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Community partnership fosters growth

January 23, 2013 12:00 AM
Pikeville, Ky.
A historical landmark will once again be part of the University of Pikeville’s campus thanks to a partnership between city and county leadership, the business community and the university.

The initiative will enhance services and provide opportunity for the city, county and region and was made possible through the efforts of Lightyear Network Solutions Inc., Pikeville City Government, Pike County Government, Southeast Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and the University of Pikeville.

The City of Pikeville outlined the partnership in a press release on Jan. 17.

Through several discussions with Lightyear, the University of Pikeville and Pike County Government, a unified effort has been made for the sale and acquisition of Lightyear’s property at and around 106 Scott Ave. in Pikeville. The plan allows Lightyear to continue operations in the community while lowering their cost. The City of Pikeville will be consolidating various offices and relocating city hall into the Lightyear building. The city will then lease the current city hall building, known as the Training-Academy Building, back to the university which will provide opportunities for growth by offering additional curriculum along with new community outreach services.

Lightyear began operations in 1993 in Louisville, Ky. Today, the company has operations in Louisville, Pikeville and Lexington. Lightyear’s customers include businesses of all types and size, including healthcare services, banks, engineering firms, law offices, energy companies, schools, city and state governments, supermarkets, restaurants, and many others. Lightyear is about providing a quality product and great customer service, while being financially responsible for its operations. They are also a company about giving back to the communities in which they service. Over the years they have done so by participating in many community events, along with providing many telecommunication and internet services at greatly reduced price or no cost at all to many non-profit, educational and governmental agencies.

Lightyear’s office building on Scott Ave. was originally purchased by SouthEast Telephone. With the help of local legislators and the Kentucky Cabinet of Economic Development, Pike County Government was given a grant through special coal severance funds to purchase the building from SouthEast and was then able to lease back the building to SouthEast for their operations. Lightyear acquired the lease and all terms and all conditions therein at the time of the purchase of SouthEast business. The current lease agreement grants an option that allows the holder to purchase the building for the remainder of the money owed back from the special coal severance fund. Lightyear has notified the county they are exercising that option to repurchase the building.

Currently, the payment of the lease for the building by Lightyear goes back to the State of Kentucky in a single-county coal severance account. However, the payment the county will receive by Lightyear will be fully vested back to Pike County Government through the vision, hard work and cooperation of Judge/Executive Wayne Rutherford.

Lightyear is selling the property to the City of Pikeville. In discussions with the city, Lightyear has agreed to sell their facilities in order to assist the community in its continued growth. They have agreed to sell all the property to the City of Pikeville for the cost of only $1,275,000. This is a great gift to the city and community and will allow for other areas of growth as well. Since the building is oversized for their current operation use, Lightyear will be relocating headquarters to a new location in the county that will give better results to their operational cost for their customers and shareholders.

“What an opportunity this is,” Rutherford said noting the spirit of cooperation by all parties involved in the initiative. “It’s great for the future of this county.” Calling it “the beginning, the history,” and a “treasure,” Rutherford said he also understood why the university would be happy to have the Training-Academy Building as part of the campus again.

The Training-Academy Building is the oldest educational building in Pike County and also considered to be one of the oldest within Pikeville’s city limits.

The university’s history began in 1887 when three men rode into the hills of Eastern Kentucky as members of the Ebenezer Presbytery, now part of the Presbyterian Church, USA. These men – Dr. W.C. Condit of Ashland, Dr. Samuel B. Alderson of Maysville, and Dr. James Hendricks of Flemingsburg – were concerned that “Some of America’s finest people were being neglected both in educational and spiritual development.” After several trips into the area and upon the urging of the people, it was determined that Pikeville (then a community of about 300 people) should be the site for an educational facility.

Ground was broken in 1889 for the Pikeville Collegiate Institute and the first classes were held on Sept.16, 1889. Using clay from the nearby Big Sandy River, bricks were fired on-site to create this two-story structure, which rests upon a foundation of locally sourced stone.

Pikeville Collegiate Institute, in 1909-1910, split into Pikeville College and the Pikeville College Academy, a preparatory institution. The academy occupied this building, dubbed the “Old Academy Building,” until it closed in 1955. When the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, it was used for art classes but had been used over the years for classes, as a community center and as a chapel. After a period of abandonment, the City of Pikeville restored the building as its city hall.

The new plan will provide opportunities for the building to be utilized for its original intended purpose, education. As part of the overall plan, the City of Pikeville will lease the building, which will allow for the expansion of the university’s business curriculum, while offering community outreach programs for unemployed professionals and coal miners. The business program will also host computer and resume writing skills classes for qualified out-of-work citizens to help prepare for the work force. The university has grown at a tremendous rate over the past few years, creating an educated trained workforce for the region. This facility will open additional room in the existing campus allowing the university to explore and expand other programs. Once the city has completed the purchase of the Lightyear building, they will start working on the leasing terms with the university towards agreeable language and formal approval.

The city has been blessed over the past several years with a beautiful, historic city hall building, but due to this historical value, the building has many restrictions and limitations. It has been a challenge for the city to conform it to suitable use in order to keep up with the recent and projected growth. The Training-Academy Building is designed for open classroom settings and the city is unable to reconstruct the facility in any way other than its current floor plan.

The city has been looking for room to grow. Over the past 10 years the city has increased its population by 10 percent grown in land mass by 1/3, doubled its utilities services, doubled its budget, grown its staff and taken on many additional responsibilities. Another important issue for the city is that it is currently removed from Main Street where the rest of local government services reside. It has been a key mission for the Pikeville City Commission to revitalize downtown making it a more vibrant community. By expanding the university and relocating city hall, it will ensure that buildings downtown do not remain empty. Having city hall within close proximity to other government facilities, such as the Pike County Court House, the new Pike County Judicial Center, Hall of Justice, Federal Courthouse, the post office and Pikeville Independent School Board will give citizens additional convenience while allowing the city to stay connected. The additional space will also allow the city to consolidate several of its offices putting the majority of services all under one roof, while also providing additional parking for convenience to the city and its citizens.

Through the consolidation, the city administrative offices will also be able to relocate from the city annex building to the new city hall complex. The city has been in discussions with the Southeast Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, offering the opportunity to relocate the current chamber office from the city’s train depot building to the city administrative offices located in the annex building in the city park. This move will allow the chamber additional needed room to grow. Chamber President Jared Arnett gave a presentation to the Pikeville City Commission Jan. 14, 2013, during the city commission work session. Arnett explained the services that the regional chamber offers and detailed plans of expansion into additional services. The chamber also hopes to hire an additional employee to help continue its mission of promoting and growing business and industrial opportunities within the city, county and region. They serve a valuable role in the region’s continued growth. Therefore, the city commission is glad to make this offer promoting both jobs and services. Final approval by the chamber of commerce’s board will still be required in order to confirm the move. The annex community room will still be rented out for community events to our citizens.

“The city has seen drastic growth over the past 10 years but unfortunately our facilities didn’t keep up with us,” said City Manager Donovan Blackburn. “This move allows us to consolidate and bring everybody under one roof. But more importantly put us back on Main Street where all the action is.”

Through the support and cooperation of city and county government, both Mayor Frank Justice and Judge Rutherford see the benefit of offering this great opportunity to the community. Both leaders also support and see the need for the university’s continued expansion along with the benefits of offering new community outreach programs that will benefit those seeking employment. This is another great example of our great leaders working together in order to make this venture a reality. This will position the city, university and chamber to address their expansion plans for many years to come. The city would like to thank the Secretary of Economic Development Larry Hays and Commissioner of Department of Local Government Tony Wilder for their assistance in making this project possible and the funds available to be reinvested back into Pike County.

“For the city to continue to grow and the region to continue to grow we need to invest in education,” said Blackburn. “Of course, with the university’s growth and their expanded programs, the city commission wanted to make sure we were fully endorsing the objective of the university. The city is becoming a college town.”

Seated, from left, Mayor Justice, Judge Rutherford, Steve Lochmueller, CEO of Lightyear. Standing, from left, Jared Arnett, Gary Justice, Director of Admissions at UPIKE; Howard Roberts, chair for division of business and economics at UPIKE.
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