Thumbs up; thumbs down, Sept. 12

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Stuart Powell’s legacy

The history of Boyle County is defined by a few well-known names, chief amongst them being McDowell. The names that will define the future of the county are numerous, but one of the biggest will almost certainly be Powell.

Stuart Powell died Saturday after spending two weeks in the hospital with a broken hip. But while he is gone, he has done more than leave behind a legacy.

Powell was a consummate worker — he believed in working hard to achieve what he wanted, and he always led by example in that regard. And what Powell wanted to achieve in Boyle County went well beyond what a single person, even someone of Powell’s work ethic and vision, could accomplish.

Powell worked for decades to build the Danville-Boyle County Airport into the thriving nucleus of aviation activity that it is. Now, it is poised to be a central piece of the local strategy to retain and develop business in the county, thereby protecting and growing jobs.

But the airport isn’t going to stop growing without Powell. Work will continue on new hangars at the growing airfield — named for the man who made it what it is — and the airport board is primed to continue Powell’s work.

“The whole time I’ve been on the board, (Powell has) been working very hard to enable the rest of the board to accept a day like today and maintain that momentum — and he’s done a tremendous job of that,” board member and incoming board president Rob Caldwell told The Advocate-Messenger on the day Powell passed. “He’s been very organized; he’s made sure all the board members know (everyone) at the state and federal level and the local level. He’s got some big shoes to fill and he’s made sure they can be filled.”

That’s why Powell’s legacy will be bigger than what any one person could accomplish — his successes and accomplishments will continue on for decades after his death, as those influenced and inspired by him continue his work.

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Missing public meeting on jail study

Boyle and Mercer counties continue to work on a variety of issues surrounding their local jail and many of those involved are taking very-forward thinking positions in terms of using alternative programs to reduce recidivism and shrink the inmate population. But a portion of a newly released report from the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) caught our eye last week — and not in a good way.

The report makes seven recommendations for improving the jail and reducing overcrowding, all of which sound good to us, and most of which the counties seem to already be working toward. It also notes that a public meeting about the report was not held.

“A regular community meeting was not held at the request of Judge-Executive Harold McKinney. Therefore, a Powerpoint presentation of slides from the facility tour and other regular information contained in the program was not developed and presented,” the report states. “In lieu of a more general community meeting, a closed-door discussion of the consultant’s impressions and elements of the planning process was held instead.”

We can’t think of a good reason for there not to have been a public meeting. We don’t know if there was an open-meetings violation here — the meeting may not have involved a quorum of a public agency board. But the budget to run the Boyle County Detention Center is one of the biggest expenses borne by taxpayers and as such the work to bring those costs under control is of high importance to the public.

Holding closed door meetings on such an important topic suggests attempts to control the outcome without input from the public, or at the least to marginalize any voices that could question or criticize the governments’ plans.

Why officials went with a closed-door meeting is a mystery to us, especially given the wide support for improving our jail situation. We hope going forward, there will be a better effort at full transparency and public involvement.