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Rogers says plan for federal prison still on track here

The 2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act approved by Congress last week includes an additional $50 million to construct a new federal prison at Roxana.

The Trump administration had signaled plans to cut the $444 million already approved for construction of the maximum security prison, but the bill approved last week by Congress keeps that money and adds to it. President Trump had threatened to veto the bill on Friday for unrelated reasons, but did not follow through.

U.S. Representative Harold “Hal” Rogers announced the money this week. The additional appropriation brings the total reserved for this project to $494 million.

Property acquisition for the prison can’t begin until the Bureau of Prisons enters a Record of Decision. That process has been waiting on approval of an environmental impact study.

Rogers said in a prepared statement to WYMT-TV in Hazard that he is pleased the project is still on track.

“With funding in place since 2016 and required studies complete, we should soon have the Bureau of Prison’s record of decision, which will pave the way for construction and more than 300 jobs for Letcher County,” Rogers said.

The bill also includes $7.1 billion for Federal Prison System Salaries and Expenses, up $105 million from last year. The money will support the four federal prisons in the region.

In addition to the prison announcement, Rogers said the bill keeps the Appalachian Regional Commission alive, a program that was slated to be cut out completely in the Trump budget. Much of the money for water and sewer lines, roads and economic development projects comes through grants from the ARC.

The bill includes $155 million for ARC, including $10 million to broadband access in the region. It also includes $50 million for the POWER Initiative, which is intended to help communities, mostly in Central Appalachia, which have been hard hit by the decline in the coal industry.

The POWER Initiative, which stands for Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization, was created in 2015 to help create jobs, and provide job training, and other employment services. It grew out of the Protecting Our Workers and Ensuring Reemployment Initiative created by President Barack Obama in 2010.

The bill also continues an Abandoned Mine Lands program which began as a pilot project in 2016 to use some money in the fund for economic development in counties hurt by the loss of coal jobs and the environmental impact of mining.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act provides full support for the annual state AML grant program, and an additional $115 million to continue the pilot. $25 million will be added to Kentucky’s for grants for reclamation and economic development.

The City of Whitesburg has applied for $2.4 million from that program for the Daniel Boone Hotel renovation, and the county has been using AML money to build water lines to areas where well water has been affected by mining.

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