Bourbon County residents worried about air strip plan; officials promise jobs

Bluegrass Station

BOURBON COUNTY, Ky. (WTVQ)- Some people living in Bourbon County aren’t happy with their fiscal court. They’re angry that lengthy discussions about building a 2,500 acre, $20,000,000 air field are just now being made public. Officials say there was a reason to keep it a secret, though.

“If you live in a place like this, you are very blessed,” Patti Martz said as she looked out over a Bourbon County field.

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Martz has lived in rural Clintonville in the county for more than 20 years.

“My husband is chief of our fire department and we only have one four way stop sign and one small general store,” Martz said.

She’s worried the old Americana feel could soon disappear. Wednesday night the county Fiscal Court voted to plan for an expansion of Bluegrass Station that would create an airport and industrial park. The Fiscal Court would have to buy the acreage it would occupy from ten homeowners and farmers who have owned the same land through multiple generations.

“The way of life in Clintonville is over,” Martz said.

County Judge Executive Michael R. Williams says Bluegrass Station approached him late this summer. The fiscal court hasn’t given the final go-ahead and Williams says it won’t for a while, but Martz is angry the public is just finding out about this. She feels like county leaders are trying to take people’s homes away, secretly.

“They’re pathetic, low-life, disgusting people to do this in secrecy,” Martz said.

Williams says there was secrecy, but for security purposes. The Fiscal Court would own the air strip, but the primary user would be Bluegrass Station, a state-owned campus that does sensitive work, supporting homeland security and defense contractors.

“Not to go around people’s backs or try to be secretive in a sense we wanted people to be at a disadvantage. It was nothing like that at all,” Williams said.

He says he sympathizes with the people who would lose land.

“I don’t envy them being in that position, but I also want to think of the greater good of the community,” Williams said.

He says this would be for the greater good. The state estimates it would bring 3,500 jobs in the next ten years. According to Williams, the county’s population hasn’t grown in a century because there aren’t jobs for young people.

“We need young people, young families to keep our community vibrant and thriving, and we have to give them a reason to stay in Bourbon County,” Williams said.

Martz says those jobs are high tech.

“Nobody’s going to hire a young kid just graduating from Bourbon County that thinks, ‘I’ll make a good $20 an hour. Well, this is good for me,'” Martz said.

Bluegrass Station Director General Steve Collins (Ret.) says he’s working on bringing skill-based training to the community to prepare the workforce.

He knows there will be opposition. He says there was in 1939 too when the building his office sits in was built.

“There’s also generations of people, thousands of people who’ve raised their families, built their homes, educated their families by the jobs that were provided by this facility. We’re about to do that again,” General Collins said.

It doesn’t satisfy Patti Martz. She says she’ll be at next Thursdays fiscal court meeting to say so.

People living in the county say they’re also worried about noise and declining home value. Officials say the industrial park will buffer airport noise, and they expect home values to increase.