State building no cause for concern, employees told

 

   Employees of the downtown Owensboro state office building were hit with the headline “Hotel site contaminated” streamed across the top of the front page of Wednesday’s Messenger-Inquirer. The story about serious soil contamination at the site wasn’t lost on Frankfort. Before the day was over, employees of the building received the following message from state officials:
 
“You may have read in this morning’s Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer about environmental concerns from the City of Owensboro regarding use of the site on which your office building is located. I want to assure each of you that there is no reason for concern on your part. The concerns raised in the story have no impact on the quality of the air inside your office building, as they relate directly to the potential implications of demolishing the building and developing the property for other uses.

To ensure the safety of our employees, the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection (DEP) recently conducted indoor air quality samples at your worksite. On March 10, 2010, DEP collected 8-hour time weighted samples from nine locations inside the building. This was done after working hours so that they could isolate the air flow in the building, allowing for any possible accumulation of vapor to be present. The samples were analyzed by an independent third party analytical laboratory for an exhaustive list of volatile organic compounds, including chlorinated solvents.   The results of the tests were negative. They did not detect any chlorinated solvents in air inside the building and no volatile organic compounds were detected in air at levels that pose a threat to human health.

As the result of a leak from a nearby dry cleaning business many years ago, the city and state have closely monitored the quality of the soil beneath the state office building for nearly a decade and have never had any reason for alarm. The current presence of any chemicals that may have leached beneath the site of the building will not pose any threat to health or safety. The soil’s environmental condition does not preclude the future reuse and redevelopment of this property with proper mitigation of the soil.

The air quality in and around your building poses no threat to your health.  Please be assured there is also no risk associated with enjoying your lunch or breaks in the area outside of the State Office Building.”
 
According to Cindy Lanham, director of communications for the Finance and Administration Cabinet, the message was signed by various state department directors who have workers in the Owensboro facility.

Friday, the Owensboro City Commission will hold a special called meeting to vote on repealing the ordinance that was approved earlier this month purchasing the state building. According to a source, the city now wants nothing to do with the building because of the contamination problems.

A look at blocked streets in Owensboro

Owensboro City Manager Bill Parrish said this afternoon that street crews are moving off the city’s main thoroughfares to begin tackling more neighborhood streets. 

Click here for a look at Owensboro’s local streets still blocked following this week’s winter storms as of 1:30 p.m. today. 

According to Parrish, with most of these blockages are caused by limbs tangled with power lines that will require the help of utility crews and make the streets more difficult to clear. 

“The street department is starting to move into the neighborhoods and clear limbs and spread salt when they can,” Parrish said. “The streets are remarkably clear and the back streets you can negotiate if you just don’t drive too fast.”

In Owensboro as of this afternoon, 17,000 of Owensboro Municipal Utilities customers were still without power, and spokeswoman Sonya Dixon said it will be about a week before the majority of customers have power restored.

Kenergy had 14,000 customers in Daviess County without power and a total of 40,000 of its 53,000 customers in its 14-county service area without power.

City accepting applications for new public works director position

The city of Owensboro has taking another step forward with its reorganization plan that calls for the consolidation of public works departments.

On Sunday, the city began advertising for the newly created position of director of public works which will oversee the engineering, street and sanitation departments, and will be accepting applications through Aug. 29.

The creation of the position is part of the city’s strategic plan that has emphasized consolidation of positions and department through attrition to reduce payroll and benefits costs.

The departments that will fall under the domain of this new director are currently standalone departments with heads that report direction to Operations Manager Tony Cecil and City Manager Bill Parrish.

Parrish has said he expects the realignment of the public works departments to save more than $400,000 annually in payroll and benefits.

Take a look at the city’s strategic plan here.

Attorney General’s office sends out open meetings, records reminder to local governments

Attorney General Jack Conway announced Wednesday that his office will be sending an update on the state’s open meeting and open records laws to more than 1,400 public officials.

The update will include a new provision approved by the General Assembly this spring that will allow public agencies to notify the public and press about special meetings by e-mail. That change could allow the public to learn about special meetings more quickly and efficiently and make it easier for those agencies to provide appropriate notice.

Public officials who receive the update  are required by law to pass it along to “all elected and appointed officials and members within the county, city, school district or university they represent,” the attorney general’s office noted.

In its press release, Conway’s office notes that the update “is aimed at enhancing public officials’ understanding of the law and ensuring open government.”

In other open meetings law news, the Messenger-Inquirer has received notice that Conway’s office has started its investigation into a complaint by the newspaper against the city of Owensboro and Daviess Fiscal Court.

The complaint alleged that both governments arrived at the decision to submit an offer for the Executive Inn Rivermont and what purchase price to offer without calling a special meeting of elected officials. The city and county both denied the complaint, which prompted the review by Conway’s office.

The attorney general’s office received the Messenger-Inquirer’s appeal on July 23 and has 10 business days to issue an opinion about whether the two governments broke the open meetings law.

Update…

Joe Biesk with the Associated Press has the full story on the open meetings law changes here or here.

Concerns about steel prices top talk at riverfront development meeting

About 50 contractors, engineers and others turned out this morning for the pre-bid conference at City Hall for the next stage of the city of Owensboro’s riverfront development project.

This $25 million phase will include the construction of a river wall stretching from at least the RiverPark Center to the foot of Frederica Street that will expand Smothers Park by about two acres, include river overlooks and create the foundation for a cascading water feature at the site of the current downtown boat ramp.

The chief concern aired at the hour-long meeting was the price of steel, which has been steadily increasing in recent years.

The volatility in steel prices factors into cost estimates since the steel piles needed for the project take between six and nine months to fabricate and don’t come with a locked-in price for contractors. That means a price quoted to a contractor on the day he places the order won’t necessarily be the price the contractor will have to pay when the steel is delivered months down the road.

Once bids are submitted in late August, the city has 90 days to review them, and expects to award a contract within that time period. If the city opts to go with an alternate, cost-saving design proposed by a contractor, that review period could be longer, City Engineer Joe Schepers said.

The city will open bids for the project on Aug. 27.

Open records, closed meetings – What’s all the fuss?

In his foreword to the “Kentucky Open Meetings and Open Records Laws” handbook that sits on the desks of most reporters around the state, former Legislative Research Commission Director Vic Hellard Jr. explains that the state passed an Open Meetings law 34 years ago “to provide the people with greater access to government.”

The law gives the average citizen and the press the opportunity to see how decisions are made by the governments that represent them, along with granting those public bodies protections when deciding certain potentially sensitive issues such as personnel matters and property purchases.

Those two competing rights were at the root of a complaint filed by the Messenger-Inquirer last week over a decision by the city of Owensboro and Daviess Fiscal Court.

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City of Owensboro, Daviess Fiscal Court make hotel bid

The city of Owensboro and Daviess Fiscal Court have submitted a formal offer to Marshall Investments to purchase the Executive Inn Rivermont.

The offer was made last week by the two government bodies, but details of the offer including the proposed purchase price won’t be released, said Downtown Development Director Fred Reeves.

The announcement came after a closed-door meeting of the city commission and fiscal court Friday morning in which elected officials decided Reeves will be the point person in the drive to secure ownership of the 17-acre riverfront plot that contains the closed 600-room hotel.

Reeves said he had heard nothing from Marshall since the offer was submitted, but hoped to hear back early next week. There was no deadline attached to the offer, Reeves said.