In a two-hour-long meeting Thursday at the Larry Carney Center involving Madisonville Mayor Kevin Cotton and members of the minority community, there may have been more questions than answers -- but both sides agreed it was a step in the right direction.

The Mayor's Minority Address -- sponsored by the Concerned Citizens Society -- included an update from Cotton on the progress of the city since he took office in January.

Cotton discussed his vision for Madisonville and how investing in the city's infrastructure is the key to the future.

"What we are doing is revamping where our money is going, and we're pouring it into the infrastructure of our city and the infrastructure of tourism," said Cotton. "The city needed to find out what our identity was because our sign says we are the best town on Earth."

Cotton said that although the community has been built on coal, it is no longer the city's identity. Instead, Cotton said he believes Madisonville is carving out a new path that spotlights the many attractions highlighted in parks throughout the community.

"We have over 770 acres of parks and recreation," he said. "That is unheard of for a city our size. So we will become known in the state of Kentucky in the years to come for our city parks."

Charles Shepherd, a Madisonville resident, listened

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to the mayor discuss plans for the future. However, Shepherd questioned if the city's future should be investing in parks or investing in children's education.

"We've got programs going on such as GLAD that are trying to increase our children's potential so that they can be a part of the government, and it seems the funding to help those programs has been taken away, and I was wondering if you could address that?" Shepherd asked.

The Guided Learning and Academic Development (GLAD) Summer Camp is an annual event held in conjunction with Madisonville Community College that takes minority students through a course heavy on science, technology, engineering and mathematics. For the past 20-plus years, GLAD has provided minority students hands-on experience in areas such as health care, robotics and aviation.

In March, a representative from GLAD made a request to the city for $7,000 in funding for this year's camp. Ultimately, that request was not met by the city.

"We can't continue to fund organizations when we can't even find what they have done," Cotton said in reference to not funding the camp. "So if I'm having to make a choice, and I'm having to choose from providing the services that we should be providing to the city or provide services for other entities that could be raising funds, I'm going to have to put it where we can fix the city or where we can fix the blacktop or where we can fix the failing sewer system."

Cotton said that during a city council meeting, representatives from the GLAD program were asked to give the names of students who have been positively impacted by the program, and not one student's name was provided. So, Cotton explained, the council decided to cut funding to the program.

Concerned Citizens Society President Bill McReynolds said he sees the event as a "win, win, win situation."

"As far as I think, the mayor wins by being able to address the people firsthand," McReynolds said. "The community wins because they have an opportunity to ask any specific or legitimate questions; the Concerned Citizens Society wins as an organization by being able to bring this event to the community.

"You need to go to events like this because it's too easy to criticize or complain about something," he said. "If you want to know, you need to go."

Other topics that were discussed during Thursday's meeting included city sewer problems, city employees' health care, lawn care for abandoned homes, traffic concerns, jobs in the community and housing.

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