Translate

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Young candidate with ties to Webster County Seeks Ed Whitfield's Seat in US Congress

Wesley Bolin

Wesley Bolin, a 25-year-old college student from Murray, Ky., knows it usually takes a ton of money, name recognition and some political experience to win a seat in congress.
The candidate confesses he lacks all three.
“People say we need a fresh face in Washington,” said Bolin, a Democrat who wants to unseat 10-term incumbent Republican Rep. Ed Whitfield in November. “Well, nobody’s face is fresher than mine.”
Bolin’s mug is also bearded.  He considered shaving his whiskers for the campaign but decided against it “because it is better to look 25 than twelve. It’s not presidential like Lincoln’s, but I think it’s congressional.”   
Bolin, a senior at hometown Murray State University, doesn’t duck the liberal label, though he’s from deep western Kentucky, part of the Bluegrass State’s deeply Republican Red First Congressional District.
He said he isn’t fazed by the fact that the district delivered more than 66 percent of its vote to Republican Mitt Romney over President Obama in 2012. Nor is he daunted because Whitfield piled up nearly 70 percent of district ballots against Charles Hatchett, another little known and underfunded Democrat, and a conservative, to boot.
“Before Ed Whitfield, the district was Democratic,” said candidate Bolin, a Murray High School graduate who attended Yale University before coming home to Murray State. “Our roots are Democratic and our future will be too.”
So far, Bolin has no opposition in the May 20 Democratic primary. The filing deadline for primary candidates of both parties is Jan. 28. To date, Whitfield is without a GOP primary foe.
“In 20 years, I’ve learned to read and write, tie my shoes, ride a bicycle and play two instruments – banjo poorly, and saxophone well ,” Bolin said.  “A lot has changed for the better in mylife, but the district hasn’t changed for the better since Newt Gingrich helped elect Ed Whitfield in 1994.”
Even so, Bolin admitted that he and his dad, Murray State history professor and author, Dr. Duane Bolin, know the odds heavily favor Whitfield, whose bailiwick sprawls across western and south-central Kentucky.
In any event, Bolin will now have to juggle a political campaign, a job and schoolwork. He is on the staff at Murray State’s Pogue Special Collections Library.
Bolin said he understands all too well that Whitfield enjoys an almost bottomless campaign war chest, much of it filled by well-heeled contributors, the candidate added.
“But I won’t be jetting off to a posh ski resort in Vail, Colo., to hobnob with lobbyists and millionaire corporate donors like Congressman Whitfield did earlier this month,” Bolin said.
Citing a New York Times article, Bolin said the shindig was held in the in the penthouse suite at the Four Seasons. “The hotel has a candlelit rooftop terrace with panoramic views of Vail Mountain, according to The Times,” Bolin added.
“The paper said the penthouse cost $8.75 million. I make $8.92 an hour, so I won’t be dropping by the hotel any time soon.”
Bolin’s platform leans unabashedly liberal. He’s for upping the minimum wage. He’s for extending unemployment benefits to the approximately 1.4 million Americans whoseeligibility ended Dec. 28.
To further fight joblessness, Bolin, a fan of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, wants New Deal-style public works programs.
Bolin, too, said he is optimistic about the future of the Affordable Care Act nationwide and in his home state “because over 160,000 Kentuckians have already received health insurance through the ACA.”
In addition, Bolin said he backs labor unions. “I am against the so-called right to work laws and am in favor of prevailing wage laws.”
A devout Southern Baptist, Bolin said he supports “equal rights for all Kentuckians.” He, his dad, sister Cammie Jo, and mom, Evelyn, are active in Murray First Baptist Church.
Bolin added that his campaign got a boost from The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a liberal group which invited him to Washington for a candidate workshop Jan. 13-14. He paid his own way.
“The training renewed my focus and commitment for running for congress and let me meet and become part of a community of candidates who care for the progressive issues. Candidates from all over the country came.”
Wesley Bolin is the son of Duane Bolin, a
Webster County native and columnist for The Journal-Enterprise.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

May Primary Elections


Updated 1-29-14


by Matt Hughes
J-E News Editor
The filing deadline for the May Primary was Tuesday afternoon at 5:00 p.m. As of press time on Tuesday the following candidates had filed for office. Check back  for any filings that may come in after press time.
US Rep (1st Dist)
Wesley Seaton Bolin 
- Dem
Charles Kendall Hatch-
ett - Dem
Ed Whitfield - Rep *
State Senator (4th Dist)
Dorsey Ridley  *
State Rep. (12th Dist)
Jim Gooch - Dem *
Dianne Burns Mackey 
- Rep *
Property Valuation Administrator
Jeffrey D. Kelley *
Judge Executive
James R. “Jim”  
Townsend*
Magistrate District 1
Chad Townsend *
Magistrate District 2
Jerry “Poogie” Brown *
Peter O’Nan
James T. "J.T." Skinner
Magistrate District 3
Tony Felker *
Webster County Jailer
Terry Elder *
Marcey Parker
Webster County 
Attorney
Clint Prow *
Webster County Clerk
Valerie Newell *
Webster County Sheriff
Frankie Springfield *
Anthony Blue
Webster County Coroner
Larry Vanover *
Circuit Court Judge
C. Rene’ Williams
Family Court Judge
Brandi Rogers
Laura Alvey Peak
Ben Leanord
Constable District 2
Dennis Shelton *
   Constable District 3
Mark Turner *
* Denotes Incumbent

Murder suspect pleas guilty to manslaughter


by Matt Hughes
J-E News Editor
Webster County native Billy Utley appeared in court in Dixon last Tuesday to face charges for the June 19, 2012 shooting death of his estranged wife Theresa Utley in Wheatcroft.
Utley entered a guilty plea on charges of manslaughter, multiple drug charges, DUI, cruelty to animals and possession of burglary tools.
Authorities responding to the report of a shooting on June 19, 2012 discovered Theresa Utley deceased in a parked vehicle. Webster County Coroner Larry Vanover pronounced her dead at the scene.
According to Kentucky State Police, Billy Utley allegedly shot his wife with a high powered rifle and then fled the scene.
He was later arrested by the Illinois State Police. He was charged with murder and transported back to Webster County, where he was held in jail on a $1 million bond.
With the plea deal, Utley is facing up to 35 years in prison. A sentencing hearing has been set for February 6, 2014 at the courthouse in Dixon.
Photo taken at the crime scene in 2012.

Governor’s proposal could benefit WC schools

by Matt Hughes
J-E News Editor
A budget proposal made by Governor Steve Beshear last week could give much needed relief to money strapped school districts across the state, but those educational expenses will come at a cost to other services.
“At first glance, if you’re in education, you have to be very appreciative of the Governor’s proposal,” said Pete Galloway, the interim superintendent of Webster County Schools. “Right now we are really taking a look at our budget for next year. It’s tight. Really tight.”
As things stand at the moment, Webster County could be looking at some major internal cuts.
“We must answer a fundamental question: Does Kentucky march aggressively into the future, or do we cower under the covers as the world leaves us behind?” Governor Breshear asked. “Do we lead, or are we too afraid to even follow? This budget proposal clearly gives my answer: We can and we must build a more vibrant Kentucky. And this proposal provides the road map to do just that.”
Gov. Beshear’s proposed 2014-2016 biennial budget increases per-pupil K-12 funding to its highest level ever; restores damaging cuts to teacher training, textbooks, school safety and Extended School Services; expands preschool services to more than 5,100 more children; dedicates funds to expand high-speed broadband access throughout the state; uses “agency bonds” for the first time ever to invest in the campuses of Kentucky’s two-year community and technical colleges; restores funding to desperately needed child-care assistance programs that help parents stay employed; and builds a $24 million advanced manufacturing training center that will supply workers to the auto industry and other sectors.
One proposed change is spending $36 million over the biennium to expand preschool services to serve 5,125 more 4-year-olds by increasing eligibility from 150 percent of the poverty level to 160 percent. This is a 22 percent increase in enrollment.
“I wish preschool served every child,” said Galloway. “It is very important in their development.”
In his State of the Commonwealth address earlier this month, the Governor signaled his intentions to cut other areas of state government to fund education, although he said Tuesday that he was “painfully aware” of what those cuts would do.
The challenge, he said, was that moderate projected increases in revenue are not sufficient to cover the growth in required expenses and maintenance of current levels of services. As a result, Gov. Beshear recommended $98.6 million in cuts over the biennium. Many agencies will see reductions of five percent in the first fiscal year, then a straight-lined (no increase or decrease) budget for the second year. Since 2008, many of those agencies have seen their budgets slashed by 41 percent. These cuts could lead to delays in service, loss of federal funds, possible facility closures, and even possible layoffs.
“Imagine running a business and being told to maintain the same level of services while slashing your budget 41 percent. That is a difficult and sometimes impossible task,” said Gov. Beshear.
He recommends investing $189 million over the biennium into SEEK, bringing per pupil spending to its highest total ever.
That allocation will include pay increases for all teachers and classified school personnel (two percent the first year, one percent the second year).
“Our teachers have not had a raise in five years,” Galloway explained. “Governor Beshear has proposed two percent and one percent increased to salary, if he can fund it. Our teachers deserve a raise. The cost of living and the cost of doing everything else has gone up. Our teacher’s salaries have not.”
The governor also seeks to spend $95.4 million over the next two years for textbooks, professional development, school safety and Extended School Services (restoring funds to near-2008 levels)
According to Galloway, the school now has $14,000 worth of funding for the Safe Schools program. Prior to the 2008 downturn that program was at around $50,000.
Gov. Beshear’s proposed education investments also include:
•$50 million for technology and school equipment upgrades, funded through General Fund-supported bonds 
•$100 million for school facilities construction to replace aging K-12 school buildings through General Fund-supported bonds

At the moment these proposals are in the hands of state legislators. Only time will tell how much of what Governor Beshear has proposed will get adopted. For the time being school districts like Webster County have to push forward with levels as they are now.
“It’s always good to hear when there is a possibility of having additional funds to run our school system,” said school board vice chairman Mickey Dunbar. “Webster County can always put the money to good use.  While we currently have enough money to operate, expenses are rising faster than our income to offset them. If this continues, the only choices we have will be to trim or eliminate programs we offer.  This is something we don’t want to do, but may be forced to.  Districts across the state, ours included, eagerly await the outcome of the Governors proposal. I would encourage everyone to contact their local legislators and express their support for the budget submitted by the Governor.”
On Monday night Superintendent Pete Galloway gave board members their first look at the 2014-2015 school budget.

Fiscal Court looks to adopt new flood maps

Jerry "Poogie" Brown, Linda Wilson and Tony Felker
examine the county's new dog warden truck.

by Matt Hughes
J-E News Editor
The Webster County Fiscal Court met Monday morning with a discussion of flood plane maps among the biggest items on the agenda.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is currently working on updating flood risk identification using state of the art technology and through partnerships with local communities. As is the case with all Flood Insurance Rate Maps, these new maps are used to calculate the cost of insurance premiums, to establish flood risk zones and base flood elevations to mitigate against potential future flood damages to properties.
“Folks are getting their insurance bills saying that we have adopted this program but we haven’t,” said County Attorney Clint Prow. “If we do, it allows them to get cheaper insurance rates.”
“The maps are wrong,” Judge Executive Jim Townsend pointed out. “Especially in the Sebree area. They are showing places in the flood plain where it has never flooded.”
Magistrate Tony Felker also added that although the entire area around Baldwin Ford was included in the map, he had never seen homes in that area flooded. He told the court that he had seen the road flooded, but never the homes themselves.
“Kerry Johnson with the division of water said they were in the process of revising those maps,” Prow reported. “If we go ahead and adopt the maps now, we can  issue a revised ordinance later on.”
Webster County is not the only area that has reported problems with the FEMA issued flood maps.
“Lyon County refused to accept them,” said Judge Townsend. “So did another half dozen counties further west.”
Magistrate Felker looks at an ad
the county has placed in a state
tourism booklet.
Townsend, however, suggested that Webster County do as Prow had suggested, adopting the maps as they are now and issuing a revision later on. Failing to adopt the FEMA issued maps would most likely result in the loss of any funding from that federal agency. 
“It would also put property owners in a bad spot,” Townsend said. “They would have to prove to their insurance company that they are not in a flood plain.”
He added that there was a procedure to appeal the FEMA decision, if a resident was in a 386 flood plain. That appeal would require an engineer to survey the property and home in question.
The judge also told the court that someone had to be appointed to oversee the FEMA flood plan. He suggested Webster County EMA Director Jeremy Moore.
First reading of the ordinance passed 3-0.
During discussion of the county’s monthly expenditures, Magistrate Jerry “Poogie” Brown questioned a $3,500 payment for tourism.
“The state puts out a visitor’s guide every year,” county treasurer Paula Guinn explained. “This is to be included in that guide.”
“It’s expensive, but it does go all over,” said Judge Townsend. “We have done this for years, but I don’t know if it is worthwhile or not.”
“I don’t know that it’s worth that much money,” added magistrate Chad Townsend.
Guinn informed the magistrates that the ad had already been placed for the current year, meaning it was too late to do anything now but pay the bill. The payment was approved 3-0.
EMA Director Jeremy Moore presented the court with a proposal to purchase a dozen new emergency radios for the county. There would be a radio placed in all of the Webster County School District buildings (Board of Education, Bus Garage, schools, etc) as well as Palmer Place, Red Banks Colonial Terrace and Shemwell’s Nursing Home.
“If there primary phone goes down in the event of an emergency, this would give us the ability to contact them,” Moore said.
At his request, Don’s Mobile Radios in Evansville submitted an offer of $14,273.65 to purchase and install all of the needed equipment. $14,000 of that can come directly from a grant the county has received just for this purpose, leaving the court with only $273.65 to pay.
After Judge Townsend briefly filled the magistrates in on upcoming legislative events in Frankfort, the meeting was adjourned.

School Board looks at increased cost of meals; 2014-2015 budget


by Matt Hughes
J-E News Editor
The Webster County School Board was scheduled to hold it’s annual Food Services Public Forum prior to the start of Monday night’s board meeting. As no members of the public were on hand, the board voted to table food service director Shane Bosaw’s presentation until the board meeting.
While waiting for the meeting to start, the school board held a work session with representatives of the Kentucky School Board Association’s (KSBA) eMeeting staff. 
Katrina Kinman and Kelly Thomas with the KSBA spoke briefly to help familiarize board members with the board’s new eMeeting format. In the fall the board voted to adopt an electronic format, which will allow them to save money on paper used printing packets for each meeting. 
Prior to each meeting, board members normally receive a packet containing important documents and information pertinent to upcoming business. Under the new format each board member has been issued an iPad, and KSBA’s eMeeting will host those documents on a secured part of their website.
Estimates show that the board spends roughly $536.84 per meeting on the preparation of packets that board members receive. If the board holds two meetings per month, the yearly cost comes to about $12,884.16.
“eMeeting” will cost the board $2,250 the first year, and $1,000 a year for subsequent years.
According to Kinman, Webster County is the 77th school district to adopt the format, which has branched out into non-KSBA related areas as well. She named Owensboro Municipal Utilities, the Ohio County Fiscal Court and the EKU Board of Regents among the organizations that have adopted eMeeting.
When the board meeting finally got underway, Judge Executive Jim Townsend was on hand to present Webster County School Board members with a proclamation honoring them. On behalf of the Fiscal Court he declared January as School Board Recognition Month in Webster County.
“I thank you for the work you do,” he told the board. “We as parents and grandparents thank you for stepping up and doing the job.”
 “We would like to thank you and the magistrates for the job you do helping the school district,” Chairman Jeff Pettit replied. “We appreciate that and look froward to having a good working relationship with you.”
“You can depend on us for help in the future,” Townsend said.
In other business, Food Services director Shane Bosaw informed the board that it had become necessary to increase the cost of Webster County school lunches.
As part of the FDA free and reduced lunch program, food services is reimbursed the cost of those meals. But by accepting the federal funds, food services is required to follow specific FDA guidelines.
“Right now we charge $1.90 per paid meal,” Bosaw explained. “The FDA is reimbursing us $2.65 for each free meal.”
According to Bosaw the FDA expects the district to increase the price of lunches to match the reimbursement rate. The board has the option of choosing the amount of the increase, starting as low as $0.10 per meal.
“I don’t want any increases, but if we are going to reap the benefits of the school lunch program, we have to make some effort to get it to where they say it should be,” said Superintendent Pete Galloway.
“Even if we put a plan in place, chances are by the time we reach the goal in 5-6 years the amount will have raised,” said Pettit.
Bosaw told the board that although it was the FDA requiring an increase, the food service department was in need of that extra funding.
“Food services is self sufficient,” he said. “We receive no operating funds from the board. We actually pay the board $40,000 a year to operate in the school system.”
Bosaw said that currently the cost of food had increased to the point that it was getting hard to operate. The added income from higher priced lunches would help food services remain self sufficient.
Tim McCormick noted that he didn’t want to increase the price, but if they had no choice, he wanted to go with the minimum amount.
The board voted to table the discussion until they can take a look at the financial impact and increase would have on food services budget.
Webster County School District Treasurer Brandi Burnett presented the board with a first look at the 2014-2015 budget.
“This is the first of three budgets you will see for the 2014-2015 school year,” she said. “I want to tell you all, this is a very rough draft. There will be many changes.”
Judge Executive Jim Townsend
According to this budget the district is looking at a $17,637,331.02 balanced budget for the next school year, but it did not include information from Fund 2 (special revenue), Fund 360 (construction) or Fund 60 (fiscal agent-Delta Project.
$17.6 million sounds like a lot, but when you look at what it takes to run a school district, it’s not,” Burnett said. “This is going to be a very tight budget.”
On Monday night the board appointed it’s representative for the committee that will interview candidates for the new Superintendent of schools. Board member Tim McCormick will join teacher and administrator representatives, as well as two representatives that will be selected by the district’s PTOs. The Committee is required by law to include at least one minority, which will most likely be selected from the PTO parent representatives.
By request of Superintendent Galloway, the board reviewed changes to the Site Based Decision Making committee (SBDM) allocation formula. This is the formula used by the board to allocate funds to each school to pay it’s teachers.
The formula is based on the number of students in the school. Adding the Webster County Middle School will drastically change the way the district’s funds are allocated, because each of the elementary schools will see a major reduction in student population. This will mean a reduction in teachers in each school, although ideally those teachers will be moved to the middle school.
Under the plan proposed by Galloway, the district will see two changes right from the start. The position of music teacher at the elementary schools will be eliminated, with the elementary band director being reassigned to the middle school. The plan will also remove a half teacher, or part time allocation for a PE teacher , at the high school.
The school board’s next meeting is scheduled for Monday, February 10, 2014 at the board office in Dixon. Meetings start at 5:30 p.m.

Appeals court overturns Judge Williams' decision in Providence Insurance case


by Matt Hughes
J-E News Editor
In late December it seemed that the city of Providence was sure to win a Kentucky Court of Appeals case against Ohio Casualty  Insurance Company in the amount of $600,000. At last Tuesday’s city council meeting Mayor Eddie Gooch reported that much to everyone’s surprise, the court had over turned Circuit Judge Rene Williams decision.
Providence will now move the case to the Kentucky Supreme Court, hoping to have the decision turned back in their direction.
In October of 1997 the Ohio Casualty  Insurance Company (OCC) issued a surety bond to the City of Providence, in which it agreed to indemnify Providence up to the sum of $300,000 for losses caused by various acts and omissions attributable to then city clerk Sara Stevens.
When Stevens was later convicted of embezzlement over a three year period, OCC only made one payment to the city in the amount of $300,000. Circuit Judge Rene Williams ruled that the insurance company owed the city $300,000 for each  year from 2001 to 2003.
“I could be another four or five years,” Gooch said. “But it probably would have taken that long anyway. Even if we had won the appeals case, they would have appealed it to the Kentucky Supreme Court.”
In other business, Brenda Brasher was appointed to the Providence Housing Commission with a unanimous vote.
Council Woman Dolores Overby expressed her concern to the council about seeing water flowing into the street from a vacant house on Princeton Street.
Fire Cheif Brad Curry also reported to the council that some of the food stored in the city’s disaster supply building would soon expire.

Only one snow day left until school schedule would be extended


by Matt Hughes
J-E News Editor
An unexpectedly harsh winter has pushed the Webster County School schedule to the breaking point. So far administrators have been able to work the days school has been canceled into the school year, leaving little room for any other absences.
One day. That is how much time the district can miss before it will have to extend the school schedule, which does not end until Wednesday, May 28.
So far this year Webster County Schools have been closed on seven occasions due to severe winter weather. Students will start making those days up on Monday, February 3, 2014, taking advantage of the district’s unique four-day school week.
Classes will be in session on the following Mondays that were previously scheduled as planning days: 2/3, 2/24, 3/10, 2024, 3/31, 4/14 and 4/28.
The only planning day left on the schedule is Monday, February 10. If weather were to force another closing prior to that date, the district would use it as well.
“Some districts are getting into Spring Break,” said district assistant superintendent Riley Ramsey. “We did not want to do that. People have vacations planned and some of the sports teams have trips planned.”

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Slaughters Commission votes to raise water rates


by Matt Hughes
J-E News Editor
The Slaughters Commission met earlier this month at the Slaughter’s city office building.
The commission accept edthe second reading of the amendment to raise water rates to $23.90 inside city limits for minimum 2,000 gallon usage, $25.90 outside city limits for minimum 2,000 gallon usage, and $31.50 commercial rates for minimum 2,000 gallon usage effective February 1, 2014.  Usage rates over 2,000 gallons will not change.
In other business, commissioners turned a nuisance violation over to the city attorney. According to city clerk Terry Link there is a dilapidated building in town that has become a safety hazard.
The commission tabled discussion of creating an event called Tractor Days. Last year Independence Bank sponsored a Tractor Ride that started in Slaughters. This year the city is looking to work with the bank to create an event called ‘Tractor Days’ to go along with the tractor ride.
“The other communities in Webster County all have a celebration and the commission is trying to come up with something for Slaughters,” said Link. “Debbie Winstead of Independence Bank will be meeting with the board at the February meeting to discuss date and activities.”
Slaughters Commission meetings are held at 6:00 p.m. on the first Tuesday of every month.

School board welcomes new Superintendent, begins search for replacement


by Matt Hughes
J-E News Editor
Last Tuesday’s Webster County School Board meeting was not only the first meeting of 2014, it was also the board’s first meeting with new Superintendent Pete Galloway. Galloway was appointed at the December 16, 2013 meeting following the resignation of long time school board superintendant Dr. James Kemp.
“It’s been a month since you gave me the chance to do this job,” said Galloway. “At that time I did not know one person in Webster County. Since then I have had the chance to meet a lot of people.”
He told the board that what has impressed him the most was an event he had attended at Providence Elementary on the last Friday before the Christmas Break.
“Mickey Dunbar and I were both at a send off for a little girl who was given a wonderful opportunity by Make-A-Wish,” Galloway said. “The kids at that school...I can’t tell you how appreciative it made me to see how much they cared about that little girl. I guarantee if you asked them at the end of the year to name the top five thing that happened during the school year, that would be on every list.”
Galloway will only fill the superintendant’s chair until the board selects a permanent replacement, which is expected to be in the early summer. Until then he has been tasked with overseeing the search for his replacement.
He told the board that he began to process soon after being appointed. Applications for the Superintendant’s position will be taken through the end of February. Meanwhile, Galloway has been working to assemble the screening committee that will conduct the initial interviews with candidates.
According to Galloway the committee will be made up of two teachers, two parents, and administrator and one person of the board’s choosing. Due to the minority population in Webster County, one of those six people must be a minority. If the initial six does not include a minority representative, then the parents will have to elect one.
“Once the committee is chosen, I will meet with them and go over the guidelines,” Galloway said. “They will screen the candidates but it will be up to the board to tell them how man candidates to send on to you.” 
He told the board members that they would have an opportunity to address the committee, but asked if they had any specific things that they wanted to instruct the committee to look for.
“I would like someone with experience as our new sup,” said Leland Steeley, the Sebree area board member. “Someone from a successful school who has been an integral part in that success.”
“Experience,” agreed Venita Murphy from Providence, stressing that she was not looking for a first time Superintendant.
“Someone that can inspire our district and create a culture where people want to come to school and work,” said board chairman Jeff Pettit. “We did not get where we are over night, but we need to get it turned around over night.”
The remainder of the meeting was all the formalities of approving bills and personnel. This included approving a salary change for the WCHS assistant baseball coach. At the request of new head coach Zack Traylor the $1,000 stipend normally spent on an assistant coach will be split to pay two assistant coaches ($500 each).
At the next meeting, on Monday, January 27, 2014, the board expects to hear from a representative of the Kentucky School Board Administration about the new “e-meeting” format the board has adopted.

10-digit dialing less than two week away


 Everybody who works or lives in area code 270 has only two weeks left to get into the habit of making 10-digit local calls.
       “If you still need to update the automatic dialing in your telephone, computer, fax machine or other telecommunications devices, now is the time to do it,” Kentucky Public Service Commission Chairman David Armstrong said. “The end of seven-digit local calling in area code 270 is almost here.”
       Mandatory 10-digit dialing for local calls begins Feb. 1, when area code 364 is added to the same geographic area as the current area code 270. That date also marks the end of the “permissive dialing” period during which customers can dial either seven or 10 digits when making local calls in area code 270.
       The permissive dialing period allows customers to get used to the new dialing pattern and permits telecommunication providers to prepare and test equipment in advance of the establishment of the new area code.
       An informational video about the permissive dialing period is available on the PSC YouTube channel:




       Area code 364 was created in December 2012 when the PSC decided that the best way to meet the need for more telephone numbers in area code 270 was through the creation of an overlay, which superimposes a new area code over an existing area code.
       “Keep in mind that nobody’s current number changes on the first of February,” Armstrong said. “The only change is to the dialing requirement.”
       The overlay option is the least disruptive for all customers and imposes the smallest cost on businesses in the area, the PSC said in its order creating area code 364. This is the first area code in Kentucky created by an overlay.
        Dialing 1 for local calls is not necessary now and will not be necessary after Feb. 1. Local calls will not become long-distance calls.
       In its December 2012 order, the PSC noted that public comments received in the case overwhelmingly favored an overlay. The other option was to split area code 270 and designate a portion as area code 364, with both landline and wireless customers in the affected portion required to change their area code as a result.
       The PSC noted that area code overlays have become the preferred method for creating new area codes nationwide. Overlays pose the fewest technical issues for implementation by an increasing complex telecommunication industry, the PSC said.
       The first numbers using area code 364 may be assigned beginning March 3, 2014. Area code 270 numbers can be assigned after that date, but their availability will depend on how many remain in the inventory of each individual service provider.
       Service providers in area code 270 are required by the PSC to educate their customers about the changes resulting from the new area code.
       All records in the area code case are available on the PSC website, psc.ky.gov. The case number is 2012-00129.
       The PSC is an independent agency attached for administrative purposes to the Energy and Environment Cabinet. It regulates more than 1,500 gas, water, sewer, electric and telecommunication utilities operating in Kentucky and has approximately 90 employees.        

TEN THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT KENTUCKY’S NEW AREA CODE

1. All current area code 270 numbers remain unchanged. Everyone with a 270 area code number can keep it. Nobody is required to change their area code or phone number.
2. The overlay affects both landline and wireless services.
3. Area code 364 will be overlaid on top of area code 270. That means that area codes 270 and 364 will occupy the same physical space beginning March 2014.
4. In order to distinguish between phone numbers with area code 270 and those with area code 364, 10-digit dialing will be required for all local calls within the overlay.
5. Ten-digit dialing also will be required for local calls into or out of the overlay in those areas that now allow seven-digit  local calling across the area code 270 boundary.
6. Ten-digit dialing means dialing the area code before dialing the number itself – for example: 270-555-1212 or 364-555-1212.
7. Long-distance calls within the overlay will require 11-digit (1-plus) dialing, just as long distance calls to other area codes do now.
8. A transition period, known as permissive dialing, began Aug. 3, 2013, and will end Jan. 31, 2014. During that time, local calls can be made using either seven-digit or 10-digit dialing.
9. On Feb. 1, 2014, 10-digit dialing for local calls will become mandatory in the area code 270/364 territory.
10. Numbers with area code 364 may be distributed beginning March 3, 2014. Telecommunication service providers may continue to distribute 270 numbers for as long as they have any remaining in their inventories.
 FOLLOW THE PSC ON TWITTER @KYPSC

Family Dollar to open Sebree location


by Matt Hughes
J-E News Editor
According to Cliff Cermak, Community Affairs Specialist with the Family Dollar Corporation, the North Carolina-based retailer plans to open a new Sebree location later this year.
“Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot I can give you on when construction will begin, but we can say that the store will be opening in late Spring 2014,” Cermak said. “In March we should have a better idea of the grand opening date.”
The new store is expected to be built on a lot at the corner of Highway 41 North and Highway 56, former location of a restaurant that burned last year.
During the last year the retail chain has moved from being located in strip malls to a “stand alone” image, as can be seen at the new Providence and Madisonville locations. That new image includes an expansion of products and services to what the store once offered.
“We are very excited to bring the Sebree community this new Family Dollar store,” said Cermak. “You’re going to find a wide variety of merchandise in our stores—from food, including frozen and refrigerated foods; health and beauty products; apparel for men, women and children; great home d├ęcor; seasonal merchandise and much more, all at everyday low prices. Plus, we carry all the same national brands as grocery and drug stores—Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Kellogg’s, Tide, etc.—and at prices typically lower than groceries and drug stores.”
The first Family Dollar store opened in Charlotte, NC in 1959. 21-year-old Leon Levine believed he could offer his customers a variety of high-quality, good value merchandise for under $2.
“The basis was providing families with value and convenience,” Cermak said. “This hasn’t changed in over 54 years. Today, we have more than 8,000 stores in 46 states in rural and urban markets alike. Regardless of location, our stores provide value and convenience to customers in easy-to-shop neighborhood locations.”

Clay residents to see water rate increase


by Matt Hughes
J-E News Editor
Starting in either March or April, Clay water customers can expect to pay an additional eight dollars a month.
The water rate increase is just one of a number of increases that customers will need to be aware of in the coming months. Also on that list are increases to the “cut on” fee charged to customers who are disconnected due to not paying their bills, and increased tap on fees for new water, gas and high pressure customers.
According to city clerk Julie Rhye, this will be the first water rate increase that Clay customers have seen in 15 or 16 years.
For communities, such as Clay, the only source of income is taxes and utilities. Each year the cost of paying employees goes up, as does the cost of supplies used to maintain utilities and other city services. In order to keep up with increasing expenses, cities need to either raise taxes or increase their utility rates.
In Clay’s case, for a number of years auditor Mike Overby has recommended each time he presented his annual audit that the city increase utility rates.
Clay also saw a loss in the areas of water, gas and sewer in the last fiscal year, meaning that the city’s largest source of income took a loss.
According to Rhye, the majority of Clay’s water customers pay the minimum bill, which includes anything up to 2,000 gallons of water. Currently those customers pay $17.50. When the rate increase is passed, that bill will go up to $25.50 per month.
For the next 2,000 gallons the rate will go from $0.05300 per gallon to $0.0600 per gallon. A third level, which is anything over 4,000 gallons would increase from $.04 to $0.49 per gallon, but according to Rhye, this will not affect anyone as there are no major industries on Clay water.
Other increases
•New water tap from $200 to $350.
•Gas tap from $350 to $400.
•Fee to have a gas meter increased from $5 to $10 a month.

Another major concern of the city council has been the cost of dealing with customers who do not pay their bills on time.
“Right now, on the 20th of the month utility bills are mailed out,” said Rhye. “If they are not paid by the 7th, they are charged a late fee. Late notices are mailed out on the 10th. Services are cut on the 17th.”
According to city officials, it is common for the customers to arrive soon after their services have been stopped wanting their utilities turned back on. Clay has gas customers all the way from Highway 109 in Providence to Wheatcroft, meaning that in many cases city employees have to drive quite a distance to stop and restart services. This costs the city both gas and a loss of manpower.
When the increases are passed, the price of restoring services will be increased from $35 to $60. This increase, however, will be limited to customers of water and gas who were cut-off due to non-payment. It will not effect customers who ask for  their gas or water to be shut off during the summer or while they are on vacation.
Mailing two bills to customers is a cost that the city no longer wants to handle.
“It’s costly to send late notices every month,” Rhye said, saying that currently city attorney Ben Leonard is looking to see if the city can stop sending late notices.
There will also be a charge of $1.00 for customers who do not bring a copy of their bill with them when they come to pay their bill.
“If a customer comes in without a bill, we have to print a receipt,” Rhye explained. The payment system the city uses requires that a receipt or a copy of the bill be posted along with the payment. “But this change is still a few months away. We just want to make people aware that it is coming.”
In other business, council members heard the first reading of a business license ordinance that has been in the works since last summer. The ordinance will require any outside business who sell items door-to-door to register at the city building upon arriving in town.
The ordinance came up following a group of women who were in Clay last year selling magazines door-to-door. Many residents reported that the women were pushy, often attempting to gain entry to people’s houses even after being told that the resident was not interested.
Rhye said that when summoned to the city office, their behavior continued to be suspect. She said that one woman submitted what she considered a fake ID, while another woman refused to provide any identification. When they were told that the Clay police wanted to meet with them, the group left town.
“We don’t want people to think that this means it is safe to let someone into your house,” Rhye stressed. “This is just the city’s way of making sure we have a copy of their ID and license plate. You have to use your own judgement on who you let into your house.”

Century Seeks to buy power on open market, Big Rivers looks to bounce back


by Matt Hughes
J-E News Editor
For the second time within the last twelve months, Big Rivers Electric looks to lose one of it’s biggest customers. 
Century Aluminum in Sebree, formerly Rio Tinto Alcan, contributes roughly $165 million in annual revenue to the Henderson County based power plant. Century has already announced that they will no longer be purchasing electricity from Big Rivers as of January 31, 2013.
Earlier this month executives with Century demanded that the Sebree based aluminum smelter be granted the right to purchase power on the open market, otherwise they planned to close the 520-employee plant.
The Public Service Commission (PSC) is expected to render a decision on the issue before January 31, 2014.
Last summer Century Aluminum made the same move with their Hawesville, Kentucky based plant. State legislators granted the Hawesville plant, which paid Big Rivers $205 million annually, that right. Since then Century has purchased the Sebree plant and now seeks the same rights in that location as well.
The loss of Century in Sebree brings Big River’s lost revenue over the last year to roughly $370 million. The power supplier is looking to offset the loss with a $70.4 million rate increase on it’s other customers. That’s roughly the same amount of money that Century expects to save by purchasing their power on the open market.
The PSC has until April to render a decision on the rate increase.
“Unfortunately, cost cutting alone won’t eliminate the financial deficiency that will result from them leaving our system,” Marty Littrel, the Managing Director Communications and Community Relations. “It’s been very difficult for Big Rivers, but we’ll have to idle our Wilson plant that’s located in Ohio County this February and our Coleman Plant located in Hancock County this summer.  Combined we’ll be losing 188 employees due to the situation created by the aluminum smelters.   This entire situation was due to low aluminum prices NOT electric rates.  Those two plants used about $136 million per year of west Kentucky coal, so there are ripple effects from our plant closures on top of the job losses for Big Rivers employees.  Again, it’s very difficult times for us right now.  Our employees have been very dedicated by safely and reliably operating these generating units during the current times.  We’ve been very blessed to have such a dedicated workforce.”
In the meantime, Littrel said that Big Rivers is looking to offset the loss of revenue by putting off passing the expense on to their customers, which include electric cooperative Kenergy.
“Big Rivers and its Member-Owners (Kenergy, Jackson Purchase Energy and Meade County RECC) have decided to ask the PSC to approve increasing the utilization of its Reserve Funds to entirely offset the rate increase created by Rio Tinto Alcan terminating its retail electric service agreement,” he said. “We’ll use these funds until they are depleted.  By using the reserve funds, the estimated “system-wide” electric rate increases will not affect customer bills until the following time frames:
•Residential and commercial customers WILL NOT be affected until April 2015.
•Large industrial rates WILL NOT be affected until July 2014.
Big Rivers is already looking at replacing the Century contracts with others. According to Littrel, Big Rivers is a finalist for several energy proposals in Nebraska and Oklahoma.
“I’m limited to discuss because of confidentiality concerns, but we are in talks with several utilities across the country, plus Big Rivers and its distribution owners have been courting some large economic development prospects within the state.  Again, in time, I’m confident we’ll be successful in mitigating the rate increases as we are still a low cost producer of electricity.”

Monday, January 20, 2014

WInter weather and cold temperatures return


by Matt Hughes
J-E News Editor
The National Weather Service is predicting up to an inch of snow for Webster County starting tonight and last through 11:00 a.m. tomorrow, Tuesday, January 21, 2014. The snow is expected to be worse to the north and east of our area.
Another blast of arctic air is expected to bring cold temperatures back. Wednesday night into Thursday morning temperatures are expected to dip into the low teens, with wind chills as low as 5 to 10 degrees above zero.
On Thursday night the low could be as cold as five degrees, bringing the potential for sub zero wind chills once again.