Archive for April, 2010
Besides discussing the city’s 2010-2011 budget last night, Don Rinthen also told the council about the issues that made it onto his short list of big ticket items the council will have to deal with in the coming year. The issues Don listed were:
- Increasing the water department fees for reconnecting service and possibly initial deposits as well. Don said the current reconnect fee of $30 doesn’t even cover what it costs the city to reconnect a line. In the past, the city council has set water fees based on how much they think the citizens can afford, but now it needs to start setting them on how much things actually cost. Rinthen said he thinks some people are spending money on things like fancy cell phones and satellite television, while causing problems for the city by not paying their water bills.
- Blacktopping roads appropriately. Don said he didn’t want to see any roads blacktopped without being held to a high standard. The roads in Deer Run are one example of where a road appears to have been built very poorly, and re-blacktopping only delays further decay. If the city moves to repair Deer Run’s roads, it needs to do it once and do it right so it doesn’t have to be done again, Don said.
- Coming to a final decision on a sidewalk ordinance. The city council can do whatever it wants — rewrite the current ordinance, bypass it, enforce it or throw it out — but a decision needs to be made, Don said.
- Finalizing new rules for business license fees. Rewriting the business licenses ordinance has been on the council’s plate for a while, with some businesses complaining about the current system and some owners refusing to pay their license fees until the city pressed the issue. Don said the revision of the ordinance is something that needs to be finished off in the coming year.
- Annexation of a church on Industry Road next to the Garrard County School. While the school property has been annexed into the city, the church property has not. The church will be hooking on to a school sewer line when the school goes active, and the city council needs to have the church property annexed by then, Don said.
- Stop paying employees for lunch breaks. If a city employee gets into a wreck on a lunch break and they’re being paid, the city can be held liable and sued, Don said.
- Bret Baierlein also brought up the issue of the city paying 100 percent of its employees health insurance premiums. Bret said he doesn’t think that’s something the city can afford to keep doing.
UPDATE: Roy Walker Davis, 59, was arrested and lodged in the Lincoln County Jail this morning on one count of attempted murder.
There was apparently a shooting on the Public Square sometime either last night or this morning. Investigators are still getting back to me with information.
Central dispatch told me they could not tell me what had happened, but confirmed there was a shooting incident this morning.
I’m waiting to hear back from Lancaster Officer Tim Morriss, and the state police post in Richmond told me they will be faxing out a press release shortly. More info as it comes in.
UPDATE: Story is now on amnews.com here.
There was a house fire last night, and one man is dead. According to Lex18, (read their story here) 57-year-old Danny Cates, a disabled veteran, might have died of a heart attack before the fire started in his home. The fire could have been caused by a stove where Danny had been cooking.
I’m looking into what happened this morning, and there will be more info up here and in the Advocate later today.
My call to Housing Authority Board Chairman Cecil Dunn last night did not turn up any new information. I was hoping Cecil could provide me with a letter he has (according to Don Rinthen) from the state housing authority asking questions about increasing administrative costs at the local housing authority. I was also hoping he would have minutes from the April 8 meeting where Lisa Phelps resigned. But Cecil wouldn’t comment on anything and wouldn’t say anything about the letter or the minutes.
I did talk with the housing authority’s interim Director Rachel White, who is also Danville’s Housing Authority director. She told me she is currently in the process of learning Lancaster’s system, because each housing authority has a different organizational system, with different software and those types of things. She couldn’t make an assessment for me of the organizational or financial condition of Lancaster’s housing authority because she hasn’t become familiarized with the system enough to know.
White told me employees from Danville’s housing authority will be running Lancaster’s for the time-being so that services continue. The Danville employees are running Lancaster’s housing authority in addition to Danville’s, so it is something of a wearying task, she said.
Watch for the full story in today’s paper.
According to Don Rinthen, the housing authority’s board, which he sits on, asked Lisa Phelps to step down from her position as director at a meeting last week. Rinthen said the board had been asking questions since January and was unsatisfied with the answers it was getting from Phelps.
The resignation of Phelps isn’t necessarily connected with the ongoing federal investigation of the housing authority. Sheriff Wardrip told me the federal investigation started last year after Lisa’s husband, Michael, was one of two Garrard Countians indicted in October’s Pagan Motorcycle Club indictments, when federal investigators indicted 55 members of the motorcycle gang on drug and violence charges. Michael Phelps was charged with conspiracy and serving as an armed body guard for a convicted felon.
Wardrip said ATF investigators acquired a search warrant for the Phelps’ home, and while searching it they found evidence — Wardrip said it was something like receipts for payment to Lisa Phelps’ relatives — that led them to open an investigation into the housing authority.
Rinthen said board knew that there was an investigation going on, but not any of the specifics about the investigation. One main issue that catalyzed the board to ask Lisa Phelps to step down was an issue with Christmas bonus payments, Rinthen said. Christmas bonus payments are against the law for housing authorities, Rinthen told me. The board asked that the bonuses be returned, but not all of them had been, he said.
I’m still trying to get in contact with Lisa Phelps and the federal investigators. I will be talking to the board’s chairman, Cecil Dunn, tonight.
There’s a story in Thursday’s Garrard Central Record about the Lancaster Housing Authority director resigning and five employees being terminated. The Housing Authority is under investigation by two federal agents, according to the story. If the story is posted online, I will link to it here. In the meantime, I’ll be digging up facts for a story, and I’ll post an update or two here.
The Herald-Leader has an article in today’s paper by Greg Kocher about Garrard County’s recent growth and success.
You can also read more in-depth stories from the Advocate-Messenger about each of the topics addressed in Kocher’s article:
The new high school is approaching completion and there might be a new story on this sometime soon. Here’s a story I wrote last year that sums the project up.
This is the most recent update (Dec. 31) on the judicial center and the Lancaster Grand Theater. Both construction projects are continuing to progress.
Here is a story from December looking at how many businesses located or expanded in Garrard County in 2009.
The big economic development announcement this afternoon was indeed big — Mine Shields LLC will be locating its manufacturing operations in Lancaster, bringing at least 35 jobs at at least $16/hour with it.
Mine Shields builds metal refuges miners can take refuge in after cave-ins or other disasters in mines. The refuges hold food, water and air that can help miners survive for 96 hours. It will be moving into the old Christian Appalachian Project headquarters building along Crab Orchard Street.
Perhaps even bigger news is the potential for Mine Shields to grow its operations if it receives certification from the Mine Safety and Health Administration. No company yet has MSHA certification, and Mine Shields says it’s on track to be the first. Once it receives MSHA certification it opens up a huge market for Mine Shields, and as a result it would expand its operations by hiring an additional 165 people and expanding into a second building in Garrard County.
Mine Shields CEO Connie Hendrens said it will probably be at least six months until the company can receive MSHA certification. Currently, Mine Shields could locate one refuge in every mine in the nation. MSHA certification would allow Mine Shields to locate a refuge every 2,500 feet. Any mine wanting to be MSHA certified would have to have refuges every 2,500 feet.
Connie said Mine Shields is also looking into markets in South Africa and China. A consultant working on mine refuge markets in China I spoke with at the press conference said its probably a matter of a few months until Mine Shields knows what business opportunities it might have over there.
There will be a job fair coming up for people who want to work for Mine Shields.
More on this in tomorrow’s Advocate-Messenger.
There’s a big economic development announcement being made at 3:30 p.m. today. County leaders are making quite a stir about it so at least they think it’s a very big deal. We’ll find out this afternoon, and I’ll put something up here.
UPDATE: From an e-mail I received from Nathan Mick:
We should have a huge crowd with people flying in from around the country for it.
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I talked to Leonard Smith yesterday for a profile that will run in today’s paper. He has quite a bit of experience with local governments in Tennessee, having worked for the Tennessee Valley Authority for 25 years. Here’s his photo:
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Just for fun, here are a couple photos I took on Monday, when Ben Chandler gave the Garrard County Sheriff’s office $145,000 for upgrading emergency responder tech.