Delayed Jessamine County road project at center of Democrat's allegations against Gov. Bevin given green light

01/27/2017 10:29 AM

A delayed road project at the heart of a Democratic state representative’s accusations of retaliation against Gov. Matt Bevin is moving ahead, Republican state Sen. Tom Buford announced in a news release Friday.

The $11 million road project had been on hold since March, and Rep. Russ Meyer, D-Nicholasville, said its fate was tied to his decision against joining the Republican Party at the behest of Gov. Matt Bevin.

Bevin’s administration said the East Brannon Road extension’s delay was the result of unresolved right-of-way and utility issues, denying that politics played a role in the move.

Meyer did not testify before a House committee charged with investigating the project’s delay, which cost the state $625,000 in damages. The Allen Co., the contractor in charge of the road extension, was due $850,000 had the project not resumed by May 1.

Bevin had dismissed the investigative panel, which ended its work in December after its chairman accused former House Speaker Greg Stumbo of stifling his attempt to subpoena Meyer, as a “kangaroo court.” Stumbo had said he preferred subpoenaing Transportation Cabinet officials first in the inquiry.

Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, commended the administration’s work in moving the East Brannon extension forward.

He and Transportation Cabinet Secretary Greg Thomas “have worked over the past year to resolve all the right of way needs and the need to avoid any penalties to the contractor,” he said in a statement.

“Eliminating the heavy and unsafe traffic, a huge safety factor, on Ash Grove Pike will finally be solved by this new highway,” Buford continued.

“Persevering (sic) the Jessamine County vibrant urban core and removing the high traffic count on Ash Grove Pike has always been my goal for this project. I am incredibly proud of the role Governor Bevin and Secretary Thomas have played in making sure this road becomes reality.”

Naitore Djigbenou, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Cabinet, said the agency “has worked diligently to clear these hurdles over the past year to avoid paying an $850,000 delay penalty to the contractor.”

KYTC will soon proceed with construction to complete the project,” Djigbenou said in a statement.

In a phone interview, Meyer said he was pleased to see the East Brannon extension move ahead and that his district would benefit from the project.

“It means a lot to our community, the tax base of our community, and it’s going to mean a lot of jobs, a lot of high-paying jobs,” he said. “When the announcement was made that the original contract was cancelled, hopefully we can recover those 90 jobs that we lost, and I’m sure we will.”

Meyer declined to say whether the project’s advancement hurts his claims that Bevin retaliated against him for not switching parties, instead saying he wanted to focus on the positives of Friday’s announcement.

“We’re talking about building a road and positive things, so that’s where I’m at with it,” he said. “I’ve worked extremely hard as a local elected official and a state representative to see that this project moves forward, and I’m excited about it.

“That’s where I’m at with this decision to move forward, and I’m happy to do that with everybody.”


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