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County school board approves modest property tax hike
 Aaron Mudd  / 
 08.27.19

Property owners in the county will see an increase on their taxes this year after the Warren County Public Schools Board of Education approved a rate hike Tuesday.

In a 4-1 vote, the board approved a motion to raise the tax rate from 45.6 cents to 46.1 cents of every $100 in real and personal property, a half-cent increase. The rate increase cannot be recalled during an election. The motor vehicle tax remains the same as it was last year, set at 54.5 cents.

Voting in favor of the move were board members Lloyd Williford, Kevin Jackson, Amy Duvall and Kerry Young, the board’s chair. Williford and Jackson, the board’s two newest members, made the motion and necessary second to make the vote possible.

Garry Chaffin, the board’s vice-chair, cast the sole vote opposing the rate increase.

Before the vote, board members held a hearing for public comments. Shanetti Jones, the only speaker, said she supported the tax rate increase but wanted more information about what costs it would cover. Above all, she wanted to make sure “that the teachers and staff are taken care of.”

In an interview before the meeting Tuesday, WCPS Chief Financial Officer Chris McIntyre said the tax revenue would go toward continuing to implement the district’s safety initiatives and prioritize staffing needs.

The rate increase proposed this year follows a decision by the board last year to raise the rate from 44.9 cents to 45.6 cents. The increase followed a deadly school shooting in Marshall County earlier that year and, at the time, board members said it was needed to cover safety improvements for the district’s schools.

Explaining his opposing vote, Chaffin expressed frustration at lawmakers in Frankfort for what he described as a lack of state support in the face of rising costs and “unfunded mandates.”

“My problem with this is the fact that we have to continue to increase the taxes on our residents because our state will not fund education as they should,” he said, pointing to rising public employee pension obligations as one example.

“We want to be great, and to do that you have to have proper funding,” he said. “They need to fund our kids fully so we don’t have to sit here and squabble over a few cents on taxes.”

Explaining their support for the increase, several board members said they were reluctant to vote yes and described themselves as “conservative” in their own personal spending.

However, members said they had to weigh that against ongoing enrollment growth in Warren County and the need to retain staff, among other funding priorities.

Williford, who cast the initial motion to move the vote on the rate increase forward, described the school district as among the lowest funded in the state, yet one of the top performers academically.

“Why? … It’s the personnel,” he said. “It’s all about the personnel. So we have to fight for our teachers to make sure they’re properly paid because they’re doing a great job.”

Referencing a chart that compared the various tax rates of 10 surrounding school districts, including Warren County Public Schools, Jackson said WCPS ranked sixth when it comes to the “levied equivalent tax rate.”

“That takes into consideration property tax, motor vehicle, occupation, utility – any tax that the school system gets any money off of – we rank sixth out of the 10 schools,” Jackson said.

He added that the county also ranks “128th in the state of Kentucky out of 173 schools districts based on our tax rate.”

“I just feel like this is the right thing to do,” he said.

At the same time, Jackson cautioned that “I’m not saying I want to do this every year,” wishing the board could come up with ways to pass only one rate increase every few years.

“When people hear us giving tax increases every year, it has a negative connotation – even though basically what you’re doing is just keeping up with inflation,” he said.

Each year, before considering a tax rate, Duvall said she looks for reasons to vote against a rate increase. She said she considers not just the tax rates of school districts comparable in size and demographics to WCPS, but also the enrollment growth the district is seeing.

“If you own a house, you know that it costs a lot of money to keep up a house. Imagine trying to keep up 25 schools,” she said. “It costs a lot of money and the expenses are increasing.”

Speaking about the vote, Young described it as one “I dread every year.”

Still, Young said he needed to “keep to my word” to place students’ needs first.

“I’ve got to make sure that the tools are available for the teachers to educate our kids and that the tools are available for our kids,” to keep learning, he said.

“I don’t like it. I don’t even want to do it, but sometimes doing what is right is not what we want to do,” he said.


News
Scottsville Road improvement project beginning
 Caroline Eggers  / 
 08.28.19

Long-awaited traffic improvements on Scottsville Road might finally come true – or at least begin – in the next year.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is planning to initially tackle problematic traffic on the thoroughfare with several small projects between the Greenwood Mall entrance on Bryant Way and Ken Bale Boulevard.

“I think anybody who has lived in Bowling Green or Warren County for any amount of time knows how Scottsville Road gets, really during anytime of the day, but particularly during peak travel times,” said Wes Watt, KYTC public information officer. “Doing the smaller, less-expensive improvements is something we can get done really quickly at a low cost, but will have a major impact on traffic flow and safety.”

Eventually, the cabinet will add road improvements through Ashley Circle, but it will not widen Scottsville Road to six lanes, as previously promised.

That’s a good thing, according to Joe Plunk, KYTC District 3 chief engineer.

“Anytime we can maximize the current footprint of the road, that’s what we’re trying to do,” Plunk said. “Major widening is very expensive. Scottsville is a major trunk lane for utilities. Moving those utilities can be more expensive than adding more lanes.”

The road doesn’t really need extra lanes – it just needs safer infrastructure to simplify road decisions, such as adding a raised median to prevent people from making risky left turns, according to Plunk.

Within the first phase of this road improvement project, KYTC will realign the left turn lane from Scottsville Road onto Ken Bale Boulevard.

“It’ll give us better sight distance and be much safer for motorists to turn when we get finish aligning it,” Watt said.

On Pascoe Boulevard, KYTC will switch the Scottsville Road intersection to three lanes, with right, straight and left lanes. At the same intersection, where there is a frontage road in front of some businesses, the department will realign the left turn lane onto the frontage lane.

KYTC will also create dual left turn lanes from Scottsville Road to Cave Mill Road and dual left turn lanes from Cave Mill to Scottsville.

Plunk described these additional left turn lanes as the most essential step in this project.

“There have been all these choke points along Scottsville Road. A lot of traffic was trying to make decisions, creating a bottleneck,” he said.

KYTC has already begun building area medians in several different spots along the Scottsville Road stretch. The finished medians will be similar to what KYTC recently added to Shive Lane, according to Watt.

The project is separated into four steps with estimated costs of $850,000 for the design, $825,000 for the right of way (purchasing properties to create the space for the additional lanes), $2.5 million for utility relocation and an estimated $3.9 million for the construction of the various extra lanes and medians. KYTC authorized funds to cover these individual costs, but the total project cost sometimes changes during the process.

“We won’t know (the final costs) until everything is done,” Watt said.

The design and right of way property purchases have been completed, and now KYTC is “in the middle of the utility phase,” Watt said.

The utilities located within the new lane territories are being relocated farther from the road.

BGMU has begun the process of transferring a transmission line and some distribution feeder lines to a new location. “We don’t anticipate being done until spring of next year,” said Christy Twyman, BGMU spokeswoman.

And from Three Springs Road to Bryant Way, BGMU will soon replace 17 street light poles.

“They’re coming into existing easement, where there’s existing street lights,” BGMU Manager Mark Iverson said.

BGMU recently accepted a vendor proposal for the replacement of these street poles, which will also include new LED lights, as BGMU is gradually replacing all of its street lights with LEDs whenever there is a bulb burnout or an opportunity with construction.

“Anytime we can add capacity and improve traffic flow, it’s a good thing,” Iverson said.

After that process is complete, the department will begin construction, potentially by early next year, according to Watt.

“There will certainly be some construction pains when the project starts, but when it’s all finished, we should see some really positive improvements,” Watt said.


News
Scottsville PD officer saves baby's life
 Justin Story  / 
 08.28.19

Staying poised under pressure, Scottsville Police Department Sgt. James Talbott was able to resuscitate a 19-month-old boy who had stopped breathing.

SPD Chief Jeff Pearson said the CPR that Talbott performed in the early morning hours of Aug. 21 likely saved the life of Aiden King.

“If it hadn’t been for (Talbott’s) actions, that child would be lucky to survive,” Pearson said.

Talbott, a six-year veteran of the police department, has been presented with a certificate of appreciation by the SPD and nominated for a Lifesaving Medal to be presented at the department’s awards ceremony next year.

Talbott and other officers were dispatched to the East Poplar Street home of Misty and Nicholas King shortly after 5 a.m. Aug. 21 in response to a 911 call reporting that the Kings’ son had stopped breathing.

Misty King said she was checking on her son as her husband prepared for work. As she went to pick up her baby, she saw that Aiden’s movements appeared to resemble a seizure.

The couple has dealt with a number of health problems affecting Aiden since his birth and, after losing a daughter earlier this year, feared the worst.

“When I picked him up, his body was limp and he was barely breathing,” Misty King said. “Usually we’re able to arouse him with a cold rag or ice ... but it wasn’t working, he went completely stiff in my husband’s arms and his lips started turning blue.”

While on the phone with 911, Misty King was directed by a dispatcher to lay her son down and perform chest compressions.

Misty King said she struggled to keep her emotions in check while waiting for first responders to arrive.

“If it was anybody else’s kid where I’m not emotionally attached, I could probably do the same thing Talbott done for mine, but when it’s your own, it’s hard because all you see is your child lifeless,” she said.

Two Scottsville police officers and Deputy Brandon Lovett of the Allen County Sheriff’s Office arrived within minutes, and Talbott started CPR.

Footage from Talbott’s body camera posted on the SPD Facebook page shows the officer clearing the child’s airway. Aiden begins to make noises by the end of the 90-second clip.

Police said Aiden was breathing on his own by the time EMS arrived, and Aiden was transported to T.J. Samson Community Hospital in Glasgow and later Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, where he was treated and released the same day.

Aiden’s parents learned that his body temperature and blood sugar were elevated at the time, but medical tests were unable to determine what might have caused the baby to stop breathing.

Misty King said she was thankful for the quick response from police during what she said was “the most terrifying situation” she has known.

Pearson said the officers, who receive CPR training at the start of their law enforcement career at the Department of Criminal Justice Training in Richmond, are recertified annually by SPD Deputy Chief Darren Tabor, who is certified in CPR instruction.

Scottsville’s officers were recertified just two weeks before Talbott was called to the King residence.

“He’s a modest person who doesn’t want the attention, but we think he should be recognized,” Pearson said. “At that time of night, working third shift like he does and getting that call, you could get there maybe three minutes before an ambulance and that three minutes could be the difference between life and death.”


News
Waltrip joins staff at workforce board
 Don Sergent  / 
 08.28.19

Bill Waltrip, whose record of public service includes four years as Bowling Green police chief and two terms as a Bowling Green city commissioner, is taking on a new challenge.

Waltrip, 65, started Aug. 1 in his role as one-stop operator for the South Central Workforce Development Board’s new headquarters in Western Kentucky University’s South Campus next to the Carroll Knicely Conference Center.

The workforce board headquarters in what was formerly the University College program are to eventually house not only the WDB staff but also a number of agencies and programs dealing with workforce issues.

Waltrip will work with Career Team, the Connecticut-based company hired last year to be the workforce board’s service provider.

Workforce Board President and CEO Robert Boone said Waltrip is a good fit for Career Team’s role of bringing together various workforce-related agencies underneath the WDB umbrella.

“Bill’s role will be to build out all our processes here at the center and also work with partners who are outside the building,” Boone said. “Workforce development is a big-picture type of activity that involves working in high schools, with military veterans and with people recovering from addictions. Bill will help bring all the partners together.”

Waltrip, who was Bowling Green’s police chief from 2002 through 2006, sees his new role as an extension of a career in public service that started in 1975 when he began work as a police officer in Memphis, Tenn.

“I see it fitting in very well because it’s helping people,” Waltrip said. “I’ll be trying to help employers and those looking for work.”

Waltrip cited his law enforcement experience, his work as a consultant with Leadership Strategies Group and his experience teaching law enforcement classes at WKU as good prerequisites for this new role.

“The good thing about this position is that I can maintain the relationships and contacts I have made with people over the years,” he said.

Building relationships will be an important part of Waltrip’s role as the workforce board executes Boone’s vision of having such agencies as Job Corps, Office of Employment and Training, Adult Education and Vocational Rehabilitation under one roof at the South Campus location.

“I anticipate our partners are going to co-locate with us before January and help us build a true one-stop shop for all career services,” Boone said in May when he announced the move from the Kentucky Career Center on Chestnut Street.

The workforce board’s lease arrangement with WKU calls for payments on the 2,800 square feet to be occupied by the WDB staff to go toward renovations of nearly 20,000 additional square feet to prepare that space for those workforce partners.

For now, Waltrip will be working closely with Career Team workers and other partners at the Kentucky Career Centers in Bowling Green and Glasgow and at satellite locations in the 10 counties served by the WDB. Ultimately, he will help coordinate the logistics of moving various workforce partners to South Campus.

“That’s one of my main tasks,” he said. “This is a wonderful facility. Now we need to pull all these different organizations under one roof.”