Thursday, April 30, 2015

MSHA reports 4 coal mining deaths in first quarter

Four coal miners died in accidents in the first quarter of 2015 according to the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration in information released Wednesday.
One of the four was in West Virginia. MSHA said John Garloch, 45, of Neffs, Ohio, died on March 8 at the McElroy Mine in Marshall County. He was working on a longwall section when a piece of the mining roof fell on top of him. Investigators said Garloch was shoveling loose material between the longwall face and pan line when the accident occurred.
MSHA said two of the coal mining deaths this year took place in Pennsylvania and the other in Virginia. MSHA also said there have been six in metal and nonmetal mining fatal accidents so far this year.

MSHA Chief Joe Main said 2014 produced historic lows in mining deaths and urged the vigilance to continue this year. 

Marshall elects to change fee structure for the fall

The Marshall University Board of Governors approved a new tuition and fee structure for the coming fall.
According to Chief Financial Officer Mary Ellen Heuton, the students’ fees will now be based on their specific major and program. This will eliminate most course fees, lab fees and off-campus fees.
Heuton said they this new format eliminates confusion because students will understand how much they owe immediately as long as they know whether or not they live on campus, and what their program is. She said the students that will be most affected by the changes are non-resident students taking courses online.
The new structure is expected to allow prospective students to more easily compare the costs of attending Marshall with that of other colleges and universities because they can predict how much their tuition and fees will be.

The board is expected to discuss tuition, fees and a budget for 2016 at an upcoming meeting.

Officials: Old mine site isn't source of Logan County, WV flooding

(AP) - State regulators have ruled out an abandoned mine site as the source of yard and basement flooding in a Logan County community.

The Office of Abandoned Mine Lands and Reclamation says flooding after precipitation likely is due to improper drainage.

The office recently inserted dye into discharges from the mine site to determine where the water went. The test's results were similar to the findings of dye testing by a private contractor in 2013 and a water analysis by the Department of Environmental Protection in 2011.

The office says it will maintain the mine seals and drainage control structures that were installed as part of the Omar mine reclamation project in the mid-1990s.

Federal judge who issued Kentucky gay marriage rulings dies

(AP) - The judge whose ruling striking down Kentucky's ban on gay marriage led to an appeal heard this week in the U.S. Supreme Court, has died. He was 66.

According to an announcement from the court, U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II died Wednesday at home after battling cancer for several years.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a statement saying Heyburn had delivered opinions in complex cases over more than two decades on the bench but would also be remembered for his devotion to his family.

Last year, Heyburn struck down Kentucky's ban on gay marriage and on recognizing same-sex marriages from outside the state. The rulings were reversed on appeal, but the Supreme Court heard arguments on them Tuesday.

Mom accused of contaminating son's IV turns down plea deal

(AP) - A West Virginia woman accused of deliberately making her 9-year-old son sick by contaminating his IV with fecal matter at a Cincinnati hospital has rejected a proposed plea agreement and wants to go to trial.

A court official says 35-year-old Candida Fluty turned down the proposal at a hearing Wednesday in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court in Ohio. No trial date has been set.

Fluty is charged with felonious assault and child endangering. Authorities say fecal matter put in the boy's IV caused his fever to spike.

Prosecutors say the boy has a condition affecting the bowels and requiring numerous surgeries. He was hospitalized in January when authorities say fecal matter was put in the IV.

Pain Clinic Former Owners Sentenced

The former owners of a Floyd County pain clinic now face time in a federal prison after being sentenced on drug related charges.

36 year old Ray Douglas Stapleton, and his wife 35 year old Tina Marie Stapleton, both of Johnson County, owned Auto Accident and Health Care in Auxier, Ky. were indicted in August 2012.

The 2012 indictment indicated the couple conspired with two doctors to unlawfully dispense Oxycodone, Hydrocodone and Xanax to Johnson County residents. The scheme made approximately $1.5 million from July 2010 through June 2012.

According to reports, Ray was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison, while Tina was sentenced to four years.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Capito sends letter hoping to reform Beckley VA Medical Center

U.S. Senator Shelly Moore Capito sent a letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald Tuesday, urging the Department of Veteran Affairs to make amends following reports that older, cheaper medicines were being used to treat veterans at the Beckley VA Medical Center.
Last week, the Office of the Special Council sent a letter to President Obama detailing the actions of the Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee at the center. Capito said in her letter that caring for veterans that have served the United States should be the top priority for all Veterans Affairs facilities. She then urged the facility to make the necessary changes recommended.

Senator Capito is a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Administration, and Related Agencies, which oversees the Veterans Affairs budget.

United Bankshares announces increased earnings

United Bankshares, Inc., announced first quarter earnings Tuesday of $34.6 million about $4.5 more than the first quarter of 2014.
United said the earnings were impacted by its acquisition of Virginia Commerce Bancorp, Inc. last year increasing average balances, income and expenses.
United’s Board of Directors declared a cash dividend of $0.32 per share following the first quarter numbers. The company has had 41 straight years of dividend increases.
United Bankshares has consolidated assets of approximately $12.1 billion.

Lambert, Shelton to perform as part of Greenbrier Classic Concert Series

Two of the top performers in country music will perform July 3 at the Greenbrier Classic Concert Series when husband and wife Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert take the stage.
The Greenbrier announced the concert Tuesday evening.
Lambert is a six-time Female Vocalist of the Year and Shelton is the CMA Entertainer of the Year.
Lambert will take the stage in Fairlea at 8:00 p.m followed by her husband, Shelton, at 9:30 p.m.
The PGA Tour’s Greenbrier Classic is June 29-July 5.

Tomblin signs inititiative on child sexual abuse prevention

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin held the ceremonial signing of a bill that will create a task force on the prevention of sexual abuse of children.
The intitative, which is also known as Erin Merryn’s Law, will make recommendations on decreasing sexual abuse in West Virginia. Tomblin explained the bill will get many groups involved.
“What the bill does is create a task force, dealing with law enforcement officers, social agencies and so forth, to sit down and come up with the best recommendations.”
In addition to making recommendations, the task force will gather information, create goals, and submit a report to the governor and the legislature. Emily Chittenden-Laird, the Executive Director of the WV Child Advocacy Network, said abuse statistics are staggering.
“Many people are surprised to learn that 1 out of 10 children will be a victim of sexual abuse by their 18th birthday. That’s shocking,” she said.
Chittenden-Laird also said that what makes sexual abuse so underreported among children is that the perpetrator is, more often that not, someone the victim knows and trusts. The governor said the program will hopefully reduce the amount of cases.
“The whole goal behind it is to ensure that sexual abuse of children is stamped out in West Virginia,” Tomblin said. “And hopefully this movement can move across the country.”

The task force will include 25 members representing various state agencies, non-profit groups, educational institutions, and law enforcement officials.

Appeals court upholds ruling striking down Ky. election law

(AP) - Another federal court has ruled that a Kentucky law that banned electioneering close to polling places violates free-speech rights.

A panel of the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld a judge's ruling that struck down the law.

The law was challenged by a northern Kentucky businessman after campaign signs were pulled from the yard of his auto body shop on election days in 2012 and 2014. He said the signs were removed by sheriff's deputies because they were within 300 feet of a polling place.

The appeals court panel said Kentucky officials failed to show why the state needs a no-political-speech zone much larger than the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld.

A spokeswoman for state Attorney General Jack Conway says the office is reviewing the ruling.

New Kentucky State Police Academy dedicated in Frankfort

(AP) - When Kentucky State Police cadets report for training next month, it will be at a different facility in Frankfort.

The new Kentucky State Police Academy is at the site of a minimum-security prison closed in 2011 after the prison population dropped. The 220-acre site includes a 15,000-square-foot building with a 7,800-square-foot multipurpose room where cadets can train during bad weather.

Gov. Steve Beshear dedicated the new facility Monday and said it gives the agency a facility to match the troopers' level of professionalism. State police said the training academy has been located on the top floor of the agency's headquarters in Frankfort but offered no room for growth and required cadets to travel off-site for some training.

Planned later are an indoor firing range and additional classroom complex.

March US mine inspections result in 188 citations

(AP) - Federal inspectors issued 188 citations and two orders at U.S. mine operations in March.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration says the inspections were conducted at 13 coal mines and seven other mines.

MSHA inspectors issued 21 citations and one order at Georgia Stone Industries' Chelmsford Quarry in Westford, Massachusetts. MSHA says the site failed to adequately train three miners who were conducting workplace examinations, and serious hazards were not identified or corrected, including the use of damaged ladders and elevated platforms without railings.

The impact inspections began in 2010 after the Upper Big Branch mine explosion in West Virginia killed 29 coal miners. Since April 2010, MSHA has issued 14,139 citations and 1,246 orders.

Mines targeted by the inspections are those that have compliance concerns or poor compliance history.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Marshall right on track during presidential search

The search is on for a new president at Marshall University. A committee, made up of the university’s Board of Governors, said they’re right on track, according to their schedule.
The committee selected eight potential candidates, out of 56, to invite for the first-round of off-campus interviews, scheduled for this week.
After the first-rounds of interviews, the committee will then narrow the eight candidates down to about three or four finalists. Those people will then visit the Marshall University campus around the week of May 18 to meet the faculty, students, and staff.
Community members are also invited to meet the finalists, so that everyone can give feedback to the search committee.
Ginny Painter, Senior Vice President for Communications and Marketing at Marshall, said the process is still confidential at this time.
“The search committee has been very cognizant of this from the very beginning that it would be absolutely confidential until the names are announced of the finalists,” said Painter.
Painter said the committee held public hearings over the winter months to open the floor to any community members about what they’d like to see in the next president.
She said the public and the committee said they generally want a president who has higher education experience, a strong financial background, and strong communication skills.
“They wanted someone who can communicate the goals and the mission of the university to a variety of audiences and someone who will be a strong advocate for the faculty and our students with the Legislature and other policy makers,” she said.
Painter said the new president must exemplify qualities that are significant to Marshall.
“We want this person to be a strong leader, to take Marshall to the next level, to continue the momentum that we’ve had over the last 10 years in our growth and financial stability.”
The Board of Governors will make its final decision by June. The chosen candidate will then be presented to the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission for approval, so the new president can take office at the start of the fall semester.

Former Marshall President Stephen Kopp died of a heart attack in December 2014. Currently, Gary White is the interim president.

Capito explains ‘no’ vote on new attorney general

U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito says there’s no doubt new U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch is qualified for the position but she voted against her confirmation last week to send a message to the White House.
Capito said yesterday that former Attorney General Eric Holder upheld President Barack Obama’s widespread use of executive orders and Lynch has said she would also. Capito said that’s why she voted no.
“She’s going to be making decisions that are going to influence his ability to go above and beyond what Congress has legislated,” she said.
Lynch was sworn-in Monday. She visited Capito’s office before last week’s confirmation vote in the Senate. Capito said she’s qualified but has the wrong stance on the executive order issue.
“This is a way for me to express my disapproval for those types of actions—so I voted against her,” Capito said.
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin voted in favor of Lynch’s confirmation.
Lynch is the first African-American woman to serve as U.S. attorney general. She was confirmed in the Senate last Thursday on a 56-43 vote.

Tomblin Hasn’t Ruled Out Congressional Run

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin says he has been asked about running for Congress, and hasn't decided either way yet.

The Governor has been approached about vying for the 3rd Congressional District seat next year. The southern West Virginia seat is currently filled by freshman Republican Congressman Evan Jenkins.

Tomblin said he hasn't made "any final decisions on anything yet," adding that he's keeping the door open.

Tomblin cannot run for re-election because he is reaching his term limits. The opening for governor is expected to draw a competitive field.

Tomblin won a special election for governor in 2011 and was re-elected in 2012.

Tomblin was appointed acting governor in November 2010 to replace Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin when he headed to Washington.

Gov. Tomblin to Lead W.Va. Trade Delegation to Japan

(AP) - A trade delegation led by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is going to Japan in mid-May to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the state's development office in Nagoya.

The 15-member delegation includes former Gov. Gaston Caperton. The Nagoya office opened during Caperton's administration.

Tomblin says the trip is an opportunity for West Virginia officials to thank people and to bring attention to the Nagoya office. He also hopes the mission will bring more investments in West Virginia by Japanese companies.

Nineteen Japanese companies have established operations in West Virginia since the development office opened.

The trip is scheduled for May 12 through May 21.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Jobless rates down in all 120 Kentucky counties

State officials say unemployment rates fell in all 120Kentucky counties between March 2014 and March 2015.

The Kentucky Office of Employment and Training says Woodford County had the state's lowest jobless rate at 3.5 percent last month.

Oldham County was next at 3.9 percent, followed by Fayette County at 4 percent. Scott County was close behind at 4.1 percent, followed by Shelby County at 4.2 percent and Boone and Owen counties at 4.3 percent each.

State officials say Magoffin County had the state's highest unemployment rate at 14.7 percent.

It was followed by Russell County at 11 percent and Harlan County at 10.7 percent. Elliott County had a 10.5 percent jobless rate, followed by Leslie County at 10.2 percent and Letcher and Wolfe counties at 10.1 percent each.

Tuition increases directly tied to Tomblin veto

A 7 percent increase in tuition for in-state students at West Virginia State University is directly linked to a line-item veto decision from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.
WVSU Board of Governors Chair Tom Susman said State is still trying to catch-up financially after the school’s community and technical college broke away from the institution a few years ago. He said the legislature approved additional funding in next year’s state budget for $1 million but the governor used his veto pen and took it out.
“Had that not happened we would not have had to do the (tuition) increases,” Susman said.
The hikes passed Thursday will add $434 to WVSU’s annual tuition and fees, taking the amount to approximately $6,600, which is still a competitive price according to Susman. Although he acknowledged the board of governors has now increased tuition by 21 percent in the last three years.
“We hope for West Virginia State University that in the future we don’t have to take these steps and we’re in a position where we can move forward,” he said. “Our problem is the state keeps making cuts to our base funding.”
The new state budget cuts $7 million in funding for higher education statewide, the third straight budget decrease. Susman said the school has done its part by reducing employment by 100 positions in recent years and cutting nearly $8 million out of its budget.
Susman said the governor sent a message with his line-item veto.
“By not passing the increased appropriation that’s basically a transfer of responsibility from the state to individual students. That’s kind of the policy decision put forth by the veto,” he said.
The WVSU Board of Governors also increased tuition and fees for out-of-state students and graduate students. The increases go into effect with the fall semester.
State’s former community and technical college is now part of BridgeValley Community and Technical College located in South Charleston just a few miles away from State’s Institute campus. 

Abortion lawsuit dismissed

A lawsuit filed against a Charleston-based health center that performs abortions was dismissed earlier this week by a Kanawha County circuit judge.
The Women’s Health Center of West Virginia and Dr. Rodney Lee Stephens were named in the 2013 lawsuit filed by the Family Policy Council of West Virginia following an abortion performed on a 26-year-old woman. The plaintiffs claimed the health center and the doctor were guilty of outrageous conduct and medical negligence.
Kanawha County Circuit Judge Joanna Tabit dismissed the lawsuit ruling the medical evidence did not match the claims.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced just days after the lawsuit was filed in June 2013 that there were major questions about the rules and regulations that govern clinics like the Women’s Health Center. Morrisey called for a review. His office has not commented on the dismissal of the lawsuit. 

Name and Location change for Sandy Valley Abuse Center

The Sandy Valley Abuse Center will be changing its name to Turning Point come July.

The name change is the start of the shelter becoming its own Non-Profit Organization.

The shelter will also move from Johnson County to Floyd County this summer.

Officials say while the name is changing the services they offer will remain the same.

Widow of sheriff who was shot to death sues alleged gunman

(AP) - The widow of a West Virginia sheriff who was shot to death while he sat in his police cruiser is suing the man charged with killing him.

The Charleston Gazette reports that Rosie Crum filed the wrongful death lawsuit against Tennis Maynard in Mingo County Circuit Court earlier this month. She is seeking $1 million in damages.

Maynard is charged with murdering Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum, who was shot in April 2013 in downtown Williamson. Earlier this year, a judge found Maynard mentally incompetent to stand trial.

Cabell County Circuit Judge Paul Farrell ordered Maynard committed to a state mental health facility for life and indefinitely postponed his trial.

The civil suit says the sheriff was shot while conducting surveillance in a drug investigation. 

Marijuana Bust

Martin County Sheriff John Kirk stumbled upon a massive marijuana operation when he smelled it while driving by a home.

Kirk says about 150 marijuana plants were found growing in a trailer that had been made into a greenhouse. He says it was fully stocked with a water system, a ventilation system and heat lamps.

Mardy Mollett Jr. and Pamela Blevins now face charges of trafficking and cultivating marijuana.

Kirk says Mollett and Blevins lived in an apartment above a garage next door where they were able to keep a close eye on the plants with the use of a security system.

Worker’s Memorial Week: Investigator says greed drove UBB tragedy

As Worker’s Memorial Week begins, a former investigator of the Upper Big Branch mine disaster said workers and businesses can learn from the tragedy and the upcoming trial of Don Blankenship, the former CEO of Massey Energy.
Celeste Monforton, a lecturer at George Washington University, said the UBB disaster that killed 29 miners should have been avoided.
“Like most work-related fatalities, the deaths of these miners could have been prevented,” Monforton said. “Coal miners have known for decades how to avert coal dust explosions.”
In a conference call with reporters, she said that proper ventilation, water sprays and limestone dust are essential to avoiding mine explosions. UBB allegedly ignored safety warnings in order to maximize profits.
“What’s worse about this company is that they had been warned about these great safety dangers in the year preceding the disaster,” Monforton said. “Coal mine inspectors had issued dozens and dozens of violations, and yet the company continued to gamble with workers lives.”
She said the charges against Blankenship involve conspiracy and making false statements to the government. Blankenship allegedly knew the mine was unsafe but ignored them. Monforton felt that his trial, which is scheduled to begin in July, would serve as a warning to employers.
“It really should be a wake-up call to companies and employers, and it may set an important precedent, that if you cut corners and put pressure on your managers and your workers to operate unsafely, and someone gets hurt, you can be held accountable.”
Monforton also said the trial would force other companies to ask themselves if similar unsafe conditions exist in their work environments.

Three other executives have pleaded guilty or been convicted in connection with the investigation that began after the UBB tragedy.

Pound Police Officer delivers baby in parking lot

Pound, Va. Police say that a woman gave birth to a baby in a restaurant parking lot early Sunday morning.
The mother was on the way to the emergency room to have the baby but couldn't make it in time.
Pound police officer Perry Ratliff arrived on the scene and delivered the healthy baby.
Pound rescue was on the scene shortly after to take the mother and her baby to Norton Community Hospital.

Police Chief Tony Baker says that they are both fine and healthy, and the mother expressed her gratitude toward Officer Ratliff.

Friday, April 24, 2015

House fire claims one life in Floyd County

The Kentucky State Police are investigating the house fire that took the life of Linda Akers, of Honaker in Floyd County.  Akers, a Little Mud Creek resident, was in her home around 2 p.m. on Thursday afternoon when the fire began. Investigators are still looking into what caused the fire and Akers' exact cause of death.  Detective Jeremy Giles is over the investigation.

National magazine recognizes the city of Williamson

The city of Williamson, W.Va., is getting national attention in a national Sunday newspaper magazine for its Sustainable Williamson project.  The magazine, titled 'Parade', recognized Williamson in their April 19th magazine and mentioned that the project is being overseen by the Williamson Health and Wellness Center, and the town of Williamson.
The Parade article touched on the fact that the project is aiding the Williamson area by creating a farmers market and community garden, and also hiring local workers to construct affordable housing in the area.  Their efforts will include using reclaimed materials for the energy-efficient construction plans.
Parade is distributed in more than 700 papers in the United States.

Pikeville man arrested after attempt to flee police

On Thursday afternoon, 40-year-old Jeffery Hager was arrested by police at a residence in the Mouthcard area. The Pike County native had numerous warrants out for his arrest for burglary and theft, along with multiple traffic violations in Powell County.  Hager added onto those charges as he attempted to escape policemen at the time of his arrest. 

Trying to escape on foot, Hager was tased but pressed on to evade police.  Eventually, he was subdued and additional charges were added for resisting arrest and fleeing police.

Along with his previous charges, he was also found in possession of a stolen license plate at the time of his arrest and that will be included in on his already numerous charges.

Demolition of Big Creek High School to start soon

The walls of Big Creek High School, which spawned Homer Hickam’s mining-town stories of childhood friends obsessed with rocket-building, will be coming down soon.
Demolition for the 83-year-old campus is slated for this summer, according to McDowell County officials, making way for a new playground that will serve Southside K-8 School.
 “Everybody who went to Big Creek High School is very sad today to hear that it’s finally going to be demolished,” said Hickam, one of the school’s most famous graduates.
The school received national attention with the release of the 1999 film “October Sky,” based on Hickam’s book, “Rocket Boys.” It was the first of three books focused on Hickam’s formative years in Coalwood and his pursuit, with several friends, of amateur rocketry.
Big Creek High School opened on Jan. 4, 1932, and closed in 2010, with students being consolidated into River View High School in Bradshaw.
The former Big Creek High School gym will remain for use by Southside K-8 School and the community.

Southside K-8 School was built directly in front of Big Creek High School along Route 16, though the official school address is Rocket Boy Drive.

Judge: Clerk who penned article is off Blankenship case

(AP) - The judge overseeing Don Blankenship's criminal proceedings says a law clerk who wrote an article about the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster isn't working on the case.

In Beckley federal court filings Thursday, Judge Irene Berger wrote that the case was always assigned to a different clerk, not Cynthia Wildfire.

Blankenship's lawyers expressed concern that Wildfire's article from law school included conclusions and opinions about Upper Big Branch.

The clerk also worked as a law clerk for the United Mine Workers of America, an organization with which Blankenship has feuded.

Blankenship is charged with conspiring to violate safety standards at Upper Big Branch, a Massey Energy mine when Blankenship was the company's CEO. A blast there killed 29 men in 2010, marking the deadliest U.S. mine disaster in four decades.

Fatal Fire in Floyd County

A house fire turned tragic yesterday afternoon in the Little Mud Creek community in Floyd County.

Firefighters from the Betsy Layne Fire Department responded to the blaze and after the fire was put out, the body of a woman was found inside.

Officials say an autopsy is scheduled this morning in Frankfort for positive identification and cause of death.

The cause of what caused the fire is still under investigation.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Fort Campbell soldiers returning from Afghanistan this week

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (AP) — Dozens of Fort Campbell soldiers are returning to the post along the Kentucky-Tennessee border this week from deployment to Afghanistan.

The military says about 160 soldiers from 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division are expected to arrive Friday morning.

The soldiers have been in Afghanistan advising and assisting the Afghan National Army.

The 1st Brigade is known as "Bastogne" (bas-TOHN'), a name commemorating the brigade's defense of the town of Bastogne, Belgium, during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II.

Grocery costs in Kentucky show first decline since June 2013

(AP) — Prices of retail food items in Kentucky fell during the last quarter, the first time since June 2013, in a survey of grocery costs.

The Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation's latest Marketbasket Survey was taken in March. The organization says the average total cost of 40 basic grocery items was $126.22, or 2.3 percent lower than the figure reported in the previous quarter.

The federation said in a news release that the figure is still 4.6 percent higher than the total reported at the same time last year.

The release said five of the six food groups included in the survey reported reductions in average prices. Dairy was the greatest with an average price drop of 7.8 percent. Beef was the only category with an increase.

Logan County Man Sentenced in Kickback Scheme

A man from Logan County, West Virginia, was sentenced Wednesday to three years of probation and a $3,000 fine for his role in a kickback scheme at Arch Coal's Mountain Laurel Mine, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin's office.

Scott Ellis, 45, of Holden, West Virginia, previously had pleaded guilty in July of 2014 to structuring, a federal crime that involves the breaking down of cash banking transactions in amounts of $10,000 or less to avoid triggering a financial institution’s reporting requirements to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Ellis has agreed to forfeit $215,355.85 to the United States, representing a portion of the funds involved in and traceable to structuring.

Traffic Crash Snarls Traffic on U.S. 23 in Floyd County

A Olive Hill, Kentucky woman suffered multiple injuries in a two-car crash that happened Wednesday evening, closing U.S. 23 for hours in the Prestonsburg area, that according to the Prestonsburg Police Department.

47 year old Carla Kiser was flown to a hospital in the region for multiple injuries. She was not wearing a seat belt, police say.

She was driving a Hyundai car that turned in front of a Chevrolet Corvette driven by a 31-year-old man from Pilgrim, Kentucky who was not identified in the press release. That man suffered minor injuries; he was wearing a seat belt at the time.

Police say the Corvette was headed north on U.S. 23 when the crash happened.

Charges are pending in the crash, police say.

The roadway was closed for hours as police investigated the crash and the scene was cleared.

Logan County Man Admits to Selling Oxymorphone

A Logan County man has admitted to selling the powerful prescription painkiller oxymorphone.

41 year old Joseph Allen Rogers, pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court in Charleston to distribution of oxymorphone.

Rogers admitted he sold oxymorphone to a confidential informant on three separate occasions in April 2014.

Officers with the US 119 Task Force also executed a search warrant on Rogers' residents and found additional oxymorphone, oxycodone, cash and a gun, according to a news release.

Rogers faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced in August. 

2-week road closure in Buchanan Co. starting Thurs.

The Virginia Department of Transportation announced it’ll begin emergency road repairs in Buchanan County on Thursday.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Judge Affirms Kentucky Power’s Purchase of W.Va. Power Plant

(AP) - A judge has affirmed the right of Kentucky Power Company to purchase part of a West Virginia power plant.

The Associated Press reports the ruling in Franklin Circuit Court rejected an appeal filed by Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, which sought to overturn the approval of the state's Public Service Commission.

The order issued April 10 states the Public Service Commission acted within its authority in approving the 50 percent purchase of the coal-fired Mitchell Plant in Moundsville, West Virginia.
Kentucky Power chose to purchase the plant rather than the more expensive option of investing in an old generating unit to meet EPA regulations.

Kentucky Power President and COO Greg Pauley said the decision is good news for customers.

Alpha Natural Resources deficient on stock exchange

Local coal provider Alpha Natural Resources could soon be taken off the New York Stock Exchange.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

New rehab facility coming to Floyd County

Addiction is a problem facing many across the region and officials with Mountain Comprehensive Care, in Floyd County are building a new drug treatment facility to combat the problem.

Ground was broken yesterday on the Stone Crest Substance Abuse and Treatment Center.
The facility will allow 64 patients to stay there at a time, which is nearly double the amount at the current facility.

Officials say it will take about six months for the treatment center to be built.

Monday, April 20, 2015

10th Annual Shoot Hoops Not Drugs

Five free regional Shoot Hoops Not Drugs basketball camps conducted by former University of Kentucky all-star Jeff Sheppard will be offered by Operation UNITE this summer.

All school-age youth are invited to participate in any of the camps, to be held at the following dates and locations:
               • Monday, June 8, at Magoffin County High School in Salyersville.
               • Tuesday, June 9, at Prestonsburg High School.
               • Thursday, June 11, at Jackson County High School in McKee.
               • Tuesday, June 16, at Lynn Camp High School at Corbin in Knox County.
               • Thursday, June 18, McCreary County Middle School in Stearns.

Each camp begins at 4 p.m. and concludes about 7 p.m. Participants are asked to arrive 30 minutes early for registration. (There is no advance registration.)

Shoot Hoops Not Drugs camps provide basketball skills instruction in conjunction with anti-drug and self-esteem messages.

For safety and comfort while participating, youth are asked not to wear open-toe shoes or sandals.

All participants will receive a free event T-shirt, regulation-sized signature basketball, food and water, and be entered into a drawing for two portable basketball goals given away at the conclusion of each camp (you must be present to win).

Presented by Ameritox, Shoot Hoops Not Drugs camps are fun, interactive and provide a safe, drug-free activity where children have an opportunity to interact with positive role models while learning fundamental basketball skills.

In addition, parents and guardians will have an opportunity to attend a brief UNITE Foundation-sponsored education program on marijuana. Information on the signs, symptoms and dangers posed by prescription drugs will also be provided.

As a senior at the University of Kentucky, Sheppard was named the NCAA’s Final Four Most Valuable Player in the Wildcats’ 1997-98 National Championship season. He would later go on to play one season with the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks and 3 years in Italy.

Helping make the 2015 Shoot Hoops Not Drugs camps possible are Bowling Funeral Home (London), Chad’s Hope Teen Challenge Center (Manchester), and WestCare Hal Rogers Appalachian Recovery Center (Ashcamp).

Since 2006, UNITE has conducted 56 regional basketball camps with 7,713 youth participants representing 56 Kentucky counties, 19 other states and two other countries. More than 1,381 parents/caregivers have attended the educational programs.

For more information about the SHND camps or Operation UNITE visit their website at<>.

UNITE’s ‘Celebrate Successes’ event set for May 5

America’s drug czar will help Operation UNITE recognize and “Celebrate Successes in Prevention and Education” throughout southern and eastern Kentucky at a luncheon on Tuesday, May 5.

Michael Botticelli, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), will join Kentucky’s Fifth District Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers and Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), at the celebration, which begins at 11 a.m. at Eastern Kentucky University’s Manchester Campus.

Kentucky has experienced more than its fair share of prescription drug abuse and diversion-related problems for more than a decade. Overdose death rates were climbing and families were being torn apart at unacceptable rates,” said Nancy Hale, UNITE president/CEO. “Through prevention and awareness initiatives, UNITE has been able to slow the problem and engage thousands of citizens to address substance abuse-related issues within their own communities.”

“The volunteers working with UNITE Coalitions in each of our 32 counties are having an impact, although we know there’s much more to accomplish,” Hale continued. “This celebration is an opportunity to pause and thank these folks at the grassroots level who are making a difference and recognize a few of their most successful initiatives.”

Originally scheduled for February, this event had to be postponed due to weather.

The public is invited to participate in the celebration. There is no charge to attend, but because lunch will be served an RSVP is requested by Wednesday, April 29, to Cheryl Keaton at<>. On-site check-in will begin at 10:30 a.m.

As ONDCP director, Botticelli is responsible for the National Drug Control Strategy, which outlines efforts to reduce drug use, manufacturing and trafficking, drug-related crime and violence, and drug-related health consequences. This strategy places an emphasis on community-based prevention programs, diverting non-violent drug offenders into treatment instead of jail, and expanding access to substance abuse treatment.

At CNCS, Spencer oversees the administration of AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, the Social Innovation Fund, and other programs that engage millions of Americans in service and volunteering to improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement. UNITE’s Service Corps initiative provides 44 AmeriCorps members this school year.

Congressman Rogers, whose vision created UNITE in 2003, is recognized as a national leader on drug-related issues.

Kentucky officials hope drugs can help drug addicts

(AP) - Kentucky officials are considering using a drug to help drug addicts come clean.

The state legislature approved a law last month that includes an extra $10 million to expand medicated drug treatment programs. The programs include the use of an extended release form of naltrexone that blocks the opioid receptors in the brain. It means opioids like prescription painkillers and heroin would have no effect on addicts, which would help them stop using the drugs.

A handful of addicts in Somerset already use the medication under the brand name Vivitrol as part of a special probation program run by Judge David Tapp. Other states, including West Virginia and Ohio, have adopted similar programs.

Tuition increases approved at four state colleges

 (AP) - State officials approved at or near maximum tuition increases at four state colleges Friday.

The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education approved a 3 percent hike for the University of Kentucky, 2.9 percent for Eastern Kentucky University, 2.9 percent for Murray State University and 3.1 percent for Northern Kentucky University.

Fatal ATV Accident

A man has died after an ATV accident Saturday night.

Kentucky State Police say Gary Thacker, 47 years old of Kimper, Ky., crashed his ATV on Callahan Branch in Pike County.

Troopers say Thacker was driving down the road when his 2009 Honda ATV veered off the road, went over an embankment and flipped into a creek.

Thacker was pronounced dead at the scene.

Troopers say Thacker was not wearing a helmet.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Gubernatorial candidate James Comer releases higher education plan

Gubernatorial candidate James Comer and his running mate, Chris McDaniel, unveiled their plan for higher education Thursday morning.

Under the plan, students attending one of Kentucky's flagship universities can receive $20,000 in tax credits.

Those attending a regional university can receive $15,000.

The students must graduate in four years, as well as live and work in Kentucky following graduation.

James Comer said, "If you actually talk to middle class Kentuckians, middle class blue collar Kentuckians, one of the biggest problems they say is the student loan debt they say we're saddling their children and grandchildren with. We have a plan that's going to take care of that. Its going to increase our competitiveness as a state to attracting good paying jobs".

The plan also gives Kentucky Community and Technical College System graduates a tax credit for the full cost of tuition, as well as a tax credit for businesses who hire them.

Kentucky's jobless rate drops to 5.1 percent in March

Kentucky officials say the state's unemployment rate fell to 5.1 percent in March, the lowest rate since June 2001.

The state office of Employment and Training said Thursday that Kentucky's jobless rate has been below the national rate for eight straight months.

The state agency says Kentucky's preliminary jobless rate for March fell from the revised 5.3 percent rate in February.

It says last month's rate was well below the statewide 7.2 percent jobless rate in March 2014.

The agency says Kentucky's professional and business services sector added 3,100 positions in March compared to the prior month. Employment in the other services sector - which includes repairs and maintenance and personal care services, rose by 700 in March from a month earlier.