A1 A1
top story
Booker's Madisonville campaign stop turns virtual after travel delays

U.S. Senate candidate Charles Booker didn’t let the weather or canceled flights stop him from speaking to Madisonville residents Friday evening.

The African American Coalition of Hopkins County organized the “From the Hood to the Holler” event at the Ballard Convention Center to allow residence to learn more about Booker.

Booker was scheduled to attend the event but inclement weather in New York — where he was traveling as part of his campaign efforts — cancelled the candidate’s flight and forced him to speak to the crowd virtually instead.

AAC President Bill McReynolds expected around 130 people to attend, and although the crowd didn’t meet Booker in person, they still used the opportunity to learn about his platform.

In attendance was Alethea West, who said she came because she wanted to learn more about Booker’s stance on education, law enforcement, and bipartisanship.

“As a country, we need that, we need leaders who are interested in trying to bring us back together,” she said. “Having unity does not mean that we agree on everything, but it means we have a sameness in agenda.”

Also at the event was Kerri Scisney, who said she is supporting Booker because she thinks he will consider all people and do what is best for Kentucky once elected.

“We need people in office that are going to work their hardest to help the people they represent,” she said.

In an earlier interview, Booker said he wanted to let the people of Hopkins County know he is fighting for them.

“I just want everyone to know we can change things, we can come together and build a better future,” he said.

Booker said his message is that people have more in common with each other than they realize and if they stand together, they can win.

“We deserve to have safe communities that are thriving, and we deserve the opportunity to be owners and investors and creators all over the commonwealth,” he said.

He said his platform addresses the systemic and structural challenges that Kentuckians have been facing.

“My focus is making sure every Kentuckian can have economic opportunities and live gainful lives,” said Booker. “That we are not handing poverty down from generation to generation, that we can be healthy, that we can be safe.

“I am proud to help tell the story of what it looks like when regular people come together, resist hate and stand up in love and unity to say that we are proud of Kentucky and we are going to lead in a different direction,” he said.

Booker is running for the seat currently held by Republican Senator Rand Paul.

Historic plane makes its way through Madisonville skies

Early one evening in mid-September, the sky over Madisonville came to life with a unique sound that drew looks from anyone that was outside at the time.

Onlookers likely witnessed an unusually large airplane taking off, but had no idea that this particular aircraft played a key part in struggles against the Soviet Union during the early days of the Cold War.

That noise was the sound of four Pratt & Whitney R-2000 Twin Wasp radial engine roaring in unison as they lifted a Douglas C-54D Skymaster into the air. It was a sound that was heard many times over West Berlin in 1948 and 1949.

This particular plane belongs to the Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation — a New Jersey-based organization dedicated to keeping the memory of one of the earliest struggles of the Cold War alive.

As World War II came to a close, the Allies sat down and decided the future of Germany. The USSR took control of the eastern half of the country, while the US, Britain and France took over equal sections of the western half. The two sides also split the German capital city, located 100 miles deep inside Soviet Controlled East Germany, right down the middle.

By the end of the 1940s, the US, Britian and France began working to reunite their sections of Germany, including West Berlin, into one country, even introducing a unified currency, the Deutsche Mark.

Unhappy with the idea of having a unified capitalist country right next door and a unified capitalist controlled city in the heart of East Germany, the Soviet Union began a blockade meant to literally starve the allies out of its territory.

The Soviet government shut down all roads into West Berlin and blocked all railroad and river traffic attempting to reach the isolated city. With 100 miles of East German real estate between the city and the rest of West German, West Berlin was effectively cut off from all food and supplies.

Unwilling to use military force to break the blockade for fear of turning the Cold War into a shooting war, the allies arrived on a decision to use cargo planes to deliver food, fuel and other goods to the people who lived in the western part of the city.

Code named “Operation VITTLES” by the military, the Berlin Airlift was born. For more than a year, Douglas C-54 Skymasters and Boeing C-97 Stratofreighters kept the people of West Berlin fed and alive.

In 1988, 39 years after the last Airlift flight, New Jersey resident Tim Chopp purchased one of the 330 C-54s that flew in the historic operation. He had the plane painted with the original 48th Troop Carrier Squadron paint scheme that it had carried during the Airlift, and began filling the interior of the craft with artifacts, displays and information, effectively creating a flying museum.

From that one plane, the Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation was created. The organization now owns several C-54s and a C-97 which are flown to locations all over the globe to memorialize the Airlift missions and what they meant to the people of West Berlin.

The organization’s original C-54 met an untimely end last year on April 13, 2020 when it was hit by a tornado in Walterboro, SC. According to WCSC-TV, more than 20 plans were destroyed and dozens more were damaged that day when the Lowcountry Regional Airport took a direct hit from a storm.

“They just bought this plane,” said Emily Herron, C.M., Manager of the Madisonville Regional Airport. “It was making its way from New Jersey to Arkansas for a paint job, and stopped here to refuel.”

Herron and the other crew on the ground took advantage of the plane’s presence to learn more about, a service that Tim Chopp was happy to provide.

“I very much enjoyed our visit to the Madisonville Airport to take on fuel for the flight to Mena,” said Chopp. “I really wanted to stop in once again because of the great reception we had by the good folks at the airport, but it appears now we will not be returning to the east coast via Madisonville but will be taking a route about 70 miles south.”

Chopp himself served as pilot of the plane for the voyage, which was destined for Crider Aircraft Painting, Inc. in Mena, Arkansas. Once painting is complete, the new plane will join the organization’s fleet of flying museums.

Although the C-54D will not be making a return trip to Madisonville as originally planned, the time it spent in Hopkins County will be fondly remembered by the locals who had a chance to see it.

“It was a really neat airplane with a cool history,” said Herron.

The Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation is a 501©(3) charity dedicated to honor those who flew in the airlift missions, including the 101 fatalities, 31 of which were Americans, that occurred during 1948 and 1949.

They regularly appear in air shows around the world.

Contact Matt Hughes at matt@journalenterprise.com or 270-667-2069

Officials considering hiring construction manager for sports complex project

The Hopkins County Fiscal Court and the City of Madisonville are considering hiring a construction management firm to help oversee the sports complex project jointly supported by both government entities.

At a county Economic Development Committee meeting Tuesday, Judge-Executive Jack Whitfield Jr. said he and magistrates Ronnie Noel and Bill Rudd had been in meetings regarding a possible request for proposal for a construction firm.

“After talking with quite a few people that have done projects of this size, everyone recommended that we look at getting a construction manager that would basically be our advocate instead of just hiring a general contractor,” said Whitfield.

He said the position would likely be bid out, but it was not a requirement.

“The construction management job is a professional service, but we want to see who all is out there and what the cost associated with it is,” he said. “I think they can help make sure that things are done right and on time. They would be our advocate with all the different parties doing any of the construction processes.”

Whitfield said he met with one Lexington firm at a conference, and the firm has people stationed all over the state.

He said the cost of the manager would be a percentage of the total cost of the facility, which is something the county and city are waiting on.

“We still don’t have an estimate,” Whitfield said. “Which is one reason that I think a construction manager could help with stuff like that. It would also give us a secondary estimate. The construction manager would help get all the bid packets ready for everything that would be done.”

Magistrate Charlie Beshears asked what would happen if the estimate that came back for the project was something the county did not want to move forward with.

Whitfield said there would be an hourly rate for the work done if the court decided to not move forward with the project.

“It would be in the RFP the city is working on getting done,” he said. “It would be an hourly rate up to that point.”

Rudd said he was not for the hiring of a manager but said after discussions felt like it would be a positive thing for the county.

“They would be on-site every day,” he said.

Noel and Magistrate Hannah Myers said they also were for the hiring of a manager.

Whitfield said he anticipated the RFP coming back with results within the next few weeks.

Regional KSP driving test site will open Monday

Gov. Andy Beshear and the Kentucky State Police announced Friday a new regional driver testing branch location will begin Monday in Madisonville.

The testing will be offered at the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s Regional Licensing Office located at 56 Federal Street in Madisonville and will serve residents in Caldwell, Crittenden, Hopkins, McLean, Muhlenberg and Webster counties.

KSP’s Commander of Driver Testing, Capt. Marshall Johnson said this regionalization creates increased availability of testing services.

“New appointments will be posted daily at 8 a.m. Monday through Friday and this availability is the product of regionalizing our services,” he said.

Appointments can be made online by visiting www.kentuckystatepolice.org/driver-testing/drivers-testing-schedule-county, and appointments can be made for a permit, driver or commercial driver license test. Prior to an appointment, new drivers should prepare for the exam by accessing the only approved Kentucky driver’s manual at the KSP site or by viewing it through the KSP mobile app. All driver testing materials can be viewed and downloaded free of charge.

Kentucky will continue to offer the option of a standard driver’s license, but a REAL ID or another form of federally approved identification eventually will be needed by people 18-years-old or older for boarding commercial flights and accessing military bases and federal buildings that require an ID.

According to the KYTC, the federal enforcement for this is set to begin May 3, 2023.

“The new KSP regional driver testing locations are being done in accordance with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s licensing model. Regionalizing these locations will offer more efficient and effective services,” said Beshear in a release. “I wish all Kentuckians the best of luck as they start the journey in obtaining a Kentucky driver’s license.”