Daviess County

Nicole Erwin | Ohio Valley ReSource

Mount St. Joseph in Daviess County, Kentucky, may appear calm with the Green River flowing past  homes that dot the farmland here. But there is trouble in the air and it comes along with the smell of a large hog farm.

Sixty-three year old Jerry O’Bryan was born and raised on a farm in Daviess County. By the time he was 22 he had lost both parents and was left 150 acres to support his family.

“Back when I started there was two things that a young man with very little money could do to get started in agriculture, one of them was tobacco and the other one was hogs,” explained O’Bryan.

Now he produces more than 200,000 market hogs a year. Recently, he built a hog truck wash, Piggy Express LLC., to sanitize five semi trucks used a day to transport hogs to market. The facility upset local residents. They’ve formed  a group called CAPPAD, or Community Against Pig Pollution and Disease. Don Peters, a retired engineer, is a member.

Minor League Hockey Team Will Not Move to Owensboro

Oct 2, 2016
City of Owensboro

The owner of a minor league hockey team says he will not move the team to Owensboro because it would cost too much to renovate the city's arena.

The Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer reports IceMen hockey team owner Ron Geary sent a letter to city officials saying the up to $6 million cost to renovate the Owensboro Sportscenter was not feasible. The city had announced earlier it would not build a new arena for the team.

The IceMen were located in Evansville, Indiana through the end of the 2016 season. In January, the team signed an agreement with city officials to move the team to Owensboro. The city had agreed to sell the team the Owensboro Sportscenter for $1 if the team would renovate it. But the contract was never finalized.

Institute of Southern Jewish Life

A synagogue in Owensboro, Kentucky is preparing to hold services for the High Holy Days that begin at sundown on Oct. 2. 

The synagogue was built in 1877 by 13 founding families. There are currently seven member families, as well as a few non-members who participate.

The effort to keep the synagogue functioning is led by two Jewish members who open the doors for a Friday evening study session. Through those open doors have come several non-Jews drawn to the Jewish teachings.

“Come let us welcome the Sabbath. May its radiance illumine our hearts as we kindle these tapers,” said synagogue President Sandy Bugay, as she recently lit the candles that mark that start of the Jewish Sabbath that begins at sundown Friday and ends at sundown Saturday.

Bugay led the Hebrew blessing for the half-dozen people gathered around a table in a meeting room at the synagogue:


The Daviess County Detention Center has a new state-of-the-art body scanner to help cut down on contraband.

Jailer David Osborne says Daviess County has problems common to most jails and prisons – the continuing and increasing amount of contraband being smuggled in, especially drugs.

“It seems that nowadays people are getting smarter about how they try to smuggle it and most of the time now it’s actually in body cavities. Even in the jail, once they’re in here, they just keep it stored there, if you can imagine, in balloons or in plastic bags or whatever.”

The body scanner is similar to the machines used at airports, but it has two views from different angles to help detect hidden drugs or other items.

The scanner has advanced technology called DruGuard. The software component outlines the part of the body of the person being scanned where drugs may be concealed.

Osborne says the scanner is especially important for inmates who leave the jail for work assignments,  where they sometimes try to arrange drug deals.

“You name it, they’ll smuggle anything in and everything in here , you see, is valuable. And it’s dangerous, because it causes the inmates to want to fight each other to get that drug. Or when they get high it causes problems for our staff."

Osborne says the $150,000 scanner is an important step to increase safety. He says the new technology may eventually allow the jail to do away with strip searches.

Daviess County Emergency Management

The first solar-powered weather siren in Daviess County is taking the emergency warning system a step forward in green technology.  The siren is at Shively Park in Owensboro.

John Clouse is deputy director of emergency management for Daviess County.  He says all 40 sirens in the county are powered with battery back-up and this first solar one is a test project.   

“So charging that with solar energy versus an electrical charge from one of the companies just seemed to make sense. We have a lot of sunshine and the new solar technology is very good at being able to collect and generate energy even on cloudy days now.”

Clouse said the solar-powered siren is tested regularly and so far, so good.

“To this point it’s been working great. We have had no problems with it at all. We test the sirens usually about three times a week, most notably on Friday at noon when we have the audible test. The siren has been behaving as it should since it’s been installed.”

Creative Commons

Voters in the small Daviess County community of Maceo  have voted to allow the sale of alcohol.

The Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer reports only about 12% of eligible voters cast a ballot Tuesday with the final result being 63 for and 51 against.

Ironically, voting was held inside the Maceo Baptist Church whose pastor, Rev. Scott Ford, led the opposition to the local option. Supporters were led by a businessman whose family owns nine convenience stores in Daviess County.

Maceo was the second precinct in the county to go wet this year. Whitesville voters passed a local option in June. Daviess County spent more than $6,000 for both elections.

Daviess County now has just 15 dry precincts out of a total of 85.

The next wet-dry vote can’t be held until December at the earliest.

Creative Commons

A vacant judgeship in Daviess County will remain unfilled until the November election. 

The state budget approved by Kentucky lawmakers this year funded Daviess County’s first family court judgeship.  Monday was the deadline for Governor Matt Bevin to appoint someone to the bench.  The governor’s office issued a statement confirming the position will stay vacant but declined to say why. 

"We have no comment but can confirm the governor passed on making the appointment," Press Secretary Amanda Stamper told WKU Public Radio.

The position won’t be filled until the November election.  Four local attorneys are vying for the judgeship.  They include Angela Thompson, Clifton Boswell, Julie Hawes Gordon, and Susan Montalvo-Gesser.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Doug Kerr

Owensboro is joining the federal interstate system.  The Natcher Parkway will become an interstate spur connecting Owensboro to I-65 in Bowling Green. 

Mayor Ron Payne says the designation has been years in the making and will be a major boost to tourism.

"We have an international bluegrass music center and museum that's under construction, and with our riverfront and all the conventions we're having, I think to finally get Owensboro on that interstate map is really going to be a boost to economic development here," Payne told WKU Public Radio.

Governor Matt Bevin will make the official announcement Friday afternoon at the Owensboro Riverport Authority.  Signage will be unveiled designating the Natcher Parkway as a future interstate spur connector. Bevin is expected to offer more details in the news conference, including a start and end date for the project.

The state budget includes $66 million in construction funds for Daviess, Ohio, Butler, and Warren Counties for upgrading the Natcher Parkway to interstate standards.

Daviess County Public Schools

Some students in Daviess County Public Schools are taking part in a first-year program aimed at helping those who are new to the U.S.

The Newcomer Program is launching this year at Apollo High School and College View Middle School.

Students at other Daviess County schools who qualify for the program take a school bus to the Newcomer Program and spend the day there. 

Jana Beth Francis is assistant superintendent for teaching and learning for Daviess County Schools. She said the goal is a balance between basic English language skills and immersion.                                  

“They spend half the day in the Newcomer Program and then the other half of the day they are integrated into the regular school, where they get a chance to be with English-speaking students and start to get some of their core classes.”

Owensboro Health

Owensboro Health has named its next President and CEO.

Greg Strahan has been promoted after serving in the roles on an interim basis since mid-April. He previously helped oversee construction of the Owensboro Health Regional Hospital as the system’s chief operating officer.

Strahan says increasing primary care opportunities in the region is one of his biggest challenges.

“In Owensboro, we’re always looking for more primary care access points, because there’s a shortage of primary care in the general region. I wouldn’t say just in Owensboro, but in our region.”

Owensboro Health has 4,445 employees, and is the largest employer west of Louisville.  

He says Owensboro Health’s expanded footprint outside Daviess County has allowed for more healthcare access points in largely rural areas.

“Part of what we’ve done to eliminate some of their needs is that we’re putting these healthplexes in Henderson, Muhlenberg, and Madisonville. And we manage the hospital in Muhlenberg County.”

Strahan says another goal is to increase telemedicine opportunities at Owensboro Health’s hospitals and clinics across the region. Telemedicine allows physicians to diagnose and treat certain patients through the use of telecommunications technology.

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.