Wednesday, April 30, 2014

8th DEA Drug Take-Back Day Nearly 1 ton of drugs turned in to UNITE dropboxes

Nearly 1 ton of outdated or unwanted medication was collected from 42 medication dropbox locations across southern and eastern Kentucky during the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s eighth National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day this past weekend.

The 1,933.2 pounds of prescription and over-the-counter drugs filled 114 cartons.

This total does not include any medications brought to other one-time drop-off sites, such as the region’s seven Kentucky State Police posts, during the four-hour event.

Kentucky had the third highest rate of overdose deaths in 2010 (23.6 per 100,000 people), noted Michael Botticelli, acting director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), speaking to participants at last week’s National Rx Drug Abuse Summit in Atlanta. Ensuring the proper disposal of medication is one of the top four focus areas of the current administration.

Every day in the United States 50 people die from an overdose of prescription drugs, according to an October 2013 report, Prescription Drug Abuse: Strategies to Stop the Epidemic, published by the Trust For America’s Health. Kentucky lost 1,031 lives in 2012 due to drug overdoses.

Another benefit of the drop-box program is protecting the environment.

For years, the generally accepted method for disposing of old or left over medications was to flush them down the toilet. This practice, however, has been strongly discouraged because of concerns about potential health and environmental effects of antibiotics, hormones, painkillers, depressants and stimulants making their way into our water system and soil.

Operation UNITE has helped establish the permanent medication dropbox sites starting in October 2012. With this weekend’s collection, UNITE has now collected 6,547.9 pounds of medications.

Hope Wall to be displayed in Johnson County

The UNITE Hope Wall will be on display in the Johnson County Judicial Center in Paintsville starting Monday afternoon, May 5, and continuing through Friday morning, May 16.

Celebrating a person’s ability to overcome an addiction, the display gives hope to others struggling through a loved one’s substance abuse addiction hope.

Unveiled last August, the Hope Wall demonstrates that addiction has no boundaries; all walks of life are affected. Approximately 150 individuals who are now in recovery and living clean and sober lives are pictured.

Anyone who has been in recovery for at least 18 months is eligible to be featured on the wall. For more information contact the UNITE office at 606-330-1400 or visit<>.

First hemp crop in decades set for planting

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer says the state's first hemp crop in decades will be planted next month.

Comer said Tuesday he expects hemp seeds to start arriving soon at the state Agriculture Department.

He says eight pilot projects are planned as the crop that once thrived in Kentucky is reintroduced on a small scale.

The new federal farm bill allows state agriculture departments to designate pilot projects for research in states that allow the growing of hemp.

Kentucky lawmakers passed legislation last year allowing hemp to be reintroduced, if the federal government allows its production.

The versatile crop was banned decades ago due to its ties to marijuana. Hemp and marijuana are the same species, but hemp has a negligible content of the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana users a high.

Railroad tunnel fire impacting local coal companies

New concerns loom as a train tunnel fire continues to burn in Pike County.

On Tuesday, Environmental Protection Agency officials kept a close eye on air quality in the Robinson Creek community. Years ago the wood now burning inside was treated with creosote.

Now, as trains lose access to the rails, the burden is being felt by a local coal company.

Crews worked to block the railroad tunnel with dirt, in an attempt to smother the fire that's been burning since Saturday.

Emergency response officials from the county, state, and federal level are all keeping a close eye on air levels.

Pike County Emergency Management Director, Doug Tackett says, "We are working to make sure the air quality is where it should be and we are not into what would be called alarm limits."

EPA officials are on site and watching levels in communities, schools, and a nearby nursing home.

Officials with TECO Coal say their, Premier Elkhorn site, uses the rail line and are currently exploring other options for shipment.

Officials are still investigating the cause of the fire.

CSX Transportation officials say they do not have a timeline for when the tunnel will reopen.

Negotiations set between ARH Officials and Union Wednesday

Appalachian Regional Healthcare officials and a labor union hope they can reach a contract agreement.

Hospital and Union officials are expected to meet Wednesday in Lexington at 1 p.m.

If they do not come to an agreement by midnight Wednesday, nurses would then go on a 24 hour strike.

The Southern United Nurses/National Nurses United Labor Union issued the notice last week.

Only ARH Hospitals in Hazard and Beckley, West Virginia will be affected.

Deadliest jobs in Kentucky

The Kentucky Labor Cabinet is releasing a report today listing the deadliest jobs in the state.

The Labor Cabinet found construction work is the deadliest job in the state with 21 deaths in Kentucky since 2011.

Landscaping and tree service workers are second with 16 deaths in the past three years.

Truck drivers and maintenance workers both had seven deaths. Mechanics round out the top five with six deaths.

There were a total of 90 workplace deaths in Kentucky since 2011. The leading hazard was being struck by an object. Falls were the second most common reason for death.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Several agencies participate in mass casualty response exercise

Several people met in Louisa on Monday to practice response to mass casualty events.

Public and mental health officials, law enforcement, county officials, as well as folks from the state medical examiner's officer participated in the exercise at the Lawrence County Health Department.

Organizers say no matter the size of their community, disasters can happen and they need to be prepared.

Representatives from 18 different agencies participated in the exercise.

Fire inside railroad tunnel causing concern in Pike County

A fire in a Pike County railroad tunnel is causing some concern for folks in the area. Several schools cancelled class on Monday, as the Robinson Creek area fills with heavy smoke and fumes.

Monday morning, firefighters from Shelby Valley worked to extinguish the flames inside the tunnel that stretches 700 feet through the mountain.

Pike County Emergency Management Director, Doug Tackett says, "It is still burning on both ends there, heavy smoke coming out and as the humidity rises it keeps the smoke pushed down around the homes and schools."

Emergency Management officials say the odor is due to the old age of the tunnel and how it was built.
Tackett says, "Timbers within that tunnel were treated with creosote years ago which emits some toxic fumes when burning and if treated with a lot of water it can create some run off and there can be toxic run off from that."

For that reason firefighters did stop battling the flames Monday afternoon.

Tackett says, "The railroad company has a contractor on site to haul in dirt to each side in an attempt to smother it out."

Officials do say at this point air monitoring by environmentalists for carbon monoxide does not show any danger but does say more in depth testing will be done.
nvestigators say since the fire has been difficult to put out, they have not been able to get inside and determine a cause.

In a statement from CSX officials they say there is significant damage to the tunnel and do not have a timeline as to when the line will reopen.

CSX is working with the state fire marshal's office to determine a cause. 

Toyota closing Erlanger headquarters, 1600 jobs affected

On Monday, Toyota announced it will combine its corporate headquarters in North America into one location. Those locations are in Erlanger, Kentucky, California and New York. The new headquarters will be located in Plano, Texas.

Toyota sent a letter to Governor Steve Beshear detailing where Kentucky's jobs will go. 300 production engineering jobs will be moved to Toyota's plant in Georgetown. 250 direct procurement engineering positions will move to the Toyota Technical Center in York Township, Michigan and 1,000 administrative positions will move to Plano.

Toyota is currently adding 750 new jobs to the plant in Georgetown in preparation for the production of the Lexus ES beginning in 2015. The move will bring the number of Toyota employees in Kentucky to 8,200.

Governor Beshear issued a statement not long after the news broke saying "Obviously, we are extremely disappointed by Toyota's decision. We would have welcomed the opportunity to discuss options with Toyota, but we will now turn our attention to preparing for this transition.”

Monday, April 28, 2014

Nurses to strike 1 day in Hazard, Beckley, W.Va.

Registered nurses are planning a one-day strike at two hospitals in Kentucky and West Virginia operated by Appalachian Regional Healthcare.

The National Nurses United labor union issued a news release in which the nurses said they will strike May 1 to protest hospital demands that include what nurses see as unsafe work loads, the extension of a wage freeze and health coverage cuts.

Affected hospitals are Appalachian Regional in Hazard and Beckley Appalachian Regional in Beckley, W.Va.

ARH said on its website the company will do what is necessary to continue "quality service to patients." The company also said it has filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board against the Southern United Nurses/National Nurses United for alleged failure to bargain.

Beshear Signs $4.1 Billion road plan

Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear has signed into law a $4.1 billion road construction plan that does not include a gas tax increase.

Beshear had proposed raising the gas tax 1.5 cents per gallon. The increase would have brought in an extra $107 million to pay for road projects across the state. House Democrats approved the increase, but Senate Republicans blocked it.

Highlights of the road plan include $35 million for a new interchange on I-75 next to a Toyota factory, $28.7 million to continue planning the replacement of the Brent Spence Bridge in Covington and $123 million over two years to continue widening the Mountain Parkway in eastern Kentucky.

Ky. Extends some health insurance policies

Kentuckians can keep their health insurance policies that do not comply with the federal Affordable Care Act for an extra year.

The Kentucky Department of Insurance announced Friday it will allow health insurance companies to extend their non-compliant policies through Oct. 1, 2017. The original deadline had been Oct. 1, 2016.

Insurance companies have until May 5 to notify the state whether they choose to extend the policies.

The extension does not affect new plans or plans in place prior to March 23, 2010.

50 Years Later: Renewed Call to End Poverty in Kentucky

In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared war on poverty during a visit to eastern Kentucky.

Fifty years later, hundreds of people attended an event to talk about what's changed since that time.

The event even attracted former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

The rally was called, "Dream: Martin County."

Several state, county and city leaders were alongside Huckabee to talk about changing the county for the better.

The overwhelming message was the government can't just pump money and resources into a community and expect it to change.

Speakers said the community must work hard and have faith to truly turn things around.

Many people at the rally agreed. Several also hoped the coal industry could become a major source of income again.

Huckabee said in 50 years, the government spent more than $21 trillion in the war on poverty.
Speakers at the event all agreed money wasn't the only way to fix the problem.

Firefighters battling train tunnel fire

Shelby Valley Volunteer Fire Department is working to contain a train tunnel fire.

Fire officials say they go the call around 10 Saturday night.

They say the fire is still burning, but no homes are threatened and no injuries have been reported.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Smoke from the fire has forced the cancellation of school today (Monday) at Shelby Valley High School along with it’s feeder schools.

Ex-clinic owner appeals in pain pill case

A Louisiana businessman convicted of distributing oxycodone and methadone pills in eastern Kentucky will get a chance to argue for his freedom before a federal appeals court.

The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati has set a June 18 hearing date for 48-year-old Michael D. Leman of Slidell, La. A jury in Lexington convicted Leman in 2011 of using medical clinics to prescribe the drugs to bogus patients. He was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison.

From 2004 to 2008, authorities say, runners would travel from Kentucky to Leman-owned clinics in Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Ohio to pick up prescriptions for drugs. Prosecutors say runners would keep half the prescription and sell the rest in places such as Pike and Floyd counties, where prescription drug abuse is rampant.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Crit Luallen Will Not Run for Governor

Former state Auditor Crit Luallen says she will not run for governor in 2015.

Luallen has been mentioned as a possible Democratic contender as Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear finishes his second term.

In a written statement, Luallen said Thursday she is passionate about Kentucky's future but decided not to run because it was the best decision for her family.

Luallen's decision could open the door for Attorney General Jack Conway, a Luallen ally, to seek the Democratic nomination.

50th Anniversary of LBJ’s Visit to Martin County

It was 50 years ago Thursday that President Lyndon Johnson visited Martin County, where he declared his War on Poverty.

On Friday, local leaders and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will be in Inez for an anniversary event.

Organizers are calling it the "Dream! Martin County" event and say leaders are joining together "to call for a new path forward in fighting poverty in the region."

Participants will highlight proven private and faith-based approaches that are successfully growing the region's economy.

The event will also launch programs designed to boost education and small businesses.

The event will be held at the Roy F. Collier Community Center in Inez.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Hillbilly Days Kicking off Festival Season in the Mountains

It may sound hard to believe but festival season kicks off today in the mountains as thousands of people will take to the streets of Pikeville to celebrate Hillbilly Days.

On Wednesday, city officials helped food and craft vendors set up in preparation for this weekend's event.

Pikeville Public Safety Director Paul Maynard says several roads in the downtown area will be shut down.

"When you come into Pikeville for the festival, obviously the downtown area is going to be closed. There will be city employees stationed on Hambley Boulevard on each end of the closure. You will have to seek alternate routes," said Maynard.

Hillbilly Days runs through Saturday night.

Jury Finds Johnson County Woman Guilty

The trial of a Johnson County woman charged in the August crash that killed a teenager is over. 
Myra Castle, was found guilty of manslaughter and DUI charges in the death of C.J. Mollett.

After deliberating for less than an hour, the jury found Castle guilty of second degree manslaughter and DUI.

The jury recommends a seven year sentence for the manslaughter charge and a 30-day sentence for the DUI.

Sentencing for Castle will be held on May 16th.

Union Gives ARH Strike Notice

Member of the Southern United Nurses/National Nurses United who work at Appalachian Regional Healthcare hospitals in Hazard and Beckley, West Virginia will strike May 1 absent an agreement on a contract, the according to a statement posted on ARH's website Monday.

That strike would last one day, according to ARH System Director of Employee and Labor Relations, Julius Pearson.

The two opposing sides held a meeting to come to an agreement Monday, but no agreement came.

Union representatives are waiting for ARH to come to the table with compromises.

Issues still to be resolved include vacation/paid time off, health insurance premiums, and compensation for some nurses.

Both sides said a strike would harm the region, and union leaders remained optimistic Wednesday a strike could be avoided.

FDA Proposes First Regulations for E-cigarettes

The federal government wants to prohibit sales of electronic cigarettes to minors and require approval for new products and health warning labels under regulations being proposed by the Food and Drug Administration.

The proposal being issued Thursday won't immediately mean changes for the popular battery-powered devices that heat liquid nicotine, the move is aimed at eventually taming the fast-growing industry.

The agency says the proposal sets a foundation for regulating the products but the rules don't immediately ban flavors of e-cigarettes, curb marketing and online sales, or set product standards.

Once finalized, the agency could propose additional restrictions on e-cigarettes. Officials didn't provide a timetable for that action.

Steve Nunn Assigned Public Defender

Kentucky taxpayers will now foot the bill for Steve Nunn's ongoing court battle.

The former state lawmaker is serving a life sentence for killing his former fiance, Amanda Ross in 2009.

The Department of Public Advocacy recently ruled that Nunn was indigent, clearing the way for him to be assigned a public defender.

Nunn has filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea. A hearing scheduled for Thursday in Fayette Circuit Court has been delayed to allow his new attorney to become familiar with the case.

He comes from a well-known Kentucky family, and was a lawmaker at one time. Admitted killer Steve Nunn filed court documents in Fayette County asking to be declared a pauper.

He's also been ordered to pay more than $24,000,000 to the Ross family as part of a wrongful death lawsuit.

Last month, authorities put a hold on Steve Nunn's prison account, the one he used to pay for items at the prison commissary, like food and toiletries. That money is supposed to help pay off the $24,000,000 Nunn owes to the Amanda Ross family in the wrongful death lawsuit. Now Nunn is saying he can't afford to appeal. He's requested the court consider him broke.

New coal dust rule aimed at battling Black Lung

New regulations designed to limit coal miners’ exposure to coal dust underground have been rolled out by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Health Safety and Labor Administration. The new rule announced Wednesday in Morgantown intends to lower levels of exposure to coal mine dust, increase sampling and give the industry a two-year period to implement the new regulations.

“Today we advance a very basic principle: you shouldn’t have to sacrifice your life for your livelihood. But that’s been the fate of more than 76,000 miners who have died at least in part because of black lung since 1968,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “I believe we can have both healthy miners and a thriving coal industry. The nation made a promise to American miners when we passed the Coal Act in 1969 – with today’s rule we’re making good on that promise.”

This final rule is part of the Labor Department’s End Black Lung – Act Now! Initiative. 

Prolonged exposure to coal dust can cause debilitating lung diseases such as coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, emphysema and progressive massive fibrosis. These diseases, collectively referred to as black lung, can lead to permanent disability and death.

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health over 76,000 miners have died since 1968 as the result of the disease.

“It’s profoundly moving to be here with miners and miners’ families who have been directly affected. Sometimes when you inside the beltway in Washington, D.C. you don’t have an appropriate feel for the impact,” admitted Perez. “You’ve got to make house calls.”

More than $45 billion in federal compensation benefits have been paid out to coal miners disabled by black lung and their survivors. Evidence indicates that miners, including young miners, are continually being diagnosed with the disease.

“Rather than figure out how to prevent it we deal with the consequences of the train wreck,” said Perez. “What we’re doing here is following the science and using the technologies that are out there that prevents the disease.”

The final rule:

- lowers levels of miners’ exposure to respirable coal mine dust and further reduces dust exposure by closing loopholes and improving sampling practices to better reflect actual working conditions and protect all miners from overexposures;

- increases sampling and makes use of cutting-edge technology developed for the mining environment to provide real-time information about dust levels, allowing miners and operators to identify problems and make necessary adjustments instead of letting overexposures languish; also requires immediate corrective action when a sample finds an excessive concentration of dust; and

- has a common-sense phase-in over a two-year period to give the industry the time it needs to adjust to the new requirements, acquire monitoring equipment and obtain compliance assistance from MSHA.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Kentucky highway fatalities dropped to a 64-year low in 2013. That's a 14 percent reduction in deaths over 2012.

The Kentucky Office of Highway Safety released the numbers Tuesday for 2013. There were 638 fatalities last year. There were 746 in 2012.

Gov. Beshear’s Executive Committee on Highway Safety has a strategic highway safety plan titled “Toward Zero Deaths,” which focuses on four critical elements: engineering, education, enforcement and emergency response.

Of the 638 fatalities last year, 483 were in cars.  245 were not buckled, and 138 involved drugs or alcohol. Motorcyclists accounted for 79 fatalities, with 53 not wearing helmets.

The KOHS offers various highway safety educational programs to the public, distributes federal highway safety grants to state and local highway safety agencies, and promotes the national “Click It or Ticket” seat belt campaign, “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” impaired driving campaign and the new “U Text. U Drive. U Pay” texting while driving campaign. 

413,000 Sign Up for Health Care in Ky.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear says more than 413,410 people have signed up for health insurance through Kentucky's marketplace in the first enrollment period that ended March 31.

Beshear announced the numbers Tuesday and said 330,615 people qualified for Medicaid coverage. The Democrat also noted that 52 percent of the enrollees through kynect were under the age of 35.

Beshear's office said about 75 percent of the people signing up for health insurance in Kentucky did not have health insurance prior to signing up.

Beshear described it as "deeply satisfying" that 10 percent of the state's population now has health insurance through the program.

The next open enrollment period opens on Nov. 15, with coverage starting in January.

Names Released of those injured in Floyd County crash

Two people are in the hospital after being hit by a car Monday night in Floyd County.

State Police say the two people were trying to cross 1086 in the Wayland Community when they walked into the path of a car.

One of them suffered head injuries.

Troopers say Justyn McGee and Ray Mosley were airlifted to hospitals, their conditions are not known.

The driver of the car suffered minor injuries. No charges were filed.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Long-awaited US coal dust rule to be released in W.Va. by labor, mine safety officials

Top federal labor and mine safety officials are heading to West Virginia to release a long-awaited final rule on coal dust.

The announcement will be made Wednesday in Morgantown. Among those attending will be U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez and Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. The director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, John Howard, will also discuss the new rule.

For 2½ years, the Obama administration has been working on the rule to reduce miners' exposure to dust that causes black lung.

Black lung, or coal workers' pneumoconiosis, is an irreversible and potentially deadly disease caused by exposure to coal dust.

Governor joins in event celebrating rebuilding of Kentucky tree nursery destroyed by tornado

A tornado that devastated the eastern Kentucky town of West Liberty two years ago also destroyed a state tree nursery.
Gov. Steve Beshear was in Morgan County on Monday to celebrate the work to restore the state Division of Forestry's nursery.

The governor cut a ribbon made of tree seedling bags at the event.

The restoration includes a new processing building and a cooler.

The nursery began in 1960. About 1.5 million seedlings are grown each year beginning with planting seeds. Fifty different species of hardwoods and conifers are for sale for planting. The nursery also has an American chestnut research orchard.

Beshear says the devastation from the storm two years ago seemed insurmountable. But he says with the commitment of forestry staff, the nursery is better than ever.

Trial Begins in Johnson County Fatal

Jury trial began Monday for Myra Castle, a Johnson County woman charged with DUI and manslaughter.

Castle was involved in an August wreck on Route 201 that killed C.J. Mollet, 18.

The jury selection lasted more than three hours before beginning day one of the trial.

Castle admitted to police that she had been drinking before the accident.

The trial will continue throughout the week in the Johnson County Circuit Court. 

Funeral Services set for long time Johnson County Court Clerk

A Johnson County native and long-time elected official passed away this weekend.

Betty Jo Conley was the first female elected to county office in Johnson County.

She served several terms as the county court clerk.

Visitation will be held at the Jones-Preston Funeral home Tuesday after 4 p.m.

Betty Jo's funeral is scheduled for Thursday at 2 p.m.

Winter Was a Costly Season in Kentucky

The Winter cost the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet more than $68 million.

State officials say more than 420,000 tons of salt was used to keep roads clear across the Commonwealth.

That is compared to 194,000 tons the prior winter.

The costly winter will result in less money for some spring maintenance projects across the state.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Bridge Dedicated in Honor of Floyd County native

Earlier this year, Kentucky's General Assembly unanimously approved a new name for a Floyd County bridge.

Now, the construction at mile point 13.6 on Highway 680 near Harold will memorialize Leo Roberts, a Korean War Veteran and former schoolteacher and minister.

State and county officials were on hand Saturday afternoon for the dedication ceremony.

Family members say they believe Leo would be humbled by the dedication, and proud of what the roadway represents.

Roberts died in 2002 from a car accident.

Fire Destroys Pike County Home

One Pike County family lost most of their belongings and some pets in a house fire on Friday.

Firefighters from several departments throughout Pike County spent much of Friday afternoon battling a large house fire off of Cowpen Road in Coal Run.

Fire officials say they received a call about a home on fire in the Arrowhead Estates neighborhood just before eleven Friday morning.

Four different fire departments, Pike County Emergency Management, and The American Red Cross were all at the scene.

The homeowners say they were inside at the time of the fire. Thankfully, they did get out okay but unfortunately do not think their three cats made it out.

Firefighters worked for more than three hours to extinguish the flames. They are still investigating the cause of the fire.

Magoffin County Judge Accepts Alford Plea

A Magoffin County judge accepted an Alford Plea in the murder case against, Daniel Hackworth.

Hackworth was originally charged with the murder of, Donnie Allen.

The Alford Plea offered by the commonwealth's attorney dropped the murder charge to reckless homicide.

Hackworth was given a three year probated sentence, which started last week.

Ky. Academic Standards to get review

Kentucky residents will get a chance to review state academic standards later this year and suggest changes.

Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said the initiative called the Kentucky Core Academic Standards Challenge will begin in the fall.

He says the project isn't a reaction to criticism of the national Common Core standards, on which Kentucky's standards are based.

Instead, Holliday said he has always maintained that the state standards should be formally reviewed after about five years. Kentucky Core Academic Standards were implemented in 2010.

Holliday said a group of higher education professionals, business leaders and teachers will use the public feedback to make revisions.

ARH Nurses Reject Contract Proposal

Registered nurses with Appalachian Regional Healthcare have rejected a new contract proposal.

The vote tally was not released.

Hospital officials say both sides will resume negotiations Monday in Lexington.

Negotiations began in February, but ARH officials say they are optimistic and agreement can be reached.

The contract ends April 30th.

National Guard Members Return Home for Easter

On Saturday, 15 members of the Kentucky National Guard were welcomed home by family and friends.

For nine months the 103rd Brigade Support Battalion has been stationed over in Afghanistan. They have been running base closure operations in support of US Special Operations Command.

On Friday, they received unexpected news that they'd be able to return home to be with their families just in time for Easter.

During Saturday's ceremony, many of the guardsmen spoke of the difficulties and dangers that went hand-in-hand with their mission overseas. They say it makes them appreciate a day like today that much more.

Some of the guardsmen said what they plan to do next is just take time off and transition to life back at home.

Eastern Ky. University to be tobacco-free campus

Eastern Kentucky University's Board of Regents has approved a tobacco-free campus policy.

According to reports, effective June 1, the use of tobacco on all property that is owned, leased, occupied or controlled by the university will be prohibited.

The tobacco-free policy, which replaces the smoke-free zone policy that had been in effect since 2006, covers all Eastern facilities and grounds. It also prohibits the use of tobacco in vehicles owned, leased or rented by EKU, as well as in personal vehicles while on university property.

The university joins more than 1,100 colleges and universities nationwide that have enacted similar tobacco-free policies.

Brush Fires On The Rise

The wind, high heat and low humidity are fueling brush fires.

Crews in the Tri-State are fighting them and in Northeastern Kentucky, they fought 19 new fires Saturday.

Brush fires in West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky are burning thousands of acres this spring.

In Northeastern Kentucky, forestry workers have fought about 200 brush fires since February 15th.

It's a big job for the roughly 150 people on crew.

There are still plenty of flames to fight in Johnson, Carter and Greenup counties.

Forestry officials said brush fires are common in the Tri-State, especially with dry, windy conditions. But they said the destruction left behind can be avoided.

Last fall, West Virginia's Forestry Division reported 51% of forest fires were arson.

If you're caught burning illegally, you could face steep fines or penalties.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Letcher County Home Burns to the ground

Firefighters were at one Letcher County home twice on Thursday. They were called to a home in the Kings Creek community in Whitesburg.

Responders with the Kings Creek Volunteer Fire department arrived at the home on Highway 160 Thursday morning to the blaze.

But only a short time after crew members left the scene, they were called back.

No one was hurt..

Fire fighters on scene say they do not know exactly what caused the fire, but family members say they are already planning fundraising efforts to help recoup some of the damages.

Firefighters with the Sandlick Fire Department were also at the scene for most of the day.

Pikeville Doctor Pleads Guilty to Drug Conspiracy

One Pikeville doctor admitted he allowed a pharmacy access to prescription drug samples.

Thad Manning pleaded guilty to conspiracy to misbranding drugs.

Manning agreed to pay $250,000, which represents the proceeds he received as a result of the conspiracy.

He also agreed to enter into a drug rehab center for an addiction of hydrocodone.

Manning will be sentenced in July. He faces one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Ky. Court disbars attorney serving probation

The Kentucky Supreme Court has permanently disbarred a Lexington attorney who is serving probation for theft of his clients' money.

The justices on Thursday granted 37-year-old Clifford Alan Branham's request to resign from the Kentucky Bar Association under the terms of permanent disbarment.

Branham previously pleaded guilty to four counts of theft by failure to make required disposition of property. He admitted to taking money, but not doing work for four of his clients. The court also ordered him to pay $241,000 in restitution.

A judge sentenced Branham to eight years in prison, but he was released on shock probation. Branham will remain on probation through March 2019.

Religious Jobs Exempt from some labor laws

The Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled that religious institutions may hire and fire people from strictly religious jobs as they see fit but could face legal action if an employment contract is involved.

In two decisions handed down Thursday, the justices reinstated lawsuits brought by two former staff members at the Lexington Theological Seminary. In both cases, Chief Justice John D. Minton concluded that the staff members had employment contracts with the school and should be able to pursue litigation over their dismissals.

Minton concluded that without the contracts, the seminary would be allowed to dismiss former professors Laurence H. Kant and Jimmy Kirby under what is known as the "ministerial exception" to labor laws.

The exception allows religious institutions to make employment decisions based on the institution's beliefs.

Jury Selection begins in Johnson County case

A woman facing a manslaughter charge will appear in court next week in Johnson County.

Jury selection begins in the case against Myra Castle on Monday.

Castle is charged with DUI and second degree manslaughter in an August crash that killed Johnson county teenager, CJ Mollett, on Route 201.

If a jury is selected, the case will continue throughout the week.

Ky. Unemployment Rate Rose in March

Kentucky’s seasonally adjusted preliminary unemployment rate rose slightly to 7.9 percent in March 2014 from a revised 7.8 percent in February 2014, according to the Office of Employment and Training (OET), an agency of the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet.

The preliminary March 2014 jobless rate was .4 percentage points below the 8.3 percent rate recorded for the state in March 2013.

The U.S. seasonally adjusted jobless rate remained unchanged at 6.7 percent in March 2014 compared to a month ago, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.