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2008 Year in review

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By The Staff

January

The Central Kentucky Community Theater raised the curtain for the first time on Jan. 11 as “Nunsense” took the stage as the theater group’s first-ever performance.

April Reinle made her way to Lexington to compete in state junior miss competition. Reinle, who was named Washington County 2008 Junior Miss, was among 36 participants to take part in the state event. She placed in the top 10 overall, and won top honors for physical fitness.

The Isaiah House, a faith-based drug and alcohol treatment center, opened at the former location of The Care Academy in Willisburg.

Washington County Extension Agent Rick Greenwell announced that money from the Phase I tobacco settlement could be bringing computers to local farms. Greenwell said plans were to try to get as much as $500 each for 200 local farmers, which would help pay for Internet service, as well as computers, to be used on their farms.

Superintendent of Washington County Schools Larry Graves announced that he would retire effective at the end of the 2007-08 school year. Graves had been battling pancreatic cancer prior to the announcement.

February

Parents and concerned citizens in the Fredericktown community gathered at Fredericktown Elementary School to meet with Washington County Board of Education members and discuss the future of the school. The closing of the school has been discussed often in the past, and this meeting was a chance for those concerned to voice opinions about the school’s future.

A group of visitors from Iraq were in Springfield to learn about the economy and government of American communities. The group was hosted by city and county officials.

A pair of tornadoes, graded F1 and F2, hit Washington County in the early morning hours of Feb. 6. The twisters destroyed at least one local home and did substantial damage to others.

Akebono Brake Corporation announced it would close its Springfield plant and eliminate 180 local jobs. The move was attributed to difficult times in the automobile industry by Carl Lay, the company’s general manager of administration.

Washington County opened its Regional Recycling Center in February, also serving Nelson and Marion counties.

Following the entertaining attempt to become home of TV’s “The Simpsons” in 2007, Springfield again got its shot at Hollywood fame in February when 20th Century Fox movie representatives invited the city to take part in a premier event for the new animated movie, “Horton Hears a Who.” Springfield was not the winner of this competition, but despite bad winter weather, a couple of hundred locals turned out for the event.

March

Tammy Osbourne was selected as Springfield’s Citizen of the Year at the 2008 Springfield-Washington County Chamber of Commerce banquet. Osbourne was honored for her continued work with the local Relay for Life program.

History visited Springfield when actors portraying former presidents Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson in an historic event known as “A Meeting of the Minds: The Presidents of Mt. Rushmore.” The men spoke to the public in period clothing and language, and they later answered questions in first-person format as the presidents they portrayed.

Members of the Washington County Board of Education voted to give Fredericktown Elementary School at least one more year to remain open. It was decided that the school would be open for the 2008-09 school year, but if enrollment did not climb from 69 students as it was in March to at least 90 students, the school would be closed at the end of the year.

Some Kentucky Wildcat basketball fans from Springfield got a surprise while attending the SEC Tournament in Atlanta. A tornado struck the Georgia Dome moments before the Wildcats were to take the floor, and the tournament had to be moved across town to another location. No fans or players were injured.

The Springfield City Council passed a new restaurant tax that will collect an additional 3 cents per dollar spent in restaurants in the city, with the money going toward local tourism and promotion.

The high school baseball field at Idle Hour Park was officially named Tom Bystrek Field, honoring the former Springfield Sun sports writer and longtime WCHS baseball coach who retired after 27 seasons at the helm of the Commanders. Bystrek won 444 games while leading the Commander baseball team. Former players and coaches turned out for the ceremony and annual alumni game to celebrate the occasion.

April

A Washington County couple was arrested in connection with the theft of jewelry from the home of Tommy and Bonnie Hamilton. Kentucky State Police arrested Wesley Lynn Hardin, 37, and Leann Rebecca Riley, 27, for the theft. The jewelry was reportedly taken over a long period of time. Riley had access to the home when her mother worked for the Hamiltons.

Joy Wandrey was named the new director of the Washington County Public Library. Wandrey came to Springfield from the Dallas-Fort Worth area of Texas.

A $200,000 project to upgrade security at Washington County Elementary and Washington County High schools brought technology to the older facilities. New electronic cards replaced the old keys that had been used to secure the building. Both schools suffered from serious security issues, and had been entered after hours in recent months by people who either broke into the schools, or had keys that were not supposed to be duplicated.

A group of local students paid tribute to Elizabeth Madox Roberts, a well-known author and Springfield native, who is buried at Cemetery Hill in Springfield. Students from North Washington Elementary School’s eighth grade class cleaned the grave site of Roberts in preparation for a visit by the Elizabeth Madox Roberts Society, a group that studies the author’s work and visits Springfield each April.

The cupola of the new Washington County Judicial Center was put into place as construction of the new building continued to progress.

A $30 million grant was secured for the location of a biorefinery to locate in Springfield. The grand was issued to Ecofin, LLC, an affiliate of Alltech, Inc. When completed, the biorefinery will be among the first in the United States to utilize cellulose at raw material levels, which will then be converted to ethanol and other value-added products.

St. Catharine College announced plans to build a new library on its campus, which will be named the Emily W. Hundley Library, as is the current, smaller library housed in a current campus building. The project was made possible in part by a gift from Hundley, the library’s namesake.

Student pick-up problems continued at Washington County Elementary School as parents and others arrived as much as two hours early to pick up students. School officials, working with local police, came up with a plan to redirect traffic which previously lined Doctor Street and help clear up the problem. Traffic now flows to the school via Commercial Drive, reducing the congestion previously forced into neighborhood streets of Springfield.

A new program to promote history of local barns as well as tourism began when members of the Washington County Homemakers started painting barn quilt pieces on wood to be hung on area barns. The barns are now part of an ongoing project that encourages tourists to visit the local treasures of barns in the county.

May

Bluegrass Dairy & Foods in Springfield was recognized for its production of Kosher food products, which are a staple in the diets of Jewish consumers. The local company works with Rabbi Yosef Levy as it produces Kosher products, which are made by strict Jewish law, and monitored to contain certain items, but not others, in relation to materials from animals.

A 67-year-old Nelson County man went missing near the Washington/Marion County line. Brantley Stephens, 67, of Springfield Road in Bardstown, was later found following an extensive search by rescue workers. Stephens was later found dead in the Beech Fork River.

St. Catharine College celebrated its 76 graduation commencement, and a total of 105 students received degrees, with approximately 800 people in attendance for the ceremony.

Ground was officially broken for the new Elizabethtown Community and Technical College’s Springfield campus. The college will be located in the industrial park off of KY 555.

A group of 25 kindergarten students made up the first-ever class of kindergarteners to graduate from St. Dominic Elementary School in its 79-year history. Andrea Hooper was the teacher of the first kindergarten class at St. D.

June

Local law enforcement officials discovered more than $5 million worth of marijuana, along with processed marijuana, a Ruger pistol and an AR15 assault rifle on a Washington County farm as part of a marijuana eradication operation. No arrest has been made in the case.

Washington County High School’s Class of 2008 graduated, with 138 seniors receiving diplomas. Rob Spaulding was this year’s valedictorian, while Lee Goatley was salutatorian.

Former Superintendent of Washington County Schools Larry Graves lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. Graves was diagnosed in September of 2007.

Lauren White, daughter of David and Donna White of Willisburg, was named 2009 Washington County Junior Miss. White will represent Washington County at the state competition in January.

Washington County deputies and Kentucky State Police were called to a field party on the property of Washington County School Board member Pat Clements which was attended by more than 100 juveniles. Clements was charged with violating the county’s social host ordinance, which makes it illegal for an adult to provide alcohol to minors or host a party where alcohol is knowingly present. Clements was later found not guilty of the charges.

The 202nd wedding anniversary of Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks was celebrated at Lincoln Homestead State Park in Springfield. The wedding was re-enacted twice on Saturday, June 18, to celebrate the wedding of the parents of our nation’s 16th president, Abraham Lincoln.

Dan Huston II, 54, of Murray, Ky., was killed when his Lancair 4P airplane crashed and burst into flames at the Springfield-Lebanon Airport.

Justin Hatchett, 18, of Mackville, was seriously injured in a farm accident when the tractor he was driving on his family’s farm overturned and crushed him beneath it.

Hatchett continues to recover from the accident.

Washington County Relay for Life raised $84,000 with the 2008 event, held at St. Catharine College.

July

Bonnie Plants, a company known for providing vegetables, herbs, flowers and other gardening items to home and department stores such as Home Depot, Lowe’s, and K-Mart, announced it would locate a growing operation in Springfield. The facility is expected to bring about a dozen full-time jobs, as well as 30 to 35 seasonal jobs to the community.

A statue entitled “In Sacred Union” was announced as the new work of art that will be placed outside the Washington County Judicial Center in downtown Springfield. The statue will be created by California sculptress Paula B. Slater, and will measure nearly 16 feet in height from the ground to the top of the head of President Abraham Lincoln’s head.

Robert Stafford, a native of Camargo, Ky., in Montgomery County, was named as the new superintendent of Washington County schools. Stafford came to Washington County from Owen County, where he oversaw district operations and student support services.

The Springfield-Washington County Chamber of Commerce continued its summer concert series, bringing Bill Pinkney’s Original Drifters to Idle Hour Park for an outdoor show.

Local businessman Steve Hale set out on a 500-mile bike trek, riding from Louisville, Ky., to Americus, Ga. The event was to benefit the Fuller Center for Housing, whose founder, Millard Fuller, started Habitat for Humanity, a program to provide affordable housing for those in need.

August

A series of break-ins in the Willisburg community raised the conern of citizens there, and led to the closing of the R6 mentoring program. The program was to benefit men who were battling drug and alcohol addiction. The R6 program closed its doors locally shortly after a public meeting about the incidents, and is now located in Louisville.

Washington County native J.T. Burton, former WCHS girls’ high school basketball coach, was named the new head coach of the St. Catharine College men’s basketball team. Burton played basketball at St. Catharine before graduating in 1997.

The Springfield City Council passed an ordinance that allows golf carts to be driven on city streets. The new law follows in the footsteps of a law passed by state legislators, and permits the carts to be driven in zones where the speed limit is 35 miles per hour or less. Other restrictions were placed on the carts, which must pass inspection and be licensed with the city before being legal to drive on streets.

Kevin and Margaret Coulter, along with their daughter Abby, won top honors for quality milk production at the 2008 Kentucky State Fair.

September

Washington County Jailer Steve Hardin announced that the county had joined a lawsuit against the state of Kentucky in an effort to recover funds spent to house state felony prisoners who get credit for time served in county jails.

The Washington County School Board voted to not increase the school tax rate, keeping that rate at 50.8 cents per $100 of property owned. That tax rate, which is normally collected from approximately 96 percent of taxpayers, generates $1,937,023 that goes to the school system’s general fund.

Attorneys for the estate of Jeremy Mudd, a Washington County man who died as a result of an automobile accident involving his vehicle and a Washington County ambulance, were back in court. Attorney Keith Sparks claimed that the ambulance involved in the accident was destroyed before it could be properly inspected as evidence. Judge Allan Ray Bertram ruled that an additional 60 days would be allowed for discovery of evidence, and the case will be scheduled for a hearing at a future date.

Some racy Hispanic books featuring sexually explicit drawings were removed from the shelves of the Washington County Public Library. Joy Wandrey, new director of the library, said the books were shipped as part of an order made by the library despite her request that such material not be included. The subscription that included the books has been modified to ensure that the more explicit materials are not sent to the library in the future.

Johnny Boone, a Springfield man who was a member of the Cornbread Mafia, was sought in connection with more than $5 million worth of marijuana discovered earlier in the year in Washington County. Boone has not been located.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear visited Washington County as part of a Democratic rally prior to the November election. The event was in support of David Sparrow, a Democratic candidate for state representative.

October

Two juvenile Washington County High School students were suspended following an incident where a pellet gun was brought to the school. Both students were charged with unlawful possession of a weapon on school property, which is a Class D felony.

Washington County Emergency Services Director Mark Hale told the county’s fiscal court that his organization was owed $23,500 in unpaid EMS fees. The fees related to charges due from as far back as 2005, according to Hale.

The River of Life Church and The Backyard, a local restaurant, were burglarized. Money was taken from the church’s soda machine, as well as some desks. At the restaurant, about $150 was taken after the suspect(s) entered after using a pry bar to enter a side door. No arrests have been made.

Springfield hosted the second annual Kentucky Crossroads Harvest Festival. The event drew hundreds of visitors, and was deemed a success by organizers.

Local manufacturer Toyotomi, which creates parts for the automobile industry, announced that it would make additions including a $1 million office expansion and a $7 million press on its manufacturing line. Toyotomi has been in Washington County for nearly 10 years now.

Gas prices dipped below $3 per gallon in Washington County.

Washington County Extension Agent Rick Greenwell said the droughts of 2007 and 2008 could cost farmers millions of dollars, and said it could take years for farmers to begin to see crops fully bounce back from the damage.

The Washington County School Board announced that Fredericktown Elementary School would close at the completion of the 2008-09 school year. The school had seen a decline in enrollment for some time, and it was decided that if enrollment for the current school year did not reach 90 students, it would be closed. Enrollment was at 75 when the news was announced at the Oct. 20 meeting.

Troy Shelton, pastor of River of Life Church, and his wife, Sherri, visited Tanzania as a mission trip as part of a four-day pastor conference with 60 pastors, most of whom were from the Massai tribe of Monduli.

In a mock election, Washington County High School students chose John McCain as president of the United States. The election was conducted by the Kentucky Secretary of State’s Office.

November

The Washington County High School Marching Commander Band brought home a Class 2A state championship. The band had finished third in the state the previous two years, but this time, were crowned the champs. The band featured just three seniors, so the hopes for future success with the youthful look are high.

Pat Clements defeated challenger Paul Krey in the race for the District 5 seat on the Washington County School Board. In other races, incumbent Margaret “Mousie” Newby was defeated by challenger Buffy Mann for the seat in District 4. The Springfield City Council also saw a new member elected as Debbie Wakefield was the top vote getter in that race, and replaced Brian Bishop, the lone incumbent not returning to the council for the next two-year term.

The Springfield State Bank branch on Bardstown Road was robbed at gunpoint. A man later identified as Ledrick Shontay Edwards was charged in the robbery, and the case remains in the court system.

The family of Justin Hatchett received a complimentary trip to the Country Music Association Awards in Nashville, Tenn. Hatchett, along with his parents, sister and aunt, made the trip.

The Springfield Police Department office for 911 dispatchers was voted smoke free by the city council.

The St. Catharine College Circle of Friends raised more than $200,000 in its annual fundraising efforts.

December

Officials with the local Kentucky Crossroads Harvest Festival learned that the event’s barbeque cook-off next year will be the official event to crown Kentucky’s state champion.

Michael A. Barnett, 19, of Springfield was indicted on a charge of reckless homicide stemming from a Sept. 2007 accident that claimed the life of another Washington County teen, Aaron W. Couch, 16.

The annual Lions-Rotary Club Radio Auction raised about $8,000, which will be used between the two clubs to benefit local community needs.

Official numbers were in at a December meeting of the Washington County Fiscal Court, and Washington County Clerk Glenn Black reported that each of the 5,438 voters who turned out for this year’s November election cost the county a total of $3.85 per person.

John Mudd, 44, a local businessman and owner of Joseph Thomas True Candles in Fredericktown, was killed as a result of a fire in his home in Botland in Nelson County. The fire was reportedly caused by electrical wiring.