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Senator talks 'last mile' of broadband at dinner

In his opinion, it was likely the best thing state legislators accomplished during the recent Kentucky General Assembly session.

They “really push(ed) money into building out the last mile of rural broadband,” observed Kentucky Sen. Jason Howell, who represents District 1 in the state legislature.

“We’ve always known for years that we needed to do this,” said Howell, a featured speaker at a legislative appreciation dinner hosted June 29 by Trigg County Farm Bureau.

The dinner took place at the Renaissance Center in Cadiz and also included comments from Kyle Kelly, the director of national affairs for the Kentucky Farm Bureau.

Trigg County Farm Bureau President Donovan Washer said the annual event features speakers with ties to western Kentucky and conversations usually focused on rural and agricultural life in the region.

It’s an opportunity for people to talk with those who represent them, he said, explaining that’s something he likes about the dinner.

“Really, I was just glad that a lot of people in the room got to meet Mr. Jason,” Washer noted of Howell, who replaced Cadiz resident and former Trigg County judge-executive Stan Humphries in the Kentucky Senate.

Humphries was among those at the dinner.

Speaking on behalf of the efforts for broadband in the state, Howell noted that rural electric cooperatives are likely the ones who will finish out implementation of the “last mile” of broadband in most areas of rural Kentucky.

They have the infrastructure, i.e., the poles, needed to bring it to fruition, he said.

Additionally, those cooperatives are already in contact with prospective broadband clients, Howell said, noting that 99.9% of the people who have electricity want internet access.

The senator also spoke of KY Wired, the projected touted to provide the last mile of broadband in Kentucky. Howell noted that KY Wired won’t do what it said it would, won’t pay for itself and will cost the state a lot of money.

“We are stuck with this price tag for 26 more years, I think it is,” the senator observed.

He said the decision he believes has been made is to work with that project “as much as we can,” get as much out of the project as possible and go from there, Howell noted.

The senator said the only thing the state can do about KY Wired is “grin and bear it, make the best we can out of it and see if we can fit this KY Wired piece into a framework of what we’re trying to do to build out the last mile.”

Howell also noted that tax reform was a big issue during this past legislative session.

In a time when he said more electric vehicles seem to be on the horizon, the senator said it’s important to consider how improvements to roads will be taken care of when these vehicles don’t use gasoline — typically a source of funds through the gas tax for repairing the west and tear that is caused by vehicles.

He noted that officials have to do something to keep up with infrastructure needs; some bridges in the state, for example, are not built to support a load of grain bins

“We’re one bad timing to having an infrastructure problem,” Howell said.

Kelly too touched on several items during the dinner, among other things considering tax reform and a need to broaden the base, specifically the gas tax and electronic vehicles.

“From a federal standpoint, we’re talking about a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package that’s making its way through,” he noted.

Kelly said proposals going through Congress right now are proposing as much as $100 billion to go toward electric vehicle infrastructure, and “we’re getting zero dollars from electric vehicles,” he explained.

Kelly noted that states like Indiana are charging a flat fee for electric vehicles. But that’s not happening in Kentucky, and Kelly said that is something to address in the future.

He also noted that his agency’s priority for decades has been the 22.2% of road funds that go toward rural secondary roads, and he said that will continue to be the priority.

“That will remain our priority through any type of gas tax legislation will be to make sure that rural secondary roads get that 22.2%,” he said.

At the national level, Kelly said Farm Bureau will continue to monitor an infrastructure package moving through Congress that adds $570 billion in new spending to infrastructure.

The package is focused on broadband infrastructure, roads, bridges and lock and dam replacement, according to Kelly.

Kelly said one proposal in the original infrastructure plan eliminates stepped up basis, a measure allowing farmers who are handing down their farms to step up the basis of their farms before paying an inheritance tax.

“That would be devastating to farms,” he said of plans to eliminate stepped up basis.

“If you eliminate stepped up basis (one study done by American Farm Bureau with Texas A&M University) showed that about 98% of farms that were in that study would be affected by eliminating stepped up basis,” he continued, noting that Farm Bureau is working with lawmakers to ensure that won’t happen.

“It would be devastating to family farmers that are looking to hand down that farmland.”

Kelly also talked about an announcement from the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers that they were considering repealing and replacing the

Navigable Waters Protection Rule.

The rule just went into effect last year.

But a brief filed recently by one Massachusetts senator, while keeping the rule as it is, also gives lawmakers the opportunity to repeal and replace it, according to Kelly.

“We’ve fought it for the last six years, seven years,” he noted. “Here it is again.”

Kelly described the rule as a political football from one administration to the next, and while he said navigable waterways might be regulated by the federal government, “mud puddles on your farm shouldn’t be,” he said.

“We are conservationists,” Kelly noted of Farm Bureau. “We understand we’ve got to have safe water. We want that.

“We do everything we can,” he continued. “We ensure that water is safe, but that’s going to be a fight to ensure that there’s no over-reaching regulations on this new ‘Waters of the US’ rule.”

Reach Tonya S. Grace at 270-887-3240 or tgrace@kentuckynewera.com.


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Crowd celebrates reopening of senior center

One received a coffee maker, yet another a clock, as Cissy Lawrence called out the winners of door prizes during the grand reopening for the Trigg County Senior Citizens Center.

As she welcomed back the faces she hadn’t seen for 15 months, Lawrence, the facility’s director, said she was glad to see the seniors.

“It’s just good to see movement here again,” she said on Thursday. “It’s just good to see people hugging each other and socializing.”

At least 49 people attended the event last week at the center on Joy Lane, which also included a ribbon-cutting, comments from officials and lunch along with the door prizes.

Cadiz Mayor Todd King shared his thanks for Lawrence and her staff and for state officials for making the decision to re-open the centers.

“I know a lot of you have missed this place,” he told the crowd of well-wishers at the event.

Todd County Judge-Executive Hollis Alexander congratulated Lawrence on the re-opening and said he was glad to be part of it.

“It’s a great day,” the judge said.

Lawrence recognized her staff, noting that they worked throughout the months of closure.

“They have worked their tails off,” she said. “I have the best staff you can ever imagine.”

Senior Eunice Fletcher said she’s glad the center is open again, and she said she looks forward to its food and fellowship.

The local facility, she noted, is the place to meet and greet people and just get out.

“It’s like a family reunion,” Debbie Holder said of the opportunity to be back at the center.

“This is a place for us to come to, (to) break the monotony of the day, a place to talk and laugh and be with each other,” she continued.

Lawrence said Thursday was the first day the senior center has been open since it closed in the wake of the coronavirus.

Its normal hours of operation have now resumed, with the facility open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The center is closed on weekends.

Reach Tonya S. Grace at 270-887-3240 or tgrace@kentuckynewera.com.


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LBL attracting visitors in wake of the virus

Come meet all of our farm animals, invites Emily Cleaver of this year’s offerings at Land Between the Lakes’ Homeplace 1850s Working Farm and Living History Museum.

In general, there is something every day at the Homeplace, notes Cleaver, a public affairs specialist for Land Between the Lakes, the 170,000-acre national recreation area that calls Trigg County home.

She says LBL offers four educational facilities, including the Elk and Bison Prairie Bugle Corps, the Golden Pond Planetarium and Observatory and the Nature Station, in addition to the Homeplace 1850s Farm.

As things open back up following a year of struggle with COVID-19, visitors are frequenting the nearby recreation area.

“Recreation’s at an all-time high pretty much everywhere,” Cleaver says, noting that for a lot of people, the national recreation area is right in their back yard.

“it’s great for people to come out and enjoy what Land Between the Lakes has to offer,” she adds. “It’s their public land. We want them to come out and enjoy it.”

Among the upcoming activities is a Kid Adventure Day slated for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 17 at the Nature Station, where youngsters can learn about the likes of snakes, spiders and birds.

The Nature Station also offers kayak and canoe trips with a naturalist “to great places to see wildlife,” according to Cleaver.

She says another popular offering right now is the laser light shows on Friday and Saturday nights at the planetarium.

Slated to begin at 5:30 each night, the laser shows incorporate favorite songs.

The planetarium also has its regular daily programs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the last show beginning at 4 p.m. each day.

At the Homeplace, “there’s just stuff going on every day,” Cleaver says, from quilting and spinning and picnics on the farm to opportunities to see its garden and learn how to do food preservation 1850s style.

In the fall, on Sept. 4-5, visitors may also attend the farm’s trades fair, where they will learn about folk art skills from traditional trades and craft people.

Additionally, Cleaver notes that LBL also offers horseback riding, both dispersed (outside of designated campgrounds) and developed campgrounds, hiking trails and mountain biking trails.

Turkey Bay has 100 miles of off-highway vehicle trails where folks can ride their dirt bikes and four-wheelers, Cleaver notes.

In all, 261 miles of hiking trails are available to visitors to LBL.

Typically, Cleaver says visits to the area pick up in the days from Memorial Day to Labor Day, while schoolchildren are typical visitors in the fall after schools resume.

“Your audience shifts throughout the year,” she says. “We’re usually a little bit busier in the summer.

“Folks are getting out there enjoying the recreation area,” she continued.

Cleaver said a calendar of events is available on the LBL website at landbetweenthelakes.us. Information is also available on Facebook at landbetweenthelakes-usforestservice.

Reach Tonya S. Grace at 270-887-3240 or tgrace@kentuckynewera.com.


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Legislators ask for new decision on beach closure

A news release from the office of State Rep. Myron Dossett notes that several area legislators are requesting that the Kentucky Department of Parks reconsider a decision to close the beach at Pennyrile Forest State Park to the general public on weekends.

As of July 1, beach access has been limited to registered campground and lodging guests at the park, according to the press release, which also stated that Dossett, along with Reps. Jim Gooch, Melissa Gibbons-Prunty and Lynn Bechler, made a formal request to Parks Commissioner Russ Meyer in a letter dated June 25, 2021.

According to a conversation with Meyer, the decision to restrict access to the beach was made based on safety concerns due to overcrowding at the beach.

The state representatives asked Meyer to consider all possible solutions to prevent the closure of the beach for an extended period of time.

“We ask that you look at possible remedies which would keep the beach open, such as enlargement of the parking area, moving grills to another area, or enforcing all current rules and regulations for parking on roadsides,” the four wrote in their letter.

The beach is a popular tourist destination, with residents of Christian, Hopkins and surrounding counties regularly visiting.

“It is a little hard to accept the idea that the state is going to tell taxpayers they can’t enjoy a state park paid for with their tax dollars.” Dossett said. “While I appreciate the need for safety, closing on the weekends would be a detriment to individuals and their families who may not be able to afford vacations or outings to water parks.”

Gooch said the move runs counter to the growing trend of staycations and the money the state invests in marketing parks to Kentuckians.

“Our state parks continue to serve as desirable destinations not only for tourists, but also for local residents,” he said. “I am hopeful we can find another way to offer access without endangering safety. After all, we’re coming out of a pandemic and many Kentucky families are still struggling financially.

“Most can only enjoy time with their family on the weekend,” Gooch added. “We are committed to helping the (Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage) Cabinet find a workable solution to this issue.”

The cabinet oversees the parks department.

Reach Tonya S. Grace at 270-887-3240 or tgrace@kentuckynewera.com.


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