Class of ‘09 commences adult lives
Nearly one-third of Crittenden County High School's graduating class of 77 in 2009 was recognized with some type of academic honor, but for six of the scholars, the honor was special.
Five valedictorians and one salutatorian had the opportunity last week to address their classmates on the last 13 years of academic achievements, friendships and hard times they have shared. Those six made the most of the opportunity to share their reflections and thoughts toward the future.
"We have five valedictorians, and the only reason we don't have more than that is because this class strives, as the saying goes, to be all that it can be," valedictorian Anna Palmer said Friday, addressing her peers during commencement. "Rather than take an easy class for an assured A, most of us would take the harder class, for perhaps a lower grade."
Though her dream job would be to run her own aviary, Palmer, the daughter of Stan and Lola Palmer, will be attending Centre College in Danville, Ky., and is considering pharmacy as a major. She calls earning the honor of valedictorian with nothing but A's during her four years of high school "an accomplishment I have worked toward for a long time."
Like Palmer, the other valedictorians and lone salutatorian set academic prowess as a goal from an early age.
"It has been my dream since about third grade," said Molly Beavers, daughter of Ronald and Teresa Beavers, about achieving valedictorian status.
Her newest goal is to become a physician. She plans to attend the University of Kentucky, majoring in chemical engineering on a pre-med track.
But the goals the six graduates have shared during school do not make them carbon copies of one another. Since their first kindergarten assignment, each has gone about achieving success with their own personalities and different likes, dislikes, influences and desires.
A couple have embraced math, even calculus, as a favorite subject, while others would choose American history or animal science as their can't-do-without studies. For valedictorian Kayla Buntin, who raises prize goats and was heavily involved in the county’s 4-H and FFA program, her love of animal studies correlates to her career aspirations.
"I want to have my own vet clinic," the daughter of Curt and Melody Buntin said.
Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green is where she will begin her undergraduate studies.
Mary Hollamon, whose parents Dawn and Greg Hollamon are teachers at the high school, would like to be a news anchor or host a comedy show, but will study pharmacy at Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tenn., just in case the entertainment career doesn't work out.
The valedictorian enjoys a round of "Jeopardy!" on the television and would most like to meet Olympic skater Michelle Kwan.
"Michelle has a great personality on and off the ice," Hollamon said of her idol.
While country music seems to be popular among the valedictorians and salutatorian, Kara Berry and Andrea Travis also enjoy Christian music. Travis, in fact, would choose Jesus as the person she would most like to meet.
"I would love to have so many unanswered questions answered," the daughter of Brett and Tammy Travis.
Along her journey, the valedictorian hopes to become a kindergarten teacher, earning her studies at Murray State University. Her mother, who has worked in the school district's central office for several years, also earns a living in education.
The daughter of Jack and Michelle Berry, the lone salutatorian of the Class of 2009, Kara Berry, also plans to major in elementary education at Murray State. While her favorite television show is "Jon and Kate Plus 8," a reality show about a couple raising sextuplets and twins, Esther from the Bible would be someone she would like to bump into.
"I admire her ability to stand up for what she believes in," Berry said.
A couple of decades from now, when the memories of graduation have faded and they have made a name for themselves as adults, many of the top six academic achievers from the class of 2009 hope to have their own families and stable jobs. For Palmer, whose graduation speech was the shortest of all six, one simple word best describes where she would like to be at the age of 40.
Auction indicates plummet in land value
About 80 people, including 24 bidders from five states, attended the highly advertised land auction Saturday that most observers said would be a good indicator of where farm prices had dropped in the struggling economy.
While earlier indicators had foretold of a major decline in local land prices, the stark reality became very clear when only 349 acres in two of six tracts advertised for an absolute auction were sold for an average of $918 an acre.
About a year ago, undeveloped properties and farmland were fetching upwards of $2,000 an acre, driven by a demand for recreational hunting property. Now, prices appear to have dropped, but local real estate professionals are not ready to say the bottom has fallen out.
Albert Burney, Luxury Real Estate Auctioneers, of Gadsden, Ala., conducted the auction last week for a private, out-of-state owner, who did not attend the auction. Offered were 877 acres in six tracts in Crittenden, Caldwell and Livingston counties. Although advertised as absolute – generally meaning the land would sell regardless of price – the auction was stopped much to the chegrin of many in attendance after only two tracts were sold.
Carl Carter, a spokesperson for the auction company, said the auction was ended at the owner's request.
A 151-acre tract sold for $874 an acre and a 198-acre parcel sold for $951, according to the auction company. Both of the tracts sold were in the northern part of the county near Tolu. The prices could not be immediately verified because deeds had not been recorded as of press time.
"It gives us a really good indication of what land is going to bring," said Robert Kirby, a local real estate agent and owner of Bluegrass Auction Realty.
Kirby and Mark Williams, another local real estate agent, still think property values are a bit higher than the auction indicated, depending on the type and location of the land. Standing timber and tillable soil will drive prices upwards, they said.
"For hunting land, this appears to be where the price will be for now," Kirby said. "I think the last three auctions we've had in the area have given us a good indication of what ground is worth right now in this economy."
A farm near Frances did not sell a few weeks ago at auction because bids, of under $1,000 an acre, did not reach an undisclosed reserve.
Williams, a sales associate for Red Hat Realty, said there's no question that prices are down from a year ago, but he still thinks land values are greater than the auction indicated. Williams said values in nearby counties such as Christian and Ohio, where he represents clients, have not tumbled to lows witnessed in recent auctions in Crittenden County.
Williams and Kirby say land values in general are still between $1,300 and $1,600 an acre, depending on many factors.
"We've had fewer than six farms trade hands since Jan. 1 in Crittenden County. And that's counting these that sold last weekend," Williams said. "So that's not enough to get an accurate figure on where land prices are. I don't think this auction was a market-setter. I think land values are still higher than that."
Kirby agreed, but says prices are indeed closer to the 10-year average right now.
"Six or seven years ago, land was bringing $1,000 an acre. It's still worth that or more," he said.
English to lead Hurricane Camp Meeting
Steve English is one of those people who can say he grew up at Hurricane Camp Meeting. The camp holds a special place in his heart, as he rarely missed a summer tromping through the graveyard as a child and wiggling on the wooden pews during church in the tabernacle.
Hurricane is one of his greatest loves, so it's no wonder his invitation as evangelist of the 121st camp meeting was accepted with great emotion.
His passion for Christ and love for Hurricane will be evident when English, 39, addresses the congregation next week. Hurricane Camp Meeting begins with dinner at 5:30 p.m., nightly Monday through June 13. Church begins at 7.
"I feel a mixture of being honored, humbled, and blessed. If I were given the option to preach at Hurricane Camp Meeting or a Billy Graham Crusade, I would pick Hurricane without hesitation," English said. "No other place has had a greater spiritual impact on my life."
English, the son of Ann and Phil English and the grandson of the late Rudell and Muriel Jacobs, is a missionary in Guatemala. He and his wife Pam, who met at Asbury College, opened a home for orphaned and abandoned children in Guatemala 15 years ago.
English's son Andrew, 6, traveling to Kentucky with him next week, will be the sixth generation of his family to attend Hurricane.
"Hurricane holds so many happy memories... a sampling of those includes hay rides, hide-and-go-seek in the graveyard, country ham night at the dining hall, my family shacking up in a wasp-filled cabin with our cousins the Micks, Don Donaldson’s chalk-talks, and singing old-time hymns under the tabernacle. The list could go on and on."
English and Janet Kemper organized the youth camp that is held concurrent with Hurricane Camp Meeting.
"Of all the memories, the two I’m most proud of are Hurricane’s 100th anniversary booklet that I published with the help of the late Paul Mick and the youth camp. The youth camp has seen so many children give their lives to the Lord. This alone fulfills the very purpose of Hurricane’s existence which now touches three different centuries."
Don Donaldson, a missionary in Guatemala who was the evangelist at Hurricane many years, had a great impact on English's spiritual life. It was under Donaldson’s ministry that English received his calling to the ministry.
English will be speaking on our Trinitarian Relationship with God. He knows he will be filled with emotion as he stands behind the pulpit, recalling the many godly, influential people he knew at Hurricane.
"Some of those are Rodney and Velda Phillips, who served as Hurricane’s president for most of my younger years; Hazel Smith, a fellow camper and dear friend now approaching 100 years of age; Leroy Hodge; and my parents. I also have great respect for Janet Kemper who has continued with the youth camp all these years."
Safetran unveils expansion plans
Gov. Steve Beshear joined company and community leaders in Crittenden County last Thursday to formally announce the expansion of Safetran Systems Corp.
Safetran, which has been operating a plant in Marion since 2002, is part of the Invensys Group, a worldwide leader in railroad crossing technology and crossing warning systems.
Safetran is investing up to $2.8 million into its Marion facility, creating approximately 150 new jobs over the next two years. Renovation of the building will begin within weeks and applications are already being accepted by People Plus, Inc.
Company officials say that Safetran will begin ramping up almost immediately and will reach its jobs goal within the next 18 months or so as new lines are moved to Marion.
“The expansion of our existing industries is vital to our economic progress,” said Gov. Beshear. “Today’s announcement that Safetran Systems Corporation will make an additional investment into the Marion facility, creating 150 new jobs, is wonderful news. The economic impact will be felt throughout the entire region. I’m delighted the Commonwealth could partner with Safetran and the community to make this project a reality.”
Safetran plans to significantly upgrade and expand its current facility, a 110,000-square-foot facility in the South Industrial Park. Safetran’s corporate headquarters is in Louisville. Kevin E. Riddett, president of Safetran, said the company had many options when it came to expansion and chose Marion because of its work force.
"Companies have lots of choices. Our choices are no longer local choices, they're about global choices whether to produce in India or China or somewhere else around the world," Riddett told a crowd of more than 100 assembled at the Marion Ed-Tech Center for last week's announcement. "When you're competing against the global environment and companies make these decisions, they're really committed and it's all about people."
Riddett said the work force at Marion is what drew it here and along with cooperation from the Kentucky Economic Development Cabinet and local government, the partnership will remain strong well into the future.
"My congratulations to the employees of Safetran who made this possible," he added. "I really look forward to this company continuing to grow. My challenge to the governor and the rest of the people here is that we continue to do that and come back in the next few years or sooner and announce the next expansion."
Established in 1920, Safetran has five facilities, two located in Kentucky, and one in California, New York and Florida. Products include electro-mechanical signal devices, the electrical/electronic control systems that activate them, communications systems, as well as complete signal system design and construction.
Riddett and local plant manager Donnie Bane explained that the new jobs will include many technician positions and more assembly workers with a focus on electronic devices.
The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) preliminarily approved Safetran for tax benefits up to $2,275,000 under the Kentucky Rural Economic Development Act, an incentive program designed to attract and expand manufacturing employment in the state. Additionally, the company was approved by KEDFA for a $525,000 Economic Development Bond to assist in the expansion.
“This is tremendously positive news for our community and a testament to the skills of Kentucky workers,” said Sen. Dorsey Ridley, (D-Henderson). “The people of Marion — and all Kentuckians — should be proud of their partnership with Safetran Systems. It’s an example of the great things that can happen when private businesses work with local and state officials to build stronger communities.”
Job applications should be made through People Plus, Inc., which has offices in Princeton, Henderson, Paducah and Madisonville. Bane said new hires will begin almost immediately.
"The transition is already under way," he said.
“I’m delighted with this announcement and happy state government was able to make a positive contribution,” said Rep. Mike Cherry, (D-Princeton). “But, I am particularly pleased that Safetran has recognized our most important asset – the quality and productiveness of our local, homegrown work force. Given the opportunity, I’m confident they can compete favorably with any work force anywhere. We all need to thank them for their pivotal role in making this expansion happen.”
Workers ‘tickled pink’ with Safetran growth
Now that formal announcements have been made regarding the Safetran expansion in Marion, the question on everyone's mind is when will the new jobs be available.
Last week, Gov. Steve Beshear, Safetran President Kevin E. Riddett, local plant manager Donnie Bane and other company and government representatives officially announced 150 new jobs and a $2.8 million investment in an expansion project in Marion.
"I was tickled pink when I found out about it," said Joey LaPradd, who graduated high school three years ago and found his first 40-hour-a-week job three months ago as a temporary employee at Safetran.
LaPradd and several other of the 25 temps who work at Safetran were part of the assembly at the Marion Ed-Tech Center last week where the governor and others offered real hope for their future.
"For me it means a whole new life," said Josh Tinsley, who graduated high school last year and signed up as a temporary worker at Safetran a few weeks ago. "It could mean more money and a chance to move out on my own."
Most of the temps will be hired on as full-time workers once the expansion project kicks into full gear, Safetran officials said. Those temporary employees say it will mean better pay, better benefits and more job security.
"Because we're temps, there is no disciplinary plan for us," said George Congenie, another local worker. "When you're a temp, you get one chance, but if you're a full-time employee you are on a points system."
People Plus, Inc., provides all of the temporary workers for Safetran. The company, with offices in Princeton, Henderson, Paducah and Madisonville, conducts interviews and places workers with the local manufacturer. People Plus has also provided employees for other Marion companies such as Henry and Henry Monuments, Par 4 Plastics and Tyler Manufacturing.
Adrian Boyd, manager of the Princeton People Plus office, said all but one of Safetran's 25 temporary workers are from Crittenden County.
Temporary workers have an option of participating in a benefits plan that includes a cost-share health insurance program. However, the temporary workers who spoke to the media last week said they earn $8 an hour and chose not to participate in the benefits that were offered.
Bane, the plant manager in Marion for almost five years, said the average full-time worker on the Safetran payroll earns $13 an hour, plus benefits.
Safetran employees say their cost is very low for health insurance. Safetran picks up the balance. They also said the 401K and vacation plans are incentives for being a Safetran employee instead of a temporary worker.
However, all new workers will be hired first through the temporary service, Bane said. Applications are taken online at www.peopleplusinc.com or at one of the area offices. The Princeton office phone number is 365-2300. Interviews are scheduled and generally conducted in Princeton.
Once a temporary worker has established himself as a productive employee, he or she will be added to the Safetran payroll and offered a full-time benefits package. The company does not receive state economic assistance until the employee becomes a full-time Safetran worker.
Vicki Hobbs, a temp at Safetran, said workers have not yet been told when they might be transitioned into a permanent position, but she like many of the others are optimistic that they will be among the first to get a full-time job thanks to last week's announcement.
In addition to hiring new employees, Safetran will conduct a major renovation project, refurbishing inside and out the former Marion Mining Bolts facility where it is located.
"Renovation could start within a few weeks," Bane said.
Gov. Beshear pointed out that construction workers independent of Safetran will also be put to work on the renovation and expansion project.
For Dean Ingram, seeing the company grow is very special. Ingram is a manufacturing engineer at Safetran. He and former partner Dale Kemper are largely responsible for the company locating in Marion earlier this decade. The two were Tyco employees when it closed the manufacturing facility here in 2001. They started their own company, D&D Automation in a metal garage next to Kemper's house on Crittenden Springs Road.
Their company of fewer than a dozen employees started out adjusting one particular relay switch for Invensys Rail Group. It was a device they had all worked on at Tyco. Little did they know back then, that by landing the contract, it opened the door for Safetran's future in Marion.
Safetran eventually absorbed D&D's operations and has already expanded one other time at its Marion facility.
"I am really proud for the community," said Ingram.
Riddett, the president of Louisville-based Safetran, said competition for these new jobs was "fierce." He said the Marion facility was chosen because of its production record and its employees. Riddett pointed out that new federal law will open new markets for safety switches in the rail industry and he thinks Safetran is well positioned to grab part of that market share well into the future.