Studies and visions for the Great Crossing Dam and old county jail have been added to the Scott County Fiscal Court’s to-do list.

Magistrate Bill Burke had raised concerns about the safety and structural integrity of the Great Crossing Dam in recent meetings and Mike Woolum, vice president of Strand Associates, presented a proposal to study the condition and options for the dam’s future.

“This proposal outlines some of the steps we would take as part of a high-level review of different options, which include potentially removing the dam, replacing the dam or rehabbing the dam,” Woolum said. “We will try to compare and contrast the differences between repair, replace and remove and understand what the concerns are and what it means.”

The review would include gathering the history of repairs and institutional knowledge of the dam, the water pool and how it affects the dam from a hydraulic standpoint, understand the impact of any of these options on people who use the waterway and work with regulatory agencies on related issues.

The report won’t advocate any of the three options, but just provide the information. The cost of the initial review is about $13,000 and would be done in about six weeks, Woolum said. The court asked if there was a way to get more detailed information, including sending divers underwater to see the condition of the dam. The last time anyone saw under the water was in 2011 on a drowning call and divers reported as much as six feet under the dam had washed out, said Fire Chief Mike Fuller.

“Chief Fuller had mentioned about a year or two ago they had had divers in and had seen significant damage to the dam. Will you be sending divers actually checking under the water?” Magistrate Alvin Lyons said. “To get the full scope, shouldn’t we have that information?” added Magistrate Chad Wallace.

“Not as part of this effort, but we do want to meet with the chief and representatives of the county who have firsthand knowledge,” Woolum said. 

County Judge-Executive Joe Pat Covington agreed with other members of the court on getting information on the dam’s physical condition.

“I was hoping we would get an evaluation of the structural soundness of the dam,” Covington said.

“We know it is eroded in the front. We know there are large cracks in the dam that appear to have been tried to be patched. I don’t know if it is near catastrophic failure, but if we do, we’ll see a wall of water go down Elkhorn Creek,” added Burke. “We also have a sewage treatment process plant that goes into that pool. If the dam breaches or remove the dam, that shuts down the treatment plant. Canewood Golf Course uses the water to water the golf course. And it takes away the need for Great Crossing Park because there isn’t a lot of need for boats then.”

Those issues could be in the review as the options are explained, Woolum said, including if anyone uses the water to irrigate.

Covington asked if the proposal could be amended to reflect more of a look at a cost to repair, and Woolum said it could. 

“I think it is important to see the overall scope of the condition of the dam if the bottom is washed out. Repairing it could be cost prohibitive,” Wallace said, asking if there was models that would show the depths of water downstream if the Great Crossing Dam was removed and Woolum said it could be done.

Dam removals are becoming more common, said Ben Krebs, engineer with the Georgetown-Scott County Planning Commission, and Woolum said removal may not mean removing the whole dam but change the crest of it.

“I encourage the court to get as much information as you can. Dam removals are being used more often,” Krebs said. “I encourage the court to be open on that. There is a negative connotation of removing the dam, but there are benefits for outdoor recreation, improve water quality. I think there are more funds available for removal instead of repair too.”’

The court has also been discussing the historic county jail and jailer’s house and the future of those structures. 

Eric Eisminger with the state Energy and Environment Cabinet’s Division of Compliance and Kentucky Brownfield Program Coordinator recently did a walk through of the jail. The Brownfield Program is a federal program providing funds to clean buildings that have the perception or are actually contaminated.

“We were not able to find anything in the area or the structure on contamination. It is probably full of lead paint, but I didn’t notice a lot of material that would have asbestos,” he said. “The building is on the National Historic Register, which would limit some of the possibilities you have. That would make it difficult to tear down.” 

There’s not a lot of damage to the building itself and it looks pretty sound, he said.

One of the things the division does is visioning how to use the building to bring economic development.

“We would love to see you develop that into something. It is a beautiful building, and we are losing historic buildings that beautiful all across the country,” Eisminger said. “We would like for you all to keep it.”

Several magistrates agreed that they would like to see the old jail be used in some way.

“It has a lot of history in that building and the issue is how to repurpose it,” Covington said. “If we are going to spend taxpayer dollars, we have to have a viable repurpose. I would agree with you in that respect and would be interested in seeing what the process would be like.”

“As the city revitalizes that end of downtown, it would be prudent of us to keep that building,” said Bernard Palmer. “It has a lot of history. There’s three of us that have checked people into that building — the sheriff, Bill (Burke) and myself. The history of that building means something to all of us. I think that would attract people and more people coming in. When I’m gone, I’d like to see my grandkids say my granddaddy checked people into that building.”

Because the building is in pretty good shape, that means the county can’t access federal dollars to clean up lead paint.

“Have you seen other communities repurpose a building and what they put in there?” Kelly Corman asked.

“I have. It could range from tearing it down and putting greenspace in. That would be difficult because it is on the national register,” Eisminger said. “You could renovate and turn it into a restaurant, hotels, general retail environment. It could be anything bringing back economic development.”

Public input would be a key component to maybe helping obtain a grant. The magistrates agreed to continue discussions of having a vision and what the process would be.

In other discussion:

— The annual Fire Prevention Parade is Thursday, Oct. 17. Magistrates were invited to ride on top of the ladder truck. Covington was invited to ride with Chief Fuller, Georgetown Mayor Tom Prather and Fire Chief Gregg Bayer on Stamping Ground’s historic fire truck.

  Moved the next meeting to Oct. 29 at 7 p.m.

  Held a first reading on an interlocal agreement with Madison County Fiscal Court to store data at its data center.

  Trick or treating count-wide will match Georgetown and be held Oct. 31, from 6-8 p.m.


Steve McClain can be reached at

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