Bevin administration has plan to privatize KY state parks
Parks plan requires General Assembly to pass public, private partnership bill
CARROLLTON, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky's state parks are showing wear and tear because of years of neglect.
But the new man in charge says he has a plan to fix the problem, despite a lack of state dollars.
There are seventeen state owned and operated resort parks in Kentucky.
General Butler in Carrollton is one of the best maintained, but even so, there are major problems.
Park Manager Dave Jordan loves to show off Butler's newly renovated rooms.
“New hardwood floors in every room. We have triple-sheeted the beds, all new furnishings,” Jordan told WDRB News.
But elsewhere, it’s a different story
“People pull up to the front of the lodge, and this is what they see. You've got paint peeling, you got the copper stain,” said Jordan.
At the park’s conference center, there are holes, mildew and a persistently leaky roof.
But Butler is not alone. Kentucky's state parks need more than $240 million worth of maintenance after decades of underfunding.
“We need outside money. We do not have enough money,” said Don Parkinson, Gov. Matt Bevin’s new Secretary of Tourism, Parks and Heritage.
Parkinson wants to hire private companies to operate and maintain the resort parks.
"The state still would retain the title, still own the property, but hotel operators and restaurant operators would come in to manage them," he said.
But for that to happen, the General Assembly must first pass a bill allowing public, private partnerships, or P3s.
It has cleared the House, and is awaiting a vote in the Senate.
Parkinson says he's already heard from companies ready to invest, "And fix it up, make it bigger, better."
Parkinson says Kentucky is the only remaining southern state that has not privatized its parks.
“The big thing is, you get more employment, you get more economic impact, and you get more tax revenue,” said Parkinson.
It would also mean that employees like Jordan would no longer work for the state.
But Jordan says he would welcome the change if it would help preserve the parks.
“It's a challenge every day because of the lack of funding,” he said.
If the P3 bill passes, Parkinson hopes to begin signing contracts with private firms to run the parks by the end of this year.
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Update: The Senate passed the P3 bill (HB 309) on Thursday afternoon. If the House concurs, then it will be sent to Gov. Matt Bevin for his signature.
Sarah Davasher-Wisdom, COO for Greater Louisville. Inc., released the following statement on the bill's passage:
"We are pleased that legislation allowing public-private partnerships in Kentucky has passed the Senate. This measure will spur job creation and be a cost-effective tool to make much-needed projects a reality throughout the Commonwealth. When businesses and government can work together, everyone benefits.”