Thursday, November 26, 2015

State Police to step up enforcement over busy holiday travel period

With a busy travel weekend expected on interstates throughout the Mountain State, West Virginia State Police will be stepping up enforcement to ensure a safe Thanksgiving holiday.

State Police Spokesman Lt. Michael Baylous said it’s about trying to ensure a safe holiday.

“We do the best we can with the amount of troopers we have out here on the roadway. Especially on the holidays we try to run extra patrols,” Baylous said.

“The biggest piece of advice I can give everybody is to use common sense out here on the roadways,” he said. “Second piece of advice I would give is to be patient. Realize there are people from other states traveling through who may not be familiar with the roadway. They might cut over or in front of you not meaning to; but be patient with people.”


He also heavily recommended observant, alert driving, as well as staying off the roads if having consumed any alcohol, illegal or prescription drugs.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Jobless rates drop in 51 of 55 West Virginia counties

(AP) — Unemployment rates dropped in 51 of West Virginia's55 counties in October.

WorkForce West Virginia says Jefferson County had the lowest unemployment rate in the state at 3.2 percent, followed by Monongalia County at 3.9 percent, and Berkeley and Hampshire counties each at 4 percent.

Unemployment rates rose in Boone, Calhoun, Pendleton and Pocahontas counties.
Mingo County's unemployment rate was the highest in the state at 12 percent, down seven-tenths of a percentage point from September.

It was followed by McDowell County at 10.9 percent and Logan County at 10.3 percent.


West Virginia's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped four-tenths of a percentage point to 6.9 percent in October.


Fire marshal's office offers tips for avoiding holiday fires

(AP) — The Kentucky fire marshal's office is offering some tips to prevent home fires while making Thanksgiving dinner.

The office says the National Fire Protection Association reports Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires, followed by Christmas Day and Christmas Eve.

State Fire Marshal William Swope and the national organization have this advice:
—Stay in the kitchen when cooking on the stovetop.

—Stay home when cooking a turkey, and check it frequently.

—Keep children away from the stove, make sure they stay away from hot foods and liquids and keep knives out of children's reach.

—Make sure electric cords aren't dangling, keep matches and lighters high in a locked cabinet and don't leave children alone in a room with a lit candle.


—Make sure smoke alarms are working.


Outgoing Kentucky governor took 33 trips while in office

(AP) — Outgoing Kentucky Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear took 33 out-of-state trips during his eight-year term for a total cost to taxpayers of nearly $500,000.

Beshear went to Germany and Japan six times each to recruit businesses, along with three trips to India. In total, Beshear visited 18 countries and spent 154 days on the road, according to information obtained by The Associated Press through an open records request.


The costs do not include Beshear's security details. Those costs were paid for by the Kentucky State Police. Beshear was most often accompanied by former Economic Development Secretary Larry Hayes and a revolving cast of state officials and contractors. First Lady Jane Beshear traveled on 10 trips, all of them to international destinations. Taxpayers paid for her expenses in all but three of those trips.


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Jury heads into holiday without verdict in ex-coal CEO trial

(AP) — Jurors are heading into a holiday break without a verdict in the trial of ex-Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship.

The jury deliberated for a fifth full day in U.S. District Court in Charleston, West Virginia. They won't return until Monday because of Thanksgiving.

Blankenship is charged with conspiring to break safety laws and defrauding mine regulators at West Virginia's Upper Big Branch Mine, and lying to financial regulators and investors about safety. The coal mine exploded in 2010, killing 29 men.

Prosecutors contended that Blankenship was a micromanager who meddled in the smallest details at the mine, and cared more about money than safety.

Blankenship's defense team said the government offered no evidence he was involved in a conspiracy.


Deliberations began the evening of Nov. 17.


First vehicles to drive on new Mountain Parkway roadway this week

SALYERSVILLE, Ky. (Nov. 24, 2015) – Road crews are continuing to move forward with major road construction west of Salyersville, and their progress will allow motorists to drive on the first new roadway from the Mountain Parkway Expansion beginning this week.

A traffic switch is scheduled to take place Wednesday morning between mile points 70 and 71, which will shift both eastbound and westbound traffic from the existing road to what will become eastbound lanes of the expanded Mountain Parkway.

Traffic will be restricted to one lane from 8 a.m. until sundown, due to paving, and both lanes may be stopped intermittently throughout the day for short periods of time.
“Our crews are working day and night to advance progress in the expansion of Mountain Parkway,” said Marshall Carrier, a Kentucky Transportation Cabinet engineer who is the project manager. “This is a significant milestone as drivers can begin to use portions of a road that will improve transportation in Eastern Kentucky.” 

The new traffic pattern – near the Gifford Road intersection in Magoffin County – will be in place for at least six months. The project schedule depends on weather during the winter season, when crews will complete work on the westbound lanes for this portion of Mountain Parkway. Following completion of the westbound lanes, the Mountain Parkway in this section will be expanded to provide four-lane access.

Construction work is ongoing along a nearly six-mile stretch of the Mountain Parkway, between mile points 69 and 75.  Motorists should prepare to slow to speeds of 45 miles per hour in this area during the construction phase.


Last month, workers began placing nearly 850 tons of concrete beams to create a new bridge that will carry Gifford Road across the Mountain Parkway. The bridge is expected to be completed sometime next year. The interchange at Gifford Road, which will provide access to an industrial park planned just to the north, is scheduled to open to traffic in early 2017.



Jurors return to deliberate in ex-coal CEO Blankenship trial

(AP) — Jurors are returning to deliberate in the trial of ex-Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship.

The jury is slated for its fifth full day of deliberations Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Charleston, West Virginia. They won't deliberate Wednesday, Thursday and Friday because of Thanksgiving.

Blankenship is charged with conspiring to break safety laws and defrauding mine regulators at West Virginia's Upper Big Branch Mine, and lying to financial regulators and investors about safety. The coal mine exploded in 2010, killing 29 men.

Prosecutors contended that Blankenship was a micromanager who meddled in the smallest details at the mine, and cared more about money than safety.

Blankenship's defense team said the government offered no evidence he was involved in a conspiracy.


Deliberations began the evening of Nov. 17.


Police, communications company grapple with copper thefts

(AP) — West Virginia State Police and Frontier Communications say the theft of copper communications cable has been a big problem this month in Lincoln County.

Police say the most recent theft occurred last weekend. The thefts have all been within a three- to four-mile radius of the Harts area near the Logan County line.

Bryan Stover of Frontier Corporate Security says such thefts leave customers without phone or Internet service, preventing them from making calls in the event of an emergency. He says rural areas like this have limited cellphone coverage, and many people rely on their landline phones.


Police say anyone with information about these thefts can contact the state police Hamlin Detachment at 304-824-3101, Frontier Communications Security at 1-800-590-6605, or report on the Internet at www.wvcrime.com.


Murray ordered to speak about miner complaint rights

(AP) — An administrative judge has ordered Murray Energy's CEO to speak at five company coal mines about workers' rights to file complaints with federal mine safety regulators.

Judge Margaret Miller also ordered a $150,000 fine before the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission.

The order says CEO Robert Murray gave speeches to West Virginia miners last year saying complaints lodged with the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration must be sent to management.

The speeches followed complaints by United Mine Workers of America miners that led to citations at Murray mines.

Miller wrote last week that the practice would remove anonymity from complaints and dissuade a miner from making complaints.


Company spokesman Gary Broadbent called the decision clearly wrong and said Murray plans to appeal immediately.


Kentucky governor restores voting rights for some felons

(AP) — The outgoing Democratic governor of Kentucky has signed an executive order to restore the right to vote and hold public office to thousands of non-violent felons who've served out their sentences.

Gov. Steve Beshear signed the order Tuesday. He leaves office next month.

Kentucky was one of four states that did not automatically restore voting rights to felons once they completed all the terms of their sentences. Around 180,000 in Kentucky have served their sentences yet remain banned from casting ballots.

The Kentucky legislature has tried and failed numerous times to pass a bill to restore voting rights to felons. The Republican-controlled Senate would agree only if there was a five-year waiting period, which Democrats refused.


Beshear's order doesn't include those convicted of violent crimes, sex offenses, bribery or treason.


Monday, November 23, 2015

4 days of deliberations and no decision in Blankenship trial

(AP) — Jurors have recessed after their fourth full day of deliberations without reaching a verdict in the trial of ex-Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship.

The jury spent Monday deliberating in U.S. District Court in Charleston. If they don't make a decision Tuesday, they will be off the rest of the week for Thanksgiving.

Blankenship is charged with conspiring to break safety laws and defrauding mine regulators at West Virginia's Upper Big Branch Mine, and lying to financial regulators and investors about safety. The coal mine exploded in 2010, killing 29 men.

Prosecutors contended Blankenship was a micromanager who cared more about money than safety.


Blankenship's defense team said the government offered no evidence he was involved in a conspiracy.

Transportation officials remind travelers to buckle up

(AP) — The Kentucky Office of Highway Safety wants motorists to remember to fasten their seat belts before taking off on Thanksgiving adventures.

The Transportation Cabinet says in a news release it's the busiest travel time of the year, and that means a greater likelihood of crashes.

Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock says the best way to survive a highway crash is by wearing a seat belt. Hancock says data indicate that most pickup truck occupants don't wear seat belts, so the agency is putting added emphasis on the message, asking travelers to "Buckle Up in Your Truck."


The Transportation Cabinet says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that seat belt usage in pickup trucks is lower than in any other type of passenger vehicle on the road, and Kentucky follows the trend.

State police focusing on traffic enforcement around holidays

(AP) — Kentucky State Police say they are targeting drivers who are aggressive, impaired and distracted in the upcoming holiday season in an effort to save lives and reduce injury-related crashes.

Director of Operations Lt. Col. Michael Crawford said in a statement that every region will have a different enforcement plan that may include more visible enforcement, especially in crash-prone areas; more patrols; an increase in safety checkpoints and nighttime seatbelt enforcement details.

According to the statement, the number of fatal crashes in Kentucky is up this year compared to last year. Through Nov. 19, there had been 652 people killed in traffic crashes in 2015. During the same period in 2014, 585 died in crashes.


Citizens can aid the initiative by reporting aggressive or erratic drivers to KSP at 1-800-222-5555.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

West Virginia public school enrollment decreases

(AP) — The state Department of Education says enrollment in the state's public schools dropped by nearly 2,760 students this year.

According to reports, the decrease is more than double the declines in the past two years.

Only nine of the 55 counties saw increases in overall enrollment.


Counties with fewer students will receive less money from the state next year.

4 charged in alleged vote-buying scheme

(AP) — An eastern Kentucky official and three others have been indicted on charges stemming from an alleged vote-buying scheme.

A federal grand jury has charged a Magoffin County candidate for magistrate with buying votes in 2014.

Gary "Rooster" Risner won the election and is a member of the county fiscal court. He was indicted along with his wife, Tami Jo Risner; Mason Daniels; and Scott Lynn McCarty. All four are charged with conspiracy.


In addition, Gary Risner was indicted on eight charges of paying people for their vote in either the May or November 2014 elections.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Operation R.A.I.D. Designed To Save Lives During Holiday Season

With fatalities on Kentucky’s roadways up compared to last year’s statistics, the Kentucky State Police are implementing Operation R.A.I.D. (Remove Aggressive, Impaired and Distracted drivers from Kentucky Roadways) in an effort to save lives and reduce injury-related crashes during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season.

Through November 19 of 2014, 585 lives were lost on Kentucky’s highways. For the same time period in 2015, 652 people were killed.

“KSP will focus its enforcement efforts on aggressive, impaired and distracted driving behaviors along with a zero tolerance for safety belt and child restraint violations,” says Lt. Col. Michael Crawford, KSP Director of Operations. “This campaign is not about writing tickets. It’s about enforcing traffic laws and bringing awareness to dangerous driving behaviors that cause fatalities and injuries.”

According to Crawford, each of KSP’s 16 posts and six Commercial Vehicle Enforcement regions will have a different enforcement plan during the campaign. “They will use real time crash data and mapping systems to identify and target specific areas that need attention and allocate their resources accordingly for more effective results,” he explains.

In other words, motorists are going to see a lot of KSP troopers and CVE officers on the roads for the rest of the year.

“There will be more visible enforcement in high crash areas, more roving patrols and an increase in safety checkpoints across the state,” says Crawford. “There will also be night-time seatbelt enforcement details and covert efforts using undercover vehicles.”

Each post and region will also use media and education channels to provide the public with safe driving messages and resources during the campaign.

“Every life counts,” says Crawford. “Holiday travel should always be taken seriously. We want to celebrate the season by making Kentucky’s roadways safer for everyone.”


Citizens can contribute to highway safety by confidentially reporting aggressive or erratic drivers to KSP toll-free at 1-800-222-5555 or by using the free KSP mobile phone app. The app provides quick, direct access to the state police for a wide range of benefits including weather, road and traffic information as well as voice and photo tip capabilities that can help prevent and solve crimes. Titled KSPOLICE, it is available for iPhone, iPad and Android applications and can be easily downloaded free of charge through Apple and Google Play stores.


BOIL WATER ADVISORY LIFTED 11/20/15

MOUNTAIN WATER DISTRICT HAS LIFTED THE BOIL WATER ADVISORY IN THE FOLLOWING AREA:

·        ON ROUTE 460 FROM 6945 MILLARD HIGHWAY TO 9760 MILLARD HIGHWAY, INCLUDING ALL OF DANIELS CREEK, UP TO HOUSE #300 AT BIGGS BRANCH, UP TO HOUSE #1500 AT POWELLS CREEK, AND ALL OTHER SIDE HOLLOWS.


                                               

MOUNTAIN WATER DISTRICT APOLOGIZES FOR ANY INCONVENIENCE TO ITS CUSTOMERS.

AP wants juror names, addresses public in ex-coal CEO trial

(AP) — The Associated Press is asking a judge to make public the names and addresses of jurors in ex-Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship's trial.

The AP filed its motion Friday in U.S. District Court in Charleston.

The motion says criminal trial juror names and addresses are part of the public record as soon as the jury is selected. The jury was picked at the trial's start, Oct. 1.

The information has not yet been disclosed, even though AP and other media have previously requested it. The motion says there's no constitutionally valid reason to withhold the juror list.

Jury deliberations, which began Tuesday, continued on Friday.


Blankenship faces multiple criminal charges stemming from alleged safety violations at West Virginia's Upper Big Branch Mine. It exploded in 2010, killing 29 men.

Report: Homeless rate down in Kentucky

(AP) — A federal agency is reporting a sharp drop in Kentucky's homeless rate since 2010.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development says communities in Kentucky reported a total of 4,538 people who experienced homelessness on a given night in January 2015. It says that rate is down 31 percent since 2010.

It says the statewide homeless rate was down 11 percent from 2014 to 2015.

Meanwhile, the report issued Thursday says homelessness among military veterans has fallen by 7 percent in Kentucky in recent years. It says that on a single night this past January, 591 veterans were homeless and 8 percent of them were on the streets.


The report says that since 2010, chronic homelessness in the state has declined by 45 percent.

Kentucky jobless rate drops to 4.9 percent in October

(AP) — Kentucky officials say the state's unemployment rate has dropped to its lowest level since the spring of 2001.

The state Office of Employment and Training said Thursday that last month's preliminary jobless rate was 4.9 percent, down from a 5 percent rate in September. The statewide rate in October 2014 was 5.6 percent.

Last month's statewide rate matches the 4.9 percent rate in May 2001.

Manoj Shanker, an economist with the agency, says hiring has been brisk across major sectors of Kentucky's economy. He says that despite a faltering global market, job growth in Kentucky's private sector has been strong.


State officials say employment gains occurred in a broad range of sectors, including manufacturing, professional and business services, educational and health services, financial activities, construction and leisure and hospitality.

New still added as part of Maker's Mark expansion

(AP) — Crank up the flow of red wax: Maker's Mark is boosting its bourbon output.
The producers of the Kentucky whiskey are pouring about $67 million into an expansion that includes a new still.

The ramped up production comes a couple of years after Maker's caused a stir with a short-lived attempt to cut the amount of alcohol in each bottle to stretch its whiskey supplies. The announcement drew a torrent of protests from customers, and the brand scrapped the idea.

Maker's — known for its square bottles sealed in red wax — fired up the new still this week.


The expansion includes new fermenters and storage warehouses as Maker's looks to boost yearly production to 2 million cases later this decade.

Beshear orders national background checks for nursing homes

(AP) — Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear has ordered nursing homes and other health care providers to run national background checks on all new employees or risk losing their license to operate in the state.

Beshear signed the emergency regulation on Friday. It takes effect on Jan. 1 and will apply to about 1,300 providers, including nursing homes, intermediate care facilities, adult day health care programs and assisted living facilities.

Currently these providers are only required to do Kentucky-specific background checks, allowing them to hide crimes committed in other states. Since May 2014, Beshear says the state has received more than 2,400 complaints against long-term care providers. Of those, nearly 30 percent were about suspected abuse or exploitation.


Kentucky offers a background check program backed by federal grants.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

BOIL WATER ADVISORY 11/19/2015

A BOIL WATER ADVISORY IS BEING ISSUED TO PROTECT MOUNTAIN
WATER DISTRICT CUSTOMERS AGAINST POTENTIAL BACTERIA
CONTAMINATION DUE TO A MAIN WATER LINE BREAK IN THE FOLLOWING AREA.  WATER USED FOR DRINKING OR COOKING PURPOSES SHOULD BE BOILED AT A ROLLING BOIL FOR AT LEAST THREE MINUTES.  THE AFFECTED AREA IS:

·        ON ROUTE 460 FROM 6945 MILLARD HIGHWAY TO 9760 MILLARD HIGHWAY, INCLUDING ALL OF DANIELS CREEK, UP TO HOUSE #300 AT BIGGS BRANCH, UP TO HOUSE #1500 AT POWELLS CREEK, AND ALL OTHER SIDE HOLLOWS.



THIS NOTICE IS IN EFFECT UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE.

Mining company cuts 200 workers in eastern Kentucky

(AP) — A mining company says it has cut about 200 jobs from sites in eastern Kentucky.

Blackhawk Mining Vice President Jesse Parrish says market-driven conditions led to the decision to idle the Blue Diamond Buckeye Prep Plant and two supporting mines in Perry County. He said some employees at another operation also were affected.

Parrish said some of the workers could be hired back if conditions change.

A company website says Lexington-based Blackhawk Mining LLC operates five mining complexes with more than 1,600 employees.


Conway outspent Bevin on TV in Kentucky governor's race

(AP) — Democrat Jack Conway spent nearly twice as much as Republican Matt Bevin on TV ads, but it was not enough to get him elected governor.

Bevin defeated Conway by 9 percentage points on Nov. 3. Bevin spent $2.1 million on TV ads while Conway spent $4.1 million, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity.

Outside groups combined to spend $6.6 million in the race, with the Democratic Governors Association narrowly outspending the Republican Governors Association. 

Overall, Conway and his allies spent $7.5 million to air 19,500 commercials while Bevin and his allies spent $5.3 million to air 15,000 spots.

The data does not include radio, online or direct mail ads or TV ads aired on local cable systems. The estimates also do not include production costs.


Judge: Jurors must keep deliberating in ex-coal CEO trial

(AP) — Jurors have told a judge they cannot agree on a verdict in the trial of ex-Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, but the judge ordered them to continue deliberating.

The jury sent a note to Judge Irene Berger late Thursday morning asking how long they should continue deliberating and saying they could not agree.

Berger assembled jurors in the courtroom and told them that given the length of the trial and the number of witnesses, they must continue trying to reach a verdict.

The jury deliberated for an hour Tuesday and all day Wednesday.


Blankenship is charged with conspiring to break safety laws and defrauding mine regulators at West Virginia's Upper Big Branch Mine, and lying to financial regulators and investors about safety. The mine exploded in 2010, killing 29 men.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Jurors recess for day without verdict in ex-coal CEO trial

 (AP) — Jurors have recessed after their first full day of deliberations without reaching a verdict in the trial of ex-Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship.

They began deliberating for about an hour Tuesday and deliberated for a full day Wednesday.

Blankenship is charged with conspiring to break safety laws and defrauding mine regulators at West Virginia's Upper Big Branch Mine, and lying to financial regulators and investors about safety. The mine exploded in 2010, killing 29 men.

Prosecutors contended that Blankenship was a micromanager who meddled in the smallest details at the mine, and cared more about money than safety.

Blankenship's defense team said the government offered no evidence he was involved in a conspiracy.

Blankenship's trial began Oct. 1. The jury returns to continue deliberating Thursday morning.


KSP 'Cram the Cruiser' Food Drive Begins Nov. 20

Kentucky State Troopers and Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Officers will help brighten the holiday season for families in need this year through the sixth annual Cram The Cruiser food drive, which begins Nov. 20 and continues through Dec. 11.

"Service to those in need goes hand-in-hand with our law enforcement mission," says KSP Commissioner Rodney Brewer. "It's a way to repay the local communities that support us throughout the year."

Food collection sites have been established at all 16 KSP posts throughout the state and at the agency's headquarters in Frankfort. 
Visit http://www.kentuckystatepolice.org/post.html) for a listing of the post locations.
Suggested non-perishable food donations include canned fruit and vegetables, canned meat, macaroni and cheese, cereal, peanut butter, jelly, canned soups, chili or spaghetti sauce, brownie and cake mixes, coffee, water, powdered milk and juices.

The food will be distributed at post level to local shelters, churches or other organizations serving those in need.

KSP spokesman Sgt. Michael Webb said the agency collected more than 232,011 pounds (116 tons) of food statewide during last year's Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season.

"Last year, KSP Post 10 in Harlan led all KSP posts and CVE regions with 43,825 pounds of food collected," said Webb.

Brewer initiated the program in 2010 to assist needy families in the local post and region areas. Since that time, the agency has contributed more than 500,000 pounds of food to shelters, food banks and churches across the Commonwealth.


"Cram the Cruiser is a great example of law enforcement partnering with civic organizations, businesses and private citizens to make a real difference in local communities throughout the Commonwealth," says Brewer.


West Virginia unemployment rate drops in October

(AP) — West Virginia's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped four-tenths of a percentage point to 6.9 percent in October.

WorkForce West Virginia says in a news release that the number of unemployed state residents fell by 3,500 in October to 54,300.

Employment rose by 1,400 in the service-providing sector, including 1,100 in educational and health services, 900 in professional and business services, and 600 in both financial activities and in other services. Declines included 1,300 in trade, transportation and utilities, 300 in government and 100 in both information and in leisure and hospitality.

Employment fell 2,100 in the goods-producing sector, including losses of 900 in construction, 800 in mining and logging and 400 in manufacturing.

Nationally, the unemployment rate dipped to 5.0 percent in October.


Public utility property values in West Virginia increase

(AP) — West Virginia's natural gas counties are the winners and coalfield counties are the losers in the state's latest assessment of the value of properties owned by public utilities.

A report presented to the Board of Public Works on Tuesday shows utility property values increased by 36 percent in Doddridge County in the past year. Ritchie and Tyler counties each saw a 16 percent increase, while property values in Taylor County rose by 9 percent.

In the southern coalfields, utility property values fell by 10 percent in Boone County, 8 percent in McDowell County and 7 percent in both Logan and Wyoming counties.


Statewide, the assessed value of utility properties rose by $530 million to more than $10 billion.

Grand jury issues indictments in Kentucky officer's death

(AP) — A grand jury has indicted four co-defendants in the fatal shooting of a central Kentucky police officer and in the attempted robbery he was investigating.

Multiple media outlets report a Madison County grand jury Tuesday indicted 34-year-old Raleigh Sizemore of Richmond, the man accused of shooting 33-year-old Daniel Ellis.

Sizemore faces murder, two counts of attempted murder and four other charges.
Madison County Commonwealth's Attorney David Smith would not say whether he will seek the death penalty against Sizemore.

Ellis died Nov. 6, two days after he was ambushed and shot in the head while searching an apartment for a robbery suspect.


Twenty-five-year-old Gregory Ratcliff also was indicted on four charges, including complicity to murder. Forty-four-year-old Rita Creech and 35-year-old Carl Banks are facing charges related to the attempted robbery.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Jurors Begin Deliberations in Blankenship Trial

Jurors in the federal court trial of Don Blankenship and will return tomorrow morning to resume their talks. Jurors began deliberations Tuesday and deliberated for about an hour. 

Blankenship, the former chief executive officer of Massey Energy, is on trial for charges of conspiring to violate mine safety laws and lying to federal financial regulators about safety at the UBB mine. An explosion at the mine five years ago took the lives of 29 miners.

Blankenship is not charged specifically with the explosion. He has repeatedly maintained his innocence.

Beshear says state in better shape than when he took office

(AP) — Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear says Kentucky's next governor is in a much better position to write the state's multi-billion spending plan than he was when he took office.

Beshear will leave office Dec. 7 after eight years. Republican Matt Bevin will take his place after winning the election on Nov. 3 with more than 52 percent of the vote.

Beshear met with reporters at the Governor's Mansion on Tuesday to discuss his legacy. He said he cut $1.6 billion from the state's budget to keep it afloat during the Great Recession, including $340 million in his first year. He said state revenues grew 6 percent last month.


But Beshear leaves behind a public pension system for teachers with a $14 billion unfunded liability. Bevin has said fixing that system is his top priority.

Mountain Parkway team refines corridor for cross-country option

The Mountain Parkway Expansion team has refined plans for a cross-country alternative to extend the parkway between Salyersville and Prestonsburg.

No decision has been made on whether to widen the parkway along the existing corridor (KY 114) or build a new road along a cross-country corridor to the north of KY 114. However, further study over the last few months has allowed the project team to provide more details about the potential benefits and costs of a cross-country route.

The public is invited to learn updated details on both options at a meeting from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday, November 19, at Prestonsburg Elementary School, 140 South Clark Road. Comment forms will be available for residents to provide feedback to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and the project team.

Project team members will display detailed maps and set up computer workstations to show residents how properties might be affected by the two alternatives. A short video with animated renderings will give the public an idea of what each option might look like.

Hundreds of residents attended a meeting in Prestonsburg in April to learn preliminary details about the two options and provide feedback.


“We reviewed the feedback we received at April’s meeting, and that feedback was one of several factors weighed during months of follow-up study,” said Marshall Carrier, a KYTC engineer who is project manager for the Mountain Parkway Expansion. “We have a lot of variables to consider. The Mountain Parkway is going to be around for a long time, so we want to be sure we make a thoughtful choice about how to expand it.”


COPPER THIEVES DISRUPT ELECTRICAL SERVICE IN PIKEVILLE

Copper thieves are responsible for a power outage that affected nearly 1,500 Kentucky Power customers in Pikeville Monday night, including the local hospital.

Thieves cut fencing surrounding a high-voltage mobile transformer at the South Pikeville Substation to gain access at about 8:15 p.m. Once inside the fence, they risked electrocution as they removed copper grounds and neutrals, said Everett Phillips, Kentucky Power’s managing director distribution region operations. The transformer served Pikeville Medical Center, as well as customers in downtown Pikeville and Island Creek. Power was restored to all customers by 1 a.m. Tuesday.

“Anytime you go into a substation, you're dealing with high voltage lines,” Phillips said. “Stealing copper is extremely dangerous and a foolish thing to do. The theft causes damage to Kentucky Power property, creates hazards for customers and employees, and puts people at risk for fatalities and injuries for minimal gain.”

Over the years, Kentucky Power and its customers have been the targets of copper thieves because copper found in electrical sites like substations often are in remote areas where theft detection is difficult. Still, thieves risk their lives for little gain. 

Copper currently sells for less than $2 a pound. The copper stolen Monday was estimated to be worth less than $200 as scrap metal, while the costs to repair the damage are estimated to cost at least $7,500 in materials and labor, Phillips said.


“Kentucky Power pursues legal action against all copper theft and vandalism,” he said. “We also offer a $5,000 reward for information leading to prosecution. Suspicious activity can be reported to local law enforcement or by calling 1-800-752-6007.”

KSP Investigates Fatal Vehicle Fire in Pike County

Kentucky State Police, Pikeville Post, is investigating a fatal vehicle fire that occurred in Pike County during the evening hours of Monday, November 16, 2015.

Post 09 received a call of a vehicle fire on KY194 east in the Biggs community of Pike County.  Troopers from Post 09, as well as Grapevine and Fedscreek Fire Departments, responded to the scene.  Once the fire was extinguished, a body was discovered inside. KSP Detectives responded to the scene, and the preliminary investigation indicated that the GMC truck left the roadway, and traveled into a ditch where the vehicle caught fire.  The operator was pronounced deceased at the scene by Pike County Deputy Coroner Denver Bailey.  The body was sent for identification and autopsy to State Medical Examiner’s Office in Frankfort. 


No foul play is suspected at this time. The ongoing investigation is being conducted by Kentucky State Police Detective Kevin Newsome.

KSP Post 09 Employee Receives Award

The Kentucky Women’s Law Enforcement Network (KWLEN) recently presented Kentucky State Police, Pikeville Post, Telecommunicator Supervisor Melanie Taulbee with the Civilian Employee Award.  The ceremony was held at Natural Bridge State Resort Park in Slade, KY during the organization’s annual conference.

This award is given to a civilian employed in a law enforcement or public safety organization whose work is in direct support of the profession. Through individual deeds, this person symbolizes dedication to the profession of law enforcement and the citizens in the communities in which they serve. The award winner is an individual who has demonstrated exceptional achievement in carrying out their duty.


“Mrs. Taulbee is a great asset to our post,” states Operations Lieutenant Jennifer Sandlin. “She consistently goes above and beyond her required job duties. She takes a vested interest in her co-workers, as well as her community, and is very deserving of this award.”

                                             LT. Jennifer Sandlin and Melanie Taulbee 

Federal building in Louisville evacuated, no threat found

(AP) — Authorities evacuated a federal building in downtown Louisville because of a "suspicious package," but the all-clear was given about an hour later.

The Mazzoli Federal Building was evacuated around 11 a.m. EST. Media report that federal officials called in the Louisville Police bomb squad to investigate the package. The building was reopened shortly after noon.

Rob Sperling, a spokesman for Federal Protective Services in Washington said 
there was no evidence the package contained explosive materials, but it was investigated as a precaution.


Streets near the building were closed off, but the nearby U.S. District courthouse was not evacuated.

School readiness summit promotes young students' success

(AP) — Gov. Steve Beshear is speaking at Kentucky's first-ever School Readiness Summit at the Convention Center in Frankfort.

A release from the governor's office says the Wednesday summit is designed to help school districts, early learning providers and community organizations team up on promoting student success from birth through third grade.

Terry Tolan, executive director of the Governor's Office of Early Childhood, says too many school-age children are unprepared for the classroom.

Twenty-five teams were chosen representing 23 counties in Kentucky. Their teams include representatives from multiple areas including superintendents, librarians, preschool coordinators, higher education professionals and nonprofits organizations.


Governor: Marriage licenses in Kentucky county are valid

(AP) — Kentucky's outgoing Democratic governor says the state will recognize the marriage licenses that county clerk Kim Davis altered because of her religious beliefs.

Davis, the clerk in Rowan County, believes it would be a sin for her to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple. She believes it so fervently that she spent five days in jail earlier this year for refusing to obey a federal judge who ordered her to issue the licenses. Her office issued the licenses in her absence. When Davis got out of jail, she changed the licenses to remove her name and the name of the county.

The American Civil Liberties Union protested and asked a federal judge to make Davis reissue the licenses. In a court filing last week, Beshear told the judge he believes the licenses are valid.


Monday, November 16, 2015

Overhead utility work on US 23 to slow traffic between Penny Road and Rockhouse

PIKE COUNTY – Monday, November 16, 2015 – On Sunday, November 22, A&C Contracting will place overhead strand for East Kentucky Network across US 23 south from Penny Road to Rockhouse, just past KY 611, in Pike County.

Work will start at 6:30 a.m., weather permitting. There are six planned crossings. It is expected that each one will take 15-20 minutes, including 15 minutes to halt traffic and five minutes to pull the strand across the highway.


As soon as one location is finished, the contractor will move to the next site and repeat the process for a total of six overhead crossings. Delays will be brief, but motorists should be alert in the area between Penny Road and Rockhouse on US 23 and prepare to slow down and stop.

The latest in the federal trial of ex-Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship.

(AP) — The defense in the trial of ex-Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship has rested its case without calling a single witness.

Blankenship's lead attorney Bill Taylor stood before the court Monday morning and said "The defense rests," shortly after the prosecution closed its case. The announcements came after jurors heard testimony from 27 witnesses over roughly five weeks.

U.S. District Judge Irene Berger dismissed the jury until 9 a.m. Tuesday. She told the lawyers to report back to court Monday afternoon to discuss instructions to the jury.

Prosecutors asserted that the former coal company executive put dollars ahead of human safety in the years before the worst U.S. coal mine disaster in decades.


Prosecutors call Blankenship a micromanager who cared more about money than safety. His attorneys, meanwhile, used testimony from multiple prosecution witnesses to support his defense.

New Ag education unit heads to eastern Kentucky next year

(AP) — A new mobile activity center that will educate students about agriculture will be on the road to eastern Kentucky after the first of the year.

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer cut the ribbon to ceremonially launch the Eastern Kentucky Mobile Science Activity Center last week and says it's designed to negotiate eastern Kentucky terrain.

The 36-foot-long trailer is equipped with 10 iPad interactive workstations where students can conduct activities and investigations related to agriculture and the environment.

The center is one of three mobile units that travel to schools and events around the state.

The mobile units are administered by the Division of Agriculture Education and Outreach in the Kentucky Department of Agriculture's Office of Marketing.


Several agriculture groups helped purchase and outfit the mobile unit.

Police warn Kentucky drivers about deer hazards

(AP) — Its mating and hunting season for deer, and Kentucky State Police are warning motorists to be aware of the increased risk that brings.

The agency says about 1.6 million collisions involving deer and vehicles occur every year. The crashes cause about 150 deaths and $3.6 billion in damage.

Kentucky recorded 3,092 vehicle-deer crashes last year. That was up by 128 from the year before. Three people were killed and 115 injured.

Police say to be especially careful in the early-morning and evening hours, drive at moderate speeds, wear a safety belt, and use high-beam headlights unless there is oncoming traffic.


If you see one deer, expect there will be more because they often travel in herds. Police advise drivers who see deer to slow down and don't swerve.

Ex-Morgan Co. judge appeals guilty plea, prosecutors oppose

(AP) — A federal prosecutor has argued that former Morgan County Judge-Executive Tim Conley's appeal of his guilty plea should be dismissed.

Conley pleaded guilty in August 2014 to mail fraud in a scheme in which he took $130,000 in kickbacks from a contractor in the wake of a March 2012 tornado that killed six people in the county. Conley waived his right to appeal his plea as part of a plea deal.

In January, Conley was sentenced to seven years and three months in prison. Conley says he would have received a shorter sentence if prosecutors hadn't asked for even more prison time.


Prosecutors say a guilty plea can be reversed only if the court violates a substantial right of a defendant, something they say didn't happen in Conley's case.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Bevin announces inauguration events

(AP) — A Medal of Honor recipient will be the grand marshal of Gov.-elect Matt Bevin's inaugural parade next month.

Kentucky native Dakota Meyer was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2011 for his efforts to recover missing soldiers during a 2009 firefight in Afghanistan. He is the third living recipient of the highest military award in the United States.


Bevin's inaugural events will begin at 11:30 p.m. on Dec. 7 with a private swearing-in ceremony just after midnight. On Dec. 8 he will have a family worship service at Buck Run Baptist Church followed by a parade on Capitol Avenue beginning at 10 a.m. The swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol starts at 2 p.m. followed by a party and bluegrass festival at the Kentucky History Museum and the Inaugural Grand March in the Capitol Rotunda.

Son of '70 Marshall plane crash victim to speak at service

(AP) — The son of one of the dozens who died when a plane carrying the Marshall football team and staff crashed will speak at the annual memorial service.

Stephen Ward was only 5 when the plane crashed on Nov. 14, 1970, killing 36-year-old Parker Ward and 74 others. The Student Government Association conducts a memorial service each year on the anniversary of the crash, which this year falls on a Saturday. Since Marshall has a home football game at 3:30 p.m., the service will start at 10 a.m. rather than the traditional time of noon.


The service will be held at the Memorial Student plaza.

eFiling system for Kentucky courts now available statewide

(AP) — The Administrative Office of the Courts' eFiling system is now available statewide.

Jefferson County was the last county to be added since the system was introduced in December 2013.

The system allows lawyers to file court documents in any of the state's 120 counties without going to the courthouse.

The agency says the eFiling system brings state courts in line with federal courts, which have had online filing for years.


The state system was first introduced at a test site in Franklin County. Limited functions were tested there before the full program was implemented.

Beshear warns successor against scrapping Ky health exchange

(AP) — Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear is warning his Republican successor against dismantling the state's health insurance exchange, which has added thousands to the insurance rolls in a state plagued by poor health.

Beshear says the state would have to spend about $23 million in taxpayer funds to scrap the exchange, known as kynect, and transition to a federal exchange. He says insurance providers and the state's business community support kynect, which offers health insurance plans in accordance with the Affordable Care Act.

Beshear says kynect was "the most successful exchange in this nation." Last year, the state's uninsured rate dropped from just over 14 percent to 8.5 percent.


Gov.-elect Matt Bevin says kynect users can buy health insurance from the federal government's exchange. He says kynect "adds nothing of value."

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Alpha founder, other retirees object to benefits termination

(AP) — Alpha Natural Resources founder, chairman and CEO Michael J. Quillen and other retirees are objecting to the coal operator's plan to terminate their health care and other benefits.

In a Tuesday filing, the retirees say they haven't been provided sufficient time to analyze Alpha's plan and respond. They asked the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Richmond on Tuesday to delay a Nov. 17 hearing.

Bristol, Virginia-based Alpha asked the court on Nov. 3 to allow it to terminate the non-pension benefits of more than 4,500 non-union retirees, eligible spouses and dependents.

Quillen says in a news release that eliminating the benefits "goes against the values the company was built on."

Alpha filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Aug. 3. The company has operations in Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Wyoming.




Three dead after fatal crash in Buchanan County

Virginia State Police is investigating a single-vehicle fatal crash in the community of Buchanan County.

The crash occurred Wednesday 4:20 P.M. on Route 600 less than a mile west of Route 681.

A 2000 Volkswagen ran off the right side of the road as driver, Justin L. Blevins of Elizabethton, lost control of the vehicle. The car crossed back into the lanes, running off the left side of Route 600 and hitting a tree.

Blevins was flown to the Bristol Regional Medical Center for serious injuries.

Three passengers - Carmela M. Johnson and Blevins’ two sons – 5 year old Justin L. Blevins Jr and 3 year old Jonah Blevins died at scene.

Johnson was wearing a seat belt and the two children were in child seats.


The cause of the crash is under investigation.

US 460 at Millard re-opens this evening


US 460 at Millard, the site of a substantial rockfall on November 4, will re-open at 4:30 p.m. today, according to Darvy Hamilton, Superintendent of Highway District 12’s Shelby Maintenance Garage.

Hamilton said the last truckloads of rock should be hauled away by early afternoon, then the road will be swept and washed, which will take a couple of hours. The plan is to re-open the highway and remove the detour signs about 4:30 this afternoon.

Hamilton said that a huge amount of material was removed in addition to what fell on its own. “We could see that the hillside was unstable. We have removed tons of rock and other material, like dirt and trees, so that we could get the road back to a safe condition.”

Charlie Dale, Section Engineer for District 12, said that Hamilton’s crew and the state’s contractor should be commended for their hard work and expertise in fixing this site. “The rockfall was much larger and more complicated than it first appeared,” he said. “These people worked practically non-stop for more than a week to get the road open and make sure it is safe for traffic. They were even willing to work after dark, all night, but that just was not possible because the conditions were not safe.”

Dale and Hamilton both thanked everyone who was inconvenienced by the situation. “From school buses to tractor-trailers to personal vehicles, there were no doubt thousands of people who had to change their schedules and routes to accommodate the cleanup. We appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding,” Dale said.