The red zone has potentially affected the plans for the sports plex in McCracken County. The sports plex project is set to break ground this year, however, the money designated for the project has been strained due to the pandemic.
McCracken County Judge Executive Craig Clymer said, "It's made us have to look and see if we can find other avenues of revenue." The sports plex was designed to replace the old Paducah City ball fields located at Noble Park in Paducah and the soccer fields located at the former McCracken County landfill. The money to build the new outdoor sports plex was to be generated from the hotel occupancy sales tax. The budgeted amount for the project is one million dollars. As of the first of December 2020, $800,000 had been collected.
The tourism industry which includes hotels has been greatly affected this year due to the pandemic. The hotel industry and the restaurant industry have been two of the hardest hit across the board. Both could fall under the category of tourism. In McCracken County, hotel occupancy rates are down 22.3% at 44.8% for 2020. With fewer hotel stays there's less taxable income being collected.
Judge Clymer is discussing other ways to work around the shortfall. He suggested the possibility of revenue bonds or a financial partnership with the City of Paducah. Regardless, the project won't be postponed. There is a likelihood that the number of available fields may be reduced at the start with a plan to build more fields later down the line.
The county acquired Bluegrass Downs last year and the plan was to build the outdoor sports plex on the land donated to the county. The location of Bluegrass Downs is down the road from the old Noble Park ball fields. The McCracken County Sports Tourism Commission paid for a study last year to ensure the project wouldn't affect the land or the flow of water, according to the commission chair Jim Dudley.
This summer the indoor recreational sports plex was a great addition boosting tourism and promoting future tournaments. The idea behind each of the projects is to have tournaments that generate dollars for the community. The indoor summer tournaments played in 'a bubble' much like the NBA. For reasons that are obvious, the 'bubble' was designed to keep activities moving forward while being extremely COVID cautious. Fewer crowds were easier to social distance and the venue was more easily sanitized...not to mention better contact tracing in case of an outbreak.
After red zone counties experienced a second school shutdown late in the year, tournaments were suspended. The hope is that tournament play can get back to semi-normal soon and give the hotel businesses a boost generating the dollars needed to complete the sports plex project as planned.
Getting the economy up and running again is essential to all of us. Getting COVID-19 vaccinations will be a real game changer moving forward for spring and summer tournaments.
The Paducah Board of Commissioners meeting was held at 5:30 pm on Tuesday, January 12 with Mayor George Bray and Commissioners' Sandra Wilson, Raynarldo Henderson, David Guess, and Carol Gault. Also in attendance was City Manager Jim Arndt and the city clerk.
There were several items on the agenda tonight up for a vote. The first was the appointment of the Mayor Pro Tempore and various board members and reappointments. The second was the decision regarding the Lose and Associates, Inc. contract for the Indoor Recreation and Aquatic Center. Third, was the alcoholic beverage license renewal municipal order.
As expected, the commissioner with the most votes was unanimously voted in by the city commission as the Mayor pro-tem. Commissioner Sandra Wilson received the most votes in the November 2020 election. Other board appointments and various reappointments took place as well.
Next on the agenda was the decision on whether or not to continue with the design project with Lose Design for the Indoor Recreation and Aquatic Center. Last year, the project was placed on hold and a decision on how to proceed was to fall on the incoming city commission.
Discussions took place before the vote. New commissioner's Guess, Gault and Henderson all agreed the timing was off for this particular project, partially due to the effects of COVID-19. Commissioner Henderson went on to say it wasn't a concept issue but one of timing.
Commissioner Wilson said, " The Wellness Center project was affected by COVID-19. It was the hardest of times. There were major decisions that needed to be made. We had no idea what it would do to our city." Wilson said she appreciated the new direction the new commission was taking and agreed that the timing for the project wasn't good.
There was discussion about the possibility of a YMCA coming to Paducah and if this was the case, they would want to use their own design firm.
Mayor Bray said, "COVID has had an impact on this (the project). There may be opportunity to work with the Y." He said the structure would need to be totally rethought. More partners would need to be identified; those with 'skin in the game'. The city would look for the right partners going forward.
In the end, the Paducah Board of Commissioners approved the municipal order to terminate the professional design and construction management agreement with Lose and Associates, Inc. for the Indoor Recreation and Aquatic Center. The City entered into the agreement in August 2019 with the agreement paused in August 2020. Each member of the Board stated that this is not the best timing for the project.
After voting on the Aquatic Center, an emergency ordinance was introduced. The order related to the waving of fees pertaining to alcoholic license renewal. Bray said, "Paducah is known as a restaurant town." He said we want the industry to know how important they are to our community and to our economy. By waving the fees for the upcoming year it would act as a "signal from the city that these restaurants are very important to us," explained Bray.
Commissioner Henderson said, "Anything we can do to lighten the load." The Paducah Board of Commissioners approved the emergency ordinance to waive the 2021 renewal fees that are due January 31, 2021, for certain alcohol license types.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Executive Orders from the Governor’s office, many businesses were required to either close or operate at a diminished capacity with restaurants and bars seeing a substantial financial impact. The Kentucky Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has allowed for a 12-month fee waiver for certain license types. This action by the City of Paducah mirrors the State’s action and provides a benefit to the businesses totaling approximately $97,000. In Paducah, 108 business which have a total of 201 licenses (some businesses have more than one license) will benefit from the renewal waiver.
Rick Murphy jumped on to discuss some of the ordinances that were inherited from the previous commission as well as the introduction of several ordinances as first time readings.
At the end of the meeting, each commissioner was asked if they had further comments. Mayor Bray discussed vaccine distribution and COVID-19. He said he gets calls everyday about the vaccine and citizens wanting to know when they would be eligible for their inoculation.
Bray said in a report today from our local health department, McCracken County has seen 4,500 positive COVID-19 cases and 75 deaths. Bray said, "I personally have lost two friends to COVID." He said the process needs to be accelerated and those over 70 years of age need to be vaccinated. Bray said that the city is willing to do whatever it takes to help. "The state of Kentucky allocates the vaccine and we're expecting more this week and next week." said Bray. He continued, "I know how important it is."
Women in the duck blind aren't fish out of water at The Green Timber Duck Club in Ballard County, Kentucky
The Green Timber Duck Club located in Ballard County, Kentucky owned by Desiree' Owen and David Jones. Pictured with Owen and Jones are county music singers Walker Montgomery and Travis Denning as well as a couple of other friends.
Just a small town girl living in Barlow, Kentucky with a 150 acre farm and big plans. Waterfowl hunting is a sport that’s either loved or never tried again. The love/hate relationship may lie in the hands of the teacher.
On the one hand, duck season takes place during the winter months when it’s cold, damp, and generally miserable. Much time is spent in the mud and the muck. The hours are long and feelings of being cold, wet, and tired are likely to be experienced at the same time. On the other hand, if there’s a proper guide that leads you to the ducks, shares the ethereal beauty of the sunrise in the wee hours of the morning, and encourages the challenge of the hunt, it could be the best time of your life.
Desiree Owen and partner David Jones bought a farm in the Barlow River Bottoms five years ago with development plans for premier waterfowl hunting. This isn’t the first time Owen has ventured out in favor of unconventional and ‘out of the box’ career moves.
“I was fortunate to grow up in such a beautiful area where you could enjoy lake life and farm life.” said Owen. A native of Lyon County, Kentucky, Owen enjoyed both boating and horseback riding growing up. Her mom had been a teacher for the Lyon County Schools for 28 years. In this western Kentucky county, Owen received a well-rounded education in life.
Her dad was very interested in the events of the day. “My father read two newspapers everyday as well as two weekly news magazines...I ensured that I did too.” Owen said she knew at 15 years old she wanted a career in broadcast journalism.
In addition to being an avid reader, Owen took dance lessons and twirled a baton for many years. She was involved in beauty pageants and was the Captain on the Drill Team at Lyon County High School. After graduating, Owen went to Murray State University to pursue a career in news.
Majoring in broadcast journalism with a minor in political science and advertising, Owen was making all the right moves to prepare herself for her dream job. There were several professors and mentors that looked out for Owen and encouraged her to go after what she wanted.
While at MSU, Owen was on the Homecoming Queen Court furthering her allure to the beauty pageant world. As a former beauty queen, she worked as a consultant to other beauty pageant contestants. From time to time Owen sat in the judges seat at various local pageants. But the world of pageantry was only a stepping stone to bigger and better adventures.
Owen's first job after graduating college was with the radio station in Paducah, WKYX/WKYQ. “I answered an ad for a sales job but the owner of Bristol Broadcasting made a rare visit to Paducah and sat in on my interview. He told the GM to ‘put her on the air’.” They offered the Lake Patrol position.
It made sense, Owen was from Lyon County. The county’s two tourist towns Eddyville and Kuttawa are both located on Lake Barkley. Approximately one-third of Lyon County lies in the Land Between the Lakes Recreation Area. LBL offers a wide range of attractions including hunting, boating, fishing, bird and wildlife watching just to name a few.
The Lake Patrol broadcast started with a couple of disc jockeys making small talk on the radio about lake events. Owen decided to make it her own. She reported on fishing, lake festivals, interviewed locals, and created a real ‘buzz’ around the lakes. Of course, at this time there were no cell phones so all reports had to be called in by landline. After the summer gig, she was promoted to afternoon news anchor.
As the rising anchor started covering city hall, school board meetings and other events happening in the region, she was quickly promoted to news director and morning anchor. During her time at the station, she won various awards such as Best Reporter, Best Newscast, Best Investigative Reporting, Best Documentary, and the list goes on. She said, “This was one of my most enjoyable jobs ever and I couldn’t have asked for a better work family.”
Owen was in demand. She received simultaneous offers from two different companies. WPSD, the local television station, offered a morning anchor position and WKCTC (formerly Paducah Community College) wanted her as their Public Relations Director. Owens chose option two. She said, “It opened a lot of doors for me.”
After WKCTC, she became Executive Director at Kentucky's Western Waterlands, a nonprofit marketing organization that served 14 western Kentucky counties. Next, she took a position as Development Director for the KY Tourism Council in Louisville, Kentucky which worked closely with the Cabinet. Then, she became Development Director for the Paducah Chamber of Commerce.
One of the biggest, most widely respected and admired community projects in recent years was the development of the Luther F. Carson Four River Center commonly referred to as 'The Carson Center' in downtown Paducah. Owen was hired as the executive director of the center to appoint a board of directors and formulate a funding plan for the 'then' Four Rivers Center. At the end of the day, the $46 million event center was built to completion in January 2004 opening its doors the following month.
Owen participated in other local and regional projects for the next several years. She was never one to be swayed from the hard stuff. In fact, Owen was ready to get back to her roots. She was craving the outdoors and all of the beauty and splendor that went along with it.
Five years ago, the purchased Ballard County farm named The Green Timber Duck Club became Owen's happy place just as the lakes and farm land in Lyon County had been her refuge as a child. “We’ve built roads, levees, installed deep wells with the capacity to flood corn fields, timber, or potholes for ducks.” Some of the best duck hunting can be found in the smallest and least obvious spots. “It’s important to go where the ducks want to be on any given day.” said Owen.
Currently, the farm has four floating duck blinds. Floating duck blinds are camouflaged to its natural surroundings enabling the hunter to get a closer shot. It’s truly an architectural masterpiece. The next phase of the expansion for the property is to build a hunting lodge. The plan is to have the lodge completed by next season along with a long range shooting area.
The farm offers a small number of club memberships. Owen said, “We hunt 60 days of duck season and spend the other 300 odd days preparing for it.”
Owen's partner Jones is a lifelong outdoorsman and is a professional hunting and fishing guide as well as a professional bass tournament angler. Both Owen and Jones were named Persons of the Year by the Ducks Unlimited Wetherby Chapter in Frankfort March 2020. They are active members in the nonprofit organization that is dedicated to the conservation of wetlands as well as waterfowl, and other wildlife.
Most of Owen's downtime is spent around her passion which is the outdoors. When vacationing, she enjoys traveling out west. She and Jones fish on Kentucky and Barkley lakes. They love to visit national parks and historical markers. The two participate in competitive rifle shooting. It’s true love and admiration for the outdoors.
Famous women throughout history have made it possible for women to become outdoor enthusiasts. Today’s women are on Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms sharing their passion and influencing young women to get involved in a predominantly male dominated sport. Owen is one of those women that is opening doors for other women to actively pursue their passion.
Paducah Board of Commissioners meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. and will be conducted entirely by video and/or audio conferencing. The meeting is available on the City’s public access channel, Government 11 (for Comcast subscribers), and will be streamed live for the public’s convenience on Youtube at https://youtu.be/WiZheQcPVKs.
For those who want to comment on an agenda item virtually, submit a Public Comment Card by 3:30 p.m. Tuesday and a link/phone number to access the meeting will be provided. The agenda, packet, and public comment card can be found at http://paducahky.gov/2021-city-commission
Paducah City Manager Jim Arndt will not seek to renew his contract that expires June 30, 2021. The city manager told the Board of Commissioners and team leaders of his intentions this week. Arndt and other city leaders have been battling the effects of COVID-19 on city finances and controversial projects like the Paducah Aquatic Center and the TIF (Tax Increment Financing) district for nearly a year.
Arndt has been city manager since July 2018 and is originally from Charleston, Illinois. His plan is to open a local government management consulting firm to be closer to his grandbabies and family.
“The dream of opening my own consulting business has been in my mind for years. I feel that I’m ready to pursue it and share with other government leaders the knowledge that I have gained while working as a professional city manager. Being a member of Team Paducah and this incredible city over the past few years has provided me with a wealth of information and experiences, best practices, and treasured memories. I will miss this warm, inviting community and the incredible city employees,” said Arndt in a news release by the city.
Mayor George P. Bray was surprised and disappointed to hear the news. Mayor Bray said, “I wish Jim and his family the best. He has clearly made an impact on Paducah, and during my first days as mayor, I have developed the utmost respect for his professionalism, positivity, and drive to excel.”
Arndt went on to say that COVID-19 has made him realize how important those special moments are with family. He and his wife Kim, would like to move back to Illinois to spend more time with the twin grandbabies.
Over the past year, the pandemic is one of several major issues facing city leaders. Coming up for a vote in the first city commission meeting of the new year is the fate of the aquatic center. The project has been on pause since July and deciding if the center will move forward or be permanently halted will be on the table.
If the aquatic center is voted down, the city will have to find a different way to invest the $20 million dollars slated for the project. Both sides, the ‘for the aquatic center’ and the ‘against the aquatic center’ have their reasons for wanting to see the project either advance or stopped.
Dr. Shiraz Patel is an orthopedist in Paducah and a volunteer coach on the Paducah Swim Team. He and others have discussed the need for a ‘YMCA” type facility for years and this was an opportunity to see it to fruition. He explained in previous interviews that a town with two major hospitals and a premier art center could benefit from the use for their ‘everyday grind.’
Those against the aquatic center would like to see the money put to use by fixing roads and infrastructure. They want the newly-elected commission to do what they said they were going to do and improve/fix the city’s stormwater problem.
Arndt has been in the storm of controversy with the TIF (Tax Increment Financing) district project. TIF would allow the city to divert future property tax revenue generated within that district toward economic development projects. The agreement with Weyland Ventures of Louisville was to create a boutique motel, residential property, and commercial spaces. Those for the project see potential for economic growth and the revitalization of the downtown area. Those against say the city will be taking on more debt and the loss of parking spaces would affect city festivals. The project is currently influx.
Arndt has offered to stay after his contract ends to assist with the transition if needed. Mayor Bray added, “We will begin an immediate search for a new city manager, and Jim has committed to remain 100% engaged through July 1."