Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with George Lusby, November 19, 2019

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:02 - Interview introduction / Early life and education

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Partial Transcript: Welcome to another interview of the oral history project at Scott County Public Library in Georgetown, Kentucky.

Segment Synopsis: Mike Key introduces the interview and former Scott County Judge-Executive George Lusby. Lusby briefly describes his early life and background, saying he was born in 1936 and was raised in a house on Second Street in Georgetown. He says he attended Garth High School, then Georgetown College beginning in 1958, and worked in education for more than thirty years after graduating. Lusby says he also got a master's degree from Georgetown College and worked towards, but never finished, his doctorate at the University of Kentucky. He speaks again about being raised on Second Street in Georgetown with his grandmother, parents, and three sisters. Lusby remarks that, because of how good his childhood was, he always said he was the "richest kid in town."

Keywords: City councils; County Judge-Executives; Eastern Kentucky University; Garth High School (Georgetown, Ky.); Master's degrees; Principals; Second Street (Georgetown, Ky.); Teaching; University of Kentucky

Subjects: Childhood; County government--United States; Georgetown (Ky.); Georgetown College (Georgetown, Ky.); Scott County (Ky.)

GPS: Georgetown (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.208937, -84.558971
00:02:29 - Career as Judge-Executive--Budget management and the arrival of Toyota

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Partial Transcript: Um, now did you s--did I understand you correctly, while you were Judge-Executive, you were also on the city council?

Segment Synopsis: Lusby talks about his career as Scott County Judge-Executive other than the reservoir project. He remarks that managing the county's budget was the hardest part about his job, but says that he had done similar financial work as a school principal and during his time on the Finance Committee when he was on Georgetown's city council. He says that Scott County's annual budget was around ten million dollars when he entered office, but that it had grown to nearly thirty million by the time he left office. Lusby says that Toyota's arrival in 1985 completely changed Scott County, which had been struggling due to the decline of several local manufacturers and of tobacco farming. He says that several factors led to Toyota's choosing Georgetown as the site for their factory, including Georgetown's proximity to railroads and both nearby interstates, as well as the available land and workforce, cheap public utilities, and Lexington's clean water supply.

Keywords: City councils; County Judge-Executives; County budgets; Finance committees; I-64; I-75; Interstate highways; Johnson Controls; Kentucky American Water; Lexington (Ky.); Mayors; Public utilities; Railroads; Steel manufacturing; Tobacco farming; Water supplies

Subjects: County government--United States; Economic development.; Georgetown (Ky.); Manufactures--United States; Scott County (Ky.); Toyota Group; Toyota Motor Manufacturing U.S.A.; Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

00:05:52 - Lytle's Fork Reservoir project--Inception and early obstacles

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Partial Transcript: Now you mentioned, uh, drinking water, um, and that's the purpose of this interview. So, if you could, um, could you give me a brief, uh, uh, history of, uh, the reservoir?

Segment Synopsis: Lusby talks about the origins of the Scott County government's push to build a reservoir on Lytle's Fork and secure their own water supply sufficient to handle the area's recent growth. He says that the Big Spring Branch had been the main source of water for Georgetown, but that it had stopped flowing by the 1980s. Other water sources for the county, like the Elkhorn Creek and other small, local reservoirs could not supply enough to meet Scott County's growing needs, according to Lusby. He says that the idea to build a reservoir in Scott County originated with Judge-Executive Charles William "Charlie" Sutton's administration, and was later inherited by Lusby's own administration when the project was already underway. He says that he continued the effort and that the county had already purchased the land in question and had enough money to fund the construction, which was estimated at around twelve million dollars in total. However, Lusby says that the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Louisville District became a major hurdle. He says that the county had to demonstrate to USACE that they would not cause significant environmental harm to a few protected species of flora and fauna, and that they would not disturb any sites of archaeological or anthropological interest. Lusby says that Scott County ensured that none of those would be adversely affected by the reservoir. He also talks about how the county sought to pay almost eight million dollars for the mitigation of the reservoir's other ecological impacts throughout the surrounding watershed.

Keywords: "Dam mitigation"; "Indian graves"; "Indian relics"; "Mitigation"; Blue Spring Branch (Scott County, Ky.); County Judge-Executives; Elkhorn Creek (Ky.); Indiana bats; Judge-Executive Charles William "Charlie" Sutton; Lytle's Fork Reservoir; Protected vegetation; Royal Spring (Ky.); Running buffalo clover; United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE); Veterans Memorial Wildlife Management Area; Watersheds

Subjects: County government--United States; Drinking water; Georgetown (Ky.); Reservoir ecology; Reservoirs.; Scott County (Ky.); United States. Army. Corps of Engineers. Louisville District; Water-supply--Kentucky; Watershed hydrology.

00:10:45 - Lytle's Fork Reservoir project--Scott County terminates the project

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Partial Transcript: Well, why do you need the water? Well, in the meantime, Kentucky American had built a pipeline from Kentucky River to Georgetown and water company was buying water from them and--when it was needed.

Segment Synopsis: Lusby talks about why he believes the reservoir project never came to fruition. He says that the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) office in Louisville questioned Scott County's need for its own water supply after Kentucky American built a new pipeline bringing water from the Kentucky River to Georgetown. Lusby says that the county only used that pipeline as an expensive fall-back option to their regular water supply, but USACE insisted that they did not have a need sufficient to justify damming other streams to create their own reservoir. He talks about Scott County's decision to withdraw their permit for a reservoir rather than continuing to appeal USACE's decision. He claims that politics wound up blocking the project, but admits that he has no evidence for his assertion. Lusby emphasizes that the land and the cost of construction could have all been paid for by the county with no need to rely on federal funds. He says he hopes that the current fiscal court or a future one may be able to finally build the reservoir. He describes one effort involving Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles to revive the reservoir project, though that proved unsuccessful as well. Lusby talks about the ways the land has been used since the failure of the reservoir project, including as recreational public land with limited types of hunting allowed. Due to this, he says that he still considers the purchase of the property a good investment even if the reservoir is never built. To finance the nearly 300 acre project, Lusby says that Scott County received a lot of state grant money. He goes back to criticizing USACE's decision, which he said included considering Lytle's Fork and nearby creeks and streams to be flowing waterways that they did not want dammed. Lusby argues, however, that Lytle's Fork and some of those other waterways are dried or partially dried for periods of time throughout the year. To purchase the land for the reservoir, Lusby remarks that the county only had to take one landowner -- a man who used several acres for deer hunting -- to court in order to purchase his property. The rest, he says, were farms that sold quickly and only had a few sparse buildings on them. Lusby asserts that most Scott County residents, from Sadieville to Stamping Ground, supported the project and there was little dissension, even among Kentucky legislators. He places blame for the failure of the project on the federal government and USACE underestimating and not understanding Scott County's future water supply needs.

Keywords: Bow hunting; City councils; Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan F. Quarles; County Judge-Executives; Deer hunting; Floodplains; Frankfort (Ky.); Georgetown Municipal Water and Sewer Service; Horseback riding; Hunting; Indiana bats; Kentucky American Water; Kentucky River (Ky.); Kiwanis clubs; Louisville (Ky.); Lytle's Fork (Scott County, Ky.); Lytle's Fork Reservoir; Payne's Depot Road (Scott County, Ky.); Pipelines; Public lands; Reservoir permits; Rotary clubs; Ryan Quarles; Sadieville (Ky.); Stamping Ground (Ky.); State grants; Turkey hunting; United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE); Water treatment plants

Subjects: County government--United States; Drinking water; Georgetown (Ky.); Reservoirs--Regulation; Reservoirs.; Scott County (Ky.); United States. Army. Corps of Engineers. Louisville District; Water-supply--Kentucky

00:21:50 - Lytle's Fork Reservoir project--Preparing for the reservoir / New uses for the land

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Partial Transcript: Now how was it that you chose that location for the reservoir?

Segment Synopsis: Lusby talks about the county's preparations for building the dam and reservoir as well as what they have done with the land since the failure of the project. He says that the location for the reservoir was decided before he was elected Judge-Executive and that the dam would have been on Lytle's Fork near Coppage Road. Mike Key says that Gaines Road would have been under about thirty feet of water after construction, though he says that Scott County would not have built a bridge over it. Lusby remarks that the cost for the Lytle's Fork Reservoir, including all of USACE's environmental studies and various mitigation efforts, was around twelve million dollars. He does say that they also had to clear trees before inundating the land and move a few graveyards and utility lines. Key claims that one Joseph Wood was buried on the land the reservoir would inundate in 1860, and Lusby agrees that Wood also would have needed to be moved. Lusby says that the Lytle's Fork Reservoir also would have been used for recreation, with proposed rules that would have allowed for fishing, sailing or the use of non-motorized boats, and daylight public access. Now, he says that deer and turkey bow hunting are popular uses for the Veterans Memorial Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and that horseback and mountain biking enthusiasts have built their own trails on the land, which he and Key discuss. Key talks about the varieties of animals he has seen in the WMA, including skunks and beaver. Key describes seeing a hunter harvesting meat from a deer near the Skull Buster Mountain Bike (MTB) Trail, and Lusby says that he and his late wife used to go and count deer near there.

Keywords: Beaver; Bow hunting; Coppage Road (Scott County, Ky.); County Judge-Executives; Deer; Deer hunting; Fishing; Gaines Road (Scott County, Ky.); Harvesting meat; Hunters; Lytle's Fork Reservoir; Skull Buster MTB Trail; Skull Buster Mountain Bike Trail; Skunks; Stockdale Road (Scott County, Ky.); Turkey hunting; Turkeys; Veterans Memorial Wildlife Management Area

Subjects: County government--United States; Georgetown (Ky.); Public lands--Recreational use; Reservoirs.; Scott County (Ky.)

00:27:24 - Closing thoughts--The Eagle Creek Reservoir / Hope for Lytle's Fork's future

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Partial Transcript: Let's see now, um, there was recent discussion, uh, this past March, uh, about reviving this discussion about the reservoir. Uh, there was a local dentist involved and also the Judge-Executive from Owen County.

Segment Synopsis: Key and Lusby discuss another unsuccessful reservoir project in Owen County, called the Eagle Creek Reservoir or Eagle Creek Lake, and talk about their hopes for the future of the Lytle's Fork Reservoir project. Key initially confuses the Eagle Creek and Lytle's Fork reservoirs, but Lusby explains and says that the effort in Owen County is a revival of an older proposal that met a lot of opposition. He says that Dr. Jack Shepherd of Owen County has been advocating it, but that the nearly 12,000 acre reservoir would be incredibly expensive and two interstates would have to be moved in order to build it. Lusby laments that the Eagle Creek Reservoir would have worked well if it was built when initially proposed, but doubts that it could be financed and constructed today. Lusby maintains that he hopes Georgetown finds a way to get the Lytle's Fork Reservoir built and that USACE remains the only real obstacle. He claims that the water Scott County would get from the reservoir would be better and cheaper than what they currently have. He pivots to discussing the reputed origin of Skull Buster Mountain Bike (MBT) Trail's name, which he attributes to a tall man having hit his head on a low beam or tree branch. He compares that creative style of place naming to other local sites, like the Clabber Bottom and Turkey Foot communities. Lusby closes the interview by saying that he still wants the reservoir to be completed, though he is pleased with how the land is currently being used and hopes more people continue to use it recreationally. Mike Key thanks Lusby and signs off.

Keywords: Clabber Bottom (Ky.); County Judge-Executives; Dr. Jack Shepherd; Eagle Creek Lake; Eagle Creek Reservoir; Lytle's Fork Reservoir; Skull Buster MTB Trail; Skull Buster Mountain Bike Trail; Skullbuster MTB Trail; Skullbuster Mountain Bike Trail; Turkey Foot (Ky.); United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE); Veterans Memorial Wildlife Management Area

Subjects: County government--United States; Drinking water; Georgetown (Ky.); Owen County (Ky.); Public lands--Recreational use; Reservoirs--Regulation; Reservoirs.; Scott County (Ky.); United States. Army. Corps of Engineers. Louisville District; Water-supply--Kentucky