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Arts of Southern Kentucky receives record $1M gift from Scott family

Arts of Southern Kentucky announced Thursday that the primary performance space at the Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center will be named the Rita and Jim Scott Concert Hall after the couple gave the organization a $1 million gift.

The donation will be split evenly, with $500,000 supporting operating expenses and another $500,000 going toward establishment of the Rita and Jim Scott Endowment.

At $1 million, the gift is the largest single investment ever made to an arts organization in southern Kentucky.

“I wanted to give back to the people who have helped me,” Jim Scott said. “It means a lot to me to be able to do that. It’s a joy to me to be able to give back.”

Rita Scott said: “My husband and I have contributed to a lot of good causes in Bowling Green, and I think this building speaks for itself. It’s a wonderful asset to our community. We feel that it’s a good place to put this contribution, and that it will keep this place going for years to come.”

A large sign that reads “Rita and Jim Scott Concert Hall” now hangs in the main hall of SKyPAC, where it will remain for the rest of the center’s future.

Arts of Southern Kentucky President and CEO Jeff Reed said the organization’s future is “very bright” thanks to the Scotts’ gift.

“I can’t thank them enough, and I will probably be thanking them both every time I see them until the day I die,” Reed said. “In case you don’t know, we are in the middle of a pandemic. We can’t sell tickets, and that’s a problem when you are running a performing arts facility. So, this is very valuable in that respect.”

With the creation of the Rita and Jim Scott Endowment, Arts of Southern Kentucky will have a long-term anchor for secure financial footing.

“Rita and Jim Scott have been longtime philanthropists and supporters of the arts,” Arts of Southern Kentucky board chairwoman Beth Sigler said. “They recognize the value the arts bring to southcentral Kentucky, and they have a history of stepping in to help keep the arts alive in our community. We are so thankful for this gift, which will allow us to continue our mission for years to come.”

Rita Scott serves on the board of directors for Arts of Southern Kentucky. She also serves as chair of the Elm Street Society, which is comprised of donors who have made multi-year pledges to the organization.

Under her leadership, the society has experienced a 24% increase in membership in the past six months and is on track to have 100 members by June 30.

“It’s very thrilling,” Rita Scott said of having the primary auditorium named after the couple. “That is a huge sign, and we are very proud to be able to do that. It’s a legacy thing, and it will be there forever. We are happy to support the Arts of Southern Kentucky.”

Orchestra Kentucky and SKyPAC merged into Arts of Southern Kentucky in 2020 thanks to the assistance of Warren County Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon, who attended Thursday’s news conference.

The move created a way to overcome the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and to ensure access to arts and entertainment for future audiences.

Live shows are scheduled to return to SKyPAC starting July 17, which will be the beginning of Orchestra Kentucky’s new season.

Windborne’s “Music of Queen,” featuring singer Brody Dolyniuk and a rock ensemble, is set to perform.

Details of the 2021-22 Orchestra Kentucky season are available at OrchestraKentucky.com and packages may be purchased by calling the SKyPAC box office at 270-904-1880.

The SKyPAC main stage performances will be announced in early May.

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

Work on I-65 scheduled to start Monday

Traffic on Interstate 65 through part of Warren and Simpson counties may be moving a little slower as road crews work to improve a 12-mile stretch of that highway.

A project to rehabilitate and resurface a section of I-65 in both directions is scheduled to begin Monday, with the work being done by Scotty’s Contracting under an $8.1 million contract with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

The project will address pavement issues from near the 13-mile marker in Simpson County to near the 25-mile marker in Warren County.

KYTC District 3 Public Information Officer Wes Watt said crews have been out this week putting up signs and other traffic-control devices in preparation for the work.

Watt said “disjointed pavement” along this section of I-65 will be rehabilitated and resurfaced. The project will also involve repairing any issues with the shoulders of the road and making drainage repairs in the median, according to a news release.

Watt said there will be traffic disruptions during this project.

I-65 will be reduced to two lanes during certain periods and reduced to one lane in other periods. The shoulder will be utilized as a travel lane.

Watt said additional information will be released as the project progresses.

“These lane closures are expected to cause delays with heavy congestion at some points,” Watt said. “Motorists are advised to slow down and pay attention when approaching the construction zone.”

The speed limit will be reduced in this section to 55 mph. Slowed or stopped traffic should be expected, Watt said, especially during the phases when the road is reduced to one lane.

The project is expected to be completed by early winter.

Sen. Paul takes aim at Biden's infrastructure plan

RUSSELLVILLE – Talk of raising corporate taxes to pay for President Joe Biden’s plan to improve the nation’s infrastructure is enough to put U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Bowling Green, in full-blown Festivus mode, airing his grievances.

Speaking Thursday to Logan County business and political leaders at Russellville’s Caldwell House, Paul railed against Biden and a Democratic Party he said “has drifted toward some extreme positions.”

“I think people want their roads repaired and the infrastructure improved,” he told the crowd of about 50 people. “But there are other ways to do it.”

Paul said lowering the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%t in 2017 was “one of the good things that (former President Donald) Trump did.

“What’s good for corporations is good for workers. A lower (corporate) tax rate helps everybody to get jobs,” he said.

Paul in 2019 proposed a “penny plan” that would cut 1% from the federal government’s non-infrastructure discretionary spending and direct that money to infrastructure spending.

He has also floated the idea of redirecting money now going to foreign aid and spending it on infrastructure.

Neither idea has gotten any traction, and Paul hopes Biden’s plan to spend $4 trillion on infrastructure doesn’t either.

Paul compared that idea to the recently passed $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which he said contained far too much waste.

“Why don’t we help those who need it?” Paul asked, noting that many who haven’t suffered financially during the pandemic will get checks through the latest stimulus.

“The $2 trillion package that the Democrats passed, 90% of that has nothing to do with COVID,” Paul said. “A lot of it is to bail out New York, Illinois, California and other states for their profligate spending ways.

“It’s bailing out poorly run Democratic governments, and it just puts the country further in debt.”

Paul didn’t limit his grievances to Biden’s infrastructure package.

As could be expected from someone who has made headlines for his televised squabbles with National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, Paul went maskless Thursday, as did most in the crowd.

“I think it’s about time we got back to normal,” he said, emphasizing his desire to put the pandemic and its restrictions in the rear-view mirror. “It’s time for businesses to open and schools to open.”

Echoing opinions he expressed to Fauci in Senate hearings, Paul said those who have been infected with COVID-19 or been vaccinated against the disease should feel free to ditch their masks.

“There are a large number of ignorant people who think the vaccine works but natural immunity doesn’t,” said Paul, who last year survived a bout with the disease. “Those who’ve gotten it, why should they be forced to wear a mask or be vaccinated?”

Paul’s message resonated with the crowd in Logan County, where his wife, Kelly Ashby Paul, grew up, but he acknowledged that his political party is at a crossroads after losing the White House and control of the Senate in last year’s elections.

Paul, who will be running next year for his third term in the Senate, believes the GOP can still learn lessons from Trump’s 2016 victory.

“President Trump did a good job of bringing working-class people into the party,” he said. “At times there has been this sense that Republicans are this country-club party. Trump brought in a lot of working-class people, and I think that was good for the party.

“There’s still room for us to grow. We need more African-American voters, more Hispanic voters and more Asian-American voters.”

Closer to home, Paul pointed to huge Republican majorities in both houses of the Kentucky General Assembly as evidence that the GOP is strong in the commonwealth.

“In Kentucky, I think we’re growing, and the reason is that the national Democratic Party has drifted toward some extreme positions that rural, church-going people don’t agree with.

“Kentucky has a large rural population that is conservative.”

Kentucky college students report uptick in anxiety, suicidal thoughts amid pandemic

One year into the coronavirus pandemic, Kentucky’s college students report spikes in anxiety and mental fatigue, greater difficulty in affording tuition and a shaken sense of confidence in their long-term postsecondary education plans.

Those are just a few of the findings the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, a nonpartisan education advocacy group, uncovered in a new survey of nearly 1,000 Kentucky college students.

One finding in particular peels back the veil to offer a window into students’ mental health: 74% report an increase in mental or emotional exhaustion due to COVID-19. Another 57% of current students report experiencing an increase in anxiety that has disrupted their daily lives, and even more troubling – 17% reported increases in suicidal thoughts.

“The need for mental health supports has come through loud and clear,” Brigitte Blom Ramsey, the Prichard Committee’s president and CEO, said in a news release announcing the results of the Coping with COVID Postsecondary Impact Study on Wednesday. “These survey results from postsecondary students are a call to action to ensure high-quality mental health supports are available for students of all ages as they persist on their path to skill up for the future.”

The reports from students were mirrored in what Kentucky colleges told the Prichard Committee, with 92% reporting they are somewhat or very concerned about the mental health of their students due to COVID-19.

Ninety percent of colleges surveyed said usage of their student mental health services jumped in the pandemic.

Survey respondents came from a cross-section of Kentucky’s colleges and universities, with 57% representing public four-year institutions, 21% from public two-year community or technical colleges and another 20% from private four-year schools.

Other key findings show that learning remotely has yielded mixed results at best and that students’ concerns about basic needs such as food and housing have grown amid the pandemic. More students are struggling to afford college, and the pandemic caused many to rework their education plans.

“We hope the results from this survey will help educators, students, parents and families, community leaders, and policymakers better understand the challenges students have faced throughout the pandemic,” Ramsey said. “The data will surely be useful for plans to better support students on their path to college graduation.”