Top 10 stories of 2008: Voters make Nov. 4 an historic election

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By Becky Barnes

1. When one reflects on 2008, likely the biggest story is one that extends beyond the borders of Harrison County and Kentucky.

In an historic election on Nov. 4, voters elected the first African American president.

Barack Obama defeated Sen. John McCain and will be inaugurated on Jan. 20 as the 44th president of the United States.

On election night, Obama vowed “This is your victory,” to the American public after garnering 52 percent of the votes.

Obama, who has been very visible during his president-elect days, has promised to keep Americans aware of their government and its workings. He has offered a plan that will attack a struggling economy.

Five enter guilty pleas

in bank heists

2. Nearly one fourth of The Cynthiana Democrat’s 52 issues in 2008 contained stories that culminated in the arrest and guilty pleas from five individuals involved in bank robberies in Harrison, Pendleton and Robertson counties.

Det. Paul Olin of the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department arrested Jeffrey Pratt in April on a Department of Corrections pick-up order. He was also charged with receiving stolen property, an ATV.

Prior to Pratt’s April arrest, the Farmers National Bank Oddville Branch was robbed on Feb. 25. Harrison Deposit Bank in downtown Cynthiana was robbed on March 24 along with the Mt. Olivet robbery on March 19.

Pratt was later charged with the Mt. Olivet bank heist. A deputy jailer for Robertson County was transporting him to court for an arraignment in the bank robbery when Pratt escaped.

While on the lam, Pratt allegedly enlisted the help of others to pull off more bank robberies.

On Aug. 6, the Farmers National Bank in Falmouth was hit, followed just over week later, on Aug. 18, with a second hit on the Farmers National Bank Oddville Branch.

It was the Aug. 18 job that ultimately landed Pratt behind bars.

The FNB robbery occurred during the morning of Aug. 18. By that afternoon, Pratt was arrested in Lexington at Everybody’s Auto Sales.

In mid-October, Pratt and four accomplices were facing federal indictments for their individual roles in six robberies, one of which occurred in 2007 at the Berry FNB.

On Nov. 26, Pratt, Steven Price and Joshua Griffieth entered guilty pleas to their charges.

Price was charged with aiding and abetting, and Griffieth was charged as an accessory. Their formal sentencing will be Feb. 20.

Pratt will also be sentenced on Feb. 20.

Miguel Ayala will be sentenced March 20 after entering a guilty plea Dec. 10 to aiding and abetting. Kristin Welte will also be sentenced following her guilty plea to aiding and abetting.

HMH is scene

of fatal shooting

3. Sadness and shock reverberated through the county as news spread of a fatal shooting at Harrison Memorial Hospital on July 1.

It was an apparent domestic dispute that led Frederick W. Niman II to shoot his wife Kim Niman before turning the gun on himself.

Richard Niman worked at the hospital in the maintenance department and Kim Niman was a teller at Kentucky Bank.

The couple reportedly had separated the weekend prior to the shooting, which took place in the parking area near the boiler building.

Kim was pronounced dead at HMH and Richard was airlifted to the University of Kentucky Medical Center where he died later.

Cynthiana guardsmen deployed to Afghanistan

4. The 201st Engineering Battalion of the Kentucky Army National Guard began 2008 with specialized training beginning in February.

The soldiers were preparing for deployment with Operation Enduring Freedom to Afghanistan.

Following the initial training in western Kentucky, the guardsmen were sent to Ft. McCoy, Wisconsin, for two additional months of training.

They returned to Cynthiana briefly before their deployment to Afghanistan in April.

In all, 160 men and women answered the roll call on April 30 at the Cynthiana armory.

Six months into their overseas tour, the dreaded news that the Cynthiana unit had lost a soldier was received.

Daniel Wallace, Dry Ridge, was killed on Oct. 31 when his unit was attacked by enemy forces.

Wallace, 27, was part of Task Force Workhorse, which is responsible for maintaining hundreds of miles of roads and removing roadside bombs or IEDs.

In the wake of Wallace’s death, the Soldier Support Group rallied around the soldiers and their families through special projects like sending Christmas gift boxes overseas.

The families also joined together for a Christmas dinner, which included special guests Gov. Steve Beshear and his wife Judy, and Adj. General Edward Tonini and his wife Carol.

Athletic complex

to be finished April 15

5. Amid the retirement of long-time superintendent Dr. Roy Woodward and hiring of Andy Dotson as his replacement, Harrison County took on the massive building project of a new athletic stadium and renovation of Harrison County High School.

During the course of excavation on the athletic field, the Harrison County Board  of Education was met with a $66,528 clean-up tab of an illegal dump on the site of the new complex.

Dirt began moving in June for the stadium, which is being billed as one that will accommodate not only the football Thorobreds, but the soccer teams and band as well. A new track is also being constructed as part of the project.

Billed as part of the overall high school renovation project, the cost was $5,460,500. Of that, $2.935 million is for the stadium construction.

An April 15, 2009 completion date is anticipated.

U.S. 27 viaduct new

construction delayed

6. Traffic flow hit a speed bump in 2008 when the state’s Transportation Cabinet deemed the U.S. 27 North viaduct structurally unsound and reduced the weight limit allowed to cross the bridge.

Heavy truck traffic then had to be diverted. Residents along Church Street were advised in August of no parking restrictions along the street.

The city commission was initially advised that an October bid opening would start the construction, which was estimated at 18 months.

However, Cynthiana Mayor Jim Brown was advised in November that the project is being delayed.

The bid opening has been pushed to February or March, Brown told commissioners.

Branches of government experience losses

of public servants

7. Nearly every government body was struck by tragedy during the last 12 months.

The Harrison County Board of Education suffered the first loss with the death of veteran school board member Joe England.

England died Feb. 21. He had served on the school board since 1997, but had also been a public servant before that.

England began his law enforcement career with the Cynthiana Police Department as a dispatcher and continued to move up the ladder.

At the time of his death, he was a retired Kentucky Vehicle Enforcement lieutenant.

He was also on one of the first site-based councils in the county with Southside Elementary.

District 1 magistrate Stanley Lemons, 87, died Oct. 19.

Lemons served on the Harrison County Fiscal Court since 1984. His daughter, Debbie Lemons Palmer, has been appointed to fill his unexpired term.

Lemons’ term was described as one of the longest in recent history. His tenure was often discussed at meetings of the fiscal court and his expertise was sought on many projects.

Berry mayor Don Adams died Dec. 6 of apparent complications due to a heart ailment.

Adams first served as a Berry city commissioner from 1986 to 1992. He served again in 1995 until 2003, at which time he was appointed mayor.

The Cynthiana City Commission was not immune to loss.

 Mayor Jim Brown had a stroke on Christmas Eve and remains a patient at the University of Kentucky Medical Center.

Jack Keith, commissioner of public utilities, is serving as mayor pro tem until Brown’s return.

Tornado rips through

county on Feb. 6

8. On Feb. 6, while most Harrison Countians were asleep, a storm ripped through the county leaving mangled debris from homes and barns in its wake.

The storm was defined as an EF-2 tornado. It destroyed two houses and 18 barns; caused major damage to four houses and four barns; caused moderate damage to two more houses and three barns; and minor damage to six houses and nine barns.

The losses brought volunteers out en masse to take on the chore of clearing and recovery.

The storm’s path appeared to begin on the west side of Connersville and track to Cynthiana, then on to the Shaw Lane area making its path from the air very obvious.

Willis convicted, sentenced in beating of wife

9. A Harrison County jury convicted Larry Willis on May 29 of first degree assault and second degree assault for shooting his wife Ruby on Aug. 22, 2007.

The jury’s conviction was for the most severe charges, but the sentences were the minimum.

The sentence was 10 years on the first degree assault and five years on the second degree. He will have to serve eight and one half years before being eligible for parole.

Sanders, Johnson promoted

10. Two familiar faces took over as chief of their respective departments within Cynthiana’s safety department during 2008.

Jay Sanders was promoted to chief of the Cynthiana Fire Department in May. He assumed the position that was vacated with the retirement of Terry Stinson, nearly a year prior.

Sanders was serving as assistant chief along with Robbie Lyons and Charles Allen Carson.

Five months after Chief Steve Muntz of the Cynthiana Police Department retired, the commission named his replacement as long-time colleague Ray Johnson.

Sgt. Johnson took over as chief in November.

Worth mentioning

Editor’s note: There were many noteworthy stories in 2008 that would have certainly made the Top 20 including The War on Drugs with numerous local, state and federal charges of some Harrison County residents. Some of those are still pending.

Budget cuts seemed a constant struggle, from Maysville Community and Technical College LVC to the state roads and bridges projects.

Some people attributed the rise in crime during 2008 to the downturn in the economy. There were burglaries, arrests and convictions.

There were car accidents that cut lives short and births that marked the beginning of a new generation.