Paintsville and Johnson County organizations received more than $4 million in grant funding as part of an announcement by Gov. Andy Beshear at the Mountain Arts Center in Prestonsburg on March 13.

The grants were given to organizations and projects as varied as Paintsville Utilities, the Christian Appalachian Project, Paintsville Tourism and road funding, and Beshear said they were focused on infrastructure, cleaner water, law enforcement, nonprofits, tourism and transportation.

The lion’s share of that funding, approximately $3.9 million, will go to Paintsville Utilities for its expansion projects. That $3.9 million was comprised of two grants, the first of which was approximately $2.6 million, and Paintsville Utilities General Manager Bob Pack explained the purpose of those funds later that evening at the Paintsville City Council’s regular meeting.

“This thing didn’t just happen today, I think back to almost four years ago, myself, Regina McClure, (Paintsville Mayor Bill Mike Runyon) and (Johnson County Judge-Executive Mark McKenzie) went to Frankfort, seeking funding for the U.S. 23 sewer project as an economic development project that will allow for all kinds of development along 23 and takes sewer capacity away from the flow to the Paintsville plant and takes it to the Honey Branch plant,” Pack said. “That will allow for more development within the city because of that freed up capacity. Today, we received an award, that’s really the first tangible benefit of that.

“That is the bulk of the money that we need for our westward expansion of the sewer system,” Pack continued. “On U.S. 460, we’ll go out as far as Lee’s Trailer Court and we’ll provide a couple of package plants, so it’s an environmental win as well … The bigger part of this is Ky. 40, where we’ll go out to Tiny Branch, where there’s a huge recreational and economic development plan and this will allow that to happen.”

None of this would have been possible without city and county governments working together, Pack said, and that collaboration has been at an unprecedented degree for the past few years.

“These things happen when the city and county all work well together, which is a situation that we’ve never really had, that I am aware of,” Pack said. “The mayor and judge deserve a lot of credit for that.”

Moving on to the remaining approximately $1.37 million in funding received by the Paintsville Utilities commission, Pack explained that that funding would be used to install more than 3,000 feet of sewer line and roughly 13,000 feet of waterline to unserved areas of Johnson County, including the Millers Creek area in Van Lear. Pack said that that sewer expansion into Millers Creek would eliminate several straight pipes that were currently pumping into local water supplies.

“The Clean Water Project, as (the governor) mentioned is going to help us continue our mission to improve the quality of life for our residents of Johnson County everyday, so now we’re going to be able to offer sewer service to folks who have not had that before,” said Johnson County Judge-Executive Mark McKenzie.

Other funds awarded to Johnson County included approximately $55,000 given to Paintsville Tourism to support marketing and approximately $255,000 to help resurface Big Lick Branch Road and Cannel Coal Gap Road.

“With this funding today we are able to continue our marketing efforts and we’re able to reach out and attend signature travel shows all throughout the country,” said Paintsville Tourism Executive Director Jeremiah Parsons. “I’m just thankful and our commission’s thankful that the governor and the state saw fit to put those dollars in tourism, because we are well positioned in Kentucky for tourism development and I think we can all agree that that’s part of the economic development plan and we can move forward with that … So, thank you very much, we appreciate that.”

The Christian Appalachian Project, based in Johnson County, also received funds alongside several other nonprofits from the six counties in attendance, and Senior Vice President for Administration and Philanthropy for the organization, Gloria Jordan spoke at the event to accept the funding on behalf of CAP.

“Christian Appalachian Project is grateful for the additional investment in Kentucky nonprofits. The funds we received from the Team Kentucky Nonprofit Assistance Fund increases our flexibility as we continue to rebuild and repair homes for many who lost everything in the flood and to provide durable goods and food across the 13 counties that were impacted last summer,” said Gloria Jordan, senior vice president for administration and philanthropy. “Thanks to donor support like this, we have already distributed durable goods and food valued at $15 million to distressed families through nonprofits in these areas since the disaster. This helps us to achieve our mission of building hope, transforming lives and sharing Christ’s love through service in Appalachia.”

Gov. Beshear said the ongoing support for Eastern Kentucky is a pillar of his administration and that these contributions would help to ensure prosperity for the region.

“We promised Eastern Kentucky that we would be there for them until every life and structure is rebuilt,” Gov. Beshear said. “Today, with the investments we’re making in local communities, supporting cleaner water, public safety, local nonprofits, tourism and more, we are rebuilding and ensuring prosperity for generations to come.”