City seizes Main Street accounts, demands return of flower pots

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By Linda Ireland

The Hodgenville Main Street saga continues.
Hodgenville Mayor Terry Cruse last month ordered the volunteer group to dissolve – but did not set a timeframe. The letter, in part, ordered Main Street to make “any and all restitutions, obligations or indebtedness as required by law. Furthermore, at the end of said dispositions, if there be any assets remaining, those assets shall be conveyed back to the City of Hodgenville.”
Cruse said Monday night at the regular city council meeting that he had “not heard from anyone” on the Main Street Board for some time. He learned last week that Main Street was selling its flowerpots to individuals. He has written letters (dated April 1) to those individuals asking them to return the pots to the City. He said he also seized the group’s funds by having Lincoln National Bank put the account in the City’s name.
(Editor’s note: Three of the larger flowerpots were vandalized behind The Lincoln Museum last week, rendering them unusable.)
The Bank sent a letter dated March 30 to Main Street informing them that “after seeking legal advice; we were required to close all accounts and begin foreclosure proceedings on the loan ….” Accounts included checking, savings and certificate of deposit. The loan mentioned is on a Main Street-owned building, last known as Abe’s Country Cooking.
Bank officials declined comment.
Several years ago, Main Street received a grant to purchase a pair of buildings on Lincoln Boulevard and renovate them for a restaurant. Main Street has been unable to sell the property, which has become a point of contention between the group and the mayor.
“If the property sells and does not bring what is owed against it, the City is not responsible,” said Cruse. “If it brings more than that, the funds come to the City of Hodgenville.”
Main Street President Kenny Rambo asked to speak to City Council as the meeting ended but Cruse told him he could request to be put on next month’s agenda. He said he had been trying to reach Rambo without success.
After the meeting, Rambo said he had received one message from the City on April 8 asking him to pick up a letter. The letter, dated March 28, was signed by City Attorney Mary Gaines Locke and gave notice of a potential lawsuit if “the monies and any other assets are not received by the close of business on Monday, April 4.”
“The letter was hand-delivered to me immediately before (Monday’s) City Council meeting,” he said.
Rambo said Main Street was in good standing on the loan prior to the accounts being seized. He had spoken to a representative of Lincoln National and asked if it is the bank’s practice to foreclose on a property that is up-to-date on payments.
“They told me it was not,” he said.
That status will change, however, as Main Street has been stripped of funds.
“Without access to the dollars that rightfully belong to Main Street until after the disposition of our obligations … our volunteers will not be able to successfully dissolve per the terms of the Main Street/Renaissance, Inc. Articles of Incorporation,” Rambo said. “This kind of disregard for due process has negative repercussions and the City has interfered with our ability to comply with the letter dated Feb. 14, stating that ‘you shall begin the process of dissolving the corporation ….’”
Main Street remains in good and active standing with the Secretary of State as well, he said, as the Board has not given notice of disbanding. The group was attempting to follow the Mayor’s direction in resolving their debts, such as the sale of the flowerpots and assigning March 31 as former Main Street manager Celia McDonald’s last day, he said.
Rambo expressed concerns that the City is claiming assets of Main Street but not accepting responsibility for the mortgage of the restaurant property. The seized funds – about $15,000 – could have been used to pay down the balance owed, he said.
 “While the mayor maintains that he has been left out of the process, I will note that each Main Street decision has been made and voted on as part of an executive committee or board of director’s meeting,” said Rambo. “Mayor Cruse is an ex-officio member of each but has opted not to attend or participate.”
Former manager requests final check
McDonald presented the mayor with a written request for her final paycheck.
“I am requesting that my paycheck be issued as soon as possible as I was given no notice until the last afternoon of the pay period. My position was to end at the end of March. On March 31, I received a call telling me Main Street’s funds had been taken over by the City of Hodgenville and I could not expect a paycheck from Main Street itself.”
Cruse said he would meet with her Tuesday.
Council amends ordinance funding Main Street
City Council voted unanimously to amend the municipal tax ordinance. The ordinance imposed a 9 percent surtax on insurance premiums to fund street repairs and maintenance, fire department and Kentucky Renaissance City Project.
The first reading of the amended ordinance allocated the funds to the city’s general fund to be earmarked for “public safety.”