BCTC move could give UK more space

Bluegrass Community and Technical College may be moving from Cooper Drive to Newtown Pike as part of a deal announced by Gov. Steve Beshear on Thursday.

Eastern State Hospital, a 184-year-old mental health facility on Newtown Pike, will get a new building on UK’s Coldstream Research Campus, Beshear said in a news release.

BCTC could then leave its location on Cooper Drive and construct a classroom and lab building where Eastern State is now, Beshear said.

UK could use the space now occupied by BCTC for classroom and parking space, said UK spokesman Jay Blanton. Nothing has been decided yet in what will be a long process involving legislative approval and talks among the involved institutions, he said.

“There’s a lot to be done yet, but it’s a win-win,” Blanton said.

The deal began in September in conversations between Rep. Jimmie Lee, R-Elizabethtown, and UK President Lee Todd’s legislative liaison, Lee said. Because of scheduling, it took several months to get all of the parties involved to the table, he said.

Once everyone talked about it, they realized the benefits of the deal, Lee said. In a new facility, Eastern State patients would get treatment that is not possible in the Newtown Pike location, Lee said.

“It’s 184 years old — it started out to be an insane asylum,” Lee said. “It just doesn’t fit what we need to do today with the mentally ill, and it hasn’t for a while.”

The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government would pay $129 million to finance the two-year construction project, according to a news release from the governor’s office. The hospital would not begin to pay the bonds back until 2010.

The General Assembly allotted money for a new classroom and lab building for BCTC in 2005, and BCTC could begin building as soon as contracts are signed and the Senate approves the deal, said Lee, who worked extensively on the agreement.

Lee said Lexington will benefit by having BCTC on Newtown Pike.

“By improving that area, by putting a nice area in there, the interest of the city of Lexington would be having a postsecondary institution within walking distance from downtown,” Lee said.

The deal would still need to be approved by the state Senate, and contracts would need to be signed by all of the parties affected, including BCTC and UK. House and Senate leaders met yesterday to discuss the deal, Lee said.

“Everybody’s a winner from this thing,” he said. “Nobody loses.”