Home Russell County City of Russell Springs honors Orange Heart recipients

City of Russell Springs honors Orange Heart recipients

Local veterans James Clark, Stan Milby, Ron Burton, and Tom Burgess were honored at Thursday's council meeting as the state of Kentucky's first recipients of the Orange Heart Medal, given to Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange between 1962 and 1975.
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Liver problems. Type 2 diabetes. Compromised immune systems. Muscle dysfunction. Heart disease. Nerve disorders. Hormonal imbalance. The list of effects from exposure to Agent Orange is severe and extensive. 

Thousands of soldiers fighting in Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s came in contact with the dangerous herbicide, and four of those men were recognized Thursday night, presented plaques at the April meeting of the Russell Springs City Council.

Cmdr. James Clark, Stan Milby, Ron Burton, and Tom Burgess, all members of the Disabled American Veterans Organization (DAV), are the first four veterans in the state of Kentucky to be awarded the Orange Heart Medal, Mayor Eddie Thomas reported. 

“We’re really proud of this,” Clark said. “It means a lot.”

The fight to recognize soldiers exposed to Agent Orange was a long one, first gaining real traction in 2018. It was a long-debated source of contention that contact with Agent Orange was not an automatic qualifier for the Purple Heart, and the installment of the Orange Heart Medal was a response to the debate. 

Thomas said he was proud to recognize the four for their service to their country, and named the men honorary citizens or ambassadors to the city (depending on if the individual currently resides in Russell Springs).

Branscum recognized for service to Industrial Authority

Russell Springs Mayor Eddie Thomas, right, presented a plaque Thursday to Steve Branscum in recognition of 31 years of service as a board member of the Russell County Industrial Development Authority.

Thomas continued with the handing out of plaques Thursday by honoring Steve Branscum. Branscum was a founding member of the Russell County Industrial Development Authority and sat on the board for 31 years, starting in 1991.

“I appreciate the recognition,” Branscum said to Thomas, the council, and the few dozen attendees in the audience. “It’s certainly been rewarding.”

Branscum pledged to continue to help the community and Industrial Authority in his new capacity in any way he is able. 

Sewer rehabilitation project update

Public Works Director Terry Russell spoke to the council Thursday on the upcoming upgrades in the sewers along state Route 80.

“This project is something that the City of Russell Springs, we’ve been working on for a couple years, looking at the older infrastructure and trying to figure out areas to start doing work in, Russell said, saying the project has been dubbed “the Kentucky Highway 80 Rehabilitation.”

“That consists of the area around Save-A-Lot, at Robertson Street, and going east up to Owenstown Road, basically that section up through there, and an area on Butler Drive and also a little bit of manhole rehab around Roy Lane,” Russell continued. “It consists of about 4,900 feet of 8-inch line, and what they do is, the clay line that’s there, the existing line, they literally will pull a folded, formed, PVC layer through there, and they blow it up with heat, and that takes and brings the integrity of the pipe back — it’s PVC inside.”

At this point, Russell said there will be about 40 homes that will have to be re-connected into the system. He estimated the project would take 90 days from start to finish. The winning bid for the project was just less than $420,000.

Council changes mayor’s salary structure

The council gave second reading and voted to approve in the mayor’s salary at Thursday’s meeting. Effective next month, Mayor Eddie Thomas’ pay will be lowered to $1,250 per month, but will include a phone stipend (up to $100 per month) as well as a vehicle. 

The previous salary was $1,639.51 per month but did not include the stipend or vehicle.

All councilors voted in favor of the change, which was originally suggested by Thomas himself.

Ray Barrett’s family makes donation to cemetery board in his honor

Lana Schmett, an Indiana resident and daughter of the late Ray Barrett, spoke at Thursday’s meeting on behalf of her family, a few members of which were in attendance but did not speak. She presented Thomas with a check to the Russell Springs Cemetery in her father’s honor.

Ray Barrett was a popular and well-respected fixture in the Russell County community for decades. His roles of service over the years included police officer, police commissioner, and city councilor in addition to his tenure on the cemetery board. He passed away on Jan. 18, 2022.

“We’re so pleased to know how he embedded in this county,” Schmett said. “We wanted to do something in honor of Dad.”

Lana Schmett presented a check to Mayor Eddie Thomas for the Russell Springs Cemetery Fund at Thursday’s council meeting. Schmett and her family made the donation on behalf of her father, a former local police chief, city councilor, and cemetery board member, the late Ray Barrett.

Unnamed street dubbed ‘Rick Neff Road’

Mayor Eddie Thomas recognizes Rick Neff Thursday at the Russell Springs City Council meeting, where a previously unnamed road was christened in Neff’s honor.

The council gave second reading and voted in approval of changing a road name at Thursday night’s meeting. 

A previously unnamed and currently-uninhabited street in the city limits will now be known as Rick Neff Road. Pastor Neff was in attendance at the meeting, and was visibly emotionally moved by the honor.

“I can’t think of anyone better to name it after,” Thomas said.

Marson named honorary citizen

Janette Marson (center) was named an honorary citizen of Russell Springs at Thursday night’s city council meeting in recognition of her nine years of service as the Russell County Tourism Director.

After nine years of service the Russell County Tourism Director, Jannette Marson has moved on to a new chapter in her life. As a gesture of gratitude, Thomas presented Marson with a plaque naming her an honorary citizen of Russell Springs.

All councilors were present for the meeting, which was held Thursday, April 14, 2022 at Russell Springs City Hall.

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Wes Feese is one of this company's owners and founders. He has previously worked as an editor, news reporter, sportswriter, photographer, and freelance contributor for newspapers across central Kentucky. He grew up in the Egypt community of Adair County and is a graduate of Adair County High School and Lindsey Wilson College.