EDA praises gap-bridging program
Members of the Woodford Economic Development Authority (EDA) spent much of their monthly meeting Friday, April 28, discussing a new group trying to find jobs for people without a GED (general education diploma). "This group's got a lot of energy," EDA Chairman John Soper said of "Bridge The Gap," members of which have met three times over the last two months. Bridge The Gap was formed by Nancy Blackford of the Woodford County Library and includes Soper, Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott, Versailles City Council Member Mike Coleman, former Lexington NAACP head William Saunders, and others. "And what we're trying to do is ... figure out how to get to the population that doesn't have a GED, that possibly has a criminal record that can be expunged ... and possibly has a situation where they're coming out of drug abuse ..." Soper said. Soper said he was preparing a survey for local manufacturing plants to determine their hiring practices and see if they can bend some of their requirements for new hires. He said one large, unnamed plant has "really stepped up" and is willing to waive their GED requirement and work with Woodford County Adult Education on a pilot program involving 10 people who agree to get a GED. Soper also praised leaders of Woodford County Adult Education, which operates the GED program and others. "They've got funding, they've got the resources, they've got the enthusiasm, so certainly we're going to try to work through them to do this and, hopefully, if we're successful with this pilot program ... then maybe other companies will step up and do the same thing," Soper said. Paul Schreffler said the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, where he works, has a program in which participants are employed while working towards a GED and industry certificate. Soper said he believed some companies are reluctant to grant such certificates or pay for workers to go to college, fearing they will take their newfound value elsewhere. "There's been a long-time perception of the old story, 'What if I train them and they leave?' Well, it's more about, coming back to, 'What if I don't train them and they stay?" Schreffler said. Soper said there were 1,400 people in Woodford County without a high school degree or GED. "Our problem is finding these people. They get out of school, they kind of drift off ... so we've got to come up with ways to reach out and tell them there are opportunities here ..." Soper said. New member New member Katie Vandegrift, appointed to fill the seat held by Ron Layman, who recently moved to Leitchfield, attended her first meeting. Vandegrift was appointed on an interim basis by Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift, her husband, and confirmed unanimously by the Midway City Council. Soper welcomed her to the unpaid seat, which expires June 30, 2019, saying, "She's coming in to the EDA with a long history of knowing what we've got going on. She's a very active citizen ... and with what we've got going on in Midway, we've got to have somebody who's got their ears to the ground ..." Price hike After meeting in executive session for a half-hour, members voted unanimously for a motion adding $15,000 to the price the EDA will pay for 15.585 acres of land owned by the Homer Michael Freeny Jr. Trust. The increased price reflects the cost of the removal and replacement of a fence that had to be taken down to move a historic barn on an adjacent tract that was purchased by Lakeshore Learning Materials. The final sentence of the motion read, "Both the barn removal and fence replacement were critical to the ultimate purchase by Lakeshore Learning and the relocation to Midway Station." Earlier in the meeting, Soper said the Freeny Trust contributed $5,000 to the cost of the fence removal and replacement.