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2013...A year in review

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 SHEPHERDSVILLE - The past 12 months would not be remembered for any major disasters.

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There probably weren’t earth-shaking events that you might remember.

But, as we take a look back at some of the news events that occurred in Bullitt County the past year, you will probably agree that they were memorable for their own special reasons.

In January, many were surprised - some pleasantly, some not - to find out that the city of Shepherdsville had come out of its economic hardships and would be able to give pay raises to its employees.

Employees received at least a 4 percent pay hike but the police department and fire departments saw some much larger increases.

Part of the reason given was the increased revenue through higher sewer rates and the increased occupational tax, as well as better collection of those payroll taxes.

A justification, especially for the police department, was that low pay, low morale and some concern over the city’s financial condition was leading to the loss of a number of officers. Since the pay hikes went into effect, the department has not lost an officer.

Also, in January, the Bullitt County Public School System unveiled a series of security improvement measures. The main priority, in light of national events, was to better secure the entrances of the schools.

Work would be completed on these projects by year’s end. To enter a school, be prepared to show ID and state the reason for your visit.

First Lady Jane Beshear made a visit to Bullitt Central High and met with a group of high school seniors. She wanted to hear from students at all three high schools about some of the key issues in education.

The Pioneer News did a series of stories on the Social Host ordinance, which has been put into place in various communities. The story was sparked by a party in Mount Washington in which underage people were consuming alcohol. 

The Partners in Prevention proposed an ordinance to make adults responsible if by do serve alcohol to minors. That ordinance was considered in September but did not move forward. It is planned that the ordinance will resurface with fiscal court later this spring or early summer.

The television cameras came to town in February when the Bullitt County Board of Adjustments considered a conditional-use permit for an Islamic cemetery in Mount Washington.

A number of residents opposed the cemetery, which would have less than 5-6 burials per year, due to the traffic and possible environmental issues. The board denied the variance request 5-1.

There was a special ceremony in Bullitt Circuit Court in February.

Portraits for former circuit judges Athol Lee Taylor and Thomas Waller were unveiled.

The Bullitt County Bar Association worked with the late attorney Burlyn Pike to have portraits of past circuit judges framed and hung in the old courthouse.

Bailey Taylor, representing his late father, and Waller were both present for the ceremony.

The portraits are now displayed in Rodney Burress’ courtroom in the judicial center. The others are being restored and will also be hung.

In March, Bullitt County welcomed a new leader and said goodbye to another.

John Snider was selected by the Bullitt County Economic Development Authority to be its new director. He replaced Bob Fouts, who opted to not have his contract renewed. 

Dr. Swannie Jett resigned as the director of the Bullitt County Public Health Department to take a position in Florida. Jett was pleased that during his tenure in Bullitt County that the emphasis of community education about health issues had increased.

He was also pleased that the board of health took steps to impose a smoking ban in the county. The health board won its Court of Appeals case but county and city governments have appealed that to the state Supreme Court. A decision may not be handed down for another year.

Andrea Renfrow would be the interim director and then would be hired as the health department’s permanent director later in 2013.

In March, Shepherdsville officials were beaming as it was announced that Wal-Mart would make its first appearance in Bullitt County. Property has been purchased on Conestoga Parkway across from the Shepherdsville Government Center. Construction is slated to begin this spring.

Throughout 2013 and going into 2014, Bullitt County officials are hearing about the revised comprehensive land-use plan. Consultant Kriss Lowry was selected to conduct the work. Public meetings were held monthly throughout the year. At this stage, the more intense and more controversial “color maps” have been put on display for public comment. 

Norton Healthcare officials broke ground in March for a new physicians office facility and a new immediate care facility in Shepherdsville. The facility, which opened several months ago, is on Adam Shepherd Parkway.

Bullitt County Public School officials jumped on board quickly when the opportunity arose to increase the dropout age of youngsters. The new dropout age would be 18.

Superintendent Keith Davis had his contract extended another year - through June 2017 by a 3-2 vote.

In late March, the Shepherdsville City Council tabled discussion on whether to lower the occupational tax back to 1.5 percent. The council had previously increased it to the 1.5 percent mark when financial conditions of the city necessitated additional revenue.

Residents in the Heritage Hill subdivision, along with those who live off Valley View Drive, came out to oppose a possible bridge over Salt River. Through research, community members learned that preliminary work was being done to build a bridge between Highway 44 and Cedar Grove Road. Valley View would be the road connected to the bridge.

After organizing a campaign to fight the bridge, the chief highway engineer for District 5 would announce later during a fiscal court meeting that the bridge, if it is ever constructed, would not be using the Valley View location.

The city of Hillview looked at the possibility of making the mayor’s position a full-time job.

The city of Mount Washington talked about eyesore properties in the community. By year’s end, one of the properties was close to being cleaned up by the state. The old home at the end of Armstrong Lane will be demolished by the state, which purchased some land to redesign the intersection.

The national television audience got a chance in April to see how the Sumner family operates the Knob Creek Gun Range in western Bullitt County. The family was selected to do a reality show and is slated for another season in 2014.

Bullitt Fiscal Court started discussions on hiring its own auditing company to do the annual inspection of its financial books. This came after another audit that listed deficiencies. By hiring its own approved auditing firm, the argument was there would be consistency in the recommendations and the expectations. A decision was made to talk with an auditing firm about possible questions to ask in selecting a firm. Nothing has been disclosed about that meeting and no action has been taken on hiring an audit firm.

Bullitt Central’s Matt Simon earned a prestigious appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy.

And the Bullitt East trio of Shelby Crum, Abby Shelton and Hannah Miles were honored by the State Student Technology Leadership Program for their display.

Constable Clifton Hudson was indicted on drug-related charges. He would resign from office, enter a guilty plea and serve six months before being shock probated in December. The constable’s position in the Second District has yet to be filed by the county judge’s office. 

If you thought the legal battles between the Southeast Bullitt Fire District and the city of Shepherdsville were over, think again. More litigation was filed in April by the fire taxing district.

In May, a man was caught and charged for theft from a Mount Washington grocery store. The accused spent the night in the store before being caught.

Ruth Hawkins was honored locally and at the national level for her volunteer hours devoted to the school system. Hawkins was honored for over 4,500 documented hours of volunteer service - with a whole lot more that weren’t documented.

Also, in May, a new addition to the Relay for Life brought a new sense of excitement. The Ms. Relay for Life contest brought out a lot of men in women’s clothing - all for a great cause - the American Cancer Society. Andrew Brunetti, representing Alliance Entertainment, was the winner in his Danica Patrick outfit.

The school system got into a complicated topic - pay schedules for long-term subs. After several meetings of some very blunt discussion, the revamping of the long-term sub program was dropped.

Jenny Estepp was selected as the new director of the Bullitt County Chamber of Commerce in May.

A meeting was held to revisit the legislation allowing for regional sewer treatment programs. Bullitt is part of the legislation that would allow counties to work together. A plan on the board for consideration was to bring sewage from various countries in a large line through Bullitt and taken to a treatment facility near Fort Knox on the Salt River. Nothing has gone any further than preliminary discussions on the voluntary program.

A major concern over communications issues with some first responders. Hillview police officer Bill Mahoney spoke with the emergency services committee, as well as fiscal court. Work continued throughout the year to find solutions to the issues.

In June, Burress ruled that the general industrial zoning sought for property off Highway 61 at Highway 245 was proper. The land was annexed by the city of Shepherdsville and rezoned for industrial use. Bardstown Junction Baptist Church challenged the rezoning and has appealed the local court decision.

Fireworks returned to the Bullitt County Fairgrounds after several years of being absent. Weather dampened the show but not the fair.

Elexia Claudelle Campbell was selected as the Miss Bullitt County Fair.

Bullitt County officials began a three-year journey to be declared a Work Ready community. After the application process, the county was recently designated as a Work Ready Community In Progress.

Criteria, mainly surrounding the educational standards in terms of preparing graduates for the workforce, will be worked on over the next three years. At that time, the county could ask to be one of the few in Kentucky to have such designation.

Bullitt Fiscal Court voted to conduct a forensic audit. This came after a coding error led to the overpayment of $40,000 to the county attorney’s office account. The money was reimbursed by the county attorney’s office. But the court voted in July to have a more extensive audit done. As of the end of 2013, no one had been hired to do that audit.

Active Heroes, a group based in Hillview which supports veterans and active duty military, received a $250,000 grant from Home Depot. The plan is to build a post-traumatic recovery center for veterans.

The Salt River Music Festival made its debut.

The Pioneer News family lost two of its treasured members. Former owner James Lanham passed away on July 11 and cartoonist Paul Coyle passed away on July 17. Coyle was featured on WDRB-TV after his death.

In what was the start of a long six months of conflict, Bullitt Fiscal Court questioned jailer Martha Knox over the use of canteen funds to purchase two vehicles without their approval. Under state law, the jailer has the right to purchase the vehicles. However, this led to an on-going battle.

The Shepherdsville City Fair had a successful debut in July. Included in the activities was a Civil War re-enactment.

Thanks to some state funding and work through the Bullitt County Sanitation District, progress was made to finally clear up sewage issues in Big Valley. Funds were made available to make repairs to the lagoon system which has not worked in many years.

Rocky Comito had to resign from the Fox Chase City Council because he was appointed the deputy secretary for the state labor cabinet in Frankfort.

Bullitt County was designated in July as a HeartSafe community.

A copy of an eighth-grade test in 1912 posted online by the Bullitt County History Museum became the buzz of the entire nation. Attention on the test even resulted in NBC coming to Eastside Middle School to tape a segment.

In August, Lebanon Junction opted to sever its long-term contract with Bardstown and opted to purchase all its supply from Louisville Water Co. The deal was completed in December.

The Pioneer News did a series of stories in August and September on suicide. 

A special fund-raiser was held for the Log Cabin ministry, which lost its place of worship in a fire the previous month.

Randy Matlow announced his resignation as director of the Bullitt County Library System. Matlow served for over 24 years as the local director. He was returning closer to his family in Ohio.

After an ill-fated attempt, legislators finally got a redistricting plan that all parties could accept and could pass any legal challenges.

For Bullitt County, it means that the number of House districts would be reduced to three, with two having the largest number of people in Bullitt. The senate district would give Bullitt the largest number of residents, with the rest being in southern Jefferson County.

The elections for the newly-drawn districts will be held in 2014.

In August, Highway 61 was designated in honor of Pvt. Henry B. Mattingly of Lebanon Junction. He served in the Civil War.

The city of Hillview approved Sunday package liquor sales with no opposition.

In September, the Shepherdsville City Park was host to a prestigious national display in honor of the 9-11 tragedy.

Sharon Ellingsworth was named the Citizen of the Year and Quinton Johnson was selected Mason of the Year by the Bullitt County Masonic Lodges.

Bullitt Fiscal Court approved the sale of wine on Sunday in those places certified as small farm wineries.

The first of two bomb threats at the Bullitt Courthouse were reported in September. A suspect was arrested for the second threat.

The biggest news of the year may have come in late September. In the latest round of test results, Bullitt County Public Schools were designated as proficient. The district rose from 51 to 73 percentile in the state, making it one of the fastest growing in academic achievement.

This was the first time the district has earned the designation of proficient.

The Old Fashion Days festival in Lebanon Junction reported having a very successful year with the new park.

The holiday season hiring frenzy got started in late September. Thousands of seasonal positions were filled at the local distribution centers.

Senior trips to Florida will be allowed this year. The school board had turned down a Bullitt East senior trip due to a lack of documentation on the educational value of the excursion. After some discussion, senior trips for the year were exempted from the policy.

The local efforts for the Metro United Way fund-raiser reached record amounts in Bullitt County. With Beam Global joining the efforts this year, more than $108,000 was raised and returned to local agencies.

A film crew was in Lebanon Junction to shoot a bourbon commercial.

A suspect was indicted in the 1999 death of Jessica Dishon. Her uncle, Stanley Dishon, was indicted in October for the death. His trial will be held in September. Dishon has also been indicted on several other sex-related felonies.

Michael Rice overcame some physical setbacks to resume his participation in Iron Man competitions.

The Bullitt County Winefest and Colorfest were both held in October despite some rainy weather.

Another exciting announcement came in October as another way to finance a facility for a community college was unveiled. The Bullitt County EDA started the study of having a private entity build the facility and lease it to a college. That work came to fruition in December as the foundation was formed. While nothing has been officially announced, Jefferson Community and Technical College would be the tenant in the building. 

The facility would be on county-owned property at the Interstate 65/Highway 245 interchange.

Hillview police chief Glenn Caple was indicted in U.S. District Court for allegedly giving false information to the FBI. The case is now scheduled for January in federal court.

Bullitt Fiscal Court assigned the home incarceration program to the sheriff’s department after some concerns were raised about the detention center’s administration of the program.

However, concerns were raised when a person assigned in circuit court to the HIP program was released. The issue resulted in a series of hearings and a motion filed to make the county part of the criminal case. That was later remanded.

However, a lawsuit was filed by jailer Martha Knox against the fiscal court, county attorney and sheriff over removing the program from her control. That matter is still awaiting a decision on whether Burress will be allowed to preside in the case.

Martie’s Kitchen was opened by the First Baptist Church of Shepherdsville in honor of Martie Korfhage. Meals are served to anyone in need each Monday.

The Bullitt County Sheriff’s Department renamed its HIDE unit as the drug task force. Mike Halbleib, a retired Louisville Metro officer, was hired as the drug task force director.

Ruth Chowning, the long-time extension agent for family and consumer sciences, was honored by the national organization for her distinguished service.

Sarah Hardin was selected as the new Safe Schools coordinator for the Bullitt County system. She replaces Jaime Goldsmith, who took a counseling position in Jefferson County.

In November, Shepherdsville was selected as the 11th most affordable suburb cities in the nation. Movoto.com did the survey. The survey looked at several criteria for cities who are located around municipalities who are in the top 50 in population in the country.

Bullitt Fiscal Court proposed a smoking ban on county government buildings it owns or leases. Unbeknownst to many, there is no prohibition at this time. However, when the magistrates were ready to vote, several concerns were raised by the public. The concern was the ordinance could restrict the health department’s countywide smoking ban, if affirmed by the supreme court. The court tabled any action until Jan. 7.

Since starting its on-line tracking program with pawn shops and scrap metal dealers, over $250,000 in stolen goods had been recovered by the sheriff’s office.

The soil under the planned college and career center at Bullitt Central caused some problems for the local school district. The worst-case scenario would be $350,000 to bring in suitable fill material. those involved in the project felt the total would actually be much less. All three high schools will have new college and career centers constructed. It was hoped all three would be ready by the beginning of next school year.

Hailee Arnett, a student at Crossroads Elementary, was honored by WAVE TV’s Dawne Gee. Arnett was presented a $1,000. Her family was selected after her mother’s unexpected death in October.