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WHAT 2 WATCH 4

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By The Staff

As we usher in a new year, these are the Top 10 stories that will either be completed or started during the coming year. The Grant County News will continue to follow these stories throughout the year.

ARK ENCOUNTER

It may be weeks or even months before dirt is moved on a 800-acre site off Ky. 36 in Williamstown, but a full-scale replica of Noah’s Ark is in the works.

In 2009, the Grant County Industrial Development Authority began working with developers on the $150 million project which is expected to bring 900 full and part-time jobs to Grant County when the tourist attractions opens in 2014.

The Ark Encounter will feature a walled city, a full-sized wooden ark, live animal shows, a children’s play area, the Tower of Babel including a 100-foot tall builiding and a 500-seat theatre a First Century village, three bird sanctuaries, a butterfly exhibit and a journey through history featuring various events in the Bible.

According to Wade Gutman, the property is under contract and the project has moved into the due diligence phase, which could take up to six months.

FLUSH BEATS FULL HOUSE

Construction continues on Williamstown’s new sewer plant on Ky. 36. According to Brian Gatewood, the project is about 55 percent complete and will have a capacity of 1.5 million gallons when finished later this year. The total project will cost $15 million and is being paid for by increases in sewer rates.

TRASH TALKING

According to Grant County Judge-Executive Darrell Link, he’s never been notified that Republic Services, owner of the landfill in Williamstown, will be closing the facility.

The company said in 2010 the facility would close at the end of the year after host negotiation concessions could not be reached.

KEEP YOUR EYES ON:

As Grant County continues to grow, so will the need for infrastructure improvements in roads, law enforcement, fire protection and EMS services.

The potential addition of a high volume tourist attraction in Williamstown will only add to these needs.

Can current roads around the Ark Encounter site handle the influx of traffic?

Will already cash strapped fire departments be given more money and additional staff to balance out the workload and needed services?

As preparation for the Noah’s Ark-centered park begins in 2011, Grant County will need to prepare itself.
 

ON THE ROAD AGAIN

Construction on the widening of Barnes Road finally could begin in 2011. During the 2010 General Assembly’s special session, legislators approved a state road plan that included $5.2 million for the project.

Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, a member of the Senate Transportation Committee, said the only holdup is the acquisition of right-of-ways by the Kentucky Department of Transportation.

If the issues are settled, Thayer said he is optimistic that the project will begin this spring or summer.

“I think it’s a really critical safety issue for Grant County,” Thayer said about the widening of Barnes Road. “I also think it’s very important for economic development and attracting future businesses.”
 

CAREER/TECH CENTER ON TRACK

A dream became closer to reality in 2010 as ground was broken Aug. 10 at Grant County High School on a nearly $10 million career and technology education center.

The center, which will be a 34,000 square-foot addition to the high school, is expected to be completed by the start of the 2011-12 school year.

The center will allow students to take classes in areas such as health careers, information technology, electrical technology, welding technology, automotive technology, bio-medical and pre-engineering.

The Grant County facility will be the only four-year program of its kind in Northern Kentucky.

“Our community is ready for this. Our community wants this,” Superintendent Michael Hibbett said during the groundbreaking. “It will make a big difference for us. It will push us even further into the top 20 and make us long-term one of the best high schools in the state and one of the best districts.”

KEEP YOUR EYES ON:

• WILLIAMSTOWN AQUATIC/WELLNESS CENTER - While it’s unclear how much movement will be made, discussions likely will heat up in 2011 of a possible $6 million wellness/fitness/recreation center in Williamstown.

The Williamstown City Council and Williamstown Board of Education are exploring the possibility of working cooperatively to build the center, which Charles Ed Wilson, former superintendent and currently a member of council, said he envisions could be planned and constructed over the next six years and serve not only needs of the school but the community.

Wilson suggested that the center, which would be located on Williamstown’s school campus, could be anchored by a four season aquatic center and include a fitness/workout facility, racquetball courts with an indoor walking track and lighted tennis and basketball courts. It could also contain an Olympic-sized track circling a multi-purpose lighted field, an outdoor classroom with picnic pavilion and walking and bike trails.

A committee composed of Charles Ed Wilson, as moderator and Sally Skinner, Chris Lawrence and Connie Lawrence from the Williamstown school system and Mayor Rick Skinner, Eddie Gabbert and Bob Perry, representiing the city, have been appointed to work on the center.

• ROCK QUARRY/LAKE EXPANSION - With the proposed Ark Encounter development looking to locate in Grant County and projecting 5,000 visitors per day to the attraction, several projects including a proposed rock quarry in Williamstown and expansion of Williamstown Lake will be stories to follow in 2011. Grant County’s Industrial Development Authority has committed to assist Vulcan Materials in finding property in the county for a rock quarry.  Discussions also continue with local/state/federal leaders on the need to expand Lake Williamstown. These issues are expected to generate more discussion as the Ark Encounter project moves forward.

•NEW SUPERINTENDENT - The Grant County Board of Education will have a new superintendent when the 2011-2012 school year starts.

Michael Hibbett announced his retirement at a school board meeting Nov. 11.

Hibbett came to the Grant County School District three and a half years ago after serving as assistant superintendent in the Boone County School District.

The question now is, who will replace Hibbett as the leader of Grant County Schools?

The application window for the position will open Jan. 10 and close March 14. The district is planning to make a selection by April 28.

• ECONOMY - While 2009 proved to be a difficult year to be in business, 2010 also brought some challenges to local businesses. Some such as the Little Shrimp and Dairy Queen in Dry Ridge closed their doors, while hotels, motels and other restaurants continued to eye Grant County as a possible new home. Only as the year unfolds, will it remain to be seen whether Grant County has recovered from the recession.

• REPLACING BOB GREGG- An era came to an end at Williamstown High School as Bob Gregg announced his retirement as director of the Williamstown Band of Spirit. Gregg won eight state titles, including five at Williamstown. 2011 will answer the question, who will try to fill Gregg’s big shoes? Also, can Williamstown and Grant County High School bands return to the state championships in Louisville again, where they finished as runners-up in 2010?