Governor Matt Bevin was in Grayson Wednesday morning to grant a discretionary funding request from the city for the widening of Stevens Boulevard all the way to Smithfield Foods.

Mayor George Steele explained during the regular Tuesday night meeting of city council that the state had agreed to consider the $127,399.36 already spent by the city on the road widening project as the city's matching contribution for the grant. The state agreed to grant the funding request and awarded the city with the remaining $200,000 estimated to complete the project.

According to the funding request filed with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, Department of Rural & Municipal Aid, the extra lane is needed to accommodate the employees at Smithfield, as well as the employees and patrons of the other businesses located along the street.

“When Smithfield lets out at shift change there is a line of cars that back up past the empty Kmart building,” the request reads in part. It further explains that while the city had expanded the road to a three lane from the intersection with Carol Malone back .17 miles to help alleviate congestion, that short length wasn't sufficient.

The $200,000 granted to the city by KTC will create three lanes alone the entire length of the road, which the city believes will help improve traffic flow and ease congestion.

Smithfield employs around 600 people, according to the city's request.

If word the mayor's office received about the Kmart building comes to fruition, another 80 people could be added to the employee mix trying to exit on Stevens Boulevard at the end of the day.

Steele told council at the same meeting that his office had been in discussions with an individual who wished to purchase the empty Kmart building and open an entertainment production facility, offering television studio space and dinner theater, among other endeavors, Steele said. If the individual moves forward with plans to purchase and redevelop the building, Steele said, he expected to add 80 jobs to the Grayson economy, paying an average wage of $15 an hour or more.

Steele said he contacted the still unnamed individual with the news, in hope the road improvements down to the location would help encourage the redevelopment of the Kmart building. When he contacted his office, he said, he learned that the individual had already decided to move forward and expected to close on the property in six weeks.

In other action council moved to accept department reports, and set a tax rate hearing for Oct. 30. Rather than accepting the compensating rate on .199 for property taxes, the city wishes to set the tax rate at .206.

According to councilman Terry Stamper this would raise the rates on a $100,000 property by seven dollars.

Contact the writer at jwells@journal-times.com.

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