By Bill Robinson
Originally scheduled for 2014, the reconstruction of Exit 95 on Interstate 75 won’t take place until 2017, Madison Judge/Executive Kent Clark told a joint meeting of the Richmond and Berea chambers of commerce Friday.
The state Transportation Cabinet is delaying the project, Clark said, until a decision is made on the proposed highway that would run from Exit 95 to Nicholasville.
Although state and federal project managers will be announcing four possible connector routes this summer, the no-build option is still on the table.If built, the connector would have a large impact on the interchange, Clark said.
The judge/executive, who traditionally delivers an upbeat state of the county address to the chambers, started with good news.
“Things are good; things are excellent,” Clark began, telling the audience the county will end the fiscal year next month with a balanced budget for the 20th consecutive year.
But, the audience audibly gasped when he said the Exit 95 project would be delayed.
News about the exit wasn’t all bad, however. The state recently awarded a $1 million contract to rebuild the road from Exit 95 to White Hall State Historic Site, which is adjacent to a county park.
The new road also will include a 10-foot wide walking/biking path, bringing to six miles the length of walk/bike trails around the park.
Completion of the Berea Bypass, from US 25 to KY 21 (Big Hill Road), could get started next year, Clark also said, reporting other good news from state transportation officials.
A $550,000 renovation of the Pleasant View House, 80 percent federally funded, at Battlefield Park is expected to start this year.
Although the county has been able to maintain services without raising taxes, governments at all levels, from cities to the federal government, are coming under financial stress, Clark said.
Because of its quality of life, Madison will continue to be one of Kentucky’s fastest growing counties, the judge/executive said. But, as the general population grows, so does the jail population.
That is making the detention center perhaps county government’s greatest challenge, he said.
The 192-bed facility routinely houses more than 275 inmates. That number often includes state prisoners for whom the county is paid more than the daily cost of their upkeep. When a jail’s population exceeds capacity by more than 25 percent, however, the state begins moving its prisoners to other counties. Then the county loses that income.
Without jail expansion, only local prisoners will be in the county jail two years from now, costing the tax payers at least $1.6 million annually. In four years, even local prisoners are projected to overfill the facility, and the county will have to pay other detention centers to house its prisoners. That would push the county’s incarceration expenses more than $2.5 million beyond current costs, Clark said.
The county is studying the construction of a 100 to 150-bed facility on the site of the demolished Miller Building next to the jail, the judge/executive said.
Another future problem is funding the county’s consolidated 911 emergency calling system. It is being financed primarily by a $3.50 monthly fee on landline telephones. However, the number of those has dwindled to only 22,000. Locally based cells phones are charged only a 70-cent monthly 911 fee.
“Is it fair,” Clark asked, for landline phone users to bear the burden of financing the 911 service?
Nearby Garrard and Lincoln counties are attempting to place a fee on water meters to fund their emergency calling systems. That would spread the 911 cost more evenly, the judge/executive said.
Although serving in elective office is “not all peaches and cream,” Clark said he would like to continue being judge for awhile. His term expires in 2014.
In addition to hearing the state of the county address, Friday’s luncheon also was the graduation for Leadership Madison County. That helped swell attendance to record numbers.
The interest in Leadership Madison County and the luncheon attendance both reflect the county’s promising future as well as the optimism of its residents and their desire to be involved, Clark said.
Bill Robinson can be reached at email@example.com or at 624-6690.