TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY
By John L. Ross / Staff Writer
Looking at the city of Williamsburg through Mayor Roddy Harrison’s eyes, the approximately 80 people attending Tuesday’s monthly membership luncheon of the Southern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce got a good glimpse not only of progress made, but also into the possible future of the city.
Harrison was the featured speaker during Tuesday’s luncheon, held at the Cumberland Inn in Williamsburg. He was introduced by Jim Dorn with L&N Federal Credit Union, sponsors of the luncheon.
The mayor offered the “state of the city” address, opening with the loss of CSC and SEKRI in the city limits.
However, Harrison added they are doing whatever they can to replace those jobs lost.
The mayor pointed out the recent addition of Dairy Queen to I-75’s Exit 11, and said that another chain fast-food restaurant is set to open its doors next to El Dorados off that same exit.
While Harrison would not commit to naming that impending restaurant, he did tell Chamber members the business offers more than 30 varieties of milkshakes.
Concerning other development off Exit 11, work continues to progress in building an 8-space strip mall — and there are possibly two potential leases of spaces to corporate retail groups, according to Harrison.
But Exit 11 isn’t the city’s only target for improvement.
“We’re talking about downtown development,” Harrison said. “One (building downtown) has been remodeled — the inside looks fantastic — and I believe we’ll have more (building owners) to follow.”
The mayor said that he’s received calls from parties who have expressed interest in investing into the downtown district.
He noted the demolition of what was formerly known as the Gorman-Jones building in downtown Williamsburg is under way. “We had great hopes for that building,” he said. “But it was too far gone — it became too much of a health and safety risk.”
The next topic addressed by Harrison Tuesday was changes to the city’s Kentucky Splash Water Park. “We’ve now opened our stand-alone, Tiki-style gift shop,” he said, adding “it’s been a huge success.”
The “Parrot Hut,” as the gift shop is known, “has been used 10 times more than the old gift shop,” Harrison said.
The city also completed renovation work on Tadpole Island, the children’s pool at the Water Park.
Also added to the city’s recreational opportunities was the addition of the Skate Park. Harrison said the city partnered with the Kiwanis Club and tourism to get the park open in 2013. “It is a huge success,” he said. “(We got) the kids involved (with this project) — it’s their design, it’s their idea.
“(This park’s) not ours — it’s theirs.”
The mayor then talked about the impending construction project on South 10th Street — which will raise the road out of the flood plain, and ultimately have the bridge raised 12-14 feet. Also, the water and sewer lines will be moved to the south side of that street. The city approved the sale of three small parcels of property in that area during the city council’s regular meeting Monday — which was one of the last things to complete before the state gives the go ahead to start the project.
“Williamsburg’s Exit 11 will never look the same,” Harrison said.
Concerning the future of Williamsburg?
“We’ll never give up on filling jobs,” Harrison said. “We need to find Williamsburg’s niche.”
The city lacks a bustling industrial area. “We just don’t have an industrial park like our neighbors have,” Harrison said. “So what does Williamsburg need to do.”
One thing the city did, the mayor said, was to purchase the rights-of-way along U.S. 25 toward Exit 15 — building to the north.
But Harrison feels the focus should be the city’s southern exit. “Our niche just might be tourism and recreation,” he said. “Let’s develop Exit 11 — this could be our major contribution to the Commonwealth of Kentucky and it would help us, too.”
Other possibilities the city may look at is the addition of Disc Golf, and a possible RV park. “It’s all right there,” Harrison said.
He told Chamber members that he’s talked with four different landowners as well as engineers — whom he feels are on board with turning the Water Park side of Exit 11 into a tourist destination. “We’re looking into it — heavily,” Harrison said.
He added the city and the University of the Cumberlands are “in discussion” about a joint venture using their land toward KY 92W — “to come together for a golf course.”
“We’re talking right now,” the mayor said. “Nothing is accomplished without at least a dialogue.”
He feels the city has a “good shot at making this dream happening.”
“(This is) a big facelift for the city of Williamsburg,” Harrison said. “We want to be the first place (travelers) stop going north on I-75, and the last stop (for travelers) going south on I-75.”
The next meeting of the Southern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce is slated for 11:45 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 11 at the Technology Center in Corbin. Chamber President Bruce Carpenter announced Corbin Mayor Willard McBurney will be the featured speaker.