LOCAL NEWS

Wednesday August 20, 2014

EASTERN KY COAL MINE OPERATOR REACHES SETTLEMENT BECAUSE OF RECLAMATION VIOLATIONS

Coal mine operator Jim Justice has reached a settlement with the state over mine reclamation violations that are said to be the largest number in the last 10 years. The deal has Justice admitting to the violations, paying a $1.5 million fine and completing all reclamation work within the next 12 months. Justice is also putting up over $10 million in bonding and using part of his vast wealth to guarantee the work will be done. The deal includes mines in 8 Eastern Kentucky counties including Letcher, Floyd, Leslie, Knott, Harlan and Pike counties.

CLEANUP ONGOING FROM MONDAY'S FLASH FLOODING

Cleanup work continues from Monday's storms that caused extensive damage in Perry, Knott and Breathitt Counties. One road in Perry County remains washed out and a makeshift walkway was put together to get residents access to their homes. Perry County Judge-Executive Zach Weinberg says the damage there is around $200,000. Weinberg says the county plans to install larger culverts but even then that won't stop damage from flash flooding like what happened Monday.

HARLAN COUNTY ROAD UNSAFE

Highway 987 in Harlan County is not safe. That's what the daughter of a woman injured in a crash says. On Monday Thelma Daniels ran off the road, hit an embankment then careened across both lanes. Daniels is at UK hospital according to her daughter. A Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spokesperson says they will look into the history of crashes on that section of 987 but any major revisions to the road would have to be part of the state's 6 year road plan.

COUNTERFEIT BILLS IN PERRY COUNTY

A number of Perry County banks are reporting that they've received counterfeit bills recently and the quality was so high it was nearly impossible to tell them from the real thing. Police say everything looked correct on the $50 notes and what makes this case unique is the bills were easily slipped by unsuspecting businesses. The fake fifties were found when the money made it into a bank counting machine. According to investigators there haven't been any other denominations of counterfeit money passed and banks have shared the serial numbers on the fifty dollar bills with area merchants.

CANDLELIGHT VIGIL FOR VICTIMS OF MARTIN COUNTY FIRE

The three victims in Saturday's Martin County house fire were remembered at a candlelight vigil last night. Tina Goble, Cainie Johnson and 8 year old Trinity Maynard were killed in the fire that prosecutors say was intentionally set by Jack Smith. Smith was to have appeared in court yesterday but that has been delayed for a week. He pleaded not guilty to 3 counts of murder.

3 PEOPLE INJURED IN PERRY COUNTY CRASH

3 people are hospitalized following a 2 car crash in Perry County. It happened on Highway 15 and police say a car pulled out of a parking lot in front of an oncoming southbound car. The driver of the car that pulled out tried to take evasive action but couldn't avoid hitting the southbound car. The 3 injured were all in the southbound car and they all said they had pain in the neck, back and shoulder. No one in the other car was hurt.

DRUG AND PROSTITUTION RISE IN THE CITY OF HARLAN

Businesses in downtown Harlan say they're concerned about a rise in drug dealing and prostitution - and Monday night they took their concerns to the Harlan City Council. Police chief Mike Thomas says they will address the situation as best as they can and noted that 4 people were taken into custody as the meeting Monday was underway. Mayor Danny Howard echoed Chief Thomas' words saying they will work on getting a plan in place by the end of the week to deal with the problem.

SPECIAL ELECTION RESULTS IN SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA

Unofficial results from yesterday's voting in Wise and Dickenson Counties in Virginia show Ben Chafin in the lead to take over the 38th district senate seat vacated by Phillip Puckett.  Rick Mullins from Dickenson County came in third place with 9 percent of the vote.

Tuesday August 19, 2014

FLOODING RAINS IN KNOTT, PERRY AND BREATHITT COUNTIES ON MONDAY

Yesterday's heavy rains made a mess of things around the area - and the hardest hit areas were Perry, Knott and Breathitt Counties. A number of buildings in Hindman were flooded when Troublesome Creek rose above its banks and Highway 550 near Highway 160 was closed most of yesterday due to water over the roadway. Highway 476 between Hardburly and Darford was also closed because of flooding. The Davidson Baptist Church in Perry County was significantly damaged by flood debris and members say it will take at least a couple of days to clean things up. Lost Creek - a tributary prone to flooding - went over its banks yesterday and sent water into several homes. Residents there say the culverts installed to drain waters were simply overwhelmed by the heavy rains.

2 PEOPLE BADLY INJURED IN HARLAN COUNTY WRECK ON 421

2 people were severely injured in a one car crash on US 421 in Harlan County. Police say the SUV rolled over several times ejecting a woman from the vehicle. She's identified as Paula Cox of Evarts and was airlifted to Holston Valley Medical Center in Kingsport, Tenn.  Cox's husband Phillip Cox was also hurt and taken to Hazard ARH. Investigators say drugs played a factor in the crash.

SUSPECT ARRESTED FOR MURDER IN DEADLY MARTIN COUNTY HOUSE FIRE

A suspect has been arrested in a Martin County fire that took the lives of 3 people. Jack Smith was taken into custody Saturday night and in addition to murder charges, he faces robbery, tampering with evidence and drug charges. He's being held in the Big Sandy Detention Center and will make his first court appearance today. Police are saying very little about what happened before the Saturday morning fire that killed Tina Goble, Cainie Johnson and 8 year old Trinity Maynard. Goble is the mother of Timothy Goble - one of the Paintsville firefighters who responded to the blaze.

IRS FORGIVES DEBT TO HARLAN COUNTY

The IRS has forgiven a $38,000 tax debt owed by a city in Harlan County. Last fall the Benham City Council learned it owed the money because of unpaid taxes between June 2012 and March 2013. An investigation into possible misappropriation of funds was launched by the IRS when the council was notified of the past due taxes and each council member was interviewed by the agency. Senator Mitch McConnell's office sent a letter to Benham officials saying the matter with the IRS has been resolved in the city's favor.

VOTERS HEAD TO POLLS IN WISE AND DICKENSON COUNTIES TODAY

Voters in Wise and Dickenson Counties in Virginia head to the polls today to vote for a candidate to complete the term of State Senator Phillip Puckett. 3 candidates are on the ballot - one of them,  Rick Mullins - is from Clintwood, and Dickenson County officials say there's already been a large number of absentee ballots sent in. Registrars say, however that they expect low turnouts - between 20 and 25 percent.

HARLAN COUNTY CRASH

A one car crash in Harlan County sent the driver to the hospital. Police say Thelma Daniels from Smith was on Kentucky 987 when she went off the road, hit an embankment and went across the road. There's been no word on the severity of Daniels' injuries or what caused the crash.

Monday August 18, 2014

GRIMES IN PERRY COUNTY SATURDAY

Perry County was in the political spotlight again on Saturday as senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes came to town for the Kentucky Democratic Party's Annual 5th Congressional District Fish Fry, held at the Disabled American Veterans building in Hazard. It's her second trip to the area in less than 2 weeks. Grimes took aim at opponent Mitch McConnell, calling to light the fact that his wife Elaine Chao is on the board of an organization opposing coal. McConnell's campaign fired back with a new ad saying her attacks are nothing more than a way to focus attention away from her inexperience and commitment to President Obama.

METH LAB BUSTED FRIDAY IN KNOTT COUNTY

Police busted a meth lab Friday at a Knott County trailer. Acting on a tip, sheriff's deputies and state troopers raided the trailer off highway 1087 and along with the lab, found Suboxyne,marijuana, and prescription pills.  Drug paraphernalia was found in a van parked nearby. 3 people were taken into custody.

CEMETARY VANDALISM IN PIKE COUNTY

A Pike County family want to know why someone destroyed a gravestone that cost well over a thousand dollars. The family got a call last Wednesday from an unknown woman who told them the stone had been destroyed. When they went to the cemetery they found the stone in pieces. There's no word on if police are investigating the vandalism but the family wants whoever did it to step forward.

KNOTT COUNTY HOTEL RE-OPENS

A Knott County hotel that's been closed for a decade is now open under new ownership. The Quiltmaker Inn in Hindman recently reopened and the new owners left the historic 1937 building intact - but decorated it with local art. Each of the 15 rooms are named after well known Mountain folks, according to the inn's website. Managers of the Appalachian Artisan Center say the hotel re-opening will likely bring them more visitors.

2 MEN ARRESTED FOR HARLAN COUNTY BREAK IN

2 men are behind bars suspected of breaking into a Harlan County apartment. Robby Johnson and Paul Thomas are being held on $10,000 cash bond each. As police were taking the two into custody on Friday at the apartment on Gilbert Drive in Lynch they found both were also in possession of drugs.

PIKE COUNTY MAN ARRESTED AFTER PURSUIT

A Pike County man was arrested Friday after police say he led officers on a pursuit, nearly ramming an officer’s patrol car. Police say they spotted a pickup driven by David Nichols of Elkhorn City that went through the area near Pikeville Elementary School nearly going off the road and veering back on. An officer pulled Nichols over but he took off, leading police on a chase that ended on Town Mountain Road. Nichols faces multiple charges including driving while intoxicated.

FIRE DEPARTMENTS HAVE TRAINING IN HARLAN OVER THE WEEKEND

Several fire departments were in Harlan County over the weekend to take part in a training exercise covering what to do in a situation when a driver needs to be extricated from their car. Around a dozen first responders participated in the training which gave them hands on experience using the extrication equipment. The training was held at a car dealership in Harlan which also provided the vehicles firemen used in their training.

Thursday August 14, 2014

ALL 3 MAYORS IN LETCHER COUNTY WILL BE CHALLENGED THIS FALL

The slate of candidates is set for this fall's elections in Letcher County. Whitesburg Mayor James Craft will be challenged for re-election by Jason Griffith and David Narramore. All 6 Whitesburg City Council members have filed for re-election and for Earlene Williams - it will be her first time on the ballot as she was appointed to fill the term of her late husband John Williams. 4 candidates are challenging the re-election of Jenkins Mayor GC Kincer and 6 City Council members are seeking another term. Fleming Neon mayor Susan Polis has 2 opponents: Joe Brown and Gwen Johnson.

ANOTHER MARIJUANA GROW FOUND IN LETCHER COUNTY

Police in Letcher County find another marijuana pot grow - this time with the help of aerial surveillance. In July 9 pot plants were spotted near a home in Colson and officers took Bobby Bates into custody. Cops found a grow in Neon last week when they were responding to an animal cruelty call. State Police say between 1998 and 2013 pot grows in Letcher County lagged far behind other Eastern Kentucky counties, with Leslie County leading the list.

SCHOOL HIT IN LETCHER COUNTY ON WEDNESDAY

7 kids were taken to their hospital after their school bus was hit in Letcher County yesterday. Police say the bus was rear-ended by a pickup truck on Highway 931. Only one of the students complained of injuries but as a precaution all were taken to the hospital. The crash investigation is continuing.

FLEMING-NEON CITY COUNCIL AUDIT FINDINGS

Fleming Neon's city council reviewed its annual audit and they were told by their accountant that some issues arise with city utilities depreciation estimates. The audit found in 2013 the city had a net loss of nearly $400,000 in water and sewer operations because of incorrect depreciation calculations of the department's infrastructure. That deficit impacts the city's ability to qualify for a Kentucky Infrastructure Authority grant which could be used to make upgrades to Fleming Neon's aging water mains and sewer system. One other issue is collections - the accountant told the City Council they need to be more aggressive in getting customers with past due bills to pay up.

100TH ANNIVERSARY OF PERRY COUNTY CHURCH IS SATURDAY

Saturday marks the 100th anniversary for a Perry County church. Mt. Olivet Baptist Church in the Cornettsville community will mark the day with a service at 11am which organizers say is open to the public. The church was originally located in the Leatherwood community but after a fire destroyed the building around 60 years ago, the congregation moved to Cornettsville. Organizers say they've invited former pastors to take part in Saturday's celebration.

HARLAN COUNTY MAN INDICTED IN ROBBERY AND SHOOTING

An indictment is handed down against a Harlan County man suspected of robbing a man then shooting him. Court papers say that in May Cletus Robbins Junior and 2 accomplices stole over two grand in cash from the victim then threatened to kill his girlfriend's family if anyone called the cops. Police say Robbins restrained the victim and shot him in the chest.  His next court appearance is scheduled for October. The 2 other men involved in the robbery have been arrested.

PERRY COUNTY SCHOOL BREAK IN ARREST MADE

An arrest is made in a Sunday morning burglary at a Perry County school. Dakota Bates from Happy is accused of breaking into Combs Elementary and taking 2 laptop computers. Police say damage was estimated at $10,000. School officials say the damage didn't stop the building from opening for the first day of class on Monday.

HARLAN COUNTY FIREFIGHTERS HAVE A NEW TOOL

Firefighters in Harlan County have a new high-tech tool to improve its responses to emergencies and other specialized events. It's called MARPLOT - short for Mapping Application for Response, Planning, and Local Operational Tasks - and it's a joint effort of the Environmental Protection Agency and NOAA. The program gives firemen the ability to develop emergency plans and become proactive to emergencies before they actually happen. It's provided to first responders at no charge.

Wednesday August 13, 2014

MOTHER AND 7 WEEK OLD IN HOSPITAL AND 2 ARRESTED AFTER CRASH ON HIGHWAY 7 SOUTH IN LETCHER COUNTY

A mother and her infant girl are in the hospital after a one-car crash in Letcher County. Police say the car with 5 people inside went off Highway 7 and ended up on a railroad track. The mother and baby were passengers in the car and were taken to Whitesburg ARH for non life threatening injuries. Investigators say the driver is charged with DUI and endangering the welfare of a minor and another passenger faces meth charges.

CHARGES FILED AGAINST A BOY AFTER SHOTS FIRED FROM PELLET GUN AT WEST WHITESBURG SCHOOL STAFF

Charges are filed against a Letcher County boy accused of firing a pellet gun at the staff of an elementary school. Police say it happened Friday afternoon outside of West Whitesburg Elementary when the school's principal felt something sting her. Investigators found the teenager with the gun across the street in an apartment complex. He's been charged with assault along with multiple counts of wanton endangerment.

COMPLEX CHILD CUSTODY CASE WILL BE HEARD IN FLOYD COUNTY COURTROOM

What started out as a uncle trying to get his niece some medical help has turned into a child custody case that will play out in a Floyd County courtroom. It started a few days ago when - according to Bruce Jarrell - a doctor says his 2 year old cousin who had been treated for a dig bite wound that became infected needed to get to a hospital for treatment right away. Since Jarrell isn't the girl's legal custodian, they went to a Social Services office in Floyd County so she could be admitted to the hospital. That's where Jarrell says things were held up for hours - and ultimately, workers took custody of the little girl and awarded it to the state. The custody case is being heard today.

GRAND JURY TO HEAR THE CASE OF LESLIE COUNTY MAN FACING MURDER CHARGES

A Grand Jury will hear the case of a Leslie County man accused of murder. Police say Gavin Wells fatally shot Christopher Sizemore earlier this month after a fight broke out between the two and Sizemore's brother. Investigators say Wells told them he acted in self defense. Yesterday a judge ruled the evidence presented merited the case going to the grand jury. Sizemore's brother was also shot in the altercation but he is expected to recover from his injuries.

MAN ARRESTED AFTER THREATS AT A FLOYD COUNTY MEDICAL CLINIC

A call about a man making threats at a Floyd County medical clinic ended up with the man being arrested on drug charges. Police say they responded to the Highlands Plaza in Prestonsburg and when they encountered the man, they found he was intoxicated and wouldn't comply with officer's commands. He was eventually taken into custody and officers found hundreds of pills in his possession worth well over $40,000. The man hasn't been named and there's been no word on where he got the pills from.

18 YEAR OLD TAKEN INTO CUSTODY IN HARLAN COUNTY AFTER HIGH SPEED CHASE

A high-speed chase in Harlan County involving a teenager on an ATV ends with the 18 year old taken into custody on multiple charges. Police say Bryan Stephens was spotted riding the 4 wheeler in Loyall and wasn't wearing a helmet.  According to the Harlan Daily Enterprise Loyall Police Chief Mike Lunsford chased after Stephens at speeds up to 80 miles an hour. Stephens made his way through the locked gates at the airport then on to the runway, and as he tried to escape, Chief Lunsford blocked the gate and eventually he and 2 other officers got Stephens into custody.

LAPTOPS PASSED OUT TO STUDENTS IN FLOYD COUNTY

Over a thousand laptop computers were passed out to Floyd County students yesterday. Each 5th and 9th grade student in the district now has their own laptop. The district spent over a half million dollars for the computers - phase one of the district's digital conversion that according to school superintendent Henry Webb says will eventually result in all students having a laptop. Webb says the money to buy the computers comes from grants and redistributing funds.