Saturday, April 14, 2007

Another Attempted Vote Purchase

From Lexington Herald-Leader:

Gov. Ernie Fletcher authorized $25 million in grant money on Friday, making it available to communities in south-central Kentucky affected by the lower water level at Lake Cumberland. Federal officials have lowered the lake's water level to ease pressure on the leaking Wolf Creek Dam while repairs are made. The funding will help pay for public safety concerns and other issues associated with dam repairs. "This order is about preparedness, not panic," Fletcher said in a press release. "We must make sure Kentuckians in these counties are safe and have reliable, clean drinking water and utility services."

The Wolf Creek Dam in Russell County confines Lake Cumberland, which is the largest manmade lake east of the Mississippi River. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has embarked on a seven-year, $309 million repair project to control seeping under the dam. Officials are concerned that a failure at the dam would cause flooding in Kentucky and Tennessee cities along the Cumberland River. Fletcher asked the General Assembly to authorize the $25 million in spending, however the legislature adjourned without passing it.

Under the executive order, communities can apply to the state for financial assistance, according to a press release. Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, said he appreciated the move by Fletcher. "Gov. Fletcher appropriately recognized the Wolf Creek Dam structural issues as a true natural disaster," Williams said in a statement.

Separately, Fletcher directed the state Transportation Cabinet to look at ways of helping communities in the area get access to Lake Cumberland. Fletcher recently used an executive order to free up about $16.4 million to fund three law enforcement-related agencies - the Kentucky State Police, Department of Corrections and Department of Juvenile Justice.

State Treasurer Jonathan Miller's office was reviewing the constitutionality of that move. Kenneth Mansfield, a Miller spokesman, said the treasurer's office would also review Fletcher's latest move with Lake Cumberland. Fletcher's administration maintains it has the power to spend state money not appropriated by the General Assembly in such instances.

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