Kentucky’s export business appears to be moving along at a good pace. The latest figures from the U.S. Department of Commerce show the state’s merchandise exports grew nearly eight percent in the first half of 2012. The ten point seven billion dollars in exports breaks the previous record of almost ten billion dollars set in the first half of 2011.
Leisure and recreational businesses in Rockcastle County hope to capitalize on a new state adventure tourism program. The aim is to promote tourism businesses near trailheads in communities like Livingston. Already, Rockcastle County Judge Executive Buzz Carloftis says they offer outdoor activities, such as an airboat, canoes, and tubing. He says horse and bike trails also weave their way along the Rockcastle River.. “As this takes hold, and we hope, trust, and pray that it does. If it takes hold, there will be more businesses in operation. Before you know it, you’ve got a thriving community again, based on tourism,” said Carloftis
They’ve heard from citizens across the state, so now members of a tax reform panel must make recommendations. The sixth and final public hearing by the Governor’s Task Force on Tax Reform was held Tuesday in Lexington. Lexington council member George Meyers predicts state lawmakers will make tax changes this time.
Fire crackers and flying fireworks would be banned in Lexington under a proposal discussed today at city hall. Members of the Public Safety Committee voted unanimously to restore the city’s fireworks ordinance of 20-10. A year later, the state legislature approved the expansion of fireworks, but allowed cities to adopt tighter restrictions. Council member Tom Blues says a flood of citizens complaints have come this summer. “It only takes one person to disturb and disrupt and annoy to the point of distraction almost an entire neighborhood,” said Blues.
Identity theft can be a close as a click away. More identities are being stolen via the internet and not necessary in a dumpster. Brandon Potter is a financial advisor with Wells Fargo. Before providing personal information via the internet, Potter advises, to make a phone call first. “Whenever you get any type of email that tells you to verify your information, even if it’s coming from your financial firm, attorney’s office, accountant’s office, or have you not. Make sure you definitely give a call before you do any type of verifying over the internet,” said Potter.
Kentucky has experienced a variety of weather conditions this summer. Far western Kentucky remains in the grip of summer long drought. But, after an early summer dry-spell, rain has returned to much of central and eastern Kentucky. State Climatologist Stuart Foster says his hometown of Bowling Green is living up to its name. “You can go from there where now it’s really no visual indication of drought to the traveler passing through and you can travel about a hundred miles to the west and to from what appears to be no drought to a very extreme drought situation and that’s pretty unusual,” said Foster.
Summer allows music students time to practice their craft. They can found in numerous camps, including a recent week long workshop at Eastern Kentucky University. As Stu Johnson reports, this long standing camp focused on the guitar.
Funds for road resurfacing are now divided up in Lexington according to the greatest need. But that formula doesn’t work well for Council member Tom Blues. His council district will get 117-thousand dollars, but Blues argues the need is nearly a million dollars in road work. “I’ve got 117 thousand dollars for one of the largest geographic districts in the city. I can virtually nothing with that money,” said Blues. Kevin Wente is with the Environmental Quality and Public Works Department. He says the new formula emphasizes neighborhoods with the biggest problems.
A new smart-phone app offered by the Kentucky Historical Society allows tourists access to the history behind roadside markers. The aim is the weave a historical story. Sally Warfield, who’s a Digital Media Specialist with the Kentucky Historical Society, says the new app connects communities by demonstrating their shared history. “You can connect that story then to a larger story in the Commonwealth, because all of a sudden that historical marker is a pin that’s on the state of Kentucky on this map. And you can click on that and you can click on one a couple of counties over,” said Warfield.
Livestock, like small goats and pigs, remain prohibited in urban Lexington’s backyards. A council committee this week rejected an exemption for those animals. Council Member Steve Kay sponsored the proposal.“I think we gave it a good shot. We may bring it back at some later time. But, I think for the moment, it’s off the table,” said Kay. Critics of an exemption for goats and pigs worry about waste, noise and enforcement. Council member Doug Martin believes the vast majority of Lexington’s residents don’t want pigs or goats living in their neighborhoods.
College students in much of Kentucky move into dorms later this week. Many will be greeted by the sounds of construction. Residence halls are under construction at the University of Kentucky, Berea College and Eastern Kentucky University. And those new buildings will be some of “greenest” ever built in the Commonwealth.
Property taxes in Fayette County will remain unchanged. The city council stuck with tradition and voted Tuesday to keep the rates at their current level. Given Lexington’s fiscal troubles, outgoing council member Doug Martin was disappointed with the action. “I think it is irresponsible to leave these rates alone, knowing what we know about the financial storm that is headed for this city,” said Martin. Martin has repeatedly expressed concerns about the ever growing cost of police and fire fighter pensions. Council member Kevin Stinnett argued a tax increase would be hasty.
Eastern Kentucky University President Doug Whitlock began today’s annual back-to-school convocation by announcing this would be his last year as president. When Doug Whitlock retires next July, it will mark the end of more than 40 years of service to E-K-U. In 2007, Whitlock came out of retirement to serve as president. The 69 year old Whitlock wants to spend more time with his granddaughters. Plus, by retiring next summer, it will give his successor time to gear up for a legislative session
The Owensboro Community and Technical College is now home to a new Veterinary Technology degree program. Governor Beshear says “With a strong economic foundation in agriculture, western Kentucky needs qualified veterinary professionals, and I’m pleased the college is taking the lead in providing quality education for those seeking a degree in the veterinary field.” The Owensboro school will be the first community college in the state to offer an accredited veterinary technology program.
A pair of lane closures on Interstate 75 in southern Kentucky may be in effect for a month. Cracks have been discovered in load bearing beams on adjacent highway bridges. Late last week the passing lane of the northbound bridge at the Whitley-Laurel County line was closed. A subsequent inspection resulted in the shut down of the right lane southbound on the other bridge. State Transportation Department Spokesman, Jonathon Dobson says repairs may not be made until after the Labor Day holiday weekend.
Lexington city leaders come back after a summer break with a taxing issue on their minds. Besides setting property tax rates, council members will seek funds for street lights. Those funds now come from an increased tax on utilities. Now, Vice Mayor Linda Gorton says they might reverse that tax increase and increase the city’s streetlight tax.
Every community with water supplies contaminated by pre 1982 mining operations will soon have access to city-water. Since 1986, the state’s Division of Abandoned Mine Lands has funded new water utilities in 24 of Kentucky’s coalfield counties. Within just a few years, Division Assistant Director Mark Meade says all eligible areas should have water works.
A public hearing format new to many in Lexington is being held to consider issues related to homelessness. It’s called ‘Open Space’ and involves constructive group discussion on a public issue. The ‘Open Space’ program is scheduled from nine a.m. until 4:30 Saturday August 25th at Calvary Baptist Church. The meeting is sponsored by the Mayor’s Commission on Homelessness. Under the ‘Open Space’ format, the agenda is not set in advance. The Commission’s meeting will be centered on the question, ‘What should our community think about, know about, and do in order to best address the opportunities and challenges presented by homelessness?’
This time of year can be a peak period for mosquitoes. But, environmental health officials in Lexington are not seeing big problems so far. Aside from the nuisance of itchy bites, mosquitoes can carry serious diseases. When the West Nile virus came on the scene several years ago, Luke Mathias with the Fayette County Health Department says his office received a flood of calls. He says now the calls register about 25 a month.
Mike Haydon, Governor Beshear’s chief of staff passed away over the weekend. In a statement, the governor said ‘Jane and I are shocked and devastated by the sudden death of my chief of staff and good friend, Mike Hayden.’ The Lexington Herald reports Hayden suffered a heart attack. The 62 year old Hayden spent more than 30 years in public service at both the state and local level.
Work begins next week on a long term road widening project along interstate 64 in Shelby County. The project covers about five miles from the Welcome Center to a half mile east of Kentucky 55. The interstate will be widened to three lanes in each direction. In addition to the roadway expansion, the project includes reconstruction of the interchange at Kentucky 55. Two lanes of traffic will be maintained in each direction on I-64 during the majority of the construction.
Lexington is looking to boost the size of its police force. Applications are now being accepted for a police academy. class.Lexington’s police department is authorized for 555 officers. 23 police recruits are being sworn in Friday, but the new count will still be significantly shy of authorized strength. So, applications are being accepted now for a new police academy to begin in February or March.
Recent rains in the Lexington area have caused green growth in neighborhoods. That has increased the disposal of grass clippings and other yard waste. Workers in the city’s Division of Waste Management have noticed an increase in household waste and yard waste in plastic bags in the city’s plastic Lenny cart containers. The use of plastic bags and other non compostable items interfere with the composting process. All household waste should be placed in the Herbie container.
The peak viewing period for the annual Perseid meteor shower occurs this weekend. But, it’s not the only time meteors make their mark over Kentucky. Eastern Kentucky University physics professor, Marco Ciocca says that most of the time there is some material falling from the sky.. “On any given day there is all kind of stuff falling from the sky. It falls all the time. We see very few, because the majority burn before we can see anything and especially if they fall during the day. I don’t know the numbers off the top of my head, but it’s not zero,” said Ciocca.
Pony and rider are both scrutinized in a national competition this week at the Kentucky Horse Park. The six day US Pony Finals has attracted some 500 ponies of all breeds. In addition to judging ponies on confirmation, handling, and jumping, U-S Equestrian Federation’s Helen Murray says riders are also graded. “So where as in the hunter championship, it was the pony that was being judged, on Sunday in the Pony medal championship, the riders and the kids’ equitation and their riding ability is what’s judged,” said Murray.
When citizens complain to the city about poorly maintained properties, they go to Lexington’s code enforcement office. Code violations can include cases of peeling paint, cracked bricks, and unsafe sidewalks. The process for handling those complaints is under review at city. Council member Steve Kay, who co-chairs the committee looking into the issue, says enforcing current regulations is a concern.
More than 400 ideas on ways to improve Lexington have been submitted by its residents. The suggestions, which are being gathered this month, are part of a competition sponsored by the Bloomberg Foundation. Lexington Mayor Jim Gray says these ideas must now be categorized. “Shrink all the suggestions into themes and we’re seeing themes emerge that relate to education, quality of life,” said Gray.
The eighth president of Eastern Kentucky University died over the weekend. Doctor Hanly Funderburk passed away in his native state of Alabama. Funderbunk is remembered for improving access to higher education, library services, and technology. He served 14 years at the helm of Eastern Kentucky University. E-K-U President Doug Whitlock considered Funderburk a mentor, who helped the Richmond-based university grow, despite tight finances.
Water quality continues to trouble several streams in Fayette and Scott counties. The state is taking public comment through early September. Portions of seven streams in two central Kentucky counties flow into the Cane Run Watershed. And, Eric Liebenauer with the State Division of Water, says people should avoid all seven. “All of them are impaired for what’s called primary contact recreation, which is basically full body immersion. In layman’s terms, we think of that as swimming,” said Liebenauer.
A new laboratory complex at the University of Kentucky is expected to earn a high grade for ‘energy efficiency.’ The Center for Applied Energy Research facility hopes to earn a ‘Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design’ gold certification. U-K sustainability coordinator Shane Tedder says it’s a multi-stop process. “It’s gonna’ have a tighter building envelope with a more efficient heating, ventilation, and air condition system. It’s gonna’ have on-site recovery of storm water. It’s gonna’ have plumbing features that are more water efficient,” said Tedder.