Op-Ed

Beshear veto of road project funds a blow to Clinton County

KRT

For a short time, it looked as if after decades of excuses and delays, Clinton County was going to realize a long-awaited rebuilding of U.S. 127 in the northern part of the county — meeting a similar project in Russell County that would include a new span across the Cumberland River.

Construction has just concluded on the center section, referred to as the Albany Bypass, and now crews are busy on the section of the road that will head south, across another new bridge and onto the Tennessee line.

Thanks to the efforts of Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, the rebuilding project, which would have included joining the road at the Ky. 90 intersection and heading north to the Russell County line near Wolf Creek Dam, had been included in the 2012-14 road plan.

Then, along came our governor, and with one spiteful swipe of an ink pen, funding for the project went away; thus killing any hope of seeing U.S. 127 finished.

Perhaps Gov. Steve Beshear simply needs a refresher course in Kentucky geography.

It seems Beshear went to the same school as one of his predecessors, Gov. Wallace Wilkinson. Both apparently were taught that this state is comprised of 119 counties, and that lowly Clinton County doesn't matter.

Candidate Wilkinson stood across the street from the Clinton County Courthouse on Oct. 26, 1987, and pledged to rebuild U.S. 127 to the Tennessee line. Clinton, a 3-1 Republican county, gave Democrat Wilkinson a rare win in the general election the very next week. In fact, it was the first time Clinton County had favored a Democratic candidate over a Republican nominee in a governor's race.

Wilkinson's Kentucky geography was flawed. He did in fact embark on a major rebuilding project of U.S. 127, but it didn't reach the Tennessee line; it stopped in northern Russell County.

Then, a quarter-century later, it finally looked as if we might get our U.S. 127 rebuild project. Nope, not this time, either, thanks to Beshear's snatching of those road project funds.

Granted, Clinton County residents don't mine coal, as his large-pocketed Democratic friends in Eastern Kentucky do, and we don't ride the kind of horses the governor's snobby Thoroughbred industry friends ride. But Clinton County does matter.

We work hard, mostly in the agriculture and service industries. The county's economy also depends heavily on tourism. It's the only county in the world that can boast of having shorelines of not one, but two of the most attractive lakes in the nation — Lake Cumberland to the north and Dale Hollow to the south.

A good road through Clinton County could only help boost that tourism trade with increased numbers of boaters, fishing enthusiasts and vacationers who want to spend their time and their money.

We have a hard time getting supplies in, our products out and our visitors convinced that traveling down that winding, narrow U.S. 127 is worth the effort just to get to Clinton County.

But that's not the most important issue. The most important issue is safety.

It was only a couple of years ago that an accident occurred on that very stretch of U.S. 127 in northern Clinton County involving a school bus carrying 12 kindergarten- and pre-school-aged students. Early on March 29, 2010, the school bus was sideswiped by an oncoming pickup truck.

Luckily, there were no injuries, and within minutes the students were loaded onto another bus and taken safely to school.

Guess why that accident happened? That stretch of highway is just too narrow and too winding for safe travel by a school bus carrying our children. The accident was only 6 inches shy from having a disastrous ending.

The statewide media has labeled Williams the "Bully from Burkesville," but in Clinton County, there is a different opinion. Williams' attempt to get our U.S. 127 project funded wasn't selfish on his part. He was only doing what any good senator is supposed to do: take care of the people who live in his district. We tend to think of Williams as our "Buddy from Burkesville."

The vetoing of those road funds might have been aimed at the governor's arch-enemy, Williams, but his actions were a slap in the face of the 10,000 or so people in Clinton County.

If you live in Clinton County, the biggest bully in state government right now is a man from Hopkins County, who just happens to live in Frankfort — in the Governor's Mansion.

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