An emissary of Gov. Steve Beshear asked area officials Monday to support three of the governor's budget proposals, one of which he said needs little introduction: completing the six-laning of Interstate 65 through the state.

Wendell Cave, director of field services for the Department of Local Government in the 2nd Congressional District, said at Monday's meeting of the Barren River Area Development District that he knows the proposal is "dear to the heart" of Hart County Judge-Executive Terry Martin, whose county contains the lion's share of the remaining 38 miles of I-65 that are only four lanes.

"The governor wants to see that project speeded up," Cave said. "And we hope that you agree with the importance of that work and let your lawmakers know."

Earlier estimates have placed the cost of widening the remaining 38 miles of I-65 to six lanes at about $587 million. Beshear included most of the money in a proposed six-year road plan.

For Martin, the most important expenditure - and one he hopes will stay in the plan - is $500,000 allocated in 2013 for design funds.

"That will look at innovative ways to get this project done," said Greg Meredith, chief district highway engineer for the Department of Highways. "Rather than 10 or 15 years, it may be five or six years and we want to make sure there is support of that."

That innovative way is a public-private partnership that was proposed by Jim Scott, president of Scotty's Contracting. Scott offered to essentially finance the construction project if the state would bid it out all at once.

"Governor Beshear has put a lot of thought into this proposal, and now it has to go through the legislature," Meredith said. "What we get out on the other side may be a bit different."

Cave also asked officials to seek support from their lawmakers of Beshear's proposal to devote $15 million toward providing 4,000 slots for early childhood education. There are studies that indicate that for every $1 spent on early childhood education, the return is a minimum of $2 and as much as $17, he said.

Beshear also has proposed adding funding to increase the number of social workers. Since 2007, the number of social workers has declined from 1,650 to 1,491. Fewer social workers and more cases have increased case loads by 30 percent.

The governor is seeking funding to both add social workers and to increase their pay, Cave said.

"They are totally underpaid and overworked," he said.

Simpson County Judge-Executive Jim Henderson echoed Cave's sentiments.

"I would concur," said Henderson, who is chairman of BRADD. "I think those are all important issues and we should work to support them."

In other matters, the board heard from Virginia Moore, executive director for the Kentucky Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

In 2006, about 646,000 Kentuckians were considered to be deaf or to have severe hearing loss. Those numbers are growing, but Moore said Kentucky's aging population is no longer the biggest concern.

"One in five teens will have a hearing loss ... because of iPods and gaming," she said.

Moore said her agency helps evaluate and provide assistance to other agencies to make sure programs are accessible. They are going to start partnering with fire departments to provide for free light censors for fire alarms for the deaf and hard of hearing.

"We received a grant that will provide those for constituents for free," she said.

The agency also provides resources for parents who might for the first time be dealing with a deaf child. It also provides free phone amplification devices that won't interfere with hearing aids. It also can provide a free amplified cellphone with a paid one-year plan.

Moore said the hearing world might not realize how limiting the loss of hearing can be.

"It is one of the most isolating loss of your senses," she said.

- For more information about the services for the deaf and hard of hearing, visit www.kcdhh.org.

 

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