In this news roundup: home sales are down 5% year-to-date versus 2018, a proposed dog run, Passport job cuts and much more.

Home sales are down but prices are still up in Louisville area

Home sales are down 5% year-to-date versus 2018, while average home prices were up by the same amount, according to the Greater Louisville Association of Realtors. In Jefferson County, the average price in May was $241,451, with the median around $200,000, while inventory was slightly higher at .5%.

GLAR May 2019 chart
Courtesy of Greater Louisville Association of Realtors

Association President Karen Story said the Louisville area still is technically experiencing a sellers’ market.

“However, it’s still a tale of two markets where homes under $250,000 are selling very quickly and higher-end homes are selling more slowly,” she said.

“Though the latest monthly figure shows a mild decline in contract signings, mortgage applications and consumer confidence have been steadily rising,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors. “We are seeing a migration to more affordable regions, particularly in the South, where there has been recent job growth and homes are more affordable.”

In addition, the May report from RentCafe.com shows rents in Louisville increased by .3% month-over-month, up to an average of $941 per month, the highest in the state. Year-to-date, average rents in Louisville are up $29.

The current national average is $1,442, $35 higher than a year ago. —Kevin Gibson

New dog run proposed for Des Pres Park

De Pres Park map
A dog run has been proposed for inside the walking path (shown at lower left) at Des Pres Park. | Courtesy of Metro Parks

District 18 Councilwoman Marilyn Parker seeks input from constituents on a proposal to add a dog run to Des Pres Park.

This fenced run would be a public/private partnership with the Louisville Dog Run Association, which maintains eight other dog parks around Metro Louisville, funded with leftover funds from a previous year’s budget along with financial commitments from the association and Louisville Metro Parks Foundation, Parker said in her constituents newsletter.

The dog run at Des Pres Park, which is near the Hurstbourne area, would be located on the inside of the park’s existing walking path. The run won’t obstruct the path, and park patrons will continue to have full access. There also would still be a large amount of open green space not occupied by the dog run, Parker said.

Those who wish to comment on the dog run proposal can do so through a three-question online survey.

Parker also will make herself available in the park’s pavilion on Saturday, June 22, at 11:30 a.m. for anyone who wishes to provide face-to-face feedback. —Kevin Gibson

Artist Debra Lott’s work is featured on 7 billboards thanks to SaveArtSpace

"At Arms Length" by Debra Lott
“At Arms Length” by Debra Lott

Louisville artist Debra Lott knew her piece “At Arms Length” would be featured on a billboard in Louisville thanks to the national SaveArtSpace nonprofit, which seeks to create an urban gallery experience using unconventional spaces. But she was shocked to find out it would be on all seven billboards chosen by the organization.

“I was overwhelmed and certainly thrilled to have just one billboard, but seven was pretty surprising,” Lott tells us.

Her piece was inspired by the unattainable standards of beauty found in pop culture, she explains in her artist’s statement.

“I have elongated (the) legs and arms, pixelated some body parts and used other techniques to highlight the negative messages being sent to woman,” she explains in the statement. “By using loose, thicker brushstrokes, I adapted my technique into a more expressionistic approach that added an emotional, psychological dimension to the paintings.”

The project was curated by another Louisville artist, Ashely Brossart, and the billboards can be found on Frankfort Avenue, Fifth Street, New Cut Road, Strawberry Lane, Poplar Level, Market Street and Cane Run Road. —Sara Havens

State gets $5 million grant TAYLRD to young people

TAYLRD logoThe state announced a $5 million grant this week to continue a program that provides support for teens and young adults who are dealing with, or at risk of, behavioral health challenges.

The Kentucky Department for Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities secured the federal grant to continue the TAYLRD program through March 2024. The name stands for Transition Age Youth Launching Realized Dreams.

The program has 20 drop-in centers in places around the state, including Louisville, that 16- to 25-year-olds can visit to get connected with resources and work on their goals as they transition to adulthood. The youth-friendly centers include amenities, such as pool tables, video games and computer labs.

“TAYLRD is an innovative way to empower youth and young adults to be in charge of their own behavioral health, using an approach that is engaging and inviting to young people,” said Wendy Morris, commissioner of the department, in a news release.—Darla Carter

Metro311 is now available as an app

311-mobile-phone
Metro 311 app | Courtesy Louisville Metro

Louisville Metro this week introduced a mobile app and an online system for its 311 services. Residents can now use (www.louisvilleky.gov/tell311) and the new mobile app (search for Louisville Metro311 in the Apple and Google stores), the city said.

Residents turn to 311 for services like requests for property maintenance and to fix potholes and broken street lights.

As part of its announcement, Mayor Greg Fischer said the city was partnering with the IT firm Accela to provide a new Louisville Metro Business Portal for online licenses, permits and applications, as well as the new 311 system and app.

The business portal (www.louisvilleky.gov/businessportal) is intended to improve how businesses submit licenses, permits and applications online and how they track progress along the way, the city said, adding that 51 new licenses, permits and applications can now be submitted online, replacing mail-in or walk-in processes.

“Louisville Metro Government is in the service business, and the launch of this new system means our customers — residents and businesses — will have quicker, easier and better interactions with our services,” Mayor Fischer stated. —Mickey Meece

Passport Health cuts jobs

Passport's logoPassport Health Plan has reduced its staff by 29 positions as part of a plan to get the organization back on “solid financial footing.”

” …this is a difficult but necessary step to re-position the organization for the long-term future,” a spokesman told Insider via email. The cuts were first reported by WDRB.

“Passport has made significant progress in driving operational enhancements to help improve its financial health and best position the plan for success,” the nonprofit said. “At this moment, it is critically important for Passport to support a leaner operating model and to drive efficiency to ensure the plan’s longevity.”

The organization would not say whether more cuts would be coming, by how much the cuts reduced costs or whether those and other recently announced cuts have returned the organization to profitability.

Passport had about 200 employees at the end of 2017, according to the most recent IRS records, but that was before its fiscal problems began in earnest and before the cost cuts it announced earlier this year.

The nonprofit managed care organization handles Medicaid benefits for about 307,000 Kentuckians, including nearly 129,000 in Jefferson County. Medicaid is a mostly federally funded health insurance program primarily for the poor, pregnant women and people with disabilities. The state funnels the federal dollars to managed care providers, including Humana and Passport.

Passport has lost $164 million in the last three years, including $123 million last year, blaming recent struggles on the state lowering its disbursement of Medicaid dollars. The state said that it had made changes to the Medicaid program because of budget constraints and because Kentucky’s managed care organizations were generating much higher profit than their peers in other states.

Evolent said last month that it plans to acquire a 70% stake in Passport for $70 million. A Medicaid expert had told Insider that without the bailout, Passport likely would lack the capital required to even qualify to apply for the new five-year Kentucky Medicaid contract, which is Passport’s sole revenue stream.

While Evolent CEO Frank Williams said he expects the deal to allow the company to generate more revenue from Passport — or to squeeze more than $70 million out of the nonprofit’s assets if it fails — Evolent’s investors have not reacted favorably to the company’s proposal, which has yet to be approved by state and federal regulators.

On the day that the Arlington, Va.-based company announced the plans, its shares fell by more than 29%, closing at $10.01. Mid-afternoon Thursday, shares traded for $7.90, down another 21%, and just one penny above its 52-week low. —Boris Ladwig

In Brief

Beverage Dynamics, which held a conference in Louisville last week, recognized Liquor Barn as one of the Top 5 alcohol retailers in the country.

Delta Dental is starting the Delta Dental Institute to educate policymakers and others about the importance of oral health. The institute also will be involved in research, outreach and advocacy to help Americans make informed decisions about their oral health.