The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Patton says USEC deal still priority
Local leaders had been concerned his attention may have been elsewhere this week.

By Bill Bartleman
Associated Press Patton meets the press: Gov. Paul Patton speaks with reporters in Frankfort.

Gov. Paul Patton said he is spending considerable time this week fine tuning an incentive package to attract USEC Inc.'s pilot plant for testing the gas centrifuge technology for enriching uranium.

At stake for western Kentucky is a $250 million plant and hundreds of high-paying jobs and possibly a $1 billion enrichment plant that USEC plans to build in 2010 or 2011. The new plant would replace the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, which employs more than 1,000 workers.

"I am fully engaged in the USEC project," Patton said Tuesday in a telephone interview. "It is one that I am personally involved in. At the present time it is the most important project we are working on."

McCracken Judge-Executive Danny Orazine and Paducah Mayor Bill Paxton expressed concern Monday that Patton might be preoccupied with personal problems and not focused on finalizing the USEC proposal, which must be filed by Oct. 25.

Since Patton admitted Friday that he had a sexual affair with Clinton businesswoman Tina Conner, he has cut back on his public schedule. But he said he is continuing to run state government and focus on "being the best governor I can be for the next 14 months."

One reason Orazine and Paxton expressed concern was that they were unable to schedule a meeting with the governor on Thursday to discuss details of the USEC proposal.

Patton said Tuesday that he was unaware Paducah officials had requested a meeting. "If I had been aware they wanted a meeting, I certainly would have met with them," he said.

Orazine said a plan to meet with the governor's staff and officials in the Economic Development Cabinet on Thursday has been canceled. Instead, they hope to meet with Patton after he meets with his staff and members of a task force he appointed to work on the USEC proposal.

Mike Haydon, secretary of the Finance Cabinet, said the meeting will be Monday. He said discussion will focus on the details of the proposal and speculation on how competitive it will be with the one by Piketon, Ohio, which is also trying to land the plant.

Orazine said after talking with Haydon and other members of Patton's staff Tuesday, he is convinced the governor is actively involved. "I know now he made some calls Monday and today (Tuesday), not only to his economic development staff but also to some here in Paducah who have been actively involved," Orazine said.

"Since he is having a meeting with his task force on Monday, there is no need for us to meet with him until after the meeting," Orazine said.

Patton promised a competitive package but would not discuss details.

"These things have to be done in confidence," Patton said. "You don't play your cards on the table, because we are in very fierce competition. Ohio isn't telling us what they are doing, so we don't want to tell them what we are doing.

"We'll have a proposal that will be fair to USEC, fair to the commonwealth and fair to the community. But the sky's not the limit. We have to weight the cost-benefit ratio by evaluating the benefit to the commonwealth and the cost to taxpayers."

Patton said the proposal won't be presented to USEC until the Oct. 25 deadline. "We don't want to risk the chance that somebody might reveal something to Ohio," he said.

Patton said that if his economic development officials think it will help, he'll meet with USEC officials to help present the package.

Also Tuesday, local officials briefed the McCracken County legislative delegation on elements of the proposal that could require legislative action.

State Rep. Charles Geveden, D-Wickliffe, whose district includes the USEC plant, said it involves tax incentives, but he wouldn't be specific. He said the proposal is likely to be considered when lawmakers meet in February.

"It is a very reasonable request and something that I certainly think can be done," Geveden said.