It appears that tourism in Pulaski County is looking better than ever.
Carolyn Mounce, executive director of the Somerset-Pulaski County Convention and Visitors Bureau, told members of Pulaski County Fiscal Court during Tuesday’s meeting that state numbers indicate more than $118 million in tourism dollars were spent in the county during the 2012-2013 fiscal year, which ended June 30.
“Tourism is alive and well,” said Mounce.
The area has no doubt seen somewhat of a resurgence since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that a six-year rehabilitation of Wolf Creek Dam would come to an end by March 2013. The lake level had been lowered significantly while repairs were underway to the dam, which left many boat ramps and docks in the Pulaski County area largely unusable.
The rehabilitation, coupled with the recession that took hold in 2008, left many struggling.
But Pulaski County has emerged from the other side, and the summer was a relatively busy — in spite of unseasonably rainy weather — for Lake Cumberland, thanks to raised water levels and an improving economy.
Mounce said that a wet, dreary July 4th weekend — one that left many fireworks displays rained out — didn’t put much of a dent in the area’s tourism revenue. Mounce said people sought entertainment in other places besides the lake, such as Somerset’s two movie theaters, Mill Springs Battlefield, and more.
“I still say the lake is the focal point of the area,” said Mounce. “But even the July 4th holiday we had that was really rainy ... It drove the people off the lake. They didn’t leave town ... they enjoyed other things we had to offer.”
Mounce said the $118 million brought in during the 2012-2013 fiscal year resulted in around $2.8 million in local tax revenue.
The lake is expected to be up to normal levels and undergoing normal operations by summer 2014.
Mounce sounded firmly optimistic in the area’s tourism outlook, especially with several new restaurants, including Texas Roadhouse and Steak n’ Shake, moving into the area.
In a related discussion, the county reached out and helped one local club fund an upcoming quail hunt catered specifically to a group of soldiers through a Ft. Knox-based program that helps returning military personnel transition back into civilian life.
Jimmy Fischer, member of the Fishing Creek Bird Dog Club, is spearheading a campaign to bring members of the Soldier Adaptive Reconditioning Program (SARP) to Pulaski County for a quail hunt at Mike Branscum’s farm.
Fischer said they came up with the idea while quail hunting themselves, and decided to reach out to the Ft. Knox program, which helps wounded and disabled soldiers transition back to life at home through a number of activities including cycling, aquatic basketball, wheelchair basketball, sit volleyball, spinning, yoga, pilates, and more.
Fischer said they’re planning on bringing 10 SARP members on the hunt, but he said there are around 40 more waiting in the wings. Fischer said each hunt costs around $2,000 and asked that the court help fund a future hunt, as the first has already been funded and is set for Nov. 1.
“Anything fiscal court can do to help us out we would greatly appreciate it,” Fischer said.
The court unanimously voted to fund another hunt and offered Fischer $2,000.
“I think it’s a great service you’re doing,” said Pulaski County Judge-executive Barty Bullock.
The magistrates agr-eed.
“I’m all about doing anything for the veterans as long as it benefits the county,” said 4th District Magistrate Glenn Max-ey.
In other news from Tuesday’s fiscal court meeting:
• Mounce asked that the court approve an ordinance that will help the convention and visitors bureau realign itself back with Kentucky state statutes that have been changed and modified over the past several years. The court approved the request.
• The court approved Pulaski County Public Safety Director Tiger Robinson’s request to surplus two vehicles for area fire departments.
• Pulaski County Solid Waste Coordinator Gerald Hines informed the court that a free household hazardous waste day will be held this Friday, Oct. 18, at the Pulaski County Recycling Center on West Ky. 80.
“We don’t get to have too many of those just due to cost,” said Hines, who noted the event is popular because it gives residents the opportunity to dispose of items they otherwise would be unable to throw out.
The event is from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday. Materials accepted include paint in cans, mercury, motor oil, poisons, pesticides, aerosol cans, solvents, corrosive acids, unbroken fluorescent tubes, auto and boat batteries, household cleaners, and small propane cylinders.
There is a limit of 100 pounds per person, and the event is only open to Pulaski County residents. No businesses may participate.
• The court also gave the go-ahead to mow a property at Lot 45, Hidden Crest Drive in Oak Ridge Subdivision.
• The court approved the partial removal of Farmer Woodall Road from the maintenance system, although a few residents appeared to protest the move, stating that removal may make access to a family cemetery more difficult.
• Pulaski County Community Development Director Tiffany Bourne asked that the court approve a resolution to prioritize a number of projects that had been expected to receive state coal severance funds.
Bourne said the county’s first priority for the coal severance funds is Woodstock Community Park, slated to receive $15,000. Second is the Senior Citizens Center, expected to receive $87,000. But those are only projections, and Bourne cautioned that nothing is set in stone, especially as funding for the coal severance counties continues to decline as coal mining jobs decrease rapidly.
“It’s unfortunate these things have to happen ... You project you can fund this much, the federal government cuts the funds and you can only fund this much,” said Bullock. “It’s sad that things have to diminish like this.”
The funds had been expected to go to a number of other projects at Rocky Hollow, the Burnside Police Department, and Pulaski County Park, but in the face of deep cuts to the funding, that likely won’t happen this fiscal year.
• The court approved a laundry list of items connected with the county’s Senior Citizens Center project, including an affirmative action plan, a resolution related to access to public records, a Title VI implementation plan, a resolution declaring the center a drug-free workplace, drug-free certification, a fair housing resolution, grievance procedures, and more.
• The court approved a resolution allowing the county to enter into an inter-local agreement with KACO that will let the county to enter leasing pool with KACO. Pulaski County Treasurer Joan Isaacs also asked that the magistrates approve leasing out an upcoming project to purchase and equip a new 911 center and purchase five new CAT mowing tractors. The court approved Isaacs’ request.
• The court heard the first reading of an ordinance allowing the purchase of five new mowing tractors at around $615,000. Isaacs requested that the court approve entering into a lease with a manufacturer for three new backhoes. The four-year lease includes maintenance and a $1 buy-out.
The next Pulaski County Fiscal Court meeting is set for Tuesday, Oct. 22 at 10 a.m.