Top 10 stories of 2016
Published 11:12 am Tuesday, January 3, 2017
The past year brought its share of triumphs and tragedies for Clark County. There was much to celebrate in Clark County in 2016, with the opening of several locally-owned restaurants and businesses, an inaugural flight taking local veterans to visit their respective war memorials in Washington, D.C., and a distinguished ranking for the local schools on KPREP testing.
But the year also had plenty of sadness, with the passing of many prominent citizens, the announced closure of a long-time local manufacturer and two fatal fires. Downtown’s iconic Leeds Center for the Arst the received an unexpected and generous boost for renovations from an anonymous donor, and Winchester’s famous soft drink celebrated a milestone anniversary and expanded distribution.
The Winchester Sun staff has collected some of the most memorable moments from throughout the year.
1) Winchester man sentenced to 10 years for fatal blaze
Jackie Hisle, 55, of 203 Springmist Lane was sentenced in December to 10 years for causing a March 11 fire in a 10-unit apartment complex which killed three people, including his own son. Police believe he was intoxicated and smoking while using oxygen in his first-floor apartment.
Donald Hisle, Tina Reynolds and Dixie Everman all died from the fire. Several others were injured, as some jumped from second-floor windows to escape the fire.
Police said the fire began around Hisle’s apartment. Hisle admitted to smoking while using his oxygen and knowing it was dangerous. The fire started near a sofa bed where Hisle said he was sitting, then spread through his apartment and into neighboring ones and on to the second floor.
Hisle was sentenced to five years for each of the three counts of second-degree manslaughter. Two of those will run consecutively and the third concurrently, for a total sentence of 10 years.
2) Clark veterans make trip to D.C. on ‘Honor Flight’
In August, for the first time under the newly-formed Honor Flight Kentucky hub, 43 veterans from across central Kentucky flew from Lexington to Washington, D.C., to see memorials dedicated to them — all free of charge — thanks to Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives.
Honor Flight Kentucky is part of the Honor Flight Network comprised of more than 130 non-profit charitable chapters in 42 states.
Veterans enjoyed an all-expense-paid trip to visit the World War II Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Vietnam Wall, the Air Force Memorial, the Iwo Jima Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery.
Three Winchester veterans — Roy Bates, Vic Bloomfield and Paul Gray — were among those on the inaugural flight.
Four more local veterans — Gareth Adams, Norman Rose, Ralph Thompson and Clair Hunter — were aboard the second flight, which took place in early October.
3) Winchester YMCA closes
The Winchester YMCA announced via a letter posted on Facebook Dec. 13 it would shut its doors for good two days later, ending a three-year effort to revitalize the organization.
Board of Directors Chairman Brian Thomas penned the letter, citing declining membership and donations, and the costs associated with maintaining an aging facility for the closure.
The Winchester Y was on the verge of closing three years ago with about $600,000 in debt. The board brought the debt down to $450,000, Thomas said, but the facility continued to lose money.
The Y’s youth basketball program will continue until the season ends Feb. 17. Calvary Christian School worked a deal with the Y to take on the after-school care program and several other local fitness organizations offered deals to Y members to make up for the closure.
4) Ale-8-One celebrates 90 years, national distribution
In July, Ale-8-One Bottling Company kicked off celebration of the popular drink’s 90th anniversary. Ale-8-One, which was originally created by beverage innovator and founder George Lee Wainscott on July 13, 1926, continues to be an independent, locally-owned and operated company, now run by Wainscott’s great-great-nephew, Fielding Rogers.
Rogers still mixes the closely-guarded secret recipe in a locked blending room where Wainscott’s handwritten recipe notes hang on the wall.
Earlier this year, the local soft-drink manufacturer announced the expansion of its direct service delivery, which now spans from Campton to Owensboro, covering Lexington, Frankfort, Elizabethtown and Bowling Green, and nearly doubling the company’s original footprint.
The regional bottler gained national access in February through Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores in the retail section, now available across 42 states.
5) Leeds gets $100K anonymous donation for renovations, repairs
Leeds Center for the Arts is in the process of some crucial and extensive repairs thanks to an anonymous donation and matching funds from the Clark County Community Foundation.
Winchester Council for the Arts President Tracey Miller announced the $100,000 anonymous donation in March.
Through the Blue Grass Community Foundation, the anonymous donor also sought matching dollars from the Clark County Community Foundation, which agreed to contribute an additional $50,000 to the theater.
Over the past 25 years, the 91-year-old theater has fallen into disrepair.
Last year, CCCF donated $7,000 to repair the sump pump station, bathrooms, toilets, sinks and water fountains. The city previously paid for half the cost of replacing the roof on the downtown theater.
With the new donation, the theater will have renovations made front to back.
The Winchester Board of Commissioners voted in November to cover up to $15,000 of the theater’s operating expenses while it is closed until April for the renovations.
6-8) Magistrates sue judge-executive
In November, a nearly seven-month civil dispute between four magistrates and Clark County Judge-Executive Henry Branham ended when a judge dismissed the case, saying there was nothing to rule upon.
The four magistrates, Robert Blanton, Joe Graham, Pam Blackburn and Daniel Konstantopoulos, filed a petition for a declaratory judgment in April, several months after a long-running debate over employee raises.
The central issue in the legal filings centered on the authority to implement pay increases for county employees.
While working on the fiscal year 2016 county budget, department heads within Clark County government submitted budgets with employee raises of 3 to 5 percent. In subsequent Clark County Fiscal Court meetings, a majority of the Court voted not to implement the budgeted raises and voted for a 1.7 percent raise for all employees.
Branham said the budgeted raises were not removed from the county budget and believed he was required to administer the budget, which was approved by a majority of the fiscal court. After seeking advice from state officials, he implemented both the budgeted raises and the 1.7 percent raise for county employees.
The four magistrates believed Branham acted arbitrarily in implementing the raises and over stepped his authority without a vote from the Court.
Judge’s retirement mars election with controversy
An unexpected race was added to the November ballot when Clark Family Court Judge Jeffrey Walson retired in August with six years remaining in the eight-year term. His 2014 election was uncontested
Walson said he made the decision less than a week before issuing his official resignation with hopes of making sure the office would be on the ballot in November.
Walson’s resignation was effective at midnight Sunday, Aug. 7.
However, with the filing deadline at 4 p.m. the following Tuesday, there was little notice for candidates to file. Two people were able to file for the seat, Walson’s wife Kimberly Blair Walson filed on Monday and Richmond attorney Joan Deaton Grefer filed Tuesday. Elizabeth Elkins Bond also campaigned as a write-in candidate.
The night before the Nov. 8 election, Gov. Matt Bevin issued a statement calling Jeff Walson’s resignation “suspicious.”
Bevin likened Walson’s action to “inside dealing and corruption.”
“Do you think it is appropriate that the judge will start drawing his pension and his wife will slip in to collect his salary for the exact same position? Personally, I find it highly offensive,” Bevin said in the statement.
In an interview with the Sun, Jeff Walson said there was no political intent when he retired quickly in August.
Walson said he dated his resignation at 11:59 p.m. Aug. 7, or Sunday. The Kentucky Constitution says if notice is given of a vacancy less than two days before the filing deadline, the vacancy will be filled by a gubernatorial appointee, he said. Walson said his intent was to make sure voters had the opportunity to select their family court judge.
Kimberly Walson said the vacancy was posted on the Secretary of State’s office with plenty of time for other candidates to file.
Walson was elected to fulfill the remainder of her husband’s term and was sworn into office in early December.
Clark needle exchange program continues to grow
After almost five months of existence, Clark County’s needle exchange program is attracting more than 10 people a week, according to health officials.
Most, of not all, of those participants are repeat visitors, Clark County Public Health Director Scott Lockard said.
The program was approved in the spring by both the Winchester Board of Commissioners and the Clark County Fiscal Court. Both bodies approved the program for six months. Lockard said he is planning to make a presentation to both organizations in this month to seek their continued support.
Since the exchange opened July 15, 63 people have participated for a total of 188 visits.
Participants can exchange used needles for new one-use retractable needles, which helps curb the public health risk from used needles in public areas. As of Dec. 2, 3,096 used needles have been collected and 4,175 have been dispensed.
The exchange also offers resources and information for treatment for addictions
9) Pretrial officer charged with rape, inmate charge with escape
A pretrial court officer and a state prisoner were each indicted in August, along with a maintenance worker from the Clark County Courthouse, for allegedly facilitating sexual encounters with the prisoner.
Daphne Kelley, 28, of Richmond, was arrested Aug. 2 for third-degree rape for having a sexual relationship with James Bussell, a state prisoner serving a sentence in the Clark County Detention Center.
James David Lovings, a maintenance worker for the Clark County Fiscal Court, was also indicted for his role in the case. Winchester Police said Lovings lived in the residence on Ashland Avenue where Kelley and Bussell allegedly met while Bussell was on work release.
Bussell was a trustee at the jail and was allowed to perform work release duties for Winchester-Clark County Parks and Recreation.
Kelley was indicted for third-degree rape and complicity to commit second-degree escape. Lovings was indicted for complicity to commit second-degree escape. Bussell was indicted for second-degree escape, first-degree promoting contraband and first-degree persistent felony offender.
10) Trapp school to become shelter for female veterans
The former Trapp Elementary School will have a new lease on life as a transitional center for female veterans.
Officials with Sheppard’s Hands announced in July they have an agreement with the owners of the school to transform the school to accommodate up to 30 veterans and children.
The school will become a residential site and would connect the veterans with needed services and provide some life and work training opportunities.
In November to plans progressed when organizers planned a day-long cleaning effort.
Incumbents favored in November election
Clark County results reflected statewide and national trends for the most part during the election. State Rep. Donna Mayfield, a Republican from Clark County, will return to Frankfort for her fourth term. Clark County Board of Education District 2 candidate Scott Hisle narrowly unseated his rival Phillip Todd Wilson in an election that came down to less than 100 votes.
Kimberly Blair Walson was elected to fill the remainder of her husband Jeff Walson’s unexpired term as family court judge for the 25th Circuit, Division 4. All four Winchester Board of Commissioners seats were won by incumbents Shannon Cox, Rick Beach, Kenny Book and Kitty Strode.