By Al Owens
Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher and First Lady Glenna Fletcher received a rousing welcome last Friday afternoon from an estimated crowd of 300 at the Boys and Girls Club at Clarksburg Christian Church in Vanceburg.
Governor Fletcher said that the club in Lewis County was built with funds from the 21st Century Community Learning Center Grant, and that was from the Kentucky Department of Education. The club opened on January 17. He pointed out that the grant is for $150,000 per year for three years and is based on performance for years four and five with 75 percent funding in year four and 50 percent funding in year five.
Fletcher told the crowd that he understood that more than 400 youth have registered locally to become members of the after school youth development program, and the club is averaging nearly 200 youth per day.
The Governor asked the boys and girls in the audience what they liked best about the club. Answers included a lot of fun, activities and games. One little girl said that she likes the way the teachers teach.
The Governor and Mrs. Fletcher with some of the youth standing with them cut the blue ribbon for the Grand Opening of the Boys and Girls Club.
Dr. John O'Cull spoke to the crowd and presented a print of the county by retired teacher Danny McCane. The gift is designed to celebrate Vanceburg's bicentennial in 2006.
Mike Kennedy told the Governor and First Lady that the Boys and Girls Club of Lewis County wanted to make them honorary members, and he presented them with one of the club’s T-shirts.
Kennedy invited the crowd to the high school for a meet-and-greet session and another important presentation by the Governor.
After a time of enjoying refreshments and mingling with the crowd Vanceburg Mayor William T. "Bill Tom" Cooper walked to the podium and reminded all the gentlemen that Monday was Valentine's Day, and then proceeded to have a bouquet of a dozen roses presented to Mrs. Fletcher.
She looked at the Governor and quipped, "You know you've let him off the hook."
Mayor Cooper then gave the Commonwealth's Chief Executive an ink pen and suggested that any time anything pertaining to Lewis County or the City of Vanceburg came across his desk he could use that pen to sign it.
The Mayor then introduced County Judge Executive Steve Applegate who came to the podium and welcomed the Governor as well as State Senator Charlie Borders and State Representative Robin Webb. Applegate commended the folk for such a good turn out. The high school auditorium was almost full.
Applegate told the crowd that local officials work hard to improve the quality of life in Lewis County, but they cannot do that alone.
He stated, "We have to have the help of people like the Governor, our Senators and Representatives to make those things happen."
With that the Judge introduced Senator Charlie Borders who in turn introduced Representative Robin Webb.
Webb expressed her gratitude for being able to work on the Appropriations and Revenue Committee with Senator Borders and for working with the Governor.
When Borders returned to speak he focused on the Governor's Tax Modernization Program. He emphasized that the program should help continue the health care program in Kentucky so the Commonwealth won't have to cut Medicaid and other programs like other states have.
Borders lauded the Governor for his plans to improve the roads in the state and for the funds from the updated tax program that would fund education in the Bluegrass.
The State Senator then introduced the Governor to the crowd.
After his preliminary remarks the Governor introduced Amy Kennedy and announced that earlier in the day he had appointed her to a four-year term on the Kentucky Commission On Women.
Later in private conversation Glenda Wood, the Executive Director of that commission stated that she is thrilled to have someone from Lewis County on the commission. Wood said that her father is from Carter County, and her mother was reared in Laurel in Lewis County.
The Governor also recognized Dr. John O'Cull and informed the people that he had appointed him as a trustee of Morehead State University.
Fletcher then presented a $1 million Community Development Grant Check to Lewis County and Vanceburg to be applied to the construction of a new 6,500 square foot Health Department that will be located adjacent to Bee Mart on the AA Highway in Vanceburg.
After the presentation Governor Fletcher told the folk that he just wanted to talk about Kentucky.
He declared, "First off, I think most of us agree that this is the best state in the world. It's a beautiful place. The people are hard working.
"They’re the most loyal people in the world. They're great, technologically capable and sophisticated."
He continued, "We have the lowest energy rates in the nation. As a matter of fact, we’re 40 percent below the national average."
Al Owens/Lewis County
Governor Ernie Fletcher presented this
Community Development Block Grant check for $1 million to Lewis County and
the City of Vanceburg at ceremonies conducted last Friday. The funds are for
a new health department building.
Fletcher told the crowd that one thing that makes attracting and keeping people here difficult is that we have a tax system that is based on an economy that is nearly 100-years-old.
He said, "Our license tax for businesses was developed in 1906. Our telecom tax was developed during the period of Alexander Graham Bell's crank phone. Our income tax was developed for the 50s."
The Governor continued, "It's time to update it (the tax system) so we can attract the jobs here."
The Modernization Tax Plan calls for lowering the income tax but raising the cigarette tax. He pointed out that Kentucky has the lowest cigarette tax in the nation.
He said that the state can also extend the sales tax on alcohol. When you go into a store you don't pay any tax on a bottle of alcohol even though you do when you buy it in a restaurant.
A small tax could also be levied on hotel rooms because out-of-state people pay most of that.
An exemption could be given to any power company that buys coal for clean coal technology in Kentucky.
Fletcher said that AEP is looking for some incentives for them to bring their power plant to the Commonwealth.
An enterprise initiative would permit AEP to reclaim the six percent sales tax they spend on any supplies purchased during construction of the power plant. That amounts to a lot of money on a billion dollar investment for a power plant.
The Governor said that the state also has a new Energy Plan that will help conserve energy and provide the incentives mentioned earlier. He suggested a lot of corn and soy could be raised in Lewis County for ethanol and biodiesel, and the program provides incentives for that as well.
Fletcher said that many out-of-state stores that locate in Kentucky have high sales but pay very little if any taxes. So the state has developed an alternative minimal calculation. It's controversial, but it broadens the tax base across and non-Kentucky companies that previously have not been paying their fair share pay 80 percent of that tax.
We also need to make some educational changes in Kentucky that will train a more productive work force that will attract industry and business to the state, he said.
AEP wants "regulatory certainty". That means they want to recoup their investment based on utility rates.
"We are doing every thing we can to get them here," Fletcher said. "That will bring in hundreds of jobs from construction and later from the operation of the power plant itself. "
Following his discourse the Governor took questions from the floor. Phil Kennedy, superintendent of the Vanceburg Electric Plant Board asked Fletcher what the community could do to help bring the AEP Power Plant to the area. Fletcher basically replied that local leaders can communicate loud and clear to AEP that the entire community wants the power plant in the county.
The Governor was asked about his Recover Kentucky Program. In order to fight the drug problem in the state the initiative has a three point program involving rehabilitation, education and enforcement. He asserted that 60 to 70 percent of the inmates in county jails are there because of drugs or addiction related crime. Most of those folk are not violent people but are simply caught in the jaws of addiction. So rehabilitation is one of the ways of fighting the drug problem.
Fletcher said that the state is taking about $9.5 million of block grant money, tax credits and corrections funds to build ten rehabilitation centers across the state.
Paul Pepoon asked about regulating the over logging in the community.
The Governor responded by saying that one of the things being done in the Energy Plan is in reclamation of mining land by changing how the reclamation is done.
He added, "Right now the process does not allow reforestation and we’re looking at that to make sure that is permitted in order to rebuild this renewable resource. Specific plans have not yet been developed but we’re working on that."
In private conference Magistrate Milt Stanfield asked the governor about plans for two rest homes in the area. Fletcher told him that General Les Beavers, Commissioner of Veterans Affairs is still moving forward with those initiatives although he wasn't sure which location is moving forward most quickly.