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News briefs, Dec. 12, 2012

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By The Staff

Codell received extra $313,795

when judicial center was delayed

Kentucky's court system has paid the construction management company responsible for the Shelby County Judicial Center an extra $3.1 million in taxpayer money during the past seven years because the company did not complete construction of courthouses on time.

Codell Construction collected so-called extended-service fees on 60 percent of the courthouse projects — 17 of 26 — that it has managed since 2006, according to documents from the Administrative Office of the Courts. The $3.1 million in those fees is about 16 percent of the roughly $19 million paid to Codell so far in overall fees for the 26 courthouses, The Herald-Leader reported.

Of the eight other courthouse projects managed by a company other than Codell since 2006, only one applied for and received extended-service fees.

The Shelby County Judicial Center incurred several months of delays before it opened in December 2011.

According to a Herald-Leader analysis, Codell's extended-service payments have ranged from 15 percent to 48 percent of their original base fee. For example, Codell was paid a base fee of $703,879 for its work on the Shelby County courthouse. On top of that, $313,795 in extended service fees was added. That was about 45 percent of the base.

Bruce Stigger, a Louisville construction attorney, said the courts' rules were "incredibly favorable" to construction managers. Stigger said the Administrative Office of the Courts rules, which paid for bad weather, were "not the norm in the construction industry."
An attorney for Codell told The Herald-Leader that construction delays were not caused by the company. The company was entitled to the extended-services fees under the state's courthouse construction rules.

The rules on extended-service fees were changed in 2012 by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Minton after an extensive audit of Kentucky's controversial program to build 65 courthouses at a cost of about $880 million. However, the more stringent rules don't apply to the half-dozen current courthouse projects because no new projects have been approved since 2008.
Laurie Dudgeon, director of the Administrative Office of the Courts, provided written responses to The Herald-Leader's questions but never granted an in-person interview. She wrote that Minton changed the rules on extended-service fees because they needed to be more precise.

"We cannot draw any conclusions as to why Codell has applied for extended services on more projects than any other construction managers," the statement said. "It may simply be because they have the majority of the projects."
According to a Herald-Leader analysis, Codell's extended-service payments have ranged from 15 percent to 48 percent of their original base fee. For example, Codell was paid a base fee of $703,879 for its work on the Shelby County courthouse. On top of that, $313,795 in extended service fees was added. That was about 45 percent of the base.
The money for extended-service fees and change-order fees comes out of a 10 percent contingency account created when bonds are sold for each courthouse project.
The original regulations on extended-service fees were added to the AOC's construction rules in 2005 under then-Chief Justice Joseph Lambert, who started the courthouse construction program.
The rules were written collaboratively, courts officials said, but the drafting and executing was overseen by Garlan VanHook, then the executive officer of facilities for the courts. VanHook resigned in 2009 after the Herald-Leader published a story about VanHook's brother working for Codell.
Codell's attorney, John Hays, said Codell was entitled to extended-service fees because of weather or changes made by local project development boards that oversee courthouse projects.

 

Bullitt health department can ban smoking

In a 2-1 ruling, the state Court of Appeals has upheld the Bullitt County Health Department's authority to implement a ban on smoking in public places.
The ruling said the health department does have the authority to create and regulate secondhand smoke and to implement bans - just as long as it doesn't conflict with other laws.

The Bullitt County cities of Shepherdsville, Mount Washington, Hillview and others had filed suit to stop the smoking ban. The cities sued the health department saying it didn't have the authority to invoke a ban.

It's thought the case might go to the state Supreme Court. A number of other counties around the state had already seen their health departments implement bans on smoking in public places but most of those situations were not challenged in court.

 

State tax receipts mixed in November

The state's General Fund grew by 7.6 percent in November compared to figures from a year ago, but Road Fund tax receipts for the same period declined by 7.4 percent, according to the state's budget office.
Total tax revenues for the month were more than $784 million compared to $729 for November 2011. Receipts, according to a news release from state Budget Director Mary Lassiter, now have risen 3.5 percent for the first five months of the fiscal year and would need to increase just 1.7 percent over the final seven months of fiscal year 2013 to achieve the official revenue estimate of $9.3 billion.
 

Retirement party for Cottongim

A retirement celebration will be held Tuesday from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Family Activity Center in Clear Creek Park for Parks and Recreation Director Clay Cottongim, who is retiring. The public is invited to attend. Light refreshments will be served.

 

Lane closures possible on I-64 work

Lane closures and delays are possible on Interstate 64 from just east of Simpsonville to a half-mile east of KY 55 because of the widening project. Lane closures are possible Sunday through Friday from 7 each evening until 5 the following morning and on Saturdays from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. Sunday. The eastbound exit to KY 55 South (Exit 32A) remains closed for several months because of ramp construction.  Motorists can use Exit 32B to access both KY 55 North and South. 

 

Southside cancels SBDM meeting

Southside Elementary is canceling the regularly scheduled SBDM meeting for December 13 and calling a Special Called Meeting for Tuesday, December 18 at 4:15 p.m. in the library at Southside Elementary.
 

State increases homestead exemption for 2013-14

The maximum homestead exemption on real estate owned by qualified persons has been set at $36,000 for the 2013 and 2014 tax periods. The 2013-2014 exemption reflects a $2,000 increase from the 2011-2012 exemption of $34,000.

The amount of the homestead exemption is adjusted every two years in accordance with KRS 132.810 to compensate for changes in the purchasing power of the dollar. The exemption provided state and local property tax savings of approximately $171 million for more than 416,000 elderly or disabled Kentuckians during the 2012 tax year, according to a news release from the state's Finance and Administration Cabinet.

To qualify for the homestead exemption, a person must be at least 65 years old during the tax period or must be classified as totally disabled by any public or private retirement system. The property must also be owned, occupied and maintained by the taxpayer as a personal residence on the Jan. 1 assessment date.
Applications for the homestead exemption should be filed in the local Property Valuation Administrator’s office.

 

UofL graduation is Thursday

More than 1,500 students are expected to graduate from the University of Louisville this semester, and 875 of those graduates plan to participate in the university’s winter commencement ceremony at 7 p.m. Thursday in Freedom Hall at the Kentucky Exposition Center.

UofL President James Ramsey will preside at the event, and nursing major Kaelin Gatewood will be the student speaker.

A 3 p.m. doctoral hooding ceremony will precede the main commencement ceremony.
Parking at Freedom Hall will be free for graduates and their families.

 

Leaf pickup in Shelbyville

The Shelbyville Department of Public Works will offer leaf pickup through Dec. 30 within the city limits. Leaves must be bagged in strong garbage bags and tied with a 50-pound weight capacity. They should be placed on the curb, not blocking the sidewalk or street. Residents must call this department, 633-1094, to get on the list for pick-up.

 

The Kentucky Press News Service contributed to this report.