By James Cook, Times Editor
If the downtown area of Stanton seems to look a little brighter as you drive through at night, maybe that’s because it is. The decorative street lights, that are part of the reshaping and renaissance of Stanton, were turned on in a ceremony last Friday night.
The cold rain and cool temperatures did not deter a good crowd from gathering for the event. With nearly 40 people gathered in a car wash bay at Boyd’s Car Wash next to the Bert T. Combs Park on Main Street, and nearby parking lots full of cars watching as the lights went on at 6:07 p.m. The lights grew from a low glimmer, into a bright, almost antique looking glow. The ambience gave the night and the new street and sidewalks a beautiful touch as the work is slowly coming to an end.
Since September of 2008 the major thoroughfares in Stanton have had considerable work performed on them. Detours, rough roads and water issues from run-off during rainfalls made life a little tough, but the result has been quite impressive.
“Some of the biggest critics of the work because it was disruptive and it was a mess for a while, have since then come back and told me how much they think it has helped the city and how good it looks,” Stanton Mayor Dale Allen told the Times. “Now some of them are asking about possibly taking it down toward Billings (pharmacy) and back toward the high school, it looks so good,” he added with a grin. “It does look good.”
The city now has a wider Main Street from the Mountain Parkway northward to Railroad Street. College Avenue around the Main Street intersection has also been widened from Sipple Street to the Stanton Baptist Church and Abner’s Motel area.
The project received grants to help fund the changes. A $10,000 grant was obtained to hire an architectural firm to come up with a streetscape plan. Another $250,000 grant was used to implement the decorative lighting and new street signal purchase. A $62,500 donation from the city and with the in-kind services from Clark Energy aided the project as well. According to Allen, in a release, the grants were successful “because of community businesses supporting the project and them writing support letters endorsing the endeavor.”
“We’re not done yet,” Allen said as he watched the lights brighten the night sky. “We’ve got some more things to do for this area and though it looks a lot better now, it will continue to look better with the other things we want to do.” Committee chairperson Josie Hollon agreed, “It looks good and there were times when they (construction crews) blocked my business and I had to just say to myself ‘It will be OK when they are done.’ But when we get some landscaping done, it will look even better,” she said. “It’s been a long time coming.”
Allen’s statements at the lighting ceremony and in his release indicated that there is still more to come for the Stanton area. “The committee intends to work with other organizations in the county to purchase Christmas decorations for the light poles for next year; work to purchase season decorative banners to use throughout the year; work to encourage new business growth and development in the downtown district; and an eight week course to begin in January for people interested in starting a small business,” according to Allen.
The project has been years in the making. The original Stanton Renaissance Committee started in 1999. The current committee is made up of the director of the Powell County Economic Development, Craig Dawson, Chairperson Josie Hollon (Elkins Insurance), Vicky Brown (downtown property owner), Susie Fig (a former Stanton City Clerk), Bull Cress (Hinkle Contracting), Landy Williams (downtown property owner and first chairperson), Debbie Tipton (Whitaker Bank), Ambara Caudill (Whitaker Bank), Jon Skidmore (Rogers Hardware), Rick Stamper (Peoples Exchange Bank) and Travis Wickline (Powell County Tourism Commission).
Others who were involved over the years were: Tony Parrish (Peoples Exchange Bank, former chairman), Myers Arnett (former Stanton Mayor), Mariam Smallwood (former city council member), Pam Tipton (former city council member), Virginia Wills (former Stanton Mayor), Delmer Barnett (Clay City business owner), Martha Hampton (Stanton Women’s Club), Joyce Pelfrey (downtown property owner), Bobby Drake (former Powell County Judge Executive), Pam Dooley (Extension Office) and Brian Billings (former highway engineer).
Allen also wanted to give a special thanks to Clark Energy and their president Paul Embs along with their engineering staff. All of them were a very instrumental part of the project. He also wanted to thank John Gilbert from Ross Tarrant Architects, who came up with the streetscape plan and Mike McGuire from Holophane Lighting Company. Bill Madden, Chuck Allen and Corbett Caudill from the Kentucky Department of Highways Jackson District Office were also a big part of it and Allen acknowledged their contributions as well.