The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Planning for plant affected
The governor was to have led drafting of an incentive package as the deadline nears for USEC's consideration.

By Bill Bartleman

Gov. Paul Patton has canceled most of his activities this week and won't meet with Paducah officials to discuss an incentive package to entice USEC Inc. to build a new $1 billion uranium enrichment plant in Paducah.

Paducah officials continue to worry that the fallout from last week's admission by Patton that he had a sexual affair with Clinton businesswoman Tina Conner will prevent him from being actively involved in drafting a competitive incentive package, which is due Oct. 25.

John Cooper, Frankfort lobbyist for Paducah, said he is hopeful a planned meeting for Thursday will go on without the governor. "We've got some nuts and bolts things to talk about, so we're trying to set it up with the staff" in the governor's office and the Economic Development Cabinet.

"We would have liked to have met with the governor this week, but that's not going to happen," Cooper said. He said it is imperative that the governor be involved no later than next week because of the deadline for submitting a final proposal in its competition with Piketon, Ohio.

Patton cut back on his public schedule after acknowledging Friday that he had an affair with Conner, operator of the Birchtree Healthcare nursing home.

Conner alleged that Patton used his influence to help her earth-moving company obtain status as a minority-owned business so it would be eligible for special state and federal contracts. She also alleged that he caused state regulators to crack down on the nursing home after the affair ended. Patton has denied the allegations.

His schedule shows no public appearances until Friday, when he will be in Louisville for two meetings. His press secretary, Rusty Cheuvront, did not return telephone messages Monday.

Paducah Mayor Bill Paxton and McCracken County Judge-Executive Danny Orazine said Patton's participation in finalizing the incentive package is vital.

The plant is important to western Kentucky's economy because it will replace USEC's existing plant in western McCracken County, which employs about 1,400 people in high-paying jobs.

"The timing for the city and county is absolutely terrible," Paxton said. "We're working on such a narrow window. Somebody has to lead this, and that's always been the governor. At this time, we still expect it to be him. That's why we want to meet with him as soon as possible."

Patton said in an interview with the Sun before the Conner allegations became public that he would be actively involved in preparing the final incentive package. "That's my top economic development project in the state, and I'll spend whatever time is necessary in helping to put together a final plan," he said last month.