Regional

Regional
2:23 pm
Tue July 29, 2014

Noah's Ark Tax Incentive Passes First Hurdle

A 510-foot replica of "Noah's Ark" is planned for the Ark Encounter attraction in Clark County.
Credit ArkEncounter.com

Noah's Ark could get some help from Kentucky taxpayers.

A state tourism board gave preliminary approval on Tuesday for up to $18 million in tax rebates for a proposed full-sized replica of Noah's Ark as described in the book of Genesis. An independent consultant will now study the feasibility of the project and make a recommendation for the board to consider.

If approved, organizers could receive up to 25 percent of the $73 million anticipated cost of the project. Organizers would receive the money over 10 years only after the ark is built and open to the public.

Organizers say they have enough money to begin building the Ark, which will be 510 feet long and 85 feet high. The ark is scheduled to open by the summer of 2016.

Regional
1:36 pm
Tue July 29, 2014

Crews Set to Inspect Lights Atop Owensboro Bridge

The lights atop the Cary Bridge in Owensboro have been out since the bridge was closed for re-painting in 2013
Credit Emil Moffatt

An electrical engineering firm is set to inspect the 112 lights atop the Glover H. Cary Bridge in downtown Owensboro.  That means drivers should expect delays all of next week, beginning Monday. 

The Messenger-Inquirer reports the lights on the top of the bridge haven’t been turned back on since the bridge was closed for re-painting in the spring of 2013.  The bridge re-opened in November, but the lights remain off, pending inspection to make sure they meet current National Electrical Code standards.

The traffic lanes on the bridge are illuminated by street lamps.

Regional
11:38 am
Mon July 28, 2014

Merits of Death Penalty Could Be Debated By 2015 Kentucky General Assembly

State Sen. Gerald Neal has pre-filed legislation for 2015 that would ban the death penalty in Kentucky
Credit Kentucky LRC

State Sen. Gerald Neal, a Democrat from Louisville, plans to introduce a bill in January to abolish the death penalty.

It’s legislation Neal has brought to Frankfort before. He tells the Messenger-Inquirer objections to the death penalty come from many different angles – including religious and constitutional concerns.  But he approaches it on a cost basis, arguing life in prison costs Kentucky less money and achieves the same objective of removing the offender from society.

A legislative committee on judicial issues is set to meet Friday in Paducah, and is expected to discuss the death penalty.

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Kentucky Retirement Systems
6:39 am
Mon July 28, 2014

Despite Calls for Openness, Struggling K.R.S. Keeps Some Investments Secret

Tommy Elliot, chairman of the Board of Trustees, and Executive Director Bill Thielen listen to a presentation during the meeting of Kentucky Retirement Systems on May 15, 2014.
Credit Alix Mattingly/KyCIR

Reporter Jim McNair talks to Kevin Willis about his investigation into the use of hedge funds by Kentucky Retirement Systems.

Kentucky's underperforming retirement system for state employees keeps secret details of its so-called "alternative investments," and critics are calling for more transparency so the risks and potential pratfalls can be fully assessed.

In its latest story, the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting looks at the secrecy behind where the Kentucky Retirement Systems makes its alternative investments—and the concerns it raises.

You can read the full story here.

The KyCIR's James McNair reports that KRS "only has enough assets to cover about 45 percent of its obligations to its current and future retirees."  That's a $17.6-billion shortfall as of mid-2013.

Kendrick Mills, a former city of Louisville firefighter,  relies on a 26-year pension for two-thirds of his household income. He's also a retired investment adviser.

“I want to know what’s in the funds. I want to know the cooking,” Mills told the KyCIR. “It amazes me that the secrecy doesn’t cause an uproar.”

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Regional
5:00 am
Mon July 28, 2014

Cuts Will Be Restored to Child Care Program for Kentucky's Working Poor

Kentucky is restoring cuts to a program that helps low-income parents work by providing them with affordable daycare for their children. 

The childcare assistance program has been closed to new applicants since April 2013 because of a budget shortfall.  Eligibility guidelines were also dropped, which cut several thousand kids from the program and closed some daycare centers. 

Terry Brooks with Kentucky Youth Advocates told WKU Public Radio the cuts were counter-intuitive.

"The folks who felt the pinch were hard-working Kentuckians in low-income jobs, and the reason they were able to take those jobs was becauseof  these child care supports which allowed them to put their children in high-quality daycare centers and have some government support," explained Brooks.

Starting August 4th, new applications will be accepted and eligibility will increased from 100 percent of the federal poverty level to 140 percent. 

Brooks said restoring the cuts will be good for the economy.

Regional
7:26 pm
Sun July 27, 2014

General Burnside Island State Park to Lead Way For Park Privatization in Kentucky

General Burnside Island State Park
Credit Commonwealth of Kentucky

The Kentucky Department of Parks is poised to allow private corporations to develop at, or even operate aspects of, state parks, and expansion of previous efforts permitting commercial activity.

Parks Commissioner Elaine Walker suggested to a state legislative committee Thursday that General Burnside State Park, a 400-acre park 10 miles south of Somerset, could serve "as a potential pilot" for the effort.

Walker briefed the committee on the park system's fiscal outlook amid efforts to control growing operating costs—which have prompted some lawmakers to consider privatization efforts on their own—and offered a broad outline of the department's plans.

"I'm not sure I'm a big fan of the term 'privatization,'" Walker said. "What we're looking at is public-private partnership."

Walker said that the department is in the process of drafting a request for proposals from private companies to build and operate commercial facilities, including a new lodge. The requests could potentially include permitting a company to take over Burnside Island's 18-hole golf course and to perform maintenance duties, Walker said.

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Regional
2:24 pm
Fri July 25, 2014

Kentucky Lawmakers Head To Little Rock For Southern Legislative Conference Meeting

Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers
Credit Kentucky LRC

Tomorrow marks the start of the Southern Legislative Conference’s annual meeting in Little Rock, Ark. and Kentucky will be front and center. 

Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers is expected to be nominated chair-elect, setting the stage for the Manchester Republican to be nominated as chairman of the SLC in July 2015. 

The following summer, in July 2016, representatives from the Southern Legislative Conference’s 15 states will meet in Lexington. That event is expected to bring 1,200 guests and generate $2 million in economic impact. 

This year's conference continues through Wednesday in Little Rock.

Regional
12:01 pm
Fri July 25, 2014

Indiana's Right-To-Work Law Suffers Second Legal Defeat; Heading For State Supreme Court

Another judge has ruled against Indiana’s two-year-old right-to-work law.

Lake County Judge George Paras ruled this week the law forcing unions to provide services for workers who don’t pay dues, is against the constitution. The Evansville Courier & Press reports that led Indiana’s attorney general to request a stay of that ruling until the State Supreme Court takes up another judge’s ruling at a September 4th hearing. 

The right-to-work legislation was passed in 2012 by a Republican-dominated legislature.

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Regional
8:24 am
Fri July 25, 2014

Green River Steel Property on Owensboro Waterfront Finally Sold

A 92 acre site at the Owensboro Riverport has been sold for $2.6 million after seven years on the market. Castlen Welding and Manufacturing purchased the one-time site of Green River Steel and the sale is expected to be finalized in 60 days.

Riverport Authority Chairman Rod Kuegel said officials were mostly trying to make sure they didn't make a bad deal when selling the property.

Regional
4:51 pm
Thu July 24, 2014

Somerset’s New Retail Gasoline Venture: Good Idea or Bad? It Depends On Whom You Ask

Bob Thomas of Somerset puts gasoline in his truck at Somerset's city-owned fuel center
Emil Moffatt

Is it 'Socialism' or giving the people what they want? Hear the debate over Somerset's retail gasoline experiment

Late Wednesday morning Bob Thomas was pontificating about the state of the local economy and congress as he was filling up his green Toyota pickup truck at the city owned fuel station.  The facility is bare-bones with no snacks, no sodas and no lottery tickets.  It’s not on a main thoroughfare, but set back a bit from Highway 27.

It has been open less than a week, but has generated plenty of controversy and nationwide attention. It’s believed Somerset is the first municipality to sell gasoline directly to customers.

“It should have been this way years ago: fair,” said Thomas.  “You get me? If the people at the refinery is making money on the gas and the city is going to make a little money. I don’t mind you making you a  living whenever you come to work for me and pay you a fair wage.  But I don’t want to send you to the Bahamas on a 30 day vacation, though.”

It was complaints similar to Thomas’ that led Somerset’s City Council to broach the topic of selling its own gasoline.  The city had already been selling compressed natural gas for two years. In fact, much of the infrastructure the city needed to begin selling gasoline was already in place to service Somerset’s fleet vehicles.

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