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2008: Looking back at a landmark year in Owen County history

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By The Staff

Although every year has moments that will be considered historical, 2008 will likely go down as a turning point in American history.

Whether it be the election of the first African-American president, the financial meltdown or one of the many stories that made headlines in The News-Herald, 2008 should always stand out in the memories of Owen countians.

To commemorate this important moment in our history, The News-Herald presents a recap of some of the most significant stories of the past year:

Jan. 2, 2008

The national pastime made a comeback at Bowling Middle School.

Kevin Webster, the high school varsity coach, said there was a gap in baseball programs and hoped the program would be able to provide more experienced players for the prep program.

The Owen County School Board approved new program in November with the intent to start the program in the spring.

•••••

Jan. 9

Doing business at the Owen County Clerk’s Office got a bit easier when Owen County Clerk Joan Kincaid said her office would start accepting credit and debit cards.

Kincaid said a lot of customers were asking to use credit.

At the County Clerk’s Convention in Louisville, Kincaid visited a booth set up by VitalChek Network, which eventually help set up the system in Owen County.

•••••

Jan. 16

The Owen County Project Development Board held its monthly meeting to take public comments on the proposed sites for the judicial center.

It would be the first in a long string of meetings concerning the new judicial center held in 2008 before a decision is finally reached.

Some who attended the meeting spoke in favor of keeping the building in the downtown area while others disagreed.

At this point in the discussions, the most favorable sites are considered to be next to the existing jail and the property between Sword Lumber and the post office.

•••••

Jan. 23

A family of five was found dead in their van following an apparent crash near Sparta, Jan. 17.

The bodies of Glenn and Kendra “Kelli” Johnson, along with their three children, were found in the overturned and submerged van in Eagle Creek near Sparta, Ky.

Officials believe the accident occurred after Dec. 27, the last day anyone had heard anything from them.

The KSP report said the vehicle was traveling west on 467 when it left the road. What caused the vehicle to leave the road is unknown.

•••••

Jan. 30

After 31 years as Owenton City Clerk, Freda Prather stepped down from her post at city hall.

Prather said her first post-official act will be to sleep for a month.

While working at Owenton City Hall, Prather worked with five mayors and countless city council members.

Prather was replaced by Charlotte Cobb, the former deputy city clerk

•••••

Feb. 6

It was announced that the old Owen County High School gym would be torn down as part of the construction project for a new Owen County school.

Owen County School District Superintendent Mark Cleveland said the demolition process would start upon approval from the Department of Education.

One of the main concerns surrounding the project is the building’s asbestos and having it removed.

Cleveland said he believes the asbestos to be limited to the floor tile and small sections of pipe insulation. He said this limited amount should be simple to remove. However, if a larger amount of asbestos is discovered, there could be delays.

Cleveland said the next step for the demolition is for the Owen County School Board to start the bidding process.

•••••

Feb. 13

A bomb threat interrupted the school day at Owen County High School.

Dave Stowe, part of the Student Support Service, answered a phone and the caller said, “You’re gonna blow, blow, blow at 11. So you better get out of there.”

Owen County High School Principal Shannon Treece was in a meeting when the call came over her radio.

She said the emergency plan was carefully followed that day. The first step in the plan was to call 911 and the Sheriff’s Department. The next calls were to Superintendent Mark Cleveland and Head of Transportation Jimmy Sutherland.

When Cleveland was called, he activated the Board of Education office’s emergency plan. This included notifying different agencies about the bomb threat.

Owen County Sheriff Zemer Hammond said it is possible the person who called in the threat is the same person who also called in a bomb threat earlier in the week in Carroll County.

•••••

Feb. 20

A record-breaking number of people turned out to show support for The Walk for Congenial Heart Defects Awareness.

The event’s organizer, Katie Columbia, said the actual attendance was probably higher than the 260 counted.

Columbia said 22 families who were affected by Congenital Heart Defects participated in the event.

Teams formed in honor or in memory of a child with CHDs. The teams worked to raise money for several weeks leading up to the Walk.

Columbia said the Walk and related projects raised over $13,000.

•••••

Feb. 27

After four years of work, the Owen County 20/20 Vision Project results were released..

Kim Strohmeier, who co-chaired the project along with Patti Clark and Tony Watkins, said thousands of community surveys and months of student research were compiled into a 300-page book, which was presented to the Owen County Leadership Class alumni Feb. 15.

He said once the books arrived, the Owen County 20/20 Vision Project officially ended. He said it is up to the Owen County Leadership Class alumni and the community to put the plan into action.

Patty Petzinger said the book shows how to develop businesses into the landscape in an attractive way and avoid strip malls.

•••••

March 5

Seniors Kendall Cochran and Kelsey Williams cut down the nets at Owen County High School as the Lady Rebels defeated the Lady Panthers from Carroll County 49-39 to claim the district crown.

Both teams advanced to Friday night’s championship game with wins Feb. 26. Carroll County defeated Gallatin County 35-32, while Owen County knocked off Henry County 56-36.

Coach Robert Osborne said he was proud of the way the team played and could not have been more excited to win the title at home. He also had high praise for his seniors. He said the two of them had really stepped up their games throughout the month of February.

•••••

March 12

The doors opened to McDonald’s, a Texaco gas station and HOP Shops convenient store in March.

The Owen County High School Band played as visitors entered, taking a look around the building and nibbling on food provided by Sisterly Touch Catering.

Paul Groen, owner of the Owenton McDonald’s, welcomed everyone to the party and thanked them for attending.

“It has been with great anticipation over the past two years that Owenton, Harper Oil and McDonald’s have looked forward to this day,” Groen said.

•••••

March 19

Owen County Sheriff’s Deputy Marvin Goodrich discovered first-hand how a Taser affects the human body.

Goodrich volunteered to experience a Taser shock during a training session. Five members of the Owen County Sheriff’s Department, one member of the Owenton Police Department and two jailers attended a five-hour training to be certified to carry Tasers.

Owen County Deputy Jailer Cindy Walker said she and Jailer David Bruce will carry Tasers only while transferring prisoners to and from court. She said they will also have Tasers in the courthouse during circuit and district court days.

•••••

March 26

Owen County Sheriff Zemer Hammond got a call around 1 p.m. March 24 from a neighbor of William and Colleen Wright.

The neighbor had found William in the Wright’s’ front yard, with a gunshot wound. His wife, Colleen, was found inside the couple’s residence at 1875 Pleasant Grove Road in Corinth. She was deceased, also with a gunshot wound.

According to a press release from Kentucky State Police, in addition to KSP and the Owen County Sheriff’s Department, Owen County Life Squad, the Owen County Coroner and the South Owen Fire Department also responded.

•••••

April 2

The merger of First Farmers Bank and Citizens Bank was announced.

Citizens Bank took the First Farmers Bank name and became another branch of the bank.

David Lyons, who was president and CEO of Citizens Bank, said the bank wanted to “make sure it was the best move for our customers.”

Lyons said it was a high priority to keep things local. Local board members of Citizens Bank would join the larger board of First Farmers Bank.

•••••

April 9

Despite soggy conditions and cool temperatures, the Ninth Annual Charlie Satterwhite Memorial Golf Shamble was held at Fairway Golf Course April 4.

The annual event is held to benefit the Charlie Satterwhite Fund supporting Trust for Life and the Owen County Senior Citizens Center.

Twelve foursomes teed off in the morning and another 15 hit the course in the afternoon.

•••••

April 16

Members of the community came to the Owen County Courthouse April 8 to make their voices heard about the volunteer fire departments’ proposed membership fee.

Everyone who chose to speak at the meeting was in support of some version of the bill. At several points during the meeting, the crowd supported the speakers with standing ovations.

Owen County Judge-Executive Billy O’Banion said the fire departments were extremely important and he was worried that departments would have trouble keeping their doors open.

•••••

April 23

Larkspur Press in Monterey celebrated 35 years of operation. The business, which creates books with a hand-fed press, is owned by Gray Zeitz.

Zeitz works primarily with Kentucky writers, such as Wendell Berry, Guy Davenport, James Baker Hall and Bobbie Ann Mason, and assumes the role of publisher for those books.

Zeitz said the big advantage to laying out the print by hand is the control and he works to fine-tune the design to an extreme detail. Every element of the book is customized.

•••••

April 30

Sharen Hubbard was named the new principal of Owen County Primary School.

Hubbard, who had been serving as a reading coach, had also taught kindergarten, first- and second-grade students during her 23 years with the Owen County School system.

Hubbard said she had been thinking about the administrative position for about six years, saying it was put on the backburner so she could spend more time with her daughter.

•••••

May 7

Before the prom, Owen County High School juniors, seniors and their dates participated in the annual Grand March in the Owen County High School gym. Students circled the gym with linked arms in groups of two, then four, then eight, and so forth.

•••••

May 14

Shopkeepers, artists, bakers and farmers braved the rain and opened Owen County farmers’ market for 2008.

The market opening featured a cookout on the courthouse steps, with the rain-soaked Judge-Executive Billy O’Banion running the grill. All profits from the cookout went to Relay for Life.

Larry Ayres, the president of the farmers’ market, said five new vendors had signed up for spots on the courthouse lawn.

•••••

May 20

In the primary to the 2008 general election, Owen County primary voters selected Hillary Clinton as the Democratic Party nominee for president while 70 percent of Republicans picked John McCain as their party nominee.

Incumbent Mitch McConnell was selected as the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate.

Businessman Bruce Lunsford was won the right to oppose McConnell in the fall’s general election for one of Kentucky’s U.S. Senate seats.

•••••

May 28

As gas prices started flirting with the $4-a-gallon mark, Owen countians started adjusting their driving and budgets to compensate.

Save-A-Lot Manager John Brown said each truck that brings food to the store charges a gas surcharge which in turn drives up food costs.

James Abner, manager at Cowboys gas station, said people are actually buying more gas than before because people expect the price of gas to climb even higher.

••••

June 4

After 17 years of responding to car accidents, house fires, and countless medical emergencies, Owen County Life Squad Director Larry Karsner retired.

Combined with his years working for the state government, Karsner spent 32 years serving the people of Owen County.

Although he stepped down as director, Karsner said he planned to be an active part of the Life Squad as a volunteer.

•••••

June 11

On June 6, , teams gathered to launch the 2008 Relay for Life.

The 12-hour event started with the national anthem, prayer, and a celebration of cancer survivors.

Owenton Mayor David “Milkweed” Wotier led the opening ceremony and introduced the cancer survivors as they took the first lap of the evening. This was followed by the first lap for the teams. From that point on, each team would strive to keep someone on the track for the full 12 hours.

•••••

June 18

After months of discussion, a decision on the fire department membership fee was reached.

At the June Owen County Fiscal Court meeting, the court voted unanimously for a $40 optional membership fee to be added to each property tax bill.

The court also agreed to pay half of the fire departments’ liability insurance, and will pay for the postage and supplies for departments that want to send out donation-request letters.

•••••

June 25

Owen County Sheriff Zemer Hammond received a tip about a stash of stolen goods in the southeast corner of the county.

Hammond said that thanks to this tip, a suspected burglar was arrested and jailed.

Hammond said he was able to return the stolen property to the owners.

•••••

July 2

In response to the growing demand for “green” business practices, Actaris found an innovative way to cut electricity costs.

Actaris started a four-day work week in hopes of saving on energy use and to help employees save on gasoline.

In exchange for the four-day work week, the office staff reports for work at 6:30 a.m. and stays until 5 p.m.

•••••

July 9

Kendall Yount competed at the Songahm Taekwondo World Championships where she captured the world championship in sparring for girls between 8 and 10.

Kendall had been participating in Taekwondo for five years. She said she discovered the sport when riding down the road with her dad, Lee, and they passed a Taekwondo studio.

Kendall was ranked 10th when she entered the tournament in Little Rock. She won four matches to claim the world championship title.

•••••

July 16

Seventeen girls competed for the title of Miss Owen County.

After two-and-a-half hours of competition, Melina Bress was awarded the crown.

Bress had been participating in pageants since she was 12 years old and she said the competitions help improve contestants’ self-esteem and confidence.

She said the judges’ interview portion of the contest helps improve public-speaking skills.

Bress said she participated in the County Fair Pageant to have fun with friends.

•••••

July 23

Gilbert England was shocked when he was named the Rotary Club Owen Countian of the Year.

The Owen Countian of the Year award began in 1953. Past winners include Dr. O.A. Cull, Dr. John Butts, A.C. Sparrow, David “Milkweed” Wotier and Frank Downing.

“I am very honored to be included with such an outstanding group of people,” England said. “I am very humbled.”

The award was presented as part of the Owen County Fair.

•••••

July 30

State auditors said then-Owen County Deputy Judge-Executive Renaee Gaines could face criminal charges after a standard state audit found she increased her salary by more than $14,000 by “manipulating payroll records.”

State auditors found the pay discrepancy after examining several canceled checks from the 2006 and 2007 fiscal years.

Auditors determined that Gaines, who oversaw payroll in the office, posted part of her increase in salary to the county’s ambulance salary account code for five periods.

•••••

Aug. 6

A desire for pills and guns led to a string of burglaries in Owen County and beyond, according to Sheriff Zemer Hammond. He said a six-week investigation led to five arrests in connection to the burglaries.

Two of the arrested were from outside the county. Hammond said the two were connected to 10 Owen County burglaries – two in Carroll County, three in Scott County and three in Bracken County.

The other three arrests were Owen County residents who are charged with burglary and theft by deception.

•••••

Aug. 13

In light of several burglaries in Owen County, residents in many neighborhood became more concerned with the safety of themselves, and their homes.

This concern sparked a new program in Owenton – the Neighborhood Watch Program.

The program was designed to be a community effort requiring no funding, except the cost of a few signs that will state that a neighborhood is under watch and what to do in case of a neighborhood emergency.

•••••

Aug. 20

One street in Owenton was given the chance of new life.

Owenton Mayor David “Milkweed” Wotier said the city applied for grant funds to revitalize and beautify a street. East and West Perry streets were the prime targets for the program.

Wotier said home owners could get money to make needed repairs to their homes; this would include foundation work, roofing, electrical, plumbing and any other work to bring a home up to code. If homes are beyond repair, they could be demolished. He said if a home is demolished, the owners will be paid fair market value.

West Perry Street would eventually receive the grant money.

•••••

Aug. 27

An environmental study showed the existence of “severe” petroleum contamination below a former downtown gas station. It’s believed the petroleum leaked from underground storage tanks buried there in the 1980s and ’90s.

Reports of the contamination emerged in August after county officials wanted to build a new judicial center on the tainted site, located at 214 W. Seminary St.

Officials were forced to abandon that plan after finding the property contained unacceptable levels of hydrocarbon, according to inspections performed by the Kentucky Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet.

•••••

Sept. 3

It was announced that the new Owen County middle school will use modern technology to create an earth-friendly atmosphere.

Owen County School District Superintendent Mark Cleveland said he wants the school to qualify as an Energy Star building, a program that labels buildings based on their energy efficiency. According to the Kentucky Department of Energy Development and Independence, only 12 Kentucky schools currently qualify.

•••••

Sept. 10

Sometime Sept. 7, the Owen County Post Office and the alley between the Owen County  Clerk’s office and The News-Herald office were painted with racially-charged graffiti.

Owenton City Police Officer Tony Stigers said the paint primer used in the graffiti was stolen from supplies used to repair the courthouse.

Mayor David “Milkweed” Wotier said this most recent crime is a symbol of a larger criminal problem in the city. At the September city council meeting, he said that several unlocked cars had been robbed.

•••••

Sept. 17

What was left of Hurricane Ike hit the county Sept. 13. The high winds caused damage to property including fallen limbs and uprooted trees, damaged roofs and siding ripped from homes. In some cases, barns were destroyed.

The winds also brought down a transformer between Cowboys and Peoples Bank.

Owen County Road Supervisor Dan Logan said the storm hit the entire county. He said it took the road department and all the fire departments about eight hours to clean up the major roads.

•••••

Sept. 24

The Owen County grand jury met Sept. 23 and heard evidence into the conduct of some members of the Owen County government. The grand jury handed down charges against former Deputy Judge-Executive Renaee Gaines, Judge-Executive Billy O’Banion and Treasurer Gayla Lewis.

Commonwealth Attorney Jim Crawford recommend the court issue a criminal summons for all three to be present at the Oct. 7 district court meeting.

The charges against former Deputy Judge-Executive Renaee Gaines are: two counts of theft by unlawful taking with a value of three hundred dollars or more, a class “D” felony, that took place between July 1, 2006, and April 1, 2008; two counts of first-degree official misconduct, a class “A” misdemeanor; and complicity to theft of services, a class “D” felony.

•••••

Oct. 1

Over 3,000 people came to watch Sara Evans perform at Elk Creek Vineyards. The concert kept the crowd on its feet. Elk Creek Vineyards owner Curtis Sigretto said the event was a success. They had a new system for parking that he said went very well. They also had three different admission gates to cut down on long lines.

•••••

Oct. 8

The Owen County Fiscal Court formed a plan of action to correct problems found by the grand jury.

Owen County Attorney Charlie Carter presented several ideas to address each item of the grand jury report.

Meanwhile, Judge-Executive Billy O’Banion, former Deputy Judge-Executive Renaee Gaines and Treasurer Gayla Lewis pleaded not guilty to all charges Oct. 7.

O’Banion was charged with theft, theft of services and official misconduct. Gaines was charged with two counts of theft, complicity to theft of services and official misconduct; and Lewis was charged with complicity to theft and two charges of official misconduct.

•••••

Oct. 15

The search of a new site for the proposed Owen County Judicial Center site was narrowed down to two.

The board members will pick between a downtown property that currently includes Full Service Auto and Meeting the Needs Mission, and several acres of land on Hwy. 127 owned by a Ford family trust.

Tod Ott from the CMW architecture firm presented a report on all the properties that were considered.

•••••

Oct. 22

West Perry Street won the battle for a face lift.

The city is applying for a $1 million grant to rehabilitate a section of the street.

Brian Kirby, president of Community and Economic Development Associates, said he had representatives going door-to-door to assess the needs of the each home on both West and East Perry.

The grant can be used to renovate homes to bring them up to code with new roofing, plumbing or electrical work. Homes considered beyond repair will be torn down and rebuilt.

•••••

Oct. 29

The mummified body of former Owen County resident Peggy Brown, 31, was found in the trunk of her brother’s car.

Timothy Allen Brown, 30, was later arrested on charges of knowing abuse and neglect of an adult and interstate flight to avoid prosecution.

Scott County Coroner John Goble confirmed late Tuesday afternoon the remains were that of the former Owen County resident.

“She grew up on Glass Lane,” Goble said.

Peggy Brown was a 1995 graduate of Owen County High School.

•••••

Nov. 5

Voting precincts were swarmed with voters as Owen County chose its leaders.

The Owenton voters re-elected Robert “Casey” Ellis, Bobby Walker, Robert Osborne, Doris Ann Riley and Larry Dale Perry to the Owenton City Council.

In the state elections, Owen County voted for Damon Thayer for the Kentucky Senate and Royce Adams for the Kentucky House of Representatives.

•••••

Nov. 12

After the excitement of election night, the Owenton City Council and the Owen County School Board set their priorities for the next year.

Owenton Mayor David “Milkweed” Wotier said he was happy that five incumbents were re-elected. He also said he was looking forward to working with Rita Osborne, a new face to the city council.

•••••

Nov. 19

Nov. 13 was a day for the history books.

After months of investigation, 68 arrest warrants were issued against suspected drug traffickers in five counties, including 16 in Owen County.

Chip Perry, public affairs officer for the Kentucky State Police Post Five, said this was the largest drug roundup ever for the post.

Perry said there were 112 charges pending and all but four charges are felonies.

•••••

Nov. 26

The Owen County Chamber of Commerce awarded the Outstanding Business of the Year to Elk Creek Vineyards. The winery is owned by Curtis and Debbie Sigretto.

The Outstanding Business Person of the Year went to Bob and Judy Cull of North Park Pharmacy.

The Wall of Fame presentation went to Carolyn Myers.

•••••

Dec. 3

Attorneys working on behalf of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association sued the estate of a former Owen County resident.

When Owen County resident Corrine K. Jones passed away, her will directed part of her estate would go to help fund work of the Billy Graham ministries.

Former Owen County resident Glenn Works was appointed executor of the Jones’ estate and directed to oversee the disbursement of the estate.

According to the suit brought by BGEA, Works was supposed to be paid $16,950 for his efforts.

But the suit claims Works actually received $48,550 from the Jones’ estate as executor.

The lawsuit by BGEA seeks over $30,000 that it alleges Works was overpaid as executor.

•••••

Dec. 10

A swarm of people braved the cold Dec. 7 to watch the Owen County Annual Christmas Parade.

The parade had 40 groups participate ranging from floats to fire trucks. The floats were decorated in this years theme – There’s No People Like Snow People.

First Christian Church took the top prize for best church group float, and Hesler Assembly of God Royal Rangers won second place. The Girl Scouts and the Owen County Soccer League won first and second place in the civic youth float contest.

•••••

Dec. `17

Owen County Circuit Court Judge Stephen Bates heard arguments to decide where Owen County Judge-Executive Billy O’Banion’s trial will be held.

Bates ruled the trial will remain in Owen County.

If it becomes difficult to select an impartial jury, Bates said he could reconsider the defense’s motion to move the trial to another county.

Bates rejected another motion to separate the trials of O’Banion, Owen County Treasurer Gayla Lewis and former deputy judge-executive Renaee Gaines.

•••••

Dec. 24

The former Owen County deputy judge-executive charged in connection with theft of public money changed her plea from not guilty to guilty.

Renaee Gaines admitted her guilt in Owen County Circuit Court Dec. 23 before Owen County Circuit Court Judge Stephen Bates.

During the hearing, Commonwealth Attorney James Crawford said “absolutely no agreements” or deals had been made to lure Gaines into changing her plea.