Ben Hawes takeover goes smoothly

The city of Owensboro’s takeover of the operations of Ben Hawes State Park on Thursday went smoothly, according to city manager Bill Parrish.

Parrish said he and other city employees including the public works director and city attorney were on hand to observe city staff opening the course for play at 7 a.m.

Chris Cary (golf course manager) and Amanda Rogers (parks and recreation manager) were there,” Parrish said. “It went smoothly. We’re going to have a real focus on customer service. We’ll manage it to state guidelines.”

The city agreed to operate Ben Hawes for 90 days while the city and state negotiate the city’s purchase of the state office building. When that deal is finalized, the city will take permanent ownership of Ben Hawes State Park.

“That is when you will see a flurry of activity to bring it up to a standard city residents expect,” Parrish said.

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.

Tuesday’s work session at Edge Ice Center

  Tuesday’s Owensboro City Commission work session will be held at the city’s newest facility, the Edge Ice Center on West Parrish Avenue next to the Sportscenter. It will be second consecutive meeting for the City Commission away from City Hall. Last week’s regular City Commission meeting was held at the Dugan Best Recreation Center on the west side of town.

  At today’s noon meeting, city commissioners are expected to received answers to questions they had earlier this month about the Owensboro Family YMCA’s request for up to $198,500 in city funds to assist the organization in the building of an outdoor day camp on 25 acres it owns on New Hartford Road.

City Manager Bill Parrish said Monday that the answer to the question of whether the city can provide money for the religious-affiliated Y’s camp is yes. But on the second question pertaining to any possible savings for the city by shifting city summer recreation activities to the Y camp, it would not be a lot, only about $5,000 a year, he said.

However, the 12 acres proposed for the summer day camp is outside the city limits and may need to be annexed if the city provides funding, Parrish said.

City Attorney Ed Ray said the city may provide financial support for the specific program the YMCA has proposed, which is a summer day camp that is religious and gender neutral and nondiscriminatory.

Also on the agenda for discussion today: A new city sign, a new city-produced show for cable channel 75 on downtown development and proposed changes to the city’s personnel manuals.

Finally, the City Commission will be given a report on the Edge Ice Center’s first eight months of operation and members will tour the facility.

Greenville, S.C. official to speak at this week’s Rooster Booster

This week’s Rooster Booster Breakfast by the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce will feature a talk by Russell Stall, executive director of Greenville Forward in Greenville, S.C.

Stall has been involved in the redevelopment of Greenville’s downtown, was visited by Owensboro and Daviess County officials during their work on the downtown master plan, and a visit lead by the Chamber is planned for May 11-13.

From the Chamber’s news release –

Greenville Forward is the organization Russell created and is responsible for insuring that the bold and aggressive dreams of Greenville’s strategic plan are accomplished. Russell is an active public speaker and motivator, telling the story of Greenville to more than 160 groups in recent years.

Here is a post about last year’s visit on the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp.’s blog.

The breakfast begins at 7:30 a.m. Thursday at the Community Center at Owensboro Christian Church, 2818 New Hartford Road.

H-L’s Eblen: Downtown Lexington needs two-way streets

 In his column today, the Herald-Leader’s Tom Eblen argues for the conversion of several one-way streets in Lexington’s downtown to again accommodate two-way traffic. 

The change is being urged by downtown advocates who believe two-way streets slow down traffic and are generally more pedestrian-friendly than one-way thoroughfares. 

That would make Lexington’s downtown “a place people want to drive to — not drive through,” Eblen notes

That’s a change being considered in Owensboro as well, where the recently adopted downtown master plan calls for the core city’s main drag – Second Street – to go back to a two-way street.

The biggest complaint about Second Street voiced during work on Owensboro’s downtown master plan was that it was a main thoroughfare for truckers heading through the city. The noise and smell of tractor trailers heading through downtown isn’t conducive to sidewalk cafes and downtown foot traffic, many said. Continue reading

City of Owensboro reportedly to buy Executive Inn Rivermont hotel property

Owensboro Mayor Ron Payne will talk about the future of the Executive Inn Rivermont at a press conference on Friday in front of the closed downtown hotel. 

Several sources have confirmed that a purchase offer by the city has been accepted by Marshall Investments, the owners of the 17-acre property since June. 

Payne would not comment further on what Friday’s announcement will be nor would he confirm that the hotel had been purchased by the city. 

“I’m not going to say anything more,” Payne said. “We’ll make the announcement tomorrow. 

Payne will be joined by county officials at the announcement, which will begin at 10 a.m. 

The 600-hotel closed in June after Marshall Investments took over as owners following a legal battle over the payment of the mortgage on the property. Marshall Investments held the mortgage for the hotel, which had been owned by Minnesota/Owensboro Executive Inn. 

While campaigning for mayor last year, Payne said he was in favor of the city purchasing the hotel property to use as part of a widespread redevelopment of Owensboro’s downtown. 

The city and county had extended a purchase offer to Marshall Investments in July, but received no response from Marshall Investments, Downtown Development Director Fred Reeves said at the time.

EDC to announce new loan program for downtown

The Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp. will announce plans for a loan program to promote investment in downtown Owensboro this morning. 

EDC Chairman Darrell Higginbotham, who is Daviess County president of Independence Bank, will provide details about the new Downtown Owensboro Revitalization Loan Program at a 9 a.m. CST press conference at the EDC offices at 200 E. Third St. in Owensboro. 

Officials said Monday they anticipate private investment to be at least twice as much as the $79 million investment proposed by the city of Owensboro and Daviess Fiscal Court. 

“If we invested $80 million, if we didn’t get $200 million (in private) investment, that would surprise me very much,” said Fred Reeves, downtown development director, told the Messenger-Inquirer on Monday.

The loan program will begin with a capitalization of $2.5 million by “trustee-level investor banks” that are members of EDC and plan to invest “.00005 percent of their deposit share to promote the work of economic development in Greater Owensboro,” according to the EDC.