American Legion Volunteers Guard Owensboro Recruiters

Jul 22, 2015
Photo courtesy of Phillip Evans

Some members of American Legion Riders, Post 9, in Owensboro, Kentucky have taken up a volunteer mission to guard the U.S. Armed Forces recruiting center in town, after five members of the military died as a result of shootings at two Chattanooga, Tenn. recruiting sites last week.  

Phillip Evans of Owensboro was one of about a dozen American Legion volunteers who took turns at the local recruiting center Monday and Tuesday.  Evans served in the Marines from 1990 to 1994. 

“My active duty service ended, but I was never relieved of my duty to defend my brothers,” said Evans.

Evans said the current volunteer mission is clear.

"We're doing this to deter anyone that may seek to do harm to our active duty military," he said.

Evans said he has a concealed carry permit and brought two guns, an AR-15, which  is a military style rifle, and an XDS-45, which is a pistol. He said the American Legion members talked with the local police and sheriff's departments, who asked them not to conceal the firearms, and the volunteers agreed. 

Evans said the American Legion volunteers will continue to keep watch at the Owensboro recruiting center until they feel it’s no longer necessary.

Daviess Co Fiscal Court

An estimated 1,000 African-Americans who fought for the Union in the Civil War are being honored in Owensboro.

The Daviess County Bicentennial Committee is unveiling a historical marker on the courthouse square Friday evening for the Daviess County men who fought in what were known as “colored” infantries and cavalry units during the war.

The marker will be unveiled at 6 p.m. at the northwest corner of the courthouse.

Committee Co-chair Aloma Dew was one of the driving forces behind getting the marker established. She says the black men who volunteered for the units took great personal risks.

“We know of a couple of men who walked from Pleasant Ridge, which is about 15 miles outside of Owensboro, into Owensboro to sign up. They were slaves and they knew that if they were apprehended there would be a high cost to pay,” Dew said.

Lisa Autry

The two surviving members of a 2014 Muhlenberg County house fire are filing a lawsuit against a construction company.

The fire killed LaRae Watson and eight of her children after an electric heater ignited combustible materials inside the home. Chad Watson and his daughter, Kylie, are suing Owensboro-based Jagoe Homes, claiming the company hasn’t fulfilled its promise to build the Watsons a new home at no cost.

The lawsuit was first reported by WFIE-14 TV in Evansville. The suit claims the Watsons suffered “severe emotional harm and distress” when they didn’t receive the home they say they were promised.

Owensboro attorney Travis Holtrey is representing Jagoe Homes, and says a response to the lawsuit will be filed soon.

“We have full confidence that after that answer is filed, and after the matter is presented in the proper format, it will be determined that Jagoe Homes did not violate any law," he told WKU Public Radio Wednesday.

Holtrey wouldn't comment on whether or not Jagoe had made a promise regarding the building of a new home for the Watsons.

City of Owensboro

Owensboro City Commissioners appear set to give final approval to a city budget that includes fundingfor a golf course and the new International Bluegrass Music Center.

The Messenger-Inquirer reports that the city commission Tuesday night gave first approval to a budget plan that increases Owensboro’s occupational and net profits tax rates by six-tenths of a percentage point. Final approval of the budget is expected at a special called meeting Thursday afternoon.

The slight tax increase would generate more than $834,000 a year, which would be used to keep the nine-hole Hillcrest Golf Course open.

It would also cover the city’s $2.4 million dollar commitment toward the building of a new downtown bluegrass music center.  

Mayor Ron Payne says the city has reached an agreement with the Hillcrest Golf Association that will turn the course into a city park if less than 10,000 rounds a golf are played there each year.

The mayor of Owensboro is planning to introduce a plan to save a city-owned golf course from being sold.

The Messenger-Inquirer reports Mayor Ron Payne will share the plan with the city commission at its Tuesday evening meeting. The city’s proposed budget does not include funding for Hillcrest Golf Course, listing it as eligible to be sold to private interests.

A new ordinance that includes funding for the nine-hole course will be introduced as an amendment to the budget during the city commission meeting.

The ordinance proposes to fund the golf course through a slight increase in the city’s occupational tax.

The increase would also help cover the city’s recent $2.4 million commitment to the construction of the new downtown International Bluegrass Music Center.

International Bluegrass Music Museum

A Bowling Green businessman is taking over as chairman of the board of trustees at the International Bluegrass Music Museum in Owensboro.

Mike Simpson is a lifelong bluegrass music fan who spent childhood summers in the Ohio County town of Rosine, which was home to the man considered the father of bluegrass, Bill Monroe. He takes over the museum’s board chairmanship from Dr. Peter Salovey, President of Yale University.

Simpson says the new International Bluegrass Music Center scheduled to open in 2017 will strengthen Owensboro’s appeal to tourists.

“And it will join other cities such as Cleveland, with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Nashville, with the Country Music Hall of Fame, as having one of the few centers dedicated to one genre of music.”

He also predicts the center will rival other major attractions in the commonwealth.

“Much in the same way that the Kentucky Derby Museum in Louisville, the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, and the Quilt Museum in Paducah drives economic tourism to those regions.”

Construction on the new music center is set to begin this fall. The International Bluegrass Music Museum recently completed a $15 million campaign to get the project underway.

City of Owensboro

The city of Owensboro is allocating $5 million for the construction of the new International Bluegrass Music Center project along the town’s riverfront.

The money is being made available through a partnership between the city and state announced Wednesday by Governor Beshear and city leaders.

Owensboro has been providing matching funds for a federal allocation supporting the riverfront. As a result of the new agreement, the state Transportation Cabinet will invest available state matching funds for a portion of the city’s responsibility for that federal allocation.

The move allows Owensboro to invest $5 million of its funds in the new International Bluegrass Music Center, completing the $15 million project.

Owensboro Mayor Ron Payne believes the entire state will benefit from the new music center.

“We told the Governor early on that this is really not an Owensboro project, this is a Commonwealth project. Bluegrass is international, and we will be promoting not only Owensboro, but the state of Kentucky.”

Payne says the new music center is needed because the International Bluegrass Music Museum currently housed in the city’s downtown has outgrown its current facility. He thinks the new center will a jewel along Owensboro’s riverfront.

“It will have an auditorium in the facility, and it’s the intention of the bluegrass folks to broadcast a bluegrass opry out of there throughout the world.”

Construction on the new bluegrass music center will begin this summer, with the opening scheduled for 2017.

The next President and CEO of the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce won’t have to go far to begin her new job.

The chamber announced Thursday that Candance Brake will lead the organization beginning March 16.

Brake was most recently Executive Director of the Green River Area Community Foundation in Owensboro, which shares a building with the Chamber of Commerce.  She served as an Owensboro City Commissioner from 2004 until 2010, and was previously an executive vice-president of the chamber.

Brake earned her bachelor’s degree from Brescia University in Owensboro, and has a Masters of Public Administration from WKU.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Facebook

Citing a need for docking locations on the Ohio River between Louisville and Paducah, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has awarded the city of Owensboro a $1.5 million grant toward the building of a new 500 foot dock for traveling boaters.

City attorney and assistant city manager Ed Ray says the intended location for the transient dock is in front of the city’s convention center.

Former President Bill Clinton and Vice-President Joe Biden plan to attend the Owensboro funeral for Wendell H. Ford.

The former Senator and Governor passed away last Thursday at the age of 90.

Ford served in the Senate six of the eight years Clinton was in the White House, and was a Democratic Senate colleague of Biden for 24 years.

Daviess County state House Rep. Tommy Thompson told WKU Public Radio Monday afternoon that former state Democratic Party chairman Jerry Lundergan, a close friend of Clinton's, said the former President would be in Owensboro Tuesday.

The news was first reported by the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer.

Ford’s funeral service is Tuesday at 11 a.m. at First Baptist Church in Owensboro. Visitation is being held Monday evening until 7 p.m. at Glenn Funeral Home and Crematory, and after 10 a.m. Tuesday at the church.

A private service of committal will held in Elmwood Cemetery.

Ford’s family has asked that expressions of sympathy be made to the Wendell H. Ford Government Education Center in Owensboro, or to a charity of the donor’s choice.

Kevin Willis

The executive director of Owensboro’s International Bluegrass Music Museum is stepping down after a 12 year run.

However, Gabrielle Gray will maintain her presence in the region’s bluegrass community.

Gray will keep her position as the Executive Producer of ROMP, the annual bluegrass music festival in Daviess County, and she will also remain the museum’s primary grant writer.

Assistant Director Carly Smith, who has been at the museum since 2011, will serve as interim director while the search for a permanent replacement gets underway. That search will be led by Yale University President Peter Salovey.

A news release issued by the museum quotes Gray as saying that nothing gives her greater pleasure than helping to present ROMP at Yellow Creek Park each summer.

The Museum recently announced that legendary singer-songwriter John Prine will be one of the headliners during next year’s festival.

Legendary songwriter John Prine will appear in Owensboro next year as one of the headliners of anannual bluegrass music event.

The 68-year-old will perform next June at the River of Music Party.  Prine wrote the famous song “Paradise” about the coal-mining industry in Muhlenberg County, and he won a Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album in 2004 for an album that featured a recording of Stephen Foster’s song, “My Old Kentucky Home.”

The rest of the 2015 ROMP lineup will announced as acts are booked, with the full slate expected by mid-February.

Owensboro City Commissioners are throwing their support behind a plan to build a new processing plant at the city’s riverport.

At a meeting Tuesday night, commissioners praised the plan that would be financed by $25 million  of city issued bonds. The Messenger-Inquirer reports an ordinance authorizing the bonds will likely come up for a final vote next month.

Under the plan, a new milling facility would be built in partnership with Solvay Chemicals. While the city would issue the bonds used to pay for the project, the Riverport Authority would be responsible for repaying the cost of the bonds over ten years.

The estimated economic impact of the new processing facility is between $45 million and $65 million.

Judge: Kentucky Must OK Sale Of Alcohol Distributor

Nov 14, 2014

A Franklin County Circuit Court judge has ordered the state to approve the sale of a small Owensboro distributor to Anheuser-Busch in a decision that could prompt a legislative fight when the General Assembly meets in January.

Judge Phillip J. Shepherd ordered the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to issue a wholesale beer distributor's license to Anheuser-Busch within the next week, which would allow the sale to go through. Other alcohol distributors and retailers have opposed the sale, arguing it would give Anheuser-Busch too much power to control how competing products are distributed.

A spokesman for the department said the state is reviewing the decision. Shepherd noted the case is part of a debate that dates back 50 years over whether brewers should be able to own the distribution.

Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce

A lot has happened in Owensboro in the last 2 ½ years. And the person at the helm of the city’s Chamber of Commerce during that time says she expects the momentum to continue.

“I started and then two months later Smothers Park and the brand new downtown revitalization opened,” said Amy Jackson. “Then six months later, we were working on new things; a year and a half later opening up the new convention center and so it’s really just continued to gain steam.”

But Jackson’s last day as CEO and President of the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce is Friday.  She’s leaving to take a position with First Security Bank in Owensboro. Jackson says she’s pleased with the direction in which the chamber and the city are headed.

“It’s to be applauded to know that within a year of opening that downtown revitalization, the public investment has been already matched and surpassed by the private investment,” said Jackson.

Businessman Kirk Kirkpatrick has been named interim leader of the Owensboro Chamber.  The chairman of the chamber's board says a search is underway for Jackson’s permanent replacement.