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Vince Gabbert, deputy chief of staff for Gov. Steve Beshear, recently returned home to Grant County bearing an expensive gift.
The 1994 Williamstown Senior High graduate and son of Rosie and Eddie Gabbert announced a $540,000 state grant that will help inch closer the planned expansion of Lake Williamstown.
The announcement came in front of a standing-room only crowd at a town hall meeting hosted by the Williamstown Woman’s Club at Williamstown Baptist Church.
“I don’t see many friendly crowds these days in my line of work,” Gabbert said before revealing the grant. “So, it’s nice to see some friendly faces.”
The money will fund phases 2 though 5 in the development and permit plans for the expansion.
“Although we are a long way from funding the $45 million to complete the project, if we all work together for this common goal, the completion of the expansion is something that can be realized in the near future,” Gabbert said.
“We all know this will be a very long and expensive process, but anything worth having is worth working for,” he said.
Gabbert said that he can personally attest to the governor’s commitment to working with federal, state and local leaders to find a way to finance the construction of a new dam that will triple the size of the current lake.
Bill Dennison, president of the Williamstown Lake Association, applauded the efforts of everyone involved in obtaining the funding.
He said the project was at a standstill before the announcement was made.
“It will be extremely beneficial,” he said of the money. “There’s numerous studies that have to be made to satisfy the application to the Corps of Engineers. The lake expansion committee needed those funds to be able to progress through that application.”
When asked about a timeline, Gabbert said he could not be sure when the project would become reality.
“I can tell you that (Grant County Judge-Executive Darrell Link) has offered to name it after the governor if we can get it done by his second term,” said Gabbert to a laughing audience. “So, we’re going to push to have Lake Beshear ready to roll within the next seven years. With this boost in funds, it will help expedite the process.”
Link, one of many elected officials in attendance, introduced Gabbert, noting that he “has never forgot from which he came.”
While the big news from the meeting was the newfound funds for the lake expansion, Gabbert also mentioned the approval of a state road plan that includes money for a design for a new interchange off Interstate 75 in Sherman.
“With the growth that our county has seen in recent years and the construction of (Sherman Elementary), this is something we sorely need and will provide tremendous dividends going forward,” he said.
With his parents sitting in the front row, Gabbert was greeted graciously by attendees.
When the nearly hour-long meeting ended, many stopped to talk with him or share a handshake or a hug.
“Everyday I thank my lucky stars to have the job that I do,” Gabbert said. “No matter how tough the previous day was, each morning when I make that turn on Capitol Avenue and see the rotunda all lit up, it renews my spirit and gets me going for the day.”