PIKEVILLE (Dec. 4, 2013) — As Pike County prepares to host next week’s Shaping Our Appalachian Region summit, county officials say they hope the gathering will produce results and note that the region already has been studied extensively.
In preparation for the SOAR summit, Pike County Judge/Executive Wayne T. Rutherford and his staff gathered up every comprehensive development plan and advisory study concerning Pike County and Eastern Kentucky they could find. When they were done, the judge/executive’s large conference room table was inadequate space to review them, and another table was brought into the room.
“The bottom line is that our county and our region have been studied out. The needs here are well-known and an untold fortune has been spent over the course of the last four decades for plan after plan,” Judge Rutherford said. “We know what we need, but we must bring everybody together to get it done, and we are hopeful that the SOAR summit will produce results toward that goal.”
Last September, Rutherford unveiled a proposal to U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers calling for utilization of a portion of the $2.5 billion in Abandoned Mine Lands funds hoarded in Washington since 1977. The proposal was hailed across Kentucky including by major statewide newspaper editorial boards.
Rutherford proposed the bulk of the AML funds be returned to the counties of their origin based on tonnage and that they should have rigid guidelines attached to them allowing the money to be spent only in the eligible coal counties and exclusively for infrastructure and economic development.
“The reason Gov. Beshear and Congressman Rogers decided to convene the SOAR summit on Dec. 9 is because of the state of our coal industry. The disastrous impact of the War on Coal has made it to where we can’t just slide by and not confront our challenges head-on,” Rutherford said.
“It isn’t like we have sat idle for the last 50 years,” he said. “We have planned and we have made progress, but what we need now is cooperation and help from the Federal government to invest here to reclaim our tomorrows.”