In Mar. 6-12 issue
By Derek Aaron
Times Journal Reporter
A new sign beckons greetings to visitors at the Russell Springs exit of the Louie B. Nunn Cumberland Parkway. Installation was completed in the past week.
RUSSELL SPRINGS - There is a new sign near the Cumberland Parkway to welcome visitors as they travel U.S. 127 north into the city.
Mayor Hollis DeHart said the new sign, which reads "Welcome to Russell Springs, Gateway to Lake Cumberland," is long overdue.
"It's my understanding that they got started on it eight or 10 years ago and for some reason never could make a decision," DeHart said. "I talked it over with the (Russell Springs City) Commission and made the selection of what we felt it needed to look like and we went ahead and bought it."
DeHart said the process of getting the sign took only two months.
The sign is located on state property, according to DeHart. He had to contact the state to allow for "encroachment" on the state's property to put the sign up in that location.
"I got permission in a matter of three weeks thanks to our engineer in Russell County and also the one in Somerset and it was put right through," he said.
DeHart said that at some point in the future, when money becomes available, the city would like to put up welcome signs of some sort in several major arteries into Russell Springs' limits, such as other locations on U.S. 127, Ky. 80 and others.
He said the new sign, which will be lighted at nighttime, cost around $8,000. That money came out of the city's general fund, according to the mayor.
"The main reason we decided to put it there was simply because wherever you get off of the (parkway) you will see it," DeHart said.
He said if you're exiting from the parkway from the east, the sign will be right in front of you, while vehicles exiting west will be able to see the sign from the ramp also.
"We've still got some small shrubbery to put around it," he said. The sign was ordered from Caudill Custom Signs, a sign company out of Morehead, and just recently was put up by city workers with assistance from Caudill Custom Signs.
DeHart said the significance of the message "Gateway to Lake Cumberland," is that it is the city's policy to have the message on the sign. The message is also displayed on city vehicles and has been for several years.
"It sounds good and we are the 'gateway,'" he said. "In the future you are going to see a lot of changes of upgrading in the city."
The mayor spoke of an 11-person Downtown Revitalization Committee that is currently looking for monies and grants available for the city's use.
"We want to make the town more attractive and clean it up," DeHart said. "We have an application in for (money for) two different areas of sidewalks."
DeHart said if that is successful, they would apply for more money for the phase 2 and 3 portions of the sidewalk projects in the city.
"We're looking at the possibility of getting some of the overhead wiring done downtown and possibly new streetlights," he said.
The mayor noted how events like the musical and the recent band concert at the Star Theater on Main St. bring people downtown.
"I'd love to see that continue because they do a terrific job," he said. "I really appreciate the people who work down there; they work hard on it."
DeHart said the city has seen some visible improvements in recent months.
"We've sat on our laurels for too many years here," he said. "A city is kind of like a biological entity; it's either in the process of growing or it's in the process of dying and I don't think we're ready for the grave yet."
DeHart said the city may not be like it was 60 or 70 years ago, but noted that could change.
"It takes time and effort and money," he said. "The city has to be expanded."
"We're going to start working on that end in a reasonably short period of time."
DeHart said the city commission, Ray Barrett, Wayne Gaskins, Richard Wooldridge and Timmy Hudson, has been cooperative and has come forth with some very good ideas on how to make the city better.
"They're dedicated to the proposal that there are some things need doing," he said. "I will say this: we've been attempting to get areas of the city cleaned up and we'll continue to do so, even if it works into a legal situation."
DeHarts said he wants the city's property values to be appropriate and if people do not keep their property clean, the city has a responsibility to do something about it.
"Russell Springs, and indeed Russell County, is right on the verge of what I think can be a major economic breakthrough in factories, transportation, infrastructure and restaurants, hotels and motels," he said "We have to be ready for it."
DeHart said that not everyone would agree with what he says has to be done but as he put it, "if you're going to make an omelet, you're going to have to crack some eggs."