I reported recently on the development concerning the Kentucky Road Plan for 2012-2014 that was finally passed by the Kentucky General Assembly.
For a brief stretch, it looked as if after decades and decades of excuses and delays, Clinton County was going to realize a long-awaited rebuilding of U.S. 127 in the northern portion of our county – all the way to a similar project in southern Russell County that would include a new span across the Cumberland River.
Construction has just concluded on the “center section” of the U.S. 127 rebuild in Clinton County, referred to as a portion of the Albany Bypass, and now crews are busy at work moving dirt and rock on the section of the road that will head south, across a new bridge that spans Spring Creek and on to the Tennessee border.
Thanks to the efforts of our state senator – David Williams – the rebuilding project that 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 new road plan and at least we would see continued progress.
Then, along came our governor, and with one spiteful swat of an ink pen, funding for the project went away – thus killing any hopes of seeing U.S. 127 finished, at least in this current 2012-2014 plan.
After mulling the issue, it occurred to me that perhaps our governor, Steve Beshear, simply needs a refresher course in Kentucky geography.
Yes, Governor, it seems you went to the same school as one of your predecessors, Gov. Wallace Wilkinson.
Both of you were apparently taught that this great commonwealth is comprised of 119 counties, and that lowly Clinton County simply doesn’t matter.
I covered an appearance by Wallace Wilkinson when he stood across the street from the Clinton County Courthouse on Oct. 26, 1987 – and vowed that if he was elected governor, he was going to rebuild U.S. 127 to the Tennessee line.
Apparently, we Clinton countians believed him – although we are a 3-1 Republican county, we gave Wilkinson a rare Democratic win in the general election the very next week. In fact, it was the first time Clinton County had favored a Democratic candidate in a general election over a Republican nominee in a governor’s race.
Wilkinson’s Kentucky geography was flawed also – he did in fact embark on a major rebuilding project of U.S. 127, but it didn’t reach the Tennessee line – instead it stopped in northern Russell County.
Then, a quarter-century later, it finally looked as if we might in fact – thanks to our state senator – get our U.S. 127 rebuild project in the works.
Nope – not this time, either – thanks to your snatching of our road project funds.
Granted, we don’t mine coal like your large-pocketed Democrat friends in eastern Kentucky, and we don’t ride the kind of horses your snobby thoroughbred friends ride, but we do matter.
We work hard – mostly in the agriculture and service industries. Yes, Governor, that steak you are going to enjoy tonight might have been raised right here – in Clinton County.
We also depend heavily on tourism. We’re 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 our tourism trade with even increased numbers of boaters, fishing enthusiasts and vacationers who want to spend their time – and their money – in our county.
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 extra effort just to get to Clinton County.
But that’s not the most important issue in the U.S. 127 rebuilding effort.
The most important issue – safety.
It was only a couple of years ago that I covered an accident on that very stretch of U.S. 127 in northern Clinton County that involved a school bus carrying 12 kindergarten and preschool-aged students early on the morning of March 29, 2010.
The school bus they were riding in was sideswiped by an oncoming pickup truck.
Luckily, the article had a happy ending. There were no injuries, and the system the Clinton County school transportation director had put in place worked perfectly.
Within minutes, the students had been off-loaded onto another bus, and were safely on their way to school.
Guess why that accident happened, Gov. Beshear. It’s simple, that stretch of highway is just too narrow and too winding for our children to safely ride a school bus on.
Yes, that instance turned out okay, but the accident was only six inches shy from having a disastrous ending.
The statewide media has labeled our senator with the moniker of the “Bully from Burkesville” but here in Clinton County, we think differently of Sen. Williams.
Shucks, often when he runs unopposed, he ends up being the top vote-getter on the ballot – and Clinton County isn’t even his home county.
Sen. 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 need that road, and Sen. Williams knows that.
Bully from Burkesville? No, we tend to think of Sen. Williams as our “Buddy from Burkesville.”
Gov. Beshear, you are now into your fifth year as governor of Kentucky – have you ever even been to Clinton County? I can’t remember it.
If you do decide to come see us – don’t drive down here on U.S. 127; those last 20 miles are far too treacherous for a governor to travel on.
As you have said, you delivered Sen. Williams a sound “whooping” in last fall’s general election, but your actions in the legislative session were entirely overboard.
Your vetoing of our road funding might have been aimed at your arch enemy Sen. Williams – but it didn’t turn out exactly like that.
Instead, your actions were a slap in the face of the 10,000 or so people who live here in Clinton County – one of the 120 counties in this great commonwealth.
Bully from Burkesville? No, from where I’m seeing it, 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.
Al Gibson is editor and publisher of the Clinton County News in Albany.