Simpson County

Facebook/Russellville Parks and Rec Dept.

As the general election nears, many Kentuckians are choosing to cast their ballots by early in-person voting that began Oct. 13, and runs through Nov. 2. 

There’s one location for early voting in Logan County, the Old National Guard Armory in Russellville that’s now a recreation center owned by the city.

Logan County Clerk Scottie Harper said he has plenty of poll workers who are  keeping things running smoothly.

“I have two clerks signing people in. We have two ballot judges," said Harper. "We have floaters, which are cleaning spaces. We have a machine judge. And then I’ve got 25 privacy booths, which means I can vote 25 people simultaneously.”


Courthouses.co

Kentucky voters who choose to cast their ballots  in person in the Nov. 3 general election will have the option of going to a designated "super center" in their county, designed to make the process more convenient and efficient during the pandemic. 

One of the main goals of the Election Day super centers is to minimize confusion that sometimes occurs when voters arrive at the wrong precinct.

In this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, the super center is one of the ways Kentucky officials are making an effort to minimize crowds and prevent the spread of the coronavirus. 

Lisa Autry

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is responding to reports that a business belonging to his wife’s family received help from a federal a loan program stemming from the coronavirus. 

According to data released on Monday by the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Foremost Group received at least $350,000 in loans under the Paycheck Protection Program.  The shipping business is owned by the family of Sen. McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao.


Franklin Favorite

An automotive supplier is leaving Simpson County and eliminating more than 100 jobs. Harman is closing its manufacturing plant that produces amplifiers, speakers and radios for vehicles.

"HARMAN is encountering intense competition and is adapting to the changing dynamics in the automotive industry," the company said in a statement. "While extremely difficult, these actions are necessary and an essential step to ensure the long-term competitiveness of our business."

Kentucky Downs

Kentucky Downs is being sold and its new owners are pledging improvements and expansions at the Simpson County horse-racing track.

Kentucky Racing Acquisition, LLC has agreed to purchase the track from parent company Kentucky Downs Partners, the investment group that has owned the venue since 2007. 

KRA was co-founded by Ron Winchell and Marc Falcone, both well-known within the horse racing and casino gaming industries.  Winchell oversees Winchell Thoroughbreds, his family’s racing and breeding operation in Lexington.  Falcone brings financial and gaming experience to Kentucky Downs.

Goodnight Memorial Library

The Goodnight Memorial Library in Franklin is beginning a $6 million renovation this month. The library in Simpson County was built in 1936 as a project of the Works Progress Administration and renovated in 1976. The current renovation will restore some of the original 1936 style of the library.

Library director Audrey Phillips says the move to temporary space is a major effort.

“We have over 40,000 items that are going to have to be moved. We have tried to weed some down, we’re only taking with us what we need, what we want on the shelf.”

Simpson County Detention Center/Facebook

Several inmates from the Simpson County Detention Center now have jobs at private companies under a new program called SCORE. 

Three men and two women are the first inmates taking part in the program called “Second Chance Offender Rehabilitation and Education” or SCORE.

Deputy Jailer Ashley Penn is program director for the jail. She said the inmates found their own jobs, went on interviews, got hired, and at the beginning of this month, began working at local companies.

Simpson County Schools Facebook

Educators from across Kentucky will be at the state Capitol this week encouraging legislators to restore funding that’s been eliminated in the governor’s proposed budget. Gov. Matt Bevin has proposed eliminating funding for 70 state programs. More than 40 of those programs are related to education.

Wednesday is Education Advocacy Day at the Capitol, an annual event sponsored by the Kentucky School Boards Association.

Jim Flynn is superintendent of Simpson County Schools and chair of the Green River Regional Educational Cooperative that represents 43 districts.

Simpson County Schools

The Simpson County School District is seeing a rise in the number of students who don’t speak English as their native language.

The overall percentage of the district’s 3,000 students who don't speak English as their first language remains small, but has more than doubled in the last couple of years.

Superintendent Jim Flynn said the need to add staff for those students became clear.

“We’ve really increased from probably having about 15 or 20 students to now we’re somewhere between 40 and 50 students.”

The district has added another teacher this academic year for English Language Learners, to go along with another part-time teacher working with ELL students.

Flynn said the ELL teachers travel among the county schools from pre-K through high school. He says some of the students they help have had breaks in their formal education.

Rhonda J. Miller

The owner of the new Dueling Grounds Distillery in Franklin says he isn’t aiming to be one of the big guys on Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail.   

Marc Dottore will make smaller batches of bourbon in the craft distillery set to open in April.

"This kind of happened out of doing some Bourbon Trail tours and seeing how it was made at a large scale, and then finding out there was this whole world of smaller people in the 200 to 300 gallon capacity making really good, hand-crafted quality spirits," says Dottore. "I thought that’s something I could aspire to. I like that.”

Dottore says his distillery near I-65 is well-positioned to be part of the Kentucky Craft Bourbon Trail. That route currently includes Corsair Artisan Distillery in Bowling Green, MB Roland Distillery in Christian County, and Wilderness Trail Distillery in Boyle County.

Kevin Willis

Students and staff at Franklin-Simpson Middle School are hoping to impact the less fortunate this weekend by offering thousands of donated items for free.

Over 750 students have helped collect furniture, clothing, toys, appliances, and household items that will be available Saturday morning during the second “Kids Caring for Our Community” event.

Sixth-grade teacher Cheyenne Brown spearheaded a similar effort in April that led to the collection of thousands of items that were given out to an estimated 500 people. She says the effort has been an incredible bonding experience for students from all different backgrounds.

“It’s really uplifting to see some kids who aren’t as fortunate as other kids, and then seeing how they’re all coming together to work—you can’t tell one from the other. Everyone is coming together to try to make somebody else’s holiday better.

Sixth-grade student Katie Bunch says she and her classmates have been busy over the last several months getting the word out about Saturday’s event.

Gray Engineering, Architecture, Construction

Toyo Automotive Parts says it’s expanding its facility in Simpson County.  Governor Beshear’s office announced the $6 million dollar expansion which is expected to bring another 10 new jobs to the plant.

Toyo currently has a 165,000 square-foot facility in the Sanders Interstate Industrial Park in Franklin. It’s been there since 2001. The company will receive up to $150,000 in tax incentives, Governor Beshear’s office announced.

Simpson County Schools

When a group of Franklin-Simpson Middle School students learned about the number of economically disadvantaged families in their community, they didn’t just talk about it in class.

They decided to do something to address the problem.

Franklin-Simpson 6th grade social studies teacher Cheyenne Brown and one of her sixth-grade classes have collected thousands of items from individuals and businesses including clothing, toys, household appliances, sporting equipment, and jewelry that will be given away at what they’re calling a “free sale” Saturday at the school.

Brown and her students printed over 4,500 flyers promoting the effort, set up drop boxes for items at local businesses, and got the word out through social and traditional media outlets.

“Items have been coming in like crazy from Russellville; Bowling Green; Gallatin, Tennessee; from Allen County—just everywhere imaginable,” Brown told WKU Public Radio.

Commonwealth of Kentucky

Several counties in our listening area continue to post unemployment rates below the statewide level.  The January jobs numbers have been released by the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet.

Simpson County’s unemployment rate was 6.7 percent, as compared to the 8.3 percent mark for the state.  County Judge Executive Jim Henderson says Simpson County has come a long way since 2008-2009, when the auto industry felt the effects of the recession.

“That pendulum swings both ways because, actually, automotive sales are now back at record levels and improving. That’s where some of that growth is occurring here is in the automotive industry," said Henderson.   "But, diversification is really important for a community, so we’re not dependent on one sector of the economy to do well.”

A check of other counties in the area shows Warren County’s unemployment rate was at seven percent in January. Daviess county was at 6.9 percent.  Edmonson and Muhlenberg counties were both above the statewide average at 11.7 and 10 percent, respecitvely.

The Simpson County, Kentucky school district is requiring all students be college or career ready before getting their high school diploma.

The state measures college and career readiness through various tests and credential students can earn, but it’s not a requirement to graduate statewide.

Simpson County Schools Superintendent Jim Flynn says if his students don’t meet the mark, there are safety nets built into the policy.

“They could go out and show their welding skills, do something that benefits the community that proves even though they didn’t hit a benchmark on some kind of standardized test that they can still contribute positively to the community," said Flynn.

Last year only 30 percent of Simpson County students were college and career ready. Flynn says he expects that number to jump to 75 percent when results are released this week.

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