Wednesday, December 8, 2010

State Park Employees Feeling Pain of Budget Cuts

Majority Leader Rocky Adkins
Employees in our State Parks have had their hours reduced to thirty hours a week. Yes, the economy is bad and state government  has struggled the past few years but it comes down to priorities. Granted most of our parks are operating in the red but some of that has to do with the economy. As I have toured some of our state parks across Kentucky the last month it's obvious that many are in need of repair. From paint to bedspreads, many of the basic items need replaced. Our park facilities may not be in the best shape as they once were and this may also account for a decline in revenue.

The greatest ambassadors for Kentucky are our parks employees and I found it tough to listen to the choices many of them are having to make because of the reduced hours. One employee who wished to remain anonymous said, "Their cutting our front line employees." Many of the employees said they felt that it was unfair for parks employees to be cut back to thirty hours a week while other state employees were only furloughed six days.

When I asked House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins about this he stated, "We have the best state park system in the Nation because of the dedication and commitment of our state park employees." House Majority Whip John Will Stacy commented on the issue by saying, "Now there is a fifty-eight million dollar projected surplus and there is no need for the men and women of state government to sacrifice with this projected surplus." Rep. Stacy has championed the cause of the state employees and has pre-filed a bill regarding the furlough days.

The time has come for Kentucky to re-invest in our state parks and promote them nationwide. The time has come for Kentucky to upgrade the rooms with refrigerators and microwaves. The time has come to invest in needed small projects like bathrooms and a shower at Ken Lake's pool (My preferred state park). The time is now to restore the morale and the paychecks of our park employees.

It's a matter of priorities and charity & investment start with our people. We didn't have a problem dumping millions of dollars into a fancy horse show that lost money. Many of us in Rural Kentucky are still trying to figure out what the hell that was all about. I have no problems supporting a creation museum that has a big Ark but now probably isn't the best time to be spending money on that especially when we have park employees who are single moms trying to figure out how they're going to buy their kids something for Christmas. Besides we have a big structure in West Kentucky that has two of every kind of animal in it- We call it the State Penitentiary. Maybe we could sell tickets and peddle all that junk left over from the fancy horse show.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Murray Native Sandra Ferony Appears in Garth Brooks Movie

Sandra Hamrick Ferony has been answering casting calls for a number of years but her most recent experience has provided her some good exposure as a movie extra.

Unanswered Prayers produced by Garth Brooks for the Lifetime Channel is Sandra's latest appearance in a movie. When asked about how she became involved in the movies Sandra said, "Six or Seven years ago a friend of mine and I thought it would be fun to answer a casting call, so we've been doing it ever since."

Sandra said the days can be long and you may or may not end up getting into the movie. Having the opportunity to be around some of the best in the movie industry is exciting stated Sandra Ferony.

Ferony has answered casting calls for a number of memorable movies which include Sum of All Fears with Morgan Freeman and Ben Affleck, Head of State with Christ Rock, Flags of Our Fathers which was directed by Clint Eastwood, Sentinel with Michael Douglas and Kiefer Sutherland, and State of Play with Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, and Rachel McAdams. Regarding State of Play Ferony said, "It was great to be around Russell Crowe and Rachel McAdams all day but the hours can be long. I spent three thirteen hour days on the set of that movie."

Sandra Ferony's efforts over the years has earned her the coveted Screen Actors Guild Card.  Ferony who has lived in Virginia for many years says she enjoys being an extra and will continue to answer casting calls that come her way.

Unanswered prayers which is based on Garth Brook's song entitled "Unanswered Prayers" can be seen on the Lifetime Channel on December 9th at 8pm Central and again on New Years Day. Sandra can be seen in a dance scene in which the main characters are dancing.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Kentucky Sportsmen Want Action to Control Asian Carp

League of Kentucky Sportsmen President Dr. Bill Haycraft believes the time has come to stop talking about Asian carp and do something about it. Dr. Haycraft shared with me his concerns last week in Frankfort regarding the outcry from sportsmen in Western Kentucky.

The Asian carp continue to move into our lakes when barges and boats move through the locks. They compete with the shad for plankton which is reducing the population of sport fish. Sportsmen believe crappie and sport fish are declining thus reducing the tourism dollars for West Kentucky. 

While there is a great deal of political upheaval in Kentucky regarding the management of the Department of Fish & Wildlife the issue of Asian carp should not get lost in the midst of political strife. There seems to be no disagreement regarding the damage the Asian carp is causing but there is a difference in opinion as to what extent the Asian carp can be blamed for other perceived problems.

Since sportsmen believe there is a decline in the number of sport fish in Barkley and Kentucky Lake and if so, is the Asian carp to blame? Dan Cayce is President of the Christian-Trigg County Chapter of the League of Kentucky Sportsmen and he believes that the Asian carp are significantly reducing the crappie population. Mr. Cayce is also frustrated with the Department of Fish & Wildlife in what he descibes is a lack attention and effort on the part of the Department. Cayce said, " White crappie is the fish that puts dollars in local tourism's pockets." Cayce believes that the Department is not big enough to address the issue which he feels will ultimately ruin sport fishing on Kentucky and Barkley Lakes.

"The Department needs to enhance the resources not just protect resources which has been their mission," said Cayce. Cayce suggested that more attention be paid to the lakes by taking care of them not just monitoring them. "We need more enforcement and commercial fishing needs to be regulated,"commented Cayce. Allowing commercial fisherman to use larger nets and mechanical arms to harvest the larger carp would be one solution that Cayce would like to see. Sportsmen like Dan Cayce believe that lack of crappie fishing can be seen in the declining tourism dollars in the lakes region. While all sides agree that  Asian carp are causing damage, it has opened the debate as to what extent they are harming sport fishing.

Paul Rister who is a biologist for the Department of Kentucky Fish & Wildlife states that the science shows that Asian carp are filter feeders who are competing with the shad. Rister states that this competition has stressed the food chain which inevitably means less shad which in turn means fewer sport fish. There does appear to be a difference of opinion regarding sportsmen and the Department when is comes to Asian carp eating other fish.

Rister believes that while the Asian carp is a serious issue it may not be solely to blame for the decline in sport fish. There are very few solutions to addressing the problem but everyone seems to agree that getting them out of the lakes via more commercial fishing is the short term answer. Rister said that he thought the present regulations are working but believes the Department should consider a longer season. The net season presently runs from November through February. Rister said, " Do we need to liberalize the season?, maybe." 

If getting the Asian carp out of the lakes on a large scale is the answer then this solution is probably bigger than the Department of Fish & Wildlife and associations like the League of Kentucky Sportsmen. Harvesting large quantities of Asian carp will mean attracting fish processing plants to build  near the lakes. Rister said, "There is a huge market overseas for Asian carp but they must be flash frozen and we don't have the processors right now." The silver carp is said to taste very good at three to four pounds and many compare it to crappie. Unfortunately just the name carp has a tendency to scare people off locally.

I'm sure the debate will continue as to the impact of Asian carp on our sports fish but there are other environmental factors we all must consider. Kentucky and Barkley Lakes are aging and continue to evolve. The progression of farming in the area of no till planting has reduced the amount of silt that washes into the lakes thus causing clearer water. While this has reduced the number of white crappie is has increased the number of black crappie who prefer the clearer water. One can't help but to consider what damage has been done by pollution. I think it safe to say that the poor economy has hurt tourism in Kentucky the last few years. While some folks may not be coming because of less fish I sincerely believe many people just can't afford it right now. 

As the lakes evolve so must our solutions. While town hall meetings are  important to achieving consensus, solving this problem will require a strong commitment from the legislative and executive branches of government. Sportsmen and the Department alone will not be able to defeat the growing Asian carp population.    

Steve Tribble Sworn in as Association President

Judge Tribble and Rep. John Tilley
Christian County Judge Executive Steve Tribble was sworn in as President of the Kentucky County Judge Executive's Association on December 2nd. Rep. John Tilley swore in Judge Tribble along with the newly elected officers which make up the associations executive board.

The quarterly meeting and ceremony was held at Berry Hill Mansion in Frankfort with Grant County Judge Executive Darrell L. Link presiding.  Executive Board Members sworn in by Rep. Tilley were 1st Vice President, Judge R.T. "Tucker" Daniel of Johnson Co; 2nd Vice President, Judge Jim Townsend of Webster Co.; 3rd Vice President, Judge Jim Henderson of Simpson Co; Secretary Judge Gary W. Moore; Sergeant-at-Arms, Judge Kelly Callaham of Martin Co.; and Immediate Past President, Judge Darrell L. Link of Grant Co.

Judge Tribble stated that he was humbled by the trust and support received from his fellow Judges and pledge to serve them and the organization in an honorable manner. Tribble also stated that he was honored to be the second county official from Christian County to be serving as an association president. Christian County Clerk Mike Kem is presently serving as head of the Kentucky County Clerks Association. Christian County Attorney Mike Foster is the Dean of Kentucky County Attorneys and has also served as President of the County Attorney's Association and KACo. Former Christian County Jailer and present Sheriff Livy Leavell served as President of the Kentucky Jailers Association.

Mike Foster stated that historically few association presidents came from Western Kentucky. Foster said, "The distance from Frankfort and the time commitment required made it rare for someone from West Kentucky to be an association President." Mike Foster stated that he was proud of his fellow county officials in Christian County for their willingness to sacrifice so much time to public service.

I want to thank Executive Director Vince Lang and The Marshall of Miller County, Mike Miller, for their gracious hospitality.