2022 Messenger-Inquirer Our Region

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OUR REGION DAVIESS HANCOCK MCLEAN MUHLENBERG OHIO

HIGHLIGHTING PROGRESS IN DAVIESS & SURROUNDING COUNTIES 2022 | Messenger-Inquirer


Mark Marsh President & CEO Owensboro Health

We want to keep you healthy. We want to make you proud. Owensboro Health has been serving the health care needs of Western Kentucky and Southern Indiana for over one hundred twenty years. Today we are more committed than ever to providing extraordinary care for our communities, with highly-skilled doctors, nurses and support staff, leading-edge technologies like robotic surgery and better access to care, all while keeping your patient experience our number one priority. When you truly want to serve your communities, these are the commitments you make.

OwensboroHealth.org Serving Western Kentucky and Southern Indiana


OUR REGION HIGHLIGHTING PROGRESS IN DAVIESS & SURROUNDING COUNTIES

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PUBLISHER

f any truth has been told in the last three years, it’s that our communities can overcome anything when they work together. The pandemic changed daily life for many of us. For some, this meant requiring more immediate access to quality healthcare and mental health resources, a need which Owensboro Health Regional Hospital has met in many counties. For others, there was a shift to spending more time outdoors, Myer Creek Park, Vastwood Park and the areas around Lake Malone just some of the sites residents have enjoyed time in the sun. While we saw some losses, like the closing of Century Aluminum in Hancock County, many of our communities saw opportunities to improve. Several countries received ARPA funding and are planning updates to schools, technology and infrastructure. New, locally-owned small businesses are booming — and receiving community support. As we wrote in last year’s Our Region opening letter, we may be facing challenges, but we “haven’t stopped progress from being made throughout the region on several fronts, work that’s expected to have a positive impact on residents for many years — if not generations — to come.” This year’s edition further showcases that our communities face challenges head on, with resounding support for one another, to continue the progress that makes our region unique.

Mike Weafer

ADVERTISING Angela Mayes Advertising Director Shelby Mays Advertising Coordinator Account Executives Nick Durcholz Keeley Ham Brad McCrady Lynn Saffran

EDITORIAL Sydney O’Hearn Special Publications Editor Scott Hagerman City Editor Writers Freddie Bourne Keith Lawrence James Mayse Ken Silva Don Wilkins Karah Wilson

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Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022

CONTENTS HIGHLIGHTING PROGRESS IN DAVIESS & SURROUNDING COUNTIES

REGION

MCLEAN COUNTY

3 | Centur y Aluminum played big role in region

27 | Small businesses see big boom throughout McLean

4 | OHRH growing its patient care throughout region

30 | Board works to bring ‘more activity’ to Myer Creek Park

7 | ARPA funds allowing cities to tackle long-delayed projects

32 | Digital works facility sees movement

8 | Regional schools working to improve mental health ser vices

MUHLENBERG COUNTY

DAVIESS COUNTY 12 | Owensboro is bursting with enter tainment, festivals 14 | Construction on Kentucky 54 widening to begin in the fall 19 | RiverValley Behavioral Health seeks to destigmatize mental health

33 | Health depar tment’s drug-free program receives grant 34 | Schools to see changes in coming year 36 | Lake Malone considered ‘a hidden gem’

OHIO COUNTY

37 | Ohio County High School opening new auxiliar y gym

HANCOCK COUNTY

38 | Expansion of surgical center impor tant for Ohio County, officials say

22 | Vastwood Park a community hub for spor ts, families

39 | Kenergy and Conexon promise high-speed wifi throughout region

24 | Hancock spending $3.2M to upgrade emergency communications 26 | New leader has big plans for Chamber of Commerce


Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022 3

OUR REGION

REGION

Century Aluminum played big role in region C

BY KEITH LAWRENCE MESSENGER-INQUIRER

entury Aluminum was greeted with a hero’s welcome in 2001 when it arrived in Hancock County. When it completed the purchase of the Hawesville aluminum smelter from Southwire Co., steelworkers greeted the new company with a predawn parade. In September 2000, the union voted 323-24 to ratify a five-year contract with Century, ending a labor dispute that began in June 1998, when approximately 400 union workers walked off their jobs at the plant. But there have been some rough spots since then. In 2015, the company announced plans to “curtail its plant operations on Oct. 24, 2015, unless the current pricing environment substantially changes.” It added, “Chinese overcapacity and the improper export of heavily subsidized Chinese aluminum products have undercut an otherwise viable plant.” At the time, there were 565 employees at the plant, down from 650 a month earlier, before layoffs began. Century decided instead to idle three of its five potlines that year and laid off about 350 people. But in 2018, after then-President Donald Trump imposed tariffs on foreign aluminum, the company began reopening the plant.

Then in June 2022, he said. Century, Hancock County’s Mike Baker, director second-largest employer, of the Hancock County announced that it planned to Industrial Foundation, said shut the Hawesville smelter, earlier, “Century is a regional which it called “our largest employer. The largest number U.S. smelter and the largest of workers live in Daviess producer of high purity County. There are a lot in Johnny primary aluminum in North Ohio and McLean counties as Roberts America,” for nine to 12 well.” Hancock County judge-executive months starting in August. Andy Meserve, president The layoffs actually began of United Steelworkers in June. Local 9423, said the June The problem, the company announcement came as a said, was that its costs for shock. electricity had tripled in just a He said the company had few months. opened all five of its potlines And County just days before for the first Judge-Executive Johnny time since 2015 and had been Roberts said the company hiring recently. Mike Baker director of the gave him no assurances that “We celebrated that,” he Hancock County the plant will reopen at the said. “I guess if it hadn’t been Industrial end of that time. for the cost of power, we Foundation “They said they’ll reassess would still be rocking and it then,” he said. rolling.” Roberts said he worried In April 2021, Century and “about the 628 employees the union announced a new who have to go home and find contract that would last until a way to make their mortgage April 1, 2026. and car payments.” And the company said it He said Century has about would add another 60 jobs at a $1 million a year impact on the plant. Andy the county’s budget. The website CareerBliss. Meserve president of “That’s a pretty good com reported in June United percentage of our budget,” that “Century Aluminum Steelworkers Local 9423 Roberts said. employees earn $67,500 The impact on the county’s annually on average, or $32 economy will also include the loss per hour, which is 2% higher than the of business to merchants when national salary average of $66,000” out-of-county workers will no longer per year. be stopping to buy gas and eat lunch, “We’ll do what we can to assist the

company and the employees,” Baker said. “We thought things were going good there.” On April 28, Century had reported that it shipments were up 5% and net sales were up 14%. Net income was listed as $17.7 million for the first quarter of 2022. “We are pleased to report these excellent results for the first quarter,” Jesse Gary, president and chief executive officer, said in a news release. He added, “Our investments towards restarting production at Hawesville and Mt. Holly, combined with the hard work of our employees, have put us in a great position to benefit from the market conditions that we are experiencing today.” Gary said, “Demand remains strong in our core markets in the U.S. and Europe and inventories have been drawn down to post-financial crisis lows. While we continue to see inflationary pressure in energy markets and other key raw materials, our focus on cost discipline and execution leaves us well situated to benefit from historically high aluminum prices.” Century’s website says that the aluminum from the Hawesville plant is used “in the United States’ national security efforts and is used in defense applications such as the F-16, Airbus, naval war vessels, 747 airplanes and the International Space Station.” Today, Hancock County — and the region — wait to see what the future holds for the plant.


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REGION

OHRH growing its patient care throughout region F

BY DON WILKINS

MESSENGER-INQUIRER

or nearly a decade, Owensboro Health has been expanding its footprint beyond Daviess County. And in recent years, the health system has gotten even more aggressive with the purchase of hospitals and the construction of healthplexes in counties across the region. Philip Smith, OH chief business development officer, said the health system’s reach encompasses western Kentucky and southern Indiana — a total of 18 counties with a combined population of 560,000 people. “Of the 18, there are about 11 that are the core, and the other seven we are continuing to study,” Smith said. When OH is looking to have a larger presence in another community outside Daviess County, Smith said it considers population questions such as: Who are they? What do they need? And how do we bring the best possible care to them? “Everything we do is people focused,” Smith said. “…One of our core philosophies is that whenever we can deliver care locally, we want to. Now, you can’t have open heart surgery everywhere; you can’t always have radiation therapy for cancer everywhere. But even if someone has to come to one of our hospitals for surgery, perhaps they have that pre-surgical care and post-surgical

care closer to home.” According to OH, It was in 2014 Muhlenberg that OH began hospital expanding within experienced “Part of the idea is that the region. improvements in you can’t have hospitals Initially, OH patient everywhere. Yet, how do we quality, signed a three-year satisfaction, serve people? That comes management financial service contract improvement, by doing things that aren’t with the 90-bed provider full-blown hospitals.” Muhlenberg relations and Community overall growth — Philip Smith, OH chief Hospital, but a during the year business development officer year later it turned that led to the into a 20-year acquisition. property lease and Once the a purchase agreement for the actual Muhlenberg Community Hospital hospital service. board approved the sale, OH

renamed it Owensboro Health Muhlenberg Community Hospital. In January 2018, OH unveiled healthplexes in Madisonville, Henderson and Powderly in Muhlenberg County. At 41,000 square feet each, the three healthplexes had a combined cost of $65 million. “Part of the idea is that you can’t have hospitals everywhere,” Smith said. “Yet, how do we serve people? That comes by doing things that aren’t full-blown hospitals. So if we’re going to become the regional center of excellence for this entire CONTINUED ON PAGE 6


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REGION CONTINUED FROM PAGE 4

18-county area, that would comprise of all of these different locations.” The strategy for the healthplexes is rotating sub-specialists based on demand. The medical facilities offer a wide range of services, including urgent care, family medicine, pediatrics, orthopedics, cardiology, pain management, urology, occupational medicine and OB/GYN. The healthplexes provide laboratory services, X-rays, mammography, low-dose CT scans, ultrasounds and more. OH’s foothold in western Kentucky became even stronger in January of 2021 when it purchased Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center — a 75-bed hospital in Leitchfield. It added 500 employees to the OH system. The Twin Lakes facility serves Grayson and surrounding counties, including Breckinridge, Ohio, Butler, Edmonson, Hart and Hardin. “The leadership there saw an opportunity to become part of something larger, which I think is really key, but to do it from a position of strength,” Smith said. “…They were a very forward-thinking board.” In January of this year, OH announced that it had purchased the Springs Health Centre. According to the Daviess County Property Valuation Administrator records, OH paid $18 million for the complex in December. OH was previously leasing one building in the complex and the OH Outpatient Imaging facility. OH already owned one of the buildings where the OH COVID-19 Testing Center — formerly Physicians Affiliated Care, PSC — is located. The complex houses 45 tenants of various independent practices, including The Springs Urgent Care.

The purchase literally give provides an the people of opportunity this region, as Currently, within the 18 counties, for expansion at OH should the premier OH medical group, any of the small, eventually there are current medium, perhaps providers at someday large, the complex health system in decide to retire the countr y.” or transfer Currently, ownership of within the OH in their practices medical group to OH. there are 300 Smith said providers in increasing 35 physician the number of office locations physicians and across the advanced-pracregion offering across the region tice providers 30 different within the specialties. offering community And in an was the driving ef for t to fur ther force behind expand OH’s the Springs footprint and purchase. create a health “...If we’re care worker going to have pool, OH plans more doctors, to grow its staf f we have to have with its own a place for them to call home and medical training facility. for them to see patients,” Smith In May, OH announced the said. Commonwealth West Healthcare For the foreseeable future, Workforce Innovation Center Smith said OH’s objective is “to that will be led by Bart Darrell,

300 providers

35 physician office locations

30 different specialties.

former Kentucky Wesleyan College president. The center, at the Owensboro Health business center on Frederica Street, will train nurses, radiologists and professionals in other fields, such as behavioral health and community health. The course work will be taught by faculty from colleges and universities. The center will include both classroom space and “simulation labs,” where students will practice being in patient rooms and operating rooms. It’s expected to be operational by January. Smith called the Innovation Center “a major strategic initiative” for OH. “It’s a great opportunity for the people, and it’s also great for us; we’re hoping we can be the best option — the magnet — for people to come here once they have that skill set and training,” he said. “What we’re going to be doing there is not just educating and training people for a job, it’s actually preparing them to come in and provide excellent quality and excellent safety and excellent service right off the bat.”


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REGION

ARPA funds allowing cities to tackle projects BY JAMES MAYSE

do anything without this,” Mayfield said. The city of Whitesville he American Rescue Plan received $140,000 in two ARPA Act, which was passed by disbursements. Whitesville officials Congress while the country received their second disbursement was still reeling from the COVID-19 of federal dollars through APRA in pandemic in 2021, included funds June. for cities and counties to use as The second June disbursement, they wished, within guidelines. which was for cities with populations Larger cities like Owensboro have been able to spread the funds of less than 50,000 residents, was spread throughout the region. around. Since the funds became Greenville received $561,000 which available, the city has invested city officials said they planned to in water and sewer projects with Owensboro Municipal Utilities and use for infrastructure projects such Regional Water Resource Agency, as paving, bridge repair and bridge replacement. and has funds allocated for major In Ohio County, Hartford drainage improvements within received $364,000, which Mayor the city. There’s also a proposed George Chinn said would be used new senior center that would to renovate the city’s water storage be connected to the Owensboro tank. Family YMCA. “It’s been a real boom to the city Smaller cities throughout the region also received ARPA dollars. of Hartford, because it’s allowed us to do some (needed) projects that Although the small towns did otherwise we wouldn’t be able to not receive millions of dollars do,” Chinn said in June, after the from the fund, officials in those funds were announced. towns say the dollars give them Beaver Dam received $477,000 an opportunity to take on projects from the June disbursement. That they previously only wished they was the city’s second $477,000 could do. Whitesville Mayor Patsy Mayfield allotment from ARPA. Mayor Paul Sandefur said in June said the town’s two ARPA allocations the city was looking at doing sewage have allowed quality-of-life projects with the funds. In an August improvements, and will help fund interview, Sandefur said the city much-needed sewer repairs. plans to extend sewer lines and build “We would not have been able to

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the money will help combat the continuous challenges with the city’s water and sewage systems, which Coleman estimates were installed in the 1920s and 1930s. The city of Island received $60,261.92 in the June disbursement, and plans to use the money for water projects such as installing generators to help keep its wastewater plant running during inclement weather, taking care of water wells that have not been decommissioned and replacing water meters. “We have several projects that we would love to be able to get on the books and get completed,” Island mayor Vicki Hughes said. “(This) is going to help us tremendously.” Mayfield said Whitesville officials have already replaced roofs at the city’s sewer plant and have made much-needed improvements to the city park. The city bought picnic tables, swings and other park features. The old features were in “bad shape,” Mayfield said. The plan with the city’s second $70,000 disbursement is to make improvements to the sewer plant. “It’s 40 years old,” Mayfield said. With ARPA dollars, “we are able to do a lot of updates. “We’re going to take care of that first. After that, we’ll see what’s left over.”

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a lift station to neighborhoods south of town. Homes in that area have had problems with septic systems “from Day One,” Sandefur said. Currently, engineers are designing the work. “We want to be very methodical” with the funds and build something that will have a long-range impact, Sandefur said. When completed, the work will not only fix sewage issues for the existing home owners of the area, but could lead to further residential development, Sandefur said. “We could open up another 400 to 500 acres” for housing development, Sandefur said. There appears to be a market for more housing in Beaver Dam, and the area is seeing a “boom” in interest for homes, Sandefur said. “We have a lot going on here,” he said. “We are getting interest (from residents) in Bowling Green” who are interested in commuting from Ohio County to Warren County, Sandefur said. The sewer project is projected to cost about $400,000. Sandefur said officials would deliberate on how to use the rest of the money. “We have until 2024 to decide, and 2026 to spend it,” he said. The city of Calhoun, in McLean County, received $98,075.95 in funds in June. Mayor Ron Coleman said

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REGION

Regional schools working to improve mental health services S

BY KARAH WILSON MESSENGER-INQUIRER

everal regional schools are taking action in improving their mental health ser vices for students and staff within their districts. Rhonda Welch, DCPS district mental health coordinator, said one way DCPS is taking steps in bettering their mental health ser vices is by offering a Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) academy for staff to participate in. “MTSS builds better social emotional learning at all levels,” she said. “This way students can have their unique needs ser viced to them.” Welch said in the last year, DCPS has increased its mental health team by 120% and has begun offering more individualized ser vices. A new suicide prevention team has also been added. “Ever y staff member is trained in trauma-informed care and youth mental first aid has been taught to staff in the middle school and high school levels,” Welch said. For DCPS staff, there is an employee assistance program that has been implemented through Owensboro Health, along with safe spaces and staff wellness rooms within the schools. “Ever yday we strive to improve in the area of mental health,” Welch said. “As we

encourage students and make it a part of ever yday conversation, it makes it easier for them to ask for help.” Julie Pendley, Muhlenberg County Public Schools director of special education and student support ser vices, said along with counselors, the school district works with Mountain Comprehensive Care and Pennyroyal Mental Health Center to provide mental health support staff members who provide resources throughout the school day. “We have also added an assessment piece through a computer-based software called Terrace Metrics,” Pendley said. “Those are given to students in grades 3-12, with parent permission, and it helps to assess factors such as depression and anxiety but also helps us determine the resiliency, grit and hope of the student.” Middle and high school staff are required to participate in suicide awareness training, which discusses risks and warning signs to look at within a student. “We still have students who hurt and who are struggling, and there is a lot we haven’t identified yet,” Pendley said. Before the COVID-19 pandemic began, MCPS started a “Stop the Stigma” campaign to address how stigmas can affect those dealing with mental health issues. “This past year we asked students to take a pledge and

sign a banner showing they took the pledge,” Pendley said. “We wanted students to want to be a person that recognized these are issues their peers are facing and show them why this is an important topic.” Christy Fulton, director of special education and school health coordinator at Ohio County Public Schools, said the district has a contract with a mental health entity for each school. Those agencies include River Valley Behavioral Health, Mountain Comprehensive Care, Mar y Kendall Counseling Ser vices and Family Options. Along with the contracted agencies, OCPS has an assistance coordinator for the district that works across the district in seeking out students and coordination ser vices. “I think we are becoming more and more equipped as teachers receive training at the district and education cooperative levels,” Fulton said. Staff go through trainings in suicide prevention and mental health first aid. At the middle and high school levels, Fulton said self-advocacy becomes a priority, whereas at the younger grade levels, parents make referrals based on student behavior. “We are tr ying to reduce the stigma ever yday by promoting emotional resources at different levels,” Fulton said. Summer Bell, Owensboro Public Schools mental health coordinator, said the district has

made “great strides” with mental health and supportive ser vices over the last few years. “We have almost doubled the amount of counselors and mental health support in the district in order to provide supportive ser vices that focus on mental health and social emotional learning,” she said. Bell said OPS’ mental health team consists of school counselors, student assistance coordinators, family resource coordinators, school psychologists and the Mountain Comprehensive Care counselors, who all work closely together to identify students who are in need of support and provide direct inter ventions. “We continue in year four of the Project Prevent grant, which has a trauma-informed and mental health focus,” Bell said. “Within the grant, we have established mental health teams at all the schools.” OPS has also put a focus on staff wellness, beginning an EAP within the last year where staff receive counseling ser vices outside of school at an agency to focus on their mental health. “Last year as a district we sponsored our first community wellness night, and that was an overall success, with many parents coming out for the night to meet our community partners, sign up for ser vices and to learn all the resources available to support physical and mental well-being,” Bell said.


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OUR REGION

REGION Madison Avery, Heidi Wilson and Misty Sowders provide information about RiverValley services at the Daviess County Public Schools Mental Health Summit on Aug. 2. Photo provided

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Owensboro is bursting with entertainment, festivals M

BY KEITH LAWRENCE MESSENGER-INQUIRER

ark Calitri, president of the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau, says the key to Owensboro tourism is events that bring people to town. From 1989 to 2014, Owensboro branded itself as “Kentucky’s Festival City.” It hasn’t used that brand for eight years, but there are still a lot of festivals here — and more coming. The biggest are ROMP, the annual bluegrass festival that brings 20,000 or more fans from around the world to Yellow Creek Park; the International Bar-B-Q Festival, which fills downtown in non-COVID years; Reid’s Orchard’s Apple Festival, which has attracted more than 20,000 people on an October weekend; Friday After 5, which draws more than 50,000 people on Friday nights during the summer; and the Owensboro Air Show, which draws 60,000 people over a three-day weekend every other year. More major events are being announced almost every week. The RiverPark created “Downtown Live” this year as a companion to Friday After 5. “Downtown Summer Jam” was held on McConnell Plaza on Aug. 20. It’s a special edition of the city’s free outdoor concert series “L!VE on the Banks,” which runs every Saturday night through the summer. This year, it’s part of the Owensboro HydroFair schedule, which runs Aug. 19-21.

The Owensboro Multicultural Festival was held at 1328 Griffith Ave. on Aug. 20. Reid’s Orchard hosted its first Peach Bliss on Aug. 6 at the farm. Trunnell’s Farm Market & Experience in Utica will debut its “Sunflower Music Festival” in September. The festival, scheduled for Sept. 23-25, will be part of Trunnell’s annual Sunflower Experience and will include a lineup of local bands

Festival on its farm this year. But next year, the Daviess County Punch Brothers Lions Club will take over and move it performs during to its fairgrounds in Philpot. the 19th annual Calitri said the Home2 Suites by ROMP Fest at YelHilton is scheduled to open across low Creek Park. Second Street from the Owensboro Convention Center in late spring 2024 Photo by Greg Eans, with its 121 rooms that will need to be Messenger-Inquirer | filled throughout the year. geans@messengerinquirer.com He’s hoping to create more events like OMG!con, the anime, cosplay and gaming convention that typically brings around 4,000 people to town each summer. He’s talking about things like a Lego convention, a G.I. Joe toy expo and an arcade convention. Calitri said he is working with the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum for new events. There’s the Great American Bluegrass Jam in January, “a time when we need increased occupancy”; Cars & Guitars, a twice-yearly event with the Hall of Fame and Green River Distilling; and something Calitri is tentatively calling “O Brother Fest.” The CVB is also hoping to get the Hemmings Motor News Great Race, which brought 115 vintage vehicles and musicians. The Cottage Farm Stand & Baking into downtown on a 2,300-mile road rally from San Antonio to Greenville, Co. had its first Strawberry Festival South Carolina, last year, to return in in June. 2023 or 2024. Its second Sunflower & Pickle Calitri said there are plans to Festival will return Oct. 1-2. expand Owensboro’s “12 Days of “Hops on the Ohio,” Owensboro’s Christmas” celebration this year. biggest beer festival, was on July 9 at And the city recently landed the RiverPark Center. PorchFest brought 40 musical acts GeoWoodstock XX, the world’s to 13 front porches on Griffith Avenue largest geocaching festival, which wil in June. be held Memorial Day weekend in Reid’s Orchard will end the Apple 2023.


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DAV I E S S

Construction on Kentucky 54 widening to begin in the fall T

BY JAMES MAYSE

MESSENGER-INQUIRER

he widening of Kentucky 54 east from U.S. 60 has been a goal for Daviess County officials for years. In 2020, in a list of priority projects ranked by the Owensboro-Daviess County Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Kentucky 54 project was the top priority. The widening project also received the support of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, making it the top Daviess County road project in former Gov. Matt Bevin’s Strategic Highway Investment Formula for Tomorrow plan. When the project was included in the General Assembly’s six-year road plan earlier this year, the construction countdown began. Keirsten Jaggers, public information officer for the state Highway Department’s Madisonville office, said the work is still scheduled to begin on Kentucky 54 this fall. The project is currently in the utilities phase, where utility lines are relocated out of the work zone, Jaggers said in an August inter view. The Kentucky 54 project would widen the roadway through the commercial district all the way to Jack Hinton Road. The project will consist of four segments and,

Heavy traffic moves along Kentucky 54 in Owensboro. Alan Warren, awarren@messengerinquirer.com

depending on the traffic count, Fair view Drive in 2018, the last could involve the addition of year for which data is available. through lanes, adding turning That number will have grown lanes, widening lanes since then, as major new and adding shoulders — amenities opened or basically upgrades across relocated to Kentucky 54. the board to address the The opening of the new growth of the area, officials Daviess County Middle said previously. School in the area will only The goal of the widening increase traffic. project is to “improve The project is being Keirsten vehicle movement” by done in segments, Jaggers reducing traffic congestion, with the first segment Public Jaggers said. extending from U.S. 60 information officer, state There are a lot of to Bold Forbes Way. The Highway vehicles moving along first segment will go Department, Kentucky 54, as the through the heart of the Madisonville office area continues to be the development area, which city’s fastest growing will likely cause further retail center. According to the traffic headaches on a stretch state Transportation Cabinet’s that is already frustrating during traffic statistics, approximately peak hours. Construction cost 32,600 vehicles drove daily on of Segment One is $15.5 million Kentucky 54 between U.S. 60 and dollars.

The future segments will also be costly. The second segment, which stretches from Bold Forbes Way to Kentucky 1456, will cost $12.6 million, and Segment 3 to Countr yside Drive is projected to cost $12.9 million. The fourth segment, which stretches to Jack Hinton Road, will cost an estimated $19.9 million. All of the costs include securing right-of-way and the cost of moving utilities. Some work has already been done to alleviate the expected traffic snarls the construction will bring. In late July, officials heralded the opening of the expanded Fair view Drive. The 2,600-foot expansion, stretching from the rear side of The Downs subdivision to the intersection of Kentucky 603 (Pleasant Valley Road) and Hayden Road, began in late September 2020. The roadway is expected to tak some traffic off Kentucky 54 when the widening project gets under way, officials said previously. Despite improvements to Fair view Drive, people should expect delays when traveling in the area, Jaggers said. “It will take people a little while to realize they have to leave early” and given themselves more travel time along the roadway, Jaggers said in an inter view earlier this year. “It’s frustrating, but there’s only one way to build a road.”


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DAV I E S S

COST BREAKDOWN: The Four Segments of Kentucky 54 Widening SEGMENT 1 Where: Through the heart of the development area Construction cost: $15.5 million dollars

SEGMENT 3 Where: Stretches to Countryside Drive Construction cost: $12.9 million (projected)

SEGMENT 2 Where: Stretches from Bold Forbes Way to Kentucky 1456 Construction cost: $12.6 million

SEGMENT 4 Where: Stretches to Jack Hinton Road Construction cost: $19.9 million (estimated)

All of the costs include securing right-of-way and the cost of moving utilities.


16 OUR REGION

Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022

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DAV I E S S

RiverValley Behavioral Health seeks to destigmatize mental health R

BY SYDNEY O’HEARN MESSENGER-INQUIRER

iverValley Behavioral Health is on a mission. “We want to normalize mental health,” said president and CEO Dr. Wanda Figueroa-Peralta in June. With facilities in Daviess, Ohio, Hancock, Henderson, Union and Webster counties, RVBH envisions accessible mental and behavioral health ser vices for all ages. And, Dr. Figueroa said, “When the doors are closed, we’re still working on mental health.” RVBH is able to do this thanks to a mobile crisis unit, something that’s “ver y unique in this state,” Fiqueroa said. According to the RVBH website, the Mobile Crisis Team includes a highly-trained team of clinicians, case managers and peer support professionals that can assess, triage and provide emergency ser vices for all ages. RVBH also ser ves as a regional call center for the recently announced 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. “Two weeks after launch, calls almost doubled,” Figueroa said. “Majority for anxiety. We saw more youngsters reaching out for ser vices.” Later this year, a community center will open in downtown Owensboro’s The Crowne. The center will offer a wellness librar y of resources for different ages. “They’ll have access to books they can borrow. Teachers can come to look at curriculum that can apply to their areas. There

are resources that can help with families and relationships,” Figueroa said. The location is “iconic,” according to Figueroa, and convenient — perfectly placed across the street from the judicial center. Staff members specialize in prevention, therapy and wellness. Eventually, Figueroa said, she hopes to have DUI classes and suicide prevention programs there too. Figueroa credits RVBH’s success to its collaborators. “We are ver y fortunate in our community, that it’s a caring community,” she said. “We have a good relationship with law enforcement, businesses, schools, faith-based organization and other providers.” That relationship comes in many forms, one of which involves training and conferences offered to schools, law enforcement and organizations in the counties RVBH ser ves. It recently offered training to all Owensboro Public Schools staff and participated in a mental health summit for Daviess County Public Schools. RVBH participate in back-to-school events in Daviess and surrounding counties, like the July Stuff the Bus event in parternship with DCPS, OPS and the Family Resource and Youth Ser vice Center. And, Figueroa said, “We have a series of training at Hospice ever y month, until we train all of their staff.”

Christie Netherton assists with a back-toschool program sponsored by RiverValley Behavioral Health in parternship with Beverly’s Hearty Slice. Photo provided

In terms of what’s next, Figueroa said, “I see growth; I see a more vital community and a community that comes together to be a bridge to health.” RVBH continues to search for funding to expand ser vices and create new opportunities. “I think that’s something we have to continue, putting that message out there,” Figueroa said of the mission to normalize mental health. “That’s the core of health, in general.”

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Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022

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22 OUR REGION

Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022

HANCOCK

Vastwood Park a community hub for sports, families BY SYDNEY O’HEARN

I

MESSENGER-INQUIRER

f you didn’t know to look for it, you might miss the sign marking Vastwood Park’s entrance on Highway 60. But the residents of Hancock County know exactly where it is. Tucked between Hawesville and Lewsiport, Vastwood Park is a community staple for year-round activities. The large lot upon entering the grounds off Hwy. 60 is perfect for community events and can easily accommodate large crowds. “There’s a group that does a car show up here. That’s always the third Saturday in October,” said Cr ystal Young, office manager for Hancock County. The Hwy 60 Yard Sale — which runs 200 miles through eight counties — comes through the park each year, as well, and there’s a Trail of Treats each Halloween that local businesses support. Hancock County High School hosts all of its softball and baseball games at the park’s regulation baseball and softball fields. “The Little League fields are used Monday through Friday,” except Wednesday, according to Young. Summer brings one of the most popular park events — the annual Fourth of July celebration. The hotter season also allows for

Park visitors, from left, Juniper, Olive and Ezra search for minnows in the lake at Vastwood Park. Photo by Sydney O’Hearn

swimming in the large lake area, as well as free fishing. “Now that the lake’s reopened, more people are coming out, “ Young said. The lake was closed to the public for “about six years.” The lake area has several grills and picnic tables, creating a perfect atmosphere for a family excursion. “We see lots of families,” said

Mar y Hodge, beach super visor. “They can come out to swim, use the picnic tables and charcoal grills. They spend the whole day out here. For most families, it ends up costing around $10.” Public bathrooms are in the beach house, which has a room that can be rented. “It’s rented out ever y weekend, mostly for family reunions, but of course

the bathrooms remain open to anyone.” For those who want more than one day, campgrounds are available at $8 a night for tents or $16 for electrical hookups — and there’s a 24-hour bathhouse. According to Hancock County’s website, there are 21 campsites with water and electricity and a dump station located by the bath house. Young says the camper sites tend to stay booked up. And for good reason. “It’s a beautiful park,” Hodge said, applauding the care that the county puts into the upkeep of the park. She smiles, in particular, when discussing the recently paved walking trail. “It goes around the full perimeter of the lake,” Hodge said, “and they’re working on getting lighting for all of it.” The cross countr y teams use the walking trail for meets, said Young, and the high school tennis team “comes out here for the courts.” The park is open year-round, with the exception of the camping area, which is closed November through March. “It’s fascinating to me when people have never heard of the park, and then they come up and see it,” Young said. “The reaction to how beautiful it is makes you smile.”


Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022 23

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HANCOCK The paved walking trail at Vastwood Park spans the perimter of the lake, winding through campgrounds and wooded areas. Photo by Sydney O’Hearn

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24 OUR REGION

Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022

HANCOCK

Hancock spending $3.2M to upgrade emergency communications H

BY DON WILKINS

MESSENGER-INQUIRER

ancock Fiscal Court and Hancock County Public Schools have partnered on a major communications project that will come at a cost of $3.2 million. Judge-Executive Johnny Roberts said the upgrade is overdue and that it will dramatically enhance the ability for emergency personnel to communicate throughout the county. “We have some areas we’re trying to clean up,” Roberts said.

“So when you have protective and emergency services, they need to be able to communicate in all areas of our county.” Hancock Fiscal Court will be using $1.7 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds along with another $937,000 in general fund money. The difference — $563,000 — will come from the Hancock County school district. Both the county and the school district have approved the funding. The project is now in the hands

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of B&E Electronics Inc., based out of Jackson, Tennessee. Michael Badgett, the company’s vice president, said Hancock County has been using an outdated analog radio system consisting of VHF, which peaks at 300 megahertz. Badgett said a digital 800 megahertz P25 trunk network will be installed at six sites around the county that will give police, fire and ambulance services the interoperable coverage they need. “It’s basically the premier

government P25 public safety platform,” Badgett said. “… The judge’s main thing was that (Hancock County) had been without (good communication) for a long time. Yes, we probably could have found something cheaper that would have fixed the problem but they really wanted to move Hancock County to what ever yone is doing — pull them up to 2022 and give them something they can grow on.” Badgett said the old system will be totally replaced, and the P25


Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022 25

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HANCOCK system is meant to last into the future. “These particular style platforms are systems that you really keep for decades,” Badgett said. “You just upgrade them or add to them or repair them. But they’re never going to have to start over again, which is nice.” The system will be installed on buildings, towers and water tanks that will make up the six sites. One of those will be at Hancock County High School. Badgett said ensuring communication within all of its schools and with emergency personnel was a priority for HCPS. “Obviously, school security is pretty paramount right now,” Badgett said. “…It’s going to make it to where any law enforcement officer, first responder, SRO that may be in the building or anywhere

on that campus will have 100% communication.” Badgett added that it will also aid the school buses that travel in more rural areas of the county. “They will also have countywide coverage,” he said. B&E Electronics Inc. will be installing equipment made by Tait Communications, based in Houston. The target completion date for the project is June 30, 2023. When the system becomes fully operational, Roberts said it will be a game changer. “When someone makes a call to 911 and dispatch sends an ambulance out, we want to make sure there’s clear and consistent communications the whole time,” he said. “…I feel good about it because there’s nothing more important than when you call 911.”

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26 OUR REGION

Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022

HANCOCK

New leader has big plans for Chamber of Commerce T

BY KEN SILVA

MESSENGER-INQUIRER

he last couple years have been rough for Hancock County’s economy, star ting with the COVID-19 pandemic and punctuated by the June announcement that the Centur y Aluminum plant would be idled. But that hasn’t dampened the spirits of Tina Snyder, who took the helm as executive director of the Hancock County Chamber of Commerce on June 1. “In the past month, we’ve gained five new businesses,” Snyder said in an optimistic tone. “I think we’re growing in spur ts.” Snyder and new Chamber President Chelsea Boling are aiming to bring some fresh faces into the fold with an “auxiliar y group” that will supplement the organization’s

board of directors. I believe that because we had “When you’re in a small a little change in leadership, community, nine times out of and then the pandemic put 10, if you’re in one committee a wrench in a lot of plans. then you’re in four. You’ll And so, some were hesitant see the same faces in all the to send in dues. I think there committees. That’s just just needs to be checks the way things work,” and balances with that Snyder explained. “So, we system,” she said. discussed reaching out and “We just need to pulling in some people that double-check with maybe aren’t as involved ever ybody and tell and pulling them in to get them, ‘We just wanted with us. Because ever yone to check base and has ideas, and ever yone make sure you got Tina Snyder has pros and cons that they executive director, your letter about your Hancock County can add to the pie.” dues, and see if you Chamber of Along with bringing in have any questions,’ — Commerce fresh faces, the beginning just to kind of fine tune of Snyder’s tenure has that process.” her looking to reengage Meanwhile, Snyder is also businesses that have fallen concentrated on organizing behind on paying dues amidst the Chamber’s usual slate of the COVID-19 pandemic events. She hit the ground and ensuing government running in June with the lockdown orders. organization’s annual dinner, “I believe we have over 70 and it had U.S. Rep. Brett chamber members, and I say Guthrie speak at a Chamber

breakfast on Aug. 9. One of the newer Chamber initiatives is its “market day” events, where small businesses from around the community gather in one area to sell goods and ser vices. The first of these events took place in November 2021 at the Lewispor t Lions Community Center, and Snyder said the next one should be around the star t of fall. All this and more is making plenty of work for Snyder, who is also director of the Hancock County Public Librar y. But being born and raised in Hancock County gives her extra motivation to make sure the community grows and thrives, she said. “I’ve been here my entire life,” she said. “I have an interest in seeing our county continue to have improvements and move for ward.”

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MCLEAN

Small businesses see big boom throughout McLean W

BY FREDDIE BOURNE MESSENGER-INQUIRER

hile historically known as an agricultural hub in the commonwealth, McLean County has seen an increase in the number of small businesses blooming throughout its communities. In 2022, Calhoun saw the opening of two restaurants — Sammy Jean’s Café & Catering and Mi Pueblito in Februar y and March, respectively. Livermore saw the grand opening of RiverTown Market, a Kentucky Proud product entity that has become part of the city’s recent status as a Kentucky Trail Town through the Kentucky Department of Tourism, in April. And in the first week of August, the former NAPA Auto Parts facility at 631 Henton St. in Livermore became the new home for Lanes Raceway — a slot car racing spot that includes pinball and pool — that’s just minutes down the road from the BigOStop Smoke Shop, which opened in the previous Tobacco Shack store in Februar y. Other businesses are run from the comfort of home. Rumsey resident Morgan Carroll operates her jewelr y business Carroll Trading Co. from home, and Sacramento couple Chelsea and Stephen Edmonds produce their custom-made wares for West KY Slayor Customs, LLC from a large

Ashley Kobb, left, employee at Sammy Jean’s Café and Catering in Calhoun, and Samantha Appleton, owner of Sammy Jean’s Café, stand behind the front counter of the eatery. Photo by Freddie Bourne

detached garage. “(The new businesses) cover a wide (range) from retail to restaurants,” Judge-Executive Curtis Dame said. “I think it highlights the need that the general public has or the want to have ser vices like that.” Dame obser ves that he saw a number of these entities increase after the height of the coronavirus pandemic. “It seems like people have been moving out of the cities and start new businesses here,” he said. However, Dame said continued success of these entities will in part rely on public support both “in the long- and short-term” and

feels that McLean County is a good place for a small business to thrive. “We’re lucky to have two roads that are ver y high traveled, with the most being (Kentucky Highway) 431 (that) averages anywhere between 5,200 to 7,100 cars a day,” he said. “Main Street (in Calhoun) sees about 5,600 cars. “If our businesses are located on these main thoroughfares, you get the advantage of window shopping — not only by walking by the facility but by driving by it also.” Dame said that getting a business started here can prove to be a little easier.

“Just to be as simplistic as possible, you don’t have the overregulation here that you necessarily have ever ywhere else,” he said. “We do have a surplus of vacant buildings. It depends on whether or not that individual business can afford whatever the rent may be or the cost to rehabilitate the facilities; but our downtowns do have vacant facilities.” Dame said that part of the process is having the facility match up with the size of the potential business that is coming in. Still, Dame hopes that community members will take advantage of ser vices to help those that want to begin their own businesses, such as the Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) through the Green River Area Development District, under the pretense that the business will be physically located and operate in the county. According to GRADD’s website, the Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) was established to develop and assist in financial packages for companies in the industrial, commercial, agricultural and ser vice sectors. It is designed to have an impact on the economic growth of the region. Funding is available to small businesses for start-ups or expansions, with loans being able to help with the purchase of


28 OUR REGION

Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022

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MCLEAN machiner y, equipment, working capital and additional industrial, commercial or tourism enterprise development. Funds can range from $5,000 to $250,000. The program has a zero-percent interest rate for the first year, repayment terms for from five to 15 years and reduced collateral and equity injection. “The key thing is that it will ser ve two purposes — access to capital, but throughout this process, we will help the business develop a business plan,” he said. “...We want these investments to succeed, and that’s what we want here. I think we can continue to be a pro-business environment and provide resources such as the Revolving Loan Fund, we will see these number of businesses continue to grow.” Dame said that they have

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been tr ying to work with individuals to take advantage of potential oppor tunities and other entities, such as the Chamber of Commerce assisting with building a network of resources to promote businesses in the area. “If people know that a business is here and they provide a cer tain ser vice, McLean Countians tend to have the opinion that they want to suppor t local, within reason,” he said. Dame has a positive outlook on the overall growth in businesses and hopes that the continued trajector y will lead to a long-term goal of an economic development corporation in the county that will primarily focus on providing resources for future star t-ups. “That’s where I want us to be in the next four years,” he said.

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McLean County Public Library

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Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022

MCLEAN

Board works to bring ‘more activity’ to Myer Creek Park BY FREDDIE BOURNE

Karesa Hagan, left, her son Briggs, and Megan Woosley, both of Beech Grove walk the trails at Myer Creek Park in Calhoun. Photo by Freddie Bourne

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hile Myer Creek Park saw an opening of sorts almost 20 years ago, the 218-acre facility that is jointly owned by McLean County Fiscal Court and the city of Calhoun has been seeing more attendance and foot traffic in recent years. Known as one of the larger county and city parks in Kentucky,

the facility has been able to attract people from both McLean and surrounding counties with events such as the annual Harvest Day and county Ag Fair, along with offering camping and lodging services, sporting events and availability for rentals. Improvements have been underway at the park this year, according to Bruce Cabbage, chairman of the park board, with

MCLEAN COUNTY CLERK,

Carol Eaton


Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022 31

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MCLEAN the installation of new signage for rules and regulations. Other plans on the docket include adding mapping and signage of the trails on the property using funds raised by a 5K organized by resident Megan Woosley and in partnership with the Green River Area Development District. Joy Campbell, park board member and city appointee for Calhoun, said much of the park’s success to partnerships that have formed throughout the years, including the local tractor pullers association, the national archery tour R100 that uses the facility every year, the McLean County Cooperative Extension Office and county 4-H program — which has facilities on the grounds that Campbell said have been rented out for receptions and weddings. “(The) board … can oversee what happens and want things to go according to a plan, but it couldn’t happen without these partnerships,” she said. “It’s just wonderful.” The park also offers covered shelter rentals along with RV and camping for minimal fees — and the latter has seen an uptick. “In the last two months, I’ve turned over $1,000 in camping fees,” said Bob Guenthner, park administrator. “It was over $6,000 last year fiscally,” Cabbage said.

water system through a $177,900 grant from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) through the Department for Local Government (DLG) under the Office of the Governor, which Campbell said is “in the works.” The grant will include new year-round heated restroom facilities and inclusive, wheelchair and handicap-accessible playground equipment per American Disability Acts (ADA) standards to provide more recreational opportunities. Cabbage said camping has New signage replaced existing signage at Myer Creek Park, which was increased the past two years and one of the many improvements and projects made throughout 2021. hopes the grant will help with seeing “more activity” in the Photo by Freddie Bourne coming years, such as the inclusion of more activities like the mud well-known … is that it’s bogs and tractor pulls that proved Campbell has been popular at the Ag Fair in July — a vast area,” Campbell pleased with the number said. “Instead of people totaling $5,400 and $4,500 in gate of people using the park fees, respectively. “One of the going by and seeing a for a variety of activities Long-term goals for the park playground or going including fishing, picnic reasons why include an outdoor amphitheater by and seeing a ball and walking. it’s not as to draw in larger acts and audience field, they drive by and Still, Cabbage and well-known … participation, a possibility of adding see this vast area, and Campbell said while a ball field and expanding the is that it’s a if we can’t get them to people are becoming current disc golf area. There are also go through it, it’s not more familiar with the vast area.” discussions about building a small apparent to them ….” park, there are still some water park facility. — Bruce Cabbage The park is who are not aware of it. But Cabbage is happy with the chairman of the looking to see some “Even though they progress that has been made thus park board infrastructure changes might come to the fair far and content with the park’s and improvements on events, they don’t know current status. the horizon. what else happens up “In the last five years, it’s really One of those projects is an there …” Cabbage said. come a long way,” Cabbage said. upgrade to the park’s sewage and “One of the reasons why it’s not as

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Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022

MCLEAN

Digital works facility sees movement BY FREDDIE BOURNE

dividing up the second floor that was significant price increases that we’ve originally completely open. seen.” “I think (the bathrooms) have Dame said the facility will see fter close to two years of allowed for increased traction when there planning and postponements, accessibility for the is an upgrade to the McLean County’s digital works McLean County Judge- local broadband clientele so you don’t facility has been seeing movement Executive Curtis Dame internet and have to go downstairs with hopes of moving forward with a to use the restroom,” grand opening by the end of the year. said that the month of fiber-to-the-home Dame said. “(The accessibility, The digital works facility will be a July saw “significant storefronts) will allow which Dame said part of a renovation of the county’s progress” with final the facility to basically “will happen” Chamber of Commerce’s Visitor house Chamber of with Kenegy’s Center’s second-level loft. plumbing and drywall Commerce meetings announcement “The whole premise of this project installation, with the but you could do a on Aug. 9 that it’s … is to build a training facility to train HVAC rough in period separate training or partnering with individuals in the digital realm; to be currently in progress. separate breakout Conexon on a major customer service representatives session with this project to provide for online providers and platforms,” facility. You didn’t high-speed internet Judge-Executive Curtis Dame said. have that capability before because you to about 49,000 consumers across 14 “Some examples of that might be had a wide-open space. counties, including McLean County. Amazon or Disney, maybe AT&T.” “You really couldn’t accomplish two The facility is being funded in or three dedicated activities; you can do part by a $99,000 grant the county that now.” received from the U.S. Department of Dame said that other Agriculture’s Rural Development in accomplishments include completing 2020. the rough carpentry, electrical and RBS Design Group in Owensboro plumbing work, demolitions of old has been hired as the architect for portions of the facility and plan review. the facility and is also overseeing the Dame said that the month of July design of the McLean County Home Place, the senior services center that is saw “significant progress” with final plumbing and drywall installation, being rebuilt in its original location at 875 Walnut St. in Calhoun after burning with the HVAC rough-in period in progress. down in December 2020. Other plans moving forward include The construction contractors replacing the roofing of the facility, Lanham Brothers were selected to break ground on the project in January which has experienced leaks recently and affects both the digital works and have been given 155 days to complete the project, which Dame said facility and Health First Community Health Center to the left of the they are within the time frame as they are anticipated to complete the scope of Chamber of Commerce. Dame praised RBS’ efforts on the work by Aug. 31. project, especially considering hurdles As of Aug. 10, the facility has seen they have gone through in the past few movement with the installation of two years. “plumbing code compliant” bathroom “They’ve done a fantastic job,” he units being inspected, which were originally not part of the facility, before said. “I think both of these jobs have been made a little more complex with installing the physical infrastructure, the economic environment of COVID, while sets of commercial glass the issues with logistics on getting storefronts with doors and windows parts and supplies, and obviously the have been installed inside the loft —

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“All of that is tied together with, what I see, is a long term solution to providing employment opportunities for individuals that won’t have to physically leave the county,” Dame said. “They can work from home, provided that they have good internet service.” Dame is looking forward to being able to make facility a part of the county. “What I’ve been told from individuals that have seen it, they are very excited,” Dame said. “Until you see the culmination of work and all the works and the plans, I think it will bring new light to this facility, and that’s the overall plan too. The county owns this facility, (and) rather than just have it sit vacant, let’s use it.”

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MUHLENBERG

Health department’s drug-free program receives grant BY FREDDIE BOURNE

strengthen the program, such as years to see where they compare to hiring Molly Fauver as DFC project the region and the commonwealth. coordinator. There’s also a group of high n July, it was announced that “We are very pleased,” Yonts school students, Champions Youth the Muhlenberg County Health said. “I think we are in our second Agents (CYAs), which assist with Department in Central City will discussing drug prevention with receive $125,000 for its Champions year of working with the DFC.” Yonts said the program meets their peers — which Yonts said is for a Drug-Free Muhlenberg every month with the “No. 1 target.” County program, according to a concerns from This includes news release from U.S. Sen Mitch Topics that the program citizens discussed awareness and McConnell’s office. by an 80-person education about The funding is through the chooses to focus on coalition made the dangers of Office of National Drug Control stem from the Kentucky up of parents, law vaping, smoking, Policy (ONDCP), which will Incentive for Prevention marijuana, methprovide nearly $2.5 million through officials, school administrators, the Drug-Free Communities (KIP) survey, which is the amphetamine healthcare and underage (DFC) program to 20 programs state’s largest source of workers and more. drinking. throughout Kentucky. data related to youth use The program The CYAs have The DFC program awards of alcohol, tobacco and has seemed to an opportunity grants to organizations that make an impact, to be trained on fight substance abuse among other drugs, along with Yonts said. topics, young people to help combat the mental health and safety. certain “We do know, with training drug abuse epidemic through and research has offered by the prevention, treatment and shown us, that the Community interdiction. more that you make people aware Anti-Drug Coalitions of America The mission of the Champions (and) understand the dangers, the (CADCA) to help share what they for a Drug-Free Muhlenberg less they’ll use it; and it does work,” learned. County is to reduce substance she said. “We’re seeing that with “These (CYAs) help us send the use among youth by collaborating tobacco use. They’ve been talking message in the schools,” Yonts with community partners to create about smoking for how many years said. “We do signage, billboards, environmental change. now, and we are finally seeing a …magnets; but then we also will Vicki Yonts, co-director of bring speakers into the schools to Champions alongside Cathy Bethel, decrease in some young people (using it).” speak about the drug problems and director of the county health Topics that the program what’s going on.” department, said Champions has One of the main areas of been around for some time and has chooses to focus on stem from the Kentucky Incentive for Prevention conversation is recovery, which been supported in recent years by (KIP) sur vey, which is the state’s Yonts feels has experienced a the Felix E. Martin Jr. Foundation, recent movement in the county where Yonts serves as the director largest source of data related to “unlike seen before,” especially of the foundation’s early childhood youth use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, along with mental with the recent opening of facilities education program — SOAR. health and safety. such as TrueNorth Treatment Yonts said it was their third Yonts said they survey eighth, Center in Central City. attempt to get the grant and they’ve 10th and 12th graders every two Yonts said recover y is been making additional strides to

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something they want to acknowledge in a positive manner. “I think that Champions for a Drug-Free Muhlenberg County has empowered recovered addicts by letting them tell their stories,” she said. “...They came back from something that could have ver y well (taken) their life; and that’s something to celebrate.” Yonts said that having former addicts share their personal experiences help people understand a more accurate portrayal of the struggles one endures. “It gives hope that you can recover,” she said. “And not only are they saying that you can recover but (also guidance on) how you can recover.” Regarding the future of Champions and use for the grant, Yonts looks to push ahead with continuing with curriculum-based programs in the schools, along with hopes of holding assemblies and working on initiatives with the CYAs while also educating families and parents. “We will be in the school systems because the Drug Free Community grant is aimed to 12 to 18 year olds …,” she said. “We’ll be working with these students ever y way that we possibly can to make them aware of what’s out there … and educate (them) as much as possible.” For more information, visit facebook.com/ChampionsforaDrugFreeMuhlenbergCounty.


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MUHLENBERG

Schools to see changes in coming year BY KARAH WILSON

at what is needed to help students the horizon. foster different pathways and how Jo Cooper, food service director to expose them for MCPS, said a new uhlenberg County Public to as many career Mustang Cafe is in Schools has been making “I want to start by and community the works to better some adjustments in the opportunities before district amid the 2022-23 academic focusing on economic accommodate the they leave high amount the students year. development and school. the school has. New MCPS superintendent helping students “My main focus is “It will be like a Contessa Orr started her year on July decide what they college cafe with 1, and she swiftly began making plans always to do what’s different stations and coming up with ideas for the new best for the kids,” she might want to do said. “So any time I such as grab-n-go and school year. after graduation.” approach a decision a hot food line,” she “I want to start by focusing on or change, it’s always said. economic development and helping — Contessa Orr, For the fall students decide what they might want going to be with that MCPS superintendent focus.” semester and possibly to do after graduation,” she said. “I Additional most of the spring want us to help make them successful improvements are semester, breakfast in taking those pathways and maybe coming to Muhlenberg County High and lunch will be prepared off-site and even bring them back to the county.” brought over in a truck. The meals Orr said she wants to begin looking School, including a new cafeteria on

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will be served in a multipurpose room until completion. “The bus garage has been phenomenal, and we couldn’t do it without them or the maintenance and technical departments,” Cooper said. Cooper said à la carte options will be limited during the time of renovations. MCPS is hoping to have the cafeteria completed sometime between January and March of 2023. Work on the cafeteria began in February. “The previous kitchen was opened first in 1990, and we are going to make it more updated to be able to offer more choices,” Cooper said. “It is going to be great, and the kids will love it.”

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Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022

MUHLENBERG

Lake Malone considered ‘a hidden gem’

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BY KEITH LAWRENCE MESSENGER-INQUIRER

ake Malone State Park in Dunmor, which opened 60 years ago this summer, is “a hidden gem,” Beth Newman, Muhlenberg County Tourism Commission director, said recently. “It is incredibly important to Muhlenberg County,” she said. “That’s why we spent between $55,000 and $60,000 to bring in the ‘Big Twigs’. It brings people to Muhlenberg County from several states.” “Big Twigs” is a “family” of 14-foot wood giants that hikers can visit and photograph. There’s Bobber Malone, who fishes; Oakley Malone, a hiker; and Happy Malone, a camper.

They were created by Steve Brauch of Brainchild Creative in Sevierville, Tennessee. The project was funded through a grant from the Felix E. Martin Jr. Foundation, along with donations from Owensboro Health Muhlenberg Community Hospital and Old National Bank. Newman said, “We hope the exhibit is there from here on out and we can build events around it.” Officials say the park attracted 20,000 to 25,000 visitors each year from several states before the “Big Twigs” arrived a year ago. And Newman is hoping they will draw an additional 10,000 visitors a year. She said the park also hosts the annual “Dock Trot,” which is

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recreational vehicles. A central service building has showers, restrooms and a laundry. The lake has channel catfish, largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill and sunfish. The park has three main trails — the two-mile Laurel Trail, the quarter-mile Wildflower Trail and the two-mile Twisted Tree Trail. The park’s website says, “These easy-rated hiking trails provide picturesque views of waterfalls and many rock walls, once used as shelters by prehistoric Native Americans.” Swimming is allowed from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The park is in southern Muhlenberg County, about 70 miles south of Owensboro.

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scheduled for Sept. 17. It features seven free concerts along the banks of the lake, starting at 2 p.m. and ending with fireworks at 7:30 p.m. Boaters can cruise along to each of the three venues. The 338-acre park sits along a 788-acre lake that was formed by the impoundment of Rocky Creek in 1961. There’s a boat dock with 15 slips and a ramp that’s open to the public. The 55-room Lake Malone Inn, which provided hotel accommodations but was not part of the park, burned in July 2005 and hasn’t been rebuilt. It was owned by rock legend Don Everly at the time of the fire. There are 34 primitive sites for tent camping and 25 campsites with electric and water hookups to accommodate

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OHIO

Ohio County High School opening new auxiliary gym O

BY KARAH WILSON MESSENGER-INQUIRER

hio County High School is opening a newly-built auxiliar y gym to add additional space for teams within the district. OCHS principal Alex Embr y said the discussion around the need for an auxiliar y gym began six to seven years ago. “We had some other things and other schools in the district that needed more attention at the time, so it got put on the back-burner,” he said. Embr y said with the current superintendent, Seth Southard, and a focus on making the auxiliar y gym happen, the space has been in the works for approximately two-and-a-half years. “Last August is when we broke ground and tried to get the ground to pass cer tification so we could begin building on it, and we’re now getting to the point where we’re getting ready to use it,” Embr y said. The auxiliar y gym will see several uses. During the day, the building will house JROTC, who will have access to the gym area. The Ohio County Alternative Learning Program students will also

Exterior of the new Wells Auxiliary Building on the campus of Ohio County High School. Photo by Alan Warren, awarren@messenger-inquirer.com

use the gym during and it will host the day for their matches at the physical education gym. Embr y “I think it’s going to classes. said the district “In the evening also plans make not only our when school on hosting sports teams and is out, we will middle school athletic clubs better, use the gym basketball but it will help the for practice and volleyball spaces for our games in the community and give basketball teams, gym por tion. them a place as well.” cheerleaders and Embr y said dance teams,” before the — Alex Embry Embr y said. new auxiliar y OCHS principal There is also a gym was built, designated space the wrestling with wall-to-wall mats for the team was practicing in a wrestling team to practice, multipurpose room of sor ts.

“This gives them a much updated and upgraded place for them to practice,” he said. “Wrestling could only get two home dates for matches here because our gym was used so much for basketball. This gives them the flexibility to host eight to 10 matches a year instead of traveling all the time.” The varsity high school basketball and volleyball games will still be held in the main high school gym. “The first practice window was 3-5 p.m. and the second was from 5-7 p.m. so ever y night, someone was not getting home until 7:30 or 8 p.m.,” Embr y said. “Now we can all practice after school — one group in the new gym and one group in the old gym. It will allow for more flexibility.” Embr y wanted to thank the Ohio County Public Schools board and Southard for their vision and putting the financial backing behind the gym. “A few weeks ago we had a youth basketball camp in the auxiliar y gym that couldn’t have happened because the high school gym was booked,” he said. “I think it’s going to make not only our spor ts teams and athletic clubs better, but it will help the community and give them a place as well.”


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Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022

OHIO

Expansion of surgical center important for Ohio County, officials say nearly double out staff” at the hospital, Johnston said. “It’s hard to measure it, but they are probably way up there” in terms of paying occupational taxes, Johnston said. Johnson said previously that a goal is to have specialty care so people don’t have to travel out of the community. “We will be glad when it’s done,” Johnston said. The work is expected to take 12 to 18 months.

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is a major county employer, and the expansion will greatly increase the hospital’s personnel, Johnston said. Ohio County Healthcare has 24 local and regional surgeons specializing in bariatrics, ear, nose & throat, gastroenterology, general surger y, gynecology, ophthalmology, orthopedics, pain management, podiatr y and urology. “With the expansion of our surgical wing, that will

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will also be used to reduce the hospital’s debt. hio County Healthcare’s In a prepared statement renovation and creation at the time of the of a new surgical wing groundbreaking, former is important for the county, Ohio County Healthcare Judge-Executive David CEO Blaine Pieper said: Johnston said, both in terms “Replacement of our current of ser ving the public and as an surgical department has been employer. a focus of OCH’s strategic Earlier this year, the hospital planning for almost a decade. broke ground on a 27,000The funding partnership with square-foot addition the USDA began in that will connect with earnest in 2019. “With the the existing hospital, “While delayed which will include a in part due to the expansion of new surgical wing. COVID pandemic, our surgical The new surgical we are ver y excited wing, that will department will to finally enter nearly double include three the construction out staff.” operating rooms, three phase,” Pieper said. procedure rooms, a “Equally important — David Johnston, pre-and post-operative as the building Ohio County care unit and a project itself has Judge-Executive walkway connecting it been our focus on to the existing hospital. the recruitment It also includes a and retention of large waiting room and a direct key surgical specialties. This access parking area. recruitment has enhanced and The surgical wing was grown our surgical ser vices designed by ESa Architectural and has driven the need for Group in Nashville. Wehr expanded and additional Construction in Louisville will facilities.” manage the construction. Like many other projects The new surgical wing undertaken this year, inflation will make robotic procedures and the cost of construction available in Ohio County, materials has had an impact. Pieper said. Construction materials have “It’s about a $30 million also increased due to supply project,” Johnston said. chain issues. Part of the money made Inflation and construction available through the Rural costs “increased (the project) Development Office of the U.S. $5 million,” Johnston said. Department of Agriculture Ohio County Healthcare

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MESSENGER-INQUIRER

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OHIO

Kenergy and Conexon promise high-speed wifi throughout region I

BY KEN SILVA

MESSENGER-INQUIRER

n Hancock County and other rural areas, many residents must turn to places such as public libraries for their high-speed internet needs. “We have some people who will come with their device and sit in the parking lot,” said Hancock Public Librar y Director Tina Snyder. “They don’t need to come in and do anything. They’ll just sit there and check their email, check their Facebook and download whatever they have to download.” That could soon change, thanks to an ambitious project by regional power provider Kenergy and Conexon, an internet provider that specializes in rural areas. Kenergy and Conexon announced Aug. 9 that it was beginning its long-promised initiative to provide high-speed internet to some 49,000 consumers across 14 counties, including Daviess, Hancock, McLean, Muhlenberg and Ohio. That will entail stringing more than 7,000 miles of fiber-optic wire on Kenergy’s power poles throughout the region. Such an endeavor would typically take up to 15 years, according to Conexon partner Jonathan Chambers. However, Chambers said at the Aug. 9 project launch that his company aims to string about 2,000 miles of

State representative Suzanne Miles helped pass legislation to allow electric coops to provide broadband in rural areas. She said the coops now have “no excuses” to deliver high-speed internet to their members. Photo by Ken Silva

fiber a year, which is double Conexon’s usual rate and quadruple that of many other firms. Chambers said Conexon is aiming to double its output due to the delays in getting the project off the ground. The delays began with a lack of legislative support, according to Kenergy CEO Jeff Hohn. One of the reasons Kenergy partnered with Conexon was its experience in lobbying politicians, Hohn said on Aug. 9. That partnership apparently paid off. In March 2021, the Kentucky state legislature passed House Bill 320, which allowed electric co-ops to enter

the broadband industr y so long as it doesn’t interfere with their main mandate of providing reliable and affordable electricity to their members. But the legislation’s passage didn’t remove all the legal barriers to Kenergy starting its project. After filing an application in September. 2021 with the state’s Public Ser vice Commission to begin the project, an association of investor-owned internet providers objected to the plan. That association — the Kentucky Broadband Kentucky Broadband & Cable Association (KBCA) — argued that its investor-backed members shouldn’t have to face “rate-

payer-subsidized competition” from nonprofit electric cooperatives such as Kenergy. After a roughly nine-month dispute, the Public Ser vice Commission green-lit Kenergy’s proposal in a July 1 order. But the KBCA pressed further, arguing that the order wasn’t clear on whether Kenergy could build out broadband in all areas, or just the ones that are unser ved or underser ved. The trade association asked the Public Ser vice Commission on Aug. 1 to clarify the issue in a rehearing. The Public Ser vice Commission again ruled in Kenergy and Conexon’s favor on Aug. 10, denying KCBA’s motion for a rehearing. The KBCA still has the option to file for judicial review over the Public Ser vice Commission’s decision but hasn’t responded to questions about whether it will. Either way, Chambers and Hohn said the legal issues aren’t going to stop Conexon and Kenergy from moving full-steam ahead on the project. “I’m not telling the incumbents where we’re coming, other than to say we’re coming ever ywhere,” Chambers said, projecting that his company will be able to start providing ser vice to the first areas by the end of the year.


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