2021 Year in Review, part 2

·6 min read

Jan. 26—The year 2021 came in without much ado as the coronavirus pandemic canceled many parties and celebrations, but it wasn't long before controversy surfaced again.

The January 6 protests in Washington D.C. made world news, although some residents of Laurel County traveled to participate, others made their visits to the state Capitol and a smaller crowd made their way through London to Corbin to voice concern that the 2020 Presidential election had been erroneous.

Locally, London celebrated the birth of the first baby of 2021 at 4:32 a.m. Lucy Grubb, the daughter of Travis and Nita Jo Brewer Grubb, weighed 6 pounds, 8 ounces and was 18 inches long.

The first wintery weather of the season came on February 15, leaving over 9,000 residents without power. The cold temperatures continued into the next week, with a couple found dead at their home on Pinehill Brock Road on Feb. 20. Their cause of death was determined as hypothermia.

The long time "feud" between London and Corbin was complicated even more with the filing of a bill by Senate Leader Robert Stivers in February that would allow Corbin to annex into a third county (Laurel). Previously state law prohibited a city to be in more than two counties — and Corbin City Limits is located in both Whitley and Knox counties. London city officials voted in late 2020 to annex along Interstate 75 from London City Limits to Exit 29 in order to develop adjoining property on each side of the interstate, with potential developers expressing the desire to be in the city limits in order to serve alcohol. Currently both London and Corbin have alcohol sales but the location of that prime property lies within the county where alcohol sales are prohibited. Although Stivers' bill passed both the House and Senate, the bill would remain inactive until the lawsuit filed by the City of Corbin against the City of London was settled. The case was heard in mid-2021 but remains in the hands of a Laurel Circuit Judge for a decision.

Other controversial issues affecting the community included the separation of the London Tourism Commission from the City of London umbrella with the tourism commission's decision to comply with state law and become a Special Purpose Government Entity (SPGE) in the summer. Under that separation from the city, the commission was free to hire its own attorney, own employees, establish its own bank account and other facets of operating separately from the city government. However, the transition also caused some concern among the city employees who worked at Levi Jackson Wilderness Road Park, who had been considered city employees.

The London City Council approved an ethics ordinance for city employees and elected officials, as well as establishing an ethics board to host periodic meetings. London Mayor Troy Rudder said the city had had an ethics commission for years but only met when issues were presented to them. He added that no issues had come up in several years. The council also approved a nepotism ordinance which prohibits hiring of a relative of an elected or appointed official any closer than second cousin. That measure allowed for existing employees who had relatives serving in those capacities to remain in their current positions under the clause of being "grandfathered in" prior to the new ordinance.

Another issue came when the City of London Tourism Commission and City of London were subjected to an extensive audit by the State Auditor's office. That audit continues. Concerns regarding hiring practices and expenditures allegedly prompted that audit.

More controversy came in September with the city council adopting a restrictive adult entertainment ordinance. Council members explained that there had been inquiries about such facilities looking to locate in London, with council members enacting restrictions for such facilities. The ordinance prohibits the sale of alcoholic beverages in such facilities, as well as banning customers from touching employees of the facility, tipping or any gratuities. It also requires a six-feet distance from the stage and customers, and cannot be located within 1,000 feet of another such facility, government office, school, church, liquor store or residential zoned area. Originally listed as a 500-feet distance, the ordinance was revised in December to the 1,000-feet distance from the entities mentioned above. It also requires that any employee of such facilities must be 21 years of age.

Although 2021 is not an election year, eight Laurel precincts were involved in a special election for 89th District representative on Nov, 2. That came after the resignation of former Rep. Robert Goforth. Although Goforth listed personal reasons for his resignation, he remains under an indictment for strangling a female later identified as his wife.

More controversy struck the London City Tourism Commission in early fall when two commissioners were replaced. Steve Berry, then chairman, was removed, as was Commissioner Troy House. Through the discovery that the term appointments of commissioners was out of sync, it was learned that Berry's term renewed in November 2020 for 3 years. House was informed in November 2020 that he would be reappointed for another three year term but received a letter in July 2021 informing him that his term had expired. However, the chair of the Hotel/Motel Association agreed with Rudder to "start fresh" with the appointment schedule, replacing Berry and House with Kelly Smith Greene and Phil Smith, who now sit on the board.

Despite the controversy, several new events evolved and others returned after a hiatus during the 2020 shutdown. Schools opened to in-person classes in August, the World Chicken Festival, Red White & Boom and London Community Orchestra concerts returned with the usual hoopla, and the New Year's Eve party in downtown London rang in 2022. The Randy Smith's Christmas on Main Parade involved over 1,000 participants, while Lights Around London's driving tour generated over 60 participants with light displays from Dec. 3 through Dec. 31.

New events included several arts and crafts displays at Farmers Market, the inaugural Honey Bun Run to celebrate Flowers Bakery as the largest producer of honeybuns in the nation, Cider Night at the Market where crafters of all backgrounds gathered to market their goods, the Heritage Music Series in March was deemed successful and prompted a fall session in November that highlights Kentucky singer/songwriters, and the Mistletoe Market craft show that coincides with Small Business Saturday on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The Laurel County Homecoming in August was offset with the first-ever Summer Carnival with a percentage of the profits donated to the Laurel County Homecoming committee to offset their costs for the annual event. Somerset Community College celebrated its first-ever Winter Commencement at London's First Baptist Church.

After a long awaited opening, Town Center celebrated with a ribbon cutting ceremony in June, launching its Town Center Concert series on the first Friday of the summer months. Featured in those concerts were several local bands, as well as headliners Mickey Thomas and Starship (once known as Jefferson Starship and Jefferson Airplane), and Dangerous Dan and the Funktown Horns.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting