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Top 10 of 2008

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The News-Journal looks back on the year's top stories.

By James Roberts

2008 saw several milestones in Taylor County. The jail opened, alcohol was served for the first time in decades and J.B. Holmes and Emily Cox took the Campbellsville/Taylor County name to the world stage.

As we usher in 2009, the Central Kentucky News-Journal is looking back at the year's 10 biggest stories. Here they are, in no particular order.

The First Drink

On Oct. 17, Café Bonin became the first Campbellsville restaurant to serve alcohol in 71 years.

Café Bonin is the first, and so far, the only, restaurant to serve alcohol in Campbellsville since voters approved by the drink sales in May. And to mark the occasion, Café Bonin invited Byron Cravens, the great-grandson of Garland Shipp, the man who served the last alcoholic beverage legally sold in Campbellsville in 1937, to take the first drink.

In May, Campbellsville voters approved a measure allowing restaurants in Campbellsville seating at least 50 people and deriving at least 70 percent of their revenue from food sales to serve alcohol by the drink. However, alcohol can only be served in conjunction with a meal. A meal can be anything ordered off the menu.

The measure passed by 74 votes and effectively makes Campbellsville a moist city. A dry county that contains a city that allows some form of alcohol sales is considered moist.

Shortly after the election, a lawsuit was filed seeking to throw out the election results. In June, Lebanon attorney Rob Spragens filed a petition contesting the local option election on behalf of Don and June Bishop, Russell Burris and Murey G. Finn.

Local Alcoholic Beverage Control Officer Ed Miladin said other restaurants are likely awaiting a ruling on the suit before applying for a license.

Detention Center opens

Construction of the jail began in early 2007, a little more than two years after magistrates first voted it into existence.

Almost two years of construction and several delays later, the jail opened Sunday, Nov. 16.

Taylor County Jailer Rick Benningfield is currently working to fill the jail's 217 beds.

With the jail now open, Taylor County Judge/Executive Eddie Rogers said in November, the County is faced with meeting the financial obligations that come with it.

"This Court is faced with making this financially feasible for the County."

As of Monday, the jail housed about 75 inmates.

Superintendents stepping down

Within a day of one another, Campbellsville Independent Superintendent Diane Woods-Ayers and Taylor County Superintendent Gary Seaborne announced they will vacate their posts at the end of the 2008-2009 school year.

Seaborne said he is retiring after 27 years in Taylor County School's top spot, while Woods-Ayers said she would not seek a contract renewal after four years on the job.

A week later, Taylor County School Board contracted with the Kentucky School Board Association to help find Seaborne's replacement. Campbellsville Schools will discuss their options during their regular meeting this month.

Economic development

With a new company and an expansion under its belt and relatively few signs of the economic slump, 2008 was a good year for Taylor County's economic development efforts.

INFAC Corp., a South Korea-based automotive cable and electronics manufacturer opened its new facility in Campbellsville in July, while Fluortubing USA, a manufacturer of Polytetrafluoraethylene (Teflon(r)) plastic tubing, announced that it would move part of its manufacturing operations to Campbellsville from its subsidiary company - Fluortubing B.V. of Utrecht, The Netherlands.

INFAC began operations of its distribution and sales center in the former Fleetwood Travel Trailers building in 2008 and expects to hire 75 people within the first two years of operation.

The Campbellsville operation marks only its second North American facility. The company has a sales and engineering office in Michigan that opened in 2005.

A leading producer and worldwide supplier of automotive parts, INFAC provides products for several vehicle manufacturers, including Hyundai, Kia, Isuzu, Mazda and Honda.

Fluortubing USA's announcement coincided with news that the company will manufacture tubes to be used on NASA's Mars probe to be launched in 2010. The company expects to hire 25 initially.

The $1.1 million investment allows the company to move from distributing into manufacturing. It is located in the 48,000-square-foot former Air Safety building on Industrial Drive.

Fluortubing's products are used in biopharmaceuticals, chemical synthesized pharmaceuticals and chemical processing as well as in automotive, aerospace and many other products in North America and Asia.

The economic situation has delayed Fluortubing's Campbellsville launch.

"We're delaying some of big project expansions until the first quarter of 2009," said Jack Wisdom, Fluortubing USA president.

Another sign of the slumping economy surfaced in early December when Murakami Manufacturing USA, citing a drop in automotive sales, laid off 28 employees. The company produces rearview mirrors for automotive manufacturers.

According to a MMUS press release, "The economy as a whole has created significant challenges for the automotive industry. As a result, we have had to make a difficult decision within our company to ensure the future success of MMUS."

Sam Polk, MMUS human resources manager, said the job cuts are a result of restructuring the operation so that it may continue to meet customer needs. Polk said the cuts came from within production teams.

Holiday Helpline

Those economic woes likely spilled over into the Holiday Helpline. Requests to the Helpline are up 40 percent, rising from 342 last year to 488 this year. In all, around 1,500 were served this Christmas.

The Helpline is for families who would not otherwise have Christmas and is a joint effort by agencies in the community to coordinate holiday giving so those in need receive help and all needs are met.

Information is taken by volunteers and compiled into a database. The database is used as a source for area churches, clubs and organizations that want to provide assistance to families during the holidays.

The information is organized based on what has been requested - food or gifts - and then forwarded to several groups, including the Taylor County Ministerial Association Food Pantry, churches, Campbellsville/Taylor County Fire Department, Campbellsville/Taylor County Rescue and the American Legion.

Pain and relief at the pump

Today, gas in Campbellsville is more than 50 percent cheaper than it was just months ago.

After peaking with the near record high price of $3.98 in September, gas prices have plummeted steadily since.

Prices began to spike in early fall as a result of Hurricane Ike. At least eight refineries had shut down two days in advance of the storm, while one refinery remained out of operation due to Hurricane Gustav the week before, according to the Department of Energy.

And, with a production loss of about 2.5 million barrels a day, the cost of refined product rose. Distributors saw a 30-cent increase from suppliers before the storm.

The rise in gas prices also led to increase food costs.

The price per barrel of oil has dropped significantly, according to Roger Boyd, director of public affairs for AAA Kentucky, resulting in price drops at the pump.

And the trend has been mostly downward.

"We saw a 20-cent spike in Jefferson County last week," Boyd said. "Prices went back down almost immediately. Even the spikes are not long-lived."

J.B. Holmes

J.B. Holmes helped make Campbellsville a household name in 2008.

He won the FBR Open in February, made it to the Master's in April, and, in September, was part of the United States team that defeated the European squad 16 1/2 to 11 1/2 to win back the 37th Ryder Cup at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville.

Holmes, playing seventh, then was an integral winning part of the U.S. contingent that won the singles' matches 7 1/2 to 4 1/2 to clinch the Cup.

It was the Americans' first Ryder Cup crown since 1999.

Emily Cox

Another Campbellsville native who made national headlines in 2008 was Emily Cox.

Cox, 22, became the second in her family to win the Miss Kentucky Crown after competing against 31 contestants from across the state in July for the title.

Cox, who competed in the Miss Kentucky pageant as Miss Bowling Green, is the daughter of Ricky Cox and Jenny Cox, both of Campbellsville. Cox's aunt, Nancy Cox Kenny, won the Miss Kentucky crown in 1990.

Cox, who now lives in Lexington, is the fifth Campbellsville native to win the Miss Kentucky title.

And now Taylor Countians can turn on their televisions and watch Cox participate in the Miss America pageant - and a reality show. Cox will participate in the reality show "Countdown to the Crown," airing in four episodes at 10 p.m. beginning tomorrow on TLC.

The show will offer a chance for the contestants to win a spot in the pageant's Top 15, by showing what happens when the 52 state titleholders live together in Los Angeles, Calif. and face a series of individual and team competitions.

Political change

There was plenty of change in the local political scene in 2008.

City Councilman Doug Mullins opted not to seek another term on the Council. Instead, Mullins tossed his hat into the state representative race, seeking to fill the seat to be vacated by retiring Russ Mobley. Soon after, Mullins was forced to withdraw from the race after being diagnosed with cancer. John "Bam" Carney won the seat in November.

Newcomer Matt Pendleton became the new 4th District magistrate in November. Pendleton, a Republican, earned 968 votes to Democrat Kenneth Minor's 590. Minor was appointed to serve as 4th District magistrate earlier this year after Marshall Caulk resigned, who resigned for health reasons.

S. Brett Guthrie will serve as Representative of the 2nd Congressional District, winning the spot long-held by Ron Lewis, who opted not to seek re-election.

History was made when Democratic Sen. Barack Obama became the first black man to be elected president, even though locally the majority of Taylor Countians supported Republican candidate John McCain.

Weather

Mother Nature hit Taylor County hard on several occasions, but focused her wrath in the early part of the year.

On Jan. 29, severe thunderstorms with destructive winds moved through Taylor County causing widespread wind damage. Wind gusts of nearly 70 mph were clocked during the night with weather instruments at the Campbellsville E-911 center, which received 237 storm-related calls. Telephone and power lines were downed and structural damage was reported throughout the county.

A few weeks later, another strong storm seemingly skipped over the county while leaving widespread destruction throughout Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi. According to Associated Press reports, at least 44 were confirmed dead - 24 in Tennessee, 13 in Arkansas and seven in Kentucky.

In Kentucky, three deaths were reported in Muhlenberg County and four in Allen County.

On a Friday morning in April, several Taylor Countians were woken up by a minor earthquake. Measuring 5.2 on the Richter scale, the quake lasted about six seconds. Cracked windows were the only damages reported.

- Staff Writer James Roberts can be reached at 465-8111 Ext. 226 or by e-mail at writer@cknj.com. Comment on this story at www.cknj.com.