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Funding now secure for prison water lines

State and local officials say construction should begin next spring on a $5.5-million project to expand Letcher County’s water service to the site of the proposed federal prison at Roxana.

The project will also bring new water service to an additional 200 homes in the area between Roxana and Blackey, Letcher County Judge/ Executive Jim Ward said after meeting in Frankfort October 19 with Kentucky Cabinet for Energy and Environment’s Division of Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) Director Bob Scott.

According to Scott and Ward, the project will extend water lines by way of two separate routes to the 800-acre prison site. The first route will extend from the City of Blackey through River Road to Roxana, while the second will begin at Premium Baptist Church and travel along KY 160 to Roxana. Utilizing two routes will ensure the prison site access to water should one line become disabled or fail, while also increasing the number of homes able to connect to the water system, the officials said.

“This is but another step toward the prison being built,” Ward said of the planned penitentiary that will house 1,200 inmates and employ approximately 300 full-time staff members. “It will also provide hundreds of families along the new lines the opportunity to access clean water.”

Funding for the Letcher County project includes $4.5 million in AML Economic Development Pilot Program grants. U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Somerset) has used the program, which began in 2016, to obtain $80 million for economic development projects in Kentucky. Just last week, Harlan County Tourism received a $2.55 million grant to renovate its Portal 31 Mining Exhibition Tour and construct at 40- foot observation tower on Black Mountain.

An additional $1 million in AML grant funding was also awarded for the water line project, bringing the total to $5.5 million in AML grants for the installation of approximately 9.5 miles of water transmission lines, elevated storage tanks, and booster pump stations.

A grant from East Kentucky PRIDE Inc. will contribute $1,075,000 for the construction of sewer lines and wastewater treatment facilities at the prison site, bringing total grant funding for the project to $6,575,000.

With the money for the water and sewer line expansion project now in place, Ward said construction bids are likely to be awarded in spring.

“The money is there,” he said. “We’re just waiting for the administrative approvals and designs required for construction to begin. The engineers say it probably won’t be until spring before they bid it out.”

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