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County officials hope stimulus dollars will help projects

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Water, sewers, roads and firehouse on request list

By Steve Doyle

Leaders in Shelby County are hopeful that the $3.2 billion allotted to the state by President Obama’s stimulus package will provide dollars for several planned local projects.

Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is spreading dollars to states to help develop economic recovery and preserve health care, education and other opportunities to create jobs.

Gov. Steve Beshear on Wednesday announced his “Kentucky At Work” initiative to use those dollars during the next 28 months to help preserve jobs and grow the economy.

Last week, state officials said Shelby County Public Schools would receive nearly $2 million  for two years as part of the state’s distribution of $924 million for education, and other agencies in Shelby are hoping to get a piece of the action, too.

“We’re working on a package of local infrastructure requests that we hope to get funding for,” Shelby County Judge Executive Rob Rothenburger said. “These are projects we have been planning.”

Beshear’s plan allots $71 million for water and sewer infrastructure, and that’s where Shelby County hopes to receive the most help.

The discussed I-64 regional water line and sewer expansion in the Ardmore-Arlington area west of Shelbyville are two that have received significant discussion. Arlington-Ardmore improvements not only would serve subdivisions but also would handle the new school campus being built.

 “We hope to get some help there,” Rothenburger said.

He also cited projects in North Shelby – connecting a water line from Aiken Road all the way to Bagdad – and West Shelby, where there’s a need for emergency generators during storms.

Sen. Gary Tapp (R-Shelbyville) said he also is hopeful that some of the money will be diverted to roadwork in Shelby County. He cited the widening of I-64 from east Shelby toward the Simpsonville exit as the key part of that.

“We hope to apply some of this money toward that project,” he said.

Secondary requests that Tapp is sponsoring include widening Ky. 53 from I-64 to U.S. 60 – “The biggest issue there is the railroad overpass,” he said – and of Kentucky 1848 in Simpsonville from U.S. 60 to I-64. Each of these highly traveled roads would be four lanes.

“We’ve introduced those in the Senate, but they still would require approval in the House,” he said. “So we have to work through those.”

Beshear’s plan allocates $421 million for highways and roads, and most of those will go to existing projects. The much-discussed I-265 river bridges is getting significant attention.

Shelbyville’s planned new fire station on Warrior Way also could be part of the picture, and Mayor Tom Hardesty says he is hopeful get the money to build the facility.

“We’ve applied, and we’re hopeful that we will get that money,” he said. “We only need a measly $600,000. As soon as we get it, we’re ready to start moving dirt.

But Hardesty and everyone else realizes that all these requests must be evaluated and approved by state officials.

In addition to allotments for water-and-sewer, roads and education, Beshear’s initiative directs $990 to Medicaid, $272 million to health and welfare. $120 to the general fund (which mitigates revenue shortfalls), $66 for job training, $50 million for transit, $12 million for local community development block grants and $63 million for energy projects

“We cannot retreat in our commitment to vital areas like education, health care, economic development and public safety,” Beshear said in his announcement. “The bipartisan mid-year budget initiative that the General Assembly passed and I just signed into law preserves these priorities.”