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Upchurch: R.R. bridge in development

Photo by Greg Bird Representative Ken Upchurch updates the Fiscal Court about upcoming road projects in McCreary County, including the possibility of constructing a bridge in Strunk.


By Greg Bird

A long-talked about bridge over railroad tracks in Strunk could be one step closer to reality according to State Representative Ken Upchurch.
Upchurch, the 52nd District Representative, paid a visit to the McCreary County Fiscal Court last week to provide updates on upcoming road projects in the county, as well as discussing the possibility of the bridge.
For many years the citizens in the Strunk and Pine Knot areas have complained about being blocked by stopped trains
Noting it would be a “long process” to get a bridge built, Upchurch said he would work to get the project into the state’s 6-year road plan, and has already asked for a cost estimate on what it would take to build the crossing. There would be several steps that need to be taken before any construction could even start – such as environmental impact studies, and acquiring right-of-ways.
The County would also need to play a role in the development and would need to take on the responsibility of constructing and maintaining a road connecting Murray Wilson Cemetery Road and Mt. Pleasant.

Upchurch, who is Chair of the House Transportation Committee, also supplied information on additional projects for McCreary County roads in the near future.
One project would be to four-lane U.S. 27 in Whitley City from the entrance to the Park to Whitley City Elementary – alleviating the bottleneck between the two locations.
He also stated the work on his goal of creating a scenic route on Highway 92 between Stearns and Wayne County is moving forward. Upchurch wants to “soften” some of the curves along the existing roadway – making it safer and more pleasant to drive on. He also spoke about the possibility of creating some scenic overlooks along the route. His hope is the road would help promote tourism.
Another long-needed road project could also be in consideration for the near future – an additional access road to McCreary Central High School. Upchurch said he has asked for a cost estimate to construct a road connecting the school and the McCreary Center campus, which would help ease traffic congestion at the two schools on Raider Way, as well as making the area easier to access for emergency vehicles.
Upchurch also noted he would be sending out a survey to his constituents via mail and social media, and asked citizens to respond with their ideas for the upcoming legislative session.
In other Fiscal Court actions the Court approved the 2020 budget for the McCreary County Sheriff’s Office, and authorized Sheriff Randy Waters to request advancement funding from the state.
By law the Sheriff’s Office has to start the year with a “zero” balance. This can be difficult as Sheriff’s are required to meet payroll and other expenses, so the state allows the offices to seek an advancement on their fees for the year to meet those obligations.
Magistrate Roger Phillips questioned the Sheriff regarding his proposed budget, noting it was about $200,000 more than the 2019 budget. Sheriff Waters stated he included possible revenue from alcohol sales in the budget, but said he had no way of knowing what the office would receive. He said the extra funding in the budget may not amount to that much, but it would be better to include it rather than have to amend the budget at a later date.
The Sheriff’s new budget, if the revenue allows, would reflect the hiring, training and outfitting of about four new deputies, as well as fuel, equipment, vehicles, insurance and retirement.
Judge Executive Jimmie Greene noted the new jail constructed in Knox County is open and starting to accept inmates. Judge Greene said he hoped to be able to transfer local prisoners to the facility by next month. He also said he is hoping to speak soon with Laurel County jail officials regarding their new jail and taking local inmates.
Citizen Darlene Price asked if any of the anticipated revenue from alcohol sales could be used to build a new jail.
Magistrate Roger Phillips stated it was a question that needed to be asked, but noted that the Fiscal Court is paying the salaries of four deputies and said it may be possible to use the alcohol revenue to replace that funding.
Phillips was cautioned, however, as the statute regarding regulatory fees specifically states any fees can only be used for “additional” policing.
KRS 243.075 states: “The regulatory license fee may be levied at the beginning of each budget period at a percentage rate that is reasonably estimated to fully reimburse the local government for the estimated costs of any additional policing, regulatory, or administrative expenses related to the sale of alcoholic beverages in the city and county.”
This implies that the money cannot be used to replace existing funding.
Judge Greene noted the County has been working on the alcohol ordinance, and expected to hold a working session with the Magistrates this Friday prior to presenting it for the first reading next month.
The Fiscal Court also appointed Eric Vanselow to the McCreary County Tourism Board, replacing Dr. Peg Taylor, and reinstated the County Ethics Board – with Nathan Nevels, Jimmy Barnett, Randy Maxwell and Scott Corder serving on the board.
The McCreary County Fiscal Court will meet again in regular session on Thursday, December 12 at 6:00 p.m.

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