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.

Comparing golf: Owensboro and Bowling Green

When Bob Williams, president of the Hillcrest Golf Association, spoke to the Owensboro City Commission Feb. 2 in support of the city keeping Hillcrest Golf Course open, he pointed out that Bowling Green, the city Owensboro is frequently compared too, has three golf courses.

Williams was right about that. Bowling Green’s Web site includes this information about its city-owned golf courses: “CrossWinds Golf Course is an “above par” 18-hole golf course which has over 6,500 yards of Bermuda tees and fairways, and bentgrass greens surrounded by some of the largest bunkers in Kentucky. The City also has two enjoyable nine hole courses: The Golf Course at Riverview and Paul Walker Golf Course. The Golf Course at Riverview surrounds Riverview, Bowling Green’s historic landmark built by Colonel Atwood G. Hobson and Juliet VanMeter Hobson. Paul Walker Golf Course is nestled in one of the oldest neighborhoods in town.”

If Owensboro closes Hillcrest’s nine golf holes in favor of concentrating all its golf activities at Ben Hawes, the city will have a total of 27 holes of golf because Hawes has an 18-hole regulation course and a nine-hole par-3 course.

But, as Williams said, that will still leave Owensboro with one golf course and nine golf holes less than its neighbor to the southeast. If Owensboro managed to keep Hillcrest open and operate both of the Ben Hawes courses, both cities would have 36 holes of golf available to residents and visitors.

The Hillcrest-Ben Hawes issue is up for what promises to be a lengthy discussion at the City Commission’s noon work session on Tuesday. The city’s staff has been asked to provide the commission with various options and costs associated with operating both courses, or just Ben Hawes.

Owensboro City Commission to vote Tuesday on Executive Inn purchase

The Owensboro City Commission will be meeting Tuesday to vote on whether to move ahead with the city’s plans to purchase the closed Executive Inn Rivermont property. 

Mayor Ron Payne announced Friday that the hotel’s owners, Marshall Investments, have accepted a $5 million offer for the property on the city’s riverfront. That offer is contingent upon the commission’s approval, which the body is expected to give at Tuesday’s meeting. 

The commission will also have the first reading of a budget amendment related in part to appropriating money for downtown development. The amendment “will establish the Downtown Development and Revitalization Fund for the purchase of implementing the Downtown Master Plan,” according to the meeting’s agenda.

The noon meeting will be held in the commission’s chambers at City Hall.

Owensboro City Commission, Daviess Fiscal Court to hold work sessions

 The Owensboro City Commission will hold its first work session of the year and the first under new Mayor Ron Payne on Tuesday. 

The work session begins at noon in Room 406 at Owensboro City Hall, 101 E. Fourth St. 

Here’s the agenda – 

1.        Call to Order – Mayor Ron Payne

2.         Private Development Policy – City Engineer Joe Schepers (Presentation)

3.        Towne Square Mall Connector – City Attorney Ed Ray

4.         911 Training Center & Consolidated Dispatch – Operations Manager Tony Cecil and Police Chief Glenn Skeens

5.        City Projects Update & Schedule – City Manager Bill Parrish

6.        Adjournment – Mayor Ron Payne

Daviess Fiscal Court will also hold a work session Tuesday “to discuss a downtown development insurance premium tax proposal.”

That meeting will be held at 2 p.m. in the second-floor courtroom at the Daviess County Courthouse, 212 St. Ann St. 

Notes from Tuesday’s Owensboro City Commission meeting

Some bits and pieces from Tuesday night’s meeting of the Owensboro City Commission –

  • Sanitation Superintendent Downey Ward shared some figures from the city’s cleanup effort following the Sept. 14 windstorm. Ward told the commission that the city had 80 streets blocked by fallen trees following the storm and more than 500 damaged or missing signs. So far, the city has collected 58,000 cubic yards of yard waste which weigh approximately 7,350 tons. That amount, collected over three weeks, is equal to what the city typically collects over two years. 
  • The commission unanimously adopted a resolution that shows city government’s support for revision of a countywide ordinance tightening regulation of sexually oriented businesses. City Attorney David Fowler explained that the revisions the county is considering are needed in light of changes in case law since the city and county initially passed similar ordinances in the mid-1990s. 
  • City Manager Bill Parrish announced that the city will be presented with an Enterprise Award from the Kentucky League of Cities at its annual convention later this month for its new English Park boat ramp and scenic overlook. A letter from KLC Executive Director Sylvia Lovely announcing the award stated that the ramp is one of the “best and brightest examples of entrepreneurship, innovation and excellence in local governance.

Lexington mulls TIF plans

As the CentrePointe project moves forward in downtown Lexington, the Urban County Council is making plans to partner with the project’s developers on a tax increment financing district.

The council is expected to vote today on a resolution indicating its willingness to create a downtown TIF district around the CentrePointe project, Beverly Fortune reports in today’s Herald-Leader. 

The resolution directs the city’s TIF consultant to prepare a development plan for the CentrePointe neighborhood that would outline the TIF district’s boundaries, the proposed public improvement projects and “the overall rationale” for creating the district.

Owensboro could find itself heading down a similar path in the future following the completion of the downtown master plan being worked on this week and the adoption of a proposed resolution regarding the Executive Inn Rivermont site on the riverfront. 

Both the Owensboro City Commission and Daviess Fiscal Court are mulling over adopting an official, written commitment to bringing a “convention class hotel” to the property in the future. 

draft resolution the city commission is considering adopting would signal that the body is “committed to pursuing a downtown Tax Increment Financing District that will include that property and which will assist financing those amenities” such as a convention or events center and parking structures to complement the hotel.

Members of both local government bodies have indicated they would support the resolution, and are just waiting for the proper language to be worked out. 

Part of this week’s design process for the downtown master plan includes a recommendation for financing mechanisms to make many of the proposals a reality, so it won’t be surprising to see local government advancing next year with TIF plans once the plan is completed, a process that Lexington is now undertaking.


The Herald-Leader is reporting that the council voted to move forward with the TIF district.

Owensboro City Commission to hold work session Tuesday

The Owensboro City Commission will meet Tuesday at City Hall in Room 406 for its monthly work session.

Of particular interest will be the presentation by City Engineer Joe Schepers of his proposal regarding city annexation agreements. Schepers has been charged with revamping the way the city goes about annexing land to the city and outlining the requirements for developers.

The move to change the city’s future annexation agreements come after a turbulent relationship with developer Bob Wimsatt through an annexation agreement signed in the 1990s. 

Wimsatt has incurred the wrath of homeowners in several of his developments in northwest Owensboro after not following through with paving plans for subdivision streets and problems with other public improvements on the properties, such as draining systems. 

The city found that its annexation agreement had few teeth to compel Wimsatt to follow through, and has been trying to work with Wimsatt this year to try to make sure the public improvements are made. 

Just last week, a group of homeowners lobbied the city commission for action, and City Manager Bill Parrish was only able to respond that there was little the city could do from a legal standpoint.

Last month, Schepers pitched his proposed changes to the annexation policy to local developers and homebuilders to get more feedback.

Here’s the full agenda –  


September 9, 2008 – 12:00 Noon

 G  E  N  D  A

1.  Call to OrderMayor Tom Watson

2.  WKU Owensboro Project Update Judge-Executive Reid Haire

3.  O-DC Convention & Visitors Bureau Presentation – Karen Miller, Executive Director

4.  Personnel Policy Revisions – Danielle Woodward, Personnel Director

5.  Development Policy/Annexation – Joe Schepers, City Engineer

6.  Stormwater Ordinances – Joe Schepers, City Engineer

7.  FCC Rate Review Petition for Cable Television – David Fowler, City Attorney

8.  Golf Cart Usage on City Streets – Bill Parrish, City Manager

9.  Riverfront Development Update – Tony Cecil, Operations Manager

10.City Projects Update – Bill Parrish, City Manager 

11.Adjournment – Mayor Tom Watson

Notes from Tuesday’s Owensboro City Commission meeting

A few items from tonight’s Owensboro City Commission meeting at City Hall –

  • Commissioner Cathy Armour read a note from Virginia Braswell, volunteer director for the local Habitat for Humanity chapter, that noted the organization is building its 80th and 81st houses in the Owensboro.

Braswell asked the commission to consider donating the land needed for additional houses, which are built using volunteers and sold to lower-income families.

The mention of volunteer labor prompted Commissioner Candance Castlen Brake to joke, “You think they can build an ice arena?”

The city is currently building a $6.2 million ice arena next to Moreland Park largely using “wellness funds” from the city and county governments. Brake has opposed the project, saying that it is a mistake to devote that much money to a project she believes will have limited economic impact at a time with other capital improvements, such as an arena and convention center, are needed.

  • The city commission continued to field complaints from homeowners in subdivisions built by developer Bob Wimsatt.

Wimsatt has drawn the criticism of homeowners and the city for not following through on the requirements for public improvements mapped out in the loose annexation agreement he signed with the city years ago. Continue reading