News from June 3, 2003 issue

Hargis case continued at Grand Jury
A Crittenden County Grand Jury did not hear evidence in the Fredericka Hargis wanton endangerment case Tuesday because it has been continued until the August session.
Hargis, the suspended Crittenden County school superintendent, is charged with running over the foot of Tracy Rozwalka after a February confrontation at a Marion beauty shop.

Commonwealth Attorney Bill Greenwell said the case was continued in order to give Hargis' attorney and special prosecutor Dan Boaz an opportunity to explore a plea agreement or other settlement of the case in Crittenden District Court.

If the Grand Jury were to indict Hargis it would be as a felony criminal offense as she is currently charged. Some have speculated that evidence in the case does not support a felony indictment. Don Thomas, a former judge and attorney in Marshall County, said there are several options available for both sides in the case. Thomas was asked to speculate on what type of deal was being considered between the special prosecutor and Hargis' attorney Allen Holbrook of Owensboro. Local attorneys have been reluctant discuss the case publically.

Thomas said that the issue could be handled in District Court by reducing the charge to either second-degree wanton endangerment or fourth-degree assault, both misdemeanors. Without knowing all the details of the case, he said it's not clear, but the charges could even be amended to terroristic threatening or perhaps menacing, a Class B misdemeanor.
By settling the case in District Court, Thomas said Hargis might receive a diversion of the charges, in essence having them dropped and maybe later expunged from her record all together after a certain period of time.

"This type of alternative sentencing is fairly common and is probably the most likely scenario based on what few facts I have about the case," said Thomas, who was asked to speculate as an independent observer and legal specialist.

Hargis is suspended without pay from her job as superintendent. The school board has said it will hold a hearing on the matter of her position with the school system once the criminal case is settled.

Still not decision on city hall
After more than one and half hours of discussing bids and alternatives Monday for renovating the former Save-A-Lot grocery building, Marion City Council still doesn't have a final plan for a new city hall.

For more than five years, the city has been exploring options for a new city hall. It has gone from looking at vacant lots around town to the old junior high school on College Street, and now has purchased and received bids on renovating the old grocery store in English Manor Shopping Center.

But when bids came back two weeks ago almost 30 percent higher than the city's architectural plans had anticipated, the council started backing up on the project.
Some council members say they are not ready to spend $1.2 million to renovate about 11,000 square feet in the old shopping center. They want more information about alternatives such as tearing down the grocery store and constructing a brand new building facing Main Street on the shopping center parking lot.

Allen Lynn, a council member on the building committee and perhaps the most vocal on this issue, said he wants more information.

"I think we need to look at a new building so we can get more value for our money. Until I know the cost, I will not vote for this," he said.

After looking at ways to cut expenses from the current plans and discussing the option of the city administrator acting as general contractor to trim even more overhead from the project, the council decided to get a few more figures before moving on. Members asked architect Dennis Arthur of CMW of Lexington to provide a cost opinion on demolition of the grocery store and construction of a new building on site. They want two types of building costs, one with a basement and one single-level building.

Arthur said, contrary to popular belief, a building with a basement will cost more than a larger single-level structure.

The architect is charged with having the new plans ready by the city council's next meeting June 21.

Delays in letting bids on the project have led to the higher costs, the architect told council members Monday.