Thursday May 1, 2014

Dozens of nurses at Appalachian Regional Healthcare who threatened to walk off the job Thursday morning will not strike after all.  Members of the Southern United Nurses/National Nurses United union reached an agreement with ARH Wednesday that prevents the planned one-day strike at ARH hospitals in Hazard and Beckley, West Virginia.  Both sides came to terms on a new, three-year labor contract. Details of the deal were not released. It's expected that the more than 700 members of the union will vote between Wednesday and Friday next week whether to ratify the new contract.
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Officials tell us they are investigating a fire in Magoffin County.  It happened at the River Bend Apartments on Gardner Trail Road in Downtown Salyersville and started just before 4am Wednesday morning at the building that housed eight apartments. No one was hurt.  Firefighters say they got the fire out in about 30 minutes and then worked to clear the scene for almost three hours.  No word on the cause, but the State Fire Marshal and the Arson Investigator are on the scene.
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Court officials tell us a new trial date has not been set.The Jenkins City Council has approved salary raises for the mayor and council members who will take office in 2015. The mayor’s annual salary was increased from a base of $28,000 to $31,000 per year. The raise does not affect incentives already in place that, if met, can raise the mayor’s pay by $4,000. Council salaries were doubled to $50 per month.
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There will be another round of bidding before the fate of the old McRoberts School building is decided. At its April meeting, the Jenkins Independent Schools Board of Education met in closed session before voting to reject all bids submitted. While the decision to talk about the bids behind closed doors came as a surprise to audience members, Board Attorney Tim Crawford cited an opinion from the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office that he said allows school boards to go into executive session to decide the outcome of a bid opening.
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A voting machine for voters who expect to be absent from the county or can’t make it to the polls on Election Day will open today in the offices of Letcher County Clerk Winston Meade. Voting machine hours are 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 8:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday, from May 1 to May 19.

Wednesday April 30, 2014

The National Weather Service has determined that injuries and damage in Harlan County were caused by 90 mph straight-line winds. The weather service said the storm on Monday caused three minor injuries and damaged three buildings in Evarts, including one building hit by a tree. Numerous trees were also reported damaged. Harlan County Emergency Management Director David McGill said the storm also downed power lines and caused power outages in the county.
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A fire in a Pike County railroad tunnel is causing some concern for folks in the area. Several schools cancelled class on Monday, as the Robinson Creek area fills with heavy smoke and fumes.  Folks describe the scene Saturday night as terrifying; with loud crashing noises and flames reaching as high as the mountain. Monday morning, firefighters from Shelby Valley worked to extinguish the flames inside the tunnel that stretches 700 feet through the mountain.
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Investigators believe two fires along one Laurel County street are questionable. The first fire happened on Waterworks Road Sunday night, then another home burned last night. Firefighters think because both fires are close to one another, it is suspicious. Police say it is too early to tell is arson is to blame.
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Appalachian Regional Healthcare officials and a labor union hope they can reach a contract agreement. Hospital and Union officials are expected to meet Wednesday in Lexington at 1 p.m.  If they do not come to an agreement by midnight Wednesday, nurses would then go on a 24 hour strike. The Southern United Nurses/National Nurses United Labor Union issued the notice last week. Only ARH Hospitals in Hazard and Beckley, West Virginia will be affected.

Tuesday April 29, 2014

Strong storms damaged homes and businesses in the Harlan County city of Evarts Monday afternoon.  Winds ripped the roof off the Dairy Hut and blew a hole in the side of the Marathon gas station. Both businesses are located in downtown Evarts and are owned by Randy Brackett.  Winds also damaged several houses, including the home of Evarts mayor Eddie Manning.  No injuries were reported in Harlan County because of the storm.
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A fire in a Pike County railroad tunnel is causing some concern for folks in the area. Several schools cancelled class on Monday, as the Robinson Creek area fills with heavy smoke and fumes. Monday morning, firefighters from Shelby Valley worked to extinguish the flames inside the tunnel that stretches 700 feet through the mountain.  Pike County Emergency Management Director Doug Tackett says the odor is due to the old age of the tunnel and how it was built, using creosote which can emit toxic fumes..Instead of using water, officials are going to use dirt to try to smother it out.  In a statement from CSX officials they say there is significant damage to the tunnel and do not have a timeline as to when the line will reopen.  CSX is working with the state fire marshal's office to determine a cause.
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Developers are halting a three-state underground pipeline project that drew intense opposition in Kentucky from residents, activists and even a group of nuns. Williams Co. and Boardwalk Pipeline Partners said in a web posting Monday that they were not able to assemble a large enough customer base for the natural gas liquids that would be delivered by the proposed Bluegrass Pipeline. They suggested, however, that the project could be resurrected at a later date. The companies said they are no longer seeking to acquire land for the project and offices that housed land acquisition teams have been closed.
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A man is in the hospital after being struck by lightning in Powell County. It happened around 8:45 Monday morning at the Powell County Transfer Station on Highway 15 in Clay City. Officials say the man was alert and talking when crews got to the scene. He was taken by ambulance to Clark Regional Hospital in Winchester .  The victim's name and condition have not been released.
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A Perry County School brought national honors to Eastern Kentucky with rankings out last week. U.S. News and World Report awarded the school a Bronze Medal. Two qualifications earned schools Bronze Medals. Schools had to first perform better than average in the state, and economically disadvantaged students had to perform better than expected. Buckhorn's rate of economically disadvantaged students stood at 78 percent.
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Fayette County Public Schools are undergoing big zoning changes for the first time in more than ten years. The district has announced plans to build two new elementary schools, one new high school, and to create new boundaries for school districts. With two new elementary schools set to open in 2016 and a new high school in 2017, school leaders say re-working the map on attendance zones is a necessity.

Monday April 28, 2014

A search party was called off Sunday morning after crews found a missing man dead.  Search and rescue workers found the body of Billy Bays, 42, around 9am Sunday.  Bays was reported missing by family members Saturday afternoon when he did not return home from hunting mushrooms near Oneida.  Investigators say no foul play is suspected and there were no visible signs of trauma.
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More than one hundred motorcyclists rode in a poker run Saturday morning.  The bikers began their routes in Corbin, all riding for one special third grader.  Candace Keith, 9, has been fighting Acute Myeloid Leukemia since last August.  Candace has been undergoing chemotherapy treatments and will soon go through a bone marrow transplant. The poker run began in Laurel County, as bikers rode through Somerset, Williamsburg, and back through London.
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The roads of downtown Hazard were turned into a racetrack this afternoon for the 15th Annual Bud Combs Memorial All-American Soap Box Derby.  The derby attracts kids of all ages to race their soap box cars. There are two separate divisions and winners have the chance to advance to the national competition. This event is one of many community service projects put on by the Hazard Kiwanis Club.

Friday April 25, 2014

The University of Kentucky will loosen its longstanding alcohol ban to allow legal drinking at some places on the Lexington campus. In another policy shift, the state's flagship school said it will extend its code of student conduct to apply to student behavior at places off campus. The changes, coming after a lengthy review, are expected to take effect in the upcoming fall semester. UK said it will revise the campus alcohol policy to allow some legal drinking under guidelines and conditions that weren't specified.
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Wednesday evening, some homeowners in Perry County came home to a frightening scene. Fire officials say a wildfire burned nine acres of grassland near Chavies, but did not damage any homes or buildings. The fire began around 6:30pm, and the Grapevine/Chavies Fire Department extinguished it a couple hours later.  Kentucky Division of Forestry is investigating the incident as arson.
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After the President announced the Promise Zone Initiative for eight counties within southeast Kentucky, leaders are now turning to students for ideas on how to improve the region. These students have grown up in one of the most beautiful counties in Kentucky, but they’ve also grown up in a county with some of the highest poverty rates.  Teams are listening to students from all of the eight counties within the Promise Zone Initiative.
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A man charged in the murder of an Eastern Kentucky woman was in court this morning. 55 year old Melvin Slone pleaded not guilty in a video arraignment. State Police arrested Slone Wednesday. They say he shot and killed 79 year old Martha Hollar. Hollar was found dead inside her burning Lee County home earlier this month. It is not clear if Slone knew the victim.
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Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes called Wednesday on the President  to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline as she tries to defeat an incumbent Republican in the heart of coal country. Grimes' statement comes on the day a group committed to blocking the pipeline announced it will spend $500,000 setting up field offices in Kentucky to try to defeat U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell. Grimes has criticized the administration's energy policies before.
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The East Kentucky Leadership conference kicked off yesterday morning with several sessions, ranging in topics from applying for grant funding, to engaging young professionals and women in the fight to improve our region's economy. About 400 are registered for the East Kentucky Leadership Conference. The Center for Rural Development in Somerset is hosting this year's event.