During his lifetime of public service, the late Billy Ross wore many hats — deputy, sheriff and judge-executive among them.
With family, friends, those with whom he served and officials with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet on hand, Ross was honored for that service with the naming of a bridge spanning the North Fork of the Licking River on U.S. 68 near May’s Lick in his honor. The sign signifying the Billy F. Ross Memorial Bridge was unveiled by family members who filled the Mason County Fiscal Court gallery Tuesday for the occasion.
Mason County Judge-Executive Joe Pfeffer said the court passed a resolution in 2018 requesting the designation and the cause was taken up by State Rep. John Sims Jr. and State Sen. Steve West who sponsored legislation for the request to become reality.
Alice Kay Gallenstein, the wife of former Judge-Executive James L. “Buddy” Gallenstein and former Sheriff Tony Wenz spoke of their experiences working with Ross, with Wenz noting that it was Ross who gave him his first job as a deputy and who served as a mentor to him.
Also Tuesday, in a another highway-related issue, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Department of Rural and Municipal Aid officials announced $614,350 in discretionary funds for vital resurfacing work on six Mason County roads: Johnson Lane, Cabin Creek Pike, Murphysville Road, Polecat Pike, Weaver Road, and Nepton Road.
Resurfacing repairs will address existing surface cracks, potholes, raveling and base failures, officials said.
“The Bevin Administration continues to focus on taking care of what we have at both the state and local level to address critical infrastructure needs that improve safety and support job creation and retention,” said KYTC Secretary Greg Thomas. “This funding builds upon existing transportation investments and allows the Cabinet to collaborate with local governments to identify projects that will have a large impact in communities.”
Mason County Judge-Executive Joe Pfeffer called the funding announcement an overwhelming opportunity for the county to improve some of its most critical roads. He said it was the largest total the county has ever received in the annual discretionary funding.
“The citizens of Mason County, county commissioners, and I would like to express our utmost appreciation to Governor Bevin, Commissioner Gray Tomblyn II, the KYTC Department of Rural and Municipal Aid, and KYTC District 9 for working with us and recognizing the need to improve the infrastructure of Mason County,” said Pfeffer. “Over the past several years, roads have deteriorated due to excessive rainfall. These generous funds will enable the county to complete resurfacing projects that otherwise would not have been economically feasible this year.”
Projects submitted to the Department of Rural and Municipal Aid for discretionary fund consideration were evaluated by the KYTC district staff to assess the condition of roads and determine the most critical needs based on factors such as safety, economic impact, and traffic volumes.
“I’d like to thank the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and Governor Bevin for prioritizing Kentucky’s local rural roadways,” said Sen. Steve West. “I look forward to improved road quality and safety conditions for drivers in Mason County.”
The six roads set to be addressed provide access to more than 150 homes and businesses.
“I’m really pleased that these roads will be resurfaced, which will make them safer and easier to drive on,” said Rep. John Sims Jr. “This work is a critical part of the state’s ongoing effort to improve our infrastructure, and I’m proud to work with those in both the public and private sectors to make this possible.”
The Mason County Fiscal Court is responsible for administering the work, and KYTC will reimburse the county for the projects.
Commissioners addressed several items on a busy agenda including the first reading of the county’s 2019-2020 budget, totaling $23.9 million, an increase of about $2 million over the current budget, according to Treasurer Kim Muse. That total includes $6.3 million in the General Fund, $2.5 million in the Road Department Fund, $3.5 million in the Jail Fund and $9.5 million in the Landfill Fund.
The budget will be sent to the Department of Local Government for approval and returned to fiscal court for a second reading in June.
The court also heard from Steve Gunnell, recently appointed as chief district engineer for KYTC District, who addressed the slippage which has closed a portion of Kentucky 3056 for the past several months.
In late January, a hillside rock fall forced state officials to close the roadway, just east of Jersey Ridge, for cleanup and damage assessment.
The road has remained closed since that time. Motorists are directed to detour using Kentucky 8 and U.S. 68, or other routes. Locally, police and fire officials are concerned the detours could add time to responses in emergencies.
Gunnell said geotechnical studies of the slide area have been completed and the cabinet is now in the process of securing rights of way before repairs can begin.
Although there has been no visible activity, Gunnell said, “trust that we are working on it.”
In other business, the court approved the final tax settlement from Sheriff Patrick Boggs of $12.6 million, about $600,000 more than collected last year, he said. Commissioners also accepted $12,758 in excess fees from Boggs.