FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ/Press Release) – Eastern Kentucky communities are getting more than $7 million in state and federal funds for everything from road paving and utility infrastructure to high-tech space and education jobs.
Gov. Andy Beshear announced $3,690,902 million in Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) grants for seven projects in Eastern Kentucky communities that will update infrastructure, bolster education, spur economic development, improve health care and build a better Kentucky.
The Department for Local Government (DLG) administers the grant funding. Communities receiving funds are Booneville, Hazard, Morehead, Mount Vernon and Somerset.
Beshear also announced nearly $4 million in funding from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) to a dozen communities for improvement of local streets and roads.
Booneville will use $1,000,000 in ARC funds to replace 1,160 water meters throughout the city. These upgrades will allow officials to provide more accurate, remote readings that will prevent revenue and water loss.
“I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping us set these goals and giving us funds to make it better here for the citizens of Owsley County,” said Booneville Mayor Nelson Bobrowski.
The Challenger Learning Center of Kentucky, located in Hazard, will use $800,000 in ARC funding for the Moon, Mars and Beyond Gateway to Tomorrow project, which will generate excitement about STEM careers and NASA’s “Return to the Moon by 2024” missions. The project includes an interactive science center, an outreach program in schools for students who cannot travel to the center, virtual programs and the establishment of a Moon, Mars and Beyond Facilitation Team. Upon completion, the project will create two jobs and will include 1,875 students.
“On behalf of the Challenger Learning Center of Kentucky Board of Directors and staff, I would like to thank Gov. Beshear and the Appalachian Regional Commission for this grant award, which is an investment in the future of the Challenger Learning Center,” said Challenger Learning Center Executive Director Tom Cravens. “ARC was the Challenger Learning Center’s first investor when the Center originally opened in 1999, and we appreciate this grant, which will kick off the third decade of this innovative STEM learning Center.”
Teach for America Appalachia, located in Hazard, will use $500,000 to recruit, train and retain K-12 teachers for underserved areas in eastern Kentucky by offering new training opportunities and incentives. The project will recruit 290 teachers and plans to retain at least 250 past their initial two-year contract. This project would serve 15 school districts within 12 Appalachian counties.
“Because of the Appalachian Regional Commission and this administration’s profound belief in our students and communities, we are so grateful to be the recipients of this Appalachian Regional Commission grant,” said Teach for America Appalachia Executive Director Stephanie Devine. “The grant will allow us to launch bold initiatives that will change the face of education in Appalachian Eastern Kentucky.”
Morehead State University (MSU) will use $622,902 in ARC funding to improve research capabilities and academic instruction in space systems engineering and astrophysics. MSU will use the funding to install a 12-meter satellite-tracing antenna for research, student training and to support NASA missions. It also will make them one of only four Deep Space Network (DSN) stations worldwide as a part of NASA’s DSN. They will also replace the “Star Theater,” which is the most important asset for science education, outreach and training at the MSU Space Science Center. Upon completion, this project will ensure MSU can attract and train students at all grade levels for STEM careers and will cement its legacy of graduating qualified, workforce-ready engineers and physicists.
“Morehead State University is pleased to have the support the ARC and the Governor in furthering the development of our Space Science Center, as well as the development of STEM-based education in Kentucky,” said MSU President Dr. Jay Morgan.
Rockcastle Regional Hospital and Respiratory Care Center Inc. will use $360,000 in ARC funding for the Tech Ready Apprentices for Careers in Kentucky (TRACK) Apprenticeship Program, which was developed by the Kentucky Department of Education’s Office of Career and Technical Education and the Kentucky Labor Cabinet. The program will train 36 apprentices, 12 per year over a three-year period. Participants include high school students who are interested in becoming State Registered Nurse Aides (SRNA). These students will work in the hospital’s ventilator care unit and receive training about caring for ventilator-dependent patients.
“The ARC’s support of our apprenticeship program will give new nursing assistants an experienced mentor right from the start of their career,” said Rockcastle Regional Hospital CEO Stephen Estes. “It will allow us to foster a new generation of nurses for the benefit of our patients now and in the future.”
The Southeast Kentucky Economic Development Corporation (SKED), located in Somerset, will use $108,000 in ARC funding for the Eastern Kentucky Economic Development Branding Initiative. The program will fund the development of new branding, stock photo production and websites for Rockcastle, Rowan, Whitley and Boyd counties. Upon completion, this program will help create 50 jobs and leverage $10 million in new private investment.
“We would like to thank Gov. Andy Beshear and DLG Commissioner Dennis Keene for supporting SKED’s application for $108,000 in ARC funds for our economic development branding initiative,” said SKED Executive Director Brett Traver. “Through this project we will work to reposition these communities’ images to help them attract new business and industry to the region.”
The Center for Rural Development, located in Somerset, will use $300,000 in ARC funding for the Coal Impacted Skills Training (CIST) Program, which will provide training opportunities to displaced, unemployed and underemployed workers in 35 counties impacted by the decline of the coal industry and COVID-19. Training opportunities will include essential work skills, help desk customer service and specialized workforce training in high-growth industries like allied health, commercial trucking and additive manufacturing. The program is expected to train 260 workers and provide a more ready workforce in growing industries.
“On behalf of our board and staff, we would like to thank the Appalachian Regional Commission, Commissioner Keene and the Department for Local Government for the Coal Impacted Skills Training award the center just received,” said Center for Rural Development President and CEO Lonnie Lawson. “This award will allow us to increase education, knowledge, skills and the health of our residents, enabling them to work and succeed in Appalachia.”
Also Monday, Beshear announced nearly $4 million in funding from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) to a dozen communities for improvement of local streets and roads.
“One way we make a better Kentucky is by empowering our local governments to improve and maintain the local traffic routes their citizens use every day,” Gov. Beshear said. “Smoother pavement, repaired road beds, improved drainage – simple things by themselves but highly important to the people who use them every day.”
The funding – $3,963,809 – will reimburse 10 counties and three cities for work such as pavement repair, resurfacing and drainage ditching on roadways that were rated in poor condition. The projects were submitted for funding consideration from local officials. In each case, KYTC district engineers assessed road conditions to determine the most critical needs based on factors such as safety, economic impact and traffic volumes.
A list of the awards is here.