LIBERTY — When First Lady Jane Beshear brought one of those oversized checks from Frankfort on Tuesday, she wasn’t just serving as a proxy for her husband, who might have had more important things to do during election season than visit a locked-down Republican stronghold like Casey County.
No, the $950,000 Jane Beshear brought with her to build a new water storage facility for Liberty was probably something that wouldn’t have been delivered if not for her own work on the matter.
Beshear took an interest in Liberty’s water tank woes during a visit last year when she toured the Liberty Crossing project that connects downtown with the Ag Expo Center on the other side of the Green River. Sweeney explained then that the city’s two storage tanks — one built in 1930 and the other of undetermined age — were in danger of collapse within a year or two.
“This water tank is one thing that really caught my attention,” Beshear told the crowd. “Your mayor is very persuasive.”
She returned to Frankfort and told her husband, Gov. Steve Beshear, who dispatched Commissioner Tony Wilder of the Department of Local Government to attend a Liberty City Council meeting to learn more about the situation. Jane Beshear then made sure the project stayed in contention as state officials decided how to dole out Community Development Block Grant money from the federal government.
Wilder, who also was on hand Tuesday, said that it was no easy thing to land “a major check” in these times of heavy competition for limited funds. The nearly $1-million grant for Liberty came from a pool of $27 million provided by the federal Housing and Urban Development for the state to use on infrastructure projects, he said.
Along with Jane Beshear’s lobbying, Wilder credited Lake Cumberland Area Development District grant writer Donna Diaz and the teamwork of Sweeney — a rare Democrat elected in Casey County — the City Council and Judge-Executive Ronald Wright with getting the project funded.
“I go all over the state for these projects,” Wilder said. “You know when you go into a community where they’re doing the people’s business and not having conflict and strife over politics. You all have that here. It’s not the commonplace, I can tell you. That’s why this is a special occasion from my perspective.”
Bids will be let on the new water tank within a month. When completed, the 500,000-gallon unit will about double the city’s current storage capacity. It will be built next to the aging tank off Phillips Street above the town.
The foundations holding the existing tanks are badly eroded, and both tanks are extremely rusted, Sweeney said. Even though adding a water tank is not a sexy project, the mayor said it is at the top of the city’s list of needs because having a good supply of potable water on hand will be increasingly important in the future.
“A lot of projects are more showy and fun than water and sewer,” Sweeney said. “They didn’t have to give us this money, but they knew we really needed it. If we get our new lake built in a couple of years, we’ll have our water needs in good shape for the foreseeable future.”