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Handling tornado debris a massive undertaking

A major component of the recovery effort after three tornadoes ripped through Bowling Green on Dec. 11 is dealing with the tons of debris left behind.

In that effort, Bowling Green and Warren County governments have worked together to coordinate a massive cleanup effort that’s still underway.

City of Bowling Green Environmental Manager Matt Powell said officials first looked at a local model where local contractors would be used to gather and dispose of debris.

Then “we realized we were seeing such an extensive amount of waste it would be three to six months (to clear all the debris) with that model,” he said.

City and county governments last month approved contracts with CrowderGulf of Mobile, Ala., for $3.9 million to perform the debris cleanup and with Tetra Tech of California for $1 million to monitor the cleanup effort.

The next obstacle was finding a place to bring the tons of debris. A clear option soon emerged – the city-owned Glen Lily Landfill site.

A 28-acre portion of the 270-acre site – not the closed landfill portion – is being used to process the debris. The city had already been using that parcel to take vegetative debris.

The plant debris is being ground down to mulch. That process takes a special machine – a 12,000-horsepower grinder provided by CrowderGulf.

The machine can handle tree trunks and branches up to 48 inches in diameter and can mulch up to 5,000 cubic yards per day.

The mulch for now is simply being left at the site to amend the soil.

At Tuesday’s city commission meeting, Bowling Green City Manager Jeff Meisel said 70,000 cubic yards of material had already been processed.

As for other debris, such as roofing and fencing damaged by the tornadoes, that material is compacted and being sent to a landfill in Ohio County.

Officials hope to get the cleanup process completed as quickly as possible, primarily because FEMA reimburses 100% of the cleanup costs incurred within the first 30 days – in this case up to Jan. 12.

After that, local governments typically are liable for 25% of the cost with FEMA covering the rest, but those percentages can be amended.

The 25% cost “is a worst-case scenario,” Powell said.

Because of that timeline, “we will do as much as we can” as quickly as possible, Powell said, but he thinks it’s unlikely the cleanup will be completed by Jan. 12.

The contracts were awarded on a 60-day emergency basis, meaning that if there still is cleanup to do after that, a bidding process would be started for the job.

The contractors are hauling away only debris brought to curbside, meaning it’s still up to property owners and volunteers to bring the debris to those accessible areas.

In that effort, officials said they have been heartened by the chainsaw-wielding crews who have joined the legions of volunteers aiding in storm recovery.

Nikki Koller, assistant director for Warren County Public Works, said impacted residents likewise are glad to see the cleanup trucks and the volunteers show up.

“It’s very heartwarming,” she said of the volunteer efforts across Warren County.


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Orchestra Kentucky’s 2022-23 lineup announced

Arts of Southern Kentucky has announced details of Orchestra Kentucky’s 2022-23 season with highlights including music from Academy Award-winning films, Broadway musicals, tributes to Elton John and Fleetwood Mac, plus the return of the J.C. Kirby & Son Christmas Spectacular.

The new season will begin July 16 at the Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center with award-winning performer and songwriter Ann Hampton Callaway celebrating the extraordinary musical legacy of Linda Ronstadt.

The season will conclude June 10, 2023, with Landslide – an acclaimed tribute to Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Fleetwood Mac.

“I continue to be amazed by the support of our audiences,” Orchestra Kentucky founding music director and Arts of Southern Kentucky President and CEO Jeffrey Reed said in a statement. “Attendance for Orchestra Kentucky concerts right now is as strong as it has ever been. I hope the new season exceeds the audience’s expectations.”

Several season ticket packages – including an option to receive four free concerts – are on sale now.

The new season offers a variety of musical compositions such as “Music of the Old West” scheduled Aug. 27, “A Night at the Oscars” set for Oct. 22 and “Queens of Soul” on Nov. 11.

The full schedule and tickets will be available at OrchestraKentucky.com, and packages may be purchased by calling the SKyPAC box office at 270-904-1880 open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays.

“I am eager for this new season and the variety it offers our patrons,” Arts of Southern Kentucky Marketing Assistant Maddie McClure said. “There is truly a concert for everyone to enjoy. There is nothing quite like the experience of an Orchestra Kentucky concert and the power that music has to bring joy to our collective hearts.”

The Variety Series is sponsored by Graves Gilbert Clinic, and the Retro Series is sponsored by Jim & Darlene Johnson and Jim Johnson Nissan/Hyundai.

Unless otherwise announced, all performances take place on Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. at SKyPAC’s Rita & Jim Scott Concert Hall.


President Joe Biden speaks about the 2021 jobs report in the State Dining Room of the White House, Friday, Jan. 7, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)


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WKU updates quarantine, isolation rules for COVID-19

Western Kentucky University will return to in-person classes on time Jan. 18, WKU President Timothy Caboni announced in a campuswide message.

“The rapid spread of COVID-19, especially the Omicron variant, requires that we remain vigilant in our efforts to mitigate spread among the WKU Community,” Caboni wrote last week in a memo to WKU faculty and staff.

Caboni said the university’s COVID-19 Task Force met to review and finalize plans for the spring semester.

Masking will continue to be the norm at all times on buses and common indoor spaces on campus, including classrooms, hallways, laboratories and elevators, for example.

Any student, faculty or staff member who tests positive or is a close contact for COVID-19 must contact the WKU COVID Assistance Line at 270-745-2019 within four hours of receiving that news. However, close contacts may not be required to quarantine if they’re fully vaccinated and have gotten their booster shot.

There have been changes to the university’s isolation and quarantine rules in light of updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Particularly of note, the revised protocols shorten the isolation period for positive cases to five days in most instances, followed by masking for an additional five days,” Caboni wrote. “Isolation can end after five full days if you are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and your other symptoms have improved. Please refer to the CDC’s latest isolation and quarantine guidance or contact the WKU COVID Assistance Line.”

Also of note, Caboni encouraged the campus community to get their vaccine and booster shot but stopped short of stating the university will require them.

The university previously rolled out its Vaccine Incentive Program, which awarded students with a shot one of five full-tuition scholarships for getting the vaccine, among other prizes for faculty and staff.

“Vaccines and boosters are readily available in our area, including the Graves Gilbert Clinic on campus. The COVID vaccine remains our best defense against the virus. If you are not yet vaccinated or have not obtained a booster shot (if eligible), we strongly encourage you to take this important preventative measure,” Caboni wrote.

That said, Caboni asked all members of the university to report or update their vaccination status online at app.wku.edu/vaccine. The form there has now been updated to allow individuals to submit booster shot information.

Caboni said the university will continue to maintain wku.edu/healthyonthehill with the latest information on WKU operating procedures.

He ended his message by reminding WKU faculty, students and staff to keep on their guard.

“The strategies employed since our return to campus in the fall of 2020 have proven effective, but sustained diligence is required to best protect our Hilltopper Family. The ever-changing nature of the pandemic and the arrival of new variants require continued flexibility and adaptability. As we have done throughout the pandemic, the COVID-19 Task Force and the Department of Environmental Health & Safety will continue to monitor public health guidance and update operational procedures as necessary,” Caboni wrote.


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