The Paducah Area Community Reuse Organization continued its grant program, approved a contract for surplus assets at the Paducah DOE site, and was urged to consider a significant contribution to Barkley Regional Airport’s new passenger terminal project Wednesday.

PACRO board member Eddie Jones, a McCracken County Fiscal Court commissioner, suggested the board consider pledging $1 million toward the passenger terminal project.

“I know this organization does not have the ability to write a $1 million check ... but what I’d like to ask in the future is that we designate our future revenue projects toward this one regional project,” he said.

“I can’t think of any project more regional that Barkley Regional Airport.”

Jones said he was not suggesting the board rescind any funds previously approved for other projects among PACRO’s participating members, “but rather that as we plow forward we make a large commitment to a regional airport.”

In an email to board members prior to Wednesday’s meeting, Jones said he realized “this is a significant decision and certainly requires more thought and discussion before we decide in a later meeting.”

To date, the airport authority has received approximately $25 million in grants, primarily from the Federal Aviation Administration, on the $42 million project. Matching funds needed for the project have been estimated at $5.8 million, split between the city and county.

The earliest portion of that local share would be needed by March 2021, around $1.64 million, and a final amount of $4.16 million by January 2022.

“I think the thought is that the city and county will have to step up and fulfill the cash flow requirements for the project,” said George Bray, Paducah mayor-elect, and presently the airport board chairman.

“I think this ‘ask’ is really more about, we’ll call it the intermediate-term, rather than the long-term. But over the next couple of years, in some reasonable time frame, a pledge would be very helpful and help us fund that gap that Eddie is talking about.”

The only other board comment on Jones’ proposal was from member Betsy Flynn. She suggested one of the issues when it comes to allocating future funds is not always knowing when funds from surplus assets from the DOE site will actually materialize.

In other business, the PACRO board approved a $25,000 grant request designed to expand health care-related program offerings at Murray State University’s Paducah campus, at its bi-monthly meeting held via Zoom.

The grant will be used to establish the exercise science program, which is currently offered at the university’s main campus in Murray, in Paducah.

“There’s just a growing need for health care professionals in our region,” said PACRO board member Jordan Smith, MSU executive director of government and institutional relations, in making the grant request.

“Providing exercise science on the Paducah campus would really help out our existing health care industry and hopefully expand it, and meet the needs in the coming years for health care workers.”

According to Smith, the Paducah campus will dedicate one of the largest video conferencing classrooms to the exercise science program, creating a lecture space and a lab.

The expansion will allow those graduating from area community colleges as well as anyone wanting to return to obtain a bachelor’s degree in Paducah and remain in the area to fill health care positions in the service area, he said.

The grant program is used to fund various initiatives among PACRO’s member counties and communities, including universities, to aid economic development efforts.

In addition to the grant approval, the board heard an update on continuing efforts to use revenue from surplus assets from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant to enhance economic development in the region.

The board approved a contract with Hydrodec of North America, Canton, Ohio, for 210,000 gallons of recycled electrical switchyard oil at 35 cents per gallon.

PACRO is anticipating significant revenue from the continuing dismantling and recycling of materials from switchyards at the site, such as copper, aluminum and steel no longer needed at the plant.

According to Greg Wiles, PACRO executive director, there are four contractors ready to present final bids on part of that ongoing the switchyard project.

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