On page 219 of the 251-page Kentucky House Bill 6, there reads a couple lines that would provide $8.5 million to demolish the old bath house that sits next to Audubon State Park’s Recreational Lake and replace it with a new conference center.
More specifically, in Fiscal Year 2024-2025, the state would appropriate $1.045 million to tear down the old bath house and another $3.125 toward the construction of the conference center, according to HB 6. The next year, the state would send another $4.375 million to finish the construction.
These are just a couple lines in the Kentucky House of Representatives’ proposed budget. As the political wrangling and maneuvering occurs over the next couple months, there’s always the chance that the funding for the Audubon conference center will change or be eliminated.
But for local officials and advocates pushing for the conference center, it’s a good first step, said Henderson County Judge-Executive Brad Schneider.
The conference center has been an initiative of the Friends of Audubon for more than 15 years. It’s been a real possibility for that group and local officials since late 2022 when state government officials sent a letter locally saying there’s money available for improving state parks and asking for proposals.
Those requests were subsequently amended, and the state pulled back those money offers, but the Friends of Audubon and local officials decided to continue to pursue this as a line-item expenditure in the next budget, which is currently being wrangled over.
Architectural renderings were completed by Skinner Design Associates. The proposed conference center plan includes a 12,579 square-foot, two-level building, which would house an 8,321 square foot banquet hall and five meeting rooms, totaling 4,258 square feet. Officials have said that the building could hold 400 to 500 people.
The most recent cost associated with the conference center was $15.2 million. An initial plan reported in the Hendersonian called for the state to put in $10 million with the rest being split between the city and county governments. The House’s bill would cause local governments to provide more.
Schneider commended Henderson state Rep. Jonathan Dixon for working to get the funding included in the House bill, but he knows there’s no guarantee that the funding will remain when all the dust settles at the end of the session in April.
Now, the budget moves over to the Senate and will include the same sort of negotiations among Senators to arrive at their budget bill. Schneider said Henderson state Sen. Robby Mills will work to get a similar line item for the conference center on the Senate’ budget.
After that, a conference committee of both senators and representatives will wrangle over specifics of the budget and then present its take on the budget to the House and Senate for their approval before it goes to the governor, who can make vetoes on pieces of the budget. Those vetoes can be overridden by a majority of both houses.
A group from the Friends of Audubon and local leaders is scheduled to go to Frankfort on Wednesday to lobby for funding for the conference center.