A budget strained by burgeoning jail costs was the top story in Lyon County during 2019. It led to staffing cuts that affected services, including those offered by the sheriff and county clerk.
An increase in the number of local inmates due largely to offenses committed by non-residents sent budget estimates for jail housing as high as a half-million dollars in the current fiscal year.
Though the most recent estimate was around $415,000, that is still more than double what was paid out by the county two years ago.
But this month, Judge-Executive Wade White got good news in the form of judicial help to speed along criminal cases in the 56th Judicial Circuit. District Judge James R. Redd III has been assigned to help Circuit Judge C.A. Woodall III dispense of his caseload, currently the fifth highest in the state.
This should help reduce the average eight-plus months it takes to close out a Lyon County felony case, thereby reducing incarceration costs to taxpayers.
White and local officials are hoping for creation of a permanent family court judge by the Kentucky General Assembly to add long-term relief for the local judicial process.
The War on Carp heated up in 2019, with late-year news that the federal government is allocating $25 million toward eradicating the invasive Asian carp, which threatens the local economy and ecosystem by outcompeting other species, including sport fish. Additionally, a barrier was installed at the Barkley Dam to keep Asian carp from entering Lake Barkley through the lock on the Cumberland River, where the fish breed prolificly.
In March, carp-crete was also used for the first time in Lyon County, utilizing a concrete that includes Asian carp fishmeal as an admixture. Next year, installation of a so-called unified method of fishing on the lakes will drive groups of Asian carp through a series of containments where they can be easily harvested in massive numbers.
Some high-profile crimes also made news this year, with Kuttawa's former city clerk and her husband accused of collaborating in 2018 to steal more than $12,600 in public funds reaching a guilty plea agreement this month. A judge is expected to formally sentence the two in circuit court Monday, sending Katie Harrison to jail for up to nine years and Clayton Harrison for three. Each agreed to plead guilty to multiple charges and pay back the money they stole.
A former Lyon County teacher accused of recording video of underage girls in a school bathroom will also have his day in court next week. In April, Michael McCuiston was arrested on five counts of installing an eavesdropping device and voyeurism.
He had served as the physical education teacher at the lower schools and coach for the high school track and boys soccer teams. He has a pretrial conference scheduled for Monday.
Additionally, Earnest Atwood Jr. of Princeton was given a 65-year sentence in February for the 2017 murder of Lisa Pace of Eddyville. Atwood, 20 at the time of sentencing, pleaded guilty to killing Pace, 51. She was found dead of multiple gunshot wounds in her home on Oak Drive on May 29, 2017.
Public figures exit
This year also saw the exit of longtime public servants.
Eddyville Police Chief Shane Allison retired at the end of November after almost 22 years with the agency. Lt. Jaime Green was appointed interim chief as his replacement, becoming the first woman to carry the title of chief for the city's police department.
Kuttawa Mayor Jimmy Campbell died Dec. 11 at the age of 67 after serving only a year as the head of city government. Campbell had previously served four years as Lyon County's judge-executive and almost 30 as Lyon Circuit Clerk.
His loss was widely mourned, including by his friend and fellow public servant, Kuttawa resident Bill Cunningham.
The Kentucky Supreme Court justice retired Feb. 1 after 12 years on the high court. With 40 years in public office, he had also served as both judge and commonwealth's attorney for the local circuit and as a public defender and Eddyville City Attorney.
But it wasn't just saying goodbye to public figures that made headlines.
The justice's son, Lyon County native Joe Cunningham, was sworn in Jan. 3 as South Carolina's 1st District congressman.
Lyon County Schools was also in the news, gracing the front page of The Herald Ledger for a number of stories.
In December, the marching band sent middle and high school musicians to the inaugural parade of Gov. Andy Beshear. About two dozen local students led by first-year Director Josh Scott joined their counterparts from Livingston County to march down the streets of Frankfort as one band.
The board of education in the spring approved the purchase of 500 Chromebooks for middle and high school students, giving each an assigned laptop for use during the academic year.
Lyon County Middle School became one of only 56 five-star schools in the state through the department of education's new rating system. The score ranked them ninth among the state's 319 middle schools.
Almost $700,000 in state funds were announced to improve local infrastructure.
In June, Eddyville Riverport and Industrial Development Authority was OK'd for a Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KyTC) grant of $49,780 to cover half of the cost to resurface Agri-Chem Access Road.
KyTC also announced it would be reimbursing the county $647,000 from its discretionary funds for road resurfacing in 2020.
The state will pay for about 10 miles of resurfacing along 10 county roads. The county will be adding another $350,000-plus of its own to add asphalt to portions of 15 more county roads.
A realigned U.S. 641 through Lyon and Caldwell counties took a step forward. In August, KyTC hosted a public information meeting to unveil a preliminary preferred route for the project. The route is not necessarily final, and there is no firm timetable or cost estimate for completion of the project.
In December 2018, a realigned portion of the road from Marion to Fredonia opened.
Also in December, Lyon Fiscal Court rejected a $20 million proposal with WK&T Telecommunications Cooperative to offer countywide high-speed internet. The proposal would have cost county taxpayers $5 million over the next 30 years to subsidize the overall project. It would have called for a 45% increase of county property tax rates.
One person was killed in a 12-vehicle pile-up in June on Interstate 24 in Lyon County. More than 20 people were involved in the crash and suffered some sort of injury.
Eastbound lanes were closed for about 12 hours. Slowed traffic due to construction was to blame.