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Deal in works to make landfill a mega motorsports park
 Wes Swietek  / 

The city of Bowling Green is working through a deal that would see its Glen Lily landfill turned into a massive motorsports venue.

The city is working with Sye Head of SK Powersports Promotions of Russellville and his partner Kash Moore on a deal to transfer ownership of the landfill property.

The property first came to Head’s attention as he was looking for a venue for a Grand National Cross Country off-road racing event scheduled for May 16-17. The city commission in January agreed to lease the land to Head for the event.

Head has also been planning to build a “Disneyland of Powersports” in the region, and he said the landfill site was a perfect spot “the first time I ever saw the property.”

Head called Matt Powell, the city’s environmental manager, and said, “What you have is exactly what I need.”

The city opened the 30-acre landfill in the middle of a 270-acre tract at 5301 Glen Lily Road in 1973. The landfill closed in 1981, with the city continuing to monitor the site and clear off any leachate – water that has percolated through the landfill materials.

The main issue the city is working through is ensuring that the landfill portion of the property be properly monitored and maintained.

“We’ve engaged an environmental attorney” to look at the proposal, Bowling Green Mayor Bruce Wilkerson said. “You can transfer the property, but you don’t transfer all the liability.”

While the details of the land transfer are still being worked out, the idea to transfer or sell the property for a nominal amount was briefly mentioned at a city retreat last week with no objections.

“Obviously (transferring ownership of the landfill) is a benefit to us,” Wilkerson said. “It gets us out of the landfill business.”

Powell said it costs the city about $20,000 to deal with the leachate each year. There are occasionally other costs, such as when vents need repairs, he said.

He said the landfill is now capped by a thick liner and dirt, so “it’s actually super stable,” but when it was first closed it required constant monitoring, which was “very expensive.”

The city has a permit to dump things like storm debris it collects on the 270 acres, “so we would have to find another spot” for that, Powell said, adding that finding four or five acres for that use should not be an issue.

Wilkerson said the city commission can transfer or sell property without a bidding process if it is for economic development.

Also, “I don’t really think too many people are interested in buying a landfill,” the mayor said.

Except, of course, for someone looking for a large tract of land near Bowling Green to build a massive motorsports park.

Head said he recently flew in a premiere track builder to look at the property and help start the design process.

The facility, to be called PowerPlex Park, will feature permanent bathroom/shower facilities, a parking lot and facilities to accommodate up to 20,000 attendees and numerous tracks, including cross country, Grand Prix, motocross, a circle track, flat drag course and an enduro course.

“There’s so much land available,” Head said.

There are also plans to have concerts at the facility. Head said he and Moore have connections with people involved in the Nashville music scene.

Head said the economic impact for the community on an annual basis will be in the “tens of millions of dollars. It will cost us north of seven figures to build it.”

He said that they will look at permanently capping the 30-acre landfill area based on what is recommended by environmental experts.

“We want to be best friends with the EPA,” Head said.

Head said everything is going well in terms of planning for the May event, which is estimated to bring 15,000 spectators or more to Bowling Green and have a $3 million to $4 million economic impact for the region.

– Follow News Director Wes Swietek on Twitter @BGDNgovtbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.

Austin Anthony 

From right, eighth graders Donovan Peachers, DeMarcus Elliott and DeAndre Bunton smile as they play drums along with Baba Musa and Nature's Drummers on Thursday, February 6, 2020, at Bowling Green Junior High School. (Austin Anthony/photo@bgdailynews.com)

Austin Anthony 

Baba Musa and Nature's Drummers perform on Thursday, February 6, 2020, at Bowling Green Junior High School. (Austin Anthony/photo@bgdailynews.com)

Austin Anthony 

Baba Musa sheds a tear as he speaks about world peace on Thursday, February 6, 2020, at Bowling Green Junior High School. (Austin Anthony/photo@bgdailynews.com)

BGJHS students celebrate African culture
 Aaron Mudd  / 

Leaning into his microphone while West African djembe drums beat and beaded shekeres steadily shook, musician Baba Musa had a message Thursday for Bowling Green Junior High School students.

“The world is changing. You all got to make the change,” said the Nashville-based artist, who leads the traditional African dance, music and spoken word group Baba Musa and Natures Drummers.

Garbed in patterned dresses of blue, orange and black, the group’s dancers regularly showcase celebratory West African dances like the Manjani and the Yankadi-Makru in schools throughout the region. But Musa’s message to students was focused on the here and now.

At one point, during the school’s Black History Month celebration, he prompted students to imagine a world of perfect unity, one knitted together with love, righteous living, good health, harmony and above all – action.

“You all will be running things, and we can’t continue to go along and live the way we’re doing,” Musa said, alluding to issues like gun violence in schools, climate change and equal justice for all people. “Make the world a better place for your children.”

For 20 years now, the group has been performing and often plays at Western Kentucky University graduation ceremonies honoring black graduates. Its members include Zakiya Boyd, Lala Majeed, Bakari Long-Smith, Zion Smith, Ronald Hayes and Brother KHAOS, a spoken word artist.

Asked what he hoped BGJHS students would take away from the experience, Musa said “an appreciation of the diversity that people have in this country.” It’s also one students aren’t likely to experience anywhere else, he added.

“A lot of what we do is not in books” in any classroom, he said.

Thursday’s performances, held for students throughout the morning, took on communal vibes. As percussionists kept a beat, Musa guided students in call-and-response songs.

“Djembe means unity. Unity is togetherness,” Musa said, explaining how the drums that take their name from the word are made from wood, goatskin, rope and metal rings.

Brother KHAOS, whose Facebook page can be found at Khaotic VERSE, performed a piece exploring happiness. The theme has relevance in an age characterized by division, he said.

“I think that everybody ought to concentrate on being happy and making other people happy,” he said.

At one point, students were invited on stage to join the group, with Musa guiding them through different ways to make a beat.

“When you hit it, pretend like it’s a hot stove and take your hand off it,” he said, teaching the technique to create one big booming note.

The students seemed to catch on quickly.

“They sound professional, don’t they?” Musa asked the audience, later turning it over the dancers to show the students some moves.

Eighth grader Jonathan Hunter was among the students who joined in.

“I really enjoyed it. It was very inspiring toward my culture,” he said.

His classmate Robbie Dye contributed to the show as a guest performer playing his own djembe. For Robbie, it was a familiar experience, but one he appreciated.

His mother often organizes drum circles, he said, and she lent the group some spare drums.

“It’s just great to learn about my culture,” he said.

Eighth grader Elijah Starks said he went away with several lessons.

“It was really funny and fun and educational. I just hope we get to do more of this in the future,” he said.

Lost River Pizza expanding into Home Café space
 Don Sergent  / 

One man’s downsizing is another man’s expansion opportunity.

When restaurateur Josh Poling was thinking in December of remodeling the Home Café restaurant that he and his wife, Chelsey, founded eight years ago, his next-door neighbor in the Penn Station shopping center on Nashville Road made him a better offer.

“I texted Josh when I heard that he was thinking about remodeling,” said Keith Coffman, owner of the Lost River Pizza Co. eatery that already shared a wall with Home Café. “I told him I wanted to buy that space. They thought about it and got back with me and said they’d sell the space.”

On Feb. 17, after a Valentine’s Day weekend finale for Home Café, Coffman will begin moving into the 1,800-square-foot space that the Polings had turned into a popular restaurant known for featuring locally sourced meat and produce.

Coffman, who also owns the Hangry Jack’s restaurant on Scottsville Road, wasted no time in coming up with plans for the extra space. He envisions it being more than a simple expansion of Lost River Pizza.

The extra square footage will allow Coffman to grow Lost River Pizza’s seating capacity from 110 to about 160, and those customers will have more choices than the traditional pizza, wings and salads.

“I’m putting a commercial smoker in there, and we’ll be able to expand our menu,” Coffman said. “We’ll have smoked wings, Boston butts, smoked meatloaf and smoked bologna. We’ll have a lot of new menu offerings.”

Coffman said the new space will also allow him to begin offering drive-through service, outdoor dining and even some private events.

He plans to install five televisions in the former Home Café space, which can be closed off from the existing Lost River Pizza.

“Those TVs can all be connected to laptops for business meetings,” he said. “Those businesses that do leadership training off-site can come here.”

The space can also be used for wedding receptions, reunions and other private events, Coffman said.

One Lost River Pizza regular customer likes what he has heard about Coffman’s plans for the added square footage.

“I’m excited for Keith,” Trent Ranburger said. “He’s adding a lot of cool stuff he hasn’t had before. The drive-through will be super convenient, and I like that he’ll be able to close it off for private events.

“I love to see small businesses grow and expand. I hate to see Home Café close, but Josh will still have my business at Hickory & Oak for sure.”

Hickory & Oak, the downtown restaurant that Poling opened in 2018, will now have his full attention.

Calling the choice to sell a “business and lifestyle” decision, Poling explained that he and his wife had been putting in the type of hours that often left them both exhausted.

“For eight years we put our heart and soul into this business,” Poling said. “It’s hard to walk away from that. We were looking at spending $100,000 to remodel. We had outgrown the space, and Keith had outgrown his. We both needed to expand. He’s getting a great opportunity.

“It’s hard to say goodbye, but we’ve been so fortunate to have customers who were basically family members. The whole community has been overwhelmingly supportive, and most people have said they’re happy for us.”

One of those is Skip Cleavinger, a regular customer at Home Café.

“We’re heartbroken because it was such a great place and the food was really good,” Cleavinger said. “But I sent Josh a message telling him we totally understand and support his decision.”

Coffman doesn’t expect the Home Café space to be dormant for long, saying he hopes to have the expanded Lost River Pizza open with as many as four added employees before the end of March.

Poling, meanwhile, isn’t ruling out reopening Home Café or another restaurant concept – after a good amount of time for both Polings to catch their breath.

“We don’t know what the future holds,” Poling said in a Facebook post. “We may move Home Café to another location. There very well could be another restaurant, but for the next year or two it’s going to be fun.”

The Polings want to travel, with trips to Cabo San Lucas and Disney World already planned. Such travels, Poling hopes, will re-energize him when he returns to Hickory & Oak or other restaurant ventures.

“I need for it to be less of a job,” he said, “and more of a passion.”

Austin Anthony 

Zakiya Boyd of Nashville dances to the music played by Baba Musa and Nature's Drummers on Thursday, February 6, 2020, at Bowling Green Junior High School. (Austin Anthony/photo@bgdailynews.com)

Bowling Green Law Enforcement Academy approved, set to begin in June
 Will Whaley  / 

The Bowling Green Police Department will establish a local law enforcement academy, following approval Thursday from the Kentucky Law Enforcement Council.

Beginning in June, BGPD recruits will attend the Bowling Green Law Enforcement Academy instead of the state’s Department of Criminal Justice Training Academy in Richmond, according to a news release from BGPD spokesman Officer Ronnie Ward.

Preparations for seeking the local academy began in 2017, and late last summer the concept was discussed by city officials during a city retreat. At the time, BGPD Chief Doug Hawkins said he believed that having a local academy would reduce the time it takes a new hire to hit the streets – from nearly a year, as it is currently, to between six to eight months.

Hawkins said Thursday the approval will make the department the fifth agency in the state with its own academy, along with Lexington, Louisville, the Department of Criminal Justice and the Kentucky State Police.

“Some of the first big advantages are going to be that recruits will no longer have to travel to Richmond to complete the academy,” Hawkins said. “It is likely they will be able to go home and sleep in their own beds every night if they are from this area. The curriculum will be very Bowling Green-centric, but when things relate directly to Bowling Green – such as local ordinance, our own policy and geography – we can teach to those.”

Hawkins said the Department of Criminal Justice, in contrast, uses a generic model called Model City.

“It is a generic situation and a generic police department,” he said. “When officers are learning about the law and police work, they can learn it at the environment they will be practicing law enforcement in. We think this academy will be a great recruitment tool.”

New recruits are already being planned for the first class at the academy.

“The two new officers that were approved by the commission this past Tuesday night, we are going to hold them for our first academy class,” Hawkins said. “They will be two of the numbers for class number one.”

BGPD Deputy Chief Penny Bowles said the application process involved a review of BGPD facilities and approval of a curriculum.

The BGPD already has many of the components in place for its own training academy, including certified instructors, an outdoor firing range and classroom space at the BGPD headquarters.

“It was a 122-page document of every training exercise,” Bowles said. “Every component of our academy had to be inspected and approved by the council and all of our instructors had to be approved.

“It was definitely a team effort. We have a remarkable training staff here and we have worked tirelessly getting the curriculum and all that together. Today was a big, proud moment for us, and we can’t wait until June when we can put this all in motion.”

Hawkins said the local academy could be a financial benefit for the city. Although the state does not charge for attending the state academy, the city is paying the salaries of police officers while they undergo training. A quicker training turnaround would mean those salaries are going toward officers on the streets instead of in classrooms on the other side of the state.

– Follow Daily News reporter Will Whaley on Twitter @Will_Whaley_ or visit bgdailynews.com.