It’s safe to say that County Judge-Executive Steve Kelley has big plans for 2022, while at the same time feeling a sense of accomplishment over 2021.
“Similar to recent years, we have seen great accomplishments in Pulaski County in 2021, and we are continuing to build a better Pulaski county for decades to come,” Kelley said.
“… Our county is growing like never before in my lifetime. Finally I can see a version of Pulaski County that will allow our children and grandchildren to stay home after graduation to raise their families and to prosper.”
And, all that was accomplished was done so, Kelley said, without raising taxes.
“In fact, we have lowered taxes for two straight years!” Kelley said. “This is the first time in my life that I remember taxes being lowered. We have worked very hard to make Pulaski County a better place for all of our families, and I trust that you have seen great results here.
“We are not finished, however. I will continue to give my all to make Pulaski County the best version of itself. Together we can make it happen.”
Kelley said he had four main areas of focus: Emergency management, economic development, facilities and parks/recreation.
For emergency management, Kelley said that the safety of Pulaski Countians has been and will continue to be a priority. He points to accomplishments like providing double the funding for volunteer fire departments and the success of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) as proof of that.
The EOC, created in late 2019, has been a major help for the community during the COVID-19 pandemic, he points out.
“That preparation proved to be invaluable as we were able to streamline communications throughout the county first responders, medical providers, schools, and local and state government agencies,” he said. “Hundreds of lives were saved because of our leadership in the early days of the pandemic. While we mourn the loss of those who were victims, I am certain it would have been much worse without our EOC providing strong leadership.”
For the volunteer fire departments around the county, Kelley said he planned to give them more help for them in 2022, anticipating a further increase to each one in the upcoming budget.
The county currently is remodeling the Hal Rogers Fire Training Center, with plans to relocate the EOC and 911 Dispatch center there soon.
“We also relocated the Region 12 Hazmat team from Jamestown to our Fire Training Center, giving us even more emergency resources to provide safety to our citizens,” he said.
Plus, the county is working closely with The Somerest-Pulaski Special Response Team (SRT) as it rebuilds the facility that was destroyed by fire. Kelley said the hope is to have that work completed by spring.
County Government also is working on purchasing new ambulances for Somerset-Pulaski EMS, he said.
“It is vital that we provide safe and dependable equipment to serve our public,” he said.
Some of the items that fall under emergency management also fall into the category of updating county facilities. Kelley mentioned that the new the new 911 Center should be fully functional by February 2022, and will house a state-of-the-art CAD system to help dispatch calls during emergencies.
“Being prepared is the most effective way to deal with emergencies, and I vow that we will be as prepared as we can be for any emergency we may face here in Pulaski County,” he said.
Other facility updates include the new coroner’s office, which is expected to be completed by spring, the new County Clerk Department of Motor Vehicle office which has moved into the former BB&T building on Main Street, and the addition of a new County Clerk’s office in the former First and Farmer’s building at Grand Central Plaza that will replace the branch currently at the mall.
Kelley also pointed out that a 2021 grant allowed the Lake Cumberland Housing Agency to create what he called a first-of-its-kind senior living facility.
“This will be a great asset to our loved ones who are entering their twilight years, and I am confident that many counties across the state will follow our lead in providing such facilities,” he said.
In terms of economic development, Kelley admits that most of the work has been done through the Somerset-Pulaski Economic Development Authority (SPEDA), the two-year-old board that Kelley helped bring to life. Kelley also currently serves on that board.
Kelley points to several of SPEDA’s accomplishments, such as the groundbreakings of Horse Soldier Farms, AppHarvest’s indoor strawberry farm, a partnership with Somerset Community College and KCTCS to launch a heavy equipment training facility, and a partnership with both SCC and the Pulaski County Detention Center to create a vocational skills training program for inmates.
That’s on top of other improvements such as the creation of the SPEDA commerce park, two statewide conferences and a national conference booked for the Center For Rural Development and other projects in development.
“We have the attention of economic developers at the national and state levels, wondering, ‘What is the magic formula for the success we are seeing in Pulaski County?’ The short answer is that SPEDA is harnessing the efforts of everyone in the community for a change. For the first time in a long time, we are seeing a collaborative effort among our community partners and leadership to move our county forward,” Kelley said.
That just leaves the parks and recreation side of things, and Kelley points to several projects that have brought about improvements at several parks around the county.
Improvements like a new picnic shelter and dog park at Firebrook, a reading trail installed at Eubank Park with many others planned, maintaining and updating community parks to keep them safe, reworking the baseball field at Shopville Park, restoring the gym floor at White Lily, dedicating a new outdoor shelter at Woodstock Park, and assisting the city of Burnside with making improvements to its Little League baseball field at Cole Park.
“Of course our own Pulaski County Park has been transformed into a mecca of family activity,” Kelley said. “Just seven years ago, this beautiful park had been neglected and run down to the point that it was barely being used. Now we have over 18 miles of hiking and biking trails, seven rental cabins, a courtesy dock and improved ramp for boaters, improved shelters for the public to use, a country store at the park’s entrance, and many new RV campsites and a new bathhouse for the public to enjoy. The park is bustling with activity now, and I can confidently say we have the best county park in Kentucky!”
He continued: “In 2022, we plan on expanding our hiking and biking trails through the beautiful ridges overlooking the park, and we are working on plans to install an ADA-accessible fishing pier that will provide year round fishing for our anglers.”