This morning at the Owensboro Chamber of Commerce Rooster Booster breakfast, Judge Executive Al Mattingly and Mayor Tom Watson gave their State of the City and County addresses to community members.
Wade Jenkins, outgoing Chamber Board Chair, started the morning off with community priorities, a list ranked by both the City of Owensboro, Daviess County Fiscal Court and Owensboro Chamber of Commerce. He outlined the following priorities:
- Second Family Court Judge
- New Judicial Center
- Light the Blue Bridge (in conjunction with Transportation Cabinet)
- Home Rule/Flexibility in Local Government Tax Structure
- Maintain Funding for 6-year Road Plan
- Maintain Natcher Upgrade for I-65 Spur
- Complete I-69 and Upgrade Audubon Parkway to I-69 Spur
- Four-Lane Kentucky Highway 331 Serving Riverport & Industry
Mattingly then took the stage for this eighth State of the County and began with the same quote he has the previous seven years, “The state of the county is good. We have money in the bank and we pay our bills on time.”
One of the Judge’s main focuses was on Home Rule, a classification that would give Owensboro more flexibility in local government tax structure. “The General Assembly continues to talk about Home Rule, but it’s just talk.” Mattingly says this new classification would give Owensboro more autonomy in revenue and spending, giving citizens some input on tax reforms.
The next issue Mattingly addressed was the Kentucky Retirement System. He referred to this as the “elephant in the room.” He said government officials “kick the can down the road,” but don’t work toward a solution. The retirement system issues mean $1.7 million extra in retirement funds that will come out of the Daviess County Fiscal Court reserves. “We can weather the storm one time, but what if it takes 30 years to figure this out?” Mattingly says that will cost taxpayers $51 millions over those 30 years.
The last thing Mattingly addressed was the Daviess County workforce. He cited funding that was set aside in 2011 for business and industry incentives, but Mattingly hopes to redirect the focus of those funds in 2018 to support women and minority-owned businesses, encouraging entrepreneurship.
“You know, we have had lots of folks in our community this past year talking about things like marijuana, statues on the lawn, backyard chickens. I can tell you if we would put more emphasis on on trying to raise the economic status of minorities and women, we could cure a lot of ills that go on in this community,” Judge Mattingly said.*
Mayor Tom Watson took the stage last, citing four main concerns for the City of Owensboro:
- Public Safety
- Sustained Economic Growth
- Controlled Spending
- Balanced Budget
Mayor Watson addressed some major accomplishments Owensboro saw in the last year. He said the City shored up fire and police, adding people and increasing pay. He also bragged on the “Mark Brothers,” which are Mark Calitri, new President and CEO of Owensboro Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Mark Snell of Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation.
Watson also put the pressure on Owensboro Health to have more discussions regarding the old hospital property. With a photo on the screen, Watson said, “Look at that hole!” He said he dreams of a Triplett Twist development that would provide a tax-generating property. He also bragged on Gateway Commons, which will open its first store in the next month or so.
Realizing that community input is critical to his vision for Owensboro, Watson created The OBKY Project. This was a 12-session community forum, focusing on: entertainment, parks and recreation, tourism, public service and safety, finance, transportation and community engagement.
Overall, the states of both the city and county are good, as Mattingly jokes each year. Owensboro is moving forward and continues to be an award-winning city that its community members love to call home.
*In the original posting of this story, published on Thursday, January 4, 2018, Owensboro Living conveyed this quote out of context. It has been corrected and we apologize for the error.