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School awaits Beshear action on funding

BY CORIANNE EGAN cegan@paducahsun.com

West Kentucky Community & Technical College will have one of its biggest construction projects partially funded if the state's budget gains approval in its present form this week.

The budget would send $7.5 million to the college's Paducah School of Art and Design, which would cover some of the renovations to the Kitchens Inc. building on Harrison Street. The completion of the renovation would be the final piece in the arts school's Lower Town campus. The project was at the top of the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce's priority projects list, and the chamber lobbied for it in Frankfort this winter.

"We are very excited," Chamber President Sandra Wilson said. "I think it really shows the importance of a community identifying a top priority project and sticking with it."

Gov. Steve Beshear's proposed budget raised the prospect of funding the project. The measure then made it through negotiations in the Senate and the House. The budget, which landed on Beshear's desk Tuesday, would allow the state to fund 75 percent, or $7.5 million, of the cost, estimated at $10 million. 

"I just want to convey the appreciation that the college has for all of the support that our local community and our local leaders have given to the Paducah School of Art," WKCTC President Barbara Veazey said. "These people didn't put it on a piece of paper and let it go. They drove it to Frankfort and they pushed so hard."

This fall, the chamber put the project on its priority list and made several trips to the state capitol to promote it. Chamber representatives also met with local legislators, including Sen. Bob Leeper, I-Paducah, chairman of the Senate's budget committee.

The project has been part of the arts schools dreams for several years, and community support ramped up in 2013 after the school expanded into Madison Hall.

The school's sculpture facility is set to open this fall. The Kitchens building would house the 2-D art programs, such as drawing, painting and photography. Although the project is referred to as shovel-ready - the school said it would like to begin construction this July and have it ready for the 2015 school year - it would require a large amount of local fundraising.

"I think we are pretty positive our community can raise $2.5 million," Veazey said. "That's the absolute truth. We can do that. We've been shouting out the message whenever we have an audience."

Contact Corianne Egan, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8652 or follow @CoriEgan on Twitter.

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