SPEDA board meeting

The board members of the Somerset-Pulaski Economic Development Authority discuss business Thursday in its chambers on the third floor of the Energy Center.

Thursday’s meeting of the Somerset-Pulaski Economic Development Authority (SPEDA) saw two board members – Somerset Mayor Alan Keck and Pulaski County Judge Executive Steve Kelley – discuss how important it was for their respective governments to have passed the recent interlocal agreements, both from a governmental standpoint and from an economic standpoint.

“It might have looked easy from the outside. It was not,” Keck said. “We had a lot of back and forth over it for a lot of months, and at the end of the day he [Kelley] helped get the job done, and I appreciate that.”

Keck took part of SPEDA’s board meeting to thank Kelley publicly for the work put into negotiating the agreements – the Occupational License Fee Agreement, the Comprehensive Fire Protection Services Agreement and the Insurance Premium Tax Agreement.

Pulaski Fiscal Court passed the interlocal agreements last week, while Somerset Council passed them on Monday.

There was a lot of back and forth negotiation between the two entities, with each having passed at one point versions that did not fully align with one another.

Kelley said that from the standpoint of county magistrates, there was some opposition to the city’s desire to incorporate a Tax Increment Finance (TIF) district agreement as a stipulation for passing the occupational tax agreement.

That TIF encompasses the property of the planned Horse Soldier Farms development which would bring a distillery, high-end lodging and retail village to the area.

Kelley explained, “We’re still fighting an old belief that the city and county are supposed to be against each other. We’re enemies. We fought each other in grade school and with bragging rights, and so they carry that. There’s a lack of trust, I’ll say, between anybody that went to the county against anybody that lives in the city. That carries into the magistrates. They they just don’t trust anybody with anything, and they don’t realize that regardless of what happens, if we can get this TIF done it’s going to benefit us all. … We just said ‘We’re going to have to do this. Just trust them [the city].’”

Keck added, “Why SPEDA’s so important is it helps bridge that gap, and my message – and the judge’s message – has been ‘Let’s stop fighting with each other and start kicking other communities' butts. And then, when we start working together regionally and we start doing well, we’ll start kicking other state’s butts.’ … I think it’s a big step in the right direction for, quite frankly, a generation.”

Part of the interlocal agreements agreed that county government would give $400,000 a year to SPEDA for three years, then increase that amount to $620,000, plus give SPEDA money from its American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) funds and pay the annual payments on the BUILD Grant to help fund the changes in the Ky. 461, including the interchange with East Ky. 80.

SPEDA President and CEO Chris Girdler expressed gratitude to both governments for those funds and for “the collaboration between you all as leaders in the community. I know there was a lot of behind-the-scenes things taking place there for a while, and … I want to thank you all for including SPEDA as a part of that.”

The word of the day for Girdler was “collaboration,” as Girdler also showed pride in the collaboration among several entities and organizations which worked together to bring the Lake Cumberland Air Show to the area.

Girdler called SPEDA’s news of the airshow’s arrival “the most popular announcement that SPEDA has made in our two-and-a-half years.”

Even communities outside of Pulaski are buzzing about the August 29 airshow, which will be held at the Lake Cumberland Regional Airport, Girdler said.

“The aerobatic teams that are under contract to come are world-class,” he said, adding that the planes shown in SPEDA’s announcement video are the same planes that are coming to here.

He said he was expecting thousands of spectators to show up.

As far as collaboration, Girdler cited SPEDA itself, Lake Cumberland Regional Airport, Somernites Cruise (which is planning a special exhibition of Mustangs to complement having a P-51 Mustang Bomber on hand), the Somerset-Pulaski Chamber of Commerce and others.

In fact, Girdler expects the collaboration to be so successful that he seemed a bit concerned about whether the show would have enough manpower to run it.

“We did not anticipate the popularity, so if you all know anybody that has any interest in volunteering to help, we’ve got our hands full. With the crowd, food trucks, music, tents, you name it, it’s all going to be here,” Girdler told SPEDA board members.

Besides the above organizations, Somerset Community College will also have volunteers helping, he said, and parking will be available at both SCC and the Center for Rural Development.

Girdler said he was in talks with RTEC about having its trolly used as a shuttle to take people back and forth from those lots to the airport.

On the day of the airshow, the airspace around the airport will be shut down starting around 11:30 a.m. and will remain closed for about four hours, he said.

The two-hour air show is set to begin at 1 p.m.

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