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The past year Shelby Countians have run a gamut of happenings from beneficial to tragic to controversial, from a new outlet mall in the works, to a long-awaited reconfigured I-64 ramp to a teen’s tragic death and a devastating down town fire.
Early on in the year, plans for a major construction project – an outlet mall in Simpsonville – were taking on a definite shape, leading up to a summer ground-breaking ceremony.
In the works for two years, construction on the Outlet Shoppes at Louisville, a retail center of 374,300 square feet officially got under way on a 50-acre parcel at Exit 38 of Interstate I-64, just south of the intersection of Buck Creek and Veechdale roads.
The project is being constructed by Horizon Group Properties, a company that has partnered with CBL & Associate Properties, which is connected with Fayette Mall in Lexington and Jefferson Mall in Louisville.
The center will have 90 stores and is scheduled to open in late summer of 2014.
Simpsonville City Administrator David Eaton said the potential for economic impact, not just for Simpsonville, but the entire county, is staggering.
“They are shooting for August first, and most people here are very excited about it, and think it’s a great thing for the community,” he said. “As it goes up and they see it, they get even more excited. They’re waiting for it to get here. It’s [construction] going very well, most of it’s under roof, the next phase, when they get the shell done, the individual stores will come in and start doing their work. The economic impact to us will be huge, and we are excited about the opportunities it will bring to improve the community.”
The project is expected to create about 1,000 new jobs and to generate $8 million in sales tax revenue for Kentucky.
The excitement in Simpsonville about the mall’s birth came following a tragic loss on the other end of the county, which meant death to a large chunk of Shelbyville’s historic district.
In March, Shelbyville’s downtown landscape was horribly disfigured by an early morning blaze that swept through Main Street’s 600 block, destroying four businesses.
“The historical significance of what we lost that day, that is what comes to the forefront of my mind about that fire,” Shelbyville Fire Chief Willard “Tiger” Tucker. said. “Truly, the fact that we lost buildings that have existed for such a long period of time. That is what impacted most of us about that fire.”
Just weeks after that fire, hopes for a much-discussed proposal for a combined city and county curbside trash pick-up plan were being trashed. That’s when county officials, who had been working with the city, suddenly backed away from the idea, citing various concerns, such as problems with billing. That cleared the way for a $3.2 million solid-waste facility that had been proposed in February and had been put on hold when the possibility of curbside pickup emerged.
Rusty Newton, chair of the 109 Board, the entity responsible for managing solid waste, had been holding community meetings around the county in February to gather public input on the proposed facility, which would be built on Windhurst Way in Shelbyville, where the board purchased 25 acres in 2011 for $655,000, and had spent $130,000 developing plans. It would replace the Convenience Center in Waddy and the Recycling Center on 7th Street.
Use of the facility would require a 3-to-5-cent usage fee for disposal of household trash. The board will meet next Jan. 9 to discuss the progress of the construction.
Another highly awaited construction project – one that had been eagerly anticipated by the entire community – came to fruition in November with the opening of a new onramp to I-64 at Exit 32 Eastbound.
Community leaders had been following the progress of the ramp’s construction, concerned by two deaths that had already occurred at the site and the deadly potential for more fatalities every day. The old ramp, constructed in the 1960s, was extremely narrow and short – only 295 feet long – and did not allow motorists an adequate opportunity to merge into interstate traffic.
The ramp originally had scheduled to be finished in 2014 along with the rest of the I-64 widening project from Simpsonville to Shelbyville, but concerns involving public safety spurred its opening much sooner, although work remained to be done before it was used in its final form.
The year ended on a bittersweet note, with Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd fining the Cabinet for Health and Family Services a whopping $756,000 for blocking the release of records similar to those related to the death of teenager Jackleen Lane, who was found floating and dead from drowning in Clear Creek in Shelbyville in June.
Shepherd said he imposed the fine on the Cabinet for making a “mockery” of the state’s Open Record Act and repeatedly withholding information in its files about abused and neglected children.
The ruling was the latest in a series of rulings by Shepherd in favor of the Lexington Herald- Leader and The Courier Journal, which had sued the Cabinet in 2011 for access to about 180 files involving social workers' interactions with children who died or suffered near-fatal injuries.
The Cabinet is pursuing a lawsuit in Shelby County Circuit Court to block the release of records related to Lane, which The Sentinel-News has been seeking since Lane, 15, was spotted in the creek by a Norfolk Southern Road engineer one morning as the train crossed the creek.
The Sentinel-Newslast summer asked the Cabinet to release its records relative to Lane, who was found drowned in after not having been in contact with her guardian/brother, Joshua Lane, for three days.
The Cabinet had removed Lane from the custody of her mother because of truancy issues, and the newspaper has sought to understand how her oversight was specified and monitored.
Attorney General Jack Conway’s office sided with the newspaper and ordered the release of the records.