Local, state news briefs


City seeks trees for holiday decorations

Lexington is once again looking for four special evergreen trees — perfectly shaped, 40 to 50 feet high and 20 to 25 feet wide — to decorate for the holidays in four downtown locations. Trees should be scotch pine, a balsam fir, or a fraser fir. If chosen, the city and Kentucky Utilities will remove it in early November at no cost to the owners and transport it downtown to be decorated. White pines are not appropriate. "All trees will be inspected to determine if they are suitable," said Penny Ebel, Special Events director for the city. To donate, call LexCall at 3-1-1 before Nov. 4.


Feminist writer given honor

Crystal Wilkinson, writer, teacher and advocate for the power of arts to create social change received the Kentucky Foundation for Women's 2009 Sallie Bingham Award on Sunday. Presented annually by KFW's Board of Directors, the award honors an artist or activist who has made outstanding contributions to feminist art and social justice in Kentucky. Wilkinson is the author of two novels, Blackberries, Blackberries, published in 2000, and Water Street, published in 2002. She is a founding member of the Affrilachian Poets, who aim to increase the visibility of African American writers from Appalachia and serve as a community of support for these writers.


Head-on crash injures two

A Tennessee man is facing assault charges in Kentucky after being accused of veering his sport utility vehicle into the path of a tractor-trailer carrying two Colorado residents. Kentucky State Police said Martin A. Marquez Jr. of Dover, Tenn., fled on foot after the head-on crash early Sunday in Western Kentucky. He was later found walking along Interstate 24 near the crash site. Marquez was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree assault and was being held in the Christian County jail. The two people in the tractor-trailer were taken to a nearby hospital, where they were treated and released. Police said Marquez pulled his SUV onto the right shoulder of I-24, then made a U-turn into oncoming traffic, causing the crash. The interstate was shut down for about seven hours after the crash.


Free rent to open downtown

One Kentucky town is taking a different approach to luring new companies into its old, vacant downtown buildings — free rent. Local leaders in Liberty are offering free rent to new businesses that open in empty downtown storefronts, The Advocate-Messenger of Danville reported. The program offers to pay businesses' first year's rent for new operations that open in existing buildings, the newspaper reported. "We are in uncommon times, and we needed to do something to kind of spur things along," Blaine Staat, acting director of the Liberty/Casey County Economic Development Authority, told the newspaper. "We decided we couldn't wait for President Obama to save the world. This is our own little Obama stimulus package." Local officials are hoping to energize the city's downtown area after years of stagnation. Twelve of the downtown's approximately 30 buildings are either unoccupied or operate by appointment only, Staat said. "Like a lot of small towns, we have a lot of empty spaces downtown," he said. "We used grants to spruce up the buildings. But unless we get businesses in there, the paint will be peeling and weeds will be growing up through the sidewalks again." So far, five new companies have opened or are planning to in Liberty's downtown.

Staff, wire reports