For an indefinite period of time, the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce will effectively serve as interim director of the Barren County Economic Authority.
The Barren County authority’s previous director, Dan Iacconi, retired at the end of June. Larry Glass, chairman of a committee that BCEA’s board of directors tasked with searching for a new director, said Bowling Green chamber staff will work on economic development in Barren County until a permanent replacement for Iacconi is found.
“I have thought for years, personally, that we should reach out and work with Bowling Green in some way,” Glass said.
Glass said the Bowling Green chamber’s involvement with the growth many existing companies have experienced in Warren County makes it an attractive partner in Barren County.
“We know that a number of communities across the state have been reaching out to (chamber president and CEO) Ron Bunch and asking what has made Bowling Green so successful,” he said. “They’ve been tremendously successful and they’ve had enormous growth organically.”
Bunch said the chamber has a regional focus that extends beyond Warren County’s borders.
“We want every county to do as well as possible,” he said.
Chamber personnel will familiarize themselves with Barren County’s industries and economic data and make recommendations on how to move forward, Bunch said.
“We’re going to take our leadership team and do a deep dive,” he said.
Owen Lambert, chairman of the BCEA’s board of directors, said the board voted to enter the agreement with the chamber at the search committee’s recommendation.
“The proximity makes sense for us,” he said.
The board also approved an agreement with the Pace Group of Tupelo, Miss., to help search for a permanent executive director.
BCEA board member Jackie Brown cast the sole no vote against the agreement with the Bowling Green chamber. He said his vote was based on his belief that the new BCEA board of directors that is expected to be installed soon should not be bound by obligations put in place by their predecessors.
“My question is simply this: How can a new board be afforded the freedom of, quote, a new beginning, end quote, if the old board, while walking out the door, is imposing these obligations and commitments and conditions?” he said.
According to Brown, BCEA will pay the chamber $7,000 a month for its services.
For several months, Barren Fiscal Court and the Glasgow City Council have been grappling with how to proceed with the county’s economic development after Iacconi’s retirement.
Brown said a new interlocal agreement between Glasgow, Barren County, Cave City and Park City may soon take effect, but must first be approved by the Department of Local Government. The agreement calls for a new BCEA board of directors to be made up of three voting members chosen by the Barren County judge-executive, three by the mayor of Glasgow and one by the mayor of Cave City.
“It’s my opinion that if the new board is being assembled, we should only be making decisions of urgency,” he said.
Whether you’re a Fortnite gamer, a Netflix binge-watcher or a business owner with an online presence, you have probably experienced the problem of little or no high-speed internet access in rural parts of Warren County.
With the solution to that problem moving at dial-up speed in a broadband world, U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Bowling Green, organized a meeting Monday that could eventually pump up the bandwidth in underserved parts of the county.
The meeting at the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce brought together about two dozen representatives from internet service providers, public utilities, real estate developers and state and local government, all in the name of trying to solve an internet access conundrum that has perplexed county leaders for years.
“We should have a broadband system that’s accessible and affordable for every resident,” Warren County Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon said. “All the counties around us are pretty much universally served, but about 35 to 40 percent of Warren County still doesn’t have high-speed internet.”
Buchanon and Warren County Sixth District Magistrate Ron Cummings both applauded Guthrie for bringing together providers such as Spectrum and AT&T and others with a stake in the broadband game.
“We have everybody in the same room,” Cummings said. “That’s a good first step.”
After hearing from the ISPs and others during the two-hour meeting, Guthrie said he came away with a better understanding of the issues, including how federal dollars might help.
“I’m not walking out of here with a lot of answers,” Guthrie said. “But at least now I know what questions to ask.”
Guthrie said federal funding for broadband expansion is available through the Federal Communications Commission and other agencies, but getting access to those dollars isn’t simple.
The congressman said a bill that would create a federal Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth to consolidate funding for broadband expansion has passed the House of Representatives and will soon come before the Senate.
Such legislation is needed, Guthrie said, to help rural communities offset the high cost of providing internet service. Those costs of running fiber optic cable were illustrated in a study conducted last year for Bowling Green Municipal Utilities and Warren Rural Electric Cooperative Corp. The study showed that the utilities would have to charge about $90 a month while local residents were only willing to pay $65 or less.
Those costs have been offset in many rural counties through federal grants, but Warren County hasn’t been able to tap into much federal funding because of the way the federal government defines what areas are eligible for the money.
Wes Kerr of the Bowling Green-based nonprofit Connected Nation explained that the FCC’s mapping system doesn’t provide a true picture of where high-speed internet service is available.
“It’s based on census blocks,” Kerr said, “so you can have one home served in a census block and it shows the entire block as being served. The future of funding depends on that mapping.”
That mapping and the prospect of federal funding can be doubly important in Kentucky because of the state’s shaky financial standing, according to one state legislator who attended the meeting.
State Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, said the precarious condition of Kentucky’s retirement systems for state employees affects the General Assembly’s ability to help with projects like broadband expansion.
“I hear from people in rural areas who don’t have internet access,” Wilson said. “It’s on our radar, but we’re limited in terms of what we can do financially as a state.”
The state has helped somewhat through the Kentucky Wired initiative that was largely responsible for bringing new ISPs North Central Telephone Cooperative and South Central Rural Telecommunication Cooperative to parts of Warren County. Both came into the county from neighboring counties as a result of contracts to run fiber optic cable under a contract with Kentucky Wired.
Any new providers are welcome, say those in the real estate profession.
“Daily we hear people say they can’t buy a house because there’s no broadband,” said Charlene Rabold, who represented the Realtors Association of Southern Kentucky at the meeting. “It’s a real problem.”
Looking to solve that problem, Buchanon said he welcomes existing ISPs or newcomers if they can help spread high-speed internet service to rural parts of the county.
“If anyone has a shortfall (in funding broadband infrastructure) that Warren County Fiscal Court, the state or the federal government can help with, we want to help,” Buchanon said. “We can come up with a public-private partnership. We’re interested in solving the problem.”
The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet and Watershed Watch in Kentucky are once again partnering to empower Kentuckians to protect the state’s 440,000 acres of lake waters through their annual lake monitoring program.
The program, launched in 2017, transforms people into citizen scientists by helping them survey local lakes in regular intervals for several months. This year’s program will run through October.
“The goal is to get the public more involved in recognizing the importance of maintaining our water,” said Robin Hartman, spokeswoman for the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet. “To monitor (440,000 acres), it takes a large amount of manpower.”
The Division of Water prioritizes the monitoring and upkeep of lakes used for drinking water, but this program is intended to monitor the water quality of any lake throughout the state – it just depends where people care about their water resources.
“We work with volunteers to find out where they’re interested in volunteering,” Hartman said. “They usually live near (the lake) or vacation there.”
To collect data, volunteers use an opaque Secchi disk to measure the lake’s transparency.
It’s pretty basic – just see how far you can lower the disk before it disappears – but it’s essential for understanding water quality and turbidity.
Volunteers will also document visual observations and environmental observations, such as the weather or the presence of harmful algal blooms, and take photographs.
Afterward, this data will be uploaded onto a Kentucky Geological Survey site, which will be updated regularly with each monitoring effort, according to Watershed Watch in Kentucky.
Training for the volunteer positions is offered through the coordinators for each of the state’s seven river basins. There usually aren’t more than a handful of volunteers per lake, according to Hartman.
“We haven’t had the issue of too many people,” Hartman said. “We would welcome that issue.”
The Barren River region sits within the Green and Tradewater Rivers Basin. This region is currently without a basin coordinator, so folks interested in the program can contact administrative specialist JoAnn Palmer at 502-782-7032, or Robert Blair of the Watershed Management Branch at 502-782-6893 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Logan and Simpson are also considered part of the Four Rivers Basin. People in those areas can contact basin coordinator Maggie Morgan at 270-559-4422.
For more information on the Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program, visit kywater.org/about/volunteer-lake-monitoring-program/ or eec.ky.gov/Environmental-Protection/Water/Outreach/Pages/VLMP.aspx.
With only about a week left before students return for classes, the new principal of South Warren Middle School is already hitting the ground running.
Michael Wix, who previously served as principal of Dishman-McGinnis Elementary School for 13 years in the Bowling Green Independent School District, was hired to the position last week.
For Wix, who attended nearby Rich Pond Elementary School and grew up in the area, it feels like a homecoming.
“This is a community that’s home for me,” Wix said.
South Warren Middle School’s site-based decision-making council announced the new hire in a message to families Friday via its Twitter account. The middle school’s open house will take place Thursday and the message mentioned that school staff are arranging for a meet- and-greet opportunity for students to meet Wix.
Although this is his first stint as a middle school principal, Wix told the Daily News this isn’t his first time working with middle school students.
He spent his first two years as an educator directing the Lyon County school system’s band program before taking a similar job in Simpson County directing students at Franklin-Simpson Middle School and Franklin-Simpson High School for six years, Wix said.
Before taking his previous job as principal of Dishman-McGinnis Elementary School, Wix was an assistant principal at Warren Elementary School for two years.
Looking back on his time at Dishman-McGinnis, Wix said he’s grateful for the relationships he formed there, adding that “I’ll miss them.”
Going forward, Wix said he wants to get to know South Warren Middle School’s families and staff and ensure the school is a place where young people can explore who they are.
“Middle school is the time when kids need to be able to explore lots of different things,” he said, adding he wants students to have opportunities to explore their passions.
Asked about a replacement for Wix, Bowling Green Independent School District Superintendent Gary Fields said in a text message that the school is working on naming an interim principal until the school’s council determines how to move forward.
Wix’s first day on the job at South Warren Middle School was Monday.