The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Thursday, May 29, 2003

PACRO budget narrows
The group's funding has gone from $8 million in 1999 to $535,000 this year, meaning tough choices ahead for projects.

By Joe Walker

A drastically shrinking budget has forced the Paducah Area Community Reuse Organization to make tough decisions about funding projects to offset job losses at the USEC uranium enrichment plant.

Since its first full year of operation in 1999, PACRO's Department of Energy-funded annual budget has shrunk from $8 million to about $535,000. The organization's finance committee learned Wednesday that $300,000 of the budget, earmarked for operational expenses, will come from a block grant. The committee voted to apply for another $235,000 in grants for these projects:

$100,000 to market a regional industrial park in north Graves County.

$65,000 for a "third-party" review of PACRO programs to determine a path forward.

$40,000 for a study on the economic loss of closing the enrichment plant. The last study was done in the mid-1980s.

$30,000 to maintain a computer-based program run by the nuclear workers' union and West Kentucky Community and Technical College to help displaced workers with retraining and finding jobs.

After much discussion, the committee unanimously denied a $50,000 request by CenterPointe USA, a regional marketing group. Some members said they disliked the decision, but other projects were more important, and they still hoped CenterPointe could become the industrial park's marketing arm. PACRO has provided $125,000 in dollar-for-dollar matching money to CenterPointe since the marketing organization was founded three years ago.

"We are going to get the private dollars," CenterPointe Chairman John Williams Sr. said in asking the finance committee to reconsider. "We're going to keep going."

Bill Beasley, manager of the regional park authority, said a master plan will determine "how we would work with organizations like CenterPointe." There are four finalists in bidding for the plan, and the authority hopes to pick a winner by early June, he said.

The 2,500-acre park is planned for the Folsomdale area. Much of the PACRO money since 1999 has gone to support the park and build speculative buildings in several counties. Williams said CenterPointe has been marketing the buildings.

In other business, the finance committee approved a $100,000 low-interest loan for CEECO Environmental Services of Paducah to buy equipment. The new firm is acquiring the cleanup component of CMC II Industrial Services, also of Paducah. CEECO has seven employees with plans to hire another four within two years for various land and river cleanup jobs.

Several committee members said they were pleased that the Energy Department has finally decided to establish a Lexington office to oversee cleanup at the Paducah plant and its closed sister plant in Piketon, Ohio. The decision cuts a huge layer of bureaucracy by putting cleanup decisions and funding directly under DOE headquarters in Washington, D.C., rather than the Oak Ridge, Tenn., operations office.

PACRO member Henry Hodges said having Paducah-Piketon cleanup manager Bill Murphie directly accountable to Washington should put some dormant PACRO projects "on a fast track." He and others have repeatedly expressed frustration at delays in efforts to generate jobs by recycling scrap metal and fluorine at the Paducah plant.