Wednesday April 16, 2014

House and Senate lawmakers have agreed to a $4.1 billion road spending plan on the Legislature's final day that, if approved, would avoid an expensive special session. The plan includes $5.2 billion worth of projects throughout the state. But as much as 25 percent of that money will not be spent. Lawmakers said they like to include a cushion in case some projects are delayed because of environmental concerns or problems acquiring land.
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Investigators presented their evidence against a man facing murder charges in Floyd County.  Last week police found, Rodney Mullins, shot to death outside a home in the Bypro community. Police arrested Tyler Shehan. At Tuesday's hearing, investigators explained how the two men knew each other.  Detectives worked for hours at the scene.
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Some people in Whitley County had early morning wake up call. Sheriff's deputies went after more than two dozen suspected drug dealers. The efforts are part of what officials call "Operation "Snowflake". Whitley County Sheriff named it "Operation Snowflake" because the investigations started in the winter, and he says it is fitting it snowed when they made the arrests. One by one on Tuesday morning, Sheriff's Deputies and other officers arrested accused drug dealers in Whitley County and brought them to the courthouse for booking, then took them to jail.
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Two brothers who defrauded millions of dollars from thousands of investors in an oil and gas drilling scheme lost a bid Tuesday to have their convictions and sentences overturned. Christopher Smith of Prestonsburg and Michael Smith of Cookeville defrauded thousands of investors. The Smiths ran a company called Target Oil and Gas. Prosecutors said the company asked investors to fund drilling projects in Kentucky, Texas, West Virginia and Tennessee but used fraudulent marketing materials and false geological surveys to persuade them. Christopher Smith is serving a five-year sentence. Michael Smith is serving a 10-year sentence.
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It looks like Eastern Kentucky University students will be paying more for their education next school year. On Monday, the EKU Board of Regents approved a five percent tuition increase for in-state undergraduate students. That means full-time students will each pay around $192 more per semester. The tuition hike will go into effect in the fall.
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While the annual unemployment rates were lower in 51 Kentucky counties in 2013 than in 2012, the rates went up or stayed the same in more than half of the state's counties. New statistics find unemployment rates increased in 57 counties while 12 counties had the same annual rate for both years. Leslie County recorded the state’s highest annual unemployment rate in 2013 17.7 percent. Letcher County, 17.3 percent; Knott County, 16.1 percent; Fulton and Jackson counties, 15 percent each; Bell County, 14.9

Tuesday April 15, 2014

Billions of dollars in Kentucky road projects were in jeopardy Monday night after House and Senate leaders could not agree on a two-year spending plan. Lawmakers agree on the big projects  like the Brent Spence Bridge in northern Kentucky and the Mountain Parkway in eastern Kentucky but they cannot come to terms on the hundreds of smaller projects scattered throughout the state.
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Patricia Gish, who along with her husband Tom Gish ran The Mountain Eagle of Whitesburg for a half-century, died Sunday at her home in Letcher County. She was 87. Her son, Ben Gish, said she had been battling Alzheimer's disease for about a decade. Pat Gish's first job at a newspaper came at age 13, when she was hired as proofreader at a paper in Danville, Ill. She later took the same job at the Lexington Leader and worked her way up to become a statehouse reporter. She married Tom Gish in 1948 and the couple bought the Whitesburg newspaper in southeastern Kentucky in 1956.
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Commercial air service was set to start in Pikeville on Monday. However, officials say they recently learned the airport does not have proper certification for the service they plan to provide.  Officials say it took them four years to get to this point and they are now faced with an issue they did not foresee, and it is now up to federal agencies. Non-stop flights to Nashville from Pikeville scheduled to start on April 14th. City officials say in a nutshell the delay is due to the airport's certification.
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Kentucky lawmakers completed work Monday on a bill that would revamp the state's juvenile justice system by steering more young offenders into community-based treatment as an alternative to locking them up in detention centers. The measure won final legislative approval on a 30-8 vote in the Senate on the next-to-last day of the 2014 regular session. All eight opposing votes came from Senate Republicans. The bill, which had won strong backing in the House, now goes to Gov. Beshear for his consideration. Sen. Whitney Westerfield, a Hopkinsville Republican, has said his bill would bring the biggest changes in decades to Kentucky's juvenile justice system.
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A forest fire in the Cumberland area of Harlan County burned hundreds of acres. Part of the fire spread to Kingdom Come State Park and officials were forced to shut it down. Officials plan to re-open the park today. Forest Rangers say the fire is contained and now they are going over hot spots and monitoring the fire lines. Monday's weather brought relief and helped contain the fire. The flames started Friday and spread all weekend.  Although the fire is contained, emergency management officials warn people to still take precaution in the area.
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The Bell County Clerk's Middlesboro office will re-open for customers on Tuesday. The office was closed earlier this year. New Bell County Clerk Rob Lincks says the office will open will be open Monday through Friday, from 8:00am to 4:00pm. The Pineville office is also adding Saturday hours from 9:00am to Noon. The clerk's office will also no longer charge a five dollar fee for not having the previous year's registration receipt when you renew your tags.

Monday April 14, 2014

 

Authorities have closed a Harlan County state park because of a wildfire. the Harlan County Emergency Management reported Sunday that Kingdom Come State Park has been shut down until further notice due to a wildfire that spread over the weekend. The park is located atop Pine Mountain near the city of Cumberland. Officials say crews are working to contain the wildfire. No injuries have been reported, however, officials say the fire has taken down power lines and is causing significant damage to the area.
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One person is dead following a fire in Lee County Friday night. Martha Belle Hollar, 79, died in her home on Main St. in Beattyville, which caught on fire around 9:30. The Kentucky State Police is currently investigating the cause of the fire.
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Testimony continued in Harlan County Circuit Court on Friday in the trial for Thomas Polson. Polson is one of three men accused of killing James "Jay" Feltner of Lynch in July of 2011. On Friday, state police testified about Polson's text messages he sent the day Feltner disappeared and went through them for the jury. Feltner's body was found on an abandoned strip mine in the Blair community a week after he went missing in July 2011. 27 year-old Stephen Simpson and 23-year-old Carl Justin Simpson are also charged in the case.
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Commercial airline service will not be taking off in Pikeville as soon as expected. Today the first public Appalachian Air flight was planned to take off. However, we are told due to problems with the Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Transportation requirements, they pushed the date back. Flights will take off from Pikeville and land in Nashville where customers could jump on connecting flights. A new date for services is not yet known.
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The Rotary Club of Whitesburg is accepting applications through tomorrow for a $1,000 scholarship available to college bound high school seniors and current college students who are residents of Letcher County and working on their first degree. The winner will be selected by May 1, and the scholarship will be awarded in August. Applications are available at Whitaker Bank and Community Trust Bank.
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Bell County sheriff's deputies made an arrest Saturday night, from what they say was an innocent-looking out building.  Inside, deputies took and destroyed more than 150 marijuana plants.  Robert Bidlingmyer, 50, was arrested and charged with Tampering With Physical Evidence, and Cultivating Marijuana.  Police say this is one of the largest marijuana cases they've seen, the elaborate and extensive setup was also rare.
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A volunteer fire department in Pike County that was forced to close has reopened. an audit of the Hatfield Fire Department by the Kentucky Fire Commission revealed some problems, mainly that only three firefighters were on the roster when the state requires 12. After being closed for about a month, the department has reopened with a roster of 15 and a new six-member board.

 

Friday April 11, 2014

Federal mine safety officials say the number of mining deaths in the nation totaled 42 in 2013, up six from the previous year. The preliminary numbers were released Thursday by the Mine Safety and Health Administration. It reports that the 20 coal mining deaths last year were unchanged from 2012, but deaths at other mining operations were up by six, to 22. The 2013 deaths were driven by 15 mining fatalities in the fourth quarter of the year. The overall injury rate dipped to a historic low.
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Next week, the Letcher County Public Libraries join libraries in schools, campuses and communities nationwide in celebrating National Library Week, April 13-19, a time to highlight the value of libraries, librarians and library workers. Libraries work with elected officials, small business owners, students and the public at large to discover what their communities’ needs are meet them. Whether through offering e-books and technology classes, materials for English-language learners, programs for job seekers of those to support early literacy, librarians listen to the community they serve, and they respond.
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One woman is dead following a crash in Pike County. The Pike County coroner says it happened around 8:45 Wednesday night on Highway 80 near Elkhorn City. The coroner could not tell us the woman's name, but tells us she was 21 year old. We are told the woman was walking near the highway and the crash was not a hit and run.
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It's been more than two years since one of the worst tornado outbreaks in Kentucky history uprooted hundreds of thousands of trees.  Now a group is working to replant trees, along with hope, into the lives of tornado victims. On March 2, 2012, 19 tornadoes ripped through Kentucky, killing 22 people and devastating communities. To help the landscape recover, the Kentucky Division of Forestry and the Arbor Day Foundation created the Kentucky Community Tree Recovery Campaign.
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A Whitley County road was closed overnight following a single car accident that led to the discovery of a meth lab. Officers say Highway 204 near Gibson Lane in Williamsburg was closed to all but emergency traffic while they worked to clear the scene. Police were called out to a car accident late Tuesday and found a meth lab in the trunk of the car. The road remained closed through the early morning until the meth lab was safely removed.
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James River Coal Co. is being allowed to continue its business operations while the company is under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. A federal bankruptcy court judge on Wednesday approved numerous motions for the Richmond, Va.-based company. The court ruled that James River can continue to pay wages, salaries and benefits to its more than 1,200 employees and maintain contracts and relationships with shippers and vendors.

Thursday April 10, 2014

An Isom convenience store has been robbed twice in the last month. Both times a cash register drawer was taken from the Isom Double Kwik. A store employee told Kentucky State Police that a man armed with a black handgun entered the business around 4 a.m. on April 1 and demanded money. The man left the store with the drawer to a cash register and was last seen walking north on KY 15. State police said the amount of cash held in the register drawer remains undetermined. No suspects have been identified in either robbery.
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The last of eight classic Corvettes gobbled up by a giant sinkhole in Kentucky has been recovered, but the mood was somber as the mangled car was pulled to the surface. The Corvette was buried in dirt and rocks, dozens of feet below the surface of the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green. The prized cars were swallowed by the sinkhole that opened up in February beneath part of the museum. The museum will display the cars through August. The ones deemed fixable will be shipped to Michigan for repairs.
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As one major coal company with operations in Letcher County filed for bankruptcy protection this week, the stock values of two other large firms with mines here Alpha Natural Resources and Arch Coal improved after a fourth firm, Consol Energy, reported better than expected coal production. James River Coal Co. said it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as part of its efforts to turn around its business. The Richmond, Va.-based company says it faces challenges from the weak economy, environmental regulations and competition from natural gas. Utilities are increasingly switching to gas from coal.
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The Rotary Club of Whitesburg is accepting applications through April 15 for a $1,000 scholarship available to college bound high school seniors and current college students who are residents of Letcher County and working on their first degree. The winner will be selected by May 1, and the scholarship will be awarded in August. Applications are available at Whitaker Bank and Community  Trust Bank on Main Street in Whitesburg, or contact the counselor at Jenkins Middle High School, Letcher County Central High School, or the Whitesburg Campus of Southeast Community and Technical College.
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Student artists from Berea College have handcrafted 120 new chairs for the Governor’s Mansion. Each chair represents a Kentucky county and is being funded by private donors from every county. The County Seats Legacy Project is a part of the Governor’s Mansion Centennial Celebration. Each chair has a name plaque of a Kentucky county placed on it. Dr. and Mrs. David A. Narramore of Whitesburg funded the Letcher County chair.