A client, a tragedy, a vision, a future and a call on state leaders
Since 1991, a span of some 31 years, I have served a client—the City of Millersburg-- as their legal counsel----through some six Mayors and an untold number of council members----and innumerable joys and crises of one magnitude or another.
The recent fire and ensuing destruction of historic structures encompassing the better part of a city block, and the central business district of the town of Millersburg wrought an emotional outpouring of Millersburg townspeople and Bourbon Countians.
Some of that emotional outpouring has involved the sharing of recollections by Millersburg citizens of their youth spent in the many businesses that once thrived in the Millersburg downtown.
Others have bemoaned the loss of the heart of one of the county's historic districts. Those sincere cries are not to be diminished or depreciated in any way.
There is, however, another issue.
In the past few years:
A major transportation update to U.S. 68 has occurred involving expenditure of state and federal funds to improve the transportation corridor from Lexington to Maysville. Those projects, including the Millersburg Bypass, liked by some and less so by others, include as their goal not only improvement in transportation and safety, but also economic development in the region.
A phenomenal investment by Community Ventures has saved the former Millersburg Military Institute campus from a near certain destruction and brought thousands of people from all over central Kentucky to Mustard Seed Hill in Millersburg for the amazing Christmas display and other events throughout the year.
The City of Millersburg has cooperated with others to obtain a grant which will make improvements to the downtown city park---which now sits diagonally facing the burned out central business district.
Paris-Bourbon County Planning officials have identified the Millersburg area as an area ripe for new economic development opportunities to the benefit of everyone in Bourbon County.
The Paris-Bourbon County Industrial Development Board has likewise recognized Millersburg's potential as a location for small industrial concerns and jobs benefiting Bourbon and Nicholas Counties.
While the federal government owned no property in the destroyed area, federal government operations, in the way of a United States Post Office, were occurring on site and hampered greatly by these events.
The destruction of the heart of the town's central business district severely undermines all those efforts and expenditures.
The people of the town of Millersburg and of Bourbon County with and through their local town government and fiscal court and other private efforts can likely find the wherewithal to pick up a street full of burnt bricks.
Those efforts, however, will do nothing to protect the existing projects and activities mentioned above from being undermined by this loss to Bourbon County.
We know that there are grants and the like which, if obtained, may provide relief under some circumstances, but those benefits are far from certain and may take years to come to fruition while a community suffers and the already ongoing projects cited above, may languish.
One of my favorite oft quoted phrases, 'some see things as they are and ask why; I dream things that never were and ask why not?' seems relevant.
Visions of what could be--in Millersburg-- are exciting. But to get there, will require not just vision, but 'velocity.'
The importance of this situation to Millersburg, Bourbon County and to long term goals of the entire area, cry out for special consideration—from our leaders in Frankfort.
We urge Governor Andy Beshear through his office, (with the assistance of Congressman Andy Barr since federal funds and activities are also implicated) to assist our local leaders in exploring what special funding projects might be available, not only in mitigation of this disaster, but in the planning and funding of a vision that could serve as a model for small towns across the Commonwealth and country, involving investments, public and private; historic and economic, and most of all, real and beneficial, to a broad range of citizens across this region of the Commonwealth.