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Major pipeline replacement project underway in city

As part of its Pipeline Replacement Program, Atmos Energy has started replacing 30,800 feet of bare steel pipe in Bowling Green.

Kay Coomes, manager of public affairs for Atmos Energy, said the project will cost about $12 million and will not be completed until September 2022.

“It was just time to get that bare steel out and get the new steel in there,” Coomes said. “We went after our worst, oldest pipe first. We review it every year, and it was time to go into Warren County now.

“By far, it’s all about safety,” she said. “Since we started replacing all our pipes in our system, we have reduced leaks by 70%. Everybody wants a system that’s safer and more reliable. All of that is achieved through this program.”

The project’s construction began this week on Veterans Memorial Lane heading toward Russellville Road. Workers will then move across from Russellville Road and follow along the railroad tracks before going under Interstate 165 (Natcher Parkway).

Areas involved in the construction include Festival Drive, the Walmart entrance off U.S. 231, Thames Street from Veterans Memorial Lane to River Avon Court, Stonehedge Avenue from Veterans Memorial Lane to Jennings Court, Industrial Drive between Dishman Lane and Campbell Lane and Nashville Road from Dishman Lane to Lostwoods Avenue.

“It’s part of getting rid of some of our oldest pipe in the system,” Atmos Energy Bowing Green Operations Supervisor Doug Bower said. “With this particular line, it was put in during the early 1950s and it’s run its life. It’s one of our main feeds that brings gas into Bowling Green.”

Atmos Energy said it’s working with local officials should road closures become necessary.

There will be signage and professional flagging crews on site, and Coomes said the company appreciates the community’s patience during construction.

As the work progresses, property owners will be contacted on a case-by-case basis.

– Follow reporter John Reecer on Twitter @JReecerBGDN or visit bgdailynews.com.

What's old is new again: Justices back at court for new term

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court returned to the courtroom Monday for the start of a momentous new term, after a nearly 19-month absence because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Abortion, guns and religion all are on the agenda for a court with a rightward tilt, including three justices appointed by then-President Donald Trump.

Chief Justice John Roberts was in his usual place in the center chair and Justice Clarence Thomas, the court’s longest-serving member, was to his right. But almost everything else was a little different for the court.

Inside the courtroom, eight of the nine justices took the bench at 10 a.m. EDT. Justice Brett Kavanaugh participated remotely from his home after testing positive for COVID-19 last week, his voice echoing in the courtroom when he had a question to ask while his high-backed chair sat empty.

Kavanaugh, who was vaccinated in January, is showing no symptoms, the court said. All the other justices also have been vaccinated.

Monday was also the first time that new Justice Amy Coney Barrett participated in arguments in the courtroom, despite nearly a year on the court as its most junior member.

Only about 50 people were in attendance – lawyers involved in the cases, reporters who regularly cover the court, retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, some of the justices’ spouses and some court employees. Justice Sonia Sotomayor was the only justice who wore a mask. Sotomayor, who has had diabetes since childhood, is the only one of the justices with a known chronic condition.

Spectators sat in socially-distant spots and wore masks, although the lawyers removed theirs for their arguments. The lectern the lawyers were arguing from was also placed farther away from the justices than before the pandemic.

The court is requiring negative COVID-19 tests from lawyers and reporters who want to be in the courtroom. Lawyers who test positive will be able to present their arguments via telephone, the court said. That’s the way lawyers had been arguing before the court because of the pandemic.

With the building closed to the public, the court’s hallways, normally bustling on mornings when the court is in session, were eerily quiet. A portrait of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in 2020, hangs in a main corridor, directly across from her friend and colleague who died in 2016, Justice Antonin Scalia.

Monday was the first time the public was able to listen live to courtroom proceedings, via a link on the court’s wesbite. The court first allowed live audio for the telephonic arguments it conducted in 2020 and earlier this year because of the pandemic.

Those who listened in heard Thomas continue to ask questions, a practice he began during the telephonic arguments. Before that, it had been years since he asked a question in the courtroom. His colleagues appeared to defer to him Monday as Thomas asked the first questions in the day’s two cases – a water fight between Tennessee and Mississippi and a dispute over an enhanced prison term for a repeat offender.

“Well counsel, you seem to complain about Tennessee pumping water from Mississippi, but you admit that Tennessee does not enter across the border into Mississippi, isn’t that correct?” Thomas said, asking the term’s first question.

Monday’s cases were not among the highly anticipated disputes the court will referee this term.

In the dispute over water, there seemed to be little support for Mississippi’s claim that the Memphis area has been taking the state’s water from an underground aquifer that sits beneath parts of both states. The dispute stretches back to 2005 when Mississippi first claimed that Memphis was pumping water from the Mississippi portion of the aquifer. Tennessee claims water doesn’t work that way, contending the aquifer is an interstate resource that should be shared fairly.

In the other case, the justices appeared favorable to William Wooden of Tennessee, a man with a prior criminal record who was given a mandatory 15-year minimum prison sentence when he was convicted of having a gun. Federal law prevents felons from owning firearms.

The case arises under the Armed Career Criminal Act and the issue is whether the theft of items from 10 units on the same day at a storage facility should count as one conviction or 10, which lower courts found made the man eligible for the longer prison sentence.

“Who thinks that, Ms. Ross, in the real world?” Justice Neil Gorsuch asked Justice Department lawyer Erica Ross as she explained why the court should consider that Wooden committed 10 crimes.

Thomas, though, was skeptical of part of lawyer Allon Kedem’s argument on behalf of Wooden. “What if they took a smoke break?” Thomas asked. Or if Wooden and his accomplices decided to have lunch or a cup of coffee before resuming the break-in at the storage units, would that be considered one crime or more, Thomas wanted to know.

Also on Monday, the court affirmed a lower court ruling that said District of Columbia residents are not entitled to voting representation in the House of Representatives.

The justices also:

  • declined to get involved in a lawsuit over a disputed Pentagon cloud computing contract, a decision that follows the cancellation of the contract for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure Cloud computing project this year.
  • left in place a lower court ruling that revived a lawsuit by the brother of a man who, as a passenger in a fleeing car, was fatally shot by police in Hayward, Calif.
  • rejected an appeal from the Philadelphia-area transit system of a lower-court ruling that would force it to display ads touting a prize-winning investigation by the Center for Investigative Reporting into racial bias in the mortgage market.

Members-only club added to Kentucky Grand Hotel

For the past five years, Dan Murph may well have had the best view in all of downtown Bowling Green.

Murph, owner of the four-story Kentucky Grand Hotel on College Street next door to the Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center, now wants to share that view.

Murph, who opened the eight-suite boutique hotel in 2016, has converted the top floor from a large area that could be rented for parties and receptions into what he is calling the Kentucky Grand Club.

Murph describes the 4,000-square-foot space overlooking Circus Square Park, which includes a 40-seat dining room, a private bar and lounge and a conference room, as a place for business professionals to have white tablecloth lunches and dinners and private meetings with clients.

“It’s a social club where people can make meaningful social connections and enjoy a fun evening out on the town,” Murph said of the members-only club that opened two weeks ago and is available at an annual fee for individuals and families.

Murph, a songwriter and music producer whose songs have been recorded by the likes of Randy Travis and Reba McEntire, said the idea for the private club was sparked by entertainers and business executives who make up the Kentucky Grand Hotel’s usual clientele.

“What motivated it was customer requests,” he said. “We have a lot of CEOs who stay with us. They’ve suggested we open a private members-only club.

“It affords them the ability to come here and never leave the hotel except for meetings. But we realized that was not enough volume, so we opened it to the Bowling Green community.”

Larger cities have had such private clubs for years, so Murph decided to gamble on Bowling Green supporting such a venue as well.

“A lot of our members don’t play golf or tennis, so they don’t need a country club membership,” he said. “We feel like we meet a specific purpose.”

Murph said he used the down time resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic to do the remodeling needed to open the Kentucky Grand Club that he said has been accepted well by the initial 40 or so members.

“We started with people who had been requesting that we open a club, and then we branched out to some regular business customers,” he said. “Being downtown in a central location, I feel like it’s an ideal place for businessmen and women to entertain clients in a private setting.”

The Kentucky Grand Club opening follows the June opening of the Kentucky Grand Restaurant on the hotel’s ground floor as Murph tries to rebrand the property and emerge from the pandemic.

“This (Kentucky Grand Club) is a stepping stone for a mid-sized city like Bowling Green,” he said. “We’ve made the prediction that Bowling Green is ready for this type of experience.”

The Kentucky Grand Club is open Tuesday through Saturday. More information about the club can be found at the kentuckygrandclub.com website.

– Follow business reporter Don Sergent on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.

Body found in BG house fire

A body was found in a residence that caught fire early Monday.

The Bowling Green Fire Department said six units responded at 2:06 a.m. to the structure fire in the 600 block of Hampton Drive.

“Neighbors noticed the smell of smoke in the area, so they called 911, which prompted police to come out and survey the area,” BGFD spokeswoman Katie McKee said.

When police realized the smoke was from a residential fire, the BGFD was dispatched to the scene.

A total of 26 BGFD personnel responded to the house fire, which was contained in less than an hour.

Smoke and fire were observed coming from the residence by arriving firefighters, and BGFD crews were notified about a possible victim inside the home.

Firefighters located the body of a woman in the home during a search, and investigators were called to the scene to help determine the fire’s origin.

“Investigators have been out there all day today and will probably be out there for a few more days,” McKee said.

The name of the victim hasn’t been released, though McKee said the victim lived in the home. It is not believed anyone lived in the home with the victim, and no other injuries were reported.