A peek outside Anderson's box

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By The Staff

No money. No aquatic center. Not even a skate park.

The list of what Anderson County doesn't have often appears to dwarf the list of things it does.

As a result, residents gripe and politicians grip over our perceived shortcomings and look to each other for solutions.

"Think outside of the box" we often hear and say, but when was the last time any of us actually did so?

The folks in Casey County, however, have what appears to be a whiz-bang group of thinkers who are so far outside the box it's a wonder if they can even see the box.

Folks there have spent the past year trying to figure out how to expand their county park and jail without breaking taxpayers' backs.

According to a story in the last week's Casey County News, the judge-executive and jailer think they have a solution.

Instead of taxpayers forking over cash, they might soon be able to stick their forks in a juicy steak from beef cattle tended by inmates and sold for cash.

Initially, Jailer Tommy Miller told the paper that he'd like to raise beef to feed the inmates. The inmates would tend the animals before eating them, which would provide food for the detention center and cut costs.

To do so, the county would need to lease a piece of land and start a herd of about 50 beef cattle.

The second phase of his plan includes an additional 100 to 200 beef cattle, the proceeds from which would help sustain an expanded park.

Miller said the current park is not big enough, and that the program would help Casey County keep up with the Joneses, so to speak.

"I'm talking about a park the size of Millennium Park in Danville or Anderson-Dean Park in Harrodsburg," Miller told the newspaper. "Our kids deserve that and need that."

An apparent pragmatist, Miller concedes that a park can't be sustained on beef alone. To conjure up even more revenue, he says the county should consider constructing a second jail for women. After all, the county's other women's jail has gone gangbusters since the county converted a former rest home into a jail which, by the way, has already paid for itself and then some.

Magistrates there are reportedly receptive to the idea, despite a bunch of technical issues including separating jail revenue from park revenue, which apparently can be done.

This kind of thinking used to happen here with regularity. Although C. Everett Koop would probably have a fit if this were tried today, there was a time in Anderson County when high school students were taught by the school to grow a tobacco crop. The product aside, it made sense to teach our kids that which might help them one day make a living.

And, believe it or not, we at one time had an actual working economic development team that successfully lured jobs and industry to Anderson County. Today? Not so much.

Is raising beef the answer to all of our problems? Probably not. But if Casey County's best and brightest can devise common-sense solutions to meet its needs, we certainly should be able to do the same.