New judicial center takes step forward

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By John Whitlock

The new Owen County judicial center is expected to take another step forward today when the property is formally sold to the county.

At a special meeting of the Owen County Fiscal Court Tuesday, Owen County Judge-Executive Carolyn Keith was elected by magistrates as the director and chairperson of the Owen County Public Properties Corporation.

For legal protection, the corporation will be listed as the deed owner for the property. Once the bonds used to finance the property are paid off, the deed will be turned over to the county.

The corporation still listed former Owen County Judge-Executive Billy O’Banion as the director and chairman.

When O’Banion resigned his post earlier this year as part of a plea agreement in his criminal case, he was ordered to resign from any county boards or organizations he may have been a member of due to his authority as county judge.

Owen County Attorney Charlie Carter said it was recently discovered that O’Banion was still listed as leader of the corporation.

Carter said O’Banion formally resigned from the corporation Monday.

For the sale of the Ford family property on Hwy. 22 to go through, Keith had to be listed instead of O’Banion.

Carter said the transfer is scheduled to take place today at 1 p.m. in Frankfort.

Despite undergoing major changes to the overall design of the center, Keith said it looks like a September groundbreaking is still on schedule.

Earlier this year,  the Court Facilities Standards Committee, the state board that oversees the construction of courthouses, directed the county to remove several hundred square feet from the design to bring it in line with other similar projects across the country.

Todd Ott of CMW Inc., the architectural firm in Lexington that designed the new courthouse, removed an entire floor from the project but still left space for a proposed family courtroom.

Keith told the magistrates she was generally pleased the new design.

“At least we get to keep the family court,” Keith said.

Although the county is not scheduled to open a family court, many officials believe the new court will be approved soon.

The Kentucky General Assembly authorized building a new judicial center in 2006 and approved its funding in 2008. The total project budget is $11.47 million.