EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is part of a publishing partnership between the Richmond Register and Eastern Progress
It was deja vu for Governor Andy Beshear when he arrived at the Central Kentucky Regional Airport on Friday afternoon for another special announcement.
In April, Beshear sat in a hangar alongside Madison County, Berea, Richmond, and EKU officials as he signed new legislation which would allow EKU to become a fourth and equal partner on the airport board.
On Friday, he was there to announce his recommendation that the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) approve an infrastructure project for the city of Berea and present a check for more than $1 million to help with upgrades and improvements to the area's wastewater and sewage infrastructure.
The $1,024,800 project, if approved, would extend wastewater collection and treatment service to the Central Kentucky Regional Airport.
The project includes construction of 12,000 linear feet of 4-inch sewer lines, two new manholes and 12,000 linear feet of 8-inch water lines. The result will be a substantial increase in water capacity as well as an improvement in fire protection for the facility.
Existing water and sewer systems at the airport cannot support the anticipated future transportation needs in Central Kentucky, hampering the facility’s critical role in the economic development of the region. The need for upgrades is exacerbated by the presence of the Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) Aviation Program’s flight school at the airport. EKU will soon create an aviation mechanic school that will utilize airport facilities, further taxing the current systems.
The funds for the infrastructure improvements were provided through the Appalachian Regional Commission grant which Berea applied for earlier this year.
"Today's water and sewage funding announcement adds tremendous economic momentum that we are seeing here in Kentucky," Beshear said. "Folks, our economy in Kentucky is on fire."
He said this week in the first three days, he helped announce 1,100 new jobs across the commonwealth.
Although he said Kentucky had seen some challenges, the economy had recovered in two months what "they said" would take five years, according to the Democratic governor.
"That is a heck of a challenge to have, but they're challenges I would have prayed for just 12 months ago," he said.
He said even Madison County and the surrounding regions were primed for development and growth, and for a bright future — with the help of the central airport.
"But to do that, we have to invest, we have to have the infrastructure," Beshear said.
Beshear said this updated infrastructure at the airport in Madison County could be a big factor in helping attract new, larger businesses to the area.
"This is going to be a fly-into area where we are going to see people from all across the country, and all over the world to invest in us," he said. "Whether it's the rise of AgTech with an announcement from AppHarvest with an amazing new facility right here. Something that is only going to increase as water dries up in the West and — as you know — we flood in Kentucky too much. We are going to have more opportunities than we ever thought possible."
However, he said these opportunities were only possible from working together.
"Working together you see all the mayors, county judges, who know that what is good for one area is good for the county and the entire region," she said.
In attendance for the announcement were both cities' mayors Robert Blythe and Mayor Fraley, as well as Deputy Judge Executive Colleen Chaney and EKU President David McFaddin. Members of the airport board as well as council members of the city of Berea were also in attendance.
“The Central Kentucky Regional Airport is a critical partner in the competitiveness for Madison County, Richmond and Berea governments from an educational and economic development perspective,” Madison County Judge/Executive Reagan Taylor, president of the Kentucky Association of Counties said. “Improving water and sewer infrastructure to this area of the county provides a significant investment that will translate into responsible growth, resulting in job creation and a better quality of life for Madison Countians.”
“Madison County has a tremendous amount of economic opportunity and investments like this will pay dividends for future growth,” Rep. Josh Bray, who represents Garrard and Rockcastle counties and the part of Madison County that includes the regional airport, said in a release. “It’s because of the partnership and cooperation between the Madison Airport Board, the City of Berea, Madison County, and Eastern Kentucky University this project has become a reality. I am proud to be a part of such a strong coalition that works together to help improve the lives and opportunities of Kentuckians.”
Mayor Fraley said this announcement was something huge for the city of Berea.
"With Eastern Kentucky University growing their current aviation program along with current and future growth in Berea, Richmond and Madison County, modernization at this very airport is critical," Fraley said. "I also want to say I appreciate the high level of cooperation from our local officials, elected representatives in Frankfort, The Bluegrass Area Development District, the Governor's Office and the Department of Local Government for moving this project forward."