Editorial: Classic Movie Nights will bring more foot traffic to downtown

If you’re walking down Main Street Hazard past 5 p.m. through the week, you’d notice a lack of foot traffic. While it’s easy to place the blame on the lack of foot traffic to the decline of the coal industry and give up, that thinking isn’t the way to move Perry County and Hazard forward.
That is why it is important for residents of Hazard and Perry County to come together and support efforts by others to turn Hazard/Perry County into a beacon it once was for businesses and entertainment.
One of these Hazard residents that is trying to move forward despite all obstacles is Ben Fugate. Most know Ben as the pastor of the Journey Christian Church and as the operator of the Hope House homeless shelter in Hazard.
Ben often uses the hashtag #WhyNotHazard when a new business, manufacturing plant or new entertainment centers open across the areas surrounding Eastern Kentucky.
Recently, Ben decided to bring family-friendly fun to downtown Hazard in the form of Classic Movie Nights, which will have its grand premiere Oct. 20. Classic Movie Nights will have free admission. Fugate came up with the idea that local organizations in Perry County could set up concession stands and generate revenue for their organization.
The first night, Oct. 20, will feature “Hocus Pocus”. Kids are encouraged to dress up in the their Halloween costumes.
The second night, Oct. 21, will feature “Psycho”, a more adult-themed movie.
Both movie nights start at 7 p.m.
It’s important for the community to come out and support these types of events, programs and ideas. Our community can’t always depend on the government to swoop in and save us.
We have to be the change we want to see in the community.
It’s also important for local officials to get behind these types of ideas, something for which Ben praised Perry County Judge-Executive Scott Alexander. Ben said he explained what he wanted to do with the Classic Movie Nights to Scott and Scott gave him his blessing and support.
Ben wanted to use the old circuit courtroom in the fiscal court building because he felt it would be the perfect spot in downtown Hazard. Without the support of Scott, the movie nights would have either been moved or not happen at all.
Other citizens need to have confidence in their ideas and bring them before our local officials and the community as a whole.
The only way our community will survive is if we come together as one.

Editorial: With tourism, the town is the attraction

When Seth Wheat of the Kentucky Tourism Commission visited Hazard last week to discuss the process of gaining official Trail Town certification from the state, he made one point very clear. The city of Hazard will play a more important role in tourism efforts than any trail that runs through it.
Local leaders and organizations are already working on plans for trail development in Perry County. Grants have been secured to help with the development of trails at Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park and the Perry County Park. Wheat said the North Fork of the Kentucky River serves as a trail itself and it already runs right through the heart of town.
However, when Wheat talked about steps Hazard must take to gain certification, he did not say trails in Perry County have to be the longest or most adventurous. Wheat suggested that, if Hazard gains certification, local trails will likely still be under development. Trail Town certification for Hazard, according to Wheat, depends on how attractive our town is to tourists.
This does not mean we need flashy casinos or expensive stadiums in order to attract tourists. A little bit of pride and charm will go a long way, according to Wheat.
Tourists like towns that are unique. Therefore, it is important for local citizens to support local businesses.
The way we feel about Hazard resonates with potential tourists. When someone from another region stops at a restaurant and asks a waiter to describe the town, that person will develop an opinion of the town based on what the waiter says. The Kentucky Tourism Commission sends people into businesses to study ways the residents describe the area before making a decision on Trail Town certification, according to Wheat. We must have pride in ourselves if we are to succeed.
There are plenty of reasons for the people of Hazard to be proud. Last week, one of the nation’s biggest rock stars, Brett Michaels, held a concert in town. There was a car show at a shopping center, a fall festival in Vicco and a political rally focusing on an issue of great interest to every teacher in the state. When it comes to captivating an audience, no one can do a better job than Mother Nature. For the next few weeks, the leaves changing color across the Appalachian Mountains will become one of the most beautiful spectacles in the world. Hazard does not have to spend a dime to make this happen.
Perry County is home to Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park. The Kentucky River runs alongside Main Street in Hazard. The potential to attract tourists is strong.
The problems we have are problems that exist across the country. However, the attractions we have are not available in many towns. As we move forward with efforts to gain Trail Town certification, the question should not be; how can we become a tourist destination? Instead, the question should be; how can we not be a tourist destination?
The potential for a thriving tourism economy in Perry County already exists. It is up to us as a community to stand together with pride and blaze the trail.

Editorial: Raising taxes during economic downturn harms taxpayers

The Perry County Public Library offers many resources and hosts several activities a month for residents. A lot of these events have free admission and bring the community together. Despite these resources and free admission activities, raising any sort of tax creates a burden for taxpayers.
In the Perry County Fiscal Court’s monthly meeting held on Sept. 19, the library presented its 2017 property tax rate at 16 cents per $100 of assessed value This is up from 14.4 cents in 2016.
The Perry County Public Library had the highest property tax rates in the surrounding counties in 2016, according to the Department of Revenue.
On top of that, the library district was one of the few taxing districts in Perry County to raise its property tax rate, this year.
With the loss of coal related jobs and coal severance funds, Perry County is experiencing an economic downturn.
Whether it’s $1 or $100 collected in taxes, it is money taken from a taxpayer that he or she could literally use to feed their family.
Money is tight in Eastern Kentucky right now and raising taxes is an unnecessary burden on the people of Perry County.
The library defended the rate increase by saying the library had to meet their budget and to finish up its long-range plan project.
The project aims to remodel the library so the library could have more meeting rooms available for citizens. The library said it conducted surveys before the long-range plan to get a feel for what citizens wanted at the library and at the top of the citizens’ list was an increased meeting room capacity.
While all that sounds great, remodeling a library during an economic downturn rubs taxpayers the wrong way. Not to mention the library said it needed to meet its budget for 2017, which raises the question why the library decided to start remodeling its facility if it couldn’t meet its budget without raising taxes this year.
The district should consider other sources of funding, such as private donations and grants for the remodeling project.
The library offers many great resources, tools and free activities for Perry County. No one questions the positive impact libraries have on their communities. But, in the future, let’s hope the library board will understand the unnecessary burden raising taxes during an economic downturn causes.

Editorial: Teachers’ retirement system is vital to Perry County

Gov. Matt Bevin posted a video message to social media on Aug. 31 to defend his position on the future of the pension fund for teachers in Kentucky. In the video, Bevin stands in front of Perry County Central High School as he speaks.
Bevin was in Hazard that day to address non-education related issues. However, his choice to use Perry Central as the backdrop of a video message about the fragile state of the pension fund for Kentucky teachers was appropriate because the decisions made in Frankfort concerning this issue will have a drastic effect on, not only Perry County’s school system, but also the future of Perry County’s economy as a whole.
The public school system has become one of the top employers in Perry County. However, with Perry County’s population steadily dropping due to the decline of coal jobs and a depressed economy, the demand to create new teaching positions is low. The best chance a college graduate will have of landing a teaching job in Perry County next year hinges on the number of teachers in Perry County who retire this year.
The option of retiring early is not merely a perk for Kentucky’s educators. Last spring, the Perry County Board of Education discussed the cut in funding the district received from the unmined mineral tax and ways the board could possibly make sure all of the faculty from the three schools consolidating into West Perry Elementary kept their jobs, despite the decrease in funding. The board discussed the number of teachers retiring and indicated that those retirements would help open the positions necessary to ensure the funding cut did not equal a high number of layoffs.
For each young teacher not able to find a job in Perry County, the local economy loses the contributions of another paycheck. The majority of teachers, who have worked locally throughout their entire careers, remain living in Perry County after retirement. Their retirement checks also remain as a contributor to the local economy. Yet the school system needs to hire a replacement for the retired teacher. Therefore, when a teacher retires, one paycheck helping to feed the local economy often multiplies into two paychecks, one from the retired teacher and another from the new teacher hired to replace the retiree.
When young teachers begin careers in Perry County, they usually build families here too, meaning a spouse with a paycheck contributing to the local economy and children enrolled in the local school system. Fewer teachers working here means less children enrolled here. The process of implosion has begun and the factors government leaders highlight to be harmful to our economy increase, with the primary factor being young people migrating away because they cannot find jobs here.
In his video message, Bevin illustrates the complexities of Kentucky’s pension crisis and the need for appropriate action immediately. Bevin is right. The problem is real and action is necessary. If the entire system collapses, our teachers and state workers will face severe issues.
However, Bevin also pledges his compassion and devotion to teachers in his message. Here in Perry County, we hope that compassion and devotion equals preservation of the retirement system we have established because our teachers in Perry County serve as the foundation for a brighter tomorrow in more ways than one. Not only do they equip our children with the tools of a quality education, but they also feed our economy, an economy that is already fragile.

Editorial: Perry’s people

As the publisher of the Hazard Herald, I want to express my gratitude to the community.
When our company had the opportunity to obtain the assets of the Hazard Herald, I implored our company to jump at the chance. Every time I’m in Hazard and Perry County, that it was a good decision is confirmed.
Since we started in Hazard, I found a group of employees who were being held back from doing what we do best, and that is supplying the community with the most creditable local news, sports and information.
The employees at the Hazard Herald are the epitome of the grit of not only Hazard and Perry County but Eastern Kentucky as a whole. The passion they have for their community is immense.
In the last few weeks I have met many people: the mayor, judge-executive, chamber president, economic development coordinator, mother of the owner of the BBQ restaurant, many readers, customers and average hard-working people. What I have found is that Perry County has the resources in its people to thrive. There is innovation, energy and passion for success.
I’m sure that, in the past, there have been issues, which may be carried over into the present day. But that’s where we come in. Our commitment to you is to be a watchdog of your elected officials and tax dollars.
Last week our reporter Sam Neace, went to the county school board meeting and they wanted to institute a tax increase of more than 32 percent. That headline in the Hazard Herald sparked enough outrage that the measure was tabled. It gets deeper than that but Sam will be on top of that developing story.
The only place that information was reported was in the Hazard Herald and thanks to our staff, who reported the issue fairly and without bias, the community spoke up and the measure was thwarted, for now.
Our job is to keep an eye out for these kinds of tactics and report the truth so the community can express their opinion. On that note, please feel free to send us letters that we can publish. Letters to the editor are published at no cost and they need to be expressed.
We will continue to cover all government meetings, including the county, the cities, library, schools and any other entity that receives tax dollars. We are committed to transparency, which will be welcomed or not by the public officials. Either way, you will know who is willing to be transparent.
I met with the schools, Hazard and Perry Central, and met their principals and vice principals. They welcomed me to their schools and their community. They are cautiously optimistic, as they should be. We will earn their trust and their respect as we go along.
Last week we published pictures of the girl’s golf team from Hazard and I made a mistake, which the mayor promptly pointed out. I spelled his granddaughter’s name wrong. That is corrected in this edition.
We have a reporter working with the schools to inform the public of the creative young minds that Perry has to offer. We hired a full-time sports reporter who will be at the games and fill the sports pages with photos and stories highlighting local athletes.
As we continue this process, please know that you have an open line of communication. You can email or call. If you call, speak to Jenny at, 436-5771. Jenny has been with this newspaper for many years and is a pillar of the community.
Thank you for allowing us to be a part of this community and we look forward to telling the stories and supplying the most credible news, sports and information to Hazard and Perry County.