KAY JAY, Ky. (WYMT) -
For the first time in three years, some Knox County voters cast their ballots at the Kay Jay precinct.
The 2011 flood damaged the community center and forced the polling place to move ten miles away. Repairs finished just in time to re-open the Kay Jay precinct on Tuesday for voters.
Knox County voter Buck Golden cast a ballot for the first time in three years.
"It's a lot easier! It's beautiful. I'm excited," Golden said.
In 2011, a flood damaged the Kay Jay Community Center near his home and forced the election commission to move the polling place ten miles away to Artemus. Since then, Golden and others did not make the drive to vote.
"We are very thankful and blessed as a community to have this voting precinct back open for us," said Tara Baker.
Tara Baker put in long hours the past two months organizing repairs. They finished just in time for the election commission to re-open the precinct.
I think turnout will be a whole lot better this year than it has in the past three years since it's been back," said Lee Vanover, election officer.
"For three years we weren't able to vote up here, and I'm just so excited that we're able for this opportunity to vote again," said Baker.
Many say this was a community wide effort to repair and re-open the building. Several spent their own money for supplies and attended clean-up days.
"This is one time everybody fell in together and had a community thing," Golden said.
Election officers say voter turnout at the Kay Jay precinct exceeded expectations.
The building is also available for community events again.
People in the Kay Jay community in Knox County are taking steps to restore the community center and their voting precinct.
The building was damaged by a flood three years ago.
The Community Center at the Kay Jay Park still looks like it did following the flood damage. Since then, people say vandals destroyed the electric wiring and bathrooms.
"Since the flood it's been really bad up that way," said James Hamilton who lives in Kay Jay.
After the flood, the polling place was moved ten miles away to Artemus. Now the community members want the building restored and polling place moved back.
"A lot of people in Kay Jay do not have transportation nor do they want to vote anywhere else because they have voted at that facility," said Tara Baker, who lives nearby.
On Wednesday, they presented a petition to the Knox County Fiscal Court with 194 signatures on it asking to restore the building. They asked the Knox County Fiscal Court to spend $1,500 to restore electricity at the building. Instead of taking a vote of the magistrates, the Judge-Executive paid it from his personal money.
"I done it out of personal reasons because people keep asking why we keep putting taxpayer dollars into parks when they keep getting vandalized. I wanted to do it myself so other taxpayers in the county don't have to step up because of the vandalism," said Judge-Executive J.M. Hall.
The Kay Jay community members say they would have rather the Fiscal Court taken a vote and paid for it but will accept Judge-Executive Hall's money.
"I'm pleased with whatever result we as long as we can get the community center restored, I'm happy with that," said Baker.
Once electricity is restored, the Knox County Clerk says if the building passes the codes inspection and meets federal disability voting requirements, then the Board of Elections will consider re-opening the building as a precinct.
"Finally, I think this is a move in the right direction to get our polling place back in order," said Hamilton.
The community members say they will help clean-up the building so it can re-open.
To be a polling place, it must have working restrooms. Community members say if the bathrooms are not repaired by the May primary, they will get porta-potties so the Board of Elections will re-open the precinct.
The Fiscal Court says it allots $5,000 for maintenance for all of the county parks. Judge-Executive Hall says the county will mow the grass and help with upkeep on the park when it is restored.