How does a town with a population of 278 provide basics, like sidewalks for schoolchildren? Mayor Wally Thomas explains it: Ewing, Kentucky, is on a roll.
Three thousand two hundred nine dollars and twenty-nine cents. ($ 3,209.29)
That was the final tally for our first quarter of tax collections in Ewing, Kentucky (pop. 300) – the first independent income stream our town has had.
In January 2008, when Fleming County’s fiscal court opened the door for us to do so, Ewing’s city council passed an insurance premium tax. We estimate that our annual income will be between $ 15,000.00 and $ 16,000.00. (It looks as if revenues in three quarters of the year will be roughly equal, and one quarter will be almost double the others.)
It has been interesting to see the reports and checks come in from the various insurance companies. There were many reports to review with no check included due to no activity within the city limits. Farm Bureau and State Farm submitted the two largest checks. Other reports came in with checks for varying amounts, some as little as $ 1.40. But it all adds up. And after Elzie Price, the town treasurer, added it all up, the final tally was $ 3,209.29.
The second quarter of 2008 brought us about $ 3,500.00 in income. We are, to say the least, thrilled with our new funds.
Elzie, exerting customary prudence, has bought a Certificate of Deposit with most of these funds as we await the next six months’ income. It looks as if our early projections will be right on target.
Since our last visit From the banks of Poorhouse Spring, the community of Ewing has experienced a windfall. In addition to revenue from our insurance premium tax, we have received a Safe Routes to Schools grant for $ 74,511.00. (This was the second year we had applied.) The grant funds sidewalk construction, to make it easier and safer for children to walk or bike to school. Now we can install sidewalks from Ewing Elementary to the corner near the Handi-Mart, giving us good sidewalks on at least one side of the street around about 75% of the main area of town. We have also received $ 2,207.00 in Area Development Funds to help with the installation of sidewalks.
As it is now, the students walk in the street. With the new sidewalks everyone will be able to navigate the community more safely. It will also allow a couple of our citizens with motorized chairs to cruise around town and to the store, post office and bank with a little more ease.
Ewing got more good news a couple of weeks ago from the state. We use the assistance of a local quasi-governmental agency to help us with all the paperwork Kentucky requires. We (and they) were late with the last two years’ worth of reports. Knowing the state was holding some of our road funds, we were expecting about $ 7,000.00 for streets and street-related projects to be released once these reports were delivered. During our discussions with the powers that be in the capitol city, we were told that our assumed $ 7,000.00 is actually almost $ 19,000.00. Needless to say, we are working extremely hard to catch up on the paperwork now!
I was aware that we were behind my first year back in office. But the former administration had lagged even more and for a longer period. We will be current by May 1 of this year, and our coffers will be truly full. Some of these state funds, also, can be used for our sidewalk project. Add this to a little money from savings that our thrifty treasurer has put away through the years, and we may be able to complete our sidewalks. That is our first priority. We would like to have walks all the way around the core part of town, adding here and there a few other walkways that can be installed without major construction such as retaining walls, major earthwork or other expensive effort.
Our next project — really the final phase of a project started many years ago — is to complete our depot. Originally constructed in the 1870s or 1880s, it has stood strong, if not straight, for well over one hundred years. It is the oldest structure in town. The renovations started in the 1980s when the owner at that time, TTI Railroad, sold the city the depot for $ 1.00 and leased us the land it rests on for another $ 1.00 per year. After many small projects aimed at stabilizing and securing the structure were completed, Representative Pete Worthington helped us receive a grant for a major project. We renovated the exterior (including new doors and windows and a new roof) and on the inside turned the old freight section into a meeting room with a kitchenette and restrooms. The old ticket area and waiting rooms await the renovator’s touch next. We are in line, but not sure where in line, to receive a Transportation Enhancement grant of $ 115,000.00 to complete this project. We are hopeful.
The Ewing sewer project still needs funding. We were awarded $ 300,000.00 in the federal budget some months ago, but that is only a small part of the six million or so dollars we need. If President Obama wants to use us as a part of his economic stimulus package, we are ready. We are just about to complete the income surveys that are required for most of the funding mechanisms we hope to employ. If President Obama is looking for shovel ready projects, we are prepared. I can line up people with sharp shovels to start right away. A lot of potential customers will begin digging, by hand if necessary, from their houses toward the street and be ready to hook up.
We are getting closer and closer to the new school. This will be the topic for our next visit from Poorhouse Spring.
Many people wonder why our city commission spends the time and effort we do to complete what we do. That’s easy to answer. We love our community. This is our home. We want to see our community improve. We would do this even if they did not pay us. Oh, that’s right. They don’t pay us. You’d think we’d have trouble finding people to serve. But honestly, we do not. It seems if you ask someone to help, they will. Citizens in small communities are willing to help. They are willing to work. They want their communities to improve, if only a little at a time.
This past fall’s election and a couple of appointments have brought us a new city commission; we are heading for a good couple of years. Our members are eager, committed, excited and energized. Although I get discouraged occasionally, it normally does not last long. I can walk through town and see that there are several residents of our community trying to improve our town. Brooks and Melanie McIntyre are trying to see how many old houses they can spend their money on. They enjoy, if you call it enjoyment, trying to bring older, run-down houses back to life.
It is easy to see what needs to be done here. If you look closer and think back a few years, it is even easier to see what has been done. We are headed in the right direction. We will get there. Maybe not this year. Maybe not next year, or the next. But we will get there. Poorhouse Spring has risen from the ground just behind the old West End Market store building for longer than Ewing has been here. The people who live here keep doing the same thing. We rise up just as often as we need to. We will keep Ewing on the map.