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Bowling Green COVID relief program aided 499 local businesses

A new report shows the impact of the city of Bowling Green’s BG CARES program, which was enacted to help small businesses damaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program’s inception grew from an idea last year in the midst of the pandemic with $1.85 million in federal CARES Act money.

“We started in July with a piece of paper. By February, we had spent $2.2 million,” said Brent Childers, director of the city’s Neighborhood and Community Services Department that helped oversee BG CARES.

The program grew over time, but the aim was always to help small businesses in the city, many of which had to close their doors for prolonged periods.

The program was for businesses with 50 or fewer employees. It provided grants that could be used for rent, utilities, mortgage payments or PPE purchases and the grant amounts ranged from $3,000 to $15,000 depending on the business size.

Enacting such a large program in such a short amount of time was a challenge, Childers said.

“This was the first time we did a program this size,” he said. “Getting the word out was really a lot harder than we expected. What it came down to was we needed a grassroots effort.”

Letting businesses know about the program entailed various efforts and even having city staff go out and hand out physical applications.

The program was adjusted over time and more funding was allocated by the city commission.

“We needed to be flexible,” Childers said. An example of that came when the guidelines were changed to make companies that had received federal Paycheck Protection Program loans eligible for the BG CARES funding.

“That opened the door to a lot of businesses,” he said.

One of the companies receiving a helping hand through BG CARES was the Computer Wizperer computer repair business.

Owner Shane Bradley’s business was the first recipient of funding from the program.

Since his small business didn’t qualify for federal relief programs, “it’s nice that this was available,” Bradley previously told the Daily News.

“This lets us continue to purchase PPE, sanitizer, masks ... it allows us to do what we need to do to stay safe,” he said.

Since the final grant was awarded in February, a report shows the impact of BG CARES:

•$2.24 million was awarded;

•499 Bowling Green businesses received grants;

•More than $1 million was paid out as rent payments to commercial landlords;

•72% of the businesses had five or fewer employees;

•The biggest beneficiaries were restaurants (92), followed by personal services (91), retail (84) and medical (48). Additionally, 16 nonprofits were given grants.

•The majority of the grant funds were used for rent payments (47%), followed by utilities (22%), mortgages (17%) and PPE (14%).

•The majority of the business funded (53%) were women-, minority- or veteran-owned.

“All in all it was a successful program,” Childers said in reviewing the numbers. “We feel like we made a good impact.”

Annual All-American Soap Box Derby returns after hiatus

In 1997, Roger LaPointe helped bring the now-famous soap box derby to Bowling Green. Over 20 years later, his son, Anthony LaPointe, carried on his father’s legacy by directing this weekend’s 23rd Annual BB&T All-American Soap Box Derby.

Once a soap box racer during his formative years, Anthony LaPointe stepped into the role for the event featuring more than 70 local children competing for a spot in the world championships.

Years of experience were at the forefront of Anthony LaPointe’s thoughts during Friday’s and Saturday’s races.

“It’s special to have that history. It’s just so special to continue to keep soap box in the family,” Anthony LaPointe said. “When I quit racing, I thought I would never get that feeling of the excitement of soap box. As a director, you are excited to see everybody else have that feeling.”

Not only did this year mark Anthony LaPointe’s first as director, but it also marks the competition’s return after it was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said planning for the derby was put on pause until February. In fact, they only had around 15 racers set to participate just one month ago.

However, after many hours of work from dozens of volunteers, a full field of competitors took to the soap box track at Phil Moore Park this weekend.

Racers competed across three divisions during the two-day, double-elimination event with winners moving on to the world championships in the summer at Akron, Ohio.

The stock division features beginners ages 7 to 13, the super stock division is designed for intermediate-level racers ages 10 to 17 and the masters division is for advanced racers ages 10 to 20.

Saturday also saw participants take part in the Super Kids race. Sponsored by Norton Children’s Hospital and Meijer, the event featured individuals with special needs ages 7 to 20.

The Kiwanis Club of Bowling Green provided custom-made cars for the Super Kids so an additional driver could ride with the racers.

“It’s worth all the work that we put into it,” Anthony LaPointe said of the special competition. “I went down the hill with a superkid yesterday, and she immediately wanted to do it again.”

Kiwanis Club Co-Chair Jennifer Bailey said the support from the community has turned the derby into one of the largest soap box events in the world.

“We’ve got great sponsors out there that help us to put this event on and help us reach as many children in the county as we possibly can,” Bailey said. “So, we are excited to have this kind of community support behind the event that came here 23 years ago and has exploded into something the whole nation knows about.”

Bailey also said the Kiwanis Club will send winners of each of the three divisions to Akron with a cash stipend. The club helped to supply soap box cars for the event and will do so again for winners at the world championships if needed.

Winning did not concern Ronnie Gower, who was there to watch his three grandsons participate in Saturday’s races.

“I’ve been watching them for five years now, and I’ve just enjoyed seeing them having a good time,” Gower said. “Winning is not that important to me. It is to them, though. They would like to win.”

Gower said he told his grandsons about his experiences with the soap box derby, and they became interested over time.

Gower’s grandson Andrew Carroll, 14, said he woke up at 5:20 a.m. in anticipation for his fifth year racing in the event.

“It’s been fun,” Carroll said of his time competing. “It’s really exciting getting up early.”

His older brother Joshua Carroll, 15, has also been racing for the past five years with the goal of one day qualifying for the world championships.

“It’s been great just getting the chance to compete against other people,” Joshua Carroll said. “It’s not something that most people get to do so I feel very fortunate to be able to race.”

Further information on the derby can be found at https://www.soapboxderby.org/bowling-green.

Cone Funeral Home approved for crematorium

A national trend in dealing with death that has been slow to come to Kentucky is making inroads in Bowling Green.

Cone Funeral Home on Campbell Lane received approval Thursday from the Warren County Board of Adjustments for a conditional-use permit that will allow the funeral home to operate a crematorium on property behind the funeral home.

The CUP application said Cone plans to build a 960-square-foot building at 1517 Westpark Drive to house the cremation device manufactured by Florida-based U.S. Cremation Equipment.

Cone Funeral Home owner Kenneth Cone said the cremation part of his business will be under a separate corporation and will provide cremation services to other funeral homes throughout the region.

“We are constantly expanding and renovating, trying to better serve the community,” Cone said. “We will be hiring some people for the crematorium, so it will be an addition to the labor force.”

Despite opposition from one neighboring resident concerned about odor, the application sailed through in a 5-0 vote.

It’s a logical addition to the funeral home in today’s environment, said U.S. Cremation Equipment Marketing Director Brian Gamage, who spoke in support of Cone’s application during the meeting held via Zoom teleconference.

“Nationally, the majority of deaths are now handled through cremation,” Gamage said. “You need to provide cremation services to remain relevant.”

Driven by financial and environmental concerns, cremation has become increasingly popular.

In the early 1970s, about 5% of those who died in the U.S. were cremated, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. That percentage has since risen steadily, topping 50% in 2016 and continuing to grow.

Kentucky hasn’t kept pace with that trend, and its cremation percentage of 33.4 for 2018 was among the nation’s lowest.

That resistance to the cremation trend was evident at Thursday’s meeting. Phil Warren, speaking on behalf of the Auburndale Gary Limited Partnership that owns commercial properties on Westpark Drive and the nearby Gary Farms Boulevard, spoke against Cone’s application.

“There seem to be complaints about crematoriums across the country,” Warren said. “People have issues with the smell. We’re concerned about the ash from the smokestack. It’s our desire that cremations remain in industrial areas where you don’t have customers and businesses trying to attract customers.”

Gamage responded that, because of federal regulations that must be met, “all gas is burned off internally. There are emissions, but they’re well below the threshold set by the state. There is no fly ash.”

Responding to another concern raised by Warren, Cone said: “The building will have a large door, and our vehicles will drive inside. The bodies will be in a vehicle. Nothing will be viewable by anybody driving by.”

Cone said the crematorium will be the third human crematorium in Bowling Green, joining one on Kenton Street and another off Louisville Road.

He said the crematorium behind his funeral home should be completed by the end of the year.

Witness testifies to buying heroin from defendant

Jurors at the trial of Tracy Boyd heard for the first time Friday morning from a witness who claimed to have bought heroin from Boyd.

The trial for Boyd, 53, who is charged with two counts of second-degree manslaughter, three counts of first-degree trafficking in a controlled substance and engaging in organized crime, entered its third day of testimony Friday.

Prosecutors are seeking to hold Boyd responsible for the overdose deaths of Joshua Kinkade and Matthew Dobring.

Kinkade, 32, was found dead Nov. 22, 2019, in his Parkhurst Drive apartment, while Dobring, 38, was found dead two days later in Louisville.

Jurors heard Friday from Michael Glenn, a Florida resident originally from Bowling Green, who testified that he bought heroin from Boyd on a daily basis during the summer of 2019.

Glenn said he was introduced to Boyd through a mutual acquaintance, and usually obtained his drugs directly from Boyd, meeting him at an apartment that Glenn said he understood belonged to Boyd’s uncle.

Glenn testified that he remembered seeing Scott Bernauer at the apartment. Bernauer has pleaded guilty to a count of reckless homicide in relation to Kinkade’s death.

“I would describe (Bernauer) as being Tracy’s errand boy,” Glenn said.

According to Glenn, he had a falling out with Boyd sometime after the beginning of July 2019, when Glenn’s wife rented a truck for Boyd to use and the truck had been repossessed.

Shortly afterward, Glenn said he checked into a Lexington rehab facility and moved with his wife to Florida, where he has remained sober.

Warren County Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Adam Turner went over some text messages that appeared on Glenn’s phone during the summer of 2019.

Glenn went over the series of text messages he sent to Stephanie Silvano to arrange to buy drugs from her.

Glenn said Friday that he bought fentanyl once from Silvano.

“Tracy was out of town and I was told if I needed anything to go to (Silvano),” Glenn said.

Silvano has also pleaded guilty to reckless homicide stemming from Kinkade’s death along with multiple drug trafficking counts. She and Bernauer await sentencing.

Glenn testified that he only used fentanyl once and that Boyd did not wish to be associated with the drug, which is lethal in small doses.

“Tracy was very, very against (fentanyl),” Glenn said. “He didn’t want it nowhere near anybody ... he didn’t want to kill off his clientele.”

The cross-examination from Boyd’s attorney, Alan Simpson, challenged Glenn’s timeline of drug use.

Glenn said he had met Boyd in the summer of 2019, but also said he started buying heroin from Boyd on his birthday in May.

Glenn also said he believed he bought fentanyl from Silvano sometime in July 2019, but clarified his answer to say it may have occurred earlier when Simpson brought up that Silvano was in jail at the time.

Simpson also asked questions about the end of Glenn’s association with Boyd, getting Glenn to acknowledge that he and his wife essentially stole money from Boyd meant to pay for a rental truck to finance their relocation.

“That was the only way we knew to get out of the relationship,” Glenn said.

Pressed for answers on how Glenn got in touch with Boyd to buy drugs, Glenn said he would send text messages. Asked by Simpson where those messages were, Glenn said he would also simply drive to the apartment.

Simpson also asked Glenn whether he agreed with the notion that a drug user who knowingly takes fentanyl is to blame for overdosing, and Glenn’s answer evolved.

“I think it’d be on the person who sold it to them, but it takes two to tango,” Glenn said, later answering a follow-up question from Simpson by responding that the blame falls on the user.

Detective cross-examined Thursday afternoon

Detective Rick Bessette of the Bowling Green-Warren County Drug Task Force had his work challenged Thursday during cross-examination by Simpson.

Before being questioned by Simpson, Bessette acknowledged on the witness stand while examined by Turner that police typically attempt to conduct multiple controlled buys while building a case against a suspect, but only one controlled buy took place before police arrested Silvano and then Boyd.

“This was a particular case where we didn’t have the time because we had a deceased victim from a substance that was in our community, and time was of the essence to locate that supply as fast as possible,” Bessette said during questioning by Turner.

During questioning from Simpson, Bessette acknowledged that the controlled buy involving Kinkade’s brother, Matthew Kinkade buying a half-gram of heroin from Silvano for $100 did not result in police collecting either the drugs or the money the task force provided for the deal.

Simpson asked Bessette whether that meant the controlled buy did not go well, and Bessette said the effort still managed to go to plan.

Jurors heard testimony that a man on a bicycle took part in the deal with Silvano and Matthew Kinkade, and listened to audio of detectives briefing Matthew Kinkade after the controlled buy, during which Matthew Kinkade asked whether detectives followed the man on the bicycle afterward.

Bessette at first said detectives did not track the man on the bicycle before quickly confiding to Matthew Kinkade that they did.

Simpson asked Bessette why police did not simply follow the man on the bicycle and stop him in an effort to obtain more information.

Bessette said detectives saw the man go into nearby Phenix Place Apartments but did not see which unit he entered, testifying that police did not want to draw unwanted attention to their surveillance.

“We couldn’t alert anyone else to our plan at that moment,” Bessette said.

After Silvano’s arrest, she was taken to The Medical Center after claiming that she swallowed a bag of drugs in her possession.

Bessette interviewed Silvano at the hospital in the presence of her attorney, and she provided information to the detective that he relayed to investigators in the field, who were surveilling an apartment on Old Morgantown Road near the site of the controlled buy.

Silvano remained hospitalized for 11 days, and never passed any bag of drugs through her system.

Bessette said he had not heard Boyd’s name in any drug investigation prior to speaking with Silvano, and investigators attempted to “keep eyes on” a property that Silvano alleged was a place where Boyd sold drugs, but law enforcement was scrambling to get people over to the scene and did not have enough information to attempt to obtain a search warrant for the address that night.

“We just couldn’t keep anybody out there for a significant amount of time,” Bessette said.

On Nov. 27, 2019, Bessette’s immediate supervisor at the Bowling Green Police Department, which assigned him to the drug task force, made him aware of an anonymous tip from South Central Kentucky Crimestoppers that alleged Ben Deboer sold the drugs that caused Joshua Kinkade’s death.

Bessette testified another detective followed up on the tip.

Simpson told Bessette that Deboer was first interviewed by police in March 2020 and asked him if he was surprised at the amount of time that had passed between receiving the tip and the interview.

Bessette was also asked about the tip never being presented as evidence to a grand jury.

“It’s surprising,” Bessette said. “We received a lot of tips and we do our best to investigate those tips. ... That tip came from someone who said they heard it from somebody who said they knew somebody.”

Simpson asked Bessette whether police had any way to prove where the drugs that caused Joshua Kinkade’s death actually came from, and the detective said they relied on the information they received.

“You’re relying on the word of addicts who are known to lie to you?” Simpson asked in response.

The trial resumes Wednesday.