News Around the State

Published 12:09 pm Monday, April 30, 2018

Governor’s home, land value increase to $2.9M

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s home and the 10 acres where it sits are now valued at $2.9 million, $1.3 million more than what a Bevin-owned company paid in March 2017.

According to the Courier Journal , the suburban Louisville home’s new valuation follows questions about whether Bevin and his wife got a sweetheart deal from Neil Ramsey, part-owner of a state-contracted company.

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Colleen Younger, Jefferson County property valuation administrator chief of staff, said independent appraisement valued the land at $165,000 per acre. Last year, an appraiser hired by Bevin and Ramsey claimed a $37,500-per-acre fair market price.

Bevin’s Frankfort staff didn’t respond to a request for comment Friday.

In August, a county appeals board ruled the property was worth $1.4 million. A state ethics commission has dismissed two complaints against Bevin.

Officials consider tolls on I-69 bridge in Ind., Ky.

HENDERSON, Ky. (AP) — Officials say the new I-69 bridge over the Ohio River between Indiana and Kentucky will likely be operated as a toll bridge.

Officials are still working out the details of how tolling will operate on the estimated $1.5 billion bridge, the Courier & Press reports

Tolling will be essential to finance the project, said Mindy Peterson, the spokeswoman for the I-69 Ohio River Crossing project team.

“We don’t see a situation where there would be enough dollars at the federal and state levels without financing part of this project,” she said.

The project team won’t be deciding toll rates. Instead that will be left to a bistate body, Peterson said. Kentucky and Indiana officials will decide the toll rate and policies such as giving frequent users discounts.

Toll bridges in Louisville have rates that vary from $2 to $12 depending on vehicle size. Drivers with a pre-paid account and transponders pay lower rates.

The project team is currently studying three proposed routes for taking I-69 over the Ohio River between Evansville, Indiana, and Henderson, Kentucky. Both states have extended their I-69 sections, but drivers must use the existing U.S. 41 bridges to cross the river.

The team is considering many factors, such as traffic, natural resources, cultural resources, historic properties and the impact on low-income and minority populations, Peterson said. The team is expected to come to decide on the preferred route this fall.

“If everything lines up and if there’s funding available when we reach the record of decision, construction could start as soon as 2021 or 2022 maybe.” Peterson said. “And you are looking at a construction period of about three years.”

The project is scheduled to open sometime around 2025.

Jennifer Lawrence attends arts event in Louisville hometown

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Actress Jennifer Lawrence attended an arts ceremony co-hosted by her namesake foundation in her hometown of Louisville.

Lawrence was a presenter at Saturday’s annual Awards in the Arts event honoring local groups and artists.

The event was co-hosted by the Louisville-based Fund for the Arts, the Jennifer Lawrence Foundation and Churchill Downs.

Lawrence’s foundation supports a variety of Louisville-area charities.

Fort Campbell probes Jewish services volunteer’s dismissal

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (AP) — A Fort Campbell official says the Army post is investigating why a volunteer who provided holy day and weekly Jewish services was terminated.

Robert N. Jenkins, Fort Campbell’s director of public affairs, tells The Tennessean that officials are investigating allegations about changes in religious support to Fort Campbell’s Jewish community.

Jeanette Mize, the Jewish lay leader, said she was dismissed without explanation in March, halting Friday evening Shabbat services at Fort Campbell. She said she has contacted the Military Religious Freedom Foundation for help, saying she thinks there’s a bigger problem with the division’s top chaplains.

Jenkins wouldn’t comment on the reason for Mize’s dismissal or say whether weekly Shabbat services have continued.

Mize says she and her husband have served as Jewish lay leaders at Fort Campbell since 1999.

Man charged in deaths of 2 found at car fire scene

McKEE, Ky. (AP) — State Police in Kentucky have charged a man in the deaths of two people whose bodies were found around a burned vehicle.

Trooper Robert Purdy says in a news release that 40-year-old Bobby L. Hammonds of McKee was arrested Friday on two counts of murder.

McKee is being held at the Jackson County Detention Center. Jail records didn’t indicate whether he has an attorney.

Police are seeking a second suspect in the case.

The bodies of 28-year-old Whitney Venable and 35-year-old Joey Marcum of McKee were found on Dec. 28. The fire was out when authorities arrived. One body was found inside the vehicle while the other was outside. Both were burned beyond recognition.

Hidden River Cave expansion includes large swinging bridge

HORSE CAVE, Ky. (AP) — Work has begun on an expansion plan at Hidden River Cave in south-central Kentucky that will include a large underground swinging bridge.

The Glasgow Daily Times reports pre-construction work began last week for the 100-foot (30-meter) bridge. Dave Foster is director of the American Cave Conservation Association, which oversees the operation of Hidden River Cave. He says he doesn’t know of another bridge like it.

Foster says the bridge will cross a deep canyon and will increase the size of the cave tour. He says he hopes to have the project completed and open to the public by summer.

He says after the project is done, officials hope to begin work on other expansion plans.

Murray State University expands tuition assistance program

MURRAY, Ky. (AP) — Murray State University says it’s expanding a tuition assistance program to cover students throughout the state.

The program includes scholarship assistance to offset tuition costs for students if their combined total of Pell Grant, College Access Program Grant and Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship falls short.

The change is an expansion of the previous Racer Promise tuition assistance program that had been offered to students in the university’s 18-county western Kentucky service region. The change allows assistance for first-time freshmen and new transfer students throughout the state.

The program is only available beginning with the fall semester of each academic year.

More information is available online .

Inmate escapes prison in correction officer’s car

DANVILLE, Ky. (AP) — An inmate who escaped from a Kentucky prison in a stolen correction officer’s car is back in custody.

Forty-four-year-old Kenneth Bolin was serving time on multiple counts of robbery. WKYT-TV cites a release from the Kentucky Department of Corrections director of communication, Lisa Lamb, that says Bolin overpowered an officer about 1:30 a.m. Monday. It says he then stole the officer’s key and escaped the Northpoint Training Center near Danville. The officer was not injured.

Bolin was arrested 45 minutes later in Anderson County.

$200M University of Kentucky student center opens Monday

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — The University of Kentucky is set to open a massive, $200 million student center Monday with rooftop gardens, fire pits and high-tech meeting rooms.

According to the Lexington Herald-Leader , the 378,000 square-foot facility features a three-story atrium that resembles Raven Run Nature Sanctuary in Lexington. Its new cafeteria even serves waffles featuring UK logos and wildcat paw prints.

“We want prospective students to say ‘Wow, I have to be part of this university,’” said student center director John Herbst. “But the real point of the student center is in really building community. We want everyone to feel embraced.”

The previous student center was built in 1938 and expanded in 1963 and 1982, but has since been deemed too small for what’s needed.

The new building centers on a dramatic set of wooden stairs, which feature the words of the university fight song and a bronze statue of Bowman the wildcat.

The center houses a 564-seat movie theater, a black box theater for performing arts, a Barnes and Noble UK Bookstore, a Starbucks and an Apple Store for computer help.

“This is a state of the art student center,” said Paul Maloney, vice president of stores for Barnes and Noble. “At this point, it is second to none in the country.”

There also will meeting and conference rooms, a grand ballroom, a new visitors center, the Martin Luther King Jr. Center, and space for student government and other clubs.

The center hopes to achieve LEED silver status for its environmental components, including an underground tank that collects rain water from the roof to irrigate landscaped areas.

Construction on the new project began in 2015, a year after trustee Bill Gatton pledged $20 million. The center was also funded by bonds that the university, a portion of student fees and private fundraising will help repay.