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SPEDA gives updates on Ag Expo, Veterans Park

Commonwealth Journal - 11/6/2022

Nov. 5—Thursday's meeting of the Somerset-Pulaski Economic Development Authority (SPEDA) contained updates on a couple of projects the organization is working toward.

First was a planned Ag Expo Center, in which SPEDA President/CEO Chris Girdler told board members a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) was made public last Friday. Responses to the request will be accepted through November 22.

"We've already received some inquiries from some contractors and developers," Girdler said. "That being said, as we have urged and warned from day one, this is a long ways from being a final product. An Ag Expo center coming to Somerset is a long ways from happening. This is just a step in the right direction."

After the RFQs are submitted, Girdler said a committee will be formed to meet with all interested parties who have submitted. That committee will then develop a "short list" to narrow down prospective companies and will ask those companies to submit a Request for Proposal.

Girdler said, "What that will allow us to do is be able to choose the developer that we want to partner with as a community ... because while we have said here that we anticipate a preliminary concept of 80,000 square feet — 2,500 to 3,000 people — we might only be able to do 50,000 square feet, or we might want to seat 10,000 people, depending on what the cost is, what the financing options are and that type of thing."

Girdler also gave an update on the Veterans Park, noting that it was currently "looking good" at it's downtown Somerset location.

While it has been almost exactly one year since the park's groundbreaking — and original plans were to have it completed by last spring — Girdler said, "As with many things, good things are worth waiting on. While it is taking a lot longer than we had hoped, it is really coming together very nicely."

He said they are waiting on a few minor finishing touches to be put in place, and said SPEDA would give the public at least three weeks' notice before a park dedication is scheduled.

But even with the park close to finished, the organization needs it as close to completed as possible before they can put their final piece in place.

"Were going to be waiting on the tank for awhile," Girdler explained, saying that the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command Center requires to see the "final resting place" in its final form before they will release the tank to them.

One of SPEDA's applications, however, was completed very quickly, thanks to assistance from Chief Accounting Officer Jessica Carlton. Girdler told board members that she was able to complete an application to the Team Kentucky Nonprofit Assistance Fund Program to receive a grant from the state.

Girdler credited board member Seth Atwell for finding out about the fund and bringing it to SPEDA's attention.

The fund gives qualifying organizations up to $100,000 in funding.

"And guess what?" Girdler said. "We've got [our] $100,000 in the bank already."


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