Opalek named interim police chief: Council has 1st reading of Sunday alcohol sales ordinance

Dawson Springs resident Billy Adams addresses the council on Monday, July 9, as Hopkins County Regional Chamber of Commerce director Joe Blue, Code Enforcement Officer Fred Rawley and police officers Mike Opalek and Lance Nosbusch look on.

The Dawson Springs City Council chambers at the municipal building were packed with school and county officials, police officers and citizens Monday night as members tackled a packed agenda.

By the end of the 2-hour meeting, the city named Dawson Springs police officer Mike Opalek as interim police chief, likely discussed school resource officer options with the sheriff in closed session, heard Mayor Jenny Sewell announce that she will not seek re-election, joined three other small cities in a board of adjustment, and had the first reading of a Sunday alcohol sales ordinance, among other business.

News broke last week that Dawson Springs Police Chief Brook Dixon would be leaving the force. (See news story on Page A5.) The council went into closed session to discuss personnel matters and first invited Hopkins County Sheriff Matt Sanderson into the session.

Sanderson and Hopkins Fiscal Court sent the city council a letter a couple months ago. In the letter was an offer to the city to help provide a school resource officer for Dawson Springs Independent Schools. The offer was $20,000 from the county and $20,000 from the school board, which was approved, if the city would handle to hiring and supervision. The city has yet to decide for sure but at last month’s meeting, the council voted to ask the county and the school board for an additional $5,000 each.

No action was taken on the school resource officer topic at Monday night’s meeting.

After Sanderson left the closed session, the council continue to talk in the chambers about hiring a police chief.

Once back in open session, Mark McGregor made a motion to add the hiring of Opalek as interim chief to the agenda. All council members approved of the addition and of the new title for Opalek. In addition to McGregor, Rick Hendrickson, Kenny Mitchell, Jackie Mathis and Chris Smiley were in attendance. Council member Rhonda Mills was absent.

Opalek will take over after midnight on July 17. The council approved that Smiley and McGregor serve as a hiring advisory committee. Sewell said she hopes the new police chief will be named by July 23.

At last month’s meeting, the council asked that an ordinance be drafted to allow alcohol sales on Sundays. City attorney Ben Leonard at Monday night’s meeting pulled two ordinances that were pertinent to the issue: Ordinances 116.047 and 116.061.

The council approved on first reading that Ordinance 116.047 be revised to say that alcohol sales be allowed from 7 a.m. to midnight on Sundays and that Ordinance 116.061 be amended to delete the word Sunday.

The council plans to host a public hearing on the issue, but a date and time have not been set. It’s possible the hearing may precede next month’s meeting, which is at 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 13. Check this newspaper for updates.

The candidate filing period is now open for those wishing to run for city offices in the Nov. 6 general election.

Sewell announced at Monday’s meeting that she will not seek another term in office. She said she has served two terms to the best of her ability and she wanted to let it be known of her plans so others may seek the position.

After getting to ask Ted Adkins, director of the planning commission, questions about the proposed agreement with the Hopkins Joint Planning Commission, the council voted to join a board of adjustment designed for small communities in Hopkins County. The board would have members from each of four small cities, Earlington, Mortons Gap, Hanson and Dawson Springs.

Recruiting and retaining local zoning board members has been a struggle for Dawson Springs, as all three have potential conflicts, including conflicts of interest, lack of training and outside residency. This board will allow one Dawsonian to fulfill the four hours of training and represent the city on the board.

The city would still have Janet Dunbar, city clerk, as the zoning administrator and the mayor would appoint someone to the board. Participating in this board will allow more grant opportunities and is a benefit to the city’s economy, Sewell said.

In other business, the council:

• spoke with citizen Jerry Niswonger about the possibility of a car show downtown on the Saturday directly following the Dawson Springs Barbecue. Niswonger planned a cruise-in for Mule Days, but because of the rain, the car show didn’t work out. Niswonger was asking the council if he could use Railroad Avenue downtown for a cruise-in from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, July 28. He has several door prizes still available and he’s trying to line up a food truck for that day. The council approved.

• listened to the concerns of Billy Adams. Adams, who lives at Hamby Avenue and South Main Street, said the use of fireworks in his neighborhood is “getting out of hand.” He brought in a firework item found near his truck to show how big the fireworks were. He asked that the council review its ordinance so officials can keep it from happening again as it’s not safe for those around.

• got its monthly update from Code Enforcement Officer Fred Rawley. Rawley said he was told there would be some money available to tear down a couple of homes in town and he and the code enforcement board are looking to take action on several properties in the city limits. The burned home on Walnut Street was one Rawley mentioned.

• approved Christy Winfrey to finish out Rhonda Simpson’s term on the Hopkins County Library Board. The term is three years and would expire in August of 2021.

• approved that Chris Roush, the police officer who was cut due to budgetary constraints, be given a week of vacation even though he was two days shy of his year of service.

Sewell described cutting Roush as “painful,” and she asked the council to deviate from the personnel policy in just this situation.

Mitchell worried about what kind of precedent it would set, but Hendrickson encouraged the council to do the right thing.

All voted in favor of vacation time for Roush.

• added another item to the agenda. This one was to give the mayor the right to sign the municipal road aid agreement. The council approved the motion on all counts.