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As the world turns away from 2012, some Owen County leaders are looking for progress as the calendar changes to 2013.
In the upcoming year, Owen County Judge-executive Carolyn Keith said she wants to see a greater emphasis placed on jobs, infrastructure and access to utilities.
To achieve that, Keith said she wants people to understand the importance of economic development and what it means to the future of Owen County.
“I want to sit down and have a real, honest and open conversation with people about what kind of future we want to have in Owen County,” Keith said. “Young people have to have jobs if we want them to stay in our community.”
One of the keys to luring new jobs to Owen County will be improving the infrastructure.
“We have an antiquated sewer system in Owenton and virtually none out of the county,” Keith said. “That’s one of the first things companies look at when deciding to locate somewhere and we need to improve access to utilities.”
Keith said she would like to see Carrollton Utilities expand further into Owen County and help alleviate some of the sewage issues.
“Carrollton Utilities and Kentucky American have been good partners with us and I hope that in the future we can do more with them,” Keith said.
One of the problems, Keith acknowledges, is the lack of state money to help.
“It’s very hard to get state grants right now, virtually impossible, and Owen County is a victim of the fact the state won’t give grants to private companies. I understand the idea behind that and I agree with it, but it makes it very difficult for small municipalities to do the kind of infrastructure improvements we need,” Keith said.
In the next year, Keith hopes the county will be able to lure new jobs to the area with the aid of recently-hired economic development director Steve Dalles.
Keith said she hopes the county’s involvement with the Interstate 71 corridor group will yield benefits for the community.
“I’m very optimistic about what is going on there,” Keith said. “If we want to succeed, we have to think regionally and this group will help us all.”
Owenton Mayor Doug also has his eyes on helping the community grow.
West said getting the city’s planning and zoning up to date was one of its biggest accomplishments of 2012, as well as improvements to 100 yards of sidewalk and approving a resolution for a three-year tax break from the city for new businesses in town.
West said he expects 2013 to be just as busy, with plans for more sidewalk repairs and the possible expansion of the natural gas line by Carrollton Utilities.
“At our first meeting of the year I’m gonna ask that the council approve for a tax break for anyone building a new house or apartments within the city,” West said.
Future plans to replace the water tower located behind the Owen County Extension Office are in the works and West said he expects more houses that are not up to code to be torn down in the coming months.
Owen County Chamber of Commerce President Dawn Davis said 2012 was a big year for the chamber and she hopes the trend will continue in the upcoming months.
“I was very excited this year with the 25-percent increase in membership,” Davis said. “This shows a community wanting to come together to work as a team for the county in which we work and live. We hope to continue to grow our membership into 2013 and beyond.”
The chamber also coordinated several events, which Davis said were all a success, including annual administrative professional day, fan fair, the annual chamber meeting and Sweet Owen Day.
Davis said one of the biggest issues currently facing Owen County is substance abuse, which she hopes various organizations and groups throughout the county can help solve.
“It is going to take an effort from all of the organizations and groups throughout the county to work together to help eradicate the abuse,” Davis said. “It will take a county wide effort to be successful and I hope all groups will consider combining resources.”
For 2013, along with the reduction of substance abuse, Davis said the chamber also hopes to see economic growth and downtown revitalization.
Owen County Fire Chief Robb Chaney said 2012 was a banner year for the department that included getting a new truck; having their insurance rates lowered, receiving a federal grant and a grant from Kentucky American Water, as well as continuing a working relationship with each volunteer fire department in the county.
Chaney said the biggest issue facing the department in the coming months is, like every year, finding volunteers.
“Everybody wants to be paid,” Chaney said. “Nobody really wants to help anybody like in the past. That’s the hardest thing all of us are looking at, finding people to come in and give up their time to volunteer, train and make runs.”
Chaney said he can’t offer up any solution to the problem, but having a strong junior firefighter program is a plus.
“The program has really taken off,” Chaney said. “We’ve got 10 junior firefighters throughout the county from ages 14 to 18. They are our stepping stone to volunteers, because once they turn 18, they’ve pretty much got their time in.”