Fiscal court talks ARPA, riverport during first meeting back in-person

McCracken County Deputy Judge-Executive Steve Doolittle (right) speaks with members of the fiscal court and other county officials in attendance at Monday night’s meeting. This was the court’s first in-person meeting since March 2020.

For the first time in nearly 14 months, the McCracken County Fiscal Court met live and in person at the courthouse Monday evening.

Judge-Executive Craig Clymer was glad to be back in Courtroom D with his fellow court members after weathering what he hopes was the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said after the meeting.

“It felt good. We’re making progress with COVID. Things are starting to loosen up and people are starting to get out. It felt really good to be back in there again. It’s a big difference between sitting in person and having a meeting and doing it virtually.”

The county officials — Bill Bartleman could not attend due to personal reasons — sat at a safe distance to comply with CDC regulations.

The mostly routine meeting had a few consequential decisions.

In order to aid the Paducah-McCracken County Riverport in seeking a Port Infrastructure Development Program grant to expand some portions of the bulkyard and revitalize existing equipment, the court approved $100,000 in matching funds should the riverport receive the grant. This roughly $3 million project and grant would also require the city of Paducah to commit $100,000 in matching funds.

Treasurer Pam Thompson was approved to proceed with requesting the release of McCracken County’s funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, for which the portal opened Monday. The county, officials estimated, will receive around half of its originally anticipated $12.8 million from the federal relief act — around $6.4 million — to put toward industries, projects and people impacted financially by COVID-19.

“I think it’ll only be half. That’s what they said it’s going to be but we won’t really know until we get in there and push the button,” Thompson said.

Exactly how these funds will be used is up in the air, and it could be any number of things, said Community Development Project Manager Steve Ervin.

“There seems to be a lot of flexibility there. They don’t come out with direct guidance on exactly what you can and what you can’t use it for, but obviously, I think, the project has to be related to something that has been impacted by COVID-19. For instance, tourism, we know tourism has been impacted by (it).”

Clymer, if he had his druthers, would like to put the majority of those funds toward Greenway Sports, the sports complex his administration has been working to deliver to the community for the past year.

“We’ve got to decide that yet, but I’m pretty well convinced that we need to put the vast majority of it towards the sports complex, assuming that the city will join us as 50-50 partners,” Clymer said in an interview after the meeting. “I know they see the wisdom in how valuable that would be to our community, they’re just trying to find their way to an equitable decision as far as what to fund and what not to.

“It’ll go a long way obviously towards helping us build out that complex.”

Budget estimates for the sports complex, which will be located at the former Bluegrass Downs facility, have been as high as $44 million. The city has not committed to any amount of funding for the project to date.

Also, the April Transient Room Tax dollars — totaling $293,009.69 — were divvied up. The Paducah Convention & Visitors Bureau netted $86,257.55, the McCracken County Sports Tourism Commissioned got $88,999.81, the Paducah-McCracken County Convention & Expo Center received $58,420.95 and $59,331.38 was put in the escrow fund.

The entire fiscal court meeting can be viewed on the McCracken County Fiscal Court’s YouTube account.

In other court happenings, Clymer responded to former Paducah City Commissioner Gerald Watkins declaring his intent to run for the judge-executive office in 2022, telling The Sun he intends to seek reelection.

Watkins and Clymer have known each other for decades and the judge-executive was genuinely surprised by last Thursday’s announcement.

“We’re doing everything we can think of to make the community a better place and when I do walk out — whether that’s voluntarily or I’m removed by somebody else — I want to be confident that we did everything we could to improve the county, and I hope people can see that,” Clymer said. “I want to get the airport terminal done and the sports complex completed. I want to be there as the judge-executive when that thing is open and running. I’m very passionate about that.

“I can’t live with bailing out midstream on those things so I’m running for reelection and we’ll see if people think I’m doing a good job or not. If not, then they can vote me out.”

The next meeting of the McCracken County Fiscal Court will be on May 24.

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