Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Five Die On Kentucky Roadways Last Week (Apr. 22 through Apr. 28)

 (Frankfort, KY) -- Preliminary statistics* indicate that five people died in five separate crashes on Kentucky's roadways from Monday, Apr. 22 through Sunday, Apr. 28, 2013.

Through Apr. 28, preliminary statistics* indicate that 165 people have lost their lives on Kentucky roadways during 2013. This is 48 less than reported for this time period in 2012

As of Apr. 28, Kentucky has had 33 days with zero highway fatalities reported during 2013.

McConnell introduces new coal bill

Kentucky's senior senator Monday unveiled legislation aimed at streamlining the Environmental Protection Agency's coal mining permit approval process.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced the Coal Jobs Protection Act at a speech in Pikeville and also talked about the bill at another stop in Hazard.

McConnell said the bill would help eastern Kentucky's economy, which lost four thousand coal jobs last year.

McConnell, the US Senate minority leader, said the main goal of the bill is "to send a message to this (Obama) administration that we really can't tell you who to appoint But, by golly, if you're going to put these people in these jobs, we want them to have a time limit in which to operate."

If passed, the measure would force the EPA to make quicker decisions on whether to approve coal mining permits.

McConnell plans to introduce the bill in the Senate next week.

He admitted the bill will face stiff opposition in the Democratically-controlled Senate.

WWII Veteran celebrates 104th birthday

PRESTONSBURG, Ky. --- Monday was a special day for one veteran in Prestonsburg.

Jay Cox turned 104 years old and is the oldest living World War II Veteran at the VA Outpatient Clinic in Prestonsburg.

Nurses and doctors at the clinic say Cox has become very special to them over the years.

Several other veterans were at the celebration and honored Cox with a 21-gun salute.

Pair arrested for cultivating marijuana

PIKEVILLE, Ky. -- Pikeville Police arrested two people who they say were growing marijuana.

Police say they found an indoor growing operation with 37 plants.

Emanuel Hendrix and Jimmy Brookins were charged with cultivating marijuana and are in the Pike County Detention Center.

Woman Sentenced for Pimping Girl in Kentucky and Ohio

An Atlanta woman has been sentenced to more than seven years in prison for pimping a teenage girl.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports 25-year-old Jessica Loren Posey was sentenced Monday and is ordered to serve five years of supervised release. The woman is also ordered to pay $1,200 in restitution to the victim, perform 100 hours of community service and register as a sex offender.

Posey pleaded guilty in February to transporting the 16-year-old girl to Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio to have sex for money.

Officials say Posey met the victim at a party in 2010 and created ads on websites, uploaded nude photos of the teen and arranged for customers to have sex with her, then took half of the money.

Officials say one arrest sends strong message

PAINTSVILLE, Ky. -- It took nearly two months to find him, but now a Johnson County man sits behind bars on drug charges after officials tracked him down on Monday.

It is just one arrest, but it is an arrest the Johnson County Sheriff's Office hopes sends a strong message to the community.

Sheriff Dwayne Price says, Jeremy Burchett, is no stranger to his office and has been picked up on drug charges in the past.

Officials say arrests like this one play an important role in their war on drugs as it sends a strong message to drug dealers throughout the community.

Sheriff Price says they will offer help to those struggling with drugs, but have no tolerance for those who continually bring drugs into the community.

The ultimate goal, says Sheriff Price, "Rid Johnson County of this prescription drug problem."

Sheriff Price says community tips lead to this arrest.

Attorney General Conway Announces Guilty Plea of Owsley County Clerk to Charges of Tax Evasion, Abuse of Public Trust

Attorney General Jack Conway today announced the guilty plea of Owsley County Clerk Sid Gabbard on charges of tax evasion and abuse of public trust. Gabbard entered a guilty plea on Friday, April 26, 2013 in Franklin Circuit Court to three counts of abuse of public trust and three counts of willfully filing or making false tax returns, and/or failure to pay tax. The plea agreement also requires Gabbard to resign immediately as Owsley County Clerk and pay $61,118 in restitution to the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

The charges against Gabbard are the result of an investigation by General Conway's Department of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and the Department of Revenue's Division of Special Investigations. The Attorney General's Office launched its investigation of Gabbard in January of 2013 based on a 2010 audit report released in June of 2012 by the Kentucky Auditor of Public Accounts.

"The citizens of Owsley County elected Sid Gabbard to represent them with honesty and integrity," General Conway said. "Mr. Gabbard betrayed that public trust. He treated public funds as his own at a time when communities across the Commonwealth have struggled to fund vital programs and protect services. I am pleased that the plea agreement calls for Mr. Gabbard's immediate resignation and payment of more than $61,000 in restitution and back taxes."

The Attorney General's investigation revealed that Gabbard withheld state income tax from employees' checks, but instead of sending the money to the state he used it as his own. Prosecution of this case is being handled by the Office of Franklin County Commonwealth's Attorney Larry Cleveland.

The tax evasion charges were brought forth by the Department of Revenue's Division of Special Investigations, which identifies and investigates state tax crimes and prepares cases for prosecution. Using information sources ranging from anonymous tips to collaboration with law enforcement agencies the division investigates cases including income tax evasion, fraudulent tax refunds and theft of sales, use and withholding taxes.

Gov. Beshear signs ‘Bryan Durman Act’

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Acting on the third anniversary of the death of its namesake, Gov. Steve Beshear today ceremonially signed the Bryan Durman Act, setting higher parole eligibility thresholds for crimes that result in the line-of-duty death of a peace officer or firefighter.

Named for a Lexington police officer killed by a hit-and-run driver while investigating a routine complaint, Senate Bill 15 ensures that offenders who kill an on-duty police officer or firefighter serve more of their sentence before becoming eligible for parole.

“Our law enforcement officers routinely place themselves in harm’s way in order to protect others, and while it’s rare, it’s an unfortunate reality that their bravery and commitment to duty occasionally cost them their lives,” Gov. Beshear said. “This law recognizes the great sacrifice that our men and women in uniform make, and serves as a deterrent to those individuals who may cause them harm.”

The law adds second-degree manslaughter and reckless homicide of a peace officer or firefighter acting in the line of duty to the violent offender statutes, and stipulates that the offender must serve at least 85 percent of his or her sentence if the officer or firefighter was clearly identifiable.

If the officer or firefighter was not clearly identifiable, the offender must now serve at least 50 percent of his or her sentence before being eligible for a parole.

Previously, offenders committing these crimes were eligible for parole after serving only 20 percent of their sentence.

“I am thrilled that we were able to pass Senate Bill 15 in a bipartisan way,” said Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, of Lexington, the bill’s sponsor. “I hope it will provide a small measure of comfort to the Durman family and first-responders who risk their lives on a daily basis just in doing their jobs. SB 15 should also be a warning to those careless individuals that we will do everything we can to protect the memory of fallen police and firefighters.”

Monday, April 29, 2013

Pair pleads guilty to running pill mill, selling Oxycodone from clinic in eastern Ky

Two eastern Kentucky pain clinic owners have pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiring with doctors to illegally dispense more than 50,000 prescription pain pills.
Sentencing for 40-year-old Tammy Cantrell of Oil Springs and 50-year-old Shelby Lackey of Williamsport is scheduled for Sept. 5 in federal court in Pikeville.

The pair entered the guilty pleas Wednesday to using Care More Pain Management in Paintsville to dole out the pills with no legitimate medical purpose.

Prosecutors say two doctors charged with conspiring in the case would perform little or no examinations before handing out prescriptions.

Dr. Richard Albert is scheduled for sentencing in June after pleading guilty last summer. Dr. Randy Bofill pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and operating a drug involved premise. His trial is in May.

W.Va. motorcycle rally to include benefit ride honoring slain Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum

A motorcycle rally in Mingo County will take on a special meaning this year.
The Rally in the Valley set for May 3-5 in downtown Williamson will hold a motorcycle ride to honor the late Sheriff Eugene Crum.

The Sheriff Eugene Crum Memorial Poker Run will be held starting at 12:30 p.m. on May 5.

Organizer Paul Price of the Sidney, Ky.-based club Appalachian Brotherhood says the route is still being worked out. He expects at least 200 motorcyclists will participate.

Price says the cost is $15 per motorcycle. Proceeds will benefit the sheriff's department.

Crum was fatally shot on April 3. His widow, Rosie, was appointed interim sheriff the next day.

The Rally in the Valley debuted last year as a one-day event.

EPA methane report further divides fracking camps

A new report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has dramatically lowered estimates of how much of a potent greenhouse gas is being leaked by the natural gas industry despite rapid growth in production.

The EPA now estimates that from 1990 to 2010, the U.S. natural gas industry released about 20 percent less methane into the atmosphere than previously thought, even though production increased by about 38 percent during that period.

Last year, the EPA had estimated that the methane emissions were rising sharply, not declining. EPA says it revised the data after new information showed that the industry makes more widespread use of emissions controls.

Some environmental groups and scientists claim that methane leaks have been seriously underestimated.

Parents attend memorial walk

HAZARD, Ky. -- The death of a child is something many people have to deal with, and on Sunday a memorial service was held for parents that have suffered that loss.

Hospice of the Bluegrass in Hazard hosted the “Walk to Remember" memorial service.

It began with a remembrance ceremony with stories and testimonies of a loss of a child.

Parents and grandparents then walked by the names of each child lost.

The service ended with a balloon release in honor of their loved ones.

This is the second annual walk to remember.

Gates open at Knott County Trail Ride


KNOTT COUNTY, Ky. -- Hundreds waited in line for the gates to open at the Knott County Trail Ride.

Knott County Tourism puts on the event. Tourism officials opened the gates at 4:00p.m. Sunday in anticipation of the large crowds.

The trail ride will feature entertainment and events throughout the week. The famous Shooter Jennings will even perform.

Campers and riders started lining up days in advance.

People actually started lining up Friday around 5:00p.m., and they've just camped outside of the gate since this,” says Knott County Judge Executive Zach Weinberg.

The trail rides and events begin Friday may third and last until the end of the week.

Capito and McConnell take on EPA

Second District Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito will join U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell in his home state today for a major announcement about coal.
The pair will introduce the Coal Jobs Protection Act. The bill is aimed at pushing back the Environmental Protection Agency’s stricter environmental standards that are making it more difficult for the coal industry to operate. Both West Virginia and Kentucky have felt the impact of the EPA’s stricter regulations.
The event will take place Monday afternoon at the Hazard/Perry County Chamber of Commerce in Hazard, KY.
The purpose of the bill, according to McConnell, is to roll back the EPA’s “burdensome regulations that negatively impact…coal miners.”

Repair work means long delays on KY 2061

PIKE COUNTY – April 29, 2013 – Work started last week to repair an embankment failure on KY 2061, Cowpen Road, just north of the new Airport Road. Traffic will be stopped for long periods of time when the drilling equipment is in operation.
Joe Stanley, Engineering Tech with Highway District 12, said that the break is about 350 feet long. Drilling and cribbing work is expected to take up to three weeks. “If you aren’t prepared to wait up to 20 minutes, or even a little longer, you should take an alternate route. The road isn’t wide enough to set up the drill and still allow traffic to pass. We’re sorry for this inconvenience, but the break has to be repaired to make the road safer. We want to thank everyone in advance for their patience and understanding.”

Cross drain work closes KY 1862 on Wednesday

LETCHER COUNTY – April 29, 2013 – KY 1862 on the Whitesburg side of Thornton will be closed to all traffic during the day on Wednesday, May 1, so that Highway District 12 maintenance workers can install a new cross drain under the pavement.
 Letcher County Superintendent Billy Smallwood said that the work is at mile point 3.5 around Chip Drive. The road will close at 9 a.m. and finish about 2:45 p.m. Smallwood said the crew will wait until school bus traffic clears in the morning before closing the road. It should re-open before afternoon bus runs.
When a cross drain underneath the pavement is replaced, an open cut is made across the road. It is not safe to run traffic over an open cut. Motorists are advised to take another route if they have to travel the road between 9 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. on Wednesday, May 1.

Gov. Beshear announces Kentucky to take part in Rx drug take-back

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Governor Steve Beshear today announced that Kentucky will again take part in a national prescription drug take-back program to safely dispose of unused, unneeded or expired medications.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day will be held from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday at locations throughout the state. The service is free and anonymous, and no questions will be asked of people dropping off medications.

“My administration has made reducing prescription drug abuse a priority, and while we’ve made significant advances, the effects of this addiction are simply too devastating to become complacent,” Gov. Beshear said. “Medications, once they are no longer needed for their prescribed purposes, should be disposed of properly to reduce their risk of being diverted and abused.”

The Take-Back Day addresses vital public safety and public health issues: medicines left in home cabinets are susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse, and studies show a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet.

In addition, the initiative creates a safe, environmentally conscientious way to dispose of medications once they are no longer needed, since flushing the drugs down the toilet or throwing them in the trash pose potential safety and health hazards.

In total, the five previous DEA Take-Back events have removed more than 2 million pounds, or 1,018 tons, of prescription medications from circulation.
                                                
                                                  To find a collection site near them, residents can visit: http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback/index.html.


Friday, April 26, 2013

McConnell to visit Pike Co., talk loss of coal jobs

PIKEVILLE, Ky. — Senator Mitch McConnell will visit Pike and Perry Counties next week in order to bring awareness to the loss of coal mining jobs in Kentucky.

McConnell will introduce the Coal Jobs Protection Act, which is aimed at what he called the Environmental Protection Agency’s burdensome regulations.

The legislation, sponsored by Ohio Rep. Bill Johnson, will protect American jobs and support U.S. energy production by prohibiting the Secretary of the Interior from issuing new rules or regulations that will adversely impact mining jobs and the economy in Appalachia.

The proposed legislation, officially called the Coal Miner Employment and Domestic Energy Infrastructure Protection Act, would prohibit the Secretary of the Interior from issuing regulations under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act that would adversely impact U.S. coal industry.

On Monday, Sen. McConnell will be joined by representatives from the coal industry to speak at Whayne Supply in Pikeville at 10:15. He will address the Southeast Kentucky Chamber of Commerce at the Hampton Inn in Pikeville at 11:30.

At 3:45, Sen. McConnell will be joined by West Virginia Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito to address the Hazard/Perry County Chamber of Commerce at Whayne Supply in Hazard.

Five Die On Kentucky Roadways Last Week (Apr. 15 through Apr. 21)

(Frankfort, KY) -- Preliminary statistics* indicate that five people died in five separate crashes on Kentucky's roadways from Monday, Apr. 15 through Sunday, Apr. 21, 2013.

Through Apr. 21, preliminary statistics* indicate that 157 people have lost their lives on Kentucky roadways during 2013. This is 46 less than reported for this time period in 2012.

 As of Apr. 21, Kentucky has had 28 days with zero highway fatalities reported during 2013.

Officials in four counties will ask for federal help following floods

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Four Kentucky counties will ask the federal government for help for flood recovery.

Knox County will join Clay, Harlan, and Lee Counties in asking for federal funding.

Heavy rains last week caused flooding in those areas.

Knox County has already sent a damage estimate to state officials in Frankfort.

Kentucky can be sued over retirement changes

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled that the state can be sued over changes made to Kentucky's retirement system in 2008.

The Kentucky Retirement Systems and six professional associations sued the state in Franklin Circuit Court over a 2008 law that sought to stop people from retiring, then quickly returning to employment by the state.

The law automatically suspended retirement benefits once the person returned to a state job for the duration of the employment.

Justice Mary Noble concluded Thursday that the state isn't immune from lawsuits when the "constitutional appropriateness" of an action comes into question.

The plaintiffs sought to continue retirement benefits after the person was reemployed.

Program aims to stop kids from becoming prescription drug addicts

Attorney General Jack Conway says one in five high school students in Kentucky abuse prescription pills. The Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program is the Attorney General's campaign to lower that number.

"I'm going around the state and if I can use a little bit of my office to get into these high schools to tell kids, 'look this is a problem. Don't go down this path,' then perhaps we can make a difference," said Attorney General Conway.

Attorney General Conway says his efforts and state legislation have reduced prescriptions for Oxycontin, Hydrocodone and Opana drastically during the last year. He also said this has led to the closing of 20 pain clinics in Kentucky.

Attorney General Conway says more people die from prescription drug overdoses in Kentucky than from car accidents.

The Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program was also presented at Mullins Elementary and Middle School in Pikeville yesterday.

Richie Farmer pleads not guilty to federal charges

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Former Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer pleaded not guilty yesterday to federal charges that he misused $450,000 in state money.

A federal grand jury Monday indicted Farmer on four counts of misappropriating property and funds of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and one count of soliciting property to influence KDA business.

Farmer pleaded not guilty to all five charges at his arraignment yesterday.

Farmer, 43, served as Kentucky's commissioner of agriculture from 2004 to 2011.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Wier ordered Farmer Thursday not to leave the state while the trial proceeds.

Farmer is free without bond.

His trial is scheduled to begin July 2 in Frankfort.

If convicted, Farmer faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 dollar fine for each charge.

PSC to Take Public Comments on Proposal by Kentucky Power to Replace Big Sandy Plant

The Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC) will offer opportunities next month for members of the public to provide comments regarding the proposal by Kentucky Power Co. to purchase replacement electric generating capacity in order to retire the Big Sandy generating facility near Louisa.
       A public meeting will be held Tuesday, May 14 in Louisa. On Wednesday, May 15, the PSC will conduct a teleconference linking sites in Whitesburg and Hazard with the commission offices in Frankfort.
       Both the meeting and the teleconference will begin with a presentation by PSC staff on the regulatory processes governing the case and an overview of the Kentucky Power proposal.
       “These meetings are an opportunity for the public to learn how the PSC reaches a decision in cases such as this,” PSC Chairman David Armstrong said. “The meetings also allow the PSC to hear directly from ratepayers in these matters.”
       The presentation by PSC staff and a question-and-answer period will begin at 5 p.m. EDT each day and last an hour. Public comments will follow at 6 p.m. EDT.
       Kentucky Power is seeking PSC approval of an agreement to purchase a 50 percent interest in Ohio Power Company’s Mitchell power plant, which is south of Moundsville, West Virginia. Kentucky Power and Ohio Power are both subsidiaries of American Electric Power Co.
       The 780 megawatts of capacity from Mitchell would nearly replace the 800 megawatts generated by the larger of two units at the Big Sandy plant.
       In its application, Kentucky Power says the cost of the Mitchell purchase will be about $536 million. That is $404 million less than the estimated cost of upgrading Big Sandy’s 800-megawatt unit in order to meet stricter federal air quality standards, as the company earlier had proposed to do.
       Kentucky Power canceled the upgrade plans in May 2012 and said it would consider other options. The plan to purchase generating capacity at Mitchell is the best of the available alternatives, Kentucky Power said in its application to the PSC.
       The 800-megawatt Big Sandy unit now is scheduled to close in mid-2015.
       An older, 278-megawatt unit at Big Sandy is scheduled to be either converted to burn natural gas or shut down by the end of 2014. Kentucky Power has not yet finalized plans for the unit or for replacing that power.
       Both the Big Sandy units and the Mitchell units burn coal. But the Mitchell units are newer than the Big Sandy plant and have the equipment needed to comply with federal air quality regulations.
       Kentucky Power estimates that the purchase of the Mitchell units will result in an eight percent increase in customer bills, or about $6 per month for a typical residential customer. The rate impact of upgrading Big Sandy had been estimated by the company at about $31 per month for residential customers.
       The public meetings are scheduled for:
        
       Louisa
       Tuesday, May 14, 2013, 5:00 p.m. EDT
       Lawrence County Community Center
       205 Bulldog Lane
        
       Whitesburg
       Wednesday, May 15, 2013, 5:00 p.m. EDT
       Room 203
       Whitesburg Campus, Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College
       2 Long Avenue
        
       Hazard
       Wednesday, May 15, 2013, 5:00 pm EDT
       Multipurpose room
       University Center of the Mountains (UCM)
       Hazard Community and Technical College Main Campus
       One Community College Drive (Highway 15 South)
        
       Kentucky Power has about 173,400 customers in 20 counties in eastern Kentucky. American Electric Power Co. is headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, and has about five million customers in 11 states.
       The Kentucky Power application and related documents are available on the PSC Web site, psc.ky.gov. The case number is 2012-00578.
       In addition to the public meetings, the PSC will conduct a formal evidentiary hearing in the case beginning at 10 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, May 29. The hearing will be held at the PSC offices at 211 Sower Boulevard in Frankfort. It will be open to the public and may be viewed live on the PSC website.
       Written comments will be accepted through the conclusion of the evidentiary hearing. They may be mailed to the PSC at P.O. Box 615, Frankfort, KY 40602, faxed to 502-564-9625, e-mailed from the PSC website or submitted in person at the public meetings or at the PSC offices.
       The PSC is an independent agency attached for administrative purposes to the Energy and Environment Cabinet. It regulates more than 1,500 gas, water, sewer, electric and telecommunication utilities operating in Kentucky and has approximately 90 employees.
      

Jobless rates up in 60 counties from March 2012 to March 2013

FRANKFORT, Ky. (April 25, 2013) — Unemployment rates rose in 60 Kentucky counties between March 2012 and March 2013, while 54 county rates decreased and six stayed the same, according to the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training, an agency of the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet. 


Woodford County recorded the lowest jobless rate in the Commonwealth at 6.1 percent. It was followed by
Oldham County, 6.5 percent; Fayette County, 6.6 percent; Daviess, Franklin and Madison counties, 6.9 percent each; Ohio, Scott and Shelby counties, 7 percent each; and Hancock County, 7.1 percent.

Magoffin County recorded the state’s highest unemployment rate — 18.3 percent. It was followed by Leslie County, 17.2 percent; Harlan County, 16.8 percent; Letcher County, 16.7 percent; Knott County, 15.2 percent; Bell County 15 percent; Jackson and Menifee counties, 14.8 percent each; Fulton County, 14.6 percent; and McCreary County, 14.3 percent.

Unemployment statistics are based on estimates and are compiled to measure trends rather than actually to count people working. Civilian labor force statistics include non-military workers and unemployed Kentuckians who are actively seeking work. They do not include unemployed Kentuckians who have not looked for employment within the past four weeks. The statistics in this news release are not seasonally adjusted because of the small sample size for each county. The data should only be compared to the same month in previous years.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Hatfield-McCoy River Trail set to open in Pikeville on Levisa Fork

A new blueway is opening in Pikeville on the Levisa Fork River.
Sean Cochran, director of city attractions, said the Hatfield-McCoy River Trail will open on Friday. He said the river trail offers people the chance to float down the calm waters of the Levisa River in their choice of canoes, kayaks and float tubes.
He says it is a family-friendly activity.

Cochran said the new river trails, which are classified as a Kentucky Blue Water Trail, will be open through September.

No big changes to Kentucky Derby security plan

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Louisville police are not planning major security upgrades at this year's Kentucky Derby in the wake of the Boston terror attack, but they are asking track visitors to be vigilant on race day.

Police will have about 1,200 officers out in force for the Derby and Kentucky Oaks, which is the Friday before the May 4 Run for the Roses.

Maj. Kelly Jones encouraged racing fans to alert officers of any suspicious-looking items left unattended. He says the Boston Marathon bombings have reminded people to "have a heightened sense of awareness."

Visitors are prohibited from bringing backpacks or duffels into the track area on the two days.

Churchill Downs President Kevin Flanery says there will be increased staff at entrance gates to check belongings.

Region participates in mock disaster drills

PIKEVILLE, Ky. -- Several counties in the region took part in a mock disaster Wednesday.

The exercise is used to train first responders and health care providers how to handle chemical weapons spills such as anthrax.

Ten counties participated, and officials say events like this one help them stay prepared for any kind of widespread emergency.

Another mock disaster is scheduled for Thursday.

Pikeville Commons project could be delayed

PIKEVILLE, Ky. -- It has been in the works for nearly two years, but now it is at a stand still.

Plans for a new $44 million shopping complex in Pikeville could be on hold after the city learned it may not be getting nearly half a million dollars it was counting on.

City officials say in order for the project to move forward the post office on site needs to move. Plans have it replacing the building down the street where a fire station currently is, but the city needs $400,000 to relocate that fire station.

They were counting on that money to be allocated by the fiscal court, but they say the project was put at the bottom of the priority list with little hope of being funded this year.
"These dollars invested also are giving, so it's not just creating an entity that's not going to give us tax dollars in return," said Blackburn.

The city is writing a resolution to present to the fiscal court hoping to change their minds.

One year anniversary of House Bill One

Wednesday marks the one year anniversary of the passing of house bill one, commonly known as the pill mill bill.

The bill placed restrictions on how often pain pill prescriptions can be filled.

It also required physicians to participate in a prescription monitoring system called kasper.

Officials say since the bill passed the number of prescribed pain medications has decreased.

Hydrocodone prescriptions have gone down 12%, and OxyContin prescriptions have decreased more than 44%.

“We expect the numbers to continue to drop. We think more doctors are going to sign up for Kasper as they now are mandated to do, and they're going to see who their patients are going to,” says Dan Smoot with Operation UNITE.

A total of 12,000 doctors have joined the kasper system since one year ago.

Arraignment for Richie Farmer Moved to Thursday

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The arraignment for one-time Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer has been moved to today.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Wier issued an order Wednesday bumping up the date of Farmer's first court appearance from April 30. Wier cited a scheduling conflict by Farmer's attorney, J. Guthrie True, as the reason.

The arraignment is set for 4 p.m in Lexington.

The indictment unsealed Monday charges Farmer with using his state position to obtain thousands of dollars' worth of gifts, hotel rooms, clothing and computers. It also charges him with hiring friends who did little or no work for the state.

The indictment says that throughout his tenure as agriculture commissioner from 2004 to 2012, Farmer wrongfully used public funds and state resources to obtain goods and services for himself and his family.

If convicted on all counts, Farmer faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Farmer's attorney, Guthrie True, said Monday he is reviewing the indictment and saw no surprises in it.

Farmer was a shooting guard for the University of Kentucky's Wildcats basketball team from 1988 to 1992, a team known as "The Unforgettables."

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Pair arrested in Pound robbery

POUND, Va. -- Two people are behind bars following a robbery at a Wise County, Virginia store.

Officials with the sheriff's department say Joshua Harris and Lydia Phillips went into the Get-It-Gone Novelty Shop in Pound earlier this week.

Police tell us the pair overpowered the store's owner, blindfolded him, and took off with thousands of dollars of merchandise and money.

Both are facing multiple charges.

More digs coming to Hatfield & McCoy feud sites

PIKE COUNTY, Ky. -- A popular history channel mini-series brought the Hatfield's and the McCoy's back into the national spotlight. Now, officials in Pike County say thanks to the renewed popularity more digs searching for family artifacts are coming soon.

Orange flags along the hillside at the Randall McCoy home place mark where bullets were found during a dig done by National Geographic in September.

Property owner, Bob Scott says, "There were bullets, part of old stove, old grate, burnt wood, square nails...we didn't find a body but we did find artifacts and I truly believe there's more."

The interest in the feud from The History Channel's mini-series, along with the recovery of these artifacts has drawn visitors from around the world. Scott explains, "Every state has been represented, and six foreign countries."


The success of the dig at the Randall McCoy home place along with worldwide interest in the feud is what county officials say has motivated them to get more digs these sites.
Pike County officials have been in contact with the Kentucky Heritage Council and archeologists across the state about getting more digs at the feud sites

Pike County Judge Executive Wayne T. Rutherford says, "It is history, and we are obligated to do everything we can to promote the Hatfield and McCoy feud. From the economy to the tourism end we are going to do our best to promote the feud that happened right here in Pike County, Kentucky."

Judge Rutherford says there are now archeological societies from around the country looking to conduct digs in Pike County. The future digs will take place at all sites listed in 1976 by the Kentucky and Pike County heritage commissions and the Pike County Government on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Grimes still wrestling with decision on Senate bid

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes is still wrestling with the idea of seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell in next year's election.

Grimes told reporters Tuesday that she is giving "due diligence" to the race. Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear met with Grimes on Tuesday to try to gauge her interest in the race, as he has been doing with other potential Democratic challengers he declined to identify. Grimes said they "had a good discussion."

Beshear warned that whoever takes on McConnell is going to face a tough task. The second-term governor said McConnell is a "no-holds-barred" campaigner who can raise far more campaign cash than his opponents.

Beshear ran against McConnell and lost in 1996. Some Democratic leaders have been urging Beshear to consider a rematch.

H.O.M.E. open enrollment programs start this week

HAZARD, Ky.--- So far they are helping around 800 laid off miners and their spouses re-train and find work in another field, and now they want even more people to apply.

During the next few weeks, several hiring our miners everyday or "H.O.M.E" open enrollment events will be held.

If you have been laid off from the coal mining industry since 2012, you are encouraged to come find out what the program can do for you and meet a career adviser.

"We've had some really good feedback with this. We have a little over 800 people, 800 miners and their spouses enrolled, and we consider that a great success. And we want more people to take advantage of that," said Michael Cornett with Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Programs.

- Wednesday, April 24th - Paintsville Community Center
-
Thursday, May 2nd - Martin Community Center
-
Tuesday, May 7th - Harlan County Medical Clinic
- Friday, May 10th - Middlesboro Community Center

All events will be from 10:00 - 2:00.

Two injured in boating accident

JOHNSON COUNTY, Ky. -- Two men continue to recover following a boating accident in Johnson County.

It happened Monday night on Paintsville Lake.

Officials say they got the call about 7:00 p.m., and they say by the time they got there the men had been in the water for at least 30 minutes.

They are still investigating the accident, but they think they know what caused it.

They say the men were injured by the props on the boat, one on the arm and one on the leg, but they were both conscious and alert.

Both men were flown to St. Mary's Hospital in Huntington. One of them was released from the hospital Tuesday afternoon.

This was the first water rescue for the Johnson County Rescue Squad's Tactical Rescue Team.

They say the two men are very lucky their injuries were not any worse.

Officials are not releasing their names at this time.

Asphalt rehab projects awarded for counties across the state

FRANKFORT, Ky. (April 23, 2013) – More than $27 million in asphalt rehabilitation projects have been awarded by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet as the spring construction season gets underway.

The first asphalt projects of the season are distributed over 45 counties.

“Maintaining our roadways is one of the most important responsibilities of the Transportation Cabinet,” Kentucky Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock said. “Well-maintained roads are safer for motorists. They’re also important for economic development and community growth.”

The awarded projects span the Commonwealth, from Ballard County in the west to Boyd County in the east. They range in cost from $1.9 million for improvement of Dixie Highway (U.S. 31W) in Hardin County to $41,000 for improvement of Bloomfield Road (KY 55) in Spencer County.

In all, nearly 60 asphalt rehab contracts were awarded in April with more to be awarded this year.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Man dies following stabbing at E.Ky. jail

MORGAN COUNTY, Ky. -- An inmate has died after police say he was stabbed by another inmate at an Eastern Kentucky jail.

State police say Michael Lynch, 31, died after being stabbed in the neck by Eric Chapman, 32, on Sunday at the Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex in West Liberty.

Lynch was flown to UK Hospital, where he later died.

Lynch was serving a 25 year sentence for murder in Calloway County.

Chapman is serving a 17 year sentence for second degree robbery, assault and first degree wanton endangerment in Whitley County.

Appeals court rejects coal permitting process

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Environmental groups are cheering a 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that invalidates a streamlined permitting process for surface mines.

The ruling Monday reverses a lower court's ruling in eastern Kentucky that upheld the nationwide permitting process adopted by the Army Corps of Engineers in 2007.

The nationwide permitting process was viewed as less burdensome for coal operators and included approvals for a much-maligned form of surface mining called mountaintop removal, where earth and rock is blasted and pushed into valleys.

The appeals court says the Corps of Engineers failed to properly assess the impact on the environment in allowing the permit.

City of Pikeville and UPike continue to grow

PIKEVILLE, Ky. -- Pikeville City Hall is preparing to move, and officials say this move means much more than added office space

Officials say the relocation of City Hall not only symbolizes the growth of the city but also the University of Pikeville.

Finishing touches are being made for City Hall to move from the Academy Building, to the old Lightyear building,

The relocation for City Hall will allow all city departments and offices to be located under one roof.

City Hall will be closed this Thursday and Friday. City Hall will reopen in the new building on Monday, April 29th.

Two seriously hurt in boating accident on Paintsville Lake

OHNSON COUNTY, Ky. --Two men are seriously injured after a boating accident on Paintsville Lake.

It happened around 7:00 Monday night. The Johnson County Rescue Squad says the accident threw both of the men overboard in the McKenzie Branch area.

Both of the men were airlifted to a Huntington Hospital.

Sheriff steps down as President of the Kentucky Sheriff's Association

PRESTONSBURG, Ky. -- An Eastern Kentucky law enforcement official has stepped down as the President of the Kentucky Sheriff's Association.

Floyd County Sheriff John K. Blackburn resigned as president this past weekend.

Last month, he was charged with driving under the influence in Powell County.

Police say he appeared drunk and blew a .202 on a breathalyzer.

He entered a guilty plea and served a four day sentence in jail earlier this month.

Second symposium about Rx drug abuse and diversion for medical providers slated for April 27


PAINTSVILLE – Medical professionals are invited to attend a free training on prescription drug abuse and diversion on Saturday, April 27, at the Ramada Inn in Paintsville.

The free symposium provides information about new state reporting requirements, the importance of understanding addiction, and presents ideas to help providers effectively treat pain while reducing the risk for abuse.

Nearly 120 medical professionals attended the first of four free symposia held April 13 on the campus of Morehead State University. Other forums are scheduled for May 11 at the Holiday Inn University Plaza Sloan Convention Center in Bowling Green and June 8 at the Eastern Kentucky University Center in Manchester.

“Addiction is a common disease (that) … carries much misunderstanding and stigma,” said Dr. Greg Jones, medical director for the Kentucky Physicians Health Foundation, one of three presenters at the forum. “As health care professionals, this is an opportunity for us to begin to be part of the solution.”

These “Kentucky Medical Communities UNITE forums – presented by the Appalachian Regional Commission, Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, Kentucky Coalition of Nurse Practitioners and Nurse Midwives, and Operation UNITE – begin with registration and a continental breakfast at 8:30 am and conclude at 3:00 pm. Lunch is included.

Participants in the training forums are eligible to receive 4.5 continuing education credit hours for physicians, physician assistants, nurses, nurse practitioners, dentists, dental hygienists, pharmacists, social workers, Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselors, psychologists and Certified Health Education Specialists.

Much of the forum focuses on understanding the Kentucky All-Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting (KASPER) system and new regulations enacted by the Kentucky General Assembly in 2012 (known as House Bill 1 or “The Pill Mill Bill”) that require prescribers and dispensers to utilize the system.

“This is not a war on doctors,” said C. Lloyd Vest II, general counsel for the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure, another of the symposium’s presenters. “This is about the quality of patient care … and whether you are creating a risk of drug abuse or diversion.”

These trainings have been approved by the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure, Kentucky Board of Nursing, and Certified Health Education Specialists as meeting statutory requirements imposed by House Bill 1.

Gov. Beshear signs bill for schoolchildren with severe allergic reactions

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Governor Steve Beshear today ceremonially signed House Bill 172, a measure to encourage schools to keep emergency medication on hand for children who can suffer severe, life-threatening allergic reactions.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Addia K. Wuchner, of Florence, encourages schools to keep epinephrine pens on the premises. These pens are used in emergencies to inject potentially lifesaving medication if a student suffers an allergic reaction, such as to a food like peanuts.
“If this legislation can help save a child who has a life-threatening allergy, it’s well worth it,” Gov. Beshear said. “Whether they’re at school or at home, we want kids to be safe, and to have access to medicine that can be vital in emergency situation.”

“Even if you are a nurse, watching a child suffer from a life-threatening emergency is extremely frightening. I lived that nightmare several years ago as I carried our grandson into the ER in anaphylactic shock from a previously unknown food allergy,” said Rep. Wuchner, who is also a nurse. “Many Kentucky children who may unknowingly suffer from food allergies are at risk of a life-threatening emergency at school. House Bill 172 provides the assurance for families and safeguard for students in Kentucky schools with known severe allergies and those with yet undiagnosed allergies that the policy, procedures and training for use of stocked epinephrine auto injectors in Kentucky schools are in place.

This common-sense piece of legislation is dedicated not only to my grandson, John Paul, but to each and every student who lives with life threatening allergies.”

Anaphylaxis is the most severe form of allergic reaction. While rare – most people will never have an anaphylactic reaction – when they do occur, they can be life threatening. Some of the most common causes of anaphylaxis include certain drugs or foods such as peanuts, insect stings, latex, and exercise.

The symptoms of anaphylaxis may vary and can include hives, tongue swelling, vomiting, and even shock. Schoolchildren who have been diagnosed by a physician are often told to avoid foods and activities which could trigger a reaction. However, for children with a history of serious allergic reaction, always having an epinephrine injector pen available is important; it could save a life.

Children with a food allergy diagnosis are likely already carrying epinephrine pens to school. However, this legislation will help schools be prepared for situations where a child is unknown to have an allergy or has lost or misplaced or is otherwise unable to get to one they normally carry. Rep. Wuchner has worked with many stakeholders including the Department for Public Health.

The Department will provide assurance of consistent local health department protocols and administration training if so requested by the local school districts. The local health departments are always ready to collaborate with local practitioners and school districts to care for Kentucky’s school children.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Richie Farmer Indicted On Federal Charges

LEXINGTON, Ky. --Former Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer has been indicted by a federal grand jury.

The details are still being released by the U.S. Attorney.

The indictment was filed Friday, April 19, it was unsealed Monday morning. The federal grand jury indicted Farmer with four counts of misappropriating property and funds of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. Farmer is also charged with one county of soliciting property of value in exchange for intending to be influenced in KDA matters.

The indictment states Farmer abused his authority throughout his tenure, using KDA funds to obtain rifles, clothes, hotel rooms, computer equipment and home appliances, all for himself, friends and family.

Just last month Farmer was charged with 42 violations of the state's ethics laws during his time in Frankfort.

The commission had never charged one person with this many violations before.

Seven pages of the 14-page summary were solely counts against Farmer.

The state's Executive Branch Ethics Commission accused Farmer of misusing state funds and state employees during his time in office and placing his friends in jobs that had no specified duties, asking them to carry out his personal errands.

The charges against Farmer date back to 2008. He is accused of several violations surrounding a conference with the Southern Association of State Departments of Agriculture. During that conference in particular, Farmer was accused of having employees misuse state funds to take visiting Agriculture Commissioners' wives on shopping trips to Fayette Mall. While buying gifts for the visiting commissioners, he allegedly kept the extras for his own personal benefit, including firearms, alcohol, candy and shirts.

Farmer is also accused of using state employees to chauffeur him, his family and even his dog to doctors' appointments and on personal shopping trips, to landscape his back yard, clean his garage and even build a basketball court at his home in Frankfort.

He also faces allegations of using state funds to purchase items for his personal benefit, including laptops for his family and cabinets for his personal home office. And he is accused of using his influence and the promise of grant money to a private business in exchange for three vehicles, two for himself and one for his father.

Another allegation against Farmer is that he influenced the Department to hire a woman he had an ongoing intimate relationship with, placing her under his direct supervision and allowing her to falsely claim work time over a six-week period.

If convicted on all counts, Farmer faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.