EASTERN KENTUCKY — Gov. Andy Beshear traveled to Hazard and Jackson Monday to present more than $5 million in grants, in collaboration with the Department for Local Government (DLG), to improve Eastern Kentucky communities. He also discussed coal severance tax revenue.
To relieve some of the economic burden generated by the decline of coal, Beshear discussed reinvestment in coal communities. In his budget proposal, he recommends returning every coal severance dollar back to coal-producing counties, after paying the required debt service on water and sewer infrastructure and the state’s administrative costs.
Beshear estimates this would mean $18 million in additional funding for coal counties over the 2020-22 biennium.
“Our coal miners have worked hard in dangerous conditions for decades to keep the lights on for all of our families,” said Beshear. “This $18 million is not everything they need or deserve, but it’s a start. We want to rebuild the economies in our coal communities to better serve Kentucky families after devastating losses in the industry.”
Beshear awarded Perry County Fiscal Court with over $4 million in funding for two projects.
“These grants from the Appalachian Regional Commission are much appreciated,” said Sen. Brandon Smith, R-Hazard. “These resurfacing projects will have a tremendous impact on the commonwealth and I look forward to their expansion.”
The county will use $1,562,352 from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and a $2 million Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to renovate the Perry building, which houses customer service business SYKES Enterprises, Inc.
Upon completion, this project will improve productivity for SYKES and will create 200 full-time jobs. It includes the demolition of the existing interior and a new build-out including modifications to the mechanical, electrical, plumbing and data systems.
“SYKES is proud to have served the Hazard community for more than 20 years, and thanks to this upcoming renovation, we are thrilled to offer both current and future employees not just great career opportunities, but a beautiful new work environment where they can come every day and truly thrive in their jobs,” said SYKES Senior Vice President Todd McReynolds. “We are grateful to Gov. Beshear and the state of Kentucky for making it possible for us to better serve the people of Hazard.”
Beshear also awarded Perry County Fiscal Court with a $500,000 ARC grant for the Route 80 Water Systems Interconnect Project to prevent gaps in water service during shortages. The county will use the ARC funding in conjunction with $1.2 million from the Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) fund to install a water main connecting Perry and Knott county water systems, which will allow Perry County to purchase water from Knott County when necessary. These updates will serve 15 businesses, including the regional hospital, and 1,500 households during disruptions in the Hazard water supply.
“The investment the Appalachian Regional Commission has made in Perry County will have a huge impact on the Hazard community,” said Rep. Chris Fugate, R-Chavies. “These two grants will continue to move Eastern Kentucky forward by providing more job opportunities and aiding in healthier lifestyles for the people in our community.”
Judge/Executive Scott Alexander agreed.
“Job growth and community improvements are the only way we will change Appalachia and our economy,” said Alexander. “We are so excited to work with Gov. Beshear on these projects.”
Due to outdated waterlines, the City of Jackson has a higher than average water loss record, causing losses in revenue for the water district and gaps in service for customers. To remedy this issue, Beshear presented the City of Jackson with a total of $2 million in ARC and CDBG funding.
“We are so excited to receive this much needed funding to update our infrastructure in Jackson,” said Mayor Laura Thomas. “Many of our existing waterlines have exceeded their useful life, and new waterlines will help reduce our high water loss, reduce the number of water line breaks, and relieve stress on our overworked water plant. Thank you to Gov. Beshear and the folks with CDBG and ARC for providing access to funding that allows us to better serve the people of Jackson and Breathitt County.”
The city will replace 16,700 linear feet of waterline from the Highland water tank toward downtown. Because of this project, 1,596 households and 296 businesses will receive crucial, higher quality water service.
“This is great news for the city and will go a long way toward providing the clean water that Jackson residents and businesses need and deserve for many years to come,” said Rep. Cluster Howard, D-Jackson. “I want to thank Gov. Beshear, Department for Local Government Commissioner Dennis Keene and his agency for working with our local officials to make this upgrade possible. I’m looking forward to the day when this work is complete.”
Sen. Brandon Smith expressed excitement about the water line updates.
“This is great news for the City of Jackson,” said Smith. “This installation will provide the necessary means to improve essential public water and wastewater systems. Thank you to those involved for prioritizing local improvements across the commonwealth.”
DLG Commissioner Dennis Keene said these projects will further the mission to improve communities across the commonwealth and better the lives of Kentucky families.
“We are so excited about these three projects today,” said Keene. “Ensuring uninterrupted water access and the creation of good jobs is vital for all Kentuckians.”