Friday, February 29, 2008

Don't feed the animals

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) will be enforcing its new law regarding the feeding of wild animals starting March 1. Beginning Saturday, it will be illegal to to feed grain, seed or other types of manufactured food to wild animals.

This law was developed and started last year to protect animals from predators and disease. Biologist figure that feeding wild animals causes them to congregate too much, creating the potential for disease to spread and giving predators easy targets. The law prohibits the feeding of wild creatures until May 31. Last year, the no-feed period was a bit longer.

It's unfortunate that man can't help his friendly creatures right now because they've had a rough winter thanks to last spring's late frost and a drought last summer. Food sources have been very limited this winter and the last few weeks of cold, harsh weather has made survival difficult. That point is well illustrated by the accompanying photograph sent to me by Buddy and Mary Jane Watson of Frances. A couple of hen turkeys had found a way to rob the bird feeder behind their home on Brushy Pond.

One thing to note about the KDFWR's feeding prohibition: It does not make it illegal to feed wildlife in your backyard. It's aimed primarily at hunters who pile up corn and other types of food for animals in various locations on their hunting property. So keep pouring the bird seed to those cardinals ... and turkeys!

Great time for a jail

With Kentucky crossing the finishing line first in the race to punish criminals, now is a great time for Crittenden County to be in the jail businesses.

Crittenden just completed and moved into its new $7.6 million, 133-bed detention center. It's the newest, most modern, high-tech building in the entire community. As of this week, the jail was holding between 80 and 90 inmates.

It appears that Crittenden got into the big-time jail business at the right hour. A study out yesterday says Kentucky's prison inmate population is up 12 percent, highest increase in the country. The state is holding about 2,000 more prisoners this year, according to the Pew Study on States.

Most of the new inmates are of the Class D, minimum security variety. That, too, plays into the hands of local jail operators. Crittenden's jail is certified to keep those type inmates for the state, which pays the county about $26 a day for each one.

County leaders say the jail will never make a profit, but it should cut local spending. Last year, Crittenden spent nearly $300,000 on its smaller, now closed jail. Leaders hope to save that much by operating the new jail and letting the state and other counties foot the bill on the new one. In theory, that frees up about $300 grand for other local services.

We will have more on this issue in next week's printed edition of The Crittenden Press.

Happy leap year!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Former magistrate dies

Crittenden County lost another former county leader yesterday.

Bobbie Don Crowell, 69, passed away at his home Wednesday after a rather lengthy battle with cancer. Crowell served on the Crittenden County Fiscal Court for three terms. He was a magistrate from 1988 until 2004.

Glenn Tosh, another former magistrate, died earlier this month.

When I first came to Crittenden County back in 1980s, I remember Crowell, Tosh and the late Dick Jones serving on the fiscal court. Jones was quite a character. He would go to Florida vacationing every spring and come back with a load of fresh fruit. He would bring oranges to the courthouse and offer them to everyone.

Crowell was a Republican and served District 6 which is largely in and around the Shady Grove area. Dan Wood is the current magistrate from District 6. He defeated Crowell in the 2003 general election and has since won a second term.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

11.5 days and counting

Received another early-morning phone call from school transportation director Al Starnes.

"We can't go again today," he said with a sigh.

It was almost a quarter after 5 early Wednesday morning. The Crittenden Press is on the list of media outlets that get an a.m. ring when schools are closing for the day. The notice is then posted on the main page at The Press Online.

"It's bad, really bad in some places," the school administrator explained, almost apologizing for adding another missed day to the pile of snow outings this winter. "There's black ice in some places. We can't take the chance."

Crittenden County Schools have missed 11.5 days, most of them in February. Unless the school system alters its calendar by eliminating spring break or going longer each day, students will not get out until the first week of June. Spring break is basically an entitlement. That sacred cow will not likely be touched, but look for the school system to work on some creative measures to keep our kids from sitting in class while Lyon County students are on the beach.

Never fear, once we're into March, the bulk of bad weather is generally behind us in western Kentucky. It's time for that long, lazy turn toward spring.

FYI: My fingers are crossed.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Mother remains critical

Steffany Smith-Lester, a 21-year-old Crittenden County woman, remains in critical condition and in a coma at Vanderbilt Hospital as family and doctors cling to hope for her and her unborn child.

Smith-Lester was injured in an automobile accident Feb. 12 on the Ledbetter Bridge near Paducah. She was flown to Vanderbilt where friends and family have held a vigil, praying for improvements in the young mother and her 13-week-old fetus.

The Paducah Sun published an article Tuesday on her condition. The baby's heartbeat is getting stronger, but the mother remains in a coma. The Crittenden Press collaborated with The Paducah Sun writer Matt Sanders on information for the story, which will be published also in this week's edition of The Crittenden Press.

If you have an online subscription to The Paducah Sun, you can view the article now. Otherwise it will be available Thursday when The Press Online is updated.

The inset photo is of Smith-Lester and her husband, Shain.

Monday, February 25, 2008

This week's headlines

With the past two winter storms behind us, the news is cooling down a bit. For headlines in this week's Crittenden Press, readers will find a story about a local policeman who will be honored in Washington, D.C., this spring. Thirty-five years after he died in the line of duty, Louis Myers' name will be added to the fallen policeman's memorial in our nation's capital.

Additionally, The Crittenden Press covered a circuit court trial last week where a man was acquitted of receiving stolen property. The man had been charged with having a stolen electric transformer in his backyard in the city. A local jury found him not guilty.

Fire hazard season begins this week. With plenty of fuel in the form of sticks, limbs and debris from the recent ice storms, fire prevention officials are cringing at what could be a dangerous fire season. High spring winds coupled with dead grass and vegetation make this a bad time of year to be burning outdoors. With so many people wanting to rid their property of storm debris built up in their yards, it makes knowing the law that much more important. Learn when you can and can't burn by reading this week's printed edition of The Press. Here's a hint: Don't burn during daylight hours. Start right before dark and be finished by morning.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Churches get bar exemption

It appears as though the National Football League has decided to give churches the same Super Bowl exemption that bars enjoy.

In a letter to legislative leaders, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has reversed a previously controversial stand by the league and is now going to allow churches to show the Super Bowl on large-screen televisions.

The league had recently pointed out that churches would be in violation of its broadcast copyright by showing the championship game (or any other NFL game for that matter) on TVs with screens larger than 55 inches. The policy was widely criticized because sports bars are allowed to show the games on big screens.

As Sister Lucy Tedrick recently pointed out, "Wise men change their minds, fools never do."

The NFL has made a good decision. To read more go to ESPN.COM or click on this link

Iced in again

So far, the power has not gone off at my place, but much of Crittenden County remains under a sheet of ice thanks to a second winter storm that hit us Thursday morning. Temperatures have stayed below freezing since then, preventing any thawing relief.

While some sporadic power outages have resulted from this storm, there has been no widespread loss of electricity such as the week before. Some of those earlier victims, however, are still without lights, even inside the City of Marion. Those problems are largely due to bureaucratic red tape based on the state's inspection policies. So you know, if the power line to your home is knocked down, the electric company cannot, by law, hook it back up and turn your power on until you have paid a certified electrician to properly reinstall the line and have a state-certified inspector come to your home and approve the electrician's work. Kenergy or Kentucky Utilities is free to restore juice to your home only after an inspector leaves a green sticker on the side of your house to verify the work.

This week's storm has had its victims. One was former Peoples Bank president Gordon Guess. Guess, now heading up an effort to bring semi-pro baseball to Marion, fell on the ice this week and broke his left femur. He took the tumble on an icy Main Street curb in front of the Dollar General Store. He underwent surgery at Regional Medical Center in Madisonville and is expected to make a full recovery. However, Guess will be hobbled for a while and that will make his inaugural season as general manager of the Marion Bobcats baseball team a trying one.

The inset photograph was taken Saturday morning on our place near Mexico in rural Crittenden County. It shows how the storm is taking its toll on non-native species of trees. The long-leaf pine is one that does much better in southern climates. Ice had broken the tops out of many of them and bent over the rest. Maybe they'll bounce back like the entire community has after this especially troublesome winter. Schools have already missed 10.5 days and will be in class until early June unless they make up some days during spring break or other ways.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Here we go again

5:49 a.m., MARION, KY – Frozen rain began falling just seconds ago.

Al Starnes, director of transportation for the schools, called and said, "We not going to bring the kids in today. We think it's going to hit us and hit us hard. We just can't take the chance."

Good call.

Illinois schools made their own similar announcements last night as WPSD-TV was predicting another round of wintry mix.

Pray for the Kenergy and KU crews. Let's hope last week's storm cleared the right-of-ways of potential problems and strengthened the power system. If not, this could get ugly. Keep your fingers crossed. Mine are!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Lunar log-in

Clear skies revealed a wonderful lunar eclipse Wednesday night for those of us in western Kentucky. Despite the ominous forecast of more snow and ice after midnight, Heaven pulled her curtains clear for the final lunar shadowing until 2010.

A crisp northern wind made bundling up a requirement for anyone staying with the moon show until after intermission. This photograph was taken at about 9 p.m., from the back porch of our home in the Mexico community of Crittenden County, Kentucky.

For those of you wanting to catch a sharp, closeup of such an event, be sure to put your camera on a tripod and zoom as tightly as possible. Zooming in under low-light conditions without the use of a tripod is improbable. You will find that holding the camera still enough for the timed exposure is virtually impossible.

The eclipse had almost reached halftime when this picture was taken. Earth was almost perfectly between the sun and moon. Light bending around our globe and through its atmosphere causes the moon to glow reddish orange. The eclipse will be complete about 11 p.m., tonight.

Lunar ballooner

You will not need those goofy safety glasses to see tonight's lunar eclipse. The moon phenomenon is much easier on the eyes than its brother, the solar eclipse.

Scientists were once greatly intrigued by lunar eclipses. They helped the early astronomers in Egypt determine the precise size of the earth thanks to geometry and mathematic formulas.

Nowadays, the lunar eclipse is a spectator sport. Between 7:45 and 11 p.m., in this part of the world, you will be able to watch as we pass between the moon and sun, causing the moon to fall into an earthly shadow. Because sunlight bends around the earth, the moon will turn colors, giving terrestrial gazers a wonderful lunar light show.

Don't miss the event because it will be the last one until 2010.

The first solar eclipse I recall was during my college days while working weekends on a farm. My boss, also my uncle, grabbed a couple of welders' masks and we pulled them over our heads to watch the as the moon passed between us and the sun. No masks are necessary tonight. Maybe that's why lunar episodes are for lovers. It would be hard to steal a kiss with a welder's mask on.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A packed courthouse

About 100 Crittenden County residents packed into the courthouse Tuesday morning for a public hearing regarding a proposed insurance premium tax. Crittenden County Judge-Executive Fred Brown and county magistrates had developed the idea for the four-percent tax last month. Behind a 4-2 vote, they executed the first phase of implementation.

However, after about three hours of testimony from local citizens Tuesday, the fiscal court backed off and tabled the plan until three ad hoc committees can further research various spending and revenue options. The county is facing a $145,000 projected budget shortfall in FY 08-09 which begins July 1.

The large crowd was full of opposition to the proposed tax. Most shared his or her ideas, some with a bit of hostility, but generally citizens were amicable and presented their disdain for a new tax with tact. Some of the comments had a great deal of merit, but others were impractical or down right illegal.

For now, the fiscal court is going to look at cutting more from its budget, but the tax proposal will surface again. The next meeting is scheduled for March 18, but I look for a special meeting to be convened prior to that date. Since the measure was officially tabled with a unanimous vote Tuesday, it will require some procedural correctness to get it back into consideration at the next meeting, or the whole plan will die. Of course the tax idea could be re-issued in the form of a new motion, but that would force another public hearing and would create a timetable problem for implementing the tax for this upcoming budget cycle.

For more on this matter, see this week's printed edition of The Crittenden Press. There will also be more in depth coverage appearing online Wednesday afternoon.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Debris cleanup

The City of Marion and Crittenden County are each keeping their debris dumps open to the public round the clock.

Both locations are for logs, limbs and other plant matter. No garbage or household refuse can be left there. Both are free of charge.

The city's dump site is on Mill Street. Its can be accessed best from East Depot Street. It's a gravel road next to the old railway. The city will NOT pick up limbs or other storm debris left on the curbside.

The county's storm debris dump site is located on Bridwell Loop Road at the entrance of the old county dump.

Our Sunday School Class from the Marion United Methodist Church helped saw up limbs and clean up a few yards around Marion Sunday afternoon. It's a good idea for groups like that to help folks in need. Many older people who live alone are unable to meet the physical demands such cleanup requires. The Marion Baptist Church is sponsoring a similar effort.

Pictured is Barkley Hughes, a member of our Sunday School Class, unloading a trailer at the city's storm debris dump site.

Power outages continue

While most of us in Crittenden County are now with power, many others are not.

Kengery, the electric cooperative that provides power form much of the county, reported Sunday that about 200 customers in this county are still without lights. There were an additional 160 in Caldwell, 100 in Lyon, 191 in Webster and 170 in Union counties without power about midday Sunday.

Schools were scheduled to be back in session Monday in Crittenden County. However, buses will run only on routes uninhibited by fallen trees. Bus drivers were running their normal roads Sunday in their private vehicles trying to determine if and where problems areas exist. The drivers were going to call the parents of students in areas they might not be able to serve, according to Crittenden County School District's transportation director, Al Starnes.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Ah, incandescent bliss

After 114 hours of showerless, powerless darkness, the sweet glow of incandescent light once again fills the hallowed halls of my home. I like to think of myself as a survivalist. Hunting for food, warming beside a crackling fire and reading by the soft illumination of a candle has a great deal of therapeutic appeal. However, after nearly six days of "camping out," it's time to go home.

A long bath, a hot cup of coffee and being able to find a matching pair of socks has its own allure.

The wife and children are now en route from their southern refuge to once again bring familial chaos to the domicile. It's been hauntingly quiet without them.

Grandma and grandpa warmed next to a wood-burning stove, cooked above real flames, ran to the outhouse when nature called and kept milk from spoiling by sticking it down in the cool bottom of a cistern. We're past that now, but every now and then Mother Nature likes to remind us who's boss.

The Bible says that man has been around for at least 6,000 years – science claims it's much longer – and only for the last 50 or so have we enjoyed the utter convenience of electricity. Why did we wait so long?

Thank you Mr. Franklin, Mr. Edison and all those who had a hand in conceiving and forwarding the idea that living in the dark is for the birds.

Among the minority

If you're still without power in Crittenden County, you're among the minority at this point. Power cooperative Kenergy says it now has just 251 Crittenden County customers in the dark. In Caldwell there are 285 and in Lyon 106. Those numbers were provided by the company at 11 a.m., Saturday. The last report from Kentucky Utilities was that it had about 300 without power in the Marion and Salem areas, but that was more than 24 hours ago.

Making progress

In case you're wondering, Kenergy, KU and all of their contracting crews and extra help are on the job this morning. Lisa Owen, spokesperson for Kenergy, said early Saturday that the number of powerless customers in Crittenden County is down to 340. Remember that Tuesday, the figure was 2,400 or more. We have no official, current KU information, but know of a few of their customers still without power.

We are a gracious community, knowing that the utility companies have worked virtually round the clock to get us back on. Unfortunately, parts of the Mexico and Frances communities remain in the dark. Got up this morning, took a cold spit bath and made it quickly to town where at least there is hot coffee and a warm office.

The good thing is that I don't have livestock to worry about. The dog is well fed and has hardly realized we're without lights. In fact, there's no indication that the English setter has a clue that something is awry. Kind of ticks me off the way he wakes up wagging that long white tail. A few farmers have told me they lost cattle due to the storm. Mostly the sick, frail and newborn were at high risk. Since we're in the middle of calving season, it's certain that area ranchers lost baby cows if they weren't able to get them under shelter.

Many other folks are worried about their damaged trees. The Bradford Pears have suffered tremendously. So have pines and junipers. It's clear why those species are not native to this part of the country -- they can't handle the periodic harsh winter weather.

Corey Payne, the local UK Extension agent, is going to be gathering up some information about what can be done to save landscape trees and shrubs damaged by the storm. Pruning them should be done in an appropriate method. We've talked to Corey and are trying to reach a UK arboriculture specialist to find out more details. Stay tuned to The Press printed edition for some helpful information on that front.

Friday, February 15, 2008

God's little helpers

Marion Baptist Church is offering free assistance for anyone in Crittenden County who needs help trimming or clearing trees, limbs or storm debris from their yards. Call the church at 965-5232 for more information. Anyone taking advantage of this assistance will need to stop by the church at 131 East Depot Street and fill out some paperwork today before 5 p.m., or from 9-5 Saturday.

Kenergy just released its latest outage numbers. Crittenden still has 400 people without service. Lyon has about 100 and Caldwell 450 customers without power. In the company's 14-county area, there are still 4,200 homes without electricity as of 1:30 p.m., Friday.

Additionally, the Cave-in-Rock Ferry is closed due to high water on the Ohio River.

Day 5 without juice

Friday marks the fifth day many in Crittenden County have gone without electricity. Reports from around the community indicate that outages are still widespread and widely scattered. In some cases lights might be on at one home and across the street there's no power.

Kenergy, the power company that serves much of rural Crittenden County, said Friday morning that 900 customers remain without power in this county. Yesterday, that figure was about 1,600 so progress is being made.

"This has possibly been the worst ice storm that has hit the Kenergy system," said Lisa Owen, spokesperson for the company. "We are hopeful that we will make significant progress today in our restoration efforts."

Kenergy still has a combined 6,700 customers without power in Crittenden, Caldwell, Henderson, Daviess, Hopkins, Lyon, McLean, Ohio, Union and Webster counties.

On the north end of Crittenden County, a blanket of snow remains on the ground, but in the southern sector and in Marion, there is little visible evidence of the ice and snow that fell earlier in the week. Clean up efforts continue throughout the county. Hundreds of people were out with chain saws, rakes and trailers Friday working to remove trees, limbs and debris from their yards. 

Thursday, February 14, 2008

When it rains it pours

Power outage is not the only problem Crittenden County residents are experiencing right now. Many are finding their water taps dry.

Hundreds of Crittenden-Livingston Water District customers are without running water, largely due to the ice storm that knocked out power this week.

The district's pumps that fill the big 660,000-gallon water tank on Wilson Hill in Marion were without power Tuesday and the tank went dry. Eventually power was restored to the pump and the district started refilling the water tank that serves much of eastern and northern parts of the county. Many residents did not even notice a problem Tuesday or Wednesday because the distribution system still had plenty of water held in reserve.

However, on Thursday, the water plant at Pinckneyville in Livingston County lost electricity for about four hours. Due to that and low reserves because of Tuesday's pump failures, the Marion tower went dry again Thursday. This time, many customers are finding disruption in water service.

District Superintendent Donnie Beavers told us at 3:40 p.m., Thursday that power had just been restored at the water plant. It is now refilling the district's secondary water tank at Moore Hill west of Marion. When that tank gets to a certain level, it can then start pumping water to the big Marion tower.

Beavers said customers without water during the day Thursday, should find that their service is restored sometime Thursday night.

There is one problem, however. The water district is not certain that a major leak isn't causing some of its distribution problems. When a leak occurs, the best way to find it is to look for water coming to the surface of the earth above the broken line. Because of the heavy thaw Thursday, the ground is wet everywhere, hampering the district's ability to detect a leak.

The City of Marion has been pumping additional water into the county system to help out.

As more information becomes available, we'll pass it on.

Latest Power News

Kentucky Utilities spokesman Cliff Feltham just called the newspaper office and told us that much of Marion is now powered up although there are still some pockets without electricity. In Crittenden County and Salem, there are 400-500 KU customers that are currently without power. 

At the height of the storm early this week, there were 3,300 KU customers without power. On Wednesday at 1:30 p.m., there were 1,650 KU customers without electricity and there were 800 without it early Thursday morning. So, progress is obviously being made. The power companies are indeed working diligently to get electricity restored. It's just going to be a slow process.

Kenergy, which serves much of rural Crittenden County, announced Thursday morning that 7,700 customers were still without power in the 14-county service area. However, precise Crittenden County numbers were unavailable. 

There are still very many homes without electricity. I talked to Houston Kirk in Crayne, who is still without; Wayne Crider, who lives just north of Marion has no power; and Richard Cruce up on the hill above Marion (Wilson Hill off Piney Road) is still without power. John Dalton, who lives near Tolu, said his power has been out for one week. He lost electricity in a smaller storm late last Thursday. In the Mexico community south of Marion, there are still many people without power.

There will be no school in Crittenden County Friday, Feb. 15. School officials say many roads are impassable because of fallen trees, ice or both. Also, with so many homes without electricity, it would be virtually impossible for families to get children up and ready for school.


Day 4 without juice

Notes from a powerless, showerless editor of a country newspaper:

1. Over the past 22 years of my existence in Marion, Kentucky, nothing has come close to the disaster that has unfolded this week. Certainly, the powerful wind storms that wreaked destruction on Tolu, Crayne, Mattoon and Tribune over the past couple of decades were costly and devastating to those who endured their wrath. But this winter storm that hit just before midnight Monday has left the entire county reeling in discomfort and loss.

2. Some people are continuing on with their normal lives, but a vast number are still without power, struggling to keep pipes from freezing and limbs from crashing onto their homes. Perils remain and only the respite of predicted 50-degree temperatures today (Thursday) may quell the storm's grasp. Pictured today is Janet Brantley walking her dog. It looks so peaceful as she strolls down Bellville Street in front of the Marion United Methodist Church. The sparkling ice on the trees creates a backdrop of winter wonderland, but it's been far from pristine and enjoyable to reside in this picture.

3. At my home, we're still without electricity. It came on for about 15 minutes Wednesday night, but went off again. Running out of candles. Food from the fridge is on the screened porch. I stuck a chair in front of the flimsy door to keep the coyotes out of the grub. Yes, they are that bold and hungry. I don't live in town.

4. Critters are starving. I've watched deer browse for morsels under every tree and bush they can find. Some have wandered into town looking for anything to keep them alive.

5. Staying alive has been the primary focus of many families in rural areas where they are now into day four without power. Lots of folks fled town early in the storm. My family sought refuge in Tennessee with the children's grandparents. Motels in Eddyville and Paducah are packed. The storm line stopped only a few miles south of Marion. In Princeton and Eddyville there was little trouble from the ice. The Ohio River counties and Webster and Hopkins seem to have taken the brunt of the storm.

6. There's a good chance power will be restored to many more people today. The electricity company Kentucky Utilities has gotten most of Marion re-lit. However, there are still some in the city without power this morning. In the county, it could be a day or more yet before everyone has electricity as right-of-ways will have to be cut out and lines repaired.

7. Thousands of trees were destroyed and damaged by the ice. Oaks that were around when the county was formed 1842 are no longer standing thanks to this powerful force of Mother Nature. The cleanup will take weeks or months. Some scars will last much longer.

8. The printed edition of The Press finally hit the street late Wednesday night. It went on sale at newsstands early Thursday morning. Working without power has been a test in our resourcefulness.

9. If you have photographs from the storm, we'd like for you share them with us. We will try to post many of them on the Web. Send them to If you can, save them at 72 resolution.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

More Press delays

Due to further weather-related technical failures and equipment malfunctions, the printed edition of The Crittenden Press will be delayed until Thursday morning. It will be available on the rack in front of the office at 7 a.m., Thursday.

We apologize for the delay, but the disasters from this winter storm continue to mount.

Stay tuned!

Health department schedule

Jim Tolley, public health director, has announced that Crittenden County Health Department will offer some vital health services for clients from 10 a.m., until noon Thursday and Friday, Feb. 14 and 15.

The health department has been without power and closed the last couple of days. When power has been restored, normal operating hours will be resumed at the health department.

In the meantime, the health department will operate on a abbreviate schedule for the next couple of days. The phone lines are out of service. Should anyone need general information, they may contact the Pennyrile District Health Department in Eddyville (270)388-9747. For emergency services please call 911 or your local authorities.

Kenergy power outages

The following is a report that came from Kenergy, the electric cooperative serving customers in all or portions of 14 western Kentucky counties, just before 4 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 13.

Approximately 8,600 Kenergy customers remain without power due to this week's storm. The following is a list of counties and the number of customers without power in those areas without electricity:

  • Caldwell: 849
  • Crittenden: 737
  • Daviess: 707
  • Henderson: 730
  • Hopkins: 2,200
  • Lyon: 145
  • McLean: 672
  • Union: 820
  • Webster: 1,800
  • Press delayed by storm

    The Crittenden Press printed edition has been delayed due to the storm.

    The Press office in Marion is still without power. Therefore, the newspaper had to be printed out of town. It should be available at newsstands around 7 p.m., Wednesday night. All regular sales outlets will have the newspaper available Thursday before noon.

    Mail subscribers should get their paper either Thursday or Friday. It will go in the mail early Thursday morning.

    The staff is especially grateful to the Marion Ed-Tech Center for opening its doors and allowing us to prepare the newspaper there Tuesday and Wednesday.

    Gaining little ground

    Despite their best efforts, power companies are having very little success restoring power to Marion and Crittenden County.

    County Judge-Executive Fred Brown said Wednesday afternoon that many homes could still go without electricity for another couple of days. With another winter storm heading this direction later in the week, it doesn't look good for Crittenden County.

    Kentucky Utilities and Kenergy – the power companies that serve this area – were working round the clock and bringing in crews from all across the state and region Wednesday. However, their efforts have largely been in vein as trees and limbs continue to fall onto power lines, wiping out what progress has been made since the storm first hit late Monday night and Tuesday morning.

    Temperatures Wednesday did not provide much respite from the icy conditions although sunshine did appear to help melt the roadways.

    Many people in the county will continue to go without power, perhaps into Thursday or Friday. Maybe longer if the weather fails to cooperate. An emergency Red Cross shelter has been established at Crittenden Elementary. Call 965-3500 if you or someone you know might need help. The inset photo is from the Red Cross shelter.

    This family was forced from a Marion home on Keeling Street when a tree weighted with ice fell across the structure. Pictured are (from left) Kevin Tolley, 7; Destiny Tolly, 3; Nathan Stokes, 8; Michael Tolley, 5 months; and Heather Tuck.

    Tuesday, February 12, 2008

    Check on loved ones

    If you are out of town and can read this, you might want to call your loved ones in Marion and Crittenden County to check on their well being.

    Due to widespread power outages, there is a good chance that many people living in Crittenden County are unaware of the problems facing them in the coming days. Most are possibly not aware that power will be out for much of the county for another 24 to 48 hours, perhaps longer.

    There is Red Cross emergency shelter operating at Crittenden Elementary School. There, residents who need help can get a warm meal and place to stay until power is restored in the community.

    Notes from a natural disaster

    A major winter storm nailed Marion and Crittenden County late Monday and early Tuesday morning, paralyzing the community and causing havoc for rescue personnel.
    Power was out all across the county and even in town. Because The Press office was without juice, I spent the day at the Emergency Operations Center (EOC). The following is a blow-by-blow account of the news gathered there:
  • Crittenden County Judge-Executive Fred Brown and Disaster Emergency Management Deputy Director David Travis declared a state of emergency early Tuesday morning at 7:30 and notified the governor's office which mobilized the Kentucky National Guard. Travis was the acting director of DEM most of the day as Director Greg Rushing was out of the county until about 4 p.m., attending required training in Paducah.
  • The Marion Police Department was set up as the county emergency operations center (EOC) early Tuesday. It was operating on backup generator power most of the day.
  • Members of Marion's Bravo Company Kentucky National Guard unit arrived at 10:39 with four guardsmen and two Humvees. Sgt. Frank Murphey was in charge of the relief effort which worked tirelessly all day evacuating people, directing traffic for work crews and assisting local authorities at a variety of emergency situations.
  • "This is the worst damage to trees and power lines that I have seen since I started in law enforcement," said Crittenden County Sheriff Wayne Agent.
  • Volunteer firefighters and rescue squad members were mobilized early Tuesday morning to help clear roadways and evacuate people in rural areas who needed to get to emergency shelters. Few were willing to go to the shelter until about dark Tuesday when it became apparent that many would go another night without power. Most homes in the county lost electricity between 2-3 a.m., Tuesday.
  • U.S. 60 closed at Dyer Hill curve due to falling trees at midday Tuesday. One tree fell on a rescue vehicle at the scene.
  • Red Cross, with local director Geraldine Shouse and crew, arrived in Marion at 11 a.m., to assist the county in providing shelter and aid to those in need. The Red Cross set up its headquarters at Crittenden Elementary School. Marion Baptist and Marion United Methodist churches were ready to open their doors and provide emergency shelter for those in need; however, power was not restored to either building thereby eliminating their use as emergency centers.
  • Smoke in the Crittenden Hospital Emergency Room at 12:03 p.m., sent city firemen in a rush to the scene. As it turned out, the source of the smoke was a heat and air unit that overheated. It caused no major problems. The hospital, clinic and jail were all operating on backup power systems Tuesday. All surgeries at the hospital and appointments at Family Practice Clinic were cancelled.
  • A handful of small fires broke out at homes, but none turned out to be serious fires.
  • Schools in Crittenden County were called off for Wednesday and may be out more days this week.
  • Sandy Heady, who works in the office at Kenergy in Marion, said phone calls were coming in constantly, but she had very little information for customers without power. They were advised to call 1-800-844-4832.
  • Lisa Owen, a spokesperson for Kenergy, said 2,400 Crittenden County residences were without power Tuesday morning. She said Crittenden was one of several areas in Kenergy's 14-county service area that suffered severely from the ice storm. About 10,000 Kenergy customers were without power in the region, including many in McLean, Daviess, Hopkins and Webster counties.

    "Crittenden was the hardest hit," Owen said.

    Every available employee was working on lines for Kenergy and Kentucky Utilities Tuesday and Wednesday. The electricity companies called in additional crewmen from Warren Rural Electric Cooperative in Bowling Green and other private contractors to help restore power.
  • David Travis, the DEM deputy director, said he was advised that a major service line from Big Rivers Power had been severed, creating many of the problems in the Crittenden County area.

    "Anyone in Crittenden County who is without power should make arrangements for long-term outages," Owen told The Press Tuesday. "It could be one day, two or maybe three before everything is back up."
  • District Court in Crittenden County was cancelled Wednesday.
  • National Guard troops went door to door Tuesday searching for anyone in need of emergency service or shelter.

    Judge Brown said getting the word out was difficult because the local radio station, WMJL, was down Tuesday and most people had no electricity to get messages from WPSD-TV.
  • Marion policemen started going door to door at Creekside and Bellville Manor apartments about 4 p.m., Tuesday looking for people who might need assistance. Everyone who did was taken to the Red Cross shelter at CCES.
  • The National Guard's efforts were hindered by a lack of communications equipment. Their vehicles are not equipped with radios that allow them to communicate with one another and they do not have hand-held devices. To alleviate the problem, county rescue squad members were called to the EOC and asked to give up their spare hand-held radios to the guardsmen operating in the county. Most were reluctant to do so because they were also on duty due to the disaster.
  • There was a serious accident about 4:20 p.m., two miles south of Marion in U.S. 641
  • One of the vehicles caught fire. As temperatures dropped at sundown, road conditions worsened dramatically. Roads were completely covered with black ice, according to law enforcement officials, then it began snowing shortly after 5 p.m.
  • Conrad's Food Store and Food Giant were both open early Tuesday, but by late afternoon only Conrad's on the south side of town was operating. The deli was especially busy as people without electricity flocked to town all day seeking a hot meal. Lori Holeman at the deli said they served more than 1,000 meals Tuesday. Getting fuel was another problem for most residents as power outages kept most of the city's gas stations from being able to pump fuel. Liberty Fuels on the south side of town was able to stay open most of the day.
  • Saturday, February 9, 2008

    The media and Barry Obama

    Listening to Barack Obama speak is an easy thing to do. He is very eloquent, articulate and commands your attention. Kind of like E.F. Hutton.

    And that's how many of his classmates recall him from high school and college, according to a New York Times article out this morning. The piece is like many other in the media today, it seems to offer deliberate caution in protecting Sen. Obama. He's clearly the choice of the national media to be our next president.

    The New York Times piece is quite revealing, explaining that Barry (the name Obama went by as a teen and college student) used drugs, but only in moderation. Ironically, his childhood friends and classmates don't recall him smoking pot, drinking or using cocaine to the extent that Obama's own memoirs reveal. The article goes as far as trying to explain why those people might be covering up for the presidential candidate. It vaguely substantiates claims Sen. Obama made in his own book, which was written a few years ago.

    It's kind of an odd angle, but so is Obama's decision to scrap Barry and stick with Barack. The NY Times piece is worth a read. Keep in mind that journalists from MSNBC to the Times and beyond are blindly caught up in the Obama revolution. Even though Sen. Hillary Clinton won the crucial states of New York, California and Florida on Super Tuesday, the national media tailored its coverage to make it appear as though Obama was the big winner. In fact, Super Tuesday was a virtual dead even draw for the two Democrats.

    Here's a link to the New York Times piece: Obama Article.

    Thursday, February 7, 2008

    Sharing dinner time

    Scientist and researchers have been studying the benefits of dining together as a family for years. Oddly, they're just now realizing that it's not the entrée that makes the difference.

    Those of us who grew up in a traditional family setting have long understood the value of familial interaction. A functional family is so important to the moral, ethical and intellectual development of children.

    Sorry, mom, but it's not the corn pudding or homemade mashed potatoes that helps junior grow up and become healthy, wealthy and wise – it's responsible and educational interaction that makes the difference.

    National Public Radio produced a wonderful piece on this issue today. It's worth reading and listening to the accompanying audio news story. Check it out at

    Now, pass the cranberry sauce.

    Wednesday, February 6, 2008

    Absolutely moronic legislation

    Kentucky Rep. Jim Gooch of Providence has proposed the most ridiculous new legislation that I have seen in more than 20 years of reporting and covering government in the commonwealth.

    Gooch wants newspaper columnists and editorial cartoonists to register as lobbyists.

    Absolutely insane. Whoever came up with the idea of citizen legislators meeting every year in the state capital was equally moronic. This is the kind of stuff we pay them for.

    Gooch believes editorial writers like yours truly and cartoonists such as those talented individuals who use charcoal to make comment and statement through the use of wacky depictions of their favorite political buffoons are lobbyists? What is he thinking?

    If Mr. Gooch thinks this is an appropriate retaliation against some newspapers that have recently painted him with pokey dots, he's sadly mistaken. This spiteful swing will come home to roost like a big red rooster.

    His House Bill 468 adds only one sentence to existing law that regulates lobbyists. It simply states in paragraph 22, provision 3 that "editorial writing or cartooning for a news media organization which engages for profit, in these issues" is a legislative agent – a.k.a. lobbyist.

    Thereby, if Frankfort officials ever get their way, those writers and cartoonists would have to pay an occupational tax in that city in order to report on the happenings in state government.

    Absolutely amazing.

    This one leaves me speechless ... which is precisely what some of these citizen legislators want. Many of them have no understanding of the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights nor common sense.

    I encourage readers to give Mr. Gooch a shout at Be careful, he's carrying a muzzle and wants to use it.

    I suggest calling him at home (270) 667-7327, in Frankfort (502) 564-8100 Ext. 687 or at work (270) 635-1139. He's an insurance agent by day and represents Webster, McLean and parts of Daviess and Hopkins counties.

    Tuesday, February 5, 2008

    We know 'Lost in the Mail'

    In southern Illinois this week, a judge is wanting answers to the question: "Where's the mail?'

    Postal officials are looking for about 1,800 pieces of mail sent by a candidate to Massac County residents that never arrived over the weekend. Now, the court is jumping in and demanding answers. The Paducah Sun Online at has an article this morning where you can read the details.

    We in the newspaper business have mail missing every week. Our customers call constantly demanding better service from their weekly newspaper. Although we mail to our subscribers their copy every Wednesday without fail, the papers often arrive at their destinations days late or sometimes never. Where has a judge been when we need him?

    The postal service is awash in inefficiency and flagrant disregard for the mail. Our local post offices in Crittenden County do a good job and so do the other small, rural stations in the area. But when our mail leaves western Kentucky, it's like throwing a bottle into the sea.

    I sure hope the judge in southern Illinois gets to the bottom of the mail bag and finds the missing campaign materials. While you're in there scratching around for the lost envelopes, judge, look for about a 10 year's worth of Crittenden Presses that are missing too!

    Monday, February 4, 2008

    Now that's a preacher

    Most of my old memories of David Cozart have something to do with his days a three-sport athlete for the Crittenden County Rockets. Back in the late 1980s, Cozart was a gangly quarterback with a sharp wit and penchant for using donnish four-syllable words that impressed high school girls and left his teachers with a suspicious grin.

    I always wondered if he rehearsed those cunning lines or whether they came as natural as his boyish smile. Now I know that his preachy manner was no facade.

    Cozart has been gone from Marion for the better part of two decades, but we have kept in touch over the years. He finished his college education at Campbellsville University, a private Christian school in Kentucky, where he played football four years. Then, Cozart moved to Lexington where he has been a successful community leader with the Lexington-Fayette County Urban League.

    At some point over the past couple of weeks it came to my attention that my old buddy was now doing some itinerant preaching – this time behind a real pulpit. Sunday morning my family and I attended our normal Sunday school class at Marion United Methodist Church then skipped across town for what turned out to be a real treat. We were visitors for Sabbath service at a church we'd never attended before.

    Cozart is now preaching on the first Sunday of each month at the tiny Marion Free Will Baptist Church on South Main Street. And I mean he's preachin' Amen sermons.

    The little white frame church just up the hill from Conrad's Food Store is the only predominately African American congregation in this rural western Kentucky town. Its membership reflects the small population of African American people in Marion, Kentucky. About a dozen or so regulars make up the Sunday rendezvous. Although the pews are far from full, there's a strong vibrancy among the faithful followers.

    There is no question that Cozart brings a renewed vigor to the church which is made up largely of his own kinfolk. His evangelistic orations will continue to gain more and more attention as he makes a regular appointment at the homey little church. I predict the flocks will grow as his sermons are publicized through word of mouth. A talented preacher, his clear messages are braced by an obvious deep understanding of the Gospels.

    Over the years, I have had the favorable opportunity to hear Russ Davidson's sermons on many occasions. Rev. Davidson is a young – I say young, he's like me in his early 40s – dynamic preacher who has produced large followings everywhere he's gone. He grew the tiny Union Baptist Church in Crittenden County until it was bursting at the seams. Much to this community's chagrin, Davidson was called away to preach in Missouri. For the last couple of years, he has returned to lead the traditional outdoor gatherings in the tabernacle at the annual Hurricane Camp Meeting near Tolu.

    Davidson's reputation is of the highest standard and his preaching well known by most in this area. I have absolutely no reservations in saying that David Cozart, just a lay minister at this point, ranks right up there with Rev. Davidson and any other of the great Men of God produced by Crittenden County.

    It doesn't appear that Cozart has an immediate desire to leave his highly-rewarding job with the Lexington Urban League, but you can be assured that his ability will continue to draw followers. As a brash quarterback and fastball hurler 20 years ago, Cozart was anything but unassuming. Now, though, he is clearly humbled by his divinely inspired ability to spread the Word of God. To this point, though, the calling is apparently not as clear to him as it is to those who have heard his Sunday sermons.

    Friday, February 1, 2008

    To tax or not to tax

    The proposed insurance premium tax being initiated by the Crittenden County Fiscal Court is drawing a great deal of fire from the community.

    As written and proposed, the plan would levy a 4-percent new tax on county residents who pay premiums on homes, cars, health and life insurance.

    What's unclear is whether magistrates will maintain the current framework when the measure comes to a final vote during its Feb. 19 regular meeting. Chances are that county officials will do one or two things before eventually passing the ordinance creating the new tax.

    1. Look for magistrates to retool the ordinance in order to exclude health and life insurance. Most insurance companies in the area say it's virtually impossible to tax those types of policies, not to mention highly unpopular.

    2. There is a high probability that county officials will lower the rate from 4 percent to either 3 or 2 percent before final passage of the plan. That's based on some of the feedback we're hearing from those officials.

    Opposition to the tax is going to be heavy. Already, the lead is thicker at the courthouse than it was at Antitiem. Farmers and business folk in the county are the most vocal. Some say their insurance premiums will go up thousands of the dollars if the tax is passed as proposed. While they understand the need to raise additional funds to maintain local government, their up in arms about such a drastic increase.

    County leaders maintain that without a big influx of cash, the 2008-09 budget cannot be balanced. Rising costs in labor, retirement, fuel and everything else will create a major shortfall, says Judge-Executive Fred Brown. Slashing contributions to the park, fire departments and civic groups would not come close to solving the problem, officials say.

    Stay tuned, this could be the most controversial issue in some time. The Crittenden Press will provide coverage leading up to the Feb. 19 meeting and we will be there to see how the final vote goes.