Paducah, McCracken Co. moving forward on 911 upgrades, outdoor sports complex
Paducah and McCracken County officials announced Tuesday they had agreed to jointly proceed on a pair of projects — needed upgrades to the area’s 911 radio communications system and the construction of an outdoor sports complex.
The estimated $42 million sports complex and an E911 equipment buy that could run as much as $12 million have been on hold for weeks, but the city news release said Paducah Mayor George Bray and McCracken Judge-Executive Craig Clymer had come to an understanding on the projects’ importance to the community.
The delay, Bray said, was caused by perceived "signs and signals" from the county that caused concern among city officials. When asked to elaborate, the mayor declined.
“We took a little extra time to be very careful about moving forward,” Bray said. “And, I feel like that we really got some good work done, and so I'm very encouraged.”
Before today's announcement, Clymer had said he felt the city was holding the sports complex "hostage" to the E911 talks. The judge-executive and Bray had multiple meetings trying to work out an agreement and that continuing to put both projects on hold would impact the return on investment for the community.
“I think we both recognized that we have to come to an agreement on these things, or else, each one of them will be diminished,” the judge-executive said.
The city and county will move forward using a pair of memoranda of understanding related to the projects approved in 2021. Separate interlocal agreements will take shape over the coming weeks and months as Paducah and McCracken County continue work on these projects.
Both government bodies, the city release said, will move with “a strong sense of urgency, while assuring due diligence is exercised” to get good results.
The sports complex project has been in the works between the city and county since 2019. Plans indicate the tournament-quality multisport complex will be built on the former site of Bluegrass Downs, a horse racing track in Paducah that was donated to the county in 2020, and a contiguous portion of Stuart Nelson Park.
Clymer said the complex, once open, will bring roughly $3 million in economic impact per month. He’s excited for the project to move forward so the community doesn’t lose out on revenue longer than it has to. Bray sees the sports complex as a huge potential win for the city and county.
“The City agrees that the Outdoor Sports Complex is a tremendous opportunity for a sports facility for our residents, as well as a significant economic development achievement through tourism,” the mayor said in the release. “We are committed to partnering with the County to ensure this project is a resounding success.”
Current estimates by county officials say the complex will be operational in between 18 and 24 months, slating its potential opening for late summer or early fall 2024.
Once built, the facility is expected to be managed by Sports Facilities Management, a third party firm selected by the McCracken County Sports Tourism Commission.
Bray and Clymer each said they thought the city and county had been trading drafts of the interlocal agreement for the sports complex project and they hope to have significant progress in the coming weeks.
The Paducah and McCracken 911 systems are each reaching the end of their usefulness and efforts by both the city commission and county fiscal court have made attempts to solve the issue in past years.
McCracken County Deputy Judge-Executive Steve Doolittle said the range of pricing for system replacements is somewhere between $8 million and $12 million, but that upfront equipment cost isn’t the thing to consider. There’s also the matter of staffing and operations, which he says will come to around $2.5 million per year, and potential debt servicing requirements.
This replacement is necessary, though, because the systems are both over 20 years old.
“Mobiles and portables are no longer as easily available as they once were. We're talking systems that were purchased and installed in the early 1990s,” Doolittle said. “They've been around a while. I was a young man with a full head of hair when these things were originally purchased.”
The interlocal agreement for the E911 project will take months as the governments await the return of a Request For Proposal from Federal Engineering Inc. Clymer said he hopes an agreement can be finalized before the end of the year.