Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

December 31, 2012

More funding for OHHS renovation sparks debate

Council members, citizens ask about water line issues

Joe Lewis

OLIVE HILL — Last week’s Olive Hill City Council meeting was highlighted by spirited public discussion regarding the ongoing renovation of the old Olive Hill High School, which is slated to become an educational arts center.

Bryan Kirby of Community and Economic Development Associates serves as grant writer for the project and was on hand at the meeting to answer questions and give a project update.

Kirby detailed a proposal that would involve the city applying for an additional $325,000 in grant money from the Appalachian Regional Commission to help finish the project which has stalled because the initial $500,000 in Community Development Block Grant funding is not sufficient to cover all the required renovations of the former school.

Kirby stated that the project had been offered for bids three different times but no bid came in under the $500,000 threshold.

Some Council members and citizens, however, raised concerns regarding the need for additional funding.

“How do the issues on the hill always get put ahead of the water line issues?” asked Council member Jerry Callihan, who stated that the city has been trying to replace the failing water infrastructure for 10 years.

Kirby indicated the city is not ready to apply for grant funding to replace water lines because the ongoing hydrological study is not complete.

According to Kirby, the prospect of receiving grant funds for water projects without the completed study in hand would be slim.

Packs, Inc., a Morehead contractor, estimates the additional $325,000 would be enough to complete the renovation of the old high school.

“This will completely finish the school,” Kirby added.

“I’m sorry that this has caused such disgruntlement in the community. We don’t want to cause any problems in the city,” said Linda Lowe, president of the Olive Hill Historical Society and outgoing Council member.

After assurances from Kirby that the project would need no additional funding beyond the new ARC grant, Council agreed to go ahead with the plan.

“We just need to put this behind us and move on,” said Council member Allen Stapleton.