LOCAL NEWS

Tuesday July 22, 2014

MORE LAYOFFS AS CUMBERLAND RIVER/ARCH COAL SHUTS DOWN

Over 200 Cumberland River Coal Company workers in Letcher County and Wise County, Virginia are out of a job after parent company Arch Coal idled operations yesterday. Employees say they had no warning they were about to lose their jobs. In a press release CEO John Eaves says the company is responding to challenges marketing the expensive metallurgical coal that the mine produced. The Cumberland River coal is used in the steelmaking process. Eaves said Arch Coal will work on selling lower-cost metallurgical coal which will yield greater profits. An Arch spokesperson in Saint Lewis says a few employees will remain for environmental regulations and to sell off coal stock that had been previously mined. The company says it will take steps to provide opportunities at other Arch subsidiaries where available.

ALLTECH INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT PROJECT COMING TO PIKE COUNTY

Governor Steve Beshear and Congressman Hal Rogers announced a new industrial development project for Pike County. The site, called Marion Branch, is a 380-acre former surface mine site. Global animal nutrition company Alltech, headquartered in Nicholasville, will become the first tenant at the new facility in Pikeville.

ACCUSED PERRY COUNTY BANK ROBBER MAKES FIRST APPEARANCE

The man accused of robbing a Perry County bank last week made his first court appearance on Monday. Floyd Fletcher pleaded not guilty to charges he stole more than $2,000 from the People's Bank and Trust inside the Hazard Walmart. A grand jury will hear Fletcher’s case.

PIKE COUNTY MAN PULLED OVER ARRESTED ON DRUG CHARGES

A Pike County woman who had dodged jail time on drug charges was arrested last week – on suspicion of drunk driving. Police say Lindsay Pruitt of Robinson Creek was pulled over by a Pikeville police officer after he observed her crossing the center line then driving on the wrong side of the road. Investigators say Pruitt had a blood alcohol level just over the legal limit. She was serving a ten year term of supervised release on the drug charges and the terms of the sentence mandated Pruitt not commit any crimes and stay away from alcohol and drugs.

COAL BUSINESSMAN BILL STURGILL PASSES AWAY

Memorial services will be held tomorrow for Bill Sturgill, a Floyd County native who was a well known businessman and a philanthropist to the University of Kentucky. Nearly 55 years ago Sturgill formed Kentucky Oak Mining Company with coal operator Dick Kelly and it introduced strip mining and reclamation techniques to Eastern Kentucky. Sturgill served on the UK board of trustees and was chairman for 10 years and the university gives an annual award in his name to a graduate faculty member for outstanding contributions to graduate education.

SMOKE FREE KY COALITION COMING TO PERRY COUNTY

The Smoke-Free Kentucky Coalition will visit Perry County as part of its “Road to a Healthier Kentucky” tour. It will be at Appalachian Regional Healthcare on Medical Center Drive in Hazard next Tuesday at 11am. Organizers say the goal of the tour is to get folks active and engaged in supporting smoke-free policy.  Almost 30 percent of Kentuckians still smoke, more than any other state in the nation.

AWARDS FOR 2 AREA CONSERVATION DISTRICTS

2 area Conservation Districts received awards at a convention held in Louisville last week. The Floyd County Conservation District was named the top conservation district for the second straight year in Area 8. Meanwhile the Perry County Soil and Conservation District was named the top conservation district in Eastern Kentucky this year for the first time in the district’s history.

DICKENSON COUNTY VA SCHOOLS NOW SMOKE FREE

Schools in Dickenson County Virginia are now smoke free campuses. The school board recently changed the policy to prohibit tobacco products on district grounds. The Centers for Disease Control awarded an $80,000 grant to help the district and several others buy signs and other promotional materials to implement the change. Wise County is also covered under the grant but its board hasn’t voted on a policy change.

Monday July 21, 2014

CRASH NEAR US 23/119 JUNCTION AT JENKINS INJURES 3

A crash in Letcher County sent 3 people to the hospital. Police say it happened around the junction of US 23 and US 119 near Jenkins.  It involved two vehicles and a coal truck - and that truck overturned, according to investigators. The road was closed for about 2 hours following the crash

LETCHER COUNTY MAN FACING ANIMAL CRUELTY CHARGES AND MORE

A Letcher County man is facing a number of charges including animal cruelty on suspicion he killed a kitten. Robert Machniak of Jenkins was arrested on Number One Hill when cops responded to calls that he had been threatening family members and his brother's girlfriend. The kitten was clinging to life when police got there, but died a short time later. Police say Machniak appeared to be intoxicated.

KNOTT COUNTY DOUBLE KWIK ROBBERT SUSPECT REMAINS AT LARGE

The suspect in a robbery at a gas station in Knott County remains at large. Police say the incident happened early Sunday at the Double Kwik at 28 West Highway 80 in Hindman. An employee told investigators they were outside when someone "covered up" approached and asked the them to go inside. The thief  got away with about $500 No one was hurt.

PURSE SNATCHING SUSPECT CAUGHT IN PERRY COUNTY

Police have caught a man suspected in 2 purse snatchings in Perry County. Investigators say both  happened at the Hazard Walmart - one in the parking lot, the other in the store. One purse contained more than $2,500, according to police. Steven Brock Jones faces two counts of theft of more than $500, fraudulent use of a credit card, and escape in the second degree.

BANK INSIDE HAZARD WAL-MART ROBBED BUT SUSPECT CAUGHT QUICKLY

A man who held up a Perry County bank barely got away with the loot before being arrested. Police say Floyd Fletcher of Martin County robbed the People's Bank inside the Hazard Wal-Mart armed with a small pocket knife. Fletcher tried to make his getaway but was caught by a Hazard Police officer who just happened to be at the store. He was taken into custody without incident Police say Fletcher may face federal charges in connection with the stickup.

FLOYD COUNTY SITE OF DOG CADAVER TRAINING SESSIONS

Floyd County was the scene recently of training sessions for tracking and cadaver dogs. The Kentucky Search Dog Association brought more than a dozen dogs and handlers to train in some rugged areas that the association says is a perfect area to train in. The visit also gave the trainees an opportunity to work with the Floyd County Search and Rescue Squad.

MURDER TRIAL IN HARLAN COUNTY SET FOR OCTOBER

The murder trial for a Harlan County man is set for late October. Jody Cooper is charged with killing Damiano Delaney in February of last year. Police say Delaney was shot several times inside a home in the Rosspoint Community. Cooper's accomplice - Justin Miller is out on bond and his next court date is August 7th.

HIGHLANDS HEALTH SYSTEMS AVOID STRIKE

Unionized workers at Highlands Health System will not be going on strike. Late Friday the rank and file approved what Highlands called their last, best and final offer. The deal reportedly includes annual pay raises and addresses one big concern workers had - the cost of adding a spouse to the employee's health insurance. Had the contract not been ratified - the union was planning to issue a 10-day strike notice.

THOUSANDS TURN OUT FOR WISE COUNTY RAM EVENT

Thousands turned out this weekend at the Wise County Virginia fairgrounds for the annual visit of the Remote Area Medical clinic. People received treatment for medical, dental and vision care at no cost. It opened its doors Friday morning and wrapped up yesterday. The clinic is the brainchild of Stan Brock, whose first claim to fame was his appearances pursuing wild cheetahs on “Wild Kingdom” in the 1970s.

HILLBILLY CHRISTMAS IN JULY HELD ON SUNDAY

The 9th annual Hillbilly Christmas in July took off from Pike County yesterday. They're heading for Lexington with to raise money for young patients at the Shriner's Hospital. The collected enough toys to fill a trailer that they plan on delivering next week. Around 150 riders began Sunday morning from the Pikeville Harley-Davidson, and more riders joined in during the journey.

Wednesday July 16, 2014

STATE LAW SAYS FIRST TIME STUDENTS MUST HAVE VISION EXAM

As parents in Letcher County and throughout Kentucky are starting plans for back to school, officials remind moms and dads that state law requires children ages 3 through 6 to have a vision exam if they are entering a public school or preschool program for the first time. Experts say vision problems are a major factor in limiting a child’s abilities to learn and succeed. Researchers have found up to 13 percent of children age 5 and younger have some type of vision condition. After age 5, that number increases to 25 percent.

CAUSE OF FIRE AT WORLDWIDE EQUIPMENT STILL UNKNOWN

Investigators are still working to determine the cause of a fire that destroyed part of a Floyd County business last month. The blaze at Worldwide Equipment’s parts and service building in Prestonsburg  may have been caused by an electrical fire, but that has not been 100 percent confirmed. Worldwide Equipment is in the initial stages of rebuilding the parts and service facility, with cleanup completed on the oil and hazardous materials. Damage was estimated at well over a million dollars.

2 PERRY COUNTY MEN INDICTED ON METH CHARGES

An indictment was handed down against 2 Perry County men on methamphetamine manufacturing charges after police found a meth lab in their home. Joseph Newton and Billie Womack are each being held on $75,000 bail. Police initially went to the home after getting a tip that a wanted man was there and once allowed to search, officers found the meth along with a number of marijuana plants. Womack was indicted last December on several traffic-related charges.

FLOYD COUNTY ARMED ROBBERY SUSPECT STILL AT LARGE

A suspect in a Floyd County convenience store holdup is still at large and police are asking for tips to find him. The early Sunday morning robbery happened at a Marathon off US 23 in Prestonsburg.  According to police the man made a motion to the clerk as if he had a weapon and made off with an undermined amount of cash. No one was hurt. The man is described as very tall – well over 6 feet – and was wearing dark clothing. A reward for information leading to the suspect’s arrest is being offered by the store owner.

PIKEVILLE CITY POLICE LOOKING TO ADD MORE OFFICERS

The population growth in Pikeville means the city’s police department is busier than ever. Chief Phillip Reed says the average case load per officer is up nearly 10 percent from the last 3 years. He says he’d like to add more officers so the department has a better street presence, which in turn will improve public safety. Reed says the department received 11,000 calls last year – up from 9000 in 2012.

STATE AUDITOR KICKS OFF PUBLIC HEARINGS ON RURAL HOSPITALS FINANCES

State Auditor Adam Edelen was in Prestonsburg yesterday to kick off a series of public hearings on the financial health of rural hospitals. Edelen says the small hospital network is a system in crisis because of new healthcare regulations which makes it very difficult for administrators to keep operations running. he Prestonsburg stop is one of ten Edelen is conducting to hear concerns from hospital administrators and staff, elected officials, health care providers and the public.

CUMBERLAND MAN ARRESTED ON PUBLIC INTOXICATION AND METH CHARGES

A Cumberland man arrested in Harlan County on suspicion of public intoxication was also charged with methamphetamine possession. Jimmy Nantz was booked into the Harlan County Detention Center on a $100 full cash bond. Police say Nantz was seen at Portal 31 in Lynch and had slurred speech along with being unsteady on his feet. Officers found meth on Nantz and he admitted taking that along with a prescription pain killer. 

MAN SOUGHT IN CAR BREAK INS NEAR BREAKS INTERSTATE PARK

Police are looking for tips to finding the man suspected of breaking into several cars in Kentucky and Virginia. Dickenson County, Virginia deputies say the man is breaking into cars near the Breaks Interstate Park. The suspect is described as between 19 and 25 years old, with dark hair and is driving a pickup truck. Anyone with information is asked to call the Dickenson County Virginia Sheriff's Office

 

Tuesday July 15, 2014

2 SOAR LISTENING SESSIONS TODAY IN WHITESBURG & PIKEVILLE

Two area listening sessions are being held today for the Shaping Our Appalachian Region program. The first is from 12:30-2:30 p.m. at the Letcher County Extension Agency on Extension Drive in Whitesburg. Then at 6pm a session will be held at at the Pike County Extension Service in Pikeville.  The listening session are designed to engage public dialogue about the next strategic steps toward improving the area’s economy.

LETCHER COUNTY MAN NEEDS KIDNEY REPLACEMENT

A Letcher County man is trying to find a donor for his third kidney replacement. Clancy Hensley had a transplant in 1992 that according to his family was supposed to only last 5 years. That transplant followed one done a year earlier. Hensley’s family hopes that they can find a living donor as the waiting list for replacements is much shorter than for those receiving a kidney from a deceased donor. He needs to complete one more test before being added to the University of Kentucky Medical Center transplant list. The family asks that anyone who is willing to be a possible kidney donor to contact the UK Medical Center nurse transplant coordinator.

FLOYD COUNTY BUSINESS SUING THE IRS

The IRS is being sued by a Floyd County business. Worldwide Equipment of Prestonsburg claims the agency wrongly classified a truck the company sells as an on road-vehicle – meaning the government can collect excise taxes. Court papers say the truck – used in mining – is intended to be used off road only with occasional highway use. The suit seeks $2.5 million.

POLICE ENFORCING NO TRAFFIC ON NEW US 460 IN PIKE COUNTY

Police are warning those using the newly paved US 460 in Pike County to stay off the road because it isn’t open yet. Drivers are skirting the orange construction barrels and taking to the new road that cuts commuting time between Elkhorn City and US 23 in Pikeville. Police have staked out the area and are now handing out trespassing tickets to those ignoring the road closed signs. Officials hope to have the road open between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

HARLAN COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPUTY ARREST ON ASSAULT CHARGES

A Harlan County Sheriff's Deputy is arrested on suspicion he physically assaulting his ex wife. John Luttrell was booked yesterday at the Harlan County Detention Center and released on bond. Investigators haven’t disclosed the circumstances that led to Luttrell’s arrest.

COURT RULING UPHELD IN WISE COUNTY ILLEGAL DISCHARGE ALLEGATIONS

A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court ruling that a company illegally discharged harmful waste into a Wise County, Virginia creek. A&G Coal Corporation appealed a judge’s decision that the company was required to report plans to discharge selenium when a permit application was filed for the Kelly Branch mine.  One of the 3 appellate judges wrote that allowing A&G to use the so-called permit shield defense would "tear a large hole" in the federal Clean Water Act.

MIDDLESBORO BECOMES PART OF THE CUMBERLAND RIVER DRUG TASK FORCE

The city of Middlesboro has signed off on joining the Cumberland River Drug Task Force. It’s an Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force that covers Harlan, Bell and Knox Counties. Retired Kentucky State Police trooper Roy Pace is overseeing the force which has been months in the making. Organizers hope to expand task force operations into 10 nearby countie

FATAL CAMPGROUND ACCIDENT IN DICKENSON COUNTY VA OVER THE WEEKEND

Police are investigating a fatal campground accident in Dickenson County, Virginia. Investigators say an SUV struck two women who are sitting near a fire pit at the Pound River Campground. Norma Jean Kendrick of Clintwood died and Georgia Mullins of Clintwood was treated for minor injuries. Police say the SUV driver suffered life-threatening injuries. Her name has not been released. According to witnesses the SUV’s accelerator stuck as the driver pulled into a campsite. The vehicle ended up in the Pound River.

Monday July 14, 2014

DISCUSSION RENEWED ON NEED FOR TRAFFIC LIGHT AT CARR CREEK LAKE AFTER ACCIDENT THURSDAY

Some folks in Knott County say the intersection where a man was killed last week needs to have better traffic control. Police say Johnny Childers of Red Fox was turning left from Highway 160 to go southbound on Highway 15 near Cody when he pulled out in front of a northbound truck. It broadsided Childers’ SUV, killing him at the scene. Police say he was not wearing a seatbelt. Last December Jenny Watts was killed at the same intersection also making a left turn – and that has renewed discussion that a traffic light is needed there. Transportation Department officials say according to their statistics the existing controls of flashing lights and a stop sign are sufficient for the intersection.

FINANCIAL INVESTIGATION REQUESTED BY PIKE COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD

The Pike County School Board plans to request additional financial investigation after an audit last month into $50,000 in missing money. The June audit – which covered non-classroom financials such as bookstores and concession stands - revealed around 200 discrepancies in procedure, with the bulk of the irregularities at Belfry Middle School. If approved by the Board, a full district audit is scheduled for late September, according to District Superintendent David Lester. The audit will exclude the food service part of district operations.

HARLAN COUNTY COMMONWEALTH ATTORNEY CHANGES OFFICES

Just weeks after Letcher County Commonwealth Attorney Edison Banks relocated his office – his counterpart in Harlan County has done the same. The Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney has moved to the ground floor of the Harlan County Courthouse – the former home of the Harlan County Judge Executive. Commonwealth Attorney Parker Boggs says the new office is easier to access with more parking and its proximity to other offices will make it interactions with other departments more efficient since they are now in the same building. Boggs says the bulk of the remodeling and moving items in to the new offices were done by inmates from the Harlan County Detention Center, lowering costs to taxpayers.

FORMER FIRE CHIEF AND WIFE INDICTED ON THEFT CHARGES

A former Pike County volunteer fire chief and his wife are indicted in charges they stole money and equipment from the department he headed as it was being shut down due to a lack of membership. Court papers Lawrence and Sandy Dingess were stealing the items and money over a 3 year period. According to Pike Commonwealth Attorney Rick Bartley the thefts were discovered when the department was reactivated earlier this year. Bartley blames poor records-keeping for the money disappearance.  

GRANT FROM DEPARTMENT OF AG AIDS PROMISE ZONE INITIATIVE

The federal government has awarded a grant to a newly-created program to help improve the economy in Southeastern Kentucky. The $115,000 grant from the Department of Agriculture awarded to the Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation will be put toward the  Promise Zone initiative which works with businesses in Letcher, Perry, Leslie, Harlan and 2 other counties. K-H-I-C president and C-E-O Jerry Rickett says the money will handed out on a revolving basis, meaning once a business is up and running, it pays back the grant money so it can be used to help other businesses build or expand.

HCTCS GRADUATES OVER A DOZEN FROM LINEMAN CLASS

Hazard Community and Technical College held a graduation Friday for its Lineman Class. There were over a dozen graduates from the 10-1/2 week long program and many already have job offers. The Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program covers the cost of the course which has helped to get laid off coal miners back to work.

ELKHORN BRANCH OF PIKE COUNTY LIBRARY SYSTEM IS NOT SHUTTING DOWN

Officials with the Pike County Library system are reassuring those in Elkhorn that their branch is not being shut down. Hours have been curtailed at all branches because – according to library officials – they’re putting in a new asset management system and rather than hire outside help in the transition, existing employees are working on getting the library’s over 200,000 items entered in the new software – a process that is done by hand. The Elkhorn branch along with all other Pike County branches are open Thursday, Friday and Saturday.