The past year has seen lots of positive change in Logan County – especially when it comes to business and industry.
Two of the biggest news stories of 2015 included the announcement of a $240 million expansion project at Logan Aluminum and the construction of a new pet food factory in Auburn.
There was also lots of change in leadership in our local schools as four of Logan County’s six schools got new principals – Olmstead, Adairville, Chandlers and Logan County High.
And, there were a pair of murders that occurred in Logan County. One in just the past couple of weeks and another in August, which remains unsolved and under investigation.
Here is a look at the top stories from the past year:
Logan Aluminum plans big expansion
Logan Aluminum announced their expansion plans in October with a ceremonial groundbreaking outside the plant outside of Lewisburg.
The project will involve a $240 million investment by Logan Aluminum owner Tri-Arrows Aluminum and an additional $50 million in possible investments is still under evaluation.
Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear was on hand for the ceremony, as were many other community leaders and the leadership of Logan Aluminum and Tri-Arrows.
“Strong, lightweight materials are quickly becoming standard in vehicle production and Logan Aluminum’s expanded operations contribute to Kentucky’s position as a global leader in the aluminum industry,” Beshear said. “Logan Aluminum sets the example of how innovative Kentucky companies can add capacity, products and jobs by reacting to market forces.”
Already employing more than 1,000 and ranking as one of Logan County’s largest employers over the past 30 years, Logan Aluminum’s project will create approximately 190 jobs. The additional pending $50 million investment would grow the company’s current production of rolled sheet for beverage cans.
Logan Aluminum, in conjunction with Tri-Arrows Aluminum (TAA), will expand its recycling/new ingot casting facility to provide additional capabilities and increased capacity at its rolling mills, scalping and pre-heating operations.
The changes will allow the plant to produce heavier gauge material, allowing for expansion into other products including automotive sheet.
Logan Aluminum’s ingot casting facility will include a new 280,000-square-foot building on the existing plant site to produce approximately 600 million pounds of cast ingot annually.
An additional 68,000-square-foot expansion will accommodate new equipment for aluminum sheet production to support its expanded capabilities including the auto industry.
New factory set to open soon
Champion Petfoods is gearing up to begin operation in its first specialty pet food kitchen in the U.S., which just so happens to be located at the out-skirts of Auburn.
Over 147 jobs will be created with the opening of Champion Petfoods and possibly more to come as the cooking increases. The building site is spread out over 84 acres with two separate buildings. Last count the project investment in Logan County is approximately $122 million.
“We are very excited about the start-up of the Champion Petfood kitchen in our city,” said Auburn Mayor Mike Hughes. “This is a project we have been working towards for sometime, and to see it come to fruition is extremely gratifying in many ways. We are looking forward to a wonderful partnership with Champion, and feel their presence will be a great asset to our city, our county and our state.”
The Auburn kitchen will supply pet food solely to the U.S. market and will reflect Champion’s BAFRINO (Biologically Appropriate Fresh Regional Ingredients) mandate. The 371,100 square foot facility is located on an 84-acre site, 30 acres of which are devoted to kitchen operations with the remaining property to stay primarily undisturbed, with walking paths and pet exercise spaces.
Murder in south Logan County
A man was arrested in late December for the disappearance and murder of an Adairville woman.
George Walker, 20 of Adairville, was arrested early Wednesday morning, Dec. 23, 2015, after the body of his sister-in-law, 23-year-old Allison Walker, also of Adairville, was found in the Red River in south Logan County.
Allison Walker was listed as a missing person on Tuesday, Dec. 22, when she was reported as missing from her residence on Conn Road in Adairville.
Her body was found around midnight in the Red River by the Sheriff’s Department, with the assistance of the Logan County Search and Rescue squad.
According to the arrest report, Walker told deputy Kyler Harvey that he returned home from work on Monday morning and choked Allison Walker. He then tied her hands and feet before dumping the body in the Red River near the home on Conn Road in south Logan County.
George Walker was then arrested on charges of murder and tampering with physical evidence. He was lodged in the Logan County Detention Center on a $1 million bond.
Man found dead in barn
On Aug. 26, Logan County Sheriff’s Department responded to a possible homicide at approximately 7:15 p.m. at 2540 Ellis Road in Russellville.
The Logan County EMS found 65-year-old Robert Wetton unresponsive inside a barn at his home.
At the time, Sheriff Wallace Whittaker said no other information is being released . The body was taken to Louisville for an autopsy.
The case remains under investigation as a homicide.
Amish men go to jail for violating ordinance
Two Amish men charged with disobeying an Auburn animal ordinance were found guilty in a jury trial on May 6 in Logan District Court.
The law requires anyone bringing a horse or other large animal through the east Logan County town to have a device attached to the animal to catch excrement and keep it off the city streets.
Amos Mast and his son, Dan Mast, were both cited for not following the ordinance in January and demanded a trial by jury when they refused to pay the accompanying $50 fine.
After being found guilty on Wednesday, Circuit Judge Ken Williams told both men that they had until June 25 to pay their fines.
After getting an attorney and still refusing to pay their fines, both Amos Mast and Dan Mast were found in contempt of court on July 9. Both men were taken into custody at approximately 2 p.m. at the Logan County Justice Center and were transported to the Logan County Detention Center.
Amos Mast was sentenced to 10 days for contempt of court on two counts to run consecutively. Dan Mast was sentenced to 10 days for contempt of court.
Fiscal court wrestles with animal shelter
The Logan County fiscal court has had numerous problems this year with the animal shelter, which is run by the Logan County Humane Society.
In March, a committee was formed by the court in order to come up with a solution for the over-crowding at the shelter. In April, a group of experts toured the Logan County animal shelter and were to give the fiscal court and the local Humane Society a written report about changes and improvements that can be made to the shelter.
Before that report was completed, however, fiscal court voted to have a different committee attend a Humane Society board meeting and try to get it to begin making drastic changes pertaining to the county animal shelter.
And if those changes were not made, the court empowered county attorney Joe Ross to begin the legal proceedings to show that the Humane Society is breaking its contract with the county for the running of the shelter, which would result in the county taking over operation of the shelter. At that meeting, the Humane Society met the fiscal court’s demands. The meeting also included the ouster of two board members and the resignation of animal shelter director Kathy Maddox.
In the weeks that followed, drastic changes took place at the shelter as dogs were killed and shipped out to take care of the over-crowding. The building and premises were also cleaned up and Tracy Moser was hired as the new animal shelter director.
The discussion about the animal shelter did not end there, however.
In June, the director of the Bowling Green-Warren County Humane Society, Lorri Hare, who was instrumental in helping implement the initial changes at the shelter, came to the fiscal court and said that the current Logan County animal shelter should be demolished and another one built.
Nothing was done at that time, but in November, Moser came to the court and asked magistrates to support purchasing property to move the county’s shelter. According to Moser, who had been directing the Humane Society for six months, the shelter is in bad shape and a new one needs to be built.
When the court did not get on board with the plan to spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on a new animal shelter, Moser came back a couple weeks later claiming that the current shelter is a health risk and that she had been told by the local health department that the shelter should be moved because of the disease Giardia.
After that meeting, however, representatives from the health department said that the “claim is categorically untrue since such a statement would have been supported with clinical evidence obtained from a medical lab and a substantiated investigation from our epidemiological team.”
Logan County goes ‘Right to Work’
Fiscal Court sealed the deal on February 24 with a unanimous vote to make Logan County Right-to-Work.
Logan will join a handful of Kentucky counties who have gone out on their own to support an initiative they are hoping will bring about economic growth to their communities.
After two individuals spoke to the court in opposition to passing a Right-to-Work ordinance at Tuesday’s Logan County Fiscal Court meeting, twice that many spoke in support of the initiative.
By passing a Right-to-Work ordinance, Logan County officially agreed with a law that prohibits union security agreements, or agreements between labor unions and employers, that govern the extent to which an established union can require employees’ membership, payment of union dues, or fees as a condition of employment, either before or after hiring. In layman’s terms, the law means an employee cannot be fired from his or her employment, nor passed by for possible employment, if they chose not to pay dues to a union.
Judge Executive Logan Chick has said the decision was purely an economic one, and not one against unions, adding Logan County will be left behind if they sit back and waited while other counties voted to become Right-to-Work.
“The states around us in which we compete for industry have already become Right-to-Work,” said judge Chick. “When it comes to locating, industry will most likely go to a state that is Right-to-Work. I’ve heard it myself from those in industry. By the court passing this ordinance and Logan County becoming a Right-to-Work county, it will send a message along with the counties around us that if someone is looking to move here, we are business friendly. We’ve just got to be part of it to stay competitive economically.”
Adairville gets over $1 million in grants
The city of Adairville got over $1 million in grant money in 2015.
In April, Kentucky Lieutenant Governor Crit Luallen was in Adairville to award a ceremonial check to the city for money from a Community Block Development Grant (CBDG) that will be used for water and sewer improvements.
The grant was applied for about two years ago and Adairville found out it would get the money soon after, but the process of actually getting the money has been slow moving.
The grant was for $577,770. The city also had to take out a matching loan with USDA Rural Development since it was a 50-50 grant, but 30 percent of the loan will be forgiven.
Then not long after the work was completed from that grant, the city received news that it had been awarded another CDBG in the amount of $500,000 to build a new fire station for the Adairville City and Rural Fire Department.
The new fire station will be located on Highway 431 in the north part of the city limits on the spot where the old truck stop used to be. This land was donated by Lee Robey to the city earlier this year.
Mayor Donna Blake said she looks forward to getting this project started early next year.
Adairville was also awarded a $20,000 grant through Homeland Security this year to buy a Polaris all-terrain vehicle that could be used for rescue in rough terrain.
Fiscal Court takes stand against same-sex marriage
Despite having no impact on the Supreme Court’s decision granting marriage equality to same sex couples, the majority of the Logan County Fiscal Court stood firm on their definition of traditional marriage by passing a resolution affirming “religious freedom and the timeless definition of marriage between one man and one woman” in July.
Magistrate Jo Orange introduced the resolution, which was drafted by the Commonwealth Policy Center (a nonpartisan public policy group) after five supreme court justices made their ruling in June.
Orange made the motion to pass the resolution at the Tuesday, July 28 meeting of the fiscal court. Her motion was seconded by magistrate Dickie Carter and passed with a four to three vote. Magistrates Drexel Johnson and Thomas Bouldin voted with Orange and Carter, while magistrates Jack Crossely and Barry Joe Wright, along with Judge Executive Logan Chick voted against.
“Richard Nelson (director of the Commonwealth Policy Center) was on WRUS Feedback and he himself stated the Supreme Court supersedes the state of Kentucky,” said Crossley. “I believe man and woman should be married and I don’t believe in same sex marriage, but I believe in abiding by the law and that is why I cannot vote for this.”
Carter told the court this resolution just tells that the fiscal court doesn’t believe in what the Supreme Court did.
“Several years ago the state voted on what was a marriage and now five people (judges) say we are wrong for doing that. I cannot understand that,” said Carter.
After voting against the resolution, Judge Chick made a statement as to why he voted the way he did.
“I have been thinking about this for a while,” said Chick. “Even though I believe in one thing, I don’t believe it’s proper to force that belief on other people.”
Auburn gets grant, loan to extend sewer line
On June 4th the city of Auburn for received a $300,000 grant and a $700,000 loan from the United States Department of Agriculture. These Rural Development funds were used to construct approximately three miles of sewer line and a wastewater lift station to serve the new Champion Petfoods plant under construction east of the city.
The company also received millions of dollars in tax incentives from the state and local government to locate here.
The line project was competed in the fall.
Bobby Luttrell & Sons, LLC out of Dundee were awarded the contract for the project. Along with bringing a line to Champion Petfoods, the City of Auburn will be utilizing approximately $150,000 to upgrade its existing wastewater plant. According to Auburn Mayor Mike Hughes, there will be minimal changes to the plant.
“Right now, the City of Auburn has plenty of room to accept and treat Champion Petfoods wastewater needs,” said mayor Hughes. “We have a two year agreement with the company who have been nothing but good corporate neighbors through this whole process. We are more than happy to help them anyway we can.”
The new industry is located on the south side of US 68, one mile east of Auburn near the Shaker Farm Implement dealership, on the right hand side going towards Bowling Green. The building site is 84 acres and will be approximately 300,000 square feet under roof in two separate buildings. The multi-million dollar facility will employ 147 and is expected to begin cooking the beginning of 2016.
Three arrested in murder plot
Three men were arrested in June in connection with a murder plot to kill another man for $500.
Danny Ray Armstrong, of Russellville, was taken into custody by the Russellville Police Department after a warrant for his arrest was granted. Ray joined Randall Young, also of Russellville, as the men who were allegedly solicited by John Joseph O’Brien, of Russellville, to kill James Hurt.
Detective Samantha Reeser, of the Russellville Police Department, heard both O’Brien and Young refer to the name “Danny” during an interviewing process. The detective put two and two together and eventually discovered the third suspect in the case to be Armstrong.
Hurt had apparently assaulted O’Brien on Feb. 26, 2015, and the plot was allegedly to retaliate for that assault. A witness had told police that O’Brien harbored an enormous amount of anger towards Hurt for the assault, and had previously mentioned killing him with a lead pipe and brass knuckles, similar to the manner in which Hurt injured him.
Murder trial postponed
The murder trial of Gerald Allen Benjamins, who is accused of killing 36-year-old Brad Rigney, was originally scheduled to begin in September of 2015, but has been postponed until February of 2016 after both Commonwealth Attorney Gail Guiling and the defense asked for a continuance for the trial.
The defense announced plans to introduce several expert witnesses, which the prosecution needs time to prepare for. Also, Guiling disclosed that a witness may have seen another man at the home of Rigney around the time of his death and the defense needed time to look into those possibilities as well.
The trial is set for Feb. 22 with a plea deadline of Feb. 18. That will be over two years after Rigney was killed.
Benjamins was was arrested in September of 2014 in Jeffersonville, Ind., after he was picked up at a soup kitchen in the southern Indiana town outside of Louisville. He has remained in jail ever since.
According to RPD detective Kenneth Edmonds, Rigney and Benjamins met over the Internet and were online acquaintances.
Brooks announces candidacy
Local attorney Ami Brooks announced in August that she plans to run against state representative Martha Jane King next year.
Brooks said she hopes to represent Logan County, Todd County, and a portion of Warren County in the Kentucky House of Representatives’ 16th District. She will be running as a Republican. King, the incumbent, is a Democrat. If any other Republicans run for the seat, there will be a primary election in May. If not, then Brooks will represent her party in the November 2016 general election.
King will be seeking a fourth term in office.
“Frankfort needs more conservative voices, and we must replace the failed leadership in the State House of Representatives,” Brooks said. “I will be an independent voice for Kentucky families and a watchdog against wasteful spending and burdensome regulations.”
Brooks is a partner at Brooks and Hendricks, a general law practice with offices in Russellville and Springfield, Tenn. She is a licensed attorney in both Kentucky and Tennessee, and much of her legal work is devoted to juvenile and family law.
Airport runway gets expansion
The Russellville-Logan County Airport extended its runway by 500 feet, bringing its length to 4,500, opening up opportunities for larger aircraft and bringing with it economic growth.
The Logan County Fiscal Court agreed in April to pay $30,000 toward the project, as did the city of Russellville. They join the state of Kentucky who allotted $170,840 and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) which earmarked $2.5 million to the project.
The FAA is the national aviation authority of the United States. An agency of the United States Department of Transportation, who has authority to regulate and oversee all aspects of American civil aviation.
Magistrate Thomas Bouldin, who made the motion to give the funds to the airport for the project, said he’d agree to pay $30,000 for a $2.2 million project any and every day of the week.
The airport board has been talking about the runway extension project for the past four years. This is something that is very important for the community as a whole. With the current 4,000 foot runway, larger company jets have not been able to land in Logan County. This has kept certain business from this area. Once the runway is lengthened, these companies will have the opportunity to fly directly into Logan County, which will open many doors.
Funds will also pay for LED lighting to be placed down the runway and taxi lane. The lighting, better know as “PAPIs” (precision approach path indicator), are the red lights at the end of the runway
This recent project is one of the airports major improvements. The board built a $760,000 terminal in 2010 to be used by pilots and those who fly into the airport. The project was paid for by state and federal dollars. There have been $2.3 million in capital improvements to the airport since 2002, with less than $30,000 coming from local taxes.
On July 3, the Logan County landfill permanently closed.
Citizens now no longer take their trash on free dump days to the landfill, but instead take it to a transfer station in South Union on the far side of Auburn, according to a host agreement with Scott Waste LLC.
Also, the thousands of tons of trash brought into Logan County by MBI from Nashville and other locations has stopped. Many did not realize that Logan County’s trash, picked up by Scott Waste, did not end up at Logan County’s landfill, but instead a landfill in Hopkins County, which means and a great deal of trash at the local landfill is not local at all.
The most significant change, monetarily speaking, was the ceasing of payment to the Logan County Fiscal Court that exceeded over $200,000 annually, with much more than that these past few years.
Waste Management, who runs the landfill, does not own the land itself. It is leased from a private owner (the Anderson family) and operated by Waste Management as Southern Waste Services LLC. The original operator (Southern Sanitation) sold the operating permit in September of 1995.
After the landfill closed on July 3, it then went into a two year closure process with the State of Kentucky.
Craig takes over Chamber leadership
In January, Ryan Craig became the new face of the Logan County Chamber of Commerce. Craig replaced long-serving director Lisa Browning, who resigned her position after 24 years.
“I am excited about the opportunity to work with the Logan County Chamber of Commerce, its members and the community, and to continue the fine tradition and purpose the Chamber holds,” said Craig.
Craig is the owner and publisher of the Todd County Standard in Elkton. He is a graduate of Western Kentucky University with a bachelor’s degree in both public relations and history. He is a former reporter for the News-Democrat & Leader, as well as a copy desk chief of the Kentucky New Era in Hopkinsville and page one designer for the Leaf-Chronicle in Clarksville, Tenn.
Huge snowstorm hits
One of the largest snowfalls in years hit Russellville and Logan County in February.
By 10 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 16, several inches of snow were already on the ground in Russellville and the storm was still bringing more in by the minute.
Some official estimates called for up to 18 inches of snow before it was all said and done.
Students missed an entire week of school in both the Russellville and Logan County systems.
Work crews were out in force in Russellville trying to clear as much snow off the city roads as possible, but it was falling almost as quickly as workers could get it up.
“We started late Sunday afternoon getting out equipment ready,” said Russellville mayor Mark Stratton. “We’re working as hard as we can, but it is falling so fast we are just having to repeat what we’ve done just to keep the main throughways open. We’re doing the best we can and everybody is working very hard.”
Stratton said they weren’t even trying to salt roadways on Monday morning.
“We’re just moving snow – with any piece of equipment we have that can move it,” he said. “We’re just loading it into dump trucks and putting it in the old hospital parking lot, because we’re not sure when it will all melt, so we can’t just leave it piled up around the city.”
Logan schools get new leadership
Over half of the schools in the Logan County district got new principals in 2015, beginning in March when Bonnie Watson was named the new principal at Olmstead.
Watson had been at Olmstead as assistant principal since 2010. Prior to that, she was a middle school language arts teacher with the Owensboro Independent School System. She began her career teaching elementary school in Henderson.
Then in June, Kristina Rice, who had been serving as the assitant principal at Auburn School, was named as the next principal at Adairville School.
Rice began her career as a high school language arts teacher at LaRue County High School in 2004. In 2005, she moved to Logan County High School as a language arts teacher for five years. She served as a district curriculum coordinator at the Logan County Board of Education for three years before becoming the assistant principal at Auburn School for two years.
Then after Logan County High School principal Casey Jaynes left for a new job just prior to the start of school, Chandlers principal Caycee Spears was named to replace him in September.
“Having worked in the district the last few years, and especially from having taught here, I realize what a tremendous source of pride the high school is to the entire community,” Spears said. “With rich traditions and outstanding community support, LCHS provides a great education to the students of Logan County.”
Spears was then replaced at Chandlers by Robbie Davis , who had been serving as the school’s assistant principal since 2013 under Spears.
Recycling program starts costing county money
The county now is paying for its curbside recycling program each month instead of generating funds from it.
The change came from a drop in how much recycling is worth, which according to Pete Reckard of Scott Waste Services, is a fluctuating market.
“Prices could rise again soon or it may take a while, but they will go up again,” Reckard said in November.
Scott Waste Services contracts with the county and its four cities to handle waste and recycling in a unified agreement. What little revenue that was generated since recycling began a few years ago, has been shared by a percentage between the cities and county.
Scott had originally been taking the county’s recyclables to a sorting center in Nashville owned and operated by QRS. The Nashville center was recently purchased by Scott’s competitor Waste Management, which now wants to charge the county $85 per ton to take the recycling materials instead of paying for them. According to Reckard, Waste Management claims commodity prices are down, and the county’s recycling is too contaminated to make it worth anything.
Scott picks up approximately 70 tons of recycling materials per month in Logan County.
Adler becomes new Lewisburg mayor
After taking office in January, Bert Adler began taking the position of Lewisburg mayor very seriously. What is considered a part-time job, Adler started showing up on a daily basis to assure the citizens of his city have someone to go to if they need to talk.
The City of Lewisburg has 840 citizens and seven employees.
“I think it is very important to be here for the citizens, as well as the employees of this city,” said Adler. “People need to know that if they have a compliant, or just need to talk to the mayor, he/she are available to them.”
Adler is retired from Red Kap after 35 years of service. He managed the industry in numerous locations including Lewisburg and Russellville before their closure. After retiring from Red Kap, Adler went on to work for the Imperial Group- a chrome plating industry- another eight years.