'This is regional': How Gov. Beshear's proposed budget benefits Eastern Kentucky

Published: Jan. 29, 2020 at 10:18 PM EST
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Governor Andy Beshear's first proposed budget was announced Tuesday when he presented it to lawmakers in Frankfort. The budget focuses heavily on education, health care and more.

Included in the budget is funding to help alleviate the overcrowding in prisons across the state. Beshear called the corrections issue "the biggest challenge," which he has addressed by planning to invest in the former Otter Creek Correctional Facility in the Wheelwright community of Floyd County. In the next two years under Beshear's budget, an additional $109 million would be allocated to corrections.

"From a moral standpoint, criminal justice and prison reform is the right thing to do," Beshear said.

Floyd County's people agree, saying the prison could also bring life back to their communities.

"The prison's been here for such a long time, they didn't realize how economically beneficial it was for it to be here until it was gone," said Wheelwright Police Department's acting chief of police Keith Justice.

People in the community are hoping to see a revitalization.

"We are excited that it was included in the budget. That's going to be big for our local economy," said Floyd County Judge-Executive Robbie Williams. "The prison is not just a local economic driver; this is regional."

Williams said the entire region would benefit from the 200 potential jobs and the economic outreach of those jobs would trickle into the Wheelwright area. That trickle is what people in the area say is needed to revitalize the town.

"Two-hundred people, plus family members, that's going to be visiting our restaurants, our gas stations- it'll be housing for our community," said Justice.

He said it would help the city take care of some much-needed improvements.

"Clean the city up. Clean ditches up. You know, new infrastructure. So, all in all, it's a great thing," Justice said.

He said the surrounding communities would also get that opportunity if the jobs come to the mountains. Williams agreed, adding that the state's investment could prove even more beneficial in the longterm, which he says is something many people in the region haven't seen since the decline of the coal industry.

"That shows that they are committed and it also gives a little more stability in the future," Williams said.

Officials say they are optimistic about the prison and hope to see movement soon.