with the Pikeville Medical Center, which employees 3,100, welcomed Beshear and Hatton.
“I look forward to finding ways to help educate and train more Eastern Kentuckians in order to help them secure a great career in the health care industry and care for our people,” said CEO Donovan Blackburn. “I greatly appreciate the governor and his commitment to health care and our region, and to a better and healthier Kentucky.”
Currently, there are no ADA accessible playgrounds in Lawrence County or the surrounding areas. To remedy this problem, Beshear announced a $50,000 Recreational Trails Program (RTP) grant to Lawrence County Fiscal Court to add an accessible playground and splash park in Lawrence County Park.
“The splash pad and new playground equipment will be a great asset not only to our park but also to the entire community,” said Judge/Executive Phillip Carter. “The playground equipment will be handicap accessible including a swing made for wheelchair accessibility. We feel that every child including those with physical handicaps deserve to have a place where they can enjoy outdoor activities.”
“This splash park and playground will be a great asset to our community and a wonderful place for families looking for a warm-weather activity,” said Rep. Kathy Hinkle, D-Louisa. “I want to thank Gov. Beshear and our fiscal court for working together to make this possible, and I look forward to the day when all of this is built and ready for use.”
“This is great news for Lawrence County,” said Sen. Phillip Wheeler, R-Pikeville. “This project will have a noticeable impact on the lives of children in our community and I look forward to its completion.”
Beshear awarded Elliott County Fiscal Court with a $45,000 Land and Water Conservation Fund grant to make necessary improvements to Addison Field. Currently, the park has no public restrooms, forcing the county to rent portable facilities. To remedy this problem, the county will construct a building equipped with restrooms, a changing facility, concessions and equipment storage.
“Every community should have a fully equipped park for its citizens to enjoy,” said DLG Commissioner Dennis Keene. “I’m pleased visitors will have the facilities they need to host events and enjoy the park.”
“The Land and Water Conservation fund grant will enable Elliott County to create an essential facility that improves the overall well-being at Addison Field,” said Wheeler. “I would like to extend my appreciation to those involved for prioritizing this area in the Commonwealth.”
To address safety concerns at the Clyde A. Thomas Regional Airport in Morehead, Beshear presented two grants from the Kentucky Department of Aviation in conjunction with FAA funding. The two grants, totaling $2.4 million, will be used for runway pavement reconstruction and to replace outdated runway and taxiway lighting systems.
“The combined $2.4 million state investment will elevate the safety of the airport by correcting runway issues and replacing critical lighting systems for safer landings and takeoffs,” said Beshear.
Also in Morehead, Beshear and Keene announced a $250,000 RTP grant for improvements to the Triplett Valley Trail in Memorial Tree Walk Park. Currently, the trail is impassable for wheelchairs and strollers. With the funding, the city will resurface the trail to make it ADA accessible and add a bridge, connecting the park to Morehead State University and local businesses.
“The Recreational Trails Program grant will be a huge contribution to the city of Morehead,” said Sen. Stephen West, R-Paris. “I am appreciative of their commitment to revitalize areas around the Commonwealth.”
Mayor Laura White-Brown expressed gratitude for the funding.
“The City of Morehead is honored to receive these grants,” said White-Brown. “We are thankful to have such hardworking citizens and community agencies like our Gateway ADD who are always the first to help us navigate our way through grant opportunities. Thank you to Gov. Beshear for this recognition and we assure you these funds will make you proud as we use them to better our community and state.”
Students from Morehead State’s Craft Academy were also in attendance. Beshear proposed additional funding in his budget to increase the number of students at the academy.
Since taking office, Beshear has presented over $6.6 million in grant funding to 11 communities across the commonwealth. Local governments will use the funding to build a nature preserve at Lotus sexual assault and child abuse advocacy center in Paducah, rehabilitate the sewer system in Dawson Springs, construct a new fire station in Murray, make the Janice Mason Art Museum ADA accessible in Cadiz and improve parks in Dayton, Bromley, Covington and Wilder.