Harlan County Fiscal Court acted Monday to enter into an agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for a $300,000 grant for the Tucker-Guthrie Memorial Airport.
The grant will allow for installation of runway lighting, taxiway lighting and a beacon.
“I have spoken with Sen. Brandon Smith. He said if we pay the $30,000 for now, he will make us whole in January/February when they rework the budget,” said Harlan County Judge-Executive Joe Grieshop. “I said on that basis, we are willing to move ahead. That’s where we stand.”
Harlan Airport Board Chairman Mark Miracle said the FAA grant is for $270,000. He said if the grant is not utilized, funds will be “put back into the pot and someone else will get the money.”
“Normally, the Kentucky Department for Aviation pays 7.5 percent of this grant, but this time they opted not to do that,” said Miracle. “Normally, we do 90 percent federal, 7.5 state and 2 percent local. It just didn’t work out this way this time. I do want to assure you I also talked with Sen. Smith and he said he would take care of the remaining $30,000.”
Magistrate David Kennedy questioned why the grant was left “to the last minute” in order to obtain funding.
“At the eleventh hour we have to get us all together to do something,” said Kennedy. “That’s what makes this hard, Mark. If we’d had a little bit more time to see what we’re getting into. I know we have a commitment from Sen. Smith to reimburse the county, but I’d like to know how Sen. Smith is going to reimburse the county $30,000.”
Miracle said he received the grant paperwork this past Wednesday, noting it was due back on Friday. He said he called and received a two-day extension.
Magistrate Bill Moore asked if the project had been legally “let out for bids.”
Miracle said four bids were received. The low bidder was 5-D Enterprises of Harlan. That bid was $40,000 lower than the next highest bidder.
Miracle said with the installation of this lighting and beacon “lives may be saved down the road.”
“This can only help our airport,” said Miracle. “This beacon can be seen for miles and miles and will help aircraft find the airport in inclement weather. This is a tremendous asset to the county. I talked to Air-Evac and PHI Medi-Vac and they wanted to see lights at our airport. The National Guard uses our airport quite a bit and they, too, were excited about having lights at our airport.”
Kennedy again questioned Grieshop about Smith’s promise to reimburse the county for the additional $30,000 needed for obtaining the grant. Grieshop assured him Smith made that promise.
“We do have the money to temporarily pay $30,000 for this grant and we’ll get reimbursed by Brandon Smith,” said Kennedy. “We’re just not sure how he’s going to do that yet, is that correct?”
“I told Brandon on (his) word, we’re willing to move forward with the project,” said Grieshop.
A motion was made and approved to pay the remaining $30,000 for the FAA grant.
In other court action, the court approved a debt retirement for the Green Hills Water District in the amount of $383,149.71, which will be paid from coal severance funds.