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”  
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 
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.”