Yonts will head state’s Civil War commission

State Rep. Brent Yonts has been elected chairman of the commission that will commemorate the 150th anniversary of Kentucky’s role in the Civil War.

Gov. Steve Beshear named the Greenville Democrat to a four-year term on the 25-member Kentucky Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission last winter at the request of House Speaker Greg Stumbo.

Yonts was elected chairman of the commission Tuesday by the membership.  

The group will recommend ways to commemorate Kentucky’s Civil War events, educate people about Kentucky’s role in the war and encourage community participation in activities that increase understanding of the war, according to a news release.

Yonts recently completed an appointment to the Kentucky Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, which was responsible for coordinating a two-year celebration of Lincoln’s 200th birthday on Feb. 12, 2009.


Kentucky’s state workers will be furloughed six days

Kentucky plans to furlough state workers for a total of six days in the current fiscal year, which runs through June 30, 2011.

Here’s the announcement from Frankfort.

FRANKFORT, Ky. (July 9, 2010) – Kentucky Personnel Cabinet Secretary Nikki Jackson today presented a regulation to the State Personnel Board as the state prepares to furlough state government workers a total of six days in Fiscal Year 2011, as authorized by the 2010-12 biennial budget passed by the General Assembly. 

 “In order to achieve the savings required by the budget passed by the General Assembly, legislators authorized the administration to implement a furlough plan for state employees,” said Sec. Jackson.  “Today we are presenting an outline of the plan to the State Personnel Board – a plan that has been developed with an eye toward minimizing impact to state employees and the disruption of delivery of state services to Kentucky citizens.”

 Combination of closure of state offices and non-designated furlough days

The six days include three common days during which state offices will be closed that are adjacent to existing state holiday weekends – Friday, September 3, 2010 (Labor Day weekend) ; Friday, November 12, 2010 (Veterans Day weekend); and Friday, May 27, 2011 (Memorial Day weekend). The closure of state offices for the three common days will serve to increase operational savings by decreasing energy and other operational costs.  In addition, employees will be furloughed for one day in each of the months of October, March and June.  Agencies will schedule employees to be off work in a manner that minimizes the impact to the public, and will be submitting plans to the Secretary of the Personnel Cabinet to describe how they will implement the furlough days that are non-designated.  Several state agencies that operate 24-hour/7 day-a-week facilities, including mental health and correctional facilities and law enforcement functions, may submit plans requesting additional flexibility on how to implement the furloughs.

 Furloughs will achieve savings and prevent many layoffs

As a key component to solving a $1.5 billion shortfall, the 2010-12 biennial budget passed by the General Assembly requires that the state achieve $131 million in expenditure reductions in FY 11 and $169 million in FY 12, on top of 3.5 percent cuts and 4.5 percent cuts for most state agencies, respectively.  The six days outlined today by Sec. Jackson will achieve a savings of approximately $24 million for the first year of the biennium.  Sec. Jackson also noted that, based on an average fulltime salary of $58,066 including fringe benefits, the six-day furlough plan will prevent 413 state employees from being laid off. 

 Both non-merit and merit system employees are included in the plan 

Both non-merit employees and merit system employees, full-time and part-time, including the Governor and all cabinet secretaries, regardless of salary, will be furloughed the same number of days, as will contract workers.  In addition to furloughing non-merit system employees, the administration will reduce the number of non-merit system employees in order to achieve further savings; decisions about non-merit system employee reductions are still under discussion.  The Governor, all cabinet secretaries and members of the Governor’s senior staff have already taken and continue to take voluntary 10 percent pay reductions as part of cost-savings measures in balancing the budget.

 Other states have furloughed workers

Facing a global recession, many states have furloughed or proposed to furlough state employees:

 California has furloughed employees 46 days since February 2009;

  • Hawaii has proposed furloughing employees 42 days; and
  • Maine and Washington are also furloughing employees.

 Communications sent to state employees and cabinet secretaries

Email communications were sent to both state employees as well as executive branch cabinet secretaries to inform them of the plan.  State employees who have further questions about the implementation of the plan can visit http://personnel.ky.gov/furlough to find frequently asked questions and answers, and are encouraged to speak with their agency’s human resources administrator. 

 Next steps

Following the filing of the administrative regulation, Cabinets will propose implementation plans to Secretary Jackson.  The Personnel Cabinet will then issue suggestions to state agencies for the implementation of the plans.

Raccoons in your attic? Snakes in your walls?

Raccoons having babies in your attic?

Snakes in your walls?

Check out this news release from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources:

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Kentucky is blessed with a diversity of wildlife – some 74 species of mammals, 380 species of birds, and 112 species of reptiles and amphibians.

Many of the state’s outdoor enthusiasts encourage wildlife on their property and spend countless hours and considerable sums of money, to get close to nature and its wild creatures.

But, when a family of raccoons takes up residence in the attic, or an opossum spends more time in your garage than the family car does, it doesn’t take long for these uninvited guests to become a nuisance.

That’s when it’s time to call the local Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator.

“They are permitted to take and transport wildlife causing damage or threatening public health and safety,” said Chad Soard, a wildlife biologist with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “At the present time, we have 106 licensed Nuisance Wildlife Control Operators in Kentucky.”

Operators are typically small business owners — men and women working in Kentucky cities, suburbs and rural areas. Operators charge fees to remove nuisance wildlife and operators they work year-round, often outside legal hunting and trapping seasons.

Based on the annual reports submitted by operators, the raccoon is the number one nuisance wildlife species based on the annual reports. A majority of the raccoons captured live in the state’s three largest metropolitan areas – Louisville, Lexington and northern Kentucky.

“During the 2008-09 license year operators captured 4,723 raccoons, 3,016 squirrels, 1,854 opossums and 878 skunks,” said Soard. Other nuisance wildlife species that operators encountered included bats, woodchucks, coyotes, muskrats, beavers, chipmunks, birds, foxes, snakes, river otters, turtles, rabbits, mink and bobcats.

Robert Chilton, who operates Wildlife Animal Control in Henry County, said problems with nuisance wildlife change with the seasons.

“In January and February, when skunks are breeding, the females are seeking out dens, and that’s when you get problems with them digging under porches,” said Chilton. “The males are fighting over females and they do a lot of spraying.”

In May, there can be a spike in calls when raccoons begin to bear their young, and decide to set up a home in somebody’s attic. “They walk on the roof and find a way to get in from under the eve,” said Chilton. “Squirrels will do that too. They like to go through air vents.”

The telltale sign that something is living in the attic is when homeowners hear the pitter-patter of tiny feet running across attic joists.

In mid-summer, snakes can become a nuisance when they shed their skins. “They want to get away, where there isn’t any activity. They are vulnerable when they molt,” said Chilton. That’s why snakes try to come inside garages and out buildings and sometimes crawl between walls in houses.

With the onset of cold weather, squirrels seek out warmth in attics. Squirrels have a bad habit of actually working their way downstairs into houses. “They follow the light and gnaw their way through gaps in the plywood, where a pipe goes through a wall, the ceiling or into a closet,” said Chilton. 

While many homeowners ask that the animal taken from their property unharmed, Soard said relocating nuisance wildlife is not always the best option. “The primary threat is the spread of disease to new populations,” he said. “Also, relocated animals often die soon after release due to natural mortality factors — starvation from not being able to find food, or injury from fights with animals they encounter, when attempting to establish a new territory.”

By law, injured or diseased wildlife must be euthanized.

Nuisance wildlife control operators are permitted to deal with native wildlife under state jurisdiction, but they can’t capture and transport federally-protected species unless they get a permit from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Federally protected species include song birds, birds of prey (such as hawks and owls) and migratory waterfowl.

Resident Canada geese only migrate during periods of severe cold and snow and are a problem in urban areas, where they live around lakes in city parks, golf courses, and suburban neighborhoods. Goose droppings create a mess on sidewalks and driveways, and at times the big birds can be aggressive.

The name and telephone number of Nuisance Wildlife Control Operators, and the counties in which they work, are posted on the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s website at fw.ky.gov.


If fireworks shoot or explode, they’re illegal

Still thinking about buying fireworks?

You might be interested in this news release from the Kentucky State Fire Marshal’s office.

 “The Kentucky State Fire Marshal’s office has uncovered attempts by those selling fireworks to skirt state laws in order to sell otherwise illegal fireworks.

“William Swope, Jr., Kentucky’s state fire marshal, says his office has been given waivers that some sellers are handing to customers who wish to buy illegal fireworks. The waiver, to be signed by the customer, states the customer “is admitting that you will not set off, use or detonate these fireworks in the state of Kentucky, but rather that you will transport these fireworks outside of the state of Kentucky for lawful retail sale or use in another state.”

“Anyone purchasing illegal fireworks, signing these waivers and knowingly disregarding Kentucky laws by re-selling or detonating the fireworks in Kentucky is committing fraud,” said Swope. “By inducing the consumer to purchase and use the fireworks illegally, the seller is also committing fraud.”

“The waivers are being seen more frequently as the Fourth of July celebration weekend approaches. While most licensed fireworks vendors comply with the law, those that do not can be cited and fined.

 “To reinforce our earlier message regarding fireworks safety, the law permits only certain ‘Class C Safe and Sane’ fireworks. If a firework explodes or shoots in the air, it’s illegal,” added Swope. “Many communities will be hosting professional firework shows this weekend. Please take your family to see these displays rather than risk permanent injury to yourself or a loved one.”