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County seeks grants for park bridges

Two walking bridges are planned for the walking trail at Canaan’s Ridge Park, and Webster County Fiscal Court is seeking grants funding to build them.

The court voted Monday on a resolution to allow Judge-Executive Steve Henry to apply for a recreation trail grant through Green River Area Development District.

The money will be used to construct a 50-foot bridge to an island in the lake, and a 65-foot swinging bridge along one of the walking trails. The total cost of the two projects is $253,997.28. The county will be responsible for $50,000, which will be paid with in-kind labor by the road department.

The bridges are some of the larger additions to the park, which has also seen the beginning of pavilion construction. The contractor was scheduled to begin the installation of the shelter this week.

Road department director Randy Norman said Monday the portion of the boat ramp that leads into the lake has been poured. The section on the shore will be done later this season, he added.

Henry said he did not expect the park to be ready to open by early summer, but a projected date for later in the year is more likely.

“The walking trails are a lot further along than the lake is,” he said. “We want to have everything ready to open at once.”

In other business, the court approved two secondary road projects through the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

Regional manager Matt West told magistrates the state will resurface approximately two miles of KY 138 and KY 293 as part of the rural secondary road project. The total cost of the work is expected to be just over $538,000.

Portions of KY 138 between mile markers 26.2 and 28.29, and KY 293 from 2.2 to 3.9 will be paved during the summer. An exact date for the work will be set later.

The court elected to retain the amount offered in the state’s Flex Funds program. Counties are offered set amounts by the KYTC each year to be used for county roads or to be returned to the state for repaving of another highway on the rural secondary list.

Instead, the county will keep the $226,000 in projected funds to use toward work on county roads. No specific projects were discussed in the meeting.

According to West, the state would have used the Flex money to resurface a portion of KY 120.

The branch manager also reported the expected reopening of KY 132 between KY 1340 and the Clay city limits. The work to replace three culverts within a three-mile section was estimated to take two to three months when the work began in early May.

However, the contractor on the job was able to complete the installations in just over three weeks. West said he believed the road would be open by Monday afternoon, or within a few days after that.

The court also accepted the January to April franchise tax settlement from the Webster County Sheriff’s Office for just over $600,000 due to various taxing districts.

The amounts due to each is: county government, $121,398.74; schools, $377,503.80; library, $61,344.11; health department, $32,286.37; extension office, $41,934.69; ambulance, $50,534.64; and Pittman Creek, $20.13.

The court also took under advisement numerous bids received for road department materials and fuel, and approved standing orders for payment of payroll, utilities, and a handful of Community Development Block Grants for fiscal year 2024.

Budget amendments for unplanned revenues were also approved, as the county received its first payment in the national opioid settlement. The funds for the first installment total $109,000. Other revenue came from grants for emergency siren repair and purchase of polling tablets. The county also received payments from for the sale of surplused vehicles.

BOE votes to purchase weapons detection system

Students will return to the Dixon school campus in the fall to a new entrance procedure after the Webster County Board of Education Monday voted to implement new safety protocols.

After numerous discussions about the best way to keep dangerous items out of schools, the board decided to purchase four OPENGATE weapons detection units from CEIA, an Ohio-based company that specializes in detection systems.

The total package will cost $74,834 and should be in place well before the 2023-24 school year begins.

OPENGATE is the system purchased and installed by Crittenden County Schools the month before school finished for this session. Superintendent Aaron Harrell, Board Member James Nance, and other local district officials visited the high school there earlier this month. They observed the school’s procedures and participated in a question and answer session with Crittenden administrators.

Harrell said after the trip that he was impressed with how quickly students had adapted to the system, and Nance reported one had told him it wasn’t a big change.

Harrell added that OPENGATE was his choice because the units can be moved from one place to another very quickly due to their light weight.

According to the CEIA product webpage, each segment weighs just 25 pounds and can be operational in about one minute. Adjustments to the system can be made via an application on a cell phone or tablet, this site states.

Harrell said earlier this month that the portability of the units would allow schools to monitor any entrance in the building because they are so easy to move.

According to Safe Schools Director Zachary LaGrange, the units will be placed at three entrances. The placements will necessitate a change to the morning drop-off procedures.

High school and middle school students who drive or are driven to school will both enter the main high school doors where two units will be placed. Students who ride buses will enter the hallway between the Annex and Dixon Elementary School. Elementary students will turn left to pass through one system, while high school and middle school students will turn right toward another set of pylons.

“You have to have some room to filter students in,” LaGrange said of the decision to place two in the bus rider hallway.

Representatives with CEIA will deliver the units, which consist of two pylons between five and six feet tall each, and train administrators and teachers on their operation. The date for that training has not yet been scheduled.

Before the final vote was made, Board Chair Mickey Dunbar said he was disappointed that Board Member James Nance was absent due to health reasons.

“This has been very near to his heart,” Dunbar said.

The vote was unanimous.

In related business, the board approved the tentative budget for 2023-24, which includes enough funding for three school resource officers (SROs). The district currently employs one officer at the Dixon campus.

The 2022 General Assembly passed legislation that requires school districts to employ SROs at all campuses. The legislature allowed schools to place officers as funding became available.

There has been no discussion as to where those SROs might be placed.

“This doesn’t mean we have three officers ready to hire,” Harrell explained.

The total proposed budget is $23,225,348.93.

In other business, the board approved the student insurance plan for next year, accepting the bid of $22,111.60 from Zurich Insurance.

Board members also passed a buildings and grounds proposal for repairs to the Annex roof with an estimate of $80,488.80. The work will repair damage done during the March wind storm.

LaGrange reported plans to complete work to the infield of the baseball field during the summer break. The intent is to remove the infield grass, level the ground, and place new sod.

The move is being made to bring the field to the standard required to host postseason tournaments, including the Second Region tournament.

The cost is estimated between the mid-$20,000 to low-$30,000 range, according to LaGrange. The district is waiting on a final quote to determine the actual cost.

Princesses at the library

Rosales pleads not guilty in sex abuse case

The third of four men indicted in separate sexual abuse cases in April was arrested and made his first appearance in Webster Circuit Court last Thursday.

John Ryan Rosales entered a plea of not guilty to a single charge of first-degree sexual abuse of a victim under 12 years of age during his arraignment. He was appointed a public defender and a pretrial conference date was set for June 15 at 10 a.m.

Rosales was also granted a bond reduction from $100,000 to $50,000 cash. He remains lodged in Webster County Detention Center.

The suspect was arrested May 16 by the Providence Police Department on an indictment warrant.

Rosales’ case was submitted directly to the Webster County Grand Jury on April 12 by Kentucky State Police. His was one of four such investigations presented to the jury that day, with all garnering indictments. Three of the accused have been arrested and arraigned.

Jewell W. Cotton and Javier G. Ruvalcaba were both arraigned April 20.

Adam R. Perkins, who faces one charge of sexual abuse of a victim under 16 years of age, is scheduled for arraignment in circuit court on Thursday, June 1 at 9 a.m..

Perkins was served on his warrant May 18 by the Webster County Sheriff’s Office. He was lodged in Webster County Detention Center, but has since been released on $25,000 bond.