Counting down top news stories of 2009

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By Robin Bass

The hours are quickly ticking down. Soon the passage of time will require old calendars to be discarded in exchange for gleaming new ones.  Instead of pages scribbled with reminders of dentist appointments and family birthdays, all those empty squares somehow hold the promise of an untold future – one where the possibilities are boundless. What does fate hold? Who will be the news makers that define this year? Only time and historians will reveal.

Before champagne corks are popped in anticipation of the coming New Year, it is customary to bid adieu to what is left behind. For newspapers, that means the people and stories that made not only headlines, but ones that resonated with readers. These were the topics that were discussed over morning coffee and on the opinion pages. The stories that mattered most to residents of Spencer County.

So in traditional New Year’s style, permit us to take one last look at the top news stories of 2009....

One big buck

Fourteen-year-old Mikie Monroe was the envy of every deer hunter in the county when she bagged a 29-point buck on her family farm in October.

Monroe, the daughter of Michael Paul and Sheridan Monroe, had been hunting with family members the day before when they spotted the mammoth buck on the edge of some woods, and she and her father made it a point to return to the spot the next day.

“We had seen it coming out on Saturday afternoon and we knew it was big,” said Mikie, reliving the moment.

Returning to the area the next day, it wasn’t long before Mikie spotted the animal again, took aim and fired. She missed on her first shot, but quickly fired a second time and hit it in the gut.

The deer fled, but eventually she and her father found the animal and retrieved it. Field dressed, the buck weighed in at 190 pounds, and its rack officially scored in at 26 points.

Monroe will be listed in the Boone and Crockett Score Book with a green net score of 218. She has been interviewed on the radio by the famous Jim Schrader and is to be in his booth next year at the Fair and Expo.  Monroe was also featured on a segment of Kentucky Afield which airs on PBS.

The deer ranks among the top 20 in the state.

Horseshoeing school leaves

October also saw the loss of the Kentucky Horseshoeing School that left its 31-year home in Mt. Eden and moved to a new facility near Lexington.

“It’s a great loss to our community,” said Mt. Eden resident Gordon Miles. “It’s been an icon.”

Mitch Taylor, the school’s owner, director and head instructor since 1989 said the move will help him elevate the level of instruction the school can provide.

Students at the Mt. Eden school received classroom and hands-on instruction covering areas such as anatomy, physiology and good horsemanship. That level of instruction will continue at the new location, said Taylor, who plans to lengthen the courses offered by several weeks in an effort to create a model training program.

Students historically have lived in a bunkhouse, but the new facility will have dormitories and a few apartments for a more comfortable extended stay.

The new location will be more convenient for students to do short internships at a racetrack or equine hospital, while also bringing more adjunct lecturers such as University of Kentucky professors and welding experts to the school.

For horse owners near Mt. Eden who have used the school’s services for decades, however, the move has been anything but good news. The loss has left them in search of quality farriers – often at much higher cost.

“I’m going to miss them terribly,” said Miles.

New businesses

The spirit of entrepreneurialism lives in Spencer County as evidenced by the business openings in the past year. Some of the more highly-anticipated openings were for Snappy Tomato Pizza and the Dollar General store in Elk Creek. The two businesses alone created an estimated 30 new jobs in the community.

In a surprise move to many, Settler’s Center was  sold to Carter Realty III, LLC, of Prospect, in August for $2 million. The sale included the shopping center and about 2.5 acres between Settler’s Center and Country Mart that could be developed in the future.

Settler’s Center former owners were Steve Tichenor,  Patricia L Loeser and Don Lorenz.

In an unrelated move, Froman’s Drug store moved out of the Settler’s Center shopping center to a much larger location just in front of the strip mall when Stucker’s Furniture closed their Taylorsville store.

In all, nine businesses were featured in the Spencer Magnet for opening a new business or relocating. The list of businesses include: Taylorsville Barbershop, Silver Dollar Cafe, Creative Design and Imaging, 47th Avenue Consignment, Goodall Pottery, New 4 You, Liberty Tax Service, Froman’s Drug (new location) and Hickory Smoked BBQ.

Effects of H1N1

It became apparent that no community was immune from contracting the swine flu when the first publicly-announced case of H1N1 was discovered by the Spencer County School District in September.

Letters home with students, informed parents of the actions taken by the district in an effort to prevent any spread of the influenza strain.

As media coverage continued, public health officials began seeing an increased demand for seasonal flu vaccinations and H1N1 (swine flu) vaccinations.

It was not until early November that the Spencer County Health Department was supplied with H1N1 nasal vaccine. A few weeks later, the first round of shots arrived.

In December, the school district teamed up with the North Central District Health Department, and offered the H1N1 vaccine to school children.

Habitat successes

To ring in the New Year 2009, Spencer County’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity celebrated by dedicating their first home.

After five and a half months of construction and more than two years organizing the local chapter, Lisa Reynolds and her family were finally handed the keys to their new home in Highview Estates.

By November, Habitat was already working toward building their second home thanks to a land donation by Taylorsville’s Citizens Union Bank.

Habitat was given a one acre lot on Little Mount Church Road to build their second home. The land donation places Habitat firmly at the halfway mark. An estimated $25,000 is still needed in the form of grants and donations to begin the build.

Crime and crooks

Spencer County may not have the volume of crime seen by our neighboring big cities, but we have our share. One of the more notable items on this year’s police blotter was the discovery of an indoor marijuana farm.

Spencer County Sheriff’s department discovered a basement full of marijuana plants in July on Hickory Ridge Rd. near Mt. Eden. The 165 plants had an estimated street value of $165,000.

Acting on a tip, police found an elaborate greenhouse for cloning and growing pot. In one room, two parent plants stood five to six feet tall. The main area of the basement was divided by reflective, plastic sheeting which separated plants of varying stages of growth. In several corners were large mounds of potting soil.

More than half of the 165 plants were about waist-high. Above them, grow lights on timers slowly moved along rolling tracks so that every plant was adequately nourished by artificial sun rays.

Terry L. Kerberg received two felony charges in relation to the evidence found by police. He was charged with trafficking marijuana, more than 5 pounds, first offense and cultivation of marijuana, 5 or more plants, first offense. His case was waived to the  grand jury.

Other notable events that called on the services of police, fire and/or EMS, included:

• A late night propane truck accident on KY 44 that resulted in a hectic morning for motorists as authorities were forced to re-route traffic along Spencer County’s secondary roads for more than 10 hours.

• The body of thirty-six-year-old Anthony W. Reynolds, of Shepherdsville, was discovered by divers in Taylorsville Lake after a week long search.

For six days, dive teams took shifts feeling their way through the murky waters of Taylorsville Lake. Divers said under the best conditions they could only see a distance of 18 inches. Crews on the surface used side scan sonar devices to aid in the search. Others kept charts where divers had been so that no area would go uncovered.

Witnesses said it appeared Reynolds had lost control of the boat he was driving and was ejected.

• Curtis A. Blandford, a 20-year-old Mt. Washington man was arrested by police shortly after holding up a gas station in Taylorsville in September.

Police gave credit for the quick arrest to Jacob Barmore, a teacher at Spencer County High School. Barmore followed the robbery suspect for several miles, and ended up blocking Blandford’s Jeep Cherokee from exiting a dead end street near Tanglewood Golf Course. With no cell phone to call the authorities, Barmore convinced the suspect to get in his vehicle and drove the suspect to On the Way Cafe, a nearby restaurant, where police were called.

• A missing Elk Creek man was discovered in Lebanon Junction five hours after a Golden Alert was issued statewide late October.

George Smith, 59, was found disoriented, but safe, by a Bullitt County Sheriff’s Deputy following a traffic stop on KY 61.

Tragic teen deaths

Spencer County saw its share of tragedy this year. The first was 19-year-old Donald “Donnie” C. DeJesus, Jr. who died of alcohol poisoning while attending a prom party in May. Angela Barkham, 38, was indicted for reckless homicide in DeJesus’s death in December.

One month later in June, thirteen-year-old James Douglas Mitchell, of Waterford, died in a car crash. Police discovered weeks later that former youth minister Ronald Derek Coulter, 24, of Bardstown, had allowed the teen to drive the car.

Coulter was indicted Aug. 5 by a Nelson County grand jury for second-degree manslaughter, first-degree wanton endangerment, second-degree unlawful transaction with a minor and permitting an unlicensed operator to operate a motor vehicle.

In September, Spencer County mourned the loss of 14-year-old Chaz Goodlett. Hundreds attended his funeral service at First Assembly of God in Taylorsville. Goodlett suffered severe head trauma after slipping off the back of a golf cart while visiting Nolin Lake with his family. The death was ruled accidental.

Revard murder case

Forty-one-year-old Raymond Revard, is awaiting trial for allegedly murdering his wife, Lea Revard, in their Normandy Station Rd. home last January.

Police were called to the scene after Raymond Revard called dispatch saying that his wife had shot herself.

Spencer County Sheriff Steve Coulter said there were “a lot of things that made us suspicious” about the incident, such as the angle of the victim’s wound and other physical evidence at the scene.

A 30-hour investigation led to police charging Revard with murder and tampering with physical evidence. Revard pled not guilty.

Twelve months later, the case is nowhere near being heard by a jury. Revard remains on a home incarceration program after posting bond.

Commonwealth Attorney Laura Donnell said that a jury trial would occur no sooner than this summer.

Ice storm

The late January ice storm wreaked havoc throughout the entire state of Kentucky. Despite power outages that lasted for days, even a week or more for some in Spencer County,  the region was sparred by the full force of the storm. Kentuckians in the western part of the state were without electricity for a month or more as crews repaired service lines. Over 1,000 Spencer Countians experienced power outages that caused them to seek alternative measures to stay warm. Lines began forming at service stations for heating oil. Generators became scarce.

Interrupted electric service was partly to blame for three house fires and the carbon monoxide poisoning of 11 people in the county. The weather emergency prompted city and county officials to open a shelter at the high school. Those at the shelter were provided cots, hot food and showers. At its highest, 50 residents sought out the comfort of the shelter.

Once the weather cleared, the real work began as residents cleaned up broken limbs and fallen trees.

Spending at KACo

Spencer County received some unwanted notoriety last summer when the spending habits of Judge Executive David Jenkins was revealed  to the world. An investigation into the finances of Kentucky Association of Counties found that Jenkins spent nearly $20,000 in charges while president of the organization in 2008, including charges at strip clubs and to an escort service.

Jenkins resigned from his position with the KACo executive board shortly after the news became public while maintaining that he had no knowledge of the charges.

By late October, state auditor Crit Luallen released her own report finding that not only did Jenkins contribute to the “self-serving culture” of the organization, but he was most likely the person who used his KACo credit card at the adult entertainment venues.

The news prompted county magistates to look into utilizing purchase cards that only allow specific purchases to be made. It also resulted in Magistrate John Riley’s call for an attorney general’s investigation into Jenkins’ misuse of KACo credit cards. Riley also wanted all questionable expenditures be reimbursed and for Jenkins to be removed from all board positions connected with the state association.

Prohibition repealed

The unquestionable top story of the year in Spencer County was the repealing of decades-old prohibition laws that prevented the legal sale of alcohol within the county limits.

The issue began in April when a group of citizens began a petition drive calling for a special election to make the county wet. Debate soon followed from religious leaders and another group of citizens who formed an organization called SAFE (Spencer County Alliance for Family Enrichment).

Still it was the voices of the voters that were heard loud and clear in November when the measure passed 2,767 to 1,928. The special-election drew 40 percent of the county’s 11,600 registered voters.

With the new alcohol ordinances in place, businesses are already filling out the necessary paperwork.

The City of Taylorsville has been busy also this month passing a resolution to become a fourth class city. The reclassification would allow the city commission to adopt ordinances to regulate and tax alcohol sales within the city limits – including permitting restaurants to serve mixed drinks.

Support from Rep. Brad Montell has been granted in  the form of a pre-filed bill to be reviewed when the General Assembly meets in the New Year.

One last thing

Of course these were not all the events that shaped Spencer Countians’ lives this past year, just the ones that seemed to stand out above the rest. Other big stories included a judge’s ruling on holding school superintendent evaluations. The action stemmed from a local lawsuit, but the ramifications will be felt statewide as school officials are no longer given their performance reviews shielded from the public eye.

There was also the effort to build a community center that is still trying to get off the ground, the uncertain future of charter government and the school district’s plans for a new elementary school site – all stories that the Spencer Magnet will continue to follow and keep readers updated into the coming year. Happy New Year!