Daviess County

Joe Corcoran

The city of Owensboro is known for a lot: bluegrass music, barbecue, and its downtown riverfront.

It’s also known for holding the last public execution in America.

Eighty years ago, tens of thousands of people from all over the country crowded Owensboro’s downtown and newspapers all over the country carried the front page story of the hanging of a black man convicted of raping a white woman.

The echoes of that event are still being felt in Owensboro eight decades later, especially for one woman who witnessed the event as a young girl.

It was still dark early that morning of August 14th, 1936.

Rachel Abbott, who was five at the time, was still asleep when her older sister tiptoed across the room to her bed and woke her up. “I didn’t know what was going on,” Abbott recently told WKU Public Radio. “My sister was eight so she probably knew more about it than I did.”

What was going, just two blocks away, was the hanging of Rainey Bethea.

Erica Peterson

A non-profit is recommending a Kentucky coal plant retire sooner than planned.

The Elmer Smith plant in Owensboro is old — it initially went into service in 1964. And over the past few years, it’s become a target for environmental groups, who point to the plant’s age and emissions, saying the upgrades it would take to comply with upcoming pollution regulations make it uneconomical to keep burning coal there.

At the request of the Sierra Club, the non-profit Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis studied several documents from Owensboro Municipal Utilities, which owns and operates the Elmer Smith plant. IEEFA concluded that retiring the plant’s two units sooner rather than later would be the least-cost option for ratepayers, and urged the utility to consider replacing the capacity with renewable energy.

Among the problems IEEFA Director of Resource Planning David Schissel flagged in his analysis of Elmer Smith was that the area’s demand for electricity has remained relatively flat since 2004. So since then, the plant has been producing more power than it needs to supply its ratepayers. OMU sells the excess power on the wholesale market, but for only a fraction of its cost.

Daviess Co. Public Schools

Transportation managers are interviewing, hiring and training at Daviess County Public Schools.  They’ve gotten a good response to their recruitment campaign that advertised a job that comes with “a company vehicle."

That vehicle is a bus.

Lora Wimsatt is a spokesperson for the school district. She said with 117 daily bus routes that carry 7,000 students, the district has to keep up its staff of trained drivers.

“I had worked with our transportation director and we were concerned that the number of applicants for open school bus driver positions had decreased over the years. So we wanted to do something new and exciting that would get people’s attention and get people talking.”

The recruitment for bus drivers started this past April. The district posted colorful banners that said, “Now hiring school bus drivers, benefits, paid training and company vehicle provided.”

Greater Owensboro Federation of Advanced Manufacturing Education

A program to address the shortage of skilled workers for advanced manufacturing is expanding in the Owensboro area.

The project is called GO FAME, which stands for Greater Owensboro Federation of Advanced Manufacturing Education. 

It’s a collaboration among regional businesses and Owensboro Community and Technical College. Students are trained as advanced manufacturing technicians in an 18-month apprenticeship program.

William Mounts, president of GO FAME and vice president of Omico Plastics in Owensboro, says companies are doing their part to improve the future workforce by investing in the students.

“We pay them a minimum of $12 an hour and we pay a minimum of half their tuition. Some organizations pay full tuition. Some organizations, like mine, we pay half the tuition plus books. We would have paid full tuition for one student, but we wanted to take two.”

GO FAME launched in March 2015 with 12 businesses and 15 students. It’s expanded to 22 businesses training 35 students.

International Bluegrass Music Center

A new home for the International Bluegrass Music Museum and Hall of Fame in Owensboro is one step closer to reality.

A groundbreaking for the facility is being held on Thursday, June 23.

The new 50,000-square-foot building will have more space for bluegrass luminaries honored in the Hall of Fame, as well as lots of other activities. 

"It  will encompass expanded museum exhibit space, " said Museum Executive Director Chris Joslin. "It will also have a 450-sea performance venue, as well as a rooftop restaurant and an outdoor performance venue that can accommodate 1,500 to 2,000 folks."

The $15.4 milion music center is being built with a combination of city, state and private funding. Construction is scheduled to be finished by spring 2018. 

International Bluegrass Music Center

The International Bluegrass Music Museum and Hall of Fame is about to break ground on a new $15 million facility in Owensboro next week.

City leaders including Owensboro Mayor Ron Payne and Daviess County Judge executive Al Mattingly are attending the June 23 event at 311 West 2nd Street.

The property takes up an entire block in a revitalized section of downtown. It will have a 450-seat concert hall, recording studio, an outdoor concert area, gift shop and a rooftop restaurant. Museum officials say it will house "the world's foremost collection" of bluegrass artifacts, memorabilia and music recordings.

Peyronnin Construction of Evansville, Indiana, is building the museum. It is expected to be finished in 2018.

Daviess County Public Library

A program at the Daviess County Public Library will allow residents to check out a different kind of book.

Saturday’s Human Library will feature individuals with unique perspectives who can be checked out by those interested in having a conversation.

Some of the individuals who have volunteered for the program include two transgender individuals, a Muslim woman, a vegan, an atheist, a bisexual, a female Unitarian Universalist minister, and Burmese refugees.

Lisa Maiden, with the Daviess County Public Library, says the Human Library is a way to learn about people in the community you might not normally meet.

"Being different can sometimes be scary to other people, because if you don't know about it, and the only information you get is from the news, a lot of that information tends to be sensationalized for the 'wow' factor."

Missing Plane Found, Pilot's Body Recovered

Jun 2, 2016
Owensboro-Daviess County Regional Airport

Kentucky State Police say debris spotted from a helicopter is from a plane that's been missing in western Kentucky since Monday and a body has been recovered from the plane.

Police said in a news release Wednesday night that officials have not been able to positively confirm the body is the 70-year-old missing pilot, Robert C. Dalzell Jr., but have notified the family. An autopsy was scheduled.

A news release from police said the site is in thick woods in the Fordsville community of Hancock County. The Federal Aviation Administration will be at the scene Thursday to investigate.

Police said earlier that Dalzell left the Owensboro Regional Airport on Monday morning and landed at Falls of Rough in Grayson County about 35 minutes later. The statement says he departed later from the Falls of Rough, but never returned to the Owensboro airport.

Woman's Body Found in Ohio River Identified

May 13, 2016

Officials say a woman whose body was found in the Ohio River a day after two other bodies were recovered has been identified.

Kentucky State Police Trooper Corey King said in an email Friday that the woman was 51-year-old Darcy L. Hess of Cannelton, Indiana. He said the case is still being investigated but that detectives don't suspect foul play and believe the death is unrelated to the other two.

Hess' body was found Thursday outside the city limits of Owensboro.

Daviess County Sheriff's Department officials told media outlets earlier that one of the bodies found Wednesday had been shot in the back of the head and had ligature marks around the neck.

The bodies found Wednesday were badly decomposed. Neither has been identified.

Owensboro Bar-B-Q Festival

Organizers with the International Bar-B-Q Festival in Owensboro are hoping to build on an increase in attendance over the past few years.  

The annual event is being held tomorrow and Saturday along the city’s riverfront area. Festival co-chair Sharon NeSmith says about 30,000 people showed up last year.

NeSmith, who has lived in Owensboro since they age of four, says she’s been attending the festival since it began in 1979.

She thinks the festival has managed to stay true to its roots.

“I like the way it was described in the first brochure that ever came out about the festival—that it was taking the atmosphere of a country church picnic to the downtown urban area. And that basically really describes what we do,” NeSmith said.

City of Owensboro

A new report shows the number of people working—and looking for work—in Daviess County dropped by over 1,319 people between 2014 and 2015.

The Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet says there were 807 fewer people with jobs in Daviess County last year.

However, the county also saw 512 fewer unemployed people.

The Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer reports some local officials are worried about the declining number of people in the workforce. Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation President Madison Silvert told the paper that the area has done a good job of attracting retirees.

He says that’s one reason why Daviess County’s population has increased at the same time the number of workers has decreased.

Silvert says the size and quality of a community’s workforce is the chief concern of companiesthat are considering expansion.

Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts

The just-concluded legislative session contains a major victory for Daviess County.  

The final budget agreement includes funding to create a Family Court. District and circuit judges currently handle family issues.  

John Minton, Jr. has been advocating for the judgeship since becoming Chief Justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court in 2008.  He says the goal is to keep family cases before the same judge.

"It's possible under the system without Family Court for a family to have issues in different places before different judges with different outcomes, so Family Court allows us to process all the issues around families in one place.

Family judges preside over cases such as divorce, child custody, adoptions, and domestic violence.  Daviess County is the largest county in the state without a Family Court judge.

Once the law becomes effective in mid-July, Governor Bevin will appoint someone to serve as Daviess County Family Court Judge until the position is up for election in November.

Owensboro Mayor Ron Payne announced Friday that he will not seek re-election and will retire at the end of the year.

Owensboro Living reports Payne has served in local government for 38 years.

In Owensboro, he has been City Commissioner, City Manager and Director of Finance and Administration.

Prior to working in Owensboro, he was director of finance for the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Payne is a certified public accountant. He’s also a U.S. Navy veteran and served in Vietnam.

Apus Air

Owensboro-Daviess County Regional Airport is getting a new flight school that trains pilots for Chinese airlines.

Apus Air announced this week that it is constructing a flight training center at the airport. The project will create 35 jobs.

CEO of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation Madison Silvert says the regional airport is a perfect fit for the company’s needs. 

 “They were looking for an airport that had the right balance of runway links and amenities and low traffic so they could provide a confident environment for new trainees,” says Silvert.

The California-based company is making an investment $1.65 million in the new facility.

Joe Corcoran, WKU Public Radio

Owensboro is stepping up its mission to become the nation’s bluegrass music capital. Construction of a new downtown performance center and museum is set to start this spring to go along with the city’s thriving local music scene.

Also, a program in local schools is looking to create new fans for bluegrass long into the future.

At Sutton Elementary in Owensboro, 400 students recently sat cross-legged on the cafeteria floor. They clapped along to a bluegrass band called the Rigs. The band performed as a part of a program created by the International Bluegrass Music Museum in Owensboro.

It’s called Bluegrass in the Schools, and it’s been bringing the music to students since 2003.

Tom Stites, the fine arts coordinator for Owensboro Public Schools, said the goal of Bluegrass in the Schools is to encourage a new generation of bluegrass fans and musicians and performances like this make the most of a unique Kentucky heritage. “It’s a chance for our children to connect with their culture, because the bluegrass roots run so very deep here," he said.  "And it’s not part of what our children experience every single day in their lives. I think it’s important that they continue to be connected with their background and where bluegrass came from.”

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