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Janice Carol Hines age 68 of Pine Knot, mother of Thomas "Peanut" Hines and Michael Scott Hines, passed away Thursday February 23, 2017. Funeral services will be Monday at 8:00PM at McCreary County Funeral Home with visitation Monday after 6:00PM at the funeral home. McCreary County Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
(Updated Monday February 27, 2017 @ 11:15am)

A Thursday afternoon arrest included a variety of charges, mainly connected to the suspect's attempts to avoid being captured. 34 year old Christopher Loy of Whitley City was booked in the Leslie County Detention Center at about 2:00pm Thursday charged with assault third degree, which was assault on a police officer or probation officer. Additional charges included two counts of resisting arrest, fleeing or evading police 1st and 2nd degree on foot, and being a persistent felony offender.

It is no secret that McCreary County Government is facing a budget crisis with a projected shortfall of at least $300,000 and possibly more by the end of the fiscal year on June 30th. Fiscal court seems to be moving slowly to deal with the issue, having previously discussed making budget cuts and possibly raising taxes, but to date taking no real steps toward any action on the issue.

County Attorney Conley Chaney issued a letter to members of the fiscal court, dated last Thursday February 23rd, in which he begins by offering his advice on the matter including the recommendation that fiscal court conduct an internal audit of all claims, receipts, payments and other items related to the 2016-2017 fiscal year. Chaney indicates in the letter that a more detailed breakdown of all the costs associated with housing prisoners is needed, adding that he, through his attempts to audit the matter, “discovered that the budget documents provided are to deficient in detail” for the decisions the court needs to make on the budget.

Chaney adds that his concerns are not necessarily over the budgeting of funds or the use of funds, but more on the accounting of the funds and the information made available to the magistrates, who in the end have to make decisions of paying bills and balancing the budget, as well as to the public. He states in the letter that he recommends the court reevaluate the current “bill paying and bookkeeping process to ensure that it accurately accounts for how much time may be required to fulfill the duty” of balancing a budget.

The letter also calls attention to the fact that the county's Administrative Code, which helps govern how county government operates, calls for a budget committee, consisting of some court members, treasurer and county attorney, to meet and advise the court on the passing of a budget before the start of the fiscal year. That committee is also required to meet in a public, open setting, although such a budget committee has not really been used in many years by the county.

Chaney also calls out the issue of “under budgeting” for the year. This is something we previously reported on with Judge Executive Doug Stephens budgeting about $650,000 for housing of inmates with other counties, even when he knew the expense was likely to be more than that. That is something Judge Stephens has admitted in court, saying he based the budget on a “hope and a prayer.” County Attorney Chaney points out that he, and others, warned about that budgeted amount at the time and he says the court should over budget for these types of expenses, rather than under budget. Chaney adds that he does not see the jail expenses decreasing significantly any time soon.

Absent a special meeting to deal with budget concerns, the next gathering of the McCreary County Fiscal Court will be on Thursday March 9th at 6:00pm.

The full letter from County Attorney Conley Chaney to Fiscal Court members, which he submitted to media, can be found by clicking here.

*Note: the statewide tornado drill has been postponed to Friday March 3rd at 10:07am EST due to severe weather possible on Tuesday February 28th.
With spring time approaching, attention also turns to the possibility of severe weather which is normally seen with storms starting in March. Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin has signed a proclamation declaring March 1st through 7th as “Severe Weather Awareness Week” in the state. To prepare for the week, a statewide tornado drill is also scheduled for this Tuesday February 28th with schools, businesses and other locations across the state taking part at 10:07am eastern time. Warning sirens will sound in communities across Kentucky, weather radios will activate a drill, and media outlets around the state will also broadcast these drills at that time. You can find out more about how to prepare for severe weather by visiting the Kentucky Emergency Management website at www.kyem.ky.gov or by going to www.weather.gov or www.ready.gov.

The deadline is looming for public comments on the proposed study to determine whether the Us Army Corps of Engineers will begin charging entities including municipalities and water districts for water used out of Lake Cumberland. The Corps has proposed four alternatives include Alternative 1 which would continue the current status allowing entities to pull water from the lake without paying. The other three alternatives all include a measure for collecting for water used. The McCreary County Water District reportedly draws about half of its water supply from the lake, with the remaining water coming from the reservoir in southern McCreary County. That means the local water district could begin being charged for water it pulls from the lake under the proposal and could be forced to pass that on to its customers. Public comment on the study will be accepted until March 1
st, which is next Wednesday, by e-mailing CorpsLRNPlanningPublicCom@usace.army.mil or by visiting www.lrn.usace.army.mil online or www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps.

Following an incident last week in which a Wayne County school bus was shot at, apparently by a pellet or BB gun, a 19 year old man was arrested in connection with the shooting. Jonathan Gregory was charged with wanton endangerment first degree and criminal mischief third degree. Gregory has denied that he was involved in the shooting and even told media sources he was out of town at the time of the incident on February 15th. Gregory was lodged in the Wayne County Detention Center and a preliminary hearing has been set in the case for this Monday February 27th at 1:00pm in Wayne District Court. There were no injuries reported from the shooting at the school bus, although a driver, monitor and at least one student were on board at the time.

To emphasize the severity of observing the forest fire hazard season and avoiding starting fires that could spread, two 11 year old boys in Whitley County have been charged in connection with a fire they allegedly started this week. The grandmother of one of the boys told media sources that the fire was started accidentally Tuesday and that 911 was called. A sheriff's deputy responded along with fire officials and the fore was extinguished. Officials say the fire was close to a residential area and could have spread quickly, and did burn between 30-35 acres, according to investigators. The boys were cited by deputies for third degree criminal mischief and a violation of the fire hazard burning season law. The children were reportedly released to their parents but will likely have to appear in court to answer to the charges.

The Oneida Police Department reported the arrest last week of a McCreary County man on drug possession charges. It happened during a traffic stop with the vehicle pulled over for a traffic violation. 36 year old Jason Baird of Whitley City was a passenger in that vehicle and was arrested after officers say they found a syringe, meth residue, and four pieces of a Suboxone pill in the man's cigarette pack. Baird was charged with possession of meth, a schedule II controlled substance, possession of a schedule III controlled substance, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Organizers of the Master Musicians Festival in Somerset are preparing for the 24th annual festival in 2017. The dates for this year's musical event are set for July 7th and 8th on festival field on the campus of Somerset Community College. Festival planners have scheduled a lineup announcement party for this evening (Thursday February 23rd) starting at 6:00pm at Jarfly Brewing Company on West Mt Vernon Street in Somerset, Kentucky. The evening will include the announcement of the artist lineup for this summer's festival. You can follow announcements, ticket sales and other information about the festival online at www.mastermusiciansfestival.org or on their social media sites, including Facebook. Past performers at the Master Musicians Festival have included the likes of Darrell Scott, the Amazing Rhythm Aces, Sam Bush, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Willie Nelson and many others through the twenty four years of the event.

After McCreary County leaders have discussed options for easing the county's budget troubles, including the possible adoption of an insurance premium tax, one eastern Kentucky county approved such a tax this week. The Knott County, Kentucky Fiscal Court gave final approval to the insurance premium tax to help offset some budget shortfalls they are projecting. This came after county leaders there looked at several options including the insurance tax, an occupational tax, which McCreary County already has, and the possibility of shutting down some county services. Knott County leaders say the loss of coal industry revenue has hit their county hard in recent years but they hope to see an upswing in that industry at some point, which could ease some of the budget woes. Knott County is similar in size to McCreary County, listing just over 16,000 in population in the 2010 Census, compared to McCreary County which was abut 18,000. Knott County leaders expect to generate between $600,000 to $700,000 annually. That insurance tax excludes all health and life insurance.

McCreary County leaders are still looking at options for dealing with its budget problems, including making budget cuts and the possibility of an increase in the occupational tax. Judge Executive Doug Stephens commented at the most recent fiscal court meeting that he was backing off his initial plan to push for an insurance tax locally.

A Winfield, Tennessee man was arrested by Kentucky State Police in McCreary County Monday afternoon and was booked in the Leslie County Detention Center on sex related charges. Charges against 22 year old Nathan Hamby include sexual abuse first degree with a victim under age 12 and distribution of obscene matter to minors first offense. Hamby was booked in the jail in Leslie County at 7:45pm Monday.

Earlier in the day, 31 year old Rodney Cox of Pine Knot was picked up by the McCreary County Sheriff's Department for assault 4th degree, domestic violence with minor injury, and public intoxication of controlled substance, excluding alcohol. Cox was also lodged in the Leslie County Detention Center.

McCreary County School officials say the bad news is that a local school bus was involved in an accident Monday afternoon while taking students home from school. The good news, they say, is that there were no injuries reported to the students or driver on board. It happened at about 3:45pm Monday on Highway 90 when officials say it appears another vehicle side swiped bus # 1907, causing some damage to the mirror and side of the bus and forcing the bus into the ditch on the side of the road. The McCreary County Sheriff's Department responded, along with the local ambulance service and school resource officers. Again, school officials say there were no injuries reported to the bus driver or the students involved.

A joint effort of the National Park Service, the Explore Kentucky Initiative and the Yamacraw Run trail races will provide for a trail and river cleanup near the Yamacraw Bridge area in McCreary County next month. The cleanup is scheduled for Saturday March 25th with volunteers sought to help with the effort, meeting that morning at 9:00am at the Highway 92 Yamacraw Bridge river access parking lot, on the west side of the river off KY Highway 1363. Volunteers will clean the trails and river area until about 1:00pm and should wear sturdy boots or shoes, long pants and long sleeved shirts and bring water, insect repellent and gloves. Trash bags and trash grabbers will be provided for each volunteer. For information or to volunteer for the cleanup next month, contact Effie Houston, Volunteer Coordinator with the Big South Fork park, at 423-569-9778. More information is also available online (www.hikingproject.com/trail/7011610).

One man is dead and another is behind bars in connection with his murder in Pulaski County. It stems from a shooting incident this past weekend in which police say it appears 31 year old Erik Hardwick and 37 year old Josh Oakes argued and then fought before the gun was fired. Oakes was hit and was pronounced dead at the scene while a man hunt began for Hardwick. He was finally located and taken into custody Saturday morning. Hardwick was lodged in the Pulaski County Detention Center under $250,000 bond as the investigation continues by the Pulaski County Sheriff's Department.

After months of few updates and being called out by citizens for the lack of action, McCreary County leaders have now taken steps to update the county government website with current information. Under the “County Government” tab at www.mccrearycounty.com, online visitors will now find the current year budget for 2016-2017, as well as monthly financial statements and claims lists. Also available online is information on requesting public record information from county government.

The McCreary County Public Library Board of Trustees will meet this coming Thursday February 23rd, and one item that will appear on the agenda for their meeting will be the opening and reading of bids received for a new bookmobile. The library has posted legal notice that they are currently seeking bids for the new cargo vehicle to be used as the bookmobile to serve the community. The deadline for bidders to submit proposals is this Thursday at 4:00pm with the board meeting scheduled for 5:00pm. The library board did post that they reserve the right to either purchase a vehicle from one of the received bids or to reject any and all bids. Additional information on the project can be obtained by contact Library Director Kay Morrow or Operations Manager Debbie Lyons at the McCreary County Public Library.

McCreary Central High School Principal Sharon Ross-Privett announced that the high school's Junior ROTC program had a good showing during a competition this past weekend. The drill and Color Guard teams from the local high school took second place overall in the competition, with the program getting first place in squad drill and first place in quad inspection. The program also picked up a third place finish in the academics portion of the competition, while individual awards were presented to Kaitlyn Crabtree and Jessica Cox. The McCreary Central High School Junior ROTC program is nearing forty years in existence having been established in 1978 with the opening of the central high school.

An investigation is underway into a fatal house fire that took place Thursday evening. Kentucky State Police report that officials were called to the scene just after 8:00pm Thursday February 16
th on Childers Ridge Road near the Smithtown area of McCreary County. There they located a home that had burned and 70 year old Grover C. Abbot dead inside that home. Abbot was pronounced dead at the scene and the investigation continues into the exact cause of the fire. Police say they do not believe that foul play was involved.

A Pulaski County man was arrested late last week and was charged in connection with the sexual exploitation of children. The Kentucky State Police Electronic Crimes Branch reported the arrest of 28 year old Joseph Koger as the result of an undercover investigation in which Koger was allegedly found to be uploading images of child sexual exploitation online. He was charged with 20 counts of distribution and 99 counts of possession of matter portraying a sex performance by a minor. Each charge is a Class D felony and could carry a sentence of one to five years in prison if convicted. Koger was lodged in the Pulaski County Detention Center and the investigation is continuing.

McCreary County lost what could be called a “legend” of the local community and local politics and government with the passing last Thursday of former County Judge-Executive Jimmie W. Greene. Judge Greene passed away following a lengthy battle with various health issues at the age of 88. Jimmie Greene was born in May 1928 and graduated from McCreary County High School in the class of 1946, before enlisted in the US Air Force in 1947. After 24 years in the service, Greene retired in 1971 and returned to his home, McCreary County, to begin serving the local community. In the 1970s he worked for a time with the Pine Knot Job Corps before settling in as postmaster of the Honey Bee Post Office. His first run for political office was in the 1977 election when he won the office of County Judge-Executive. Judge Greene served one term and then lost his re-election bid in 1981, losing in the Republican primary to Robert Stephens who went on to lose in the General Election to Democrat Floyd Frasure. After overcoming his battle with alcoholism in the 1980s, Jimmie Greene ran successfully for office of County Judge again in 1989 and was re-elected in 1993, serving a five year term which was established for local office holders to allow those races to then fall in even numbered years. Greene won his fourth term as Judge-Executive, and his third consecutive term, in 1998 before opting not to run in 2002. Greene returned to the political spotlight running in 2006 and 2010 but coming up short in both Republican primaries. He also continued serving the community as Commander of VFW Post 5127 and as President of the McCreary County Chamber of Commerce in his retirement.

Jimmie W Greene served a total of 24 years in the Air Force and 17 years as McCreary County Judge-Executive. He passed away Thursday February 16, 2017 at the age of 88.

The boys' and girls' 48th district basketball tournaments are set to begin tonight (Monday February 20th). Both tournaments will be hosted at Southwestern Pulaski High School. Girls' action begins at 6:00pm with the McCreary Central Lady Raiders taking on the Wayne County Lady Cardinals, followed by the boys' opening round with the Raiders playing the Wayne County Cardinals at 7:30pm. The girls' championship game will be Thursday night at 7:00pm with the boys' championship Friday at 7:00pm. Again, both district tournaments will be hosted this week at Southwestern Pulaski High School.

With a projected budget shortfall of nearly a half million dollars possibly looming by the end of June, the McCreary County Fiscal Court is considering a possible special session to review its budget for cuts and options. Meeting last week, the court did not have any budget items on its agenda but did discuss the issue when raised during the “citizen participation” portion of the meeting. Judge-Executive Doug Stephens noted that the county's jail fund is facing a shortfall of about $300,000 with an additional $200,000 added to the projected shortfall from funds that must be paid back to the road fund from the county's general fund. That comes from the $200,000 county leaders borrowed from the road fund for insurance payments at the start of the fiscal year. That could add to the overall shortfall and bring it up to about $500,000 by the end of the year on June 30th. Judge Stephens reports that a special session of the court may be scheduled by the end of next week to discuss budget options with possible action, although a date and time have not yet been set.

Police in neighboring Wayne County are investigating a scary incident that took place Wednesday afternoon involving shots being fired at a school bus. Authorities report that the shots appear to have come from a pellet gun and may have struck the windows of the bus, which was occupied by the driver, a monitor and at least one student. It happened along Kentucky Avenue in Monticello as another student was apparently exiting the bus. The Monticello Police Department is investigating with assistance from Wayne County School Resource Officers.

This Monday February 20th is President's Day and the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area is offering free camping to celebrate. The park is offering free backcountry permits for February 20th, along with one night of free camping that date at Alum Ford Campground in McCreary County. Future dates this year that will include offers of free camping in the Big South Fork park will include April 15th & 16th and April 22nd & 23rd for National Park Week; August 25th for the National Park Service birthday; September 30th for National Public Lands Day; and November 11th & 12th for Veterans' Day. For more information on the free camping dates and locations, call the park at 423-286-7275 or visit www.nps.gov/findapark/feefreeparks.htm.

Farmers market season is just around the corner, and organizers of the McCreary County Farmers' Market are getting ready for another year of selling. The local market is sponsoring a special meeting on Monday March 6th at 5;00pm at the McCreary Center of Somerset Community College which will include a presentation by Sharon Spencer with the Kentucky Proud program. She will discuss marketing and answer questions about selling at the farmers market. One attendee will win a free season set up at the McCreary County Farmers' Market in 2017 as a door prize. Applications for the farmers' market are available at the McCreary County Judge-Executive 's Office or the McCreary County Extension Service Office. For information or to sign up for the March 6th meeting, call the extension office at 376-2524. The local farmers' market is scheduled to be open starting in May, running through October this year.

We previously reported on the “Give Me A Reason” efforts which is sponsored by Appalachian High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, along with Operation UNITE and Champions for a Drug Free McCreary County. The initiative is aimed at providing free drug testing kits to parents and guardians as a way of ensuring that their child or teen is not using drugs, while also giving the youth the ability to tell peers they cannot take drugs because they may get tested. Roger Owens, with the local Champions/UNITE chapter, called in on a recent “McCreary Issues” radio program and reported that since starting the program a few months ago, more than one hundred (100) drug testing kits have been given out locally. Owens added that a new shipment of kits was recently received and that kits can still be picked up free of charge at several locations. You can call Roger Owens for information on the “Give Me A Reason” program and other services of Champions/UNITE at 606-310-0193.

The spring forest fire hazard season officially began on Wednesday February 15th and will run through April 30th in Kentucky. Forestry officials remind residents that during the season it is illegal to do any outdoor burning within 150 feet of any woodland or brush land except after 6:00pm or when snow covers the ground. You should also be sure to attend all fires until fully extinguished to avoid fires spreading and you should be aware of weather conditions, such as drought or wind speeds and directions, as well as any local burn bans which may be issued for the area. The forest fire hazard seasons in Kentucky run from February 15th through April 30th and from October 1st through December 15th each year.

As a fee office, the McCreary County Clerk's office operates through the year on fees it collects rather than getting taxpayer dollars to cover its budget. At the end of the calendar year, which is also the office's fiscal year, the clerk turns over any excess fees not spent to the county. Last week, during the February meeting of the McCreary County Fiscal Court, County Clerk Eric Haynes announced he was handing over $24,100 in excess fees from calendar year 2016. That represents 90% of his excess fees for that twelve month period, with the remaining excess fees to be turned over once his office completes an audit for 2016.

Since county leaders approved payment of $7,000 to cover a violation cited by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), there have been questions and rumors about the exact source of that violation and how much was actually involved. During the most recent fiscal court meeting, one citizen questioned county leaders asking if rumors were true that the county had been given warnings with no action taken and if the amount of the violation fine was actually $21,000, but was negotiated down to $7,000. To clarify the issue, Road Supervisor Roger Moore stated that OSHA had not given any warning but cited the county upon inspection for not having an eye wash and shower at the road garage. That included a fine of $3,500, with an additional $3,500 fine levied for a violation involving an apparent out of date Haz-Mat manual on site. Moore said both issues were corrected within a couple of weeks and the total $7,000 fine was paid by the county.

The 17th annual Spring Planting and Music Festival will be held Saturday April 29th in the areas around the Bandy Creek Visitor Center on the Tennessee side of the Big South Fork. The event includes old time planting demonstrations, old time crafts, music and more with free admission to the public. Event organizers are currently seeking demonstrators, musicians, crafters and other volunteers to help make the festival a success this year. For information on getting involved in the event, contact Park Ranger Bill Herman at 423-286-7275 or the park's volunteer coordinator, Effie Houston, at 423-569-9778. You can also visit the Big South Fork park website at www.nps.gov/biso.

Three separate applications for Kentucky Homeland Security grants moved forward last week with resolutions of support for the projects from the McCreary County Fiscal Court. The first resolution was in support of a grant for new heart monitors for the county's ambulance service, which Director Jimmy Barnett said would allow his department to replace heart monitors that have been in use the past several years for the latest models. Barnett is also submitting an application for grant funding for a new clock for the 911 dispatch center which he said will synchronize all clocks and systems in the dispatch center for correct timing. The third grant being sought by the county from the state's Homeland Security department is for 25 body armor vests, which Emergency Management Director Stephen McKinney said would replace vests for all staff of the McCreary County Sheriff's Department, constables, and court security. McCreary County has been fairly successful in the past in obtaining Homeland Security grants, including the most recent award for power stretchers for the ambulance service.

Since the start of this school year, McCreary Middle School has been led by an interim principal, who came from his post as an assistant principal at the high school. A notice sent out to parents of middle school students last week indicates that the principal position at the middle school will soon be posted by the school district for applicants to seek the post. A link was also sent out to parents to complete a “Survey Monkey” survey on the qualities that parents feel are most important in a new school leader. The notice requests that the survey be completed by today (February 14th) for consideration. There has been no set date announced on when the position will be filled.

Area high school seniors are probably counting down the days until graduation and making pans for their life after high school. For many, that means going on to a post-secondary program and thinking about how to pay for that next step. Each year, Highland Telephone Cooperative offers graduating seniors the chance to compete for $1,000 scholarships which can help with some of the expense of furthering their education. This year, HTC will award a scholarship for each of its board members and seniors in the area who have Highland Telephone service are eligible to enter with a deadline of 5:00pm March 17, 2017. Applicants should complete a 500 word, double spaced essay on “Technology for Telecommunications” and submit to the Sunbright, Tennessee office by that deadline. Scholarship recipients will receive their award by mid-May and can use the $1,000 to be reimbursed for eligible expenses at the post-secondary institution of their choice for the next school year. For more information, stop by a Highland Telephone office or visit highlandtel.net before March 17th.

In anticipation of a spring reopening for the hospital in Scott County, Tennessee, officials announced last week that a new name for the facility has been selected. This comes after the company set to reopen the hospital took suggestions from members of the Scott County community. The hospital will open as “Big South Fork Medical Center” and will reportedly provide emergency and other essential medical services to the region, including serving surrounding communities, such as McCreary County. The company also announced that they will begin accepting applications from those seeking employment at the hospital starting on March 1st and will be announcing a web portal for an online application process. Information and updates can also be found on Facebook by searching for “Scott County Community Hospital.”

After passing an ordinance a few months ago that would add more court costs for certain legal proceedings, the McCreary County Fiscal Court took the first step Tuesday night toward rescinding that ordinance. It was first thought that fees collected from the measure could come back to the county, and might at least in some small way help with the budget shortfall faced by the county. However, since that time county leaders have learned that those fees go to the state, and specifically to the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), to help with maintenance on court facilities. With no additional revenue coming back to the county, the court passed the first reading of an ordinance Tuesday night to rescind the original ordinance and cancel those additional fees. The move now requires a second reading, which could possibly come at a special fiscal court meeting, reportedly being planned for sometime in the next couple of weeks. There has been talk of imposing additional court fees on county inmates to help offset some of the jail expenses faced by the county, but officials have said the issue would be collecting those fees since many inmates end up being jailed for non-payment of fines.

The Kentucky Auditor's office recently released their audit findings for the McCreary County Sheriff's Department fee account for the calendar year of 2015. Unlike county government in general, the sheriff's office operates on a fiscal year that is the same as the calendar year, running from January 1
st through December 31st. 2015 was the first year with Randy Waters as sheriff and is the most recent audit report available. The report identifies one issue, which is seen in almost every small office audit issued, which is a lack of proper segregation of duties. That essentially means the department does not have the staff to divide duties when it comes to collecting and accounting for money. In addition, the audit says the sheriff did not maintain accurate receipts and disbursement ledgers or reconcile them to quarterly financial reports. There was no response from the sheriff to the issues listed. The full audit can be found by searching “Local Government” audits at

McCreary County Sheriff Randy Waters has released additional information on the arrests made by his officers Wednesday night. The arrests, according to Sheriff Waters, came as the result of an investigation into suspected drug trafficking activity. The sheriff's department utilized a confidential informant to enter a home and make drug purchase attempts as part of that investigation. On Wednesday, the department reports responding to a vehicle fire on Alum Road, where they also reportedly found their informant who claimed he had been taken and held against his will by the suspects. Arrest warrants were obtained for those believed to be involved and officers executed those warrants later that night, taking several into custody on a variety of drug charges, in addition to other offenses.

Ryan Wilson age 32 of Whitley City was booked for unlawful imprisonment, criminal mischief, assault and possession of controlled substance for meth; Gregory Norris of Winfield, Tennessee was arrested locally for possession of controlled substance for meth, tampering with physical evidence, resisting arrest, menacing, disorderly conduct, and driving under the influence; Billy Correll age 39 of Monticello was charged with unlawful imprisonment and assault 4th degree; Darrel Koger age 53 of Stearns was booked for possession of controlled substance for meth; Brittany Coffey age 28 of Strunk was arrested for unlawful imprisonment, criminal mischief, and assault; and Alisa Slaven age 45 was jailed for possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of controlled substance for meth and possession of marijuana.

An additional arrest was made in connection with this case Friday morning (February 10th). 27 year old Rambo Garland was apprehended and charged with unlawful imprisonment and assault 4th degree, in addition to some traffic offenses.  

The McCreary County Sheriff's Department is investigating the case and says additional arrests are pending.

With the budget shortfall facing McCreary County, some citizens have been raising questions and suggesting areas that they feel the county could make cuts. One such area is the health insurance provided to county employees. During this week's McCreary County Fiscal Court meeting, a question was raised specifically about the $2,000 flexible spending account cards provided by the company “Febco” and paid for by county government. Magistrate Roger Phillips addressed the question by providing the numbers on what that and other health insurance provided to county employees actually costs, and what he says is actually saved by the county with their current plan compared to other plans that would be possible.

The numbers provided show that there are 69 county employees provided coverage and that the county's contribution toward health insurance is $428.90 per month or $5,146.80 annually per employee. The $2,000 “Febco” card provided helps employees with costs such as deductibles and co-pays and is provided by the county for its full time employees at a cost of $166.66 per month per employee, paid by the county. Figures show that 45% of that came back to county government last year from not being used by the employee. The total cost of the card to county government for all employees is $138,000 annually, but again 45% of that came back to the county.

At a recent fiscal court meeting, a citizen who is also a state employee noted that she pays for her health insurance and that the county could do the same to save money. Numbers have also been obtained concerning health plans provided to state employees, actually showing that the standard, individual health plan includes an employer contribution of $629 per month. Meaning, if the county took a plan similar to that provided to state employees, instead of the current $520 per month per employee it would cost $629 per month, an increase of more than $100 per month, or $1200 annually, per employee. The $520 figure is the employer contribution for health insurance plus the cost of the $2,000 “Febco” card, minus the 45% that came back to the county last year.

County leaders have argued that providing health insurance and benefits for county employees is a good idea because it provides incentives over the pay, which has not increased for county employees in several years, and helps keep employees in the county rather than seeking jobs in other counties.

The January session of the McCreary County Grand Jury included the indictment of more than a dozen suspects on a variety of charges. Whitley City resident Darryl Vanover was charged with fleeing or evading police and wanton endangerment first degree; Matthew Sumner of Pine Knot was indicted for possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia; Matthew Dixon of Pine Knot was charged with criminal abuse first degree, for allegedly intentionally abusing a minor; and Donald Stephens of Pine Knot was indicted, along with Orville Daugherty of Parkers Lake, for possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. Stephens was also charged with driving under the influence of intoxicants in the case.

Other indictments last month included Stephen Jones and Brianna Jones of Parkers Lake for trafficking in a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of a Legend Drug, and possession of controlled substance. Jones was also charged with driving under the influence and resisting arrest, according to the indictment. Elmer Messer and Willie Messer of Parkers Lake were indicted for criminal mischief and theft by unlawful taking. Aaron Baord of Strunk was charged with receiving stolen property over $500; Carolyn Brassfield Gibson of Pine Knot was charged with criminal possession of a forged instrument and being a persistent felony offender; and Jamie Gregory of Stearns was charged with rape second degree for allegedly engaging in sexual intercourse with a minor less than 14 years of age. Kristopher Bennett of Pine Knot was charged by the grand jury with sexual abuse first degree for allegedly subjecting an individual to sexual contact by force.

Listeners are reminded that an indictment by the grand jury is not a finding of guilt, but is a formal charge against a suspect in a case.

The state of Kentucky, in an apparent attempt to cut their budget in the Transportation Cabinet, will no longer send out reminders to motorists when their driver's license is about to expire. The decision was made last year and went into effect this past fall, meaning when your license is set to expire in the future, you will be on your own in terms of remembering to have it renewed. State officials say the move will save about $250,000 annually. Motorists are reminded to check the expiration date listed on your license and keep track of the date to avoid having your license expire.

A Whitley County man landed behind bars Monday after officers spent most of the day searching for him. This came after he allegedly beat and shot his girlfriend and then held her against her will this past weekend. 53 year old Michael Morris has been charged with assault and unlawful imprisonment and police say the woman involved sustained serious injuries after being shot twice, once in the arm and once in the leg. Morris then allegedly held her and would not allow her to seek help until the following day. The woman was listed in stable condition at UK Medical Center in Lexington, while Morris was jailed on the charges.

With some court members attending training this week, the McCreary County Fiscal Court had to move their regular February session up two days, meeting Tuesday evening with a full house in attendance. The meeting consisted of mainly routine business until the end, when “Citizen Participation” appeared on the agenda and a venting of concerns and questions began by many in the room and lasted well over an hour. The jail quickly became a major issue of local residents' frustration as the court, and specifically Judge Executive Doug Stephens, was asked by citizen Lonnie Creekmore about why he allowed the local jail to close. Creekmore said Judge Stephens “slept” and the jail closed and caused many of the budget woes facing the county now. He asked what the county's plan was originally for dealing with inmates or did they think once the jail closed there would be no more inmates. Judge Stephens responded that he and the court were doing all they could leading up to the jail's closure in January 2013 to comply with the state's requirements for improving the jail. He added that the jail did not close because it was in disrepair or dirty, but instead because of lack of proper management, including measures for inmate and staff safety. That seemed to point the finger of blame squarely on the former jailer, who was responsible for the overall management of the jail and its day-to-day operations.

Another citizen noted that the reason the county now has to transport inmates so far away is because of bills that have gone unpaid at closer jail facilities. Stephens said there have been times in the past the county may have gotten further behind on payments than the thirty days recommended by auditors, but added that the county has never not paid a bill and that the county is currently up to date on all those bills.

On the issue of the jail's actual closure, Judge Stephens said eventually after a period of improper management (by the former jailer), the state advised the county not to spend another dime on the facility because it would be closed. Magistrate Roger Phillips added that state officials at the time told the county if it was closed by the court, they would work with the county to try to reopen the facility in the future. However, if the state had to get a circuit court order closing it, it would never reopen.

In reality, given current state standards and regulations, it is unlikely the old jail building will ever reopen. County leaders explained that the state's minimum number of beds allowed for a new jail facility is 150 and estimates have been given that it could cost in excess of $10 million to build a jail. With an average of about 70 county inmates being housed at a given time, that would leave plenty of beds to house state or even federal inmates, which the county could get paid to oversee. However, state leaders have told counties not to count on those inmates because there is no guarantee they will get them or for how long. With a brand new jail, it is estimated the jail budget would jump to about $2 million annually with financing the debt of the new facility and all the operating costs. With a current jail budget expected to hit just over $1 million, and the county facing a budget shortfall already, it seems unlikely the county could shoulder that kind of budget increase with a new source of revenue.

The discussion, which was really more of a venting of complaints, displeasure and frustration on the part of local citizens, continued for some time, with people talking over each other at many times. The meeting did not include a look at possible budget cuts, as was previously anticipated, but Judge Stephens said a special session of the court will likely be held within the next couple of weeks to deal with that issue. He noted that the court will look hard at budget cuts before looking at any form of tax increase or new tax. No date has been announced yet for that special session.

We will have more on this week's fiscal court meeting on future “Daily Update” reports.

We previously reported that a large call center was looking to possibly locate a facility in neighboring Whitley County. Sources have now confirmed that Senture Call Center is coming to Williamsburg, as the town's mayor, Roddy Harrison, tells media that the company has chosen the former Wal-Mart building for its new center which will reportedly create up to 500 jobs in the near future. The pay for the jobs will range from a starting pay of about $10 per hour up to $15 per hour. Applications are currently being taken from those in the region who may be interested in seeking employment with the new call center, which could open this spring. A meeting was recently held at the McCreary County Public Library for local residents interested in getting information on employment opportunities and submitting a labor survey to the company. McCreary County Judge-Executive Doug Stephens noted that only about five people actually attended that meeting. However, those interested in jobs at the call center can still visit the Senture website or can find information on the Whitley County Government website at

You may remember previous reports that the US Army Corps of Engineers may start requiring water districts and other utilities and municipalities to pay for water taken from Lake Cumberland. There was concern that these entities would see a major increase in their expenses due to that requirement and that it could be passed on to customers. Those concerns were eased some when Congressional leaders included language in the Fiscal Year 2017 Appropriations Bill for Energy and Water Development that would have halted funding for the study that is needed before the Corps of Engineers could begin charging and collecting for water usage. However, with Congress not passing the appropriations bill for the year, and instead passing a short term spending plan to keep government functions going, the funding has not actually been blocked.

In fact, the Corps of Engineers Nashville District sent a letter recently to the municipalities and utility districts, including the McCreary County Water District, giving notice of plans to move forward with the assessment that could eventually lead to those entities having to pay for the water drawn from Lake Cumberland. McCreary County's Water District reportedly gets about half of its water from that source, through the Big Creek plant, and about half comes from the reservoir located south of Stearns. If the local water district did have to begin paying for water used from the source, it could significantly increase the water district's costs and could be passed on to local customers.

The Lake Cumberland (Wolf Creek Dam) water supply project impacts a number of water supply users including the McCreary County Water District, City of Albany, City of Burnside, City of Jamestown, City of Monticello, City of Somerset, Woodson Bend Resort, General Burnside Island State Park, Kingsford Manufacturing, Eastern Kentucky Power and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Several alternatives are listed in the scope of the project study, with the assessment and public comment to be used to help the Corps of Engineers determine the best option moving forward. Alternative 1 calls for a continuation of the current situation with no fees for water supply use, while the other three alternatives would impose fees on users.

Public comment is being sought on the project and will be accepted for up to thirty days from the date of the letter sent to the various entities involved, which was January 27, 2017. Comments can be e-mailed to CorpsLRNPlanningPublicCom@usace.army.mil or can be mailed to Mr. Chip Hall, Department of the Army, Nashville District Corps of Engineers, 110 9th Avenue South, Room A-405m, Nashville, TN 37203.

The Stearns District of the Daniel Boone National Forest has announced that public comment is being sought on the proposed Greenwood vegetation management project. An environmental assessment on the project's benefits and any impact on the environment and habitat for the region has been prepared and released for public viewing by the US Forest Service. The project involves a total of more than 32,000 acres of national forest lands, located in northern McCreary County and southern Pulaski County with most proposed activities called for over the course of a four to six year period. Included in the proposal is more than 10,000 acres of prescribed burning, wildlife opening management on 75 existing openings, and construction of 38 wildlife water sources in the area. The proposed project area does encompass the Beaver Creek Wildlife Management Area, which is an area jointly managed by the US Forest Service and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. Forest officials say the vegetation management plan calls for actions that are needed to improve the overall forest structure of the area and to improve habitat for wildlife for the long term. The environmental assessment for the Greenwood project is available online at www.fs.usda.gov/projects/dbnf/landmanagement/projects. Written comments on the proposal should be submitted within thirty days of the public notice, which will appear in The McCreary County Voice newspaper. For additional information on the project or on submitting comments, contact Tim Reed, Chief Ranger with the Stearns District, at 606-376-5323.

It may still be winter, but baseball and softball season is just around the corner, and the McCreary County Little League Association is getting ready for the 2017 season. Meetings of the group's board and coaches have already begun and sign-up dates have been set for players wishing to participate this year. Those dates begin on Saturday February 18th, and will be followed by sign-ups each Saturday through March 18th, from 10:00am to 2:00pm each of those days. The locations for the sign-up events have not yet been announced by league officials. Divisions will again this year include wee ball, tee ball, coach pitch, minor league and major league, as well as the girls' softball division. Additional information can be found by following the McCreary County Little League Facebook page online.

In addition, lights are reportedly being installed this week on one field at the McCreary County Park, in anticipation of some night games and possible tournament games at the facility starting this year. The lights are being funded through dedicated park funds through county government.

A McCreary County pair found themselves in jail in Scott County, Tennessee late last week facing drug and theft charges. Scott County media sources are reporting that 28 year old Heather Morrow of Stearns and 29 year old Veronica Cooper of Pine Knot were arrested as the result of an investigation into stolen goods, allegedly taken from the Wal-Mart Super Center in Oneida. Police claim the two were caught leaving the store with the stolen items and when they stopped the women they found a number of items in their vehicle not on the receipt that the suspects provided. Police also found syringes, several small bags and glass vials of drug residue inside the vehicle. Both suspects were arrested and charged with theft less than $500 and possession of drug paraphernalia. They were lodged in the Scott County Jail following their arrests. The investigation is being conducted by the Oneida Police Department.

One issue that has plagued county government for years is the management of the small business revolving loan program, which started with USDA grant funding as a way of supporting local, small businesses with creation and expansion. The primary goal of that program from the start was the creation of additional jobs in the local community. Over the years, a number of loan recipients have failed to keep up with payments on their outstanding loans and county leaders have struggled with how to deal with that issue. McCreary County Judge-Executive Doug Stephens was on this week's “McCreary Issues” program on WHAY Radio and was asked about the next step in collecting what is owed to the county, after a list of delinquent load holders was recently published in the local newspaper. Judge Stephens noted that those with outstanding loans that are not currently making payments need to contact his office to arrange for renegotiation and a payment plan to avoid further legal action. On the question of where the county's revolving loan program currently stands, Judge Stephens said he hopes to see more loans made soon, but that the program is facing restructuring. For more information on the county's revolving loan program for small businesses, contact the McCreary County Judge-Executive's Office at 376-2413.

The 2017 photo contest is underway sponsored by the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. Each year, the park accepts entries in a number of categories and displays entries and winners at several venues later in the year. Categories for entries include Action/Adventure; Artistic; Cultural; Flora and Fauna; Kentucky Landscapes; Tennessee Landscapes; and Youth, for those under age 18. All photos submitted must be digital and each person may enter only two photos for the competition. The entry deadline is July 3, 2017 and each entry must be accompanied by a completed entry form. Those forms can be downloaded from the park website by going to www.nps.gov/biso/photosmultimedia/biso-photo-contest.htm. Entries may be e-mailed to biso_information@nps.gov or mailed to Big South Fork Park Headquarters, Attention: Photo Contest, 4564 Leatherwood Road, Oneida, TN 37841. For more information on the 2017 photo contest in the Big South Fork, visit the website or call 423-286-7275.

Kentucky State Police issued a public notice Monday about a call they received over the weekend on a missing McCreary County man. They said that 33 year old Joshua Roberts had been reported missing after he was last seen on Thursday January 26th. An update to that notice was released late Monday afternoon with Kentucky State Police saying that Roberts had been located and was safe and unharmed. No additional details were released about the incident by police.

A former deputy of the McCreary County Sheriff's Department was honored recently with a special award in his new position as a Wayne County deputy. Joe Horne received the “2016 Governor's Impaired Driving Enforcement Award” for reportedly executing 38 out of 68 arrests for driving under the influence by his department between October 2015 and September 2016. Deputy Horne was nominated for the award by Wayne County Sheriff Tim Catron and was awarded the honor by Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin. Horne began his law enforcement career with the McCreary County Sheriff's Department about fifteen years ago and has been with the Wayne County Sheriff's Department since July 2015.

The “McCreary Issues” radio program on WHAY aired last night and featured discussion on the budget shortfall and jail issues facing McCreary County. County Attorney Conley Chaney spoke about those issues and the responsibility he feels to try to work on the jail and inmate housing struggle that is being faced. Chaney noted that in order to really deal with the current jail crisis in a meaningful way, a change in state laws and regulations is needed, adding that he and other county officials are working with state leaders to do just that. Chaney also spoke about ways to cut the number of inmates transported and housed by McCreary County, which would help cut the budget and ease the burden on taxpayers. One way that could be done, with proper laws to support the effort, would be the use of community service. The full interview with County Attorney Conley Chaney was heard on the “McCreary Issues” program and can be found through the links below:

County Attorney Conley Chaney Interview Part 1

County Attorney Conley Chaney Interview Part 2

County Attorney Conley Chaney Interview Part 3


During their regular monthly meeting last Thursday, the McCreary County Board of Education welcomed a new member to the group. Dustin Stephens will serve the 3rd educational district of the county, replacing Roxanne Shook who opted not to run for re-election this past November. Stephens, along with Nelda Gilreath and Debbie Gibson, who were both re-elected this past year, was sworn into office during the meeting last week by County Attorney Conley Chaney, who officiated the ceremony. All five school board members were also recognized by School Superintendent Mike Cash for “National School Board Recognition Month”, which is January each year.

The McCreary Central High School Raider Academic Team took second (2nd) place overall in the recent District Governor's Cup Competition. Principal Sharon Ross-Privett congratulated the team for their success, saying that the school also took first place in “Future Problem Solving” with students taking part in that category including Aaliyah Ridner, Kelsey King, Erin Wilson, and Katelyn Duvall. Other students on the team placing included Andrew Hacker, 1st in Language Arts; Lucas Worley, 1st in Science; Dawson Lynch, 2nd in Math; Jonathan Ball, 2nd in Social Studies; Erin Wilson, 2nd place in Arts & Humanities; Hunter Johnson, 4th in Social Studies; Hope Anderson, 4th in Composition; Caleb Jones, 5th in Social Studies; and Kelsey King, 5th place in Math. McCreary Central hosted the competition this past Saturday.

The Whitley County wife and mother charged in connection with the murders of her husband and two teenage daughters had a not guilty plea entered on her behalf late last week. It happened in a Laurel County court, due to conflicts listed with Whitley County judges. Courtney Taylor appeared on video conference sitting in a wheelchair, suffering from injuries she suffered during her apprehension from police, after she allegedly pointed a gun at officers. Taylor's attorney entered the not guilty plea for her in connection with the shooting deaths of her husband, Larry Taylor, and their daughters, a 13 year old and 18 year old, on January 13th in the family's home. The judge accepted the not guilty plea and set bond at $1 million. The woman's attorney asked for a lower bond, but that motion was denied. Taylor is currently being held in the Whitley County Detention Center.

The latest unemployment rates released by state officials are for the month of December 2016, and they show an improvement in the jobless picture for McCreary County from December 2015 to December 2016. A year ago, the rate of job seekers was at 8.7% and that dropped by more than two percentage points for December 2016 to 6.5%. That was slightly higher than November's rate of 5.8% for the county. It should be noted that unemployment rates only indicate the number of active job seekers in the market and do not take into account those who may have stopped looking for work for various reasons. Kentucky's lowest jobless rate in December was recorded in Oldham County at just 2.9% while the state's highest rate was seen in Magoffin County at 13.5%. The unemployment rate for both Kentucky and the nation was 4.5% in December.

A late night incident kept local law enforcement busy Wednesday in McCreary County, and ended with a local man dead and a Tennessee man being charged in connection with the death. Kentucky State Police report that a call was received from the McCreary County Sheriff's Department requesting help from the KSP just before midnight Wednesday. The initial call was related to a kidnapping report, but officers soon learned that 40 year old Gary L. Roberts of Pine Knot was last seen leaving his residence with 25 year old Kenneth Mullins of Hunstville, Tennessee, traveling at a high rate of speed in a pickup truck. Roberts' body was found a short time later on the roadway near Century Lane in Pine Knot and he was pronounced dead at the scene. The victim's body was reportedly sent to the State Medical Examiner's Office for autopsy, and the exact cause of death is pending the outcome of that examination. Further investigation led to an arrest warrant being obtained Wednesday morning for Kenneth Mullins, and he was located and taken into custody in Oneida, Tennessee, charged with manslaughter. KSP Detective Eric Moore is leading the investigation, with assistance from KSP Troopers, McCreary County Sheriff's Department, McCreary County Coroner's Office and the Oneida, Tennessee Police Department.

A Kentucky couple found themselves behind bars in Scott County, Tennessee this week facing drug related charges, as well as charges of child neglect. Authorities in Scott County reported that 35 year old Toby Eldridge of Parkers Lake and 31 year old Lucinda Ball of White Oak, Kentucky, were arrested Tuesday after officers allegedly spotted them trying to use drugs as they drive along on Alberta Street in Oneida. After the couple's car was stopped for weaving and swerving, officers say they found drugs, drug paraphernalia and even urine inside the car. Investigators believe the urine was to be used at a clinic in case they requested a drug test. The couple was allegedly trying to obtain prescription medications from that clinic. In addition, a small child was also in the car at the time, leading to child neglect charges against the pair. Both were also charged with a variety of drug related charges including possession of a schedule II controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, and violation of a drug free school zone. The child was handed over to a family member, while Eldridge and Ball were taken to jail.

What was scheduled as a special meeting to allow members of the McCreary County Fiscal Court to ask representatives from the Department for Local Government (DLG) for their advice on dealing with the current projected budget shortfall, quickly turned into an evening of protest and frustration for local citizens. It began before the start of the meeting as a group of citizens marched in front of the courthouse with signs, saying no to any new or higher taxes. Inside, the Thursday evening session had to be moved as it became apparent that the fiscal courtroom would not be large enough to seat the many attendees who were present. The meeting soon convened in the larger circuit courtroom down the hall, where the scene was nearly standing room only.

After the meeting was called to order, Judge-Exececutive Doug Stephens introduced two representatives from DLG who gave a general statement related to the fact that county government must have a balanced budget at year's end and may not end the year in the “red”. As court members questioned DLG on options, they were essentially told the only options for dealing with what seems to be an unsustainable budget situation would be make cuts or raise taxes or a combination of the two measures. They were further told that if the county does not balance its budget by June 30th, the state will take control of the county's “checkbook” and will make decisions on what bills to pay and services to fund, until such time as the budget can balance.

One service asked about was the ambulance service, to which DLG responded they would not shut down a life essential service such as that. Other things that could be cut from the budget, whether done by local court members or by the state on June 30th, would include the funding for three sheriff's deputies, the county park, tourism spending, and other projects and non-essential service. DLG told the court that some of the mandated services that could not be cut included the housing of inmates, constitutional officials salaries and debt service for the county. On the issue of elected officials salaries, it was noted that some are set by the state including the judge-executive, county clerk and sheriff. When questioned, court members noted that the magistrates can vote on their own salaries, but it was noted that any change would not take effect until the start of the next term.

Many citizens in attendance became frustrated Thursday night when told that DLG could not legally respond to questions from the public, but instead were there to answer the court's questions. That did not stop many citizens from trying to ask questions over the objection of Judge Stephens.

Finally, the DLG representatives were dismissed and court members continued the meeting by answering citizen questions, many of which focused on their opposition to new taxes, specifically an insurance tax, saying the people of the poorest county in the nation could not afford more taxes.

In the end, no decision was made Thursday but court members expressed their desire to look for budget cuts first, before moving forward on any new or higher taxes. The next meeting of the McCreary County Fiscal Court is Tuesday February 7th at 6:00pm. The court meetings are normally Thursdays, but court members will be attending a conference and had to reschedule next month's meeting.

The number one issue facing McCreary County government and causing the financial crisis for the county is the jail situation and inmate housing. That was the point of the proposed insurance premium tax we reported on previously, as all funds from the tax have been proposed to go into the jail fund. So, where does the county actually stand in terms of finances and on the matter of potentially getting a jail locally? Prior to the jail closing four years ago, the county's jail budget had increased from about $600,000 annually, seen several years earlier, to more than $800,000 at the time of the closure. Much of that increase had been blamed on rising medical costs for inmates and on changing regulations from the Department of Corrections which required at least 16 jail staff on rotation to keep a full staff at all times. Judge-Executive Doug Stephens has claimed that even if the old jail had remained open, with recent changes in regulations which would now require the county to have at least 24 deputy jailers on staff, the annual cost to operate the jail would be nearly $1.5 million. Under current conditions, with no jail locally and having to transport and house inmates in other counties, the estimated cost to provide for inmate housing each year will be about $1.1 million, a savings according to Judge Stephens. Not included in that calculation, of course, is the fact that families of inmates have to travel to visit or bond out inmates; inmates who may bond out quickly from a local jail are now having to be transported and house out of county, at county expense; and the jobs that would be created from having a local jail do not currently exist.

Many have said the county should build a new jail facility. To do so, the county would have to finance the construction of a facility, with some estimates putting that cost at at least $10 million to have a building up to Department of Corrections standards and with the needed housing capacity to get it approved by the department. There is some talk that with state government recently acting to exempt government and school projects from having to pay the prevailing wage, the county could save a substantial amount on building a jail. Judge Stephens said the county's borrowing capacity is currently $9 million, meaning that is the maximum the county can borrow for any reason. If the county borrows that full amount to build a jail, it would then not be able to borrow for any other reason until paying some of that debt down.

It has been estimated that if the county builds a new jail, which of course can only be done given Department of Corrections approval, it would cost about $1.5 million annually to operate that jail, including all staffing costs, inmate housing, food, medical and other related expenses. Added to that would be an estimated $500,000 for debt service to pay off the financed amount for building the jail, bringing the total jail budget to about $2 million annually. Judge Stephens has argued that with the current jail budget of just over $1 million already causing a major financial crisis within county government, the thought of a $2 million annual budget would be hard to manage. If an insurance tax could actually bring in about $1 million a year and could be dedicated to the jail fund, that would certainly help with the issue, but the county would still likely struggle unless some additional revenue could be realized. There is some possibility that state inmates could be housed at a local jail and that would provide some additional revenue, but the state has told counties not to count on that because there is no guarantee from them of numbers of inmates available.

A number of other options are reportedly being discussed including entering into an agreement with another county, possibly Whitley County, for a long term contract for housing McCreary County inmates. That could require Whitley County to build on to its jail and would then require McCreary County to commit to housing its inmates there at a daily cost. Regional jail options are also being discussed, but no definite plans seem to be in place at this time.

The Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area is currently accepting entries for their fourth grade student art contest for 2017. Entries can be made from students in McCreary and Wayne Counties in Kentucky, as well as Scott, Fentress, Morgan and Pickett Counties in Tennessee. Students can complete any activity in the Big South Fork park and then draw a picture of something they learned from that experience on an 8 1/2” x 11” piece of white paper or cardstock paper. This can be done using crayon, paint, marker, color pencil, or pencil. Students should then print a voucher at www.everykidinapark.gov for a free pass to parks. Art contest entries must be submitted along with the voucher no later than April 3, 2017 by dropping them off at Big South Fork park headquarters or by mailing to the Big South Fork, 4564 Leatherwood Road, Oneida, Tennessee 37841, Attention: 4th Grade Art Contest. Entries will be displayed during the 17th annual Spring Planting and Music Festival on April 29th at the Bandy Creek Visitor Center, where visitors can vote for the “People's Choice Award.” For more information on the contest, call Daniel Banks at the Big South Fork at 423-286-7275.

The families of a McCreary County couple spent much of this past weekend worrying about what may have happened to their loved ones. It was reported that Haylee Malone and PJ Ross had not been seen or heard from by family since Friday night and that a missing persons report was filed with law enforcement over the weekend. Media reports and social media posts confirm that the couple contacted family members Sunday night and were said to be safe, although full details of their disappearance were not available.

For the second time, McCreary County Fiscal Court has published a list of loan holders who are delinquent in paying back funds to the county borrowed over the years from the small business revolving loan program. Some of the loans date back more than ten years with very little paid back on the balance of the loans. Some businesses are no longer in operation, some loans have been written off after the holder filed bankruptcy, but others are still in business and owe thousands of dollars to the county's loan program. The latest list includes those who owe balances and have not taken steps to make payments toward their debt, with further legal action needed by the county. The list, appearing last week in The McCreary County Voice newspaper, includes:

Marcum's Pressure Washing, owned by David Marcum, for a loan taken out in 2006 for $21,000 with a balance of more than $20,500 remaining;

Phil's Auto Repair, owned by Phil Dahlstrum, for a loan taken out in 2010 for $51,428 and a remaining balance of more than $44,500;

Sugar High Cakes & Confections, owned by Crescent C. Kidd, for a loan taken in 2012 for $25,000 and a balance remaining of more than $22,500;

Bethel Mower Repair, owned by Bobby K Jones, Sr., for a loan taken out in 2005 for $5,000 and more than $3,000 still owed;

Jack Winchester for a loan from2 006 for $5,000 and a balance of more than $4,000;

and M& L Mini Mart, owned by William Michael Jones, with the loan taken out in 2013 for $40,000 and a remaining balance of more than $39,400.

County leaders note that the balances do not include any interest which has accumulated on the accounts and also add that these represent those loan holders who have not made an effort to pay off their loans in some time.

One citizen asked Judge-Executive Doug Stephens during last week's special meeting of the McCreary County Fiscal Court if a county employee still had an outstanding loan through the county, as was previously reported in an audit as well as local media. Judge Stephens said the loan is still outstanding, but that the county employee in question has taken steps to make payments on that loan.

The revolving loan program was established by the county to help provide funding to local, small businesses to start or expand. Many of those businesses may have been considered “high risk” and not able to get loans through traditional means.

For at least the third time in the past several months, the issue of an insurance premium tax came before the McCreary County Fiscal Court. It came during a special session Friday morning which was attended by several concerned citizens. Following the routine welcome, roll call, Pledge of Allegiance, and prayer, there was only one item on the agenda and that was the first reading of the insurance tax ordinance. Before asking for any motion on the issue, Judge-Executive Doug Stephens outlined his thoughts on why the county is in the financial position it is and why the tax is needed. According to Judge Stephens, the county is facing at least a $350,000 shortfall in the current fiscal year budget, brought on in large part due to the jail budget and the ever growing cost of housing inmates. Judge Stephens noted that while only $650,000 was budgeted for the year for inmate housing costs, it appears the county will top the $1 million mark in that line item by June 30th. He said that the budget presented and approved prior to last July 1st was based on a “hope and a prayer” with county leaders “hoping” that they could curb the housing bill through several options, but that has not happened. In addition, Judge Stephens admitted that the county had to present a balanced budget to the state prior to July 1st last year and that the numbers were used to make that happen, even if they were not completely realistic.

In contrast, the county must actually balance its budget by the end of the fiscal year on June 30th and is not allowed by law to end the year with a deficit. If that were to happen, Stephens said, the Department for Local Government from the state level would shut county government down and would make the decision on what bills to pay and what services to fund. This would be especially concerning since county government is not mandated by law to have certain services, such as an ambulance service or 911, meaning both could be on the chopping block if the state took control of the finances at year's end.

Judge Stephens said he had looked at all possible cuts in the budget, excluding those things mandated by the state such as animal control, emergency management, housing inmates, solid waste coordinator, and a road supervisor, and also excluding things he deems as “essential” such as the ambulance service and 911. He said taking all of that into consideration, any cuts that could be made this fiscal year would be a small fraction of the overall shortfall and would not solve the county's financial crisis.

Discussion included comments and questions from citizens and went on for about an hour and a half covering everything from ways to cut inmate housing expenses like more home incarceration, to why the county needed two deputy judge-executive positions. On that matter, Judge Stephens explained that by combining his deputy with finance officer and cutting the other deputy position to limited hours as part time, the county is actually saving money. This is explained by replacing the previous two full time positions with one full time and one part time position. It was also noted that neither deputy take the county provided insurance.

Back to the issue at hand, the insurance premium tax proposal, Stephens explained that it would be a 7% tax on insurance premiums charged directly to the insurance company and passed on to the insured. State law exempts certain premiums from being taxed, according to Stephens, including group health insurance for state employees; insurance provided to an individual through an employer, including county government; workers' comp; annuities; federal flood insurance; public service companies; and others. Again, Stephens said those exemptions are provided by state law and would not include, for example, county employees or elected officials buying home owners, auto or other types of insurance outside of their jobs. In addition, life insurance would be taxed on new policies for the first year only.

Discussion included concerns from citizens over health insurance bought individually being taxed. County leaders said they would be willing to also exempt all health insurance from the proposal, but were unsure how that would impact overall collections. It was estimated the county could generate as much as $1 million annually from the tax, if passed as presented.

Judge Stephens said another stipulation in the ordinance is that all money from the insurance tax be deposited and used by the jail fund, to help offset the growing expenses there.

Magistrate Jason Mann made a motion that the first reading of the tax be approved, but at 5%, excluding all health insurance, and with the condition that the money be dedicated to building a new jail. He said he could not support the tax if the end result was not getting a jail for the county. Judge Stephens argued that by making that motion, it would restrict those funds and that they would not be able to be used for any purpose other than building a jail, including the cost of transporting or housing inmates under the current situation. He said that would do nothing to ease the financial strain on the county now. Mann stood behind his motion, but the proposal received no second from the court and did not move forward. Magistrate Duston Baird then moved that the tax issue be tabled until a scheduled special session this Thursday January 26th at 6:00pm, at which representatives from DLG (Department for Local Government) will be on hand to discuss with the court possible budget options. That motion passed and the issue was tabled until this week's meeting.

After receiving a grant in excess of $20,000 through Homeland Security, the McCreary County Ambulance Service is now set to get two new power stretchers after a vote last Thursday night to approve a bid. The county received three bids for two stretchers ranging from a low bid of $21,696.87 to a high bid of $27,000. EMS Director Jimmy Barnett said that while a company called “Striker” had the high bid, his service has used their products with no issues before, while having problems from units from the other companies. Barnett recommended going with the Striker units, which the court approved. It was noted that the balance after the grant pays for the majority of the bill will be paid out of the dedicated Ambulance Service equipment fund.

Area musicians wishing to get exposure for their music have an opportunity to do that with the upcoming 2017 Spring Planting and Music Festival in the Big South Fork park. The event is set for Saturday April 29th at the Bandy Creek Visitor Center in Tennessee and will include a full day of music, crafts, demonstrations and more. This will be the 17th annual festival in the Big South Fork. Musicians or musical groups interested in performing traditional styles of music, such as Appalachian, bluegrass and old time country, for the festival, can contact Lauren Kopplin for information at 423-569-9778. Campsites will also be made available to approved volunteers for the festival.

A new online report is not good news for McCreary County, which has been ranked in the report as the “poorest county” in the United States. The online site 247wallst.com released the report based on median annual household incomes from the US Census Bureau's American Community Survey. According to the data, McCreary County's median income was $19,328, well below the state's median income of just over $43,000. The report implies that the low income levels are tied directly to the educational levels of residents, including the fact that only 7% of county adults have a bachelor's degree, while the nationwide average is 30%. McCreary County's poverty rate is listed at 41%, far higher than the national poverty rate of 15.5%. The report lists the poorest counties in each state of the United States, with McCreary County taking that spot for Kentucky as well as nationwide. The richest county in the US was listed as Loudon County, Virginia with a median annual income of more than $123,000.


Several small business owners or former owners still owe loan payments to McCreary County from its revolving loan program and have failed to work out payment plans with the county. A list of delinquent loan recipients was published in the local newspaper several months ago with another round of publications due this month. Magistrate Roger Phillips asked Judge-Executive Doug Stephens during last week's court meeting if the list had been published yet, to which Stephens said it had not but would be this month. He said there are a total of five individuals to be listed in the publication. All others, according to Judge Stephens, are either current on payments or have negotiated payment plans with the county. With only two more publication dates in January for The McCreary County Voice, including today (January 19th) and next Thursday January 26th, time is running out to comply with the court's order to publish the list this month.

In an update and clarification to a story we brought you earlier this week, 31 year old Shea Coffey of Strunk was jailed in the Leslie County Detention Center last Thursday on manslaughter and reckless homicide charges. We first reported that a DUI charge was included in his booking, but that count was dismissed. Coffey entered into a plea agreement which resulted in his sentencing last week. He was sentenced to two years behind bars on the reckless homicide charge and five years in prison for manslaughter 2nd degree.

This case stems from the October 2014 traffic crash on Highway 27 in Pine Knot which claimed the lives of 68 year old Palace Anderson and his son, 47 year old Samuel Anderson. Investigators said at the time that Coffey had crossed the center line of the highway and struck the vehicle occupied by the Andersons.

Two wrecks last Tuesday in McCreary County involved the possibility of chemicals being spilled. McCreary County's Emergency Management Director Stephen Mckinney said during last week's Fiscal Court meeting that the first wreck was Tuesday morning as a tanker truck tried to turn onto Wiborg loop, heading to the water treatment plant, but could not make the sharp turn and overturned. Mckinney said there was no spill from that incident but crews worked for hours to clear the scene and get traffic moving again. Late Tuesday evening, a truck carrying orange juice and milk overturned on Highway 27 at the Pigskin/East Appletree intersection, south of Stearns. About thirty gallons of diesel fuel did spill from that truck and a large amount of the milk in the truck was also spilled. Mckinney said that was a concern because it was so near the water reservoir and milk can have very bad affects on a water system. Haz-Mat crews were called in and were able to get the scene cleared with EPA approval by Wednesday morning. Mckinney also noted that insurance coverage for those involved should cover all costs for the cleanup effort, with no cost seen to the county.

The regular meeting of the McCreary County Fiscal Court held last Thursday included a discussion on the county's occupational tax. After first rejecting the idea of increasing the tax from 1% to 1.8%, at least for the rest of the calendar year, the court discussed the tax further during the “citizen participation” portion of the meeting. One citizen voiced her displeasure with the fact that the court had voted a few years ago to put all revenue from the tax in the General Fund, rather than continuing with the practice of dividing it into various project areas. Judge-Executive Doug Stephens explained that the move was done after a recommendation was delivered by auditors and the Department for Local Government to do so. He added that by putting the money in individual funds, those funds may have plenty of money available but the county may be unable to pay basic bills, since the money could not be transferred out of those funds for general use. However, he said money can be transferred from the General Fund to other funds as needed.

Discussion also led to the questioning of Tax Administrator Stephanie Tucker on what action is being taken to ensure that those who should be paying, actually are paying their share. Tucker said anytime she learns of an individual or business who is not paying, she sends them notice and asks them to comply. If they do not comply, she then can send them a court summons and take further action. She said a number of summons are currently being prepared and will be delivered soon to the sheriff's department to be served. An estimate was given that between 60-70 individuals are currently delinquent in paying occupational taxes. Tucker did note that many who were not paying were federal employees who did not have the tax deducted from their pay. There is now an option in place that allows those employees to voluntarily have the tax deducted, and she said many have started doing that.

Tucker reminded citizens who may work as contractor laborers or otherwise receive a “1099” tax form for work done in McCreary County, that they are required to file a return with her office. Anyone with questions about the occupational tax can contact the tax administrator by calling 606-376-1322 o e-mail stephanie@mccrearycounty.com.

Two McCreary County men were booked on theft related charges in neighboring Scott County, Tennessee in what appear to be separate cases last week. 36 year old Adam Hill of Stearns was jailed Thursday morning after he allegedly stole two pocket knives and a necklace from the Wal-Mart Super Center in Oneida. Police say Hill left the store with the stolen items and headed north but was stopped by an officer in Winfield after an alert was sent out to watch for his vehicle. The traffic stop came only after Hill allegedly tried to speed away from officers, but eventually did stop and was arrested. Hill is facing the charge of theft under $500 and evading arrest and was lodged in the Scott County Jail.

The previous day, 23 year old Tarence J. Jeffers of Revelo was arrested by Oneida Police for allegedly taking two all terrain vehicles, clothing and other goods from a home and businesses in Oneida. He was lodged in the Scott County Jail facing charges of theft over $1,000, theft under $1,000, burglary, felony evading and criminal trespassing. Both cases are being investigated by the Oneida Police Department.

It was announced at the end of last week that the sale of the Oneida Hospital building and facilities has been completed from Pioneer Health Services to Rennova Health, Inc. The hospital closed last year as Pioneer filed bankruptcy, but the new owners are hopeful they can reopen the medical center this coming spring. In fact, Tony Taylor, who was retained as CEO for the facility, told sources late last week that the plan is to open the hospital by this April. That depends on a number of factors, however, including receiving the proper certifications and license to operate. Taylor says he hopes the hospital will be able to offer many of the same services it did before, including 24 hour a day emergency service, general in-patient care and outpatient diagnostic and lab testing.

The McCreary County garbage transfer station in Stearns enters a new era starting today (Tuesday January 17th) as county government takes over full management of the facility. Previously, Scott Solid Waste had operated the station, including having an office locally to accept payments as well as bulk item drop-offs and those taking part in the $1 per bag program. Now, county government is operating the station and is still taking garbage for $1 per bag, plus offering disposal of truck or trailer loads of bulk items to be paid for by the load. McCreary County Fiscal Court recently took action to place Community Service Coordinator Cody Vanover as manager of the transfer station, while also overseeing the county's litter abatement and recycling programs with help from part time workers. Vanover said starting today the transfer station will be open Tuesday through Friday from 8:00am to 4:00pm and will be open the first Saturday of each month from 8:00AM-12:00PM. He and his crew will use Mondays to collect cardboard and other items for the recycling program.

A shooting incident just after 10:00pm Friday night in neighboring Whitley County reportedly left three people dead. Police say it happened just off US 25W near Williamsburg and investigators say they believe the victims were shot in their beds, because there was no sign of struggle. Larry Taylor and his two children, 18 year old Jessie Taylor and a 13 year old, were all killed in the shooting and deputies found Taylor's wife, Courtney Taylor, at the home with a pistol in her hand. After she allegedly failed to comply with demands from officers that she lower the weapon, an officer fired, striking and injuring Courtney Taylor. She was transported to UK Medical Center in critical condition as officers stayed behind at the scene to piece together details of the tragic domestic killing. Authorities say charges will be filed against the woman as the investigation continues.

A McCreary County man found himself behind bars Thursday morning on various charges, after being arrested by Sheriff's Deputy Odell Smith. 27 year old Jessie Cain of Pine Knot was charged with assault 4th degree for domestic violence with minor injury, disorderly conduct 1st degree, resisting arrest and public intoxication for controlled substance. Cain was transported to and lodged in the Leslie County Detention Center on the charges.

It would be hard to argue that McCreary County has ever faced as tough a budget crisis as it is currently, with County Judge-Executive Doug Stephens saying that a deficit of at least $350,000 is expected by the end of the fiscal year, with few options in sight to deal with that shortfall. During Thursday evening's regular meeting of the Fiscal Court, Judge Stephens presented two options, one for dealing with the revenue shortage in the short term and one for looking at the crisis in a more long term way. However, both options included significant tax hikes, including one new tax, on local citizens, and that was something magistrates were not willing to do at this point. The first proposal was a temporary increase of the occupational tax from the current 1% to 1.8%, which could mean an extra $800,000 annually. The proposal would only put the increase in place through the end of calendar year 2017, after which it would revert back to 1%. Judge Stephens said that would allow the county to climb out of the hole it is in for the current fiscal year and start a new fiscal year on solid footing. That ordinance proposal did not receive a motion or second from magistrates, and thus no action was taken on the move.

The second proposal was in the form of a new insurance tax which Judge Stephens said could generate about $1 million annually. He proposed dedicating that money to the jail fund, with those expenses being the biggest issue currently facing the county budget. Again, magistrates failed to make a motion on the ordinance, meaning no action was taken on the insurance tax and the proposal died.

All of this came after Judge Stephens opened the floor to the court to discuss possible solutions to the budget problem, including possible budget cuts for the current fiscal year. Magistrate Jason Mann moved that the issue be tabled until a representative from DLG (Department for Local Government) can come from Frankfort to discuss with the court the budget crisis and any possible solutions. That motion passed and Judge Stephens said he would coordinate a special meeting for sometime next week, dealing with the budget, any possible cuts, and any other options for generating more revenue.

We will have more on this month's regular meeting of the McCreary County Fiscal Court during our Monday “Daily Update” report.

Four individuals are facing charges officially after being indicted by the McCreary County Grand Jury during their final session of 2016. The December meeting of the grand jury resulted in an indictment against Christopher Loy of Whitley City for assault 3rd degree, resisting arrest and fleeing or evading police, related to a struggle he allegedly had with a sheriff's deputy back in September. Loy was also charged with being a persistent felony offender. Devan Jones of Whitley City was indicted this past month for flagrant non-support for failing to provide more than $15,000 in support payments for his minor children. Jones was also charged as a persistent felony offender for previous burglary and theft convictions. Other indictments included charges of flagrant non-support, totaling more than $24,000, against Lorne Keith of Lexington and flagrant non-support for more than $8,000 against Steven Jones of Whitley City. Steven L. Jones was also indicted as a persistent felony offender. Listeners are reminded that an indictment by the grand jury is not a finding of guilt in a case, but is a formal charge against a suspect.

There has been talk for the past couple of years about a recreational development project at the Laurel Creek Reservoir in McCreary County, including the creation of trails and recreational facilities. That project may be about to move forward as the US Forest Service is currently accepting public comment on the project. While there has been no public notice, news release or information provided to local media about the public comment phase, including no notice to this radio station, the comment period reportedly began last month and now has less than a week remaining. The project is a joint effort of county government, the Forest Service, McCreary County Water District, Department of Fish and Wildlife, Pine Knot Job Corps and McCreary County Tourism. The effort is aimed at increasing outdoor trails and recreational opportunities in the county and would establish hiking and mountain biking trails around the reservoir area just south of Stearns. McCreary County Fiscal Court would be responsible for construction of trails as well as maintenance, but The McCreary County Voice reports that the local tourist commission is working to create volunteer groups to help with maintenance. Again, with little public notice, the US Forest Service is currently accepting comments from the public, both individuals and groups, about the proposed project. Those comments must be submitted by next Tuesday January 17th and can be submitted by faxing to 606-376-3734, mailing to Stearns Ranger District 3320 Hwy 27 North, Whitley City, KY 42653, or by calling the office at 606-376-5323. The office is open weekdays from 8:00am to 4:30pm.

The proposed trail at the reservoir would reportedly be between 36-60 inches wide and about 1.75 miles long, with just over a mile of that within the national forest. A 55 foot bridge would also be constructed, according to The Voice reporting, with that structure on land owned by the McCreary County Water District.

This Friday January 13th will be the last day that Scott Solid Waste will operate an office at and management of the garbage transfer station in Stearns. As part of the new agreement with the county, the company will stop operation of the station but will continue residential and commercial solid waste collection and disposal services in McCreary County at the same rate seen in the previous franchise agreement, including $15 per month for regular residential. McCreary County Fiscal Court met in special session last Thursday with one item on the agenda being the operations at the transfer station after January 13th. One issue raised was individuals who pay the regular garbage bill to the company but still deliver their trash to the transfer station. While there are not many residents who fall into that category, Magistrate Roger Phillips said it is still an issue for some. County leaders and Scott Solid Waste agreed to allow the county to collect the regular rate from those residents who can deliver their trash to the station in Stearns, along with those who want to do the $1 per bag program, and the county will then pay Scott Solid Waste to collect and dispose of the dumpsters located there.

The court discussed and then voted to place Cody Vanover, current community service coordinator who oversees litter abatement and recycling for the county, as manager of the transfer station. The county will pay Vanover an additional $3,000 per year for the added responsibility, with his salary and benefits paid in large part from a litter abatement grant and revenue from the recycling program. Part time employees currently working for the county with litter abatement and recycling will also assist with operating the transfer station. The court also ordered that the transfer station be kept open at least some hours on Saturdays to accommodate those who work and are not able to get there during the week.

Bulk items will still be accepted at the transfer station and will charged by the load. Scott Solid Waste customers will still get one free truckload of items per year with their paid account. Through Friday January 13th, that free load can be delivered to the transfer station in Stearns, but after that date would have to be delivered to the landfill in Oneida, Tennessee. Scott Solid Waste will continue mailing bills to customers who can pay by mailing payments in or by phone using credit or debit cards. You can also visit their office in Oneida to pay a bill or set up online payments at www.wasteconnections.com. After January 13th, payments for regular garbage collection service will not be accepted at a local office.

Scott Solid Waste will begin running trucks an hour earlier starting on Monday January 16th, and reminds customers to have trash out by the roadside by 6:30am to ensure pickup. Also, be sure your 911/physical address is visible from the roadway as that will be used by drivers to verify paid customers, instead of the previous sticker program.

During last week's special court meeting, county leaders questioned Carl Towns of Scott Solid Waste about any reduction in rates that could be seen if collection participation rates increase in the county. While a set number was not given, it was noted that rates would go down with any significant increases in the numbers of households served in the county. County leaders did not elaborate on any plans or ideas to actually increase that rate.

Local law enforcement officers were busy this past Thursday with several arrests reported, including 40 year old Jamie Gregory of Stearns who was nabbed by Kentucky State Police Detective Billy Correll. Gregory was arrested and lodged in the Leslie County Detention Center on the charge of rape second degree (no force) and for non-payment of fines. Kentucky law defines rape second degree as either sexual intercourse with a person under age 14 or a person who is mentally incapacitated.

Other arrests last Thursday included 43 year old Christopher Jones of Stearns who was arrested by sheriff's deputy Odell Smith for cultivating marijuana 5 plants or more, 1st offense, and 29 year old Nancy Doran of Pine Knot who was picked up on a series of charges. Those included trafficking in a controlled substance 1st degree, 1st offense for methamphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of a controlled substance, criminal possession of a forged instrument 3rd degree and non-payment of fines. All suspects were lodged in the Leslie County Detention Center.

Meeting in special session last Thursday, the McCreary County Fiscal Court discussed budget issues facing the county and any possible solutions. Judge-Executive Doug Stephens started the discussion with concerns over the costs of transporting and housing inmates, something that is far from new and has been discussed at length by county leaders for the past few years, but with no real solution to the problem. Judge Stephens said the county is looking at a budget shortfall of at least about $350,000 by the end of the fiscal year in June. He acknowledged when questioned by Magistrate Roger Phillips that while the county's budget calls for $650,000 to be set aside for housing inmates for the year, the total will actually reach about $1 million. That does not include the cost of transports, such as the transport officers pay, as well as gas and maintenance for transport vehicles. Stephens said the housing bill for last month alone was about $85,000.

Magistrate Phillips asked why ankle bracelet home incarceration is not being used much, while it seems many other counties are making use of such programs. County Attorney Conley Chaney said part of that stems from one particular case where the home incarceration system actually ended up allowing a defendant to get off with no actual jail time served for a fairly serious offense. He added that the court system is using home incarceration but has to look at its use on a case by case basis.

The court was also asked about a recent decision to add more fees onto court costs including such filings as civil cases and probates. While the court had approved the measure a few months ago, it was noted by Circuit Clerk Othel King as well as Wanda Worley from the sheriff's office that those fees had not begun being added. Judge Stephens said he would follow up on the issue to see if he needs to take additional steps to ensure the order is recorded. It was unclear how much additional revenue could be generated by the move.

In continuing discussion on the county's budget woes, Magistrate Phillips said he would like to see the county cut every expense possible before he would vote for any tax increase or any new taxes. Judge Stephens noted that there are few options for making additional cuts, to which Phillips questioned why the county needed two deputy judge-executives. He further stated that the county currently pays the salaries of three full time deputies and said if worst comes to worse, the county could look at making those officers county police officers which would allow them to be used for inmate transports in addition to regular duties, which could cut some cost from transport expenses. Magistrate Phillips indicated all options should remain on the table for trimming the budget, before taxes are raised.

Taxes that were mentioned during the meeting included an insurance tax, with Judge Stephens saying that due to reporting requirements the earliest the county could see any money from that, even if they move in the next couple of months to approve such a tax, would be next fall. The restaurant tax was also mentioned again by court members but there is still serious question on whether that option is legal for county government. Even if approved, those tax dollars would go directly to the tourist commission and would not directly help the county's general fund or other budget areas.

No action was taken by the court on the budget during the special session.

The McCreary County Fiscal Court met in special session Thursday morning with three items on their agenda. The court voted to hire Richard Stephens as the county's new public facilities maintenance technician, replacing James Jones who vacated the post after several years. Stephens will receive an annual salary of $27,500 per year plus benefits, but Magistrate Roger Phillips said because he is a licensed electrician and plumber, it could save the county money in some areas. The court spent most of the special session dealing with the management of the garbage transfer station and on budget issues facing the county. We will have a complete report on the meeting during Monday's “Daily Update” report.

Officials with the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area have announced the planned start of a contaminated mine drainage remediation project this week. The park contains more than 100 abandoned mine openings as part of the historic coal mining operations in the area and the project is aimed at dealing with the human safety hazards and environmental issues produced by these mines. Park officials say that to ensure visitor safety and resource protection, temporary trail closures will be in effect in the Blue Heron area starting in January and lasting until next spring, approximately in April 2017. Construction equipment will be staged at Blue Heron starting in late December through the remediation project for the next several months. Trails that will be closed temporarily starting January 6
th will include the Blue Heron Loop Trail, Laurel Branch Horse Trail, and Big South Fork River Horse Trail ford at Blue Heron on the west side of the river. For information on the project and trail closures, call the park at 423-569-9778.

A new, major tourism event is coming to McCreary County in fall 2017. The organizers of the annual “Yamacraw Run” trail race, held each spring locally, are now coordinating to offer the “No Business 100” trail run in October of this year. The event will allow extreme trail racers to take part in a course that will go a total of over 103 miles as a loop going south into Pickett State Park in Tennessee and then heading back into Kentucky and through the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. Registration for the event opened on January 1
st and those interested can register or get more information online at www.nobusiness100.com or by looking up the event on Facebook. You can also contact the McCreary County Tourism office for details at 376-3008. The event this fall is expected to draw hundreds of people to the area including those racing, as well as family, friends and spectators.

A McCreary County woman found herself behind bars Monday evening, charged with several offenses including operating a motor vehicle while under the influence. 57 year old Diana Cordell of Stearns was picked up by Kentucky State Police, and also faces charges of wanton endangerment 1st degree, reckless driving, disorderly conduct and other traffic offenses. Cordell was transported to and lodged in the Leslie County Detention Center.

A McCreary County man was arrested and jailed Tuesday morning on drug related charges. 32 year old Brock Byrd of Revelo was officially booked into the jail in Leslie County at 4:55am Tuesday, charged with possession of a controlled substance 1st degree for methamphetamine. Earlier in the morning on Tuesday, Kentucky State Police had picked up 55 year old Christon Cooper of Whitley City, charging him with DUI, careless driving and other traffic charges. At the same time, 36 year old Stephanie Lanter of Parkers Lake was jailed for public intoxication, menacing, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

Kentucky State Police are reporting that highway fatalities in 2016 were up compared to previous years. While the official tally is still pending all data from various law enforcement agencies across the state, authorities say there were about 50 more fatalities on the state's roadways compared to 2015. The death toll reportedly topped off at more than 800 for the past year, the first time in eight years that the total has been that high, according to state police. The numbers actually show that highway fatalities have been increasing from 638 in 2013 to 665 in 2014 and then to well over 700 in 2015 and now over 800 in 2016. Police are looking at the data to see what contributed most to the highway crashes and fatalities and will work with local law enforcement and others to try to reduce those numbers moving forward.

McCreary County School officials have announced that local bus # 1602 was involved in an accident Monday afternoon just before 4:00pm on West Highway 92. They report that the McCreary County Ambulance Service, Kentucky State Police and other responders checked the driver and all students and there were no injuries reported. They confirm that a vehicle apparently bumped the rear bumper of the bus.

Emergency crews responded to a gasoline spill near Somerset on Friday and reported that between 400-500 gallons of the fuel apparently spilled into Hidden Creek. The area is near Slat Branch and Oak Hill Road and the incident was reported to authorities at about 12:30pm Friday afternoon. The driver of a tanker truck had reportedly been filling the tank when the nozzle came loose from the intake and began spilling gasoline at a rapid pace. Witnesses said the gas spread over about a half mile area in the creek before the spill was stopped. Fire crews responded along with a Hazmat team, which eventually took charge of the scene and the cleanup effort. No injuries were reported from the incident, but officials say there were environmental and property damages. At last word, authorities were telling residents of the Somerset area that it was safe to drink water from the tap.

According to social media posts by the McCreary County Ambulance Service, more than 4,000 runs by EMS personnel were recorded during 2016. 4,305 runs were reported during the year, breaking down to an average for nearly 360 runs per month by ambulance crews. The local service also began its non-emergency transport program last year, allowing the service to run transports for hospitals, nursing homes and individuals of a non-emergency nature, and allowing the service to bill for those runs to bring in additional revenue. It was estimated at the beginning of the program by EMS Director Jimmy Barnett that the program could bring in as much as $300,000 per year in additional revenue.

Police in neighboring Whitley County say a woman who was responsible for caring for an elderly man there was actually stealing the man's prescribed medications. The case was opened last week when officers were called to Baptist Health Hospital in Corbin where staff were caring for the man who they say should have had prescription drugs in his system, but there was no recent trace of the medications. Police investigated and determined that 59 year old Jessie Collins was allegedly taking the medications from the man. Collins had reportedly moved in with the 77 year old victim to care for him after her own home had apparently burned down. A search turned up at least three different prescription pain medications in Collin's purse. She was arrested and charged with several offenses, including knowingly abusing or neglecting an adult person, illegal possession of drugs, and possession of a controlled substance. Collins was lodged in the Whitley County Detention Center, where she remained at last check. The Whitley County Sheriff's Department is conducting the investigation.

After no increase in payments for Social Security recipients and federal retirees for 2016, millions of Americans will see an increase in monthly payments in 2017. The federal government announced that the cost of living adjustment (“COLA”) will result in a .3% increase in payments starting this year. While many want to either give credit or blame the President for the amount paid out in Social Security and federal retirement payments, under federal law the cost of living adjustment is actually set based on a government measure of consumer prices and inflation. The adjustment will reportedly impact about 70 million Americans, roughly 1 in 5 citizens. The money will not amount to a major increase, about $4 a month for the average Social Security payment, but will at least represent some form of increase in 2017.

January will be the second full month of play for the local McCreary Central High School Raider and Lady Raider basketball squads. The boy's team enters the new year with an overall 9-3 record, but has yet to play any district games this season. They will open 48th district play this Thursday January 5th as they travel to Southwestern. Meanwhile, the Lady Raiders are current 3-10 on the season, including an 0-1 record in district play. They will also travel to Southwestern for their next game, which will be this Friday January 6th.

The Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area is again hosting the annual “Mail Run” mountain biking event on New Year's Day. Bikers meet New Year's Day at the Bandy Creek Visitor Center on the Tennessee side of the park at 10:00am and hit the trails from there. There are several ride choices depending on the participants skill level and interest, ranging from 8 miles to 35 miles of riding. The event is free to join and is sponsored in part by the Big South Fork Bike Club, along with the park service. The event is traditionally called “The Mail Run” because “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” will prevent the bike rides from taking place, according to event organizers. For more information on the mountain bike riding event in the Big South Fork on New Year's Day, call the park at 423-286-7275 or go online to

With no Christmas tree recycling program available in McCreary County, local residents with a real tree at the holiday season may be looking for a way to dispose of the tree. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife is offering a tree recycling program that will use the old trees for fish habitats. The department uses old trees by sinking them in water for the fish. Trees must be real, natural trees and be free of lights, ornaments and other items and can be accepted at various locations around the state until January 15th. The nearest locations to McCreary County accepting Christmas trees for fish habitat recycling are the US Forest Service office on Laurel Road in London, the Corbin City Garage and the Fish and Wildlife office on Realty Lane in Somerset. For more on the program, visit www.fw.ky.gov and type “Christmas” in the search box.

The McCreary County Sheriff's Department is urging local property owners who have not yet paid their 2016 property taxes to get by the office today (Thursday December 29
th) to pay the bills. In fact, today will be the final day to pay property tax bills at face amount, because the sheriff's office will be closed Friday through Monday for the New Year's holiday. Once the office reopens next Tuesday January 3rd, property tax bills will be due at face amount plus a 5% penalty through the month of January. For more on property tax bills that are owed, stop by or call the McCreary County Sheriff's Department, or look up tax bills online using the link at www.mccrearysheriff.com.

After several months of taking little action to get a new agreement in place on garbage disposal, McCreary County leaders finally inked a deal with Scott Solid Waste this month to extend the current contract for one more year. That means the rate will remain unchanged for the next twelve months, with residential garbage disposal still at $15 per month. However, some changes are in store for customers as part of the new deal includes Scott Solid Waste closing its local office after Friday January 13th. After that date, bills will still be mailed to customers quarterly with customers having several options for returning payment. Those options include mailing payments, signing up for online payments at www.wasteconnections.com, or paying by phone using a credit or debit card. The sticker program that McCreary County residents have come to know will no longer be used starting in 2017, with drivers using the customers physical/911 address on their log sheet to identify who is a current customer for collection and who is not on service. Each paying customer will still be allowed one truckload of bulk items per year, free as part of their service, but that truckload must now be taken directly to the landfill located in Oneida, Tennessee. McCreary County Judge-Executive Doug Stephens did say this week that the county is working on plans to keep the local transfer station open, perhaps regular hours as they are now. Local residents will still be able to take part in the $1 per bag program, delivering that garbage to the station in Stearns, and the recycling center would also remain open. Judge Stephens also said he hopes to be able to work out a deal soon which would still allow local residents to bring some bulk items to the local transfer station, but said for now Scott Solid Waste wants those items, including construction materials, to be taken to the landfill in Tennessee. Stephens said it is likely the county will have to hire at least one part time employee to help keep the transfer station and recycling center open.

Some high school graduates in Kentucky could begin getting their college tuition paid by the state if they attend community college and seek a two year degree in specific areas. Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin recently signed an executive order creating the program that would provide community college scholarships to those seeking degrees in health care, transportation, logistics, advanced manufacturing, business services and information technology and construction. Governor Bevin said in signing the order that those fields are “high demand workforce sectors” where more educated individuals are needed. State lawmakers had previously set aside more than $15 million for the project.

The occupational tax revenue for McCreary County was down in November, compared to the same month in previous years.
The McCreary County Voice reported the numbers showing that just over $66,000 was collected last month through the tax, which was down by about $27,000 according to the reporting. That also brings down the overall total collected for the first five months of the fiscal year, making it about $16,000 less than the same five month period from the previous year. The Voice also calculates the monthly average for collections so far at just over $93,000, which would bring in about $1.12 million for the year, if that average continues through the remaining seven months. County leaders have reported that they are beginning to “crack down” on those not paying their occupational tax, saying recently that court summons and letters will be served to many of those starting in January.

The group “Support McCreary County”, which has an online home on Facebook promoting businesses and charity projects locally as well as being involved in efforts like the Banquet of Blessings, also sponsored a Christmas season decorating contest this year. Judging was completed at the end of last week, just ahead of the Christmas weekend, and winners were announced with trophies presented earlier this week. In the business category, Kristina's Kitchen won first prize, followed by Wynn Express Pharmacy and then Highland Telephone's Whitley City office. The residential category included Denny and Janifer Genoe as winners, with Vern's Way Farm in second followed by Nelda and Vernon Gilreath in third place. There was also “People's Choice” voting online with Highland Telephone coming out as the winner in that category. For more on the decorating contest from this year as well as future efforts, look up “Support McCreary County” on Facebook.

A recent incident at a car dealership in London, Kentucky gives new meaning to the phrase “pushy salesman.” Police report that two employees at the Legacy Nissan dealership have been charged after they allegedly got into an argument with, and then assaulted, a customer. It began with an argument over a car and then led to the customer being assaulted and threatened, according to police reports. The employees, Tommy Reid and Sam Reid, were arrested and charged with assault, terroristic threatening, and harassment. Both will reportedly have to appear in court next month to answer to those charges. Information on any injuries suffered by the customer was not available.

The hospital in Oneida, Tennessee that has closed and reopened several times in the last few years under various owners and management groups could reopen again in 2017, according to media reports. WBNT Radio in Oneida reports that a federal bankruptcy judge signed an order at the end of last week allowing for the sale of all assets of Pioneer Health Services of Oneida, LLC to a Florida based healthcare company. The report indicates that the company is mainly in the field of medical billing and providing lab services to other institutions, adding that the company does not own, has never owned and has never operated a hospital before. Despite that, it is reported that the company could look to reopen the hospital in Scott County as early as spring 2017, although a number of regulatory issues have to be resolved before that can happen including inspections, certifications and the issuance of anew CMS number, which would allow the facility to bill Medicaid and Medicare. It is also being reported that Tony Taylor, who served as CEO for Pioneer's operation in Scott County, has been offered the same position with the new company and will help oversee the transition in the coming months.

The annual “Banquet of Blessings” community Christmas dinner, which was served up on Christmas Eve, served meals this year to nearly 900 residents in need. According to social media posts from event organizers, 890 meals were served, with most of those being delivered out to individuals and families, including those who were shut-ins, disabled, or otherwise unable to attend the event. More than 100 volunteers gave up at least some of their Christmas Eve to make the event happen. Banquet of Blessings is held each year as a joint effort of a volunteer committee, the McCreary County School District which allows use of the middle school for the event, and many others who volunteer and donate to the effort.

Leading into the holiday weekend, traffic came to a stand still on Interstate 75 near mile marker 7 in Whitley County Thursday morning. Authorities say it was the result of two separate single vehicle crashes. The first happened at about 8:30am when a Ford Explorer went out of control and rolled over, landing on its top. The driver was identified only as an adult male from Perry County, Kentucky. He, and three female passengers, were all transported by ambulance from the scene for treatment. As of that afternoon, all had been discharged from the hospital except one adult female passengers who was transported to UT Medical Center in Knoxville. At nearly the same time and at the same location on I-75 Thursday morning, a separate single vehicle crash also occurred when a woman from Michigan reportedly lost control of her vehicle and overturned. The only other occupant of that vehicle was said to be her pet dog. That lady declined transport to the hospital. The wrecks caused southbound traffic on Interstate 75 to come to a halt for several hours Thursday as the wreckage was cleared and the accidents investigated. Some traffic was detoured around the scene using other roadways in that area.

State officials have released the latest unemployment numbers for the state for November 2016, showing that jobless rates were down in all but one of Kentucky's 120 counties between November last year and the same month this year. The only county that did not record a lower rate was Carlisle County, where the rate was unchanged between the two years. McCreary County's rate was down from 7.6% in November 2015 to 5.8% in November this year, which was also down from 6.7% in October of this year. Woodford County recorded the state's lowest jobless rate last month at only 2.6%, followed closely by Oldham County at 2.7% and Fayette and Shelby County at 2.8%. The highest rate was seen in Magoffin County at 12.2%, which was the only Kentucky county in double digits. For more on the Kentucky unemployment rates and labor market, visit kylmi.ky.gov online.

The drought conditions that plagued Kentucky starting in early October and last well into December have resulted in losses for a number of small businesses across the state. The US Small Business Administration has announced that federal Economic Injury Disaster Loans are available to businesses impacted by the drought in specified counties. Those counties include McCreary, Wayne, Whitley, Clinton, Cumberland and Bell counties, in the region. Farm related as well as non-farm related businesses that suffered financial losses as a direct result of the drought disaster. Loans can be made for up to $2 million with interest rates of 2.626 percent for private non-profit organizations and 4 percent for small businesses, on terms up to 30 years. Applications and information are available online at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela. Information on the program is also available by calling the Small Business Administration at 1-800-659-2955 or by e-mailing disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.

In his attempt to evade capture, a Scott County, Tennessee fugitive's trek to Oklahoma proved unsuccessful as authorities confirm his capture there this week. 36 year old Christopher Nichol Cox was wanted in Scott County in connection with his alleged role in sex crimes against children. Full details of the allegations against Cox have not been released by police, but they say he is accused of inappropriate sex crimes that involved underage victims. Officials in Scott County had issued a plea to the public for help in locating Cox, but he was reportedly found and taken into custody in Oklahoma early Wednesday morning. He was scheduled to be returned to Tennessee this week to face charges. The Scott County Sheriff's Department is leading the investigation.

A major safety issue was raised during the December meeting of the McCreary County Fiscal Court earlier this month with the removal of trees from the embankment along Wolf Creek Road. During the court meeting it was noted that the removal of the trees had left a side of the road wide open and could cause a vehicle going off the side of the road to roll over the embankment, whereas the trees would have previously stopped a vehicle from rolling over. After the issue came to light this month, crews with the McCreary County Road Department worked this week to install guard rails along Wolf Creek Road. The road was closed to through traffic for a couple of days while the project was completed, but the road was reopened by mid-week.

Despite the fact that Republicans, who have vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, known as “Obamacare”, are soon to control the White House and both houses of Congress, enrollment in the federal healthcare exchange is actually up compared to last year. That word came this week from federal officials who say that 6.4 million Americans have signed up so far this year for subsidized health coverage using the online portal at healthcare.gov. That number is about 400,000 above the number for the same enrollment period last year. Kentucky, however, is reportedly lagging behind its numbers from last year, with officials saying that just over 66,000 Kentuckians signed up for coverage through December 19th, to guarantee coverage as of January 1st. That number is nearly 20,000 below the sane number from last year. Some health experts say that could be because of confusion over Kentucky residents this year having to use the federal marketplace website instead of the Kynect site which had been in place. Governor Matt Bevin dismantled the Kynect system this year after taking office and that is forcing Kentuckians who want to sign up for coverage to use the federal exchange. Experts say while Republicans have vowed to repeal Obamacare, and possibly replace it with something, it will likely take several years to fully implement any change and citizens should continue signing up to ensure they are covered.

The annual Banquet of Blessings, free community Christmas dinner for those in need locally, will be held this Saturday December 24th, Christmas Eve Day, with free meals served at the McCreary Middle School cafeteria from 11:00am-4:00pm. In addition, organizers have been working to form lists of individuals and families in need of meal deliveries for Christmas and will have volunteers out delivering those Saturday. For information on Banquet of Blessings, to volunteer or to be included in the meal delivery list, call committee President Terry Baker at 516-1230 or 376-3008 and leave a message. You can also look up “Banquet of Blessings” or “Support McCreary County” on Facebook.

The annual campaign known as “Cram the Cruiser” sponsored by Kentucky State Police collected and delivered nearly 170 tons of food just before the holidays. The food is collected each year at this time at state police posts across the state and are then given to food pantries and shelters to help those in need. A total of 339,656 pounds of food was turned over by state police this year, up from previous years of the effort. The Post 7 location in Richmond collected the most food this year, at just over 80,000 pounds for that one location.

The proposal released this week by Kentucky Chief Justice John Minton, Jr. would impact McCreary County if it is approved as presented. The plan calls for redistricting and restructuring of the state's court system, which will mean the elimination of some district and circuit judge seats while some new family court judge posts would be created. In fact, the plan for McCreary and Whitley Counties, which share two district and two circuit judges currently, would be to cut one circuit judge position from the two counties and reallocate that post as a family court judge. Justice Minton is proposing the changes across the state as a way of streamlining judicial services and bringing the number of judges and their roles more in line with the demand for those services. The plan will still need to be debated among state lawmakers when they convene next month in Frankfort and could be modified before final approval, or could be rejected altogether. Even if passed by lawmakers and signed into law, it would not take effect until after the elections in the year 2022.

We previously reported on a grant received by the McCreary County Ambulance Service to purchase powered stretchers for the service. Bids are now being accepted for the purchase of two such stretchers, as Director Jimmy Barnett says the service is working toward replacing all of its stretchers with the powered models. Bids for the project are being accepted through 4:00pm today (December 22nd) but will not be opened until the regular fiscal court meeting on Thursday January 12th at 6:00pm. For information, contact the McCreary County Ambulance Service at 376-5063 or by e-mail at mccrearyems@gmail.com.

The McCreary Christian Care Center provides assistance to local residents in a number of ways ranging from healthcare needs to food and clothing giveaways. In fact, the center just wrapped up a clothing and coat giveaway this week, which has continued all this week just ahead of the holidays. To help with their efforts, the Christian Care Center was recently awarded a “People Fund” grant through South Kentucky RECC and also accepted a donation from the local McDonald's in the amount of $750. For more information on services provided by the McCreary Christian Care Center, call 376-8742 or look them up on Facebook.

In an update to a story we brought you previously, the position won by Dustin Ridner serving as McCreary County's District 1 Constable was vacated as of December 1st, when Ridner resigned to take a position with the sheriff's department. Late last week, McCreary County Judge-Executive Doug Stephens issued an order appointing Bill Hayes to serve the remaining two years of that term. Hayes ran for constable in the district in 2014 as a Democrat but lost in the General Election to Ridner that November. Hayes picked up 204 votes in that election, which represented about 22% of the overall votes for the district. Hayes will serve as constable, serving the north end of the county, until after the regular election in 2018.

We reported previously on the release of the audit report for the McCreary County Fiscal Court for the year ending June 30, 2015. One section of that audit report was listed as a lack of adequate control over the county's revolving loan programs. That program has plagued county leaders for years in terms of trying to collect on loan payments and make sure they have proper collateral and paperwork to back up each loan. According to the audit report and reporting from The McCreary County Voice, one of McCreary County's leaders who for the past several years has been at least partly responsible for the financial management of the county may have been part of the problem. The Voice reports that one loan called into question in the most recent audit report was actually paid out to Deputy Judge-Executive Andrew Powell and his wife back in 2008 in the amount of $15,000. That was before Powell became a county employee, but the reporting indicates that payments stopped on the loan at some point, even as Powell was apparently collecting a salary from the county. He has, of course, since stepped back as a part time deputy judge but continues collecting county pay while still reportedly owing the county's revolving loan program. That loan, along with one reportedly made to Powell's mother-in-law for $75,000, was not listed in a published list of delinquent loan accounts a few months ago. That list was published after executive sessions of the court in which negotiations were conducted with loan holders, although the court could not say which loan holders were involved. Judge-Executive Doug Stephens is quoted by The Voice as saying steps have been taken to pay off these specific debts.

Another loan pointed to in the audit was one made to Rick Stephens for $60,000 at a time when he was serving as chair of the Industrial Development Authority, which oversaw the loan program. That was reportedly a loan for The McCreary County Voice, which is owned by Stephens. The Voice reports that this loan has since been paid in full. Another loan called out in the audit reportedly belonged to someone who has since filed for bankruptcy.

For several years magistrates, especially District 2 Magistrate Roger Phillips, have called for better accountability in the loan programs and more transparency in terms of those delinquent loan holders. Now, this reporting reveals that at least one such loan holder was sitting amongst county leaders and was working daily with the county budget and finances for several years.

The audit report states that of 34 loans made from the program since 2000, more than $1.5 million in loans were paid out to loan recipients with $956,753 in uncollected loans reported. Six loans have been paid in full, nine loan recipients filed bankruptcy, 11 are considered inactive, seven are active and one is in litigation. That was as of the time of the audit being completed for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015. The county is set to publish an updated list of delinquent loan payments in early 2017.

After several months of freedom, a McCreary County escaped inmate is now back behind bars after being located this past weekend. Authorities say they found Jimmy Troxell at a home near Cumberland Falls in the north end of the county and brought him back into custody, but not before having to use a taser on him. Troxell apparently attempted to flee when officers arrived on scene to apprehend him, leading to the use of the taser. Troxell had escaped custody back in August when a group of inmates was being transferred from a van into the courthouse and he was able to slip away. Original charges against Troxell included theft, flagrant non-support and a number of bench warrants. He now faces fleeing or evading police charges as well as escape. He is now lodged in the Leslie County Detention Center.

The McCreary Central Raider basketball team is hosting the annual “Arby's/KFC Holiday Classic” this week in the Joe S. Williams gymnasium at the high school. Teams taking part this year include the Raiders as the host school, Whitley County, Wayne County, Lynn Camp, Washington County, and Southern High School from Louisville. The Raiders are scheduled to host Lynn Camp on opening night, which is tonight (Tuesday December 20th) with their game slated for 8:00pm. Action will continue Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, a total of four full days of high school basketball action before Christmas weekend. The Lady Raiders play in the “Chain Rock Classic” at Pineville next week, after the holiday break.

This holiday season, a little caution and a few simple steps can help you keep fires where they belong, in a stove or fireplace. To avoid unwanted fires, the National Fire Protection Association has issued some Christmas tree safety tips. For those who have not yet obtained or placed their tree, make sure you choose a tree that is fresh, green and does not have many needles that fall off when touched. Be sure to cut about 2” from the base of the trunk before placing in a stand and make sure you place your tree at least three feet from any heat source like fireplaces, radiator heaters, candles or heat vents. Also, be sure your tree is not blocking an exit and add water daily to ensure the tree does not dry out. When lighting the tree, use lights that are appropriate for the setting, be it indoor or outdoor, and that do not have cuts or ragged places in the cord. Do not use lit candles to decorate a tree and turn lights off before going to bed or leaving home. Officials say one quarter of home Christmas tree fires are caused by electrical problems and that while Christmas tree fires may not be common, when they do happen they are often more serious. After Christmas, make sure to dispose of your old tree and do not leave trees near your home and other buildings as dried out trees can present a fire hazard. For additional information and fire safety tips you can visit the National Fire Protection Association online at www.nfpa.org.

A McCreary County educator is taking part today (Monday December 19
th) in a different type of “college,” as one of only eight electors in Kentucky. Mary Singleton, who works with the McCreary County School District, was selected to represent Kentucky's 5th Congressional District in the state's Electoral College delegation, which is meeting today in the Kentucky Supreme Court chambers to officially cast votes for President of the United States. With Republican Donald Trump winning Kentucky, he is expected to get all eight of Kentucky's electoral votes. Those represent the six members of the US House and the two members of the US Senate who come from Kentucky, making up the electoral votes for the state. Mary Singleton also serves as vice-chair for the McCreary County Republican party.

The Kentucky Auditor's office late last week released its report of the audit conducted on the McCreary County Fiscal Court and all of its accounts and funds for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015. The report indicates a number of issues related to the financial accountability of the county, including not having proper purchase and procurement procedures in place. The county responded that steps were taken since to correct that issue, but that the county continues to face another issue called out in the audit which is some invoices not being paid within thirty days. That issue has been raised when it comes to paying other counties for inmate housing services, with rumors that invoices not being paid in a timely manner may have played a role in some counties rejecting McCreary County inmates.

Issues with the county payroll were also reported in the latest audit report, including the payroll account not being reconciled and the fiscal court not having sufficient controls over payroll, including issues with no supervisor signature on time sheets and some employees not having proper time sheets. Control over credit card disbursements was also pointed out in the audit including the paying of late fees and overpayment of some fees. Because of some invoices not being paid in a timely manner, penalties and interest were added to payments that had to be made by fiscal court.

The audit also points out that the county did not comply with a grant agreement with the US Department of Agriculture for its Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG) program by not actually putting up required matching funds for the program, but instead using money from repayment of loans as unrestricted funds to count as matching funds. A recommendation was made in the audit that fiscal court reimburse the revolving load fund from the county's economic development fund for the matching funds used. A response to that point in the audit by Judge-Executive Doug Stephens states that the county believes it was justified in the way it handled the funds but will continue discussions with the USDA regarding the loan program.

The complete audit report for the McCreary County Fiscal Court for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015 can be found by clicking here (pdf download).

The McCreary County Clerk's Office received the audit report from the state for its fee account for the calendar year of 2015 with a nearly “clean” audit reported. The only issue raised in the report was something that is seen in nearly all small offices, which was a lack of adequate segregation of duties. The report states that the clerk's office lacks the segregation of duties over financial matters due to the limited budget of the office, which limits the number of staff members possible in the office and often requires multiple duties to be completed from the same staff. A recommendation was made by auditors that the clerk separate duties when it comes to receiving cash, making deposits, and preparing bank statements. You can find the complete audit report on the McCreary County Clerk's fee account for 2015 by clicking here (pdf download).

Several McCreary County educational programs were recently awarded grant funding through the Eastern Kentucky PRIDE program. McCreary Middle School, Pine Knot Primary School and the McCreary County Extension Council received grants, for a total of $7,788 awarded locally. McCreary Middle School will use the funding to purchase recycling containers and environmental education resource materials for the school. Pine Knot Primary School will reportedly build an outdoor classroom, which will also be equipped with electricity and running water for school programs and projects. The McCreary County Extension Council will use grant funds to purchase beekeeping equipment and supplies and to provide camp fees for youth in the county. The grant awards were presented for the 2016-2017 school year.

The Center for Rural Development in Somerset celebrated its 20
th anniversary of serving the region earlier this week with a special ceremony and program. The event was held Monday afternoon with a keynote address from US Congressman Hal Rogers, who was instrumental in getting the initial funding for the Center in the 1990s and the continued funding each year since. Other speakers this week included the Center's CEO and President Lonnie Lawson, as well as Dr. Bruce Ayers, chairman of the Center's board of directors. Bluegrass artist Dale Ann Bradley was also on hand to perform at the event, which included a reception and special programs. The Center opened its doors in 1996 and has offered many special events, performances and concerts, as well as hosting the “Rogers Scholars” and “Rogers Explorers” programs and Eastern Kentucky PRIDE and TOUR Southern and Eastern Kentucky. For full details on programs and activities at the Center, visit www.centertech.com online.

Leadership of the Kentucky House of Representatives Republican majority announced recently that 52nd district State Representative Ken Upchurch will serve as chairman of two committees in the House. Upchurch will chair the House Administrative Regulation Review Committee, which is in charge of reviewing and commenting on administrative regulations submitted by the Legislative Research Commission. Upchurch will also chair the Legislative Research Commission's Tourism and Development committee. Representative Ken Upchurch serves the 52nd district, which covers Wayne and McCreary County and a small portion of Pulaski County. Upchurch was first elected to the post in 1998. The 2017 regular session of the Kentucky General Assembly will convene in Frankfort on January 3rd.

Kentucky Treasurer Allison Ball this week announced that special bank accounts are now being offered through the state for individuals with disabilities. According to Ball, the accounts will allow those individuals to save and invest money without losing eligibility for federal programs such as Medicaid and Social Security Disability. Money deposited in these accounts would be exempt from federal income tax, provided the money is spent on qualified disability expenses. The accounts are being called “STABLE” Kentucky Accounts with money in the accounts available for expenses like healthcare, housing, education and transportation. For more information or to sign up for one of the accounts, go online to www.stablekentucky.com.

In 2003, the Lake Cumberland District Health Department, which serves the ten county region, put a program back in place to honor and recognize excellent service by the individual county health departments to their individual communities. The annual “County of Excellence” award has been presented each year since, but 2016 is the first time that the McCreary County Health Department and its staff have been recognized with the honor. The winning county's department is awarded the prize based on scoring for a variety of quality and performance measures, according to the Lake Cumberland District Health Department. Those measures include things like productivity, patient satisfaction, collections, utilization review and more. McCreary County is the 2016 “County of Excellence” awarded by the district health department, with recent award recipients including Taylor County in 2015 and Wayne County in 2014 and 2013.

With only ten days remaining until Christmas, the Us Postal Service is reminding customers of some important dates to remember if you want your holiday mailings to arrive on time. Today (December 15th) is the deadline for mailing retail ground packages to arrive by Christmas, while December 20th is the general cutoff date for sending first class mail to arrive by December 25th. For priority mail service, the last day to send and be assured of an arrival before Christmas is December 21st and for priority mail express the last day is December 23rd. For additional information and deadlines, visit your local post office or visit the US Postal Service online.

As winter weather approaches, including the likelihood of snow and ice across the region in the coming weeks and months, crews with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet's District 8, based in Somerset, say they are ready for what may come. District 8 serves several counties including McCreary, Wayne, and Pulaski Counties in the immediate area. Crews have been inspecting snow plows, salt spreading equipment and other snow and ice equipment since October and have also been stockpiling road salt, with more than 22,000 tons on hand for the district 8 area, to prepare for winter weather. A new web page is also online to provide motorists with up-to-date information on road conditions, traffic and closures. The page can be accessed by going to snowky.ky.gov and it also provides useful tips and information for dealing with snow and ice on roadways. State transportation officials urge residents to be prepared by paying attention to weather reports and advisories, travel only when necessary during snow or ice events, maintain a safe distance from snow plows and other road equipment, winterize your vehicles and make sure you keep your vehicle's gas tank near full and keep an emergency kit in your vehicle in case you become stranded. You can also follow the District 8 Facebook page and on Twitter and download the “Waze” app for information at goky.ky.gov.

Officials with the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area have announced the planned start of a contaminated mine drainage remediation project in early January 2017. The park contains more than 100 abandoned mine openings as part of the historic coal mining operations in the area and the project is aimed at dealing with the human safety hazards and environmental issues produced by these mines. Park officials say that to ensure visitor safety and resource protection, temporary trail closures will be in effect in the Blue Heron area starting in January and lasting until next spring, approximately in April 2017. Construction equipment will be staged at Blue Heron starting in late December through the remediation project for the next several months. Trails that will be closed temporarily starting January 6
th will include the Blue Heron Loop Trail, Laurel Branch Horse Trail, and Big South Fork River Horse Trail ford at Blue Heron on the west side of the river. For information on the project and trail closures, call the park at 423-569-9778.

With the Christmas holiday nearly upon us, thoughts turn to giving and receiving gifts. The Kentucky Blood Center reminds you that the best gift you can give is the gift of life, which can be done by donating blood. A community blood drive is set for just before Christmas in McCreary County to be held Wednesday December 21
st from 1:00-6:00pm in the community room of South Kentucky RECC in Whitley City. Each donor will receive a $10 Wal-Mart gift card to thank them for their life saving donation. To donate you must be at least 17 years of age, or 16 with parental consent, weigh at least 110 pounds and be in general good health. For more information on donating blood, contact the Kentucky Blood Center at 10800-775-2522 or visit www.kybloodcenter.org.

For the eight consecutive year, the event known as the “Banquet of Blessings” will be held on Christmas Eve in McCreary County, offering a free, hot meal to those in need locally for the holiday. The idea behind the dinners actually began with Fred and Kathy Berkowitz who had started offering free meals to those in need for the holidays through Fred's work with Burger King more than a decade ago. Then, Jack Koger, who was a member of the McCrearyFest/WinterFest committee, brought his idea of doing a Christmas dinner and a visit with Santa for kids and their families to that organization in 2009. Forces were joined that year and the “Banquet of Blessings” was born and has been held each Christmas since at the cafeteria of McCreary Middle School.

This year, a committee of volunteers have been working for the last several weeks to make sure money is in place to pay for the event, and future events, and food has been ordered for the dinner. Last year, about 600 such dinners were served to those dining in at the school and those delivered to shut-ins and others in need in the community. This year, the committee hopes to expand on the success of previous years by offering about 750 meals. Those meals will be served between 11:00am and 4:00pm on Christmas Eve Day, Saturday December 24th, in the middle school cafeteria for those in need and deliveries will also be scheduled for those who are unable to make it to the school due to disability or transportation limitations.

The final planning meeting for the “Banquet of Blessings” is scheduled for Tuesday December 20th at 5:30pm at the McCreary County Tourism office in Whitley City. For information on the event, to volunteer or donate, or to submit a name of an individual or family in need, contact committee President Terry Baker at 606-516-1230 or visit the “Banquet of Blessings” Facebook page. The event operates solely on donations, volunteers and fundraisers.

McCreary County School officials have announced that a new “Stay Connected” app is now available for parents, guardians, staff, students and anyone wishing to stay connected with what is going on with the local school district. The app is available on Apple and Android type mobile devices and will be used to share information such as early dismissal of school, school closings, special events and more. To find the download for the new app on either Apple or Android, search for the “Stay Connected” app.

An issue which was raised during the regular November meeting of the McCreary County Fiscal Court by Leslie County Jailer Danny Clark was revisited last Thursday during the regular December session of the court. Clark had mentioned when he addressed the court last month that with no female transport officers from McCreary County, when a local jail inmate being housed in Leslie County needed to be transported or possibly taken to the hospital, it was often falling back on his staff to do so. During the December court meeting, one female transport officer was hired, but county leaders said more are needed and anyone who may qualify and be interested should apply at the Judge-Executive's office. Regina Campbell-Spring was hired Thursday night as a part time transport officer at the regular pay rate of 4 hours per transport at $12.50 per hour, or $50 per transport, at a maximum of 24 hours per week. She will begin her duties on January 1st according to county officials.

Meanwhile, the transporting of McCreary County inmates to other counties, mainly Leslie County, is still a major issue for county leaders and the county treasury. McCreary County Jailer/Chief Transport Officer Jesse Hatfield indicated that he had driven more than 400 miles in one day doing transports and that multiple trips to other counties are common place. In addition, it was recently reported that one month's bill for housing inmates had topped out at about $70,000. If that continues month-to-month, the housing bill alone for a year would be well over $800,000. That does not include any unforeseen medical expenses for local inmates and also does not include the cost of the actual transports. The county is saving some money by not having a regular Jailer position and instead a Jailer/Transport Officer. The former jailer was being paid a salary of about $80,000 annually plus benefits while the current post pays about $28,000 per year. There is little public movement at this point on any solutions to the county's inmate and jail crisis.

McCreary County's Occupational Tax Administrator reported during this month's fiscal court meeting that just after the first of the year letters and court summons will be going out for about 150 people who are delinquent of paying their required occupational taxes. Stephanie Tucker was asked by Magistrate Roger Phillips about the progress of “cracking down” on tax collections, and she said that a number of people have taken steps to correct their failure to pay, but that many still owe the taxes. The sheriff's office will reportedly be sending out the court summons starting in January as the county begins to take legal action to make sure all are paying the taxes they owe. In the meantime, Tucker said she is spending this month getting forms out to taxpayers for 2016 taxes that will be due early in the new year.

During the “citizen participation” portion of last Thursday's McCreary County Fiscal Court meeting, citizen Derek Jones raised the issue of the currently vacant district 1 constable post. Dustin Ridner, who was elected to the office in November 2014, officially resigned December 1st to take a position with the McCreary County Sheriff's Department. Jones noted during his comments to fiscal court that he had submitted a letter of interest for the position. Judge-Executive Doug Stephens said on Friday that he has been reviewing letters of interest from potential candidates, talking to local law enforcement officials and magistrates, and that he expects to appoint someone to the position sometime this week. Once appointed, the new constable for the county's first district would serve until the next election in 2018.

During last Thursday's regular meeting of the McCreary County Fiscal Court, Magistrate Jason Mann expressed an interest in adopting a county ordinance that would put limits on where and how people may be able to set up and sell items along the roadside. Specifically, Mann mentioned the former Burger King/M3 location on Highway 27 in Whitley City, which has become a comment spot for those wanting to set up and sell items. He said he was not sure if the people setting up had actually gotten permission from the property owner to do so, but said it presented a sort of “eyesore” for those passing through town and also could present an issue of trespassing if permission is not obtained from the land owner. Mann said a county ordinance might be in order to state that people are not allowed to set up and sell on private property or abandoned property without written permission from the property owner. Judge-Executive Doug Stephens said he agreed with the idea, but thought it should be considered along with an overall business license requirement, something the court previously failed to adopt. Stephens said he did not feel it was fair to legitimate businesses who pay their taxes and do things the right way to have others selling along the roadside, competing with those businesses, but not paying taxes or contributing back to the local community. Citizen Eugenia Jones presented the other side of the issue in a way by saying that an area did need to be established to allow people to set up and sell products. She added that a van filled with out of town visitors recently was traveling around the county looking at the various offerings of the local community and that the roadside sales at the former M3 location was one point of interest for those individuals, indicating there may be a tourism element to roadside selling.

No action was taken by the court, but they did advise Judge Stephens to begin drafting an ordinance to deal with the issue that could be voted on by the court at a future meeting.

McCreary County recently took steps to put an additional ambulance and staff in place through the local ambulance service to conduct non-emergency transports. This came at the recommendation of EMS Director Jimmy Barnett, who said the county could make money off the transports by charging for them, as it was a service that needed by hospitals, nursing homes and individuals around the region. During last Thursday's fiscal court meeting, Barnett was asked about the progress of that program, with the director stating that last month the county had collected about $23,000 just from these non-emergency transports. He added that he expects that number to increase as there seems to be more and more demand for the service. He said the program, and collections, have exceeded his expectations. It was also noted the county may look to add an additional ambulance and staff in future if the program continues to be successful.

Meeting in regular session Thursday evening (December 8
th), the McCreary County Fiscal Court was set to approve a contract that would extend the franchise agreement with Scott Solid Waste for three months. In discussion, Magistrate Roger Phillips questioned why the county would do a three month extension rather than ask for a full year extension. That is exactly what the county and the company ended up agreeing to by the time the discussion had ended. Scott Solid Waste agreed to a one full year extension under the current terms when it comes to the rates they charge their customers, however a few exceptions were included in the deal. Those included Scott Solid Waste no longer staffing the transfer station with that responsibility falling back on the county and the county receiving a 5% franchise fee from the company, rather than the current 6%. Scott Solid Waste will do away with the sticker program because drivers have route sheets with addresses of customers so they will know who is on service and who is not. The company will still bill customers, but they will need to mail payments back in to the company, since they will not staff the transfer station office starting in January. More details on this month's regular court meeting will be forthcoming on future “Daily Update” reports.

The lawsuit filed by the family of a McCreary County inmate who died while in the custody of the Wayne County Detention Center has reportedly been dismissed. The lawsuit was filed by the family of the late Charles Lee Rose, who died in February 2014 after several days ion the hospital. That came after he was found unresponsive at the jail the morning after his arrest for DUI and other drug and traffic related offenses. He was transported to Wayne County Hospital and later to UK Medical Center but died several days later. The lawsuit claimed that jail personnel should have recognized there was an issue when he was brought into the jail but that they did not act in time to save his life. The Wayne County Outlook reported this week that Circuit Judge Vernon Miniard, Jr. granted a motion by the defendants in the case to dismiss the suit against Wayne County, the Wayne County Detention Center and the current and former jailer, as well as deputy jailers involved. The lawsuit had been filed in September by Charles Rose's children after a federal lawsuit had previously been dismissed.

The fires that devastated much of Gatlinburg and areas of the great Smoky Mountains National Park in east Tennessee over the last few weeks were intentionally set, according to investigators who announced this week the arrest of two unidentified juveniles in connection with the crime. So far, authorities say, the juvenile suspects have been charged with aggravated arson, but additional charges could be forthcoming as could additional arrests. During a press conference earlier this week, authorities said everything is on the table in the investigation, related to charges that may be filed. At least 14 people lost their lives in the fires and that could mean stiff charges against the pair and anyone else that may be found to be connected to the fires, which officials say started November 23rd and swept through the area due to strong winds and drought conditions. The investigation is ongoing.

After earlier this year proposing a $23 billion cut in the federal food stamp program, Republicans in Washington, DC are reportedly looking at changes to the program in 2017. This comes as the GOP is set to take control of both chambers of Congress and the White House in January. Media sources are indicating that preliminary plans being released by Republican leadership target changes to work requirements and tougher eligibility requirements for food stamps, as well as creating new incentives for food stamp recipients to purchase healthier food choices. With so many households in McCreary County and the surrounding region benefiting from the food stamp program, it could mean changes for many of those households moving forward. Other social programs being considered for changes are Medicare and Medicaid, which benefit low income and senior citizens across America.

A familiar name has been announced as the new Chief of Staff for the Kentuicky State Auditor's office in Frankfort. After previously serving as state representative for the 52nd district, which includes McCreary and Wayne Counties, as well as a small portion of southern Pulaski County, then serving as state senator through 2014, Sara Beth Gregory was named General Counsel one year ago by newly elected Auditor Mike Harmon. Now, Gregory has been assigned as Chief of Staff in the office, replacing Ginger Wills who will be Chief of Staff in the House Republican Caucus, according to the announcement made in recent days. Sara Beth Gregory is a Wayne County native and will reportedly continue serving as General Counsel, in addition to the Chief of Staff duties, until a replacement is named.

A number of special events are on the calendar for this month through the McCreary County School District, as a way of celebrating the holiday season. The Whitley City Elementary Choir concert will be Thursday December 8th at 6:00pm at the high school auditorium, followed Friday December 9th by the Pine Knot Primary School Christmas program hosted at the school at 6:00pm. The McCreary Community Choir, formerly the McCreary Central Alumni Choir, will host a Christmas concert this Sunday December 11th at 2:00pm at the high school; the McCreary Central and McCreary Middle Choir Concert will be Monday December 12th at 7:00pm at the high school; and the McCreary Central Band Concert will be Tuesday December 13th at 7:00pm. Pine Knot Intermediate School will host a Christmas program Thursday December 15th at 6:00pm and the McCreary Central Christmas Play will be presented Friday December 16th and Saturday December 17th at 7:00pm each night at the high school auditorium. The last day for school before the holiday break in McCreary County will be Friday December 16th with classes back in session starting Monday January 2nd.

Citizens in a nearby county in southern Kentucky will soon determine whether to allow the legal sell of alcoholic beverages within their county. Clinton County, located just to the west of neighboring Wayne County, will vote on Tuesday January 24th in a local option election. This comes after petitions were collected and turned in by businessman Jim Soma, who once owned and operated a lodging facility in McCreary County before selling that business a few years ago. Soma turned in enough signatures that the number needed for the vote was exceeded and the petitions were certified recently by the Clinton County Clerk. That was followed by the scheduling of the special vote for early next year by the Clinton County Judge-Executive. The vote will be countywide, just as McCreary County has voted in two recent referendum elections, both of which came up slightly short in terms of allowing alcohol sales.

The McCreary County Grand Jury met for their regular session in November, handing down indictments against five individuals on a variety of charges. Charles Jones of Whitley City was formally charged with possession of a handgun by a convicted felon and carrying a concealed deadly weapon. He is also a persistent felony offender and was indicted on that count. Danny Roberts of Whitley City was indicted for trafficking in a controlled substance first degree, allegedly for methamphetamine, and was also charged as a persistent felony offender. Paul Overton, Leticia Chambers and Mark Troxell, all of Helenwood, Tennessee, were charged with theft by unlawful taking $500 or more for allegedly stealing a Honda TX 250 ATV owned by another person in September.

Listeners are reminded that an indictment by the grand jury is a formal charge in a case, but is not a finding of guilt.

After being convicted on charges including texting an underage girl with the intent of engaging in a sexual relationship with her, a former McCreary Central High School teacher and coach has now been granted a new trial and a change of venue in the case. The McCreary County Voice reports that Toby Curry appeared again before Circuit Judge Dan Ballou recently with the request for the change of location and new trial before the judge. Ballou granted the requests and set a new trial date for next May in a Whitley County courtroom, rather that in McCreary County. Curry was once a girls' basketball coach and teacher at the high school, when he allegedly engaged in the texting relationship with the underage girl. Curry reportedly admitted to sending text messages to the girl, but the defense claimed that they were “harmless flirting” and not intended to try to secure a physical relationship.

McCreary County livestock producers may qualify for disaster assistance for 2016, according to the USDA Farm Service Agency serving the county. The service says that McCreary County has now met qualifying drought ratings for eligibility for the “Livestock Forage Disaster Program” on improved pasture. The program provides levels of compensation to livestock producers who have suffered grazing losses due to drought conditions or fires during the year. Eligible livestock include beef cattle, dairy cattle, goats, poultry, sheep, swine and more that have been or would have been grazing the eligible grazing land or pastureland during the normal grazing period. Applications for the program must include eligible losses in 2016. For additional information or to apply for disaster assistance, contact the Pulaski/McCreary County Farm Service Agency at 606-678-4842 ext. 2. You can also find information online at disaster.fsa.usda.gov.

McCreary County leaders seem to be no closer to finalizing a deal for garbage disposal locally than they were a few months ago when the process began. Meeting in special session this past Friday (December 2nd) McCreary County Fiscal Court was set to approve the second reading and final passage of an amended ordinance on garbage disposal in the county, and open proposals for the second time from companies interested in providing the service. However, during discussion County Attorney Conley Chaney explained that with an ordinance in place that spells out rates and other terms of an agreement with a disposal company, if a company submits a proposal that does not match those terms and the county approves it, they are essentially giving approval to the company violating the county ordinance. This came to light after the first ordinance change was approved by the county listing a regular residential rate of $10 per month and Scott Solid Waste presented a proposal ranging from $12.50 per month to $17 per month, depending on participation rates.

Discussion continued Friday with Carl Towns from Scott Solid Waste saying that he deals with more than thirty different counties in Kentucky for garbage disposal contracts and that he is not aware of a single other county that puts an ordinance in place that dictates the rates. He said most counties have either a service contract or other means in place to be able to do simple negotiations with a company on pricing and terms. While McCreary County leaders have been aware of the expiration of the current franchise agreement at the end of this year and have been discussing the issue for months, Judge-Executive Doug Stephens noted during last week's meeting that perhaps the county should now look at other counties to see how they deal with the issue. He added that it will likely take some time to figure out the matter and to get a deal in place, and asked Scott Solid Waste to consider giving the county a three month extension on the current agreement and the existing terms. Towns said he could not answer at that time whether the company could do that, but that he could make some phone calls and get an answer.

It was revealed Friday that Scott Solid Waste was still the only company that had submitted a proposal on garbage disposal, even after a second round of advertising and requesting proposals from companies. Towns noted that the county had received a good discount in rate five years ago when the residential rate went from $18 per month down to $15 per month, but added that he was not sure the company could continue to offer that rate in the future.

In the end, the court vote unanimously to reject the amended ordinance before them in order to determine the best route to getting a deal in place. The court will meet in regular session this Thursday December 8th at 6:00pm, at which time it is expected the garbage issue will be addressed with possible solutions presented. If no agreement is in place with Scott Solid Waste, or another company, by January 1st, the county will have no company to collect and dispose of residential or business garbage.

Long time McCreary County Emergency Management Director Rudy Young officially retired from his post effective last Wednesday, November 30th. Young also spent a short time as the county's 911 director, in addition to his duties in emergency management. The McCreary County Fiscal Court voted Friday during their special session to approve the appointment of Stephen Mckinney as the county's new emergency management director at an annual salary of $25,000. The appointment will be effective through June 2019, the remainder of Young's current term.

The court also approved a resolution which will allow the county's ambulance service to continue the process of applying for USDA grants to purchase a newly refurbished ambulance each year. The county uses grant funds, along with $5,000 set aside monthly by the court, to purchase a new ambulance each year.

After weeks of a burn ban being in effect for McCreary County due to extreme drought conditions, McCreary County Judge-Executive Doug Stephens issued an order Wednesday November 30th officially rescinding that ban effective on that date at 12:00pm. The order does urge residents to observe the restrictions of the regular fall forest fire hazard season which remains in place through December 15th. During the fire hazard season burning can only be done between 6:00pm and 6:00am if within 150 feet of a woodland or brushland. The lifting of the local burn ban comes after some significant rainfall has been received over the last few days.

State officials have announced that the October 2016 unemployment rates are available for Kentucky's 120 counties, with 82 of those recording a lower rate between October last year and October this year. McCreary County was among those with a 6.7% jobless rate for October 2016, down from 7.5% for October 2015. The rate was also slightly lower than September's rate of 6.9%. Nine out of ten Lake Cumberland area counties saw lower rates between the two years, with Wayne County recording a higher rate going from 6.9% in 2015 to 7.2% for October this year. Kentucky's unemployment rate was recorded at 4.6% in October, which was down from September's 4.8% and October 2015's rate, which was also 4.8%. That is right in line with the national jobless rate which was listed at 4.7%.

Long time McCreary Central High School Choir teacher and Madrigals Director Chris Hubbs will be honored for his decades of local service when the McCreary Central Auditorium will officially be named for him this Sunday December 4th. Hubbs began teaching at the high school when it opened in 1978 and worked for years as choir teacher and returned to work after retiring a few years ago. He has since retired again and will be recognized during a special reception and ceremony slated for this Sunday at the high school. The reception will begin at 2:00pm, followed by a ceremony at 3:00pm. Former students, staff and members of the public are invited to attend the special event.

While McCreary County will not have a Christmas parade of any type this year, a number of neighboring communities are getting set to host their annual parades for the holiday season. The list begins this Friday December 2nd with the Monticello-Wayne County Chamber of Commerce Christmas Parade starting at 6:00pm and traveling along Main Street through Monticello. This Saturday, December 3rd, the Scott County Chamber of Commerce Christmas Parade will make its way from Industrial Lane then along Highway 27 through Oneida, Tennessee, starting at 2:00pm. The Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce will host its annual Christmas Parade Saturday starting at 5:00pm through downtown Somerset. The Burnside parade will be held Saturday December 10th starting at 1:00pm. McCreary County's history with Christmas parades goes back to the early 2000s when the McCreary County Chamber of Commerce, sponsoring a project by the Leadership McCreary program, began hosting a “WinterFest” parade and festivities in downtown Whitley City. Starting in 2009, the activities were taken over by the independent “McCrerayFest” board and then eventually McCreary County Tourism took over those activities in early 2015 and opted to end the annual Christmas parade.

Kentucky State Police are reminding residents that their “Cram the Cruiser” food drive campaign is underway and will continue collecting donations through Monday December 12th. After that date, items collected will be distributed to local and regional food pantries and shelters for those in need during the holiday season. Items needed include non-perishable canned foods, cereal, peanut butter, powdered milk, cake mixes and more. You can drop off donations at any Kentucky State Police post location, including the London post. In 2015, the effort collected more than 246,000 pounds of food for those in need across the state.

With winter officially beginning in a few short weeks and varying forecasts being offered on what kind of winter weather we may see this year, Kentucky transportation officials are getting ready for what may come. There are more than 63,000 miles of state maintained roads across Kentucky and the state is currently working to make sure they are well stocked with road salt and that all necessary equipment is in good working condition. In addition, a new website has been launched to help provide information to the media and the public on road conditions during winter weather. The site is available at snowky.ky.gov.

The 2016 season of “A Trail Town Christmas” in historic Stearns officially kicked off last weekend with a tree lighting ceremony on the lawn of the McCreary County Museum. The festivities will continue this Saturday December 3rd with “Gracie's Pet Parade” starting at noon in Stearns, followed by Christmas storytime at the train depot at 2:00pm, co-sponsored by the McCreary County Public Library. “Lunch with Santa” will also be held Saturday from 11:00am to 2:00pm at the Whistle Stop Restaurant, and the annual “Santa Express” on the Big South Fork Scenic Railway will be held with departures at 3:00pm, 5:00pm and 7:00pm. From 5:00 to 7:00pm Saturday, there will be a “Historic Stearns Home Holiday Light Tour”. Weekend activities in Stearns will also include an open house at Pottery By Mehg Sunday December 4th. The “Trail Town Christmas” festivities in Stearns will continue the next two weekends with an open house and candlelight tour at the museum on Saturday December 10th, Stearns Heritage Golf Course open house Saturday December 17th and other activities. For full details and schedules, follow “Stearns Trail Town” on Facebook or visit www.bsfsry.com and click on “Special Events” and then on the “Trail Town Christmas” link.

McCreary County Schools Superintendent Mike Cash issued a statement late Tuesday, confirming the death of a 9 year old 3rd grade student from Pine Knot Primary School. Full details of the death were not released, but Cash did call on everyone to remember the family of the child in their thoughts and prayers. School will remain in session, but grief counselors will reportedly be on hand at the school for as long as needed for students and staff. A district wide moment of silence will also be observed in all schools Wednesday November 30th at 8:45am.

A new drug prevention tool is being offered free to parents and guardians, as well as their children and teens. “Give Me A Reason” is sponsored by the Appalachian High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), Operation UNITE and Champions for a Drug Free McCreary County. The effort offers free drug testing kits which can be used by parents and guardians and can give youth a reason not to use drugs, because they may be tested. Roger Owens with Champions/UNITE was on this month's “McCreary Issues” program here on WHAY to explain the effort and where kits can be picked up. For additional information on the “Give Me A Reason” drug prevention effort, call Roger Owens at 606-310-0193.  Click here to listen to the full interview with Roger Ownens (Champions/UNITE).

A former employee in the Whitley County School District has been indicted by a grand jury for allegedly stealing thousands of dollars from the school system there. Leigh Burke was working as the school district's chief financial officer when she is accused of stealing the money to pay off credit cards, IRS tax payments and other personal expenses. Charges against her include theft and abuse of a public trust. Listeners are reminded that an indictment by a grand jury is not a finding of guilt, but is a formal charge in a case.

It is basketball season once again and the McCreary Central Raider and Lady Raider squads are set to tip-off the 2016-2017 seasons. The girls' team will open regular season play tonight (Tuesday November 29th) as they travel to Russell County for a 7:00pm game, followed by a road game at Corbin this Friday at 7:30pm. The Lady Raiders are coached by Todd Waters this season. The boys' team will open play Friday December 2nd on the road at Danville at 6:00pm, followed by a game against Barbourville played at Lynn Camp on December 8th as part of the “Bowman Classic”. The Raiders are coached this year by Jimmy Voight, after long time coach Robert Jones stepped down to work full time as the school district's athletic director.

The Thanksgiving weekend was anything but calm and peaceful for law enforcement officers in neighboring counties. The Laurel County Sheriff's Department reports that a woman was located tied up in her van early Thanksgiving morning, after she was allegedly kidnapped and raped by a stranger. The man had flagged the woman down the night before with a flashlight claiming there was a wreck on the roadway ahead, but then he jumped inside her vehicle, held her against her will and sexually assaulted her. All of that before leaving her tied up in the van behind a Laurel County business. Authorities say the suspect had a dark complexion and was wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt at the time of the incident.

Shopping at the mall in Somerset Thanksgiving night turned violent as two men, both said to be in their 20s, began arguing at Belk's inside the mall and then got into a physical altercation. Police say one of the men did possess a concealed carry permit and was armed, but said the gun did not come into play during the fight. That, however, did not stop rumor and social media posts claiming that shots had been fired at the mall. Investigators with the Pulaski County Sheriff's Department say there was no truth to that, adding that both men were arrested at the scene without incident and that the gun was never discharged.

Both incidents remain under investigation by law enforcement.

During the regular session of the McCreary County Fiscal Court in November the court opened the lone bid proposal received for garbage disposal in the county. The proposal came from Scott Solid Waste, the company currently contracted to perform the service, but details were not given at that meeting on the proposal as a company spokesman said there were a number of options spelled out in the document that would have to be reviewed by county leaders. After that review took place, a special session of the court was apparently held on Friday November 18th, although not all media outlets in the county were even notified of the meeting, with WHAY Radio being left out of that notification process. The McCreary County Voice reports on the special meeting at which county leaders voted to reject the lone proposal, in order to make adjustments to the county ordinance on garbage disposal and seek new proposals from companies. Time is short on the effort however since the current franchise agreement with Scott Solid Waste expires in just over a month on December 31st, after which there could be no company in place to collect local solid waste if an agreement is not reached.

The county ordinance recently adopted set forth a collection rate of $10 per month for residential with an option for residents to pay $60 for the year to deliver trash to the transfer station in Stearns. The Scott Solid Waste proposal offered a “sliding scale” for rates based on how many households were signed up on garbage collection service. If about 3,000 households were involved, roughly the current number, the regular residential rate would increase slightly to $17 per month, from the current $15. If 6,000 households signed up, putting the participation rate above 90%, the rate would drop to $12.50 per month per household. Another stipulation in the proposal was the county paying an employee to staff the local office and collect payments. If the company handled billing, an additional $2 per month per customer would be added to the bills, according to the proposal.

The court voted unanimously to reject the bid proposal and reportedly voted to amend the county's ordinance to list the collection rate at $12.50 per month or $8 for senior citizens and to put the $1 per bag delivery option back into the ordinance. The ordinance would also require the winning bidder to operate the transfer station and office and handle billing for the service. The changes must still undergo a second reading of the amended ordinance which will reportedly come during another special session of the court Friday December 2nd at 11:00am, according to The Voice. The next regular meeting of the court is slated for Thursday December 8th at 6:00pm.

The 7th annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner hosted by the Lord's Cafe, an outreach of Crossroads Community Baptist Church, was a major success according to the event's organizers and volunteers. While the dinner last year had served 1,263 meals, a goal was set this year of serving up to 1500 meals, and that goal was nearly reached. The final tally posted from the dinner, which was held last Saturday, was 1,376 meals served between 10:00am at 7:30pm. The project is funded entirely through donations and is worked by volunteers from the local community, surrounding communities and even other states who come to town to help each year. The Thanksgiving Dinner is the major meal provided each year by the Lord's Cafe, but the facility prepares and serves hot meals throughout the year, including free lunches for those in need on a regular basis. The Lord's Cafe also offers grocery giveaways for families in need locally, as well as clothing and other needed items.

A Monday morning accident on Kentucky Highway 167 in Wayne County claimed the life of at least one person, according to authorities. The Wayne County Sheriff's Department reported that the crash involved a passenger vehicle and a log truck with the driver of the passenger vehicle airlifted to UK Medical Center in Lexington in serious condition, and the passenger of that vehicle pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the log truck was reportedly transported to the hospital for treatment of minor injuries. Kentucky State Police are investigating the accident.

The annual “Cram the Cruiser” food drive campaign begins today (Tuesday November 22nd) sponsored by the Kentucky State Police. Each year, the KSP collects non-perishable food item donations at their 16 post locations across the state, in addition to Commercial Vehicle Enforcement regional offices, to donate to area food pantries and shelters to assist those in need during the holiday season. Items collected include things like canned fruits and vegetables, canned meat, macaroni, cereal, peanut butter, jelly, canned soups, chili, spaghetti sauce, cake mixes, coffee, bottled water and more. To donate, simply visit one of the Kentucky State Police posts, including the London Post, and place items in the police cruiser on display, or leave with staff in the office. In 2015, more than 246,000 pounds of food was donated to the effort statewide. For information on “Cram the Cruiser” and post locations visit www.kentuckystatepolice.org.

The Christmas holiday season is nearly upon us and McCreary County residents are being offered several ways to help them get in the holiday spirit. The 2016 Trail Town Christmas residential and business decorating contest, sponsored this year by “Support McCreary County”, is getting underway with entries accepted now through Saturday December 10th. Judging will take place on Friday December 23rd between 6:00-10:00pm with winners receiving a trophy and bragging rights for the year. There will also be “People's Choice” voting via Facebook. Randy and Jill Dolen with “Support McCreary” can be contacted to enter the contest by stopping by Dolen's store in Whitley City or looking them up on Facebook. The couple says they will have their Christmas display out again this year for people to visit, but due to their sponsorship of the contest they will not be eligible to win. Look up “Support McCreary County” on Facebook for information.

Christmas at the Cabin” will also be held this year at the McCreary Mountain Craft Center on Highway 90 with activities including craft demonstrations, refreshments, music and more on Saturday December 10th and Sunday December 11th from 10:00am to 5:00pm.

The Big South Fork Scenic Railway is also again offering their annual “Santa Express” train rides starting this Saturday November 26th with departure times of 5:00pm and 7:00pm. The train rides continue each Saturday in December at 3:00pm, 5:00pm and 7:00pm through December 17th. For information, look up the railway on Facebook, go to www.bsfsry.com or call 376-5330.

The McCreary County Park will also be hosting “Meet Santa” on Thursday December 1st from 6:00-8:00PM with refreshments and participants able to bring their own cameras for free pictures with Santa. For information on that event, call Melissa at the park at 376-7275.

After the Leslie County Jailer recently addressed the McCreary County Fiscal Court saying that the county's inmate population at his jail was ranging between 60-70 inmates on a regular basis, we thought we would check a weekend's worth of booking reports to see how many were from McCreary County. One look at “Jail Tracker” reports showed that at a point Sunday morning out of about ten bookings listed from Friday through that point in the weekend, six of them came from McCreary County. Among those inmate bookings were: Robert Privett age 39 of Strunk, booked early Saturday morning for non-payment of fines; Matthew Sumner age 28 of Pine Knot, booked Saturday for possession of a controlled substance, driving under the influence, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and other offenses; Billy Roberts age 27 of Stearns, booked Saturday night for failure to appear; Jesse Ball age 33 of Pine Knot, booked Sunday on a bench warrant; Jesse Jacobs age 55, picked up in McCreary County and booked for DUI, possession of an open alcoholic beverage container in a vehicle and traffic violations; and Preston Tucker age 19 of Stearns for public intoxication. These were just the McCreary County inmate bookings in Leslie County for a period of just over 24 hours this past weekend. Leslie County is being used as the primary detention center for McCreary County inmates, although a few inmates do find themselves in other area facilities such as Wayne County or Pulaski County.

The McCreary County Occupational Tax numbers continue to rise, one bit of good news among a sea of problems and issues facing county government. The McCreary County Voice reports that the latest figures released by the county show collections at just over $118,000 for the month of October. That was up slightly from October 2015 when collections were just over $112,000, according to the tax summary posted at www.mccrearycounty.com. The Voice reports that just over $400,000 have been realized from the tax in just the first four months of collections this fiscal year. The article further notes that if collections continue to outpace average collections at this rate, the total collections for the year could top $1.2 million. That would be about $100,000 above the amount budgeted for the year. There is no doubt that the tax has out performed early expectations. Before the tax was imposed in 2004, county leaders were given estimates that it would generate between $600,000-$700,000 annually. After being implemented, county leaders soon realized the collections were going to be closer to the $1 million mark, with former Judge-Executive Blaine Phillips noting at the time that his goal was to see the tax top the $1 million mark. Now, collections routinely hit between $1.1 million to $1.2 million on an annual basis. The tax was initially set up to be divided among several areas like the county park, jail, tourism, economic development and general fund to support the ambulance service and sheriff's deputies. Under the current administration, the tax was changed with all revenue deposited in the general fund for the county.

Authorities have confirmed that a man's body was discovered and pulled from the waters of Lake Cumberland in Russell County this week. 60 tear old Ronald Marshall was reported missing Tuesday and his truck was found in the lake the following day with his lifeless body inside. Marshall is reportedly from Ohio but has a part-time home in Russell County near the boat ramp on the lake. While family had not reported him missing until Tuesday, officials say the man had actually not been heard from since last weekend. An autopsy was scheduled and the investigation into the death is continuing.

The McCreary County Chamber of Commerce has in the past offered programs like “Business of the Month” and ribbon cuttings for new businesses, but the latest program launched by the organization is one to recognize and honor long serving businesses of the community. The program's focus will be on businesses in McCreary County that have been in place for fifty or more years, even if not owned or operated by the same individual or family for the entire time. The Chamber plans to select and honor one such business each month during their regular membership meetings. The first recipient of the recognition is a business that has been open for nearly eighty years, and has been owned and operated by the same individual for the past seventy years. Bobby Duncan's store in Strunk opened in the late 1930s, according to information from the Chamber, and was taken over by Mr. Duncan in 1946. The store, which is still in operation to this day, has become an iconic part of the local community through the decades. Anyone wishing to “nominate” a long serving business for recognition by the McCreary County Chamber of Commerce can contact Greg Whitis at the McCreary County Extension Service at 376-2524 or e-mail gwhitis@uky.edu.

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear issued a warning this week to all Kentuckians to be cautious and watch out for a “jury duty” scam that is circulating. According to the warning, victims are being called by someone claiming to be with the US Marshal's office, a court worker or other law enforcement agent saying the victim has failed to appear for scheduled jury duty and saying they must pay a fine or risk facing charges. They are then asked to give account information or send payment to cover the fine. Beshear says this is a scam and you should not give out this type of information and instead simply hang up on the caller. Other similar scams have been reported where victims say they are called by someone claiming to be with law enforcement and asking for a payment in lieu of the victim facing a federal warrant.

It is not often that someone shows up at a McCreary County Fiscal Court meeting handing over a check to the county, but that is exactly what happened last Thursday when the court met for their regular November session. Bruce Carpenter with the Southeast Kentucky Business Park, located in Corbin, addressed the court and presented a check in excess of $37,000. The money, Carpenter said, was for McCreary County's 15% of occupational tax revenue generated by the businesses and jobs in the regional industrial park. When established, the park was set up as a regional project with six counties, including McCreary County, to benefit from that revenue. The $37,000 represents the funding collecting in calendar year 2015 and was up by more than $10,000 over the previous year.

Representatives of the park had previously addressed fiscal court asking them to join other regional counties that have pledged an annual investment of $10,000 to the project to help with their marketing and business recruitment efforts. The court previously rejected the request saying they did not have the additional $10,000 in their budget at the time. Magistrate Jason Mann made a motion last week to use $10,000 of the more than $37,000 just received to put back into the efforts.

In discussion, Magistrate Roger Phillips still questioned whether the county could afford to do that. He said at the end of the fiscal year, if the county had the $10,000 left, he was fine with making the move, but said at this stage with a very tight budget he did not approve. He addressed Bruce Carpenter saying that he felt if a business was looking to locate in the region, Carpenter would steer them to Corbin since that is his home. Carpenter responded that he is all about the region, adding that not every business will be a good fit for the regional industrial park or even for Corbin and that there may be a company just right for location in McCreary County. In that case, he said, he would do all he could to help facilitate the location of the business here.

In the end, the court voted to approve the $10,000 request, with Judge Executive Doug Stephens noting that the $37,000 received must go in the county's economic development fund for use on those type projects and that the $10,000 would come out of that fund. More information on the Southeast Kentucky Business Park you can visit their website at www.sekbp.com.

Veterans in the region will soon be able to access even better care as an announcement has been made that a new, larger Veterans Clinic is coming to Somerset. Congressman Hal Rogers made the announcement last week, just before Veterans' Day, saying the clinic will be built on Med Park Drive and will be double the size of the current facility. In addition, the new facility will house new services, such as audiology, optometry, and expanded physical therapy as well as improved privacy for female veterans. The new clinic will be a regional facility serving veterans in Somerset and Pulaski County, but also communities around the region. The new clinic is expected to open by early 2018.

Just about two years ago, right before the General Election of 2014, McCreary County leaders, including Judge-Executive Doug Stephens, announced that a company known as METT USA was preparing to locate an operation locally, which would create jobs in the county. Two years later ground has not been broken and no new jobs have been created, and some citizens want to know what happened. The current issues program “Truth or Politics” held a community call-in show this past Monday and one call received was from a citizen asking if there was any word on METT and if the project is still in the works. Program host Darlene Price responded by stating her opinion that the project is essentially dead and was likely never actually going to happen. It should be noted that WHAY Radio has not confirmed claims made by Price during the program and that comments and opinions made on the program are not necessarily those of WHAY Radio, its staff, management or ownership.

Price did note that she did not believe county leaders were intentionally misleading the citizens of the county on the project, but that the company had likely misled county leadership.

Comments on the call by Price also led her to comment on the recent announcement that coal mines may reopen, creating new jobs, to which she said she believes research has been done on that and the company involved has also been found to have some fraud charges against them.

We did reach out via e-mail to McCreary County Judge-Executive Doug Stephens for comment or update, and did received the following statement on this issue:

"The last contact with the officials from METT was with Ken Upchurch.  The last I talked to Ken about this is that negotiations with a particular power company to purchase the electricity from METT was still ongoing but stalled.  I am not very optimistic that the project will come to fruition anytime soon but still believe it is a possibility in the future.  As far as I am aware, this company has not scammed anyone.  They never asked for any financial contribution or even tax incentives from McCreary County.  They did meet with Department for Local Government officials and Economical Development Cabinet personnel in Frankfort for state incentives for a new business in the state.  I was present at that meeting in Frankfort.  The entire work plan was completed with the state incentives in place.  The only hold up was the power company and negotiations with them.  So, is the project dead or delayed?  I am not sure.  I do believe it had potential for our entire region and I hope it will come to fruition some day." (McCreary County Judge-Executive Doug Stephens)

If you visit the McCreary County Sheriff's Office, you may notice that the front parking area is gravel and rough and that there is no designated handicap parking space. Sheriff Randy Waters and his office manager Wanda Worley pleaded with fiscal court this month to do something about the situation. Sheriff Waters handed over a check for more than $5,000 in excess fees from calendar year 2015 from his office and requested that the county put those funds back into the office in the form of asphalt for the parking lot. It was also noted that a lady visiting the office recently had fallen and was injured on the gravel currently in place. Following discussion on the matter, the court did vote to authorize Hinkle Contracting to asphalt surface the parking area and install a designated handicap parking space, however Magistrate Roger Phillips said he only wanted to approve the move if the sheriff agreed not to request a loan from the court at the first of year. That is something that is common to allow the department to operate the first few weeks of the year until tax collections can be processed and utilized.

A Pulaski County man was arrested late last week, charged with offenses related to child sexual exploitation. 42 year old Jade Johnson was charged with distribution and possession of matter portraying a sex performance by a minor. The arrest came as the result of an undercover investigation by the Kentucky State Police Electronic Crimes Branch, beginning after they discovered the suspect allegedly sharing images of child exploitation online. A search warrant was then executed at the man's Bronston home where equipment was seized. Johnson was lodged in the Pulaski County Detention Center with additional charges expected as the investigation continues.

The Highland Telephone Cooperative Board of Directors held elections for some seats this past weekend. All three incumbents who ran for re-election claimed victory, including Loma Denny who ran unopposed in the “376” exchange for McCreary County. Other exchanges up for election included 286/569 and 279/228. Board members for Highland Telephone serve a three year term before having to run again.

The November session of the McCreary County Fiscal Court included comments by Leslie County Jailer Danny Clark concerning some issues related to local inmates housed at the jail. Leslie County is being used as the primary site for housing McCreary County inmates for a number of reasons, including overcrowding at many jails across the region. Jailer Clark noted that due to good inspection reports, the state is allowing his jail to house inmates at 175% of their capacity, which allows them to be able to accept inmates from this and a few other counties. Clark also noted that the McCreary County inmate population at Leslie County Jail is ranging between 60-70 on a regular basis.

Clark said one issue that his staff has encountered is having to take inmates to the hospital for medical issues, which means having to send a staff member along to the hospital while still keeping his full crew at the jail. This adds to the hours worked by his staff meaning overtime pay for his staff in some cases. He said many times McCreary County is not able to get an officer to Leslie County to stay with the inmate in the hospital, leaving the duty up to his own staff. He also said that because McCreary County does not currently have a female transport officer, anytime a female inmate is hospitalized one of his staff has to go along. Judge-Executive Doug Stephens said the county is in desperate need of female transport officers and that applications are being accepted from any qualified females interested.

Jailer Clark also said that an issue comes up with having to transport inmates back to the county for court appearances, saying that McCreary County's transport van will hold up to 15 passengers, but there are many times that more than twenty inmates need to be transported to court meaning his staff and vehicles have been helping with that effort as well.

Judge Stephens and members of the court said that they would do what they could to ease some this strain, but added that when Leslie County staff have to work to supervise McCreary County inmates, the county should be billed for the amount.

On the issue of billing, Jailer Clark urged the county to ensure that the monthly bill for housing of inmates be paid in a timely manner. He did add, when prompted by Judge Stephens, that McCreary County had done fairly well in paying the bill but had been behind a couple of times with payments.

Judge Stephens commented that he had received almost no complaints from inmates or families in terms of treatment of inmates at the Leslie County Detention Center.

The issue of not having a jail in McCreary County continues to dominate meetings of the fiscal court, including the November regular session held last week. After hearing from Leslie County Jailer Danny Clark on issues with housing inmates from the county at his jail, discussions continued on what to do with the local jail situation. Magistrate Jason Mann said while Leslie County is working well with local officials, something needs to be done to house inmates closer to home, if not in the county. Mann and members of the court were asked by a citizen in attendance if any real plans or progress had been made toward solving the issue. Mann noted that discussions had been held with Whitley County about housing inmates there, but that had not led to any progress. He added that the court has a couple of options on the table for raising funds to build a new jail such as the insurance tax proposed a few months ago, but there is uncertainty about whether that would raise enough money for the project. Mann said he was told another option may be a “special purpose” tax added on property tax bills for a specific project, such as building a jail, but that would have to be approved by county voters. To date, no real step has been taken toward solving the jail crisis for McCreary County.

McCreary County restaurant purchases will be free from the proposed 3% restaurant tax, at least for now. Meeting in regular session Thursday evening, the McCreary County Fiscal Court took up the issue of the tax ordinance for what was to be the second reading and final passage. Magistrate Jason Mann first made a motion just to discuss the issue and said he had spoken with a representative from the Department for Local Government, which advises local governments on issues, who said the county likely should not impose the tax because it was unclear if it was a legal tax for a county government to levy. In addition, a representative from the Kentucky Associate of Counties (KACo) apparently told the county that it was not advised that they impose the tax and Mann further commented that he understood them to say that if the county imposed the tax and was sued over the move, KACo would not cover that kind of lawsuit because the tax may be illegal from the start. However, County Attorney Conley Chaney advised the court that in his research he felt there is little difference legally between the transient, or room, tax and the restaurant tax and since the county has had the former tax for years, they should be able to impose the restaurant tax if they choose.

Chaney added that it was his opinion that both taxes, if levied, would have to be handled and used in the same manner. On that note, when questioned, Judge-Executive Doug Stephens back tracked on his previously statement that any money realized would go in the county's economic development fund, which is also used for tourism projects and expenses. He said Thursday that the tax revenue would be handled the same as transient tax dollars, which pass through the county treasury but are delivered in full to the tourist commission which has its own bank account and manages its own budget.

There was still no mention of any actual planning that has been done on how to spend the money to further tourism or the community in general. There has also been no word if the tourist commission has done any work to develop a budget for using the money from a possible tax.

In the end, Magistrate Mann made a motion to table the restaurant tax issue until a future meeting, allowing the county to seek additional legal advice on the matter. He noted the county could not afford another lawsuit, especially if KACo would be unwilling to back the county in the case. The court voted to table the tax for future review.

After updating the county ordinance on solid waste disposal, spelling out rates and terms, and then advertising for companies to submit proposals on providing garbage disposal in the county, McCreary County Fiscal Court was prepared to open and review bid proposals during their regular November meeting. At first, Judge Stephens said only two proposals had been received by the deadline, but when he opened the first envelope he said it was actually a letter from a northern Kentucky company thanking the county for the invitation to bid, but declining to do so since the county is out of their service area. That left only one proposals on the service and that came from the current franchise agreement holder, Scott Solid Waste. Because of what was called a “menu” of pricing options and details in that proposal depending on a number of variables, county leaders opted to table that issue, ask the county's solid waste board to review the proposal and potentially schedule a special court meeting within a couple of weeks to act on the new franchise agreement. The current agreement with the company will expire after December 31

The McCreary County School District will this year begin participating in what is known as “non-traditional instruction days” to help avoid adding days to the end of the school year for days missed because of weather and road conditions this winter. The idea behind the program is that students can still work on assignments and learning at home even when off school for weather issues or illness. Sometime in the coming weeks, schools will be sending home with each student a packet with ten lessons to complete on non-traditional instruction days, including links to the school district website where they can find assignments in digital format. When parents and guardians receive notice that school is closed they will be notified if the day or days will be used as one of the non-traditional instruction days. That information will also be distributed to the community via social media and on radio. School personnel note that the non-traditional instruction days will not be used on the first day that school is closed, but can be used as deemed necessary for periods when school is closed multiple consecutive days. Completed work should be returned to school by the student with two days after school in back in session and at least 86% participation must be observed to count, otherwise additional days will be added at the end of the school year. For further information on the program contact your child's school or call the board office at 376-2591.

Kentuckians may have gotten used to the “511” phone system that could be used to check traffic conditions, road issues and construction activity in the state. That system has been in place for about twenty years, but is now being replaced by a new online portal by the Transportation Cabinet. Officials have announced the launching of Goky.ky.gov which they say is an improved system to allow residents to check those issues and get more accurate and up-to-date information. State officials said a decline in the use of the phone system in recent years, coupled with an estimated savings of about $750,000 annually, prompted the decision by the state.

A fatal traffic crash on Mount Pleasant Road in southern McCreary County Wednesday afternoon remains under investigation by Kentucky State Police. The McCreary County Voice reports that a single vehicle flipped and rolled over with one person, 53 year old Steven Ray Strunk, pronounced dead at the scene. 71 year old Obie Miller was airlifted from the scene to UT Medical Center in Knoxville with serious injuries and 52 year old Donald Perry was transported by ambulance to the hospital in Somerset. Another passenger, Dakota Lee Perry, was taken by private vehicle for treatment. The Voice says that full details of the crash were not yet available as the investigation continues.

This is the time of year when deer begin to increase their activity and begin crossing roadways in larger numbers. Law enforcement officials are reminding motorists to watch for deer crossing roadways and remember that when you see one deer crossing, there could very well be more to follow. In 2015, Kentucky recorded more than 3,000 vehicle-deer collisions, according to numbers released by the Kentucky State Police. That was reportedly an increase of 175 crashes over the number for the previous year. Three people lost their lives as a result of those crashes in 2015 with 163 injured. Authorities say the highest number of deer collisions seem to happen in the hours between 5:00pm and 7:00pm, which could be in part because of peak mobility times for deer and in part because of increased traffic during those hours. Remember to be cautious, watch for deer along sides of the road that may dart out in front of you, use high beams when there is no on-coming traffic, and always wear your seat belt to reduce the risk of injuries in the event of a collision. More information on being prepared and cautious with deer crossings can be found online at kentuckystatepolice.org/deerauto.htm.

Residents of McCreary County are being offered several opportunities to “give back” to others this holiday season. The annual “Banquet of Blessings” is a free community Christmas dinner held each year on Christmas Eve to provide meals for those in need in the community, including residents of nursing homes, shut-ins, and families. The committee overseeing the 2016 “Banquet” met this week to begin putting together details for the event. Anyone needing information or wishing to help or volunteer can like and follow “Banquet of Blessings” on Facebook.

The McCreary County School District and McCreary County Public Library have also joined again to sponsor the “Giving Tree” along with “Drop Your Drawers” starting November 9th through December 9th. The “Giving Tree” allows people to drop off items like hats, gloves, scarves or mittens at the library to be distributed to children in the local school district. “Drop Your Drawers” allows people to drop off packages of new underwear for boys and girls sizes 4-16 during that same time period.

Walker's Chapel Missionary Baptist Church in Parkers Lake will again this year be a collection point for the Samaritan's Purse “Operation Christmas Child” program that distributes much needed items to children around the world at Christmas time. Collection times at the church will be Monday November 14th through November 21st from 11:00am to 6:00pm daily.

A traffic accident was reported on Main Street in downtown Whitley city Tuesday morning, with a vehicle being sent crashing into the front of the McCreary County Public Library building. Reports indicate there were no serious injuries from the crash and no significant damage to the library building. The exact cause of the crash remains under investigation.

In a recent e-mail to their customers, Highland Telephone Cooperative warns of a recent phone scam that has been reported in the area. The warning states that the target victim is called by someone claiming to be with Highland Telephone and saying the customer has “unusual” activity on their account and that they need information to clear up the matter. Highland staff warn that this person is not with their company and remind you to never give out any personal or account information in unsolicited requests. If you are contacted in this manner, you can double check the legitimacy of the call by contacting Highland Telephone at 376-5311 for their Whitley City office, or any of the other Highland offices.

The latest data released by state officials shows a slight improvement for McCreary County's unemployment rate between August and September of this year. In August, the county recorded a 7.3% jobless rate, which dropped to 6.8% in September, the most recent numbers available. That was also a slight improvement from September last year, when the rate was also 7.3%. Four counties in the ten county Lake Cumberland region saw lower jobless rates in September, including McCreary County, while two rates were unchanged, and four were higher between August and September. The overall Lake Cumberland jobless rate for September 2016 was 5.5%, the same as the previous month but down from 6.2% in September 2015. Kentucky's unemployment rate was also unchanged between August and September at 4.8%, but down very slightly from 4.9% last year. Meanwhile, Kentucky was right in line with the national jobless rate which was also 4.8%. For more on Kentucky's labor market and unemployment data, go online to kylmi.ky.gov.

The McCreary County Grand Jury returned several indictments in October, including filing formal charges against a Williamsburg man on sex abuse charges involving a young child. The indictment names Kenneth Ball and charges him with one count of sexual abuse first degree and one count of sodomy first degree, for allegedly engaging in deviate sexual intercourse with a six year old child this past June.

Other indictments this past month included Jason Laxton, Reuben West and Tina P. Large all for theft by unlawful taking for allegedly taking tools and items valued at more than $5,000 in August. Devan Jones was indicted for possession of a controlled substance for meth; and Loretta Bryant was charged with fraudulent use of a credit card over $500 for allegedly using a debit card of another person to obtain cash and merchandise valued at more than $8,000 Bryant was also charged as a persistent felony offender. An indictment was also returned against David Davis for theft, operating a motor vehicle while under the influence, driving a motor vehicle on a suspended or revoked license and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Listeners are reminded that an indictment by the grand jury is not a finding of guilt, but is a formal charge in a case.

The Whitley County Sheriff's Department reported late last week an arrest in connection with the illegal passing of counterfeit money. 54 year old Roy Lee Wells was charged with two counts of first degree possession of a forged instrument and was lodged in the Whitley County Detention Center. Officers had also previously reported they were searching for a woman who was suspected of passing counterfeit money in Whitley County. The McCreary County Sheriff's Department also recently confirmed that some counterfeit bills have circulated locally and they advise local residents and especially employees and managers of businesses to be on the look out for “phony” bills and report incidents immediately.

Following through on a campaign promise from last year, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin received approval from the federal government to dismantle the “Kynect” healthcare exchange for the state. Residents of Kentucky may have gotten used to shopping and signing up for health insurance plans through Kynect over the last few years, but will now have to use the federal exchange. That change begins today (November 1st) with the start of open enrollment for qualified health plans. State officials say about 84,000 Kentuckians have a health plan purchased through the exchange and will have to use the federal marketplace to renew or shop for plans at healthcare.gov. Plans purchased starting today would be in effect for 2017, with no changes noted in the current calendar year. Open enrollment will run through January 31, 2017 but to be eligible for coverage to start January 1st you must be enrolled by December 15th. Those covered through Medicaid should note that those plans and application processes have not changed. The Kynect call center is still active to help Kentucky residents with questions about coverage and how to shop or apply for coverage by calling 1-855-459-6328. In addition, the federal marketplace at healthcare.gov has a call center at 10800-318-2596 which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

A lawsuit which had named McCreary County, the McCreary County Sheriff's Department and entities in Wayne County as defendants has reportedly been dismissed in federal court. The Wayne County Outlook reports that the suit, filed by the family of the late Charles Lee Rose of McCreary County, was dismissed but that a new lawsuit has been filed, this time naming Wayne County, the Wayne County Detention Center, and current and former jail staff. The suit involves the death of Rose while in custody of the Wayne County Detention Center in February 2014. The lawsuit claims that Rose exhibited “symptoms of drug overdose that were or should have been obvious to deputy jailers...” and that the failure of jail staff to get proper medical attention for Rose led to his death. Medical examiners later determined that the death was caused by lack of oxygen to his brain, brought on by a drug-induced heart attack. The defendants in the case had filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, but at last report a decision on that motion had not been made in Wayne County.

A former football coach in neighboring Pulaski County learned last week that he will spend up to ten years in prison. Dale Anderson was once a coach at Southwestern Pulaski High School but last week found himself standing before a judge in Louisville where he was sentenced to ten years in prison with the possibility of shock probation after 180 days. The case stems from accusations that Anderson sexually abused a student decades ago while teaching in Jefferson County. In September, a jury found him guilty of sodomy and sex abuse, leading to the sentencing hearing last week.

McCreary County residents are being urged to be cautious when approached by anyone seeking donations or information.
The McCreary County Voice
reports this week that the local sheriff's office is especially warning residents to watch for anyone who may approach them claiming to be representing the McCreary County Sheriff's Department. Officials say if the individual is not driving a marked police vehicle and does not have a badge or proper identification, you should not assume they are with the sheriff's department. If approached in this way, you should contact the local 911 center immediately and report as much information as possible.

A Kentucky man is facing serious charges in Tennessee after he allegedly engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct involving at least two underage girls. A Scott County Grand Jury has returned an indictment including 34 felony counts against 21 year old Jonathan Wesley Bolin of Burnside including rape of a child, aggravated sexual battery, solicitation of a minor, trafficking for commercial sex acts with a child less than 15 years of age, sexual abuse of a child and attempted aggravated sexual battery. Investigators say the charges stem from allegations that Bolin engaged in the conduct with the girls over a period of time, perhaps starting when the girls were only nine years old in 2013. He was arrested last month, followed by the investigation that led to the indictment. Listeners are reminded that an indictment is a formal charge in a case but is not a finding of guilt.

After approving a new garbage disposal and management ordinance for McCreary County earlier this month, county leaders are not seeking proposals from garbage disposal companies for the franchise agreement, which is set to start January 1st. A public notice was published in The McCreary County Voice last week stating that companies are invited to submit proposals for the collection of trash and the operation of the solid waste collection service for all of McCreary County. The notice states that sealed bid proposals from companies should be submitted to the Judge-Executive's Office no later than 4:00pm Thursday November 10th to be opened and reviewed by Fiscal Court at their regular monthly meeting that same date at 6:00pm. The current franchise agreement with Scott Solid Waste, a Waste Connections Company, will expire at the end of the calendar year, at which time a new agreement must be in place for the county to ensure garbage disposal services. The new ordinance approved by county leaders sets guidelines for garbage disposal rates and also sets penalties for those who do not sign up for garbage collection or to deliver their trash to the transfer station in Stearns. The ordinance is available for review at the McCreary County Judge-Executive's Office.

The McCreary County Tourist Commission recently rented a billboard space owned by the North McCreary Fire Department just off Highway 27 in the Wiborg area, and had installed a “Just Hang Out” billboard at that location to promotion the various tourism activities in the region. However, those driving by the area in recent days may have noticed that the billboard is no longer up. According to social media posts, the heavy vinyl sign used for the billboard was apparently stolen. Anyone with information related to the theft or the location of the sign and related materials is being asked to contact McCreary County Tourism officials or can contact the McCreary County Judge-Executive's Office.

Last week we reported on a body found over an embankment off West Highway 92 in Stearns.
The McCreary County Voice reported that the identity of that body was confirmed by authorities as 39 year old Herman Stephens. Investigators said they believe Stephens fell over the cliff and suffered injuries, including leg fractures and eventually succumbed to those injuries. His body was likely at the bottom of the embankment for several days before being found. A memorial service was held for Stephens this past Friday at the Winfield City Park.

The McCreary County Chamber of Commerce held its annual meeting and banquet last Thursday, including the presentation of their awards in various categories. Among the award recipients were Larry's Mini Mart as “Business of the Year”; Sandra Cundiff from Kroger as “Business Person of the Year”; Terry Baker and Wanda Howard Monroe as “Co-Citizens of the Year”; Page Hatfield Bryant as “Educator of the Year”; Lyndsey Pennington as “Student of the Year”; and Roger Owens receiving the “President's Award.” Other awards presented include the “Lifetime Achievement Award” for the late Oscar Hamilton and a special award to Ken Upchurch for his work over several years with the Leadership McCreary program. The Big South Fork National River and Recreation area also received special recognition for 25 years of public service to McCreary County and the McCreary County Public Library received recognition for 40 years of public service. The annual banquet last week for the McCreary County Chamber of Commerce also included comments from Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton.

A Kentucky man who was shot by a police officer in Oneida, Tennessee back in August is now officially facing charges following the handing down of a grand jury indictment this week. 30 year old Shannon O'Regan was reportedly involved in a domestic dispute in the parking lot of Wal-Mart in Oneida that August day when officers arrived on scene. Those officers reported that the suspect pointed a gun in their direction, prompting officers to fire and strike O'Regan once. The grand jury in Scott County this week returned the indictment, formally charging him with aggravated assault and drug possession charges. He reportedly turned himself in and at last report was being held under $25,000 bond.

A Whitley County woman was indicted this week on murder charges, along with other offenses, in connection with a traffic crash in July. Killed in that wreck were Teresa Ward and Joshua Bennett, after a car driven by Sonia Askins crashed into their vehicle. Askins reportedly admitted to police that she had taken a shot of moonshine, plus had taken Oxycodone, morphine and other prescription medications before the crash. Listeners are reminded that an indictment by a grand jury is a formal charge in a case, but is not a finding of guilt.

After no increase in payments for Social Security recipients and federal retirees for 2016, it has been announced that millions of Americans will see an increase in monthly payments in 2017. The federal government announced that the cost of living adjustment (“COLA”) will result in a .3% increase in payments starting next year. While many want to either give credit or blame the President for the amount paid out in Social Security and federal retirement payments, under federal law the cost of living adjustment is actually set based on a government measure of consumer prices and inflation. The adjustment will reportedly impact about 70 million Americans, roughly 1 in 5 citizens. The money will not amount to a major increase, about $4 a month for the average Social Security payment, but will at least represent some form of increase in 2017. Some are pushing for an increase in Social Security benefits, especially for older Americans, including Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders who campaigned on that issue, among others, in his recent run for President. Since that time, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has also signed on to the idea of expanding federal benefits. She says her plan calls for paying for the increase by raising taxes on weaothy Americans making more than $250,000 per year. Republican Donald Trump has actually broken from many others in the GOP by stating he would not cut benefits, although political experts say he has offered no solid plans on the issue and has not said he favored increasing benefits.

Following a crash on the 914 Bypass near Somerset Tuesday afternoon, a truck driver was reportedly trapped inside the wreckage for several hours as crews worked to free him. Authorities report that the crash involved a tractor trailer that overturned on a ramp between the 914 Bypass and the Cumberland Parkway. The driver, once freed, was airlifted from the scene to the hospital for treatment of what were called “serious” injuries. Police are still investigating to determine the cause of the crash.

It is a problem that all businesses should be aware of and have to deal with on a regular basis. The problem is the circulation of counterfeit currency. The Whitley County Sheriff's Department has reported this week that a surge in the passing of phony money has been seen, especially involving $100 bills that actually made it through without being identified by specially designed markers that are supposed to reveal these fakes. Authorities are still working to determine how the bills made it through without being detected. They ask all individuals and especially businesses to be vigilant and watch all bills carefully. Report incidents of counterfeit currency to law enforcement immediately.

The Scott County, Tennessee Sheriff's Department responded to a tip last week after a witness said a trio of suspects tried to sell items to customers at a convenience store in the Helenwood area. Officers were able to locate the suspect vehicle and after stopping the vehicle found a small amount of marijuana, pipes, marijuana grinder and rolling papers inside. Officers also found chainsaws and equipment with reports that as much as $25,000 worth of equipment had been stolen from a company located in Pulaski County, Kentucky. The three suspects were arrested and were identified as Ryan Sellers, Justin Foley and Cody Clark, all of whom reportedly listed Kentucky addresses. All were charged and are facing additional charges in Pulaski County, as the investigation continues across county and state lines.

While not the same as having a full time, or even part time, tourism director, the McCreary County Tourist Commission will now at least have some help in carrying out tourism planning and promotion of the county. Meeting in regular session last week, the McCreary County Fiscal Court approved the hiring of Christy Andrea Hill as a part time tourism administrative assistant at a pay rate of $10 per hour for up to 24 hours per week, which is the maximum allowed for a part time county employee. Reports indicated that three applicants were interviewed for the position with the tourist commission recommending Hill for the post. There was no word at the court meeting as to when Hill would assume the duties, but it was expected she would begin work as soon as administrative code requirements were met, which includes a background check and drug screening.

Kentucky State Police have reported the discovery of a man's lifeless body in a wooded area off Highway 92 west of Stearns in McCreary County on Sunday. The initial call came from an individual who found the body and first contact the McCreary County Sheriff's Department, with the state police then getting involved in the investigation. The body was found over a 40 foot embankment and authorities say at this time foul play is not suspected in the case, although the investigation is ongoing to determine identity and exact cause and date of death. Kentucky State Police are leading the investigation with assistance at the scene from the McCreary County Sheriff's Department, Coroner's Office and the Whitley City Fire Department.

Meeting in regular session last Thursday, the McCreary County Fiscal Court voted to approve the second reading, giving final passage, to a new garbage disposal ordinance for the county. Before voting by a 3-2 margin in favor of the move, the court discussed the ordinance with Magistrate Duston Baird asking Judge Executive Doug Stephens point blank if it included the word “mandatory.” Judge Stephens responded that it did not include that word but that it “implies mandatory” with the penalties in place for non-compliance. However, the prior ordinance also including penalties for not complying but has never been enforced with any regularity. The ordinance increases the amount that can be fined for non-compliance and also lowers the rates for disposal in the county. For example, the regular residential rate for household trash collection is currently $15 monthly, but would drop to $10 per month under the new ordinance. Magistrate Roger Phillips continued to question whether a disposal company will actually submit a proposal with those new lower rates, especially with no guarantee that the county is going to enforce compliance. County Attorney Conley Chaney made the point that if it is enforced, the participation rate for garbage pickup service will go up and a company could make more money even with a lower rate, but Chaney added that it depends on a company having an assurance that it will be enforced. County officials said if no company submits a proposal matching the rates listed in the ordinance, they will have to back and make changes and possibly negotiate for a deal for garbage disposal.

Another issue discussed was the elimination of the $1 per bag disposal, which has been in place several years. Judge Stephens said very few people take advantage of the program and added that it is being replaced with an option that allows a resident to pay $60 in advance for the entire year to deliver their trash to the transfer station. That would break down to $5 per month with the limit on bags to dispose being six bags per week, which is the same as the pickup limit. That breaks down further to less than 20 cents per bag for disposal if a customer disposes of the full limit each week under that program. Magistrate Roger Phillips again questioned how the county can expect any company to agree to accept the franchise agreement under those terms.

The court did vote to approve the new garbage ordinance by a 3-2 vote, with Magistrates Roger Phillips and OL Perry voting against approval. The next step is to solicit proposal from garbage disposal companies for the franchise agreement. The current agreement with Scott Solid Waste will expire at the end of this calendar year.

After tabling and rebidding, the project to light a baseball field at the McCreary County Park is now moving forward after county leaders approved a bid last week on the project. The county received three bids with the cost ranging from the low bid of $41,800 to a high bid of $42,500, only a $700 between the three. Options were also tagged on for preparing for a second field, but the county had already determined that based on available park funding only one field can be completed at this time. Following discussion, Magistrate Roger Phillips moved to go with the low bid after commenting that it seems all three bids offer the same in terms of installation and the guaranteed life of the actual light bulbs. The motion passed and the project can now move forward with the field to be lit up by next spring. That, according to county leaders, park board members and Little League officials, will allow for the hosting of tournaments in addition to night games for the local Little League Association.

The court also voted to accept bids recommended by the park board for additional work including the installation of basketball courts, fencing and bleachers at the county park.

Last month, the McCreary County Fiscal Court took its first step toward a tax on restaurant purchases in the county, and this month took another step forward on the issue. During the court's regular session Thursday evening, members were asked to approve the first reading of Ordinance 210.3, which would levy a restaurant tax countywide. Judge-Executive Doug Stephens said the ordinance would impact all “fixed and mobile businesses preparing or serving ready to eat foods.” That, according to Stephens, would include any mobile vendors setting up on the side of the road, parking lots or at special events, as well as established restaurants, grocery store delis, convenient stores serving food like burgers or pizza and coffee shops that serve foods ready to eat. It would not include school cafeterias, vending machines and church or non-profit operations. The tax, if given final approval, would be a 3% tax on food purchases from such businesses, as covered by the county ordinance. The court voted along the same lines as they did on the issue last month, with Judge Stephens and Magistrates Jason Mann and Duston Baird voting in favor of the tax, and Magistrates OL Perry and Roger Phillips voting against approval.

Later in the meeting, during “Citizen Participation”, Vicki Kidd addressed the court saying she was not necessarily against a restaurant tax, if the county had solid plans on the use of the money and could essentially show the benefit as it pertains to the local tourism industry at the stage it is currently. State law does require restaurant tax funds to be used for tourism or conventions, although Judge Stephens left the use of funds vague stating some communities have used the money to enhance parks, and infrastructure deemed essential for tourism and economic development. While state law also specifically states that “all monies collected from the tax...shall be turned over to the tourist and convention commission..”, Judge Stephens indicated that is not how McCreary County would handle its collection and use of the tax. He said, even when questioned further, that the funds would be deposited in the county's “Tourism and Economic Development” fund and would be directly overseen by fiscal court. That is something that appears to be in direct conflict with state law, under KRS 91A.400. Judge Stephens also addressed the legal question of whether a county government can even impose a restaurant tax, something that is not authorized under state law. He said in some cases in the past, the county has been allowed to act as a Fifth Class city, since it has no incorporated city. County leaders seem to be using that as a blanket approval to act as a city in all cases including the restaurant tax. Judge Stephens said they had spoken with several attorneys and none had said definitively that the county could not impose the tax. When questioned on whether any attorney had definitely said the county could do it, Judge Stephens said “no”.

Citizen Vicki Kidd also questioned if any real planning had been done to determine how much funding would be realized from the tax and if any planning had been done on how to actually spend the money. County leaders offered no such planning results.

The restaurant tax ordinance will now have to be approved through a second reading, which could come at the court's November session.

The Whitley County Sheriff's Department confirmed that a fugitive from Ohio was captured Monday after he was stopped while walking along US Highway 25. A deputy was responding to a report of suspicious activity when he spotted the individual walking in the area and stopped to investigate. A check with the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) found that the individual, identified as 31 year old Jason Johnson of Jellico, was actually wanted in Ohio for a sex offender registration violation. Johnson was arrested and was lodged in the Whitley County Detention Center awaiting extradition back to Ohio to face the charges.

A crew on one of McCreary County's ambulances has an eventful evening Tuesday night as they reportedly delivered a baby in the ambulance, giving new meaning to the phrase “baby on board.” According to a post on the McCreary County Ambulance Service Facebook page, a call came in at about 10:00pm Tuesday of a mother to be possibly in labor. The ambulance picked the woman up and proceeded to the hospital in Somerset, but on the way the baby decided not to wait any longer and made its way into the world. The post states that the birth actually occurred at about 10:30pm in the Burnside area while the ambulance was still heading toward the hospital. The ambulance service reported that as of Wednesday morning, the mother and the baby boy were both doing well at the hospital. The post states that this is something that is not seen often by ambulance service crews, but with no hospital in county, the service has to be trained and prepared for just about any occurrence of a medical nature.

Law enforcement officials in Scott County, Tennessee have reported a sting operation that resulted in a trio of drug related arrests last week. 34 year old Dustin Griffith of Helenwood, Tennessee, 45 year old Christopher Strunk of Oneida, and Tesia Wilson age 29 of Kentucky were all arrested and charged with criminal conspiracy to possess a controlled substance. Strunk was additionally charged with possession of a schedule II controlled substance, specifically morphine, for the purpose of resale. The investigation was conducted by officers with the Scott County Sheriff's Department and the Oneida Police Department using a confidential informant to provide information and assist in planning for the sting and the arrest. The case remains under investigation.

The McCreary County EMS/Ambulance Service has gone digital, according to reports. The service recently switched its communication across radio channels to a digital format to ensure better audio quality as well as an increase in the range of the signals to help communicate from the more rugged and outlying areas of the county. The change reportedly came about thanks to grant funding secured by the service, under the leadership of Director Jimmy Barnett. McCreary County EMS has also been able to obtain grant funding in recent years to provide for the replacement of ambulances, as well as other equipment such as power stretchers and life saving units. Barnett also oversees the county's 911 service, which utilized grant funding to upgrade its equipment in able to put E-911, or “enhanced” 911 in place. This allows dispatchers to pinpoint the location of a caller on a map screen even if the caller is unable to communicate directions, and to relay the information to the appropriate first responders.

We have all seen the commercials with representatives from “Publishers' Clearinghouse” knocking on someone's door to offer them a grand prize or a large ceremonial check. Some scam artists are taking advantage of the allure of winning a big prize as they target potential victims. Local residents have reported getting phone calls from someone claiming to be with the prize awarding agency saying the victim has won a prize and that to claim the prize they must go to the bank and get a money order to send in to cover processing fees. Law enforcement officials have repeatedly reminded residents that no legitimate company or lottery will require you to pay any fee to claim a prize. If you are asked to send money or give any account information over the phone to such a caller, do not comply. Other scams reportedly heavily recently include the IRS scam, where callers claim to be from the IRS needed payment for back taxes, as well as scams involving people claiming to be computer technicians asking for access to your computer to fix a PC problem or rid the computer of viruses. Remember, these are scams and you should never give personal or account information, send money or give access to your computer to anyone, especially if you have not initiated the contact.

With official word coming this week from federal officials that Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin has been granted his request to dismantle the Kynect system for getting health coverage for state residents, there may seem to be a time of uncertainty for Kentuckians health coverage. Bevin promised while running for office last year that he would close out the Kynect program, and is now following through on that campaign promise. What that means for those Kentuckians who use the state's exchange to get their health coverage is that they will now have to start using the federal exchange instead, as of November 1
st. Residents of the state “shopping” for health coverage after that date will need to go to www.healthcare.gov and then select “Kentucky” under the state selection box to begin the process of getting new coverage or renewing coverage. This will be instead of going to the Kynect website they have become used to using. Bevin says the move will save the state money moving forward.

This should not be confused with Governor Bevin's plan to make changes to the state's Medicaid program, a proposal that is currently still in the public comment period at the federal level through this Saturday October 8th. After that negotiations could begin between the state and federal officials on changes to the program, especially impacting those who began receiving Medicaid coverage through Kentucky's expansion of that program.

The McCreary County Board of Elections, led by the county's chief election officer, County Clerk Eric Haynes, met Tuesday (October 4th) to inspect all voting machines ahead of the General Election, which is now less than five weeks away on Tuesday November 8th. Election officials remind residents who are not yet registered to vote that next Tuesday October 11th is the last day to register and still be eligible to vote on November 8th. Registration books will be closed following that deadline until after the election. Absentee voting will also be getting underway in the coming weeks, both through mail-in ballots and walk-in voting at the county clerk's office. Polls will be open for traditional voting on Tuesday November 8th from 6:00am to 6:00pm at all regular precinct voting locations in McCreary County.

The ballot for all McCreary County voters will include a choice for US President with candidates including Republican Donald Trump, Democrat Hillary Clinton, Libertarian Gary Johnson, Reform Party candidate “Rocky” Roque De La Fuente, Green Party candidate Jill Stein, and Independent Evan McMullin, along with each candidate's respective running mate. In the race for US Senate, choices include Republican Rand Paul and Democrat Jim Gray, while the race for US Representative includes only the name of Republican Hal Rogers. Ken Upchurch is also running unopposed for another term as State Representative for this district. Local races include soil and water conservation district, where voters can vote for four candidates, as there are four open seats. However, only three candidates filed to run and will appear on the ballot, including Bradley Coffey, Jr., Anthony Trammell, and Coby Stephens. School board races include Nelda Gilreath running unopposed in the 1st educational division, including the precincts of East Pine Knot and Bethel; Casey Daugherty, and Dustin Stephens running in the 3rd division including Stearns, Smithtown and Cooperative; and in the 5th division candidates include James Kiser, Debbie Gibson, Belinda Wilson and Kevin Taylor. That division includes North Whitley, Wiborg, Cumberland Falls, Eagle, Mill Creek and Pigeon. The remaining two educational districts will be up for grabs in the 2018 election cycle.

For more information on the upcoming election or voter eligibility, contact the McCreary County Clerk's Office at 376-2411 or visit www.mccrearycountyclerk.com. You can also go inline to http://elect.ky.gov.

After the Kentucky Department of Education issued their assessment results for the McCreary County School District, and districts across the state, last week, local Superintendent Mike Cash issued a statement regarding the 2015-2016 test results. In the statement, Cash focuses on the achievement of McCreary Central High School being classified as a “Distinguished” school and Pine Knot Primary School being recognized as a “Distinguished School of Distinction.” He also noted that the school district as a whole was recognized as “Proficient” for the second consecutive year and expressed his gratitude to the staff, students and parents of the district for making that milestone possible.

The statement from Superintendent Cash goes on to point out some of the main findings of the assessment including the positive results as well as some areas needing improvement in the district. It was noted, as we previously reported, that McCreary Middle, Pine Knot Intermediate and Whitley City Elementary were all listed in the category of “needs improvement”, but that combined the three schools only missed the “proficient” mark by 6.1 points. Cash says that the goal of the local school district is to be classified as “Distinguished” by the time the next assessment results come out next fall, saying that some “tweaks” are being made to help in that effort.

Those who have children set to enter kindergarten next school year will want to make note of a change in the birthday cut off date beginning in 2017. State education officials say that the current cut off which allows children who turn 5 years old by October 1st to enter kindergarten, will be moved up two months to August 1st. That means that traditional students will have to turn five prior to August 1st in 2017 to enter kindergarten. However, officials say some children with advanced academic and social skills may qualify to enter even if they do not turn five until as late as October 31st. That determination will reportedly be made by local schools and be considered through an early enrollment application process. Those with questions about enrollment eligibility or changes should contact their local school for information.

After closing earlier this year, the hospital in Oneida, Tennessee could reopen within a few months, according to sources close to the effort. The Knoxville News Sentinel reported last week that Pioneer Health Services is working through negotiations to sell the facility as parts of its bankruptcy proceedings. If the deal is closed, a new owner could potentially look to reopen the hospital by the end of the year, although full details are still to be worked out. Sources say Lifebrite Hospital Group is currently the front-runner to potentially purchase the hospital facility. Pioneer reopened the hospital after it first closed a few years ago, but then had to to close the doors again this year after the company filed bankruptcy.

Each year, the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) releases “report cards” for each county, school district and individual schools based on a number of factors. The scores reported for schools are based on things like test scores, student safety, awards, parent involvement and more. The KDE released the “report cards” for the state's schools for 2015-2016 this week including scores for the McCreary County School District and each of the local schools.

The overall district score for last school year was 67.9, which was down slightly from the previous year which was 72.2, but was still listed in the “proficient” category for the district. The best individual school outcome was recorded for McCreary Central High School where the overall score improved from 70.3 in 2014-2015 to 77.1 last school year, putting the high school in the “distinguished” level. Pine Knot Primary School was listed as “distinguished” and “progressing” with a score of 82.4, up from 72.0 the previous year. Other local schools reported declining scores including McCreary Middle which dropped from 64.7 to 62.0, Whitley City Elementary which dropped from 69.7 to 66.1 and Pine Knot Intermediate which dropped from 81.7 to 66.1. All of those schools were in the “needs improvement” category, according to the latest school “report cards” released by the state department of education.

For full details or to look up reports for individual schools you can visit the Kentucky Department of Education website at www.education.ky.gov and then click on the “School Report Cards” section.

Among the 19 indicted this month (September) by the McCreary County Grand Jury were an escapee, who has yet to be captured according to reports, and an accused child abuser. The grand jury returned indictments on a variety of charges, including against Jimmy Troxell of Parkers Lake for escape charges after he reportedly fled from transport/security officers while being transported with a group of other inmates from a van into the McCreary County Courthouse in August. Troxell, who was handcuffed at the time, fled the area and has evaded capture for more than a month.

Dustin D. Ridner of Parkers Lake was indicted on charges of criminal abuse first degree for allegedly intentionally abusing a three year old child by throwing him down and causing substantial injuries, according to the indictment.

Other September indictments included Alexander West for burglary first degree and assault fourth degree for domestic and Newton Loudermilk for criminal mischief for damage to two vehicles and a front porch of a residence. Loudermilk was also charged with driving on a suspended license and for DUI.

Drug indictments were handed down against Raymond King, Jr. and Joey Ellis, while charges in cases related to thefts or burglaries included Rhonda King, Jason Laxton, Reuben West, Heather Crusey, Corey Gregory, Codie Creekmore, Dustion Brown, Jonathan Thomas, James Mason, Cassandra Perry and Dillard Thomas. Additional indictments included charges against Paul Jamison for intimidating a witness, Roseanne Baird for intimidating a participant in a legal process, and Tony Ridner for a variety of offenses including kidnapping, wanton endangerment, criminal mischief and assault.

Listeners are reminded that an indictment by the grand jury is a formal charge against a suspect in a case, but is not a finding of guilt.

Voters in nearby Monticello in Wayne County headed to the polls this past Tuesday (September 27th) to vote on whether to legalize alcohol sales within the city limits. The unofficial tally reported on by Wayne County media sources indicates that voters rejected the measure by a 232 vote margin, with 876 voting “no” and 644 voting “yes” to alcohol sales. The special referendum vote was called after petitions were collected and turned in a few weeks ago by those pushing for legalized sales, but, at least for now, Monticello and all of Wayne County will remain dry.

The McCreary County Ambulance Service was notified this week that they were selected as one of 112 recipients of a total of $2.7 million in Homeland Security grants awarded in Kentucky. The announcement came through the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security and states that recipients are located in 74 different counties across the state. McCreary County will receive a grant for $20,800 to be used by the local ambulance service to replace two manual stretchers with power stretchers. According to Jimmy Barnett, McCreary County EMS/911 Director, the service is working to replace all manual stretchers with power models to avoid potential back injuries by EMTs and paramedics to make their life saving work a little easier.

A McCreary County woman was arrested in connection with a weekend stabbing and has been charged with first degree assault. Reports coming from the McCreary County Sheriff's Department indicate that Miranda Allen was arrested after she allegedly stabbed Jamie Lynch in the neck early Saturday morning. The victim was taken to UK Medical Center in Lexington where she was expected to make a full recovery. Allen was taken into custody as the investigation into the incident continues.

A new app for electronic devices has been launched by the McCreary County School District to help parents, students and staff stay up to date on what is going on with the local district. The McCreary County Voice reports that the app is available for Android devices through Google and for Apple products through the Apple store and is available as a free download for devices. Once the app is downloaded, a search can be done for the McCreary County School District to connect and be able to get updates. When news items and calendar items are updated on the school district website, those updates are also sent to mobile devices through the app. The school district website is also available at www.mccreary.k12.ky.us.

If compared to the same month one year ago, McCreary County's unemployment rate has improved slightly for August 2016. The rate came in at 7.3% last month, down from 7.7% in August 2015 and also down from 8.4% in July of this year. McCreary County still had the second highest jobless rate in the ten county Lake Cumberland area, ahead of only Russell County which came in at 7.7% last month. The lowest jobless rate in the region was in Green County where only 4.4% were recorded as unemployed. The overall ten county area had a jobless rate of 5.5%, down from 6.7% in August last year. Kentucky's statewide unemployment rate was slightly improved from 5% last year to 4.8% in August this year. That is right in line with a 5% jobless rate recorded nationwide. For more information on Kentucky's unemployment numbers or labor market, visit kylmi.ky.gov.

The Big South Fork Park has announced winners from their second annual photo contest held this year. Locally, Larry (LD) Coffey of Stearns saw his photograph of Blue Heron selected as winner in the “cultural” category, with other winners selected from areas around McCreary County including Corbin, Kentucky, and areas to the south in Tennessee. The 'Kentucky Landscapes” category was won with a photograph of Yahoo Falls taken by Tom Wood of McMinnville, Tennessee. Winners were announced and displayed during a reception held earlier this month at the Bandy Creek Visitor Center in Tennessee. The third annual photo contest has already been announced by park officials who say photographs in the various categories can be taken in the park now through the submission deadline, which will be July 21, 2017. For more information on the contest call the park at 423-286-7275.

McCreary County property owners will begin receiving their 2016 property tax bills in the coming days or weeks, after school district and county leaders met late last week to formally set the tax rates for the year. Now, the McCreary County PVA's office will finalize tax bills and print them, so the local sheriff's office can stuff envelopes and get them in the mail. Once received by property owners, the tax bills can be paid at a 2% discount at the sheriff's office.

The McCreary County Board of Education took up the tax rate issue during their regular meeting last Thursday night. First up for discussion was the motor vehicle tax rate, which had previously been set at 30 cents per $100 of assessed value. Superintendent Mike Cash, backed by school district finance officers, showed board members a comparison of the local district's rate compared to other area counties and school districts. With McCreary County's school motor vehicle tax rate at 30 cents, most others were at 50 cents or higher. Cash explained that the state had advised that the local board could raise that rate up to 16.7 cents, to bring it to 46.7 cents per $100, still below most neighboring school districts. That, according to finance staff, could generate an additional $114,000 of revenue for the McCreary County School District annually, if all taxes are collected. Board members Roxanne Shook and Nelda Gilreath voted against the proposed tax hike, but all other members were in favor, meaning the motor vehicle tax rate was increased from 30 cents to 46.7 cents per $100 by a 3-2 vote.

In discussion on the property tax rate for the school district, Superintendent Cash recommended the board take the compensating rate for the year, which ensures the district will receive the same revenue as the previous year without a tax increase. In actuality, the school district property tax rate dropped from 41.9 cents to 41.6 cents on real and tangible property. That recommendation was approved unanimously by the school board Thursday night.

That led to a special session of the McCreary County Fiscal Court Friday morning, with Magistrates Roger Phillips and Duston Baird and Judge-Executive Doug Stephens in attendance. In a single motion, the court accepted the tax rate from the various special districts and set the tax rate for the county. The county took the compensating rate on real and motor vehicle and watercraft, avoiding a tax increase for the county on property tax bills. The other districts also kept their rates the same, except the library which dropped from 7.7 cents to 7.6 cents per $100. The tax rates were approved by the fiscal court and were to be sent to the PVA's office for tax bill preparation.

After being convicted this past summer on charges related to the sending of text messages to a student, allegedly aimed at getting the student to engage in sexual activity, a former McCreary Central High School teacher and coach will now be getting a new trial. The McCreary County Voice reports on a hearing that took place last week before Circuit Judge Dan Ballou in which the defense was seeking a new trial because of claims that at least two jury members were familiar with Toby Curry and the claims against him. The jury members were reportedly former students of Curry's, but the past relationships were not disclosed during jury selection for the trial earlier this year. Based on that information, Judge Ballou ruled that a new trial was in order and defense attorneys noted they would also be seeking a change of venue for that new trial. A date and location for the new proceedings have not been set, according to The Voice.

Better late than never. After being called out in August by Magistrate Roger Phillips for not publishing a list of delinquent revolving loan accounts in July, as the McCreary County Fiscal Court had ordered earlier this year, Judge-Executive Doug Stephens has finally followed through with the action. The McCreary County Voice classifieds section this past week did include a list of six individuals and business names that are reportedly delinquent in paying back the revolving loans they received from the county over the course of the past 11 years. The oldest account recorded belonged to Bethel Mower Repair Shop, owned by Bobby K. Jones, with a $5,000 loan taken out originally and a balance of more than $3,000 still on the books. In 2006, Jack Winchester took out a loan for $5,000 and still owes more than $4,000 of that balance. Marcum's Pressure Washing, owned by David Marcum, also took out a loan in 2006 for $21,000 and still owes more than $20,500 on that loan. Strunk's Engines, owned by Dale Strunk, accepted a loan for $25,000 in 2012, and still owes nearly $22,000; Sugar High Cakes and Confections, owned by Crescent Kidd, owes more than $22,500 on a $25,000 loan taken out in 2012; and M & L Mini Mart, owned by William Michael Jones, still owes well over $39,000 of a total $40,000 loan taken out in 2013. The notice published in the local newspaper indicates that the McCreary County Fiscal Court is in the process of taking action to pursue collections on the delinquent loan payments. The revolving loan program was established to help local, small businesses in obtaining loans, where conventional loans may not be possible, with the goal of expanding their businesses and creating jobs.

This summer provided valuable experience for eight McCreary County high school students, while they provided much needed labor on a number of projects, in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. The park announced that the students worked as part of the Youth Conservation Corps and worked on projects including the complete rehabilitation of the canoe launch at Blue Heron, as well as construction and repairs on trail bridges throughout the Kentucky side of the Big South Fork and along the Sheltowee Trace National Trail. Members of the local crew included Hailey Anderson, Molly Grundy, Donovan Lay, Brittany Meadows, James Parman, Nathan Prosser, David Sampson, and Keela Stephens, all of whom are students at McCreary Central High School.

The McCreary County Cooperative Extension Service has announced that a new Family and Consumer Science and 4-H Youth Development Extension Agent has been hired to work with the local community. According to an e-mail release from Greg Whitis, the McCreary County Extension Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Amy Fugate has accepted the position and begins her duties with the local office today. The extension office is hosting a meet and greet event this evening (Monday September 19th) from 4:00-6:00pm to give community members a chance to meet Amy and learn more about her new role with the office.

The McCreary County Coroner's Office reports that a car with a body inside was found by fishermen in the Big South Fork River in northern McCreary County late Wednesday. The body was sent to the State Medical Examiner's Office for positive identification, but Coroner Tim Corder did say it appeared the body had been there several months. The investigation is continuing.
(Update: The body discovered was identified as that of 30 year old Gurnie Lee Watson who had been the subject of a missing persons search for several months.)

The issue of having no local jail, which many have called a “crisis” for county government, continues to plague local officials and continue to be a topic of discussion and debate at McCreary County Fiscal Court meetings each month. While there appears to have been no real movement on dealing with the issue since Judge Executive Doug Stephens proposed an insurance tax to help build a new jail in July, county leaders did discuss the issue of inmate housing again this month, but with no new solutions mentioned. County Attorney Conley Chaney told court members that an issue that has now arisen is orders by the courts releasing inmates when they appear before a judge. Many local inmates are currently being housed in Leslie County, which is more than ninety (90) miles away, and have to be transported back to McCreary County for court appearances. Inmates that are released by a judge in court, are then taken back to Leslie County where they are signed out of the jail but are then stranded in the far away county. Chaney said the county is having to transport those individuals back to McCreary County again to release at the local sheriff's office. That adds up to additional transports and additional expense for the county, but Chaney said doing so helps the relationship with Leslie County, which is apparently one of a very few counties actually accepting McCreary County inmates right now. He added that it also helps the inmates and their families and is something that the District and Circuit Courts are ordering.

Chaney also said that Leslie County has presented details of a program which allows inmates to work at the jail to ear good credits which can be used to cut time off their sentence. He said that adds incentive for the inmate to act right and helps cut the cost of the county having to house those inmates. That seems to be the one positive in what continues to be a major issue facing county government, with no real movement toward solving that issue.

The results of a recent study on remediation efforts of selected contaminated mine drainage sites in McCreary County have been released. The Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area contains more than 100 abandoned mine openings, according to information released by the park, which are part of historic coal operations in the region. These abandoned mines can produce waste rock, open portals and contaminated mine drainage at times, which can be hazardous to human safety and the environment. The park service conducted the study of the mines in McCreary County, on the Kentucky side of the park, to determine the impact of mine remediation efforts on the park and its environment. The study, according to park officials, shows a finding of “No Significant Impact” to park resources as a result of proposed remediation. Those seeking additional information on the study and the efforts can call park headquarters at 423-569-9778.

McCreary County leaders complied with a request from Norfolk-Southern Railroad in voting this month to move ahead with the closure of a railroad crossing in Pine Knot. Judge Executive Doug Stephens explained during last week's meeting of the McCreary County Fiscal Court, that the railroad wanted to close one of two crossings that go from Highway 1651, old Highway 27, across to Century Lane in Pine Knot. He said the southern crossing is at an unusual angle and that there have been a number of incidents and accidents at those crossings through the years. It was also noted that the railroad was offering the county $35,000 to complete improvements to the road and the other crossing, if the closure is approved. The court approved the move and said that signs and signals will be installed at the crossings in the coming weeks.

Very serious charges were filed against a Kentucky man in Tennessee last week. Authorities in Scott County say 21 year old Jonathan Wesley Bolin of Burnside was jailed there on charges of two counts of rape of a child less than 13 years old, aggravated sexual battery, and attempted aggravated rape. The allegations stem from an investigation by police about Bolin having inappropriate sexual contact with a 12 year old girl in August. Other accusations came to light including sexual contact with a victim as young as 10 years of age. Bolin was lodged in the Scott County Jail without bond as the investigation and the case proceed.

The September meeting of the McCreary County Fiscal Court included several items on the agenda dealing with road issues locally. One such issue was the question of the county accepting the road into the Edgewood Acres subdivision in Pine Knot into the county road inventory. The area, which was privately owned by the late Katherine Strunk and was being developed into a residential area with several homes on site, includes a road going from Highway 27 into the subdivision. The court was asked by Judge Executive Doug Stephens to place the road in county inventory, meaning the county would take on maintenance of the road. Usually county leaders approve such requests when they have a deed offered to the county for the road plus rights of way on each side, plus the condition that the road be in good condition and ready to maintain. When questioned about the road, McCreary County Road Supervisor said that the road would need work, including ditching and grading, before it could be accepted into the county inventory. Magistrate Roger Phillips noted the county could not do that, so it would be up to the Forest Service, which owns the road, to bring it up to condition standards. Another point of discussion was the fact that no deed was available, but that the Forest Service is willing to offer a long term lease. The court did agree to move forward with the issue, pending work being completed and all legalities being met.

Another road issue this month was designating Club House Road in Stearns as a “one way” traffic flow road. That would go from Butler Drive to the Golf Course, according to Magistrate Jason Mann, who asked the court to approve the move. This was in order to deal with increased traffic around the Stearns Golf Course. The move was approved by the court.

County leaders also discussed a request from the school district to make a section of road from Shady Acres to Batter Road as “one way” to accommodate school bus traffic in Pine Knot. Questions were raised about whether the area could be designated as “one way” just during bus entrance and exit times.

The court also voted to start the process of removing Eugene Strunk Road and Claude Hill Road from the county road inventory. This can only be done when all property owners on the road are in agreement. The road must be posted and advertised with public comment accepted before the final closure is completed.

After voting 3-2 last month to move in the direction of “mandatory” garbage collection by updating the county ordinance with that wording, the McCreary County Fiscal Court took up the issue again during their September meeting last week. This time, the court was asked to approve the first reading of Ordinance 830.5 dealing with garbage disposal. Judge Executive Doug Stephens told court members, and those in attendance, that the ordinance still does not actually include the word “mandatory” but does include penalties for those not complying with proper disposal methods. The ordinance calls for two approved disposal methods, curb side pickup and delivery of garbage to the transfer station, just as the current ordinance states. One difference is that the ordinance calls for the collection rate to drop from the current $15 per month to $10 per month. It also eliminates the $1 per bag program which has been in place for several years. Instead, it offers those who deliver their garbage to the transfer station the option of paying an annual fee of $60. With that, they would not be limited to one bag per week but would be able to bring six bags per week, which is the same current limit on bags picked up. All of that, of course, depends on finding a garbage disposal company willing to accept the county's franchise agreement on those terms. That agreement expires with Scott Solid Waste at the end of this calendar year and advertising for proposals from companies will be done in the coming months by county leaders. There was little to no discussion on how the penalties on the ordinance would be enforced by the county. If enforced, the ordinance would essentially make for “mandatory” garbage collection, just without using the word “mandatory.” Magistrate “O.L” Perry was not fooled by the verbage game when he questioned the penalty portion of the ordinance. He had voted against moving toward mandatory garbage collection last month, saying there are many in the county who struggle and could not afford the added burden. He, and Magistrate Roger Phillips, voted against the new garbage ordinance, but Magistrates Jason Mann and Duston Baird were joined by Judge Stephens in voting in favor of the change. That was the first reading of the ordinance, which will now be followed by a period for public comment and then a second reading, possibly at the October regular session.

If you are pleased with the way county government uses your tax dollars, county leaders would like you to offer up a little more to their treasury. The issue of a restaurant tax in McCreary County was raised during last Thursday evening's regular meeting of the Fiscal Court. In the “other business” portion of the agenda, Magistrate Jason Mann said with such a tight county budget, additional money is needed to help fund certain areas, such as tourism and economic development. He made a motion that the court adopt a restaurant tax ordinance, placing a 3% tax on all restaurant purchases within the county. By state law, funds from such a tax must go to tourism and “economic development,” although what exactly qualifies as economic development is unclear. At least one county leaders has previously said that he was told that economic development was “pretty much whatever fiscal court says it is.” In fact, at the August court meeting, one line of discussion led to talk of using a restaurant tax to fund garbage disposal, since at least one company cited garbage issues as a reason for not locating in McCreary County. The discussion Thursday night did not include any clear plan for spending the money, although Mann did say the county could employ a full time economic development and tourism director with part of the funding. Mann said in discussion that the county has to do something and if people don't like the tax he is proposing, they can just vote him out in the next election.

Magistrate Duston Baird seconded the motion, which is probably not surprising since he had been discussing the possibility of a restaurant tax since the early days of his term last year. Magistrate Roger Phillips said he does not trust the current administration enough to know that the money will actually go where it should, referring to Judge Executive Doug Stephens' administration. Phillips pointed to examples like park collections, which he said are not going back to the park as they should, as well as money spent on the reservoir recreation area project. Phillips said the court was led to believe that any funds expended on that project would be tourism/economic development funds, and that in reality funds had been used out of other county funds for work done at the site.

In the end, the court split on the vote for a restaurant tax, but the 3-2 margin was enough to move the measure forward. Judge Stephens joined Mann and Baird in voting in favor of the tax, while Magistrates Phillips and Leroy “O.L” Perry voted against the move. The issue now moves to the process of drafting an ordinance which must still pass a first and second reading before going into effect. Mann indicated he felt, based on previous numbers given, about $300,000 could be realized annually from the new tax.

The body discovered in a Wayne County cave this week has been identified as that of 32 year old Dustin Lair of Monticello. Lair had been missing since Memorial Day Weekend, just over three months ago. A cause of death has not yet been determined, but the investigation is continuing by Monticello Police and the Wayne County Coroner's Office.

Despite a number of warnings being issued and major coverage by media outlets in the past, reports are still coming in of people falling victim to an IRS phone scam. The latest warning comes from Highland Telephone Cooperative, saying that victims have been contacted by phone by someone claiming to be with the IRS Tax Audit Department. The caller says that the victim owes back taxes and that a lawsuit is pending and that they must call back to settle the issue immediately for local law enforcement will be notified. The IRS warns that this is a scam and they offer tips on their website on how to tell if such a call is a scam. Visit www.irs.gov and type “scam” in the search box to get more information on dealing with such scams.

There appears to be a fair amount of tension these days between county leaders, including those who are elected and those who are appointed. We have reported previously on the verbal smack down offered by Magistrate Roger Phillips against Judge-Executive Doug Stephens on more than one occasion in open fiscal court sessions. Last week, an appointed member of the McCreary County Tourist Commission took aim at county leadership in general with a lengthy post on social media. This came just as that same tourist commission member reportedly submitted her resignation from that court appointed board.

The post came from Suzie Strunk Thompson on Facebook August 30th at 11:14pm, after she had apparently been visited earlier that day by one of the local, elected leaders to whom she addressed her criticism in the post. While never mentioning the leader by name, she emphasized her clear displeasure with the job performance of the official by putting quotation marks around the word “leader” each time she referenced the individual. Thompson said in the post that this official approached her for advice on dealing with an issue in county government, while still making sure he could get re-elected. The post goes on to offer the opinion that “...none of our local leaders should even consider re-election at this point.” She goes on to state that nothing proactive seems to be coming from fiscal court and that court sessions appear to be a “mere power struggle every single month.”

Thompson goes on in the post to point out several issues on which she feels county leadership has essentially failed, including raises for county employees, the local jail, economic development, and tourism. The post also points out the fact that local magistrates are paid a salary nearing the $20,000 per year mark while, in Thompson's opinion, all they do is “...show up for a couple of hours each month to bicker and fuss...”.

Again, sources indicate that Suzie Thompson submitted her resignation from the tourist commission around the same time she posted this rebuke of county leadership.

We do have a link to read the entire post from Thompson by clicking here.

The McCreary County Fiscal Court is scheduled to meet again in regular session this Thursday September 8th at 6:00pm.

Kentucky State Police report that a train hit and killed two young men in Whitley County early Tuesday morning. It happened at about 2:00am near Highway 26 in the Rockholds area, between Williamsburg and Corbin, but police say they are still investigating exactly how it happened. The bodies of the two deceased were sent to the State Medical Examiner's Office for autopsy.

While full details of the incident were not immediately available, a press release issued by McCreary County Schools Superintendent Mike Cash cites confirmation by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife that a local student died Friday night. The release states that the 16 year old was an 11th grade student at McCreary Central High School, but does not give further details about the student or how they died. Superintendent Cash says that schools will be in session on a regular schedule, but adds that grief counselors will be on hand at the high school for any students or faculty in need of those services for as long as needed. He adds that a moment of silence will be observe district-wide at 9:00am Tuesday September 6th in honor of the student.

The Whitley County Sheriff's Department reports that an elderly woman was arrested Friday afternoon after they say she fired shots at a home near the Rockholds community. After investigating the initial report, deputies located and arrested 71 year old Julia Miller, charging her with first degree wanton endangerment. Officers say it appears the woman fired several shots from her vehicle toward the home. Police say they did find a Ruger 22 caliber pistol in Miller's vehicle, with five bullet casings from that gun. No injuries were reported from the shooting. Miller was lodged in the Whitley County Detention Center and the investigation is continuing.

After previously being convicted in the case involving accusations of texting an underage student with the intentions of having a sexual relationship with her, a former McCreary Central High School teacher and coach may now get a new trial. The McCreary County Voice reports on a hearing in the matter last week before Circuit Judge Dan Ballou, in which the defense claimed they should get a new trial because some jury members may have been students of Toby Curry's at the high school. The possible relationship between the former students turned jury members and Curry was not apparently revealed at the time of the original trial this summer. The prosecution argued that the defense should have noted the relationships at the time and should not be allowed to ask for a new trial after conviction. Judge Ballou indicated, according to The Voice reporting, that if the jury members were in fact former students of Curry's, he may be entitled to a new trial and possibly even a change of venue. No definite ruling was made as the court awaits transcripts from the high school to show if the jury members were in fact students of the defendants. A hearing has been set for September 13th to possibly rule on the issue. Curry was accused and eventually convicted of texting an underage female student, allegedly in hopes of having a sexual relationship with the girl while he served as a teacher and coach at the local high school.

In an update to the report we brought you Thursday on McCreary County's “Heritage Trail Days”,
The McCreary County Voice is reporting this week that the parade and other downtown festival activities have been cut from the lineup for 2016. After McCreary County Tourism took over and replaced McCrearyFest with Heritage Trail Days, one selling point of the change was the combination of local, traditional festival events like the parade and downtown music, vendors and children's festivities, with outdoor events like trail races, hikes and canoe races. The Voice reports that local tourism officials this year have decided to eliminate the traditional festival activities and focus only on the outdoor activities, hoping to attract tourists for the first full weekend in October. This would put McCreary County with no parade as it currently stands, after tourism also opted against doing a Christmas parade as of last year.

Highland Telephone Cooperative has announced, through an e-mail to their customers, that they continue receiving reports of scams in the area. One of the most recent scams involves the intended victim being contacted by someone claiming to be from Microsoft Support and saying that the victim's is infected by a virus. The caller claims that for a payment they can rid the computer of the virus and they ask for payment information. Highland warns that this is a scam and you should never give personal, account or payment information to anyone or allow them access to your computer if you are not familiar with them or have not initiated the contact.

McCreary County was one of only two counties out of ten in the Lake Cumberland area to record a higher unemployment rate between June and July of this year. The July numbers were just released by state officials and show that McCreary County had a rate of 8.4% unemployed, up from 8% the previous month. The good news for the county is that the rate was down slightly from one year ago, when the July 2015 rate was 8.7%. The other regional county to record a higher rate last month was Casey County, which went from 4.7% to 4.8%. The overall unemployment rate for the ten county Lake Cumberland district was at 6% in July, down from 6.3% in June and also down from 7.6% in July last year. The Kentucky jobless rate for July was 5.2%, down from 5.4% in June. That compares to the US rate of 5.1%.

The August session of the McCreary County Grand Jury was light with only two indictments handed down this month. Jamie Lynch of Whitley City was formally charged with flagrant non-support for allegedly failing to make court ordered child support payments for her two infant children in an amount over $1,000. Lynch also faces a charge for being a persistent felony offender. Jonathan Thomas of Whitley City was also indicted by the grand jury on a count of fraudulent use of a debit or credit card over $500 but less than $10,000. He is accused of knowingly and unlawfully using a card not issue to him to obtain cash and merchandise in the total amount of more than $2,300. Listeners are reminded that an indictment by the grand jury is a formal charge in a case, but is not a finding of guilt.

He used the excuse of spreading the word of God to inmates, but a man in Whitley County who came to minister ended up being arrested and charged with bringing contraband into the jail. It happened last week at the Whitley County Detention Center when Gary Smiddy came for a church service at the facility. His own son, also named Gary Smiddy, was searched by officers who found a stash of contraband including e-cigarettes, liquids used in e-cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, baggies of crystal meth and several pills among other items. A review of video surveillance revealed that the son allegedly got the items from his father's guitar case while he was at the jail. Recorded phone calls also reportedly turned up several others suspects involved in the plot to sneak items into the jail. Arrested were the elder Smiddy, along with his wife Peggy, and son Joshua Smiddy. Also charged with the younger Smiddy who was already in jail, his wife Melissa and another inmate named James Goins. All were charged with promoting contraband first and second degree, trafficking in marijuana and trafficking in a controlled substance first degree. Williamsburg Police are working with Whitley County Jail officials as they continue the investigations. They say they believe Smiddy may have smuggled items into the jail on previous occasions as well.

The Pulaski County Coroner's Officer confirmed this week that a Burnside man drowned in the Cumberland River this past weekend while apparently swimming with friends. Reports indicate that 47 year old Homer Davis, Jr. was swimming in the river Sunday just before midnight when he went under and did not resurface. The exact cause of the drowning was not known.

A deputy jailer working for the Wayne County Jail was arrested this week, facing charges that he smuggled in contraband for an inmate in custody. Dewey Adam Burks was arrested at the jail on Monday and was charged with promoting contraband, two counts of trafficking in a controlled substance and official misconduct after he allegedly took hydrocodone, oxycodone, chewing tobacco and smoking tobacco inside the Wayne County Jail. The inmate involved, identified as Charles Doan, is also facing charges in the case.

According to an online post by The McCreary County Voice Monday afternoon, a local inmate escaped custody while being transported to court earlier in the day. Jimmy Troxell was being escorted from a transport van into the McCreary County Courthouse when he apparently slipped away from officers and made his escape. He was facing charges of possession of a forged instrument and theft by deception, and will now reportedly face the additional charge of felony escape once captured. The Voice reports that officers believe Troxell may have had someone waiting nearby in a vehicle to aid in the escape. The search for the escapee continues as of last report.

Authorities in Whitley County reported the raid of an underage drinking party this past Saturday night on a farm off Cripple Creek Road. The Whitley County Sheriff's Department says officers received a tip about the party and responded, finding about 300 people in attendance, including many who were said to be underage. 51 year old Douglas Monroe Jones was taken into custody, charged with unlawful transaction with a minor and alcohol intoxication in a public place. Also arrested were 19 year old Dustin White and 22 year old Tyler Jones, charged with multiple offenses. Officers contacted parents for the minors involved and say those were able to pass field sobriety tests were allowed to leave the party. The investigation into the incident continues by the Whitley County Sheriff's Department.

Those who normally harvest Ginseng from local forest lands will be disappointed this year, as forest officials have announced that there will be no harvesting permits issued for ginseng in 2016 by the Daniel Boone National Forest. There has been a major decline in ginseng populations in recent years, due in part to illegal harvesting according to forest service staff. This has led to the decision not to issue any legal harvesting permits for this year, in hopes that this will help the population bounce back. Field staff with the forest will also continue to monitor ginseng populations and follow through with additional efforts to assist with increasing numbers. Those who may consider violating the law by harvesting ginseng from national forest lands should keep in mind that removing any wild ginseng plant or its parts from the national forest without a permit is considered theft and carries penalties ranging from fines of up to $5,000 to six months in federal prison or both.

Forest officials also remind of other items that may never be taken from the forest including rocks, historic and prehistoric artifacts and the stripping of tree bark. These practices are strictly prohibited in the national forest. Things that can be done with proper permits include plant collecting and collecting of firewood, but again permits should be obtained from the forest service with certain limitations in place. Permits are not required to take certain items from the national forest, including fruits and nuts, pine cones, mushrooms and wood for campfires within the forest. That wood must be dead and used for campfires only while camping in the forest. No standing trees may be cut and no wood is to be taken home or to private land.

For information regarding any of these regulations and restrictions in the national forest, contact the Stearns District office of the Daniel Boone National Forest on Highway 27 just north of Whitley City or call 376-5323.

Once again this month McCreary County's 2
nd District Magistrate, Roger Phillips, “called out” Judge-Executive Doug Stephens for what he sees as a lack of action by Stephens. Previously, Phillips said many of the jail issues the county is facing stem from a lack of leadership by Stephens and his administration, now Magistrate Phillips has questioned a lack of action on the issue of the county's revolving loan program for local, small businesses. During last week's fiscal court meeting, Phillips pointed out that the court had voted months ago that the county would publish a list of local individuals and businesses who are delinquent in paying back revolving loans, which were made available for business opportunities and potentially to create jobs locally. The court's action was aimed at making sure businesses got on track with paying back the loans to the county. This month, Phillips asked Judge Stephens why the list was not published in the local newspaper in July, as was ordered by the court. He asked why the court bothers voting on issues if Stephens is not going to follow through with the actions. Judge Stephens defended his inaction by saying that he is still working out details of repayment with at least one delinquent individual and wanted to give time to get that matter settled before publishing the list for the public to see. Later in the meeting, the court held an executive session after which they voted to offer a split proposal to a business which would essentially split the loan amount still owed between two individuals rather than putting it on the business entity. Magistrate Phillips further pressed Judge Stephens asking if the list of delinquent loan payments would be published in September, to which Stephens answered “sure.” There has been talk in the past about restructuring the revolving loan program to ensure it operates more smoothly, but no firm action has been taken by the county on that issue to date.

It is no secret that McCreary County is facing a crisis when it comes to the transporting and housing of its inmates, with no jail open locally. County Attorney Conley Chaney is at least making an attempt at easing that crisis with a move he addressed with the McCreary County Fiscal Court last week. He said that the Department of Corrections had recently shot down the idea of operating temporary holding cells in the courthouse, sheriff's office or the old jail building. Chaney presented a draft letter to the court which is addressed to Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin requesting that he consider issuing an executive order allowing the county to move forward with those options. Chaney said if allowed, the temporary housing of inmates as they await transport could allow for fewer trips to jails by transport officers, cutting costs, and could help inmates bond out before having to be transported. Chaney noted there is no way of knowing if such a request would be considered or granted, but said it was worth the effort. The court voted to adopt the letter and sign it from fiscal court with each member signing before submitting to Governor Bevin. There was no other action taken regarding the local jail issue during this month's court meeting.

A jury in London, Kentucky ruled last week that a Corbin man is entitled to more than $21 million in his lawsuit against a hospital and its parent company. Kevin Wells had filed the suit claiming that St. Joseph Health System in London, and its parent company Catholic Health Initiatives, had subjected him to unnecessary hear procedures in order to boost their payments and billing from insurance companies. The jury determined the hospital and company to be negligent and that they violated consumer protection rules by performing the procedures that were deemed to be unnecessary. An appeal is said to be likely in the case, according to attorneys.

We reported Monday on a split in the McCreary County Fiscal Court on the issue of making garbage collection “mandatory” with that split putting Magistrates Leroy “O.L.” Perry and Roger Phillips against the move and Magistrates Jason Mann and Duston Baird, and Judge Executive Doug Stephens, giving preliminary approval to the move. There was another issue which apparently caused a split in the court, which was brought to light during last Thursday's court meeting. An item on the agenda listed a telephone poll that was conducted asking court members to authorize borrowing $200,000 from the county's road fund to pay KACo (Kentucky Association of Counties) insurance for the year. Magistrates Roger Phillips and Duston Baird were recorded as “no” votes in the measure, while all other court members approved the request. Judge Stephens noted that this is a move that was also done last fiscal year with the court borrowing $240,000 from the road fund a year ago to pay the insurance payments, which come due near the start of the fiscal year. He said as money trickles into the county through the year, the funds are paid back and the court is required to have all the funds paid back to the fund by June 30th. Stephens said it did take all year last year to pay back the money, with the final payment made in June.

This month's McCreary County Fiscal Court meeting included detailed discussion on improvements being planned for the county park, using funds set aside in a dedicated park fund. The park board approved a list of improvements and quotes from various companies, including two basketball courts to be installed with asphalt surface, goals, fencing and bleachers, plus a sign for the park and other projects. Magistrate Roger Phillips said he wanted to see all items and projects advertised for bids in the hopes of saving money. Park Manager Melissa Vanover and park board members noted that quotes were received from several companies for each item and the park board has selected the ones they felt were best. Phillips said there was nothing to lose by bidding the projects and if a better deal is not found the county can still go back and accept the quotes already received. In the end, the court voted to table the issue until bids can be sought, with hopes of giving final approval to move forward on the projects next month.

A separate project is the effort to bring lighting to ball fields at the county park. Bids were opened for the project with prices ranging from a low end of just over $47,000 to a high end of $92,000. The bids include putting little league standard lighting on one ball field at the park to allow for night games and the possibility of hosting tournaments. The park board and the fiscal court previously allocated up to $50,000 to be used for the project. Concerns were expressed that the three bids may not be comparing the exact same projects with some including everything needed to complete the project and others possibly including some work not completed by the company such as underground lines and other particular phases of the project. The court tabled the issue until the park board and little league board can review the bids and court members can be sure there is a fair comparison of bids.

The debate and dispute over whether garbage collection service in McCreary County should be “mandatory” has been raging on for years, even decades, locally. It has often been considered an issue that could end a political career for local leaders and even prompted an Attorney General opinion in the 1990s. The current county ordinance on garbage collection lists the service as “universal” but not ”mandatory.” The issue was taken up last Thursday during the regular session of the McCreary County Fiscal Court when Kathy Reed, chairperson for the local 109 Solid Waste Board, addressed the court with recommendations from the board that the county begin the advertising process for a new garbage collection franchise agreement and that the county change its wording to “mandatory” collection for all residents. The current franchise agreement with Scott Solid Waste will expire at the end of December.

In discussion on the issue, it was noted by Andy Powell, Deputy Judge-Executive, that participation in garbage collection is currently under 50%. He added that county ordinance already requires residents to dispose of trash in one of two ways, including having it collected by Scott Solid Waste or delivering it to the transfer station in Stearns. However, he and others admitted that the issue has not, and is not currently, being enforced with much strength. The discussion that continued on the matter included few viable options for actually enforcing “mandatory” garbage collection, even if the county takes that step. All seemed to admit that it would place an extra burden on the county, at least for some time, in trying to crack down on those not participating.

District 1 Magistrate Leroy “O.L.” Perry made his feelings known by saying that many local residents struggle and just cannot afford the monthly cost for garbage disposal. He made a motion that the county advertise for proposals on the franchise agreement, but with no change to the ordinance which currently states that the service is “universal” and not “mandatory.” Magistrate Roger Phillips seconded the motion, but it was voted down by a 3-2 margin when Magistrates Jason Mann and Duston Baird joined Judge Executive Doug Stephens in voting against the motion.

A motion was then made by Jason Mann that the court update the garbage ordinance with wording that the service is to be “mandatory” but with the stipulations that the county seek a reduction in the monthly fee by a company to collection garbage. He proposed a rate of no more than $10 per month, which would be down from the current $15 per month. Mann said if everyone was on service and paying, the company should be able to lower the rate. He also wanted to ensure that a senior citizen discount is included. The motion was seconded by Duston Baird, and approved by the court by a 3-2 margin, with Perry and Phillips voting against the measure.

Before the ordinance is actually changed to read that garbage collection is “mandatory” it must still pass through a first and second reading.

Discussion on the garbage issue also addressed the negative impact trash issues are having on the county, including an economic impact. It was noted that at least one company that recently visited McCreary County with the possibility of locating a business here had opted to locate in a neighboring county and had cited garbage issues as one reason for the decision.

Options discussed for possibly collecting garbage bills from all residents including putting it on property taxes or water bills, but no action was taken in either direction.

The organizers of the annual “Yamacraw Run” trail race have announced via Facebook that a new major tourism event is being planned for fall 2017. The “No Business 100” trail run will be held October 14, 2017 covering trails throughout the Big South Fork and Daniel Boone National Forest in McCreary County. The course is a 103.6 mile loop which will also travel south into Pickett State Park in Tennessee before heading back into Kentucky. While registration for the major race will not open until January 1, 2017, those interested can visit
www.nobusiness100.com to find out more about the event, look up course maps and more. The race is being organized by the same people who conduct the annual Yamacraw Run trail race in April of each year, an event which started in 2015 and continued this year.

Two Kentucky women learned this week how much time they will spend behind bars for thefts that took place in the Daniel Boone National Forest. US District Judge Danny Reeves handed down the sentence for 22 year old Whitney Maness and 20 year old Mikayla Hudson, with each receiving a 15 month prison sentence. The women admitted their guilt in connection with stealing personal property from almost twenty vehicles that were parked at locations in the national forest between August and September of last year. Once they complete their prison term, both women will be under supervised release for three years, during which time they will be banned from entering any recreation area located in the Daniel Boone National Forest.

Sunday afternoon was anything but clam in the Wal-Mart parking lot in Oneida, Tennessee. Authorities report getting a call to respond to a domestic incident in the parking lot at about 2:40pm Sunday, where they encountered Shannon O'Reagan of Pine Knot. When officers tried to approach the man, they say he pulled a weapon, later identified as an air assault pistol, and allegedly pointed it at police. After officers report telling him to put the gun down, they say he refused to do so and was eventually shot in the abdomen by an officer's assault rifle. O'Reagan was transported to UT Medical Center in Knoxville for treatment of his injuries and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation took over investigations in the case. The Oneida City Police officer involved in the shooting was reportedly placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. The incident reportedly began with a dispute between Shannon O'Reagan and his wife with the couple's three year old child also on the scene.

The office of Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin announced Friday that 33 counties in Kentucky, considered coal counties, will be receiving state refund checks from mining permit and acreage fees collected. A total of $179,900 will be returned to the counties with the refund amounts ranging from $62,50 to $39,947.92. That high amount will be going to Pike County in far eastern Kentucky, while the $62,50 refund check will be received by Pulaski County. McCreary County is also included on the list to receive a refund in the amount of $250.00. Neighboring Whitley County will receive just over $9,000 and Laurel County will get $375. The Kentucky Department for Natural Resources collects the mine permit and acreage fees and then returns a portion of the fees to coal-producing counties to be used for projects as selected by the local fiscal court.

The McCreary County School Board has given their nod of approval to a grant application that could allow for welding bays at McCreary Central High School to be expanded. The McCreary County Voice reported on the project this past week and reports that plans include partnering with KCTCS to allow high school students to train and get work ready certified in welding during the day and to potentially take part in community and technical college programs, such as culinary arts, in the evening. Adults attending KCTCS would also benefit by being able to take welding vocational classes and receive certification in the evenings at the high school's facilities. The grant is part of a state initiative called “Kentucky Work Ready Skills” which has a budget of $100 million to conduct similar programs across the state. Sharon Privett, Principal at McCreary Central, and Dr Jason Creekmore addressed the school board recently about the opportunity and received approval from the local board to pursue the grant. It was estimated that as many as 72 course graduates could be seen within one year of the program being in place.

An e-mail from Highland Telephone Cooperative to its customers this past weekend reminds people to be careful and use caution when giving out any personal or account information, and when allowing access to your computer and other devices. A scam has been reported in which a caller contacts a customer claiming to be from “tech support” saying that the customer has a virus on their computer. The caller then requests access to the computer remotely. Keep in mind, this is scam and you should not give information, including passwords, to anyone unless you have initiated the request.

State officials have released the most recent unemployment data for Kentucky which shows that McCreary County's jobless rate inched up from 7.4% in May to 8% in June of this year. That was down slightly from the county's June 2015 rate of 8.3%. Overall, unemployment rates were down in 64 out of 120 Kentucky counties from the month of June last year to the same 30 day period this year. The rates were up in 49 counties and remained the same in seven counties. The state's lowest jobless rate in June was found in Woodford County, which seems to consistently have low unemployment, at 3.6%. The state's highest rate was in Magoffin County at 16.8%. Kentucky's statewide jobless rate was 5.4% in June, up from May's 5% and down slightly from 5.5% in June 2015. The US unemployment rate was recorded at 5.1% in June. For more information on the labor market and unemployment rates in Kentucky, visit

The McCreary County Grand Jury, meeting for their regular July session, returned an indictment against 46 year old Anthony Murphy in connection with his own son's murder. Police discovered the remains of 26 year old Charles Murphy in an area off Day Ridge Road in northern McCreary County in March. That came after a missing persons report was filed for Murphy last year. Anthony Murphy was indicted on the charge of murder with police saying they believe he shot his son and attempted to dispose of the body in May of last year. Murphy is currently lodged in the Laurel County Detention Center, although that is said to be on unrelated drug charges. His arrest came after a shootout incident with police last December. Listeners are reminded that an indictment by the grand jury is a formal charge in a case, but is not a finding of guilt.

A father and son in Pulaski County appeared in court this week where they were both sentenced for their respective roles in a 2015 murder. Rexal Brown, the father, entered a guilty plea previously to the charge of manslaughter and was sentenced this week to serve 15 years in prison. His son, Jesse Brown, admitted to possession of a handgun by a convicted felon and was sentenced to 10 years behind bars. The case stems from the murder of 34 year old Danny Poore who was shot to death and found in a cabin last October.

The McCreary County Emergency Management Service (EMS) has now taken possession of their newest ambulance, putting the new truck in its fleet and in service locally late last week. The announcement came via the McCreary Ambulance Serv ice Facebook page on Thursday and notes that this is the first 4x4 ambulance ever utilized by the county's service. That is certain to be useful in bad weather, such as this winter, as well as for areas of the county that are not easily accessible. The service is currently adding at least one newly refurbished ambulance to its fleet each year, using grant funds and a dedicated ambulance fund set aside by county leaders. That fund receives a monthly $5,000 deposit from revenue received through EMS collections and that money is earmarked specifically for new ambulances.

Former McCreary Central Lady Raider basketball coach Toby Curry was found guilty this week in the case against him which alleged he used his cell phone to send messages to an underage girl which were aimed at soliciting her for sex. The McCreary County Voice reports this week on the trial which was held Monday and included testimony from the alleged victim's family, investigators, and former co-workers of Curry. In the end, the jury determined that Curry was guilty of the act, which is a Class D felony and could carry with it a prison sentence of between one and five years. The defense argued for a light sentence, while the prosecution is seeking a stiff penalty to act as an example and to deter others who may want to commit the same or similar offense. Official sentencing will be August 22nd.

McCreary County resident, US Army veteran and representative from the local VFW Post, LTC Sherrill Owens addressed the McCreary County Fiscal Court during their session last week and called on county leaders to do more to recognize and honor the service of Wilburn K Ross. Owens said that while signs appear at some of the county entrances recognizes McCreary County as the native home of Ross, he feels more could be done to honor the Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, such as a monument or statue on the courthouse lawn or larger signs with the county welcome signs. He noted that at least one of the county entrance signs recognizing Ross had been taken down at some point and has yet to be replaced. Judge-Executive Doug Stephens said the sign in question was near the McCreary-Whitley County line, saying that plans include replacing the sign once the new Highway 92 construction is completed.

Wilburn Kirby Ross was born near the Bear Creek area of western McCreary County on May 12, 1922, working in local coal mines starting at the age of 18. Soon after he enlisted in the United States Army and found himself serving in Europe during World War II, serving with Company G, 30th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. On October 30, 1944, Ross found himself near St. Jacques, France manning a machine gun, fighting off repeated German assaults even after his supporting riflemen had run out of ammunition. 55 out of 88 men from his company were lost during the fighting, but Ross continued to hold off German attacks and held his position for a total of 36 hours. PVT Ross was credited with killing 40 enemy soldiers and wounding many others, saving the lives of many of his own fellow American and Allied forces. This stand in the face of the enemy and the threat of death resulted in Wilburn Ross being awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and being widely recognized for his service. Ross continued in the Army, achieving the rank of Master Sergeant before retiring. Wilburn K Ross is now 94 years old and currently lives in DuPont, Washington, where a community park was named for him and a memorial erected to continue honoring Ross.

Kentucky State Police are reporting that a fatal traffic crash occurred early Tuesday morning in McCreary County. It happened at about 1:30am on US Highway 27 in Whitley City where a 2003 Chevrolet minivan rear-ended a 2013 moped. The van was being driven by 29 year old Tracey Byler of Monticello, while the moped was being operated by 46 year old David Jackson of Stearns. Jackson, who was not wearing a helmet, was transported to UK Medical Center in Lexington where he later died from his injuries. Neither alcohol nor drugs are suspected as factors in the crash, according to Kentucky State Police as the investigation continues.

During the regular July meeting last week, the McCreary County Fiscal Court was asked to approve a contract for employment to be used by the sheriff's department. Specifically, the contract would impact the three deputy sheriffs employed by the county and provided for the sheriff's department. Deputies hired for one of the posts that have not already been academy trained, are required to complete the 22 week training session. The contract would state that the officer is technically employed by the county for those 22 weeks and that the county will pay their salary and benefits for that period. This is due to the requirement of the academy that officers be employed by a legitimate law enforcement agencies before being accepted into the training. In addition, the contract requires the employee to commit to working for the local sheriff's department for a period of time after training. This is meant to keep officers from getting their training and then leaving soon after to go to another department. The exact amount of time the employee would have to commit to was left blank on the contract to be approved by the county, with Sheriff Randy Waters noting that he is not able to offer employment to deputies beyond his term, which will end in just over two years. Therefore, he said any deputy signing the contract from now until the end of his current term would commit to serving for the rest of the term. The court approved the contract, after assurance from Sheriff Waters that he makes every effort to hire already trained deputies before hiring those that will require the 22 week session.

For the second consecutive year, McCreary County has partnered with Gracie's Rescue Outreach, a local animal rescue and assistance program, to apply for a state grant. Last year, the county received $660 in grant funds to pass along to the group for local spay and neuter efforts. The county's application this year is seeking $1,000 in funding for the same types of projects. County leaders said a match is required for the grant, but noted that Gracie's Rescue Outreach has committed to providing the match so there should be no funding required from county coffers. The court approved a resolution supporting the grant application.

When McCreary County first looked at adding an occupational tax back in 2004, county leaders were given estimates for collections in the $600,000-$800,000 range per year. Soon after the tax was adopted, county leaders became hopeful that at some point the tax collections could actually bring in as much as $1 million annually. Now, the news is out that the most recent year of collections from the tax actually came in at more than $1.1 million.
The McCreary County Voice reports that the final collection report from the county for fiscal year 2015-2016 came in at $1,131,531.38 for the twelve month period from July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016. The budget for the year estimated collections at $1,000,000, meaning the county came out more than $100,000 better than was projected. The county's budget for the new fiscal year that started July 1st still lists $1,000,000 as the projected collection amount. One thing that may get some credit for higher collection totals is an increased effort by tax administrator Stephanie Tucker and the sheriff's department and county attorney's office to issue letters and court summons for those not paying the tax.

After a recommendation was made last week by the McCreary County Park Board to allocate up to $50,000 for lighting on baseball fields at the county park, McCreary County Fiscal Court officially took up the issue Thursday night during their monthly meeting. The court voted to approve the request and to advertise for bids on the project, which will put Little League standard lighting on at least one field at the park, allowing for night games as well as the possibility of hosting tournaments. It was noted that a group from McCreary County had to travel to Harlan County several consecutive nights this year for tournament games. Little League representatives said it would nice to offer tournaments locally and that it could also help the local economy through visitors eating at restaurants and spending other money locally. The funding for the lighting is coming from the dedicated park fund which contained more than $200,000 set aside for possible litigation involving park development. Since that matter was settled, the funds were earmarked for park improvements. Already approved are projects like the installation of splash pads, improvements at Sandhill Camp and now field lighting. Other projects being discussed include outdoor basketball courts and improvements to trails at the park. The park board, which makes recommendations to fiscal court for the park, meets the first Monday of each month at 5:30pm at the park building.

While many residents of McCreary County probably did not think much about the local airport for decades, the facility has been in the spotlight over the last year. That has included a proposal to impose a tax to support the airport, which was shot down and resulted in the airport board being replaced by fiscal court with a new advisory board. This also included the court taking over the financial management of the McCreary County Airport. Now, the airport enters into a new era with approval last week by county leaders of a proposal to offer Aerospace education at the local facility. Dr. Tim Smith addressed the court and said his plan would be to utilize the airport in Pine Knot to offer Aerospace educational opportunities to local middle and high school students. While he acknowledged it was too late to get the school system involved, at least for this year, he said he wanted to move ahead with offering after school and weekend sessions for students. He added that JC Egnew had offered a contribution of $75,000 through Outdoor Venture Corporation to fund the effort. Smith said all he needed to move forward was approval from fiscal court to allow use of the airport and to be the fiscal agent for money to pass through. He said the proposal would require no money from the county.

Judge-Executive Doug Stephens noted that the airport has been declassified by the FAA because it has fewer than ten aircraft housed there, but said with this new program and some assistance from Us Congressman Hal Rogers and others, he felt enough aircraft could be brought to the facility for it to be classified once again. That, according to Stephens, would open the airport up to again receiving federal funding and other grant opportunities.

Dr. Smith said he wanted to start with between 12-15 students involved in the program this year and grow in the future. Plans would include locating a mobile classroom and other lab areas at the airport for students and eventually would include students helping manage the airport and its flight operations. He also noted the possibility of using the airport for other projects ranging from economic and business development to recreation and tourism.

Some airport board members present questioned whether the board and the county would still control the airport or if the proposal would include leasing out the facility and its management to Smith and his program. He answered that his program would only be utilizing the airport and its facilities, but that decisions and management would still rest with the county, which would still own the airport. In addition, he said an advisory council would be formed to shape the creation and future of the program, with that group including various members of the community.

The McCreary County Fiscal Court voted to approve the proposal and allow Smith to move forward with setting up the program. Recruitment of students to take part in the inaugural year of the program should begin sometime after the start of the new school year.

Another issue raised later in the Fiscal Court meeting concerning the airport was management of the airport's bank accounts. Magistrate Roger Phillips noted that several checks made to the airport had not been deposited and several outstanding bills had yet to be paid. The county took over financial management of the airport back in February, but Judge Stephens said the county had yet to complete the paperwork at the bank to be able to make deposits or sign checks. It was noted a vote by the court was needed with court minutes to be presented at the bank to complete that step. Magistrate Phillips questioned why this had not been done after five months and Judge Stephens said he takes responsibility for the lack of action, but had no further explanation for the delay. The court voted to take the action necessary to finalize the paperwork, take charge of the airport accounts, and pay the bills due.

Each month, the McCreary County Fiscal Court votes to approve payment of the county's bills. Magistrates say they vote each month to pay the bills and are told by Judge-Executive Doug Stephens that money is in the accounts to pay them, but say they really have no clue what bills are actually getting paid. The issue was raised Thursday night as the court met in regular session and after Jailer/Chief Transport Officer Jesse Hatfield made the claim that the county is behind in paying its bills to other jails for inmate housing. When asked later in the meeting to approve paying the bills, a motion by Jason Mann was met with silence as it seemed no magistrate wanted to second the motion. Discussion then included questions about whether there is actually money to pay the bills. Magistrate Roger Phillips responded to citizen comments on the matter by saying that he and other magistrates are told by Stephens the bills are being paid and that they have no choice but to take the Judge at his word until they have reason to believe he is not being straight forward, which he added seems to be the case currently. Stephens was asked if the county can pay all bills if approved, to which he said not all bills could be paid right away, but the county would pay what they can and will pay the rest when they can. He added that money trickles in throughout the year, making it hard to pay all bills immediately. In the end, the court did vote to pay the bills by a 3-1 vote, with Magistrate Roger Phillips voting “nea”. Magistrate OL Perry had left the meeting prior to this vote due to a family medical emergency.

As promised, McCreary County Judge-Executive Doug Stephens presented his proposal for dealing with the county's jail and inmate housing crisis during Thursday evening's session of the McCreary County Fiscal Court, and the options were met concerns from magistrates and citizens. Stephens said he feels like there is no way to reopen the old jail because it would cost too much to bring the building up to modern structural standards. One estimate from a fire marshall put at between $2-$3 million, but Stephens said a structural engineer would likely find even more that needs done, meaning the estimate could double, just to reopen the old jail building. He proposed looking at building a new jail at an estimated cost of between $8-$10 million, but that option would require imposing more tax burden on local residents and also depends heavily on uncertain hopes of getting state inmates to house. KACo, Kentucky Association of Counties, estimated the county's annual payment for such a finance project at more than $500,000. In addition, Judge Stephens said based on current requirements of the state, staffing costs could be about $700,000-$750,000 annually, plus about that same amount for other jail operating costs for a new facility. In total, the annual cost for a new jail including debt service for the building, staff and other operational expenses would be nearly $2 million.

Stephens said the county needs to look at an option that will generate at least another $1 million in annual revenue for the county, plus the revenue that could be generated by housing state inmates, although the state has warned the county not to count on that type of funding. Judge Stephens said his recommendation would be to impose an insurance premium tax in McCreary County, which he said would be on new policies only and, at 7%, would bring in about $1 million according to estimates from the state Department of Insurance.

The Judge said the decision would have to take into consideration whether the community as a whole wants a new jail and the tax that goes along with it and also the fact that such a tax could not go into effect until July of next year. Magistrate Roger Phillips questioned Stephens' numbers, saying Wayne County, with a slightly higher population, only brings in about $742,000 annually from their insurance tax, adding that it includes all policies, not just new policies. Phillips advocated for investing in refurbishing the existing jail, which he said he thought could be done for about $2 million and could be paid for by refinancing all existing debts of the county, without imposing a new tax.

One citizen commented that it is not fair to put on an insurance tax, because homeowners would pay it but those who rent would not. It was noted that the tax would also include auto insurance policies. Court members noted that they only have three options for raising additional revenue, with an insurance tax being one and the occupational tax another. The third option is the property tax, but it was noted that even if the county raises the tax to the maximum they can authorize, it would only bring in about $100,000 more per year.

The discussion on the jail issue also included concern over the distance having to be traveled currently to transport inmates. At this time, according to Judge Stephens, only Leslie County is offering space for McCreary County inmates. He said this was due to other facilities in the area being overcrowded, but Jailer/Transport Officer Jesse Hatfield hinted that the issue goes beyond that, saying that he has been told by other jails that McCreary County is falling behind in paying the bill for inmate housing. Hatfield said in open court that the county needs to pay these other jails on time or none will take the county's inmates. Stephens denied that the county was far behind in payments, saying that currently only jail bills owed from June, and now July, have not been paid.

In the end, no action was taken on the jail issue, but county leaders said they would continue looking at all options. In the meantime, the county is stuck transporting inmates great distances and is at the mercy of whatever county will actually take local inmates.

Thursday evening's session of the McCreary County Fiscal Court included an executive session at the end of the agenda to deal with a personnel issue. Following the closed door pow wow, the court voted to reinstate Kim Coffey to her position as secretary at the McCreary County Road Department, effective retroactively to July 1st. Coffey had reportedly been let go after being off work excessive days due to an injury suffered while on the job. After the vote to reinstate her, Judge Executive Doug Stephens said he had nothing personally against Coffey, but was following advice through workman's comp. procedures in the dismissal. The news that Coffey would be reinstated to her county job was met with cheers and applause from many in the court room who attended the meeting in her support.

We will have more Thursday's McCreary County Fiscal Court meeting on Monday's (July 18th) Daily Update report.

A McCreary County woman was busted in northern Scott County, Tennessee last Wednesday for allegedly driving under the influence and for child endangerment charges. Scott County media sources report that 55 year old Kimberly Diana Probus of Pine Knot was witnessed by officers pulling out of a liquor store and heading north on Highway 27. The officers further reported that they saw Probus cross the center line and cross into the oncoming lane of traffic. The woman's car was stopped by police and she reportedly failed a series of field sobriety tests. Two toddlers, age two and three, were found unrestrained and unclothed in the vehicle at the time of the traffic stop. Probus was arrested and charged with driving under the influence second offense, child neglect, violation of the child restraint law, and failure to maintain her lane. She was lodged in the Scott County Jail following her arrest and the children were taken into protective custody by the Department of Children's Services. Involved in the arrest and investigation were the Oneida Police Department and Scott County Sheriff's Department.

A fatal traffic accident was reported on Monday, July 4
th, in the Tateville area of Pulaski County, just south of Burnside. The life of 23 year old Jordan New of McCreary County was claimed in the accident that happened at about 6:00pm at the junction of US Highway 27 and Keno Road. The Pulaski County Sheriff's Department reports that a 2001 Chevy Tahoe driven by 60 year old John Lyles of Burnside was heading southbound when it went out of control due to wet road conditions. The Tahoe then spun and struck an oncoming 2008 Chevy Cobalt driven by Jordan New of Stearns. New was flown to UK Medical Center in Lexington, but was pronounced dead from his injuries. His passenger, 18 year old Brooklyn Braden of Whitley City was transported to Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital for treatment of her injuries. 58 year old Rebecca Lyles, a passenger in the first vehicle, was also transported to the hospital for treatment. The Pulaski County Sheriff's Department investigated the fatal crash with assistance at the scene from the Pulaski County Rescue Squad and the Tateville Volunteer Fire Department.

The June session of the McCreary County Grand Jury was busy, with several drug related cases topping the list of returned indictments. Joyce Good, aka Joyce Watson, was indicted on numerous counts including trafficking in a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, and unlawful possession of meth precursors. Additional charges against Good included receiving stolen property involving a stolen firearm. Other drug related indictments were handed down against James Watters of Stearns for trafficking; Christopher Abbott of Parkers Lake for trafficking; and Daniel Tapley of Strunk for trafficking. Other drug trafficking charges put forth by the grand jury included John Ridner of Pine Knot, Paul Jamison of Winfield, and Heather Murphy of Strunk.

Robert Lowe, Carla Barnett and Julie Lyons were all indicted in connection with an alleged break-in at the Bestway Game Room back in March, with charges including burglary, criminal mischief and theft by unlawful taking over $500. A storage building break-in in Whitley City in March led to the indictment of Clayton Ridner and Jeremy Young on burglary and theft charges.

Douglas Wagers of Oneida, Tennessee was charged by the grand jury with resisting arrest, fleeing or evading police, DUI and a convicted felon possessing a handgun. An indictment was returned against Thomas Colwell of Pine Knot for burglary, fleeing or evading, theft of identity, resisting arrest, and being a persistent felony offender. Dustin Eldridge of Stearns was charged with possession of a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia; October Smith, aka October Spurgeon, was charged with possession and tampering with physical evidence; and Patrick Ross of Oneida was indicted for trafficking and possession of drug paraphernalia. Ross also faces persistent felony offender charges.

Jimmy Troxell of Parkers Lake was indicted by the grand jury for flagrant non-support for failing to provide support to his minor child in the amount of not less than $1,000.

An indictment by the grand jury is not a finding of guilt, but is a formal charge against a suspect in a case.

Last minute negotiations involving the future of Pioneer Hospital in Scott County, Tennessee reportedly broke down Friday afternoon, leading to the closure of the facility. While plans had been to close on Friday July 1st, some had hoped that negotiations with a potential buyer for the hospital would come through and would allow the hospital to remain open as it was transitioned to a new owner. However, media sources report that Pioneer Hospital CEO Tony Taylor was contacted by corporate officials late Friday afternoon and told that those talks had failed and to close the hospital at 7:00pm this past Friday, which is what happened. This comes after Pioneer had requested an indefinite extension of the closure notice from the state last Thursday, to allow negotiations to continue with the hospital remaining open. Just twenty four hours later, the announcement came that the hospital was closing at the start of the July 4th holiday weekend. There is no solid plan for the future of the hospital facility in Oneida, as Pioneer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and there are outstanding liens on the building and property in Oneida. Some in the community have said they hope the hospital can one day open again, while others have admitted they think it will likely never reopen.

Since 911 was first implemented in McCreary County nearly twenty years ago, the county has struggled with getting all residents to pay their share for the service. The main revenue stream for 911 has come from a $2.65 per month, per phone line charge which is on Highland Telephone bills, but with the number of landline phones continuing to decrease through the years, funding has become tight for the service. The county also collects some money from cell phone bills and receives grants for equipment and other special projects, but county leaders have said that funding the service each year is becoming more difficult. During the special session of the McCreary County Fiscal Court Monday afternoon, the issue was discussed when Magistrate Roger Phillips question the amount budget in 911 revenue from phone bills each month. Discussion on the issue including looking at other options for collecting from as many McCreary County citizens as possible, since anyone in the county could need 911 service at anytime. One option put on the table was putting the 911 fee on the local water bill, instead of phone bills. While no action was taken on that option, it was left on the table for possible review. Magistrate Phillips noted that before fees are raised or taxes raised, the county should be doing what it can to collect all money possible already, such as having everyone help in paying for 911. The issue is likely to come up again at a future court meeting.

In a partnership between Toyota, the United Way and the Governor's Office of Early Childhood, 63 schools will be added to the United Way Born Learning Academy program in 2016. McCreary County will benefit from the announcement made this week, with Whitley City Elementary and Pine Knot Primary School selected to take part in the program. The effort began in 2012 with a $1 million grant from Toyota and was later increased with state funding allowing even more schools to take part. The program helps by providing resources for parents and families of children under age five and by offering additional educational programs and offerings to children in that age range. Studies have shown, according to program officials, that every dollar spent on early childhood education carries a 7-10% return on investment, adding that children who attend high quality preschool programs are more likely to be employed and have higher earnings as adults. Again, McCreary County's Whitley City Elementary and Pine Knot Primary are listed among the schools added to the early childhood award for 2016.

While employees of McCreary County government have not seen pay raises or even cost of living increases in several years due to budget strains, county leaders did take steps this week to reward years of service by county employees. During their special session Monday, the McCreary County Fiscal Court voted to adopt a change to the county's administrative code that will allow employees with certain years of service to be awarded additional vacation days. Currently, full time county employees receive one vacation day per month, or a total of twelve days per year. Under the new policy, county employees will be awarded their full twelve days on January 1st to start the year, with employees with at least five years of employment able to receive two additional vacation days. For each five years of employment added on to that amount another two days of vacation time would be added. Employees would also have the option of still working through vacation time, essentially getting paid double for those days. One question was raised by Joni Carson of the McCreary County PVA's office about how this would impact the county's already stressed budget. Judge Executive Doug Stephens said there will be some impact, but he did not expect very many employees to take advantage of the option, saying that most would likely still take their vacations. It was also noted, as an example, that with EMS and 911 when employees are off on vacation, in addition to get paid for their vacation days, other employees still have to fill in for them, getting paid for those hours, so there will really be no increase in cost for those departments. The court approved the plan in a 5-0 vote.

Consumers across Kentucky are being warned to watch out for credit card skimmers at gas stations. Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles issued a warning after police say they are seeing a spike in the number of skimmers on the credit card machines attached to gas pumps. While the reports are being seen in cities like Lexington and Louisville, authorities say skimmers are found in rural areas across the state as well. Skimmers are placed on the machines by scam artists to store data from credit cards used at the pump, so the scammer can access that information and steal identities. Officials say to watch for pumps that appear to have been tampered with, including panels or doors that may look as though they have been removed and replaced.

Solve the problem or shut county government down.” Those were the words of Magistrate Roger Phillips Monday afternoon during a special session of the McCreary County Fiscal Court. Phillips was speaking about the ongoing jail crisis which continues to drain the county of its funds and threatens to drag the county even further down moving forward. The discussion came up as the court was asked to give final passage to the county 2016-2017 budget, which would go into effect this Friday July 1st. The fourth term magistrate voiced concerns over the amount budgeted for housing inmates, which was listed at $600,000, down from the current year's $750,000. He asked how, since the county is transporting inmates even greater distances for housing now, the county could expect to have lower inmate housing expenses. Judge Executive Doug Stephens said it was based on “possible” and “hopeful” plans to change the way inmate booking can be done. County Attorney Conley Chaney addressed the court saying that one proposal submitted to the Department of Corrections would allow the county to open a booking and transfer station in the courthouse which would allow for the booking and possible bonding out of inmates locally, rather than transporting and housing in other counties. Chaney admitted that there is no guarantee DOC will approve the request, but said if it happens it could result in “substantial savings” to the county.

The jail discussion as it related to the budget continued as Magistrate Phillips questioned the county's failure to pay basic bills, including a cell phone bill for Jailer/Transport Officer Jesse Hatfield. Judge Stephens said the bill had been included in a “stack of bills” that were set aside as the county waited for money to come in to pay them and that county officials did not realize the due date had passed on the bill. Phillips noted that in the past when bills went unpaid, at least some of the blame fell on the previous finance officer, but that was not happening now. Stephens said the blame was his and was an oversight in paying the bills.

As county officials continue wrestling with the jail issue for a jail that has now been closed three and a half years, Magistrate Phillips pointed the finger of blame for inaction by the county at Judge Stephens, saying it was a “lack of leadership” on his part and that the judge should be calling DOC daily to try to resolve the issue.

When a vote for final passage of the new budget was called for, three magistrates including Roger Phillips, Jason Mann and Duston Baird, initially voted against approval based on the jail and other issues. Judge Stephens noted that without a budget in place this Friday, July 1st, county government would shut down. Phillips then said he tired of “kicking the can down the road” and that the court needed to “solve the problem” on the jail or shut the government down.

Discussions then continued with county leaders seeming in agreement that the county cannot continue as it is currently and must either reopen the old jail, build a new one, or find some other solution. Magistrates noted that even if the county has to spend $1 million up to $2 million to refurbish the jail or even spend several million dollars to open a new facility, it would be worth financing the cost to get a jail open in the county. Judge Stephens said that, after three and a half years, he is finally ready to present a proposal for a new jail to the court, but failed to give details saying he would present that proposal at the July court meeting.
With that assurance, Magistrate Phillips made a new motion to approve the budget, which this time passed with only Jason Mann voting “nea” saying he still had other concerns.

Other issues raised with the new budget included increases in the amount set aside for the extension service, an amount which increased from $39,000 when first presented last budget year, to $44,000 upon final approval last year, to $48,000 for the new fiscal year.

The court also discussed the $6,600 budgeted for the Lake Cumberland Area Drug Task Force and said they still were not getting progress reports as they previously requested. Task Force representative Robbie Clark told court members he would begin providing reports at least twice per year.

The 2016-2017 McCreary County budget totals just over $7.5 million including all funds.

Compared to one year ago, McCreary County's unemployment rate was improved in May of this year. The rate came in at 7.5%, compared to 8.3% in May 2015. Even with the improvement recorded, McCreary County's rate of jobless was still the second highest in the ten county Lake Cumberland area, with only Russell County's 7.8% coming in higher last month. The lowest rate of job seekers in the Lake Cumberland area was in Green County at only 4.2%. Between May of last year and May of this year, 91 Kentucky counties did see lower jobless rate, while 24 saw higher rates and five were unchanged. Statewide, Woodford County had the lowest unemployment rate last month at 3.3%, while Magoffin County had the highest rate at 15.6%. Jobless rates are based on estimates of active job seekers in a four week period. For more information on Kentucky's labor market and unemployment rates, visit

A car chase that began in Pulaski County, made its way through McCreary County, and ended with the car crashing in Scott County, Tennessee, resulted in the arrest of a fugitive wanted in Indiana. Authorities say it began last Wednesday morning when a car driven by 24 year old Cody Lee Morris of Franklin, Indiana failed to stop when officers attempted to pull him over north of Somerset. Morris then led police on a chase that continued south on Highway 27 with officers from the Pulaski County Sheriff's Department and Kentucky State Police following the vehicle into McCreary County, where local deputies reportedly also got involved. The chase continued across the state line into Scott County where the car eventually crashed in Winfield. As officers approached the vehicle, they say Morris attempted to flee on foot but was subdued by a taser and taken into custody. Authorities say Morris was highly intoxicated at the time of the chase and his subsequent arrest. He was charged with driving under the influence 2nd offense, violation of the implied consent law, leaving the scene of an accident, possession of drug paraphernalia, aggravated assault and being a fugitive from justice.

Kentucky Department of Corrections Commissioner Rodney Ballard was in McCreary County last Thursday to discuss with local officials any possibility of reopening the local jail. The McCreary County Voice reports, through a post on their Facebook page, that the news from that meeting does not appear to be positive. According to the report, Commissioner Ballard told officials that the jail building is in “deplorable shape”, adding that the county should not spend any money trying to repair the structure. Before the county could even consider working on the building, a structural engineer would need to be hired to inspect the building to determine if it is even safe to work on. Then, state officials say an architect would have to give the county an estimate on the cost to repair the building. Another issue reportedly addressed with Commissioner Ballard was the possible use of part of the jail building or the use of holding cells in the courthouse. The commissioner said that a change in state law would prohibit the county from looking at either of those options. The bottom line from the meeting appears to be that the chances of reopening the existing jail are slim, while the chance of building a new jail seems even less likely. As it currently stands, McCreary County is transporting those arrested to jails in other counties, adding up expenses from the transports and housing inmates in those other facilities. The situation also adds hardship to those inmates and their families as well as meaning that the jobs that were offered to McCreary County residents at the local jail are not available.

A McCreary County man found his name on the list of 26 suspects either arrested or being sought Wednesday as part of a major drug roundup in neighboring Pulaski County. The Pulaski County Sheriff's Department announced that beginning at 7:00am Wednesday morning, various law enforcement officers and agencies began the process of serving the warrants on drug related indictments that had been handed down by the grand jury. The list of suspects included 57 year old James Perry of McCreary County on charges of trafficking in a controlled substance 1st degree, 1st offense. That seemed to be a common charge for most or all of the suspects named with addresses for those suspects ranging from Somerset, Burnside, and Nancy in Pulaski County, to as far away as Louisville. Working the case is the Lake Cumberland Area Drug Task Force, Kentucky State Police, US Marshal's Service, Pulaski County Sheriff's Department, and police officers from Somerset, Eubank, Science Hill, Burnside and Ferguson, along with Pulaski County constables and jail staff. Authorities say the indictments and arrests are the result of undercover investigations spanning several months, adding that additional arrests and charges may be forthcoming.

Kentucky State Police have confirmed that two people were killed and one other injured in a Saturday afternoon crash on Highway 27 in Pine Knot. Police say an ATV operated by 43 year old Tony Dewayne Myers of Helenwood, Tennessee was going eastbound on Cal Hill Spur Road when it crossed the intersection with Highway 27, traveling into the path of an oncoming 2004 Chevrolet pickup truck. The truck was driven by 72 year old John Chitwood of Whitley City. The truck was unable to stop and struck the ATV, throwing Myers and his passenger, 45 year old Geneva Jo Ridener of Whitley City, from the vehicle. Myers was pronounced dead at the scene while Ridener was transported to Pioneer Community Hospital in Oneida where she was pronounced dead. Police say no helmets were being used by either of the deceased. Chitwood, the truck's driver, was transported to Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital for treatment of minor injuries. Investigators say alcohol use is suspected as a factor in the crash, which remains under investigation by Kentucky State Police. Assisting at the scene were the McCreary County Sheriff's Department, McCreary County EMS, McCreary County Coroner's Office and the South McCreary Fire Department.

During their regular session last Thursday, the McCreary County Fiscal Court was asked to contribute $10,000 to a regional business park. The McCreary County Chamber of Commerce addressed the court and made the request on behalf of the Southeast Kentucky Business Park and its governing board. The park, located in Corbin, serves several regional counties and, according to local Chamber President Diana Bybee, makes direct distribution payments back to the counties each year. She said that for McCreary County, that payment was over $11,000 in 2012, more than $13,000 in 2013, and up to about $27,000 in 2014. In addition, she noted that many businesses are located in the business park, creating jobs including some for McCreary County residents. Magistrate Roger Phillips said he was not sure where the county would get an additional $10,000 in its budget to go to the regional business park, since the budge is already so strained. Judge Executive Doug Stephens urged the court to go ahead with the contribution, but no action was taken in the end as the county awaits the second reading of the new budget at a special session later this month.

Thursday's court meeting also included the opening of various bids for goods and services to the county for the new year. The court reviewed and discussed the bids received before voting to accept the bids with the exception of drug testing, where two companies bid on the same service. That one will be reviewed for action later this month. There was no bid received for pest control services for county facilities, meaning the county will have to work out a plan to deal with that issue or rebid the service in hopes of getting responses.

The McCreary County Fiscal Court will meeting in special session Monday June 27th at 3:00pm for the second reading and final passage of the new 2016-2017 budget, to go into effect on July 1st. That meeting will also include some other agenda items including final passage of some budget amendments for the current fiscal year and dealing with final bids for the new year.

After years of what seemed like little action by the McCreary County Judge Executive's Office to work on reopening the county's jail, it took a move by magistrates to at least get things moving in the right direction. During the regular session of the McCreary County Fiscal Court Thursday night, Magistrate Jason Mann said he had called the Governor's Office to ask for guidance on trying to get the facility open again. The office reportedly put Mann in contact with Commissioner Ballard who has committed to coming to McCreary County on Thursday June 16th for a 9:00am meeting to look at the jail and discuss work needed to possibly get it open again. Mann said he was told the county would be given a list of work and other issues needed to be addressed and would then have to see what the cost is and if it is possible to finance the project. It was noted by Mann that the current situation is “bankrupting” the county and something has to be done. Magistrate Mann said the public and other county officials are welcome to attend the meeting with state officials. County Attorney Conley Chaney also said it would be a good idea to have the officials look at holding cells that are in the courthouse to begin the process of possibly getting approval to use them for holding inmates for up to thirty hours.

In other jail business, Chaney presented a proposal to the court from the Commonwealth Attorney's office dealing with inmate costs. The proposal would allow the county to charge inmates for housing costs and possibly transportation and medical costs while being housed. This is something previously approved by the county when the jail was open, but enforcement and collections after an inmate was released were not followed through on, and it was noted that nearly $300,000 was listed on the books as owed to the county by inmates when the jail closed. Chaney said inmates not paying these fees could not be charged for non-payment but that money could be sought in civil action and through a collection agency. The court approved moving ahead with the proposal as a way of bringing in at least some funding to help with the mounting inmate housing and transport expenses.

The McCreary County Fiscal Court took up items of business related to recreation Thursday night during their regular session, including opening bids from two companies for the installation of 30' x 40' splash pads at the county park. Splash Pads USA bid $65,000 while another company's bid came in at more than $190,000, presumably for the same project. In the end, the court approved the low bid in hopes that the project can be completed within a few weeks. Meanwhile, a proposal was presented by Magistrate Roger Phillips on behalf of the park board to spend just over $22,000 to improve the Sandhill RV Camp. The money includes materials for electrical work, plumbing and other improvements, with much of the labor being volunteered by Freddie Patrick of the Blazin' Bluegrass Festival board and the water district. The improvements will include adding 36 campsites on the north side of the camp and improvements to restrooms and more. The court approved the project. Funding for the splash pads and Sandhill work is coming from a dedicated park fund with money that had been set aside for any possible legal action on an outstanding claim by Weddle Company, which work on the original park project. The company has since waived any rights to such a claim, freeing up that money for use at the recreational facilities.

A family outing Monday turned tragic as an 11 year old boy drowned while swimming in the Big South Fork. Authorities confirmed that a search began Monday for the boy who went missing after going under the water. The search continued until dark Monday and resumed Tuesday with the body of 11 year old Kaden Allen of Parkers Lake being discovered around noon that day. The preliminary cause of death is drowning but officials say an autopsy was scheduled in Frankfort to determine exact details. Park Service crews were joined by local emergency responders in the search and recovery effort.

A new study shows a decade gap between life expectancy numbers in Kentucky counties. The study and a map of the state showing the various expectancy levels was officially released at a SOAR summit in Pikeville on Monday. The data shows that the state's highest average life expectancy is found in Oldham County at 79 years of age with the lowest found in three eastern Kentucky counties, including Perry, Breathitt and Wolfe Counties, at 70 years. Also in eastern Kentucky, the next lowest life expectancy was 71 years of age found in Floyd, Harlan and Owsley Counties. The study found that eastern Kentucky recorded the lowest ages for life expectancy while the highest ages can be found in the triangle between Lexington, Louisville and northern Kentucky, linking higher life spans with more employment opportunities along with educational, recreational and health coverage opportunities. One issue found in southern and eastern Kentucky is the lack of adequate healthcare providers, based on the population, along with less participation in health education and support programs. In McCreary County, the life expectancy number was on the lower end of the scale ay 73 years of age, compared to Pulaski County at age 75, Wayne County at age 76 and Whitley County at age 72. As noted, the study and map were released during the SOAR summit Monday. SOAR, Shaping Our Appalachian Region, was introduced by former Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear and US Congressman Hal Rogers. The initiative is geared toward improving life in the eastern part of the state, including economics, education and health. A SOAR committee made several health recommendations in 2014 including things like hiring more community health workers, banning smoking in public places, school health programs and promoting health living. The Lexington Herald Leader reported on the new study and map on life expectancy in Kentucky.

A theft ring that encompasses several counties, including McCreary County, is being investigated by the local sheriff's department. The McCreary County Voice reports that the case began over the past several weeks with a number of incidences of vehicles being broken into with items stolen. Some of those vehicles were reportedly parked near Cumberland Falls and Noe's Dock in the northern section of the county. Investigators believe the theft ring may take in several other counties as well. A suspicious vehicle was spotted by Deputy Odell Smith last week while on patrol, but the suspects fled following a pursuit. The vehicle was confiscated and a number of stolen items apparently found inside. The investigation is ongoing and The Voice reports that arrests and charges may be pending in the case.

The McCreary County Grand Jury met for their May session, returning indictments against ten suspects in a variety of cases. In addition to Delford Smith, who we reported on for his indictment on rape charges, Jimmy Watson of Revelo was indicted for trafficking in a controlled substance, fleeing or evading police, resisting arrest, criminal mischief, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of marijuana. Reggie Dawson of Strunk was charged with receiving stolen property over $500 involving a stolen 1998 Jeep Cherokee; Jeffrey Taylor of Whitley City was indicted for possession of a controlled substance; Christina Bowman of Stearns was indicted for flagrant non-support; Jerry Lay of Pine Knot was charged with flagrant non-support; and Calvin Clark of Stearns was also indicted for flagrant non-support. Those cases involve suspects accused of failing to provide support payments for their minor children. Jennifer Swain of Whitley City was charged with trafficking in a controlled substance; Barbara Combs was charged with criminal possession of a forged instrument and Allen Sexton of Oneida was charged with possession of a controlled substance. Listeners are reminded that an indictment by the grand jury is a formal charge in a case and not a finding of guilt.

A Stearns man accused of holding a woman against her will and forcing her to have sex with him last year has now been indicted on related charges.
The McCreary County Voice
reports that the May indictments handed down by the McCreary County Grand Jury include charges against 45 year old Delford L. Smith for the incident that allegedly took place in November of last year on West Highway 92. Officers responded to a call from a female victim claiming that she had been held and raped by Smith and that she was able to get away and call authorities from a neighbor's home. Smith was arrested at that time and following months of investigating, the case was finally heard by the grand jury earlier this month with the indictment returned. Delford Smith was charged with rape first degree, sodomy first degree, assault fourth degree, and unlawful imprisonment first degree. Listeners are reminded that an indictment by the grand jury is a formal charge against a suspect in a case, but is not a finding of guilt.

The Kentucky Office of Employment and Training has released the latest unemployment figures for the state, showing improvement in the jobless picture in 83 out of 120 counties in Kentucky in April of this year. McCreary County's rate of job seekers was down to 7.1% last month, as compared to 7.5% in April of last year and a major drop from 9.4% just back in March of this year. Even with the improvement, McCreary County had the second highest jobless rate in the ten county Lake Cumberland District, ahead of only Russell County at 7.8%. Green County continued with the lowest rate in the region at 4.2% in April. Statewide, the unemployment rate came in at 4.6% last month, down from 5.9% in March and also down from 4.9% in April of last year. That is slightly lower than the national jobless rate of 4.7%. Unemployment numbers are based on the number of active job seekers in a four week period. More information on Kentucky's labor market and unemployment rates is available online at kylmi.ky.gov.

Discussions during the April meeting of the McCreary County Fiscal Court led to a decision to use some money set aside for the county park to install a new splash pad system. At that time, citizen and businessman JC Egnew agreed to pay half the cost of installing the new recreational offering, if the county would cover the rest of the cost using money in a dedicated fund for the park. The court agreed and a notice has now been posted that the McCreary County Fiscal Court is officially seeking bids from companies for the supply and installation of a 30' x 40' splash pad for the park. Bids will be accepted until 4:00pm on Thursday June 9th, with the court to meet that evening at 6:00pm with possible action on the bid submissions. The county had previously applied for grant funds through the state for a splash pad facility but that request was rejected.

During their regular meeting Monday evening, the McCreary County Board of Education approved a plan that has already been adopted by more than forty other school districts throughout the state to deal with days missed for snow, illness and other issues. The “Non-Traditional Instruction”, or NTI days, will allow the local district to send home instructional packets with students early next school year. When school is missed for a snow event or illness with multiple days missed in a row, school administrators will be able to call for an NTI day to be used. When conditions are safe, staff including teachers will still report to school and students will still be instructed through various means including online, e-mail, phone or simply by completing work in the packet that will then be turned in when school is back in session. By taking part in this program, the local school district could use up to ten of these days in a school year to avoid staying in session as late into the summer. Some questions were raised about the plan by school board members, including issues of safety for teachers and the lack of personal instructional interaction between students and teachers. In the end, the board decided that the positives outweighed negatives with the plan and approved adopting the program for use beginning next school year.

Meeting for their May session Monday night, the McCreary County Board of Education nearly failed to approve a tentative budget for 2016-2017. The school board is required to pass a tentative spending plan and submit that to the state department of education no later than May 30th. Presented with the budget this week, the initial vote by the school board was 2-2 with Board Chairman Brandon Kidd absent from the meeting. Members Roxanne Shook and Nelda Gilreath voted against approval mainly in protest over positions within the district being created without being fully explained or identified to the board. The main position in question was an administrative assistant for the Director of Special Education, which Superintendent Mike Cash said was included in a salary schedule approved by the board in recent months. The board members protesting said they were not told of the new position being created and were simply handed a copy of the salary schedule right before the meeting. After taking the vote, and with the threat of not having a budget to submit to the state by the deadline, administrators explained that the positions in question were not even included in the budget as they are paid with federal grant funds. Those funds were not included in the tentative budget because of federal grant information not being available. District finance officers noted that a working budget will be presented to the school board later at which time changes can be made. With the new information in hand, School Board Member Nelda Gilreath opted to reverse her negative vote and voted to approve the tentative budget.

Finance officers said the budget lists just over $18 million in General Fund revenue and a carryover of at least $1.4 million from the current fiscal year. They said that was a conservative estimate and that the actual budget surplus going into the next year could be about $2 million.

The next school board meeting is slated for Thursday June 9th at 6:30pm.

The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet's Division of Waste Management announced at the end of last week that 45 recycling grants had been awarded to communities across the state. In addition, the division announced 27 household hazardous waste grants and one grant for a compost pilot project. The total award statewide is just over $4.5 million for the 73 grant awards. Listed among the recycling grants approved for 2016-2017 is McCreary County Fiscal Court which has been awarded $20,740 to continue its recycling program. That program currently consists of collecting cardboard from many of the local businesses in the county, locating recycling bins at strategic locations around the county, and accepting recycling in trailers at the McCreary County Park and Pine Knot Primary School. The recycling center is also open daily at the transfer station in Stearns. Other area communities receiving recycling grants included Wayne County at $12,000; London-Laurel County at $141,000; and Pulaski County at $250,000.

The annual Relay for Life in McCreary County wrapped up with the main event this past weekend at Sandhill RV Camp. While the weather was not ideal for the event, with windy, rainy, cool weather around the area on Saturday for the all day event, organizers still say that the days activities were enjoyed by a good crowd. The event included the traditional survivor's lap, lighting of luminaries, and live music. The Relay for Life was moved to Sandhill Camp this year in large part due to concerns over weather. Sandhill Camp offers an large shelter for events to be held rain or shine. McCreary County's 2016 Relay for Life brought in $21,651 for the American Cancer Society's fight against cancer, according to Brooke Whitis, regional field representative for the American Cancer Society.

Meeting in special session Friday afternoon, the McCreary County Fiscal Court was presented a budget proposal for fiscal year 2016-2017 to begin July 1st. There had been much discussion about whether the county could present a balanced budget, as is required, due to shortfalls reported in the current fiscal year and projected into next year. The number being kicked around put the shortfall at about $350,000. Judge Executive Doug Stephens opened budget discussions Friday by saying that local EMS/911 Director Jimmy Barnett had crunched numbers on a plan to allow the local ambulance service to conduct non-emergency transports for hospitals and other facilities, bringing in additional revenue from billing for that service. Coincidentally, Judge Stephens said that Barnett felt that the service could bring in an additional $350,000 annually by doing this, the exact amount being discussed as a budget shortfall. This, according to Stephens, allows the county to put forth a balanced, although very tight, budget for the next year.

One budget items discussed is the amount provided to the extension service by the county. Magistrate Roger Phillips said that at the last court meeting Judge Stephens described an increase in those funds of about $4,000. Phillips said looking at the budget that the figure was closer to about $9600. He said the court was misled by Stephens on those figures, adding that he was not sure how the court could approve such an increase for the extension service when they are not able to provide pay increases for county employees. Judge Stephens said part of the extension funding increase comes from an increase in rent that the office must pay to KCTCS at the McCreary Center. Magistrate Duston Baird questioned whether the service could look for another location with lower rent and it seemed all options were still on the table.

Another issue raised was inmate housing expenses, which were first going to be budgeted at $750,000 for the year. Judge Stephens explained that based on estimates from previous years the amount can be lowered to $600,000. That includes only the cost of housing inmates and does not include all inmate or jail related expenses, such as transport.

Following discussion, the court voted to approve the first reading of the 2016-2017 budget, noting that it must still be submitted for any changes to the state and that the court can still make final changes before the second reading next month.

Fiscal Court was also asked to approved the salary schedule for county employees for the next year. Magistrate Roger Phillips questioned a line item that totals more than $53,000 for a full time economic development/tourism director position. Judge Stephens said that was in the plan just in case the court opted to create and fill such a position in the new year, although no definite plans seem to be in place for dealing with economic development or tourism.

Questions were also raised about why the county needed two deputy judge executive positions. Stephens said both individuals perform different duties, noting that Andy Powell works mainly on grants and special projects and works only part time and that Randy Jones also handles finance officer duties. Judge Stephens also noted that having Jones in the office daily with the title of deputy judge allows him to help make administrative decisions, but he struggled to come up with examples of decisions made by Jones when questioned on that point by Magistrate Roger Phillips. The court approved the salary schedule presented, with Roger Phillips and Jason Mann casting votes against approval in the 3-2 vote.

The next meeting of the McCreary County Fiscal Court is set for Thursday June 9th at 6:00pm.

A pedestrian in McCreary County was hit by a car and killed late Tuesday evening, while walking along US Highway 27 just south of Stearns. Authorities say 37 year old Bobby Stephens was walking near the center line of Highway 27 at about 10:30pm Tuesday night when a Dodge truck, driven by 41 year old Jennifer Pugh of Pine Knot, struck him. McCreary County Coroner Tim Corder was reportedly called to the scene where the man was pronounced dead. Also responding were the Whitley City Fire Department, McCreary EMS, McCreary County Sheriff's Department and Kentucky State Police. Officials closed Highway 27 for a short time to clear the scene Tuesday night. Authorities say the driver of the vehicle was not injured. The case remains under investigation.

The 2016 class of Rogers Explorers, sponsored through the Center for Rural Development in Somerset, includes several McCreary County Middle School students. Eighth graders selected for the honors locally include Laura Hamlin, Amber Bryant, and Emily Bryant. They will spend three days and two nights this summer on a college campus where they will work to further develop their skills and knowledge in areas including math, science, and technology. The program, named for US Congressman Hal Rogers, is open to eight graders who excel in these areas throughout the Center's service area in southern and eastern Kentucky. Additional information on the Rogers Explorers program can be obtained by calling the Center at 606-677-6000 or by e-mailing youth@centertech.com. You can also visit www.centeryouthprograms.com or follow the Rogers Explorers program on Facebook.

A recent study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and reported on by Kentucky Health News, shows that nearly a quarter of the 220 counties nationwide at highest risk from an outbreak of HIV and Hepatitis C from drug use are in Kentucky. 54 of the 220 counties noted in the study are in Kentucky, while 8 of the top 10 are actually in eastern Kentucky. McCreary County is also on the list, coming in at 48
th nationally according to the study. Neighboring Whitley County came in at 14 while Wayne County is on the list at 99. The reports sheds light on the problem of intravenous drug use and says that the risk of spreading both HIV and Hepatitis C from sharing needles is very high in certain areas. One of the most alarming numbers in the study is that many of Kentucky's cases reported are among youth, ages 12 to 29, who have been sharing needles for drug use. More information on the recent study and its meaning can be found in an article in last week's edition of The McCreary County Voice. You can also find more online at

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has announced that a new online service will allow motorists in the state to renew license plates without having to step foot in their county clerk's office. The new application is easy to use, according to state officials, and can be used from virtually any device or computer. To use the service, the motorist will enter the vehicle title number and license plate number along with payment information. After the renewal is completed, registration credentials are mailed to the motorist. Cabinet officials say most counties in Kentucky are on board currently with using the online service, although a small number of yet to sign on. For more information on the new service you can call the Department of Vehicle Regulation at 502-564-1257 or go online to drive.ky.gov.

After months of serving as interim McCreary County Schools Superintendent, Mike Cash was officially selected to fill the post during a special meeting of the local school board this week. The board met Wednesday night for nearly four hours, including most of that time in executive session interviewing finalists for the job put forth by the selection committee. That committee had worked for weeks to review applicants, conduct their own interviews and make recommendations to the school board. A little before 10:00pm Wednesday night, the meeting came to a close with a vote by the board to approve a contract with Cash for the top spot in the school district.

We have previously reported extensively on the investigation into actions of the McCreary County Board of Education by the Kentucky General Assembly Office of Education Accountability (OEA). We provided reports on the OEA findings as well as responses issued by the McCreary County School District. However, one voice apparently left out of these reports was that of School Board member Roxanne Shook. Shook, through her attorney Larry Bryson of London, Kentucky, has now issued her own response. A letter on behalf of Shook to officials with OEA states that she was “never contacted in any manner by anyone to respond to the preliminary report...”. The letter continues that the school board took no official action to approve the response issued on behalf of the school district, adding that in Mrs. Shook's opinion the only individuals responsible for the responses issued were Board Chairman Brandon Kidd and Acting Superintendent Mike Cash.

In her own response to allegations against the school board, Shook takes issue with a board response to issues at the McCreary Academy in which the response states that enrollment at the Academy was 86 students instead of 34 as stated in the OEA investigative report. Shook points to a meeting in December of last year in which a study about the Academy was provided and shows the average daily attendance for the program was never higher than 35.60 during that school year. This comes in response to the investigations claim that the board violated state law by failing to use district resources for the promotion of public education and general health and welfare of the pupils of the district and that the board usurped the authority of the superintendent in the process.

Roxanne Shook's response points to several other issues from the investigation and to the responses from the school district of which she says she was never given the opportunity to approve or take part in. Her response to the report also states that she “...continues to be prevented from seeing or participating in some or certain correspondence and dialogue related to certain issues that come before the McCreary County Board of Education.” She points to the fact that no formal meeting was called to discuss the school district response to the OEA reports.

Again, the response by Roxanne Shook, McCreary County School Board member, was issued by her attorney, dated December 15, 2015, and was sent to officials with the Kentucky General Assembly Office of Educational Accountability for review.

School Board Member Roxanne Shook's Response to OEA Investigation/School Board Response (pdf)

Download and view the entire OEA final report and responses issued by the school district by using the links below.

OEA Final Investigative Report on the McCreary School Board (pdf)

Response Issued by School District to Final report by OEA (pdf)

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