Owensboro

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. 

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

An Owensboro shelter for victims of domestic violence could lose as much as a half-million dollars in federal funding later this year. The executive director of “Oasis” blames a change in philosophy at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Jill Faulkner told the Owensboro Messenger – Inquirer HUD’s “Continuum Care” program is focusing now more on finding permanent housing for the homeless and moving away from funding transitional housing facilities like “Oasis”.

The federal grant makes up a third of the facility’s annual budget. They’ve received the money for more than 20 years.

Funding runs through the end of November and Faulkner says they’ll spend that time looking for other funding sources and maybe appeal the decision. Whatever happens, she says, “Oasis” will not close its doors.

Last year "Oasis" served 125 women, three men and 138 children in the shelter and more than 1,000 through outreach.

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.

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