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LOCAL OBITUARIES
 
Rhonda Lee King age 52 of Whitley City, daughter of the late Ronnie King and Wanda (Ross) King Perry, passed away Saturday August 19, 2017. In accordance with her wishes, she was cremated and a memorial service will be held at a later date. McCreary County Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
 
DAILY NEWS UPDATES
(Updated Tuesday August 22, 2017 @ 7:00am)
 

McCREARY COUNTY MAN TO BE IN COURT ON CHILD PORN CHARGES
The McCreary County man who was arrested in early April on child pornography charges will be back in court today for a pretrial conferences, as his case moves forward. Grover C. Manning was arrested by Kentucky State Police following an investigation by their electronic crimes division. Manning was then indicted by a grand jury on a total of thirteen counts of possessing or viewing matter portraying a sexual performance by a minor, also known as child pornography. The pretrial conference is scheduled for today (Tuesday August 22
nd) in McCreary Circuit Court.

RESCUE CREWS CALLED TO CUMBERLAND FALLS AFTER WOMAN FALLS
Rescue crews were called to Cumberland Falls State Resort Park late Sunday with reports that a young woman had fallen, possibly into the water. By the time crews arrived on scene, they located the woman who had made her way to an embankment. The fall took place near an overlook at Cumberland Falls at about 5:30pm Sunday. Crews made it to the woman with a raft and were able to rescue her and fly her to UT Medical Center in Knoxville, suffering from a broken leg and several cuts and bruises. Cumberland Falls is located on the McCreary-Whitley County line with the state park situated on the Whitley County side of the falls.

BIG SOUTH FORK TO CELEBRATE PARK SERVICE'S 101ST BIRTHDAY
This Friday, August 25th, will be the 101st “birthday” for the National Park Service, which was established in 1916. To celebrate, the Big South Fork is giving visitors to the park a present with a free night of camping offered at Alum Ford Campground in McCreary County. Friday night, campers can enjoy the outdoors free of the usual fee. Alum Ford offers six campsites with grills, picnic tables, and lantern hooks, along with accessible toilets and access to the Sheltowee Trace National Trail. The Obed Wild and Scenic River in Tennessee will offer a special program at 5:00pm Friday at which they will reveal winners from their annual photo contest and have music and light refreshments. For information on these or other park service programs, call the Blue Heron Interpretive Center at 376-3787, the Bandy Creek Visitor Center at 423-286-7275 or the Obed Visitor Center at 423-346-6294.

HELPING HANDS” CONTINUING THEIR WORK TO HELP CANCER PATIENTS
Helping Hands” is a group of local volunteers who take part in monthly gatherings to work on fabric items, such as bonnets, lap quilts, pajama bottoms and more, for cancer patients. The items completed are provided to the patients at Hope Lodge in Lexington, Kentucky. That group of volunteers continues their work and have announced upcoming meeting dates and are seeking more volunteers to help with the effort. Participants can sew, cut fabric, iron, and do other tasks related to the project and can even be taught how to perform the tasks if they do not already know how to do so. The next meetings will be Tuesday September 12th, October 17th, November 14th and December 12th from 9:00am to 12noon each of those days at the McCreary County Extension Service office at the McCreary Center Campus in Whitley City. For more information call Becky Hintzmann at 423-286-8251 or the extension office at 376-2524. You can also e-mail becky15kentucky@yahoo.com.

 

McCREARY COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPUTY PLEADS GUILTY TO CHARGES
A special/volunteer deputy with the McCreary County Sheriff's Department recently found himself on the other side of the law when he was arrested for falsely reporting the incident in which he claimed to have been shot by a suspect. Frank Brown was also charged with tampering with evidence and official misconduct. The McCreary County Voice newspaper reports that during a recent court appearance, Brown accepted a plea deal in which he entered a guilty plea to two misdemeanor charges, including official misconduct and filing a false police report. With the plea deal, Brown avoids a jury trial and the potential of more serious charges, and accepts a jail term of thirty days which will be broken up over a number of weekend stays at the Leslie County Detention Center. He was also ordered to pay restitution to the Kentucky State Police and other costs associated with the case. Brown originally said he was shot in his bullet proof vest in late June by a traffic stop suspect. Officers spent many hours searching for that suspect before later finding that Brown had actually shot his own vest, according to the accusations against him.

THREE SUSPECTS ARRESTED FOR ARSON AT SOMERSET KROGER
The Somerset Kroger store was closed for a time late last week and much of the food product inside thrown away or donated after a fire broke out inside the store. Upon investigation, authorities determined that the fire was caused by arson and the investigation then led to the arrest of three suspects in the case. 18 year old Derek Hatfield was charged with arson, wanton endangerment and criminal mischief, while 25 year old Megan Branham was charged with the same charges, plus unlawful access to a computer. A third suspect identified is a juvenile. Police say Hatfield set fire to a bag of chips at the store last Wednesday night, which quickly spread to other items in the area, causing the fire and a massive amount of smoke and damage. The investigation is continuing.

BIG SOUTH FORK FILM GENERATIONS WINS NATIONAL AWARD
The film Generations, an orientation film for the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, has been announced as a winner in the 2017 National Association of Interpretation Media Awards. Park officials announced the honor last week, saying that the film took first place in the Long Video category. Generations was filmed during 2015 and premiered in the park in August 2016, with showings in Kentucky and Tennessee. The 12 minute film looks at all four seasons and explores the history and ecology of the Big South Fork park and the region. The film continues to be shown at the Bandy Creek Visitor Center in Oneida, Tennessee.

 

LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT STILL LOOKING FOR STORE ROBBERY SUSPECT
McCreary County Sheriff Randy Waters said this week that a suspect is still being sought in a string of local store robberies and attempted robberies. Waters said previously that officers do believe the same person is behind several attempts, including a robbery at Fastway in Stearns, and a failed robbery attempt at a store in Whitley City. In another case, video shows the suspect trying to enter a third store, but the store had already closed, locking their doors, and keeping the suspect from entering. Sheriff Waters did say many tips have been received and that investigators are working through each of those. Anyone with information on the case or the suspect, should contact the McCreary County Sheriff's Department.

McCREARY CENTRAL FOOTBALL TEAM TO OPEN 2017 SEASON TONIGHT
The McCreary Central Raider football team will officially open the 2017 season tonight (Friday August 18
th) with a home game hosting Perry County Central. The Raiders are coming off a successful season last year, when the team claimed a 7-3 overall record. Losses last year came to Lynn Camp, Providence, Indiana, and Harlan, two of which the Raiders will not face at all this season. They do play Lynn Camp in the final game of the season on October 27th. Tonight's opponent for the Raiders, Perry County Central, is coming off a 2-8 season last year. The game will kick off at 7:30pm tonight on Norm Parsons Field at McCreary Central High School, with the Raiders starting their second season under Head Coach Lucas Ford.
Update: The Raiders lost this game in a hard fought battle, losing in four overtimes 64-58.

McCREARY COUNTY FARMERS' MARKET HOSTING “BEE DAY” EVENT
The McCreary County Farmers' Market will again be hosting activities for “National Bee Day” this Saturday August 19th. The day will include displays and demonstrations provided by the Big South Fork Beekeepers, as well as local honey and honey related products available for sampling and purchasing. The farmers' market is open Saturdays from 9:00am to 12noon just off Wilburn K Ross Highway, across from the school entrance, in Stearns. You can look up the McCreary County Farmers' Market on Facebook to follow their activities.

HISTORIC SOLAR ECLIPSE AUGUST 21ST; SAFE VIEWING TIPS OFFERED
Officials with the Kentucky Department of Public Health have issued some tips and guidelines for safe viewing of this Monday's historic solar eclipse. The eclipse will be the first time in nearly forty years that the moon has totally eclipsed the sun and it will be a sight to be seen, but only if you do so with proper equipment. That includes certified solar filter eyeglasses. There has been an increase in the number of solar viewing glasses being sold by companies recently with the interest in next week's event. However, health officials say only a few manufacturers are actually certified for making safe solar viewing glasses and you should be aware of those products and check for that certification. Amazon announced this week they were issuing refunds to customers who had purchased some of the “bogus”, non-certified glasses being advertised and sold through their service.

Make sure you wear eclipse glasses with the certification to view the solar eclipse or use a solar filter if viewing through a telescope. Officials say pinhole projectors and other similar projection techniques can be safe for indirect viewing of the eclipse and can be constructed at home using paper or card stock paper. Looking at the solar eclipse directly without the proper filter can cause eye damage. More information on safe eclipse viewing can be found online at eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety. You can also visit www.eclipse2017.org for details and information on the historic solar eclipse which will occur this Monday August 21st.

McCreary County joined many other school districts in the state in closing schools that day. Monday will be Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI) Day #1 for local students.

 

McCREARY COUNTY RECEIVES NEW KENTUCKY STATE POLICE TROOPER
Officials with the Kentucky State Police announced this week that the London Post, which serves seven counties including McCreary County, has received eight additional troopers to serve the area. Among those new officers is Trooper Keegan Bray of Somerset who will be assigned to work in McCreary County. This comes after 41 new troopers received their diplomas from the KSP Academy last week, bringing the total serving force of the state police to 866 troopers.

TOURISM OFFICIALS SAY “COPPERHEAD TRAIL” RIDE A GREAT SUCCESS
A joint effort of McCreary and Whitley Counties has designated a sixty mile stretch of winding roads in both counties as the “Copperhead Trail”. The inaugural ride on the trail took part last Saturday with McCreary County Tourism officials saying that 111 bikes took place with a total of 155 riders involved. Each rider and passenger received a free “Copperhead Trail” t-shirt, courtesy of various sponsors of the event. The trail takes in a section of Kentucky Highway 204 in Whitley County before connection with Kentucky 478, known as Williamsburg Street locally. The trail ends up on Highway 27 in Whitley City, before turning east on Highway 700, Sandhill Road, and then onto Highway 90, through Cumberland Falls and back into Whitley County. Brown trail identifying signs have been posted along the motorcycle trail in both counties.

McCREARY COUNTY TOURISM OFFICE TO BE STAFFED FULL TIME
The last time the McCreary County Tourism office had a full time employee on staff was December 2014, when Tourism Director Tara Chaney resigned from the post. For nearly three years, tourism operations have been on a part time basis, first with a part time tourism director, then a part time tourism administrative assistant. That is no longer the case after last Thursday's regular meeting of the McCreary County Fiscal Court, when county leaders approved moving that part time assistant, Cristy Hill, to the position of full time Tourism Administrative Assistant. The move will not change Hill's hourly pay, which is $10 per hour, but will allow her to work up to forty hours per week and receive county benefits like retirement and insurance. Court members also approved the appointment Kristina McFeeters as a member of the county's tourist commission, serving the remaining term vacated by Nina Bradley.

 

McCREARY COUNTY SCHOOLS BACK IN SESSION FOR NEW YEAR
Students are back in class as of today (Wednesday August 16th) in McCreary County, with opening day for the 2017-2018 school year. Motorists are reminded that school buses will be out on the roads morning and afternoon delivering children to and from school, and you should drive with caution, watch for school bus stops, and for buses that are stopped with children loading and unloading.

The current school year calendar includes the first Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI) Day this coming Monday August 21st, as the school district follows recommendations from the Kentucky Department of Education. The day out of school is being planned because of the historic solar eclipse which will take place Monday afternoon. It is said to be the first eclipse of its type in nearly forty years, with the moon entirely blocking the sun for several minutes. School officials, in making the announcement, also stated that the only recommended way to safely view the eclipse, without possible eye damage, is to use certified special purpose solar filters, with only a few manufacturers receiving such certification.

Students will receive their NTI packets for the year during the first few days of school and should complete assignments for NTI Day 1 on Monday August 21st and return those assignments within three days of returning to school.

Some future dates on the school calendar include no school Monday September 4th for Labor Day; no school October 9th through 13th, a full week for fall break; no school November 22nd through 24th for Thanksgiving; and December 19th being the last day of school before Christmas break. The tentative last day of school this year is set for May 14th in McCreary County.

McCREARY 4-H SENIOR FORESTRY TEAM 10TH PLACE AT NATIONALS
The McCreary County 4-H Senior Forestry team recently competed, claiming tenth (10th) place overall, at the 38th annual National 4-H Forestry Invitational. Teams from 15 states took part in the five day competition held in West Virginia. Local team members taking part included Colby King of Strunk; Shane Meadows of Strunk; Brandon Spradlin of Parkers Lake; and Austin Tucker of Whitley City, with the team coached by Laurie Thomas, UK Forestry Specialist, and Greg Whitis, McCreary County Extension Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources. McCreary County team members also placed well in individual competitions, with Brandon Spradlin and Shane Meadows taking first place in the cross cut saw Jack and Jack division, and Colby King taking second place in that category. Brandon Spradlin also joined another competitor to take first place in the Jack and Jill cross cut saw competition, and also took third place in the pulp wood toss. A number of sponsors helped make the trip and competition possible for the local team.

 

McCREARY COUNTY SCHOOLS SET FOR OPENING DAY WEDNESDAY
Tomorrow, Wednesday August 16th, will be opening day for students in the McCreary County School District. Some changes are going to be noticed for some schools locally this year, including a new mascot of “Indians” at Whitley City Elementary School, a new principal, Todd Waters, at McCreary Middle School, and a new track being completed at McCreary Central High School. The Pine Knot schools will also see a change as the former primary and intermediate schools consolidate as one school, Pine knot Elementary, for the new school year. Grades preschool, kindergarten, first, second and third grade will all have classes in building 1, which is the former primary school. Fourth, fifth and sixth grades will have classes at building 2, the former intermediate school. The school will now be under one principal, Rebecca Blakley, who recently outlined some of the changes, including staff structure, during a radio interview. Mrs. Blakley also said that students and parents should not notice any big changes this year at the school, but added that third graders will see one change as they prepare for higher grade levels. Rebecca Blakley was formerly principal at Pine Knot Intermediate School and is now principal for the consolidated Pine Knot Elementary School. Former Pine Knot Primary Principal Stuart Shepherd is now the school district's transportation director.

McCREARY COUNTY ROAD FUND COULD FALL $160,000 SHORT THIS YEAR
The new fiscal year for county government is just underway, but county leaders are already saying that the McCreary County Road Fund could fall about $160,000 short of its budgeted amount this year. Judge Executive Doug Stephens said, during last week's fiscal court meeting, that the possibility that the US Congress will not approve funding for the “Secure Roads and Schools” program, which generally provides about $400,000 for the year to McCreary County. That money is split between the county's road fund and the school district. Judge Stephens said it is possible that funding could be cut all the way down to $25,000, for the two entities to split. The bottom line, Stephens said, is that if Congress does not act to approve the funding this year, the county's road fund would fall about $160,000 short from the amount it had budgeted for the current fiscal year. During the meeting, county Road Supervisor Roger Moore commented that a $160,000 cut would be devastating for his department. During discussion on the issue, which included public comments, talk also turned to the fact that the federal government pays only pennies on the dollar for its lands in “Payment in Lieu of Taxes” (PILT) payments compared to what would be paid under normal property tax rates, meaning the county collects very low property tax payments for the amount of land found within its borders. One suggestion floated by a citizen was that county government file suit against the federal government in an attempt to receive what it is due. Another suggestion included adopting a resolution to send to members of Congress urging them to act. Judge Stephens said he has spoken to representatives of those members in the past about these issues, but said he would draft a resolution for court approval. On the issue of the “Secure Roads and Schools” funding, Congress will be in session in September, which would be its last chance to authorize the funds for this year.

 

McCREARY FISCAL COURT GIVES APPROVAL TO “NEEDLE EXCHANGE”
Meeting in regular session Thursday evening the McCreary County Fiscal Court was addressed by representatives of the local health department, including Terry “Tank” Lawson who serves as chair of the local health district board, and others who spoke about the need for a local “needle exchange” program. The same type of program has been implemented in various regions around the state and country and can be seen as a hot button issues with strong support, and strong opposition, to such as program in some areas. The health department presented a series of statistics which show that in areas with a syringe, or needle, exchange, drug use did not increase but the cases of diagnosed Hepatitis C and HIV did decrease with the reduction in sharing of needles. With McCreary County among 54 counties in the state recently identified in a study showing areas at high risk of a Hep C outbreak, health officials said the program is desperately needed locally. It was noted that the program would not cost local taxpayers any money through funds from county government, but would instead be funded through the local health department, mainly through grants received. In order for such a program to be offered, the local board of health and the local fiscal court must both give their nod of approval. Heading into Thursday night's meeting, the local health board had already voted to endorse the effort, with the group asking the McCreary County Fiscal Court to do the same. Magistrate Jason Mann moved to give that approval, seconded by Magistrate Leroy “OL” Perry and approved by the court.

Health officials said it would likely be about six months before the program would be up and running, which includes time for staff to be properly trained in the program. The syringe, or needle, exchange would allow individuals to be bring dirty, used needles to the health department to exchange for clean, unused needles, but they would also receive information on Hep C and HIV testing, treatment and other efforts to stop drug use.

Following the court's approval of the program, Roger Owens, who is widely known locally for his efforts in curbing substance abuse in the county, spoke in favor of efforts by the health department and added that law enforcement and even rehab programs alone will not solve the drug crisis. He added that it will take education and prevention to really see a change in the problem. Owens noted that McCreary County sees an average of about one drug overdose daily, something that was confirmed by EMS/911 Director Jimmy Barnett.

McCREARY COUNTY LEADERS MOVE FORWARD ON GARBAGE ORDINANCE
In about four and a half months, McCreary County's contract with Scott Solid Waste to collect solid waste in the county will expire, leaving the county with no one to pick up its garbage. That is, unless a new contract can be put in place before the end of the year. McCreary County Fiscal Court took a step in that direction during their August meeting last week when they approved the first reading of Ordinance 830.06 regarding solid waste pickup service. The ordinance, if given final approval, would outline the structure for any proposals submit by companies interested in the contract with the county. The court set a special session date for Thursday August 24th at 6:00pm, at which time the second reading and final approval of the ordinance could take place. County officials could then begin soliciting for proposals from companies in hopes of potentially approving a deal in the coming months. Judge Executive Doug Stephens said that fixed pricing was taken out of this ordinance with only guidelines offered to companies, who can then submit proposals for service and rates based on the ordinance. He also said the county will continue to request that companies offer a senior citizen discount and that they include collecting garbage from porches of disabled and senior citizens. The original franchise agreement (contract) with Scott Solid Waste was set to expire at the end of 2016, but the company and county leaders agreed to a one year extension.

 

MAN ARRESTED FOR FIRING GUN INSIDE WAYNE COUNTY HOSPITAL
A man was arrested this week for allegedly firing a gun inside the Wayne County Hospital. Police say they were called to the hospital Monday night after the man reportedly walked into the hospital and locked himself in a restroom near the emergency department. Staff heard gunshots and called police who responded and found 41 year old Robert Lowe of Dayton, Kentucky inside the restroom and also found a 38 revolver and a 25 semi automatic handgun as well as spent shell casings and bullet hole in the door. Lowe was arrested and charged with public intoxication, possession of a handgun by a convicted felon, wanton endangerment and wanton endangerment of a police officer. He was lodged in the Wayne County Detention Center.

SCHOOL DISTRICT GAMBLES $30,000 ON “NICKEL TAX” VOTE...AND LOSES
Now that the “nickel tax” vote is in the books for McCreary County, you may wonder what the cost was to taxpayers and where the issues goes moving forward. A special election is not an inexpensive venture, with pay for poll workers at all of the county's precincts, printing of ballots, contracts with election services that offer poll worker training and voting machine technical support, and other related expenses. Under law, the McCreary County School District, as the taxing entity requesting the “nickel tax” increase, was required to post bond to cover the cost of the special election held this week, and that bond was in the amount of just over $28,000 according to officials. When combined with some other promotional expenses, including paid advertisements running on local cable television, printed materials and mailings, the school board gambled more than $30,000 on the chance of getting the “nickel tax” approved. As was obvious from the large 72% - 28% margin against the tax hike, that gamble did not pay off and simply cost the taxpayers.

Meanwhile, the school district can still look to increase property taxes by up to 4% on the school portion of that tax bill set to come out next month. As local residents look back on the vote this week, some are wondering if the vote was not just about the possibility of increased taxes, but perhaps also a referendum on the current administration and school board.

McCREARY MOUNTAIN CRAFT CENTER HOSTING WRITER'S WORKSHOP
The McCreary Mountain Craft Center will host its second annual Writer's Workshop this Saturday August 12th. The event will allow participants to learn how to get started writing, how to get published and other aspects of writing and getting their work to the public. Local author Sam Perry will lead the workshop at the rustic, 1800s era log cabin that is home to the Mountain Craft Center on Highway 90 about seven miles east of Parkers Lake and five miles west of Cumberland Falls. For information or directions, call the craft center at 376-3463 or look them up on Facebook.

BIG SOUTH FORK OFFERING WEEKEND PROGRAMS
Parks officials in the Big South Fork are offering some weekend programs for visitors to the area, as well as locals who may want to participate. A ranger talk will be held this Saturday August 12th at 7:00pm at the Blue Heron Campground on recognizing and interpreting some symbols you may encounter during a visit in the park. The program is free to attend and is wheelchair accessible. The campground is located west of Stearns, Kentucky off Kentucky Highway 742. The park is also hosting a ranger led hike on the Yahoo Falls Loop this Sunday August 13th starting at 11:00am from the Yahoo Falls parking lot off Highway 700 west of Whitley City. The hike is a 1.2 mile loop rated easy to moderate and takes in Kentucky's tallest waterfall, Yahoo Falls, standing 113 feet tall. For information or directions to any park program, call the Blue Heron Interpretive Center at 606-376-3787.

 

McCREARY COUNTY SCHOOLS BUS ASSIGNMENTS, SCHEDULE RELEASED
With school set to start for students in less than one week in McCreary County, school officials have released this year's bus assignments and schedules, including drivers and areas covered by each bus. To view the complete list, which also includes contact phone numbers for each driver, visit the school district website at www.mccreary.k12.ky.us. School officials urge parents and guardians with questions to contact the bus drivers directly or call the school bus garage at 376-8199. Opening day for students is next Wednesday August 16th.

KENTUCKY ARTS COUNCIL AWARDS FUNDING FOR FISCAL YEAR 2018
The Kentucky Arts Council announced late last week that grant funding in the amount of $1.2 million has been awarded to 95 arts related organizations across the state for fiscal year 2018. The funding is provided through the Kentucky Arts Partnership program through the Arts Council. Regionally the Flash Back Theater Company in Pulaski County received $1,000 in grant funding, while the Lake Cumberland Performing Arts Series received $2,798. In neighboring Whitley County, the Kentucky Native American Heritage Museum was awarded $2,910 under the grant program. The museum is a mobile Native American exhibit that travels to festivals, pow wows, schools and more across Kentucky. Based in Corbin, the museum will also host its 9th annual Pow Wow at 4116 Cumberland Falls Highway this Labor Day weekend with more information at www.knahm.org.

LOCAL SCHOOL SPORTS TEAMS GETTING BACK IN ACTION FOR FALL
The fall sports seasons are now getting underway for teams in the McCreary County School District. The McCreary Middle School football squad is set to open play this evening (Thursday August 10th) as they travel to Clinton County, followed by a road game at Wayne County Tuesday August 15th and a home game against Jackson County August 19th. Next to open fall play will be the McCreary Central Lady Raider volleyball team, as they travel to Jellico, Tennessee Monday August 14th and then to Clinton County next Tuesday and to Bell County Thursday August 17th. The McCreary Central Invitational Tournament will be hosted by the Lady raiders on August 19th. The Lady Raider soccer team will play on the road for their first four matches, starting August 17th at Clinton County, followed by road matches against Somerset, Knox Central and Bell County before playing Scott County, Tennessee at McCreary Central on August 24th at 6:00pm. The Raider football team from the high school opens at home Friday August 18th against Perry County Central at 7:30pm, followed by a road game at Lynn Camp August 25th.

 

McCREARY COUNTY VOTERS OVERWHELMINGLY REJECT “NICKEL TAX”
Voters in McCreary County has the chance to head to the polls Tuesday (August 8th) to vote “for” or “against” a “nickel tax” property tax increase approved by the local school board. Local voters overwhelmingly rejected the tax hike which had been promoted as a way of replacing roofs at two local schools, as well as other building projects. The final tally from the vote was 1,827 against the tax and only 692 for the tax increase, for a total turnout of 2,519. That breaks down to 72.5% against the nickel tax and only 27.5% for the tax. Not a single McCreary County precinct voted in favor of the tax overall, including absentee ballots that were cast.

As a way of ensuring election integrity, McCreary County Clerk and chair of the McCreary County Board of Elections, Eric Haynes had requested the presence of the Kentucky Attorney General's office in the county on the special election day. That request was granted and the AG's office sent their Chief Investigator Paul Underwood, who spent the entire day in the county visiting each precinct, some more than once, speaking with poll workers and observing voter activity.

The McCreary County Board of Education still has the option of raising their portion of the county property tax by 4%, but not the “nickel tax” increase. The school board will meet later this month and tax bills are expected to be finalized and printed next month to be mailed to property owners.

BIG SOUTH FORK RECEIVES AWARD FOR ANNUAL GHOST TRAIN EVENT
Each year the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area joins with the Big South Fork Scenic Railway and others in the community to offer the Blue Heron Ghost Train. The park has now been rewarded for their efforts with the announcement that the park has won the “Keeper of the Light” Award for the event. That award, according to park officials, is the highest honor bestowed by the National Park Service Division of Interpretation and for the Southeast Region. The award was established in 2001 “to recognize parks that have excelled in interpretive efforts and in collaboration with other park divisions in support of reaching out to the visiting public with interpretation and educational messages, interpretive support and special events.” The Blue Heron Ghost Train is held each September and includes a guided tour of the old Blue Heron coal mining camp to visit the “ghost structures” on site and hear stories from local volunteers and park officials. This year's Blue Heron Ghost Train is scheduled for Saturday September 9th starting at 7:00pm. It is free to attend if you drive to Blue Heron, which is at the end of Kentucky Highway 742 west of historic Stearns, Kentucky, or participants can ride a special evening train excursion to the event offered by the Big South Fork Scenic Railway. For more information visit www.nps.gov/biso/planyourvisit/bhghosttrain.htm.

 

McCREARY TRANSPORT OFFICER INDICTED, JAILED FOR SEX OFFENSE
A McCreary County inmate transport officer has been indicted and was jailed late last week for an alleged sex offense while he was on the job. The McCreary County Voice reports that a Leslie County Grand Jury returned the indictment against 48 year old Wesley Stephens last week on charges of rape second degree for allegedly engaging in sex with a female inmate while on his way to take her to the Leslie County Detention Center this past January. The alleged victim was said to be unable to resist as she was under the influence at the time, according to the indictment. Stephens was arrested last week on the indictment and was lodged in the Leslie County Detention Center. McCreary County Judge Executive Doug Stephens told The Voice that Stephens was suspended from duty as a county transport officer as soon as he learned of the allegations against him. Listeners are reminded that an indictment is not a finding of guilt, but is a formal charge in a case.

McCREARY COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPUTY IN COURT FOR MISCONDUCT
The McCreary County Sheriff's Deputy who has been accused of and charged with falsely reporting the incident in which he claimed to have been shot by a traffic stop suspect was in court for arraignment last Thursday. Frank Brown was arrested the previous Thursday on charges, was lodged in the Leslie County Detention Center, but was then released on bond. Last week he appeared in McCreary District Court where he asked for and was assigned a public defender attorney to represent him on the charges of falsely reporting an incident, tampering with evidence and official misconduct. He reportedly met with the attorney at the courthouse and was then released pending a preliminary hearing which is set for this Thursday August 10th.

JUDGE DAVID TAPP ANNOUNCES BID FOR KENTUCKY SUPREME COURT
We reported last week that Circuit Judge Dan Ballou, who serves McCreary and Whitley Counties on the bench, has announced his candidacy for the 3rd District of the Kentucky Supreme Court. Another Circuit Judge has also announced he will be a candidate for that seat. Judge David Tapp, who serves Pulaski, Rockcastle and Lincoln Counties, will also seek to replace Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Daniel Venters, who has announced he will not seek re-election in 2018. Judge Tapp has served a Circuit Judge since 2005 and was previously a District Court Judge. He resides in Somerset. The 3rd District of the Kentucky Supreme Court serves 27 counties across south central Kentucky, which includes McCreary and surrounding counties, with Supreme Court Justices elected to eight year terms.

BIG SOUTH FORK SEEKING VOLUNTEERS FOR ECLIPSE EVENT
You have probably heard about the eclipse that will take place on Monday August 21st. People all over are gearing up for the event which is said to be a once in a lifetime occurrence. The Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area is among those getting ready and they are seeking volunteers to help the park with the event. Those willing to help will be needed that day, August 21st, between 11:00am and 4:00pm to do things like distribute eclipse viewing glasses to visitors, discuss safe viewing practices, and talk about how and why the eclipse is occurring. There will also be junior ranger activities with which volunteers can help, as well as parking. Volunteers are needed at the Bandy Creek Visitor Center, which is in Scott County on the Tennessee side of the park, where the park's main eclipse event is taking place. Volunteers will receive their own hard-shelled eclipse viewing glasses for the event. For information or to sign up as a volunteer, call Effie Houston, park volunteer coordinator, at 423-569-9778 or e-mail effie_houston@nps.gov.

 

ELECTION OFFICIALS ADDRESS CONCERNS OVER VOTER SECURITY
There have been some rumors ahead of tomorrow's nickel tax vote that it may be possible for certain interested parties to find out how voters cast their ballots. Local election officials have addressed those concerns by releasing some information from Hart InterCivic, the company that manufactures and maintains the voting machines used in McCreary County. That information includes assurances that the voting machines are not connected to the internet or any wireless networks and external cards or devices can not be connected to any Hart voting device. While records are kept of who votes at each polling station, with the voter required to either show photo ID or be personally known by poll workers, records of who cast what ballot are not kept, meaning that election officials, nor anyone else, would know which voter cast which ballot. While election officials assure voters that no one will know how they cast their ballot, those who signed the petitions to call for the “nickel tax” recall vote will be known by interested parties, as the Kentucky Attorney General has ordered the release of those petitions, minus birth dates, social security numbers and addresses, as public record.

McCREARY MIDDLE SCHOOL READY FOR NEW YEAR UNDER NEW LEADER
McCreary County Middle School is ready for a new school year and will be under new leadership this year. After Clint Taylor vacated the position of school principal at the start of last school year to take a position at the board office, Rick Kenney filled in most of last year as interim principal. With the new school year set to begin, Kenney has moved back to McCreary Central High School and his previous post as an assistant principal there and Todd Waters has been hired and has taken over as the middle school's new top administrator. During a recent interview, Waters detailed his background and enthusiasm for starting the new post. Waters is joined this year by Lucas Ford as assistant principal at McCreary Middle, with Ford coming over to the middle school from a position at the high school. Ford also remains head coach for McCreary Central's football program.

McCreary Middle is hosting open house and registration for 7th graders today (Monday August 7th) and 8th grade Tuesday August 8th from 4:30 to 7:30pm each day.

 

NICKEL TAX” DRIVEN BY DISTRICT FACILITY PLAN...SO, WHAT IS IT?
Voters in McCreary County will have the chance to go to the polls next Tuesday August 8th to vote “For” or “Against” the levying of a “nickel tax” increase on property taxes by the local school district. That proposed tax hike is driven, at least largely, by the School's District Facility Plan which was recently approved by the school board. So, what is the plan and what is included in it? First, we look at the process to develop the plan, which has to be completed every four years by the school board and its supporting planning committee. A facilities planning committee of twenty members was put together and began meeting early this year, including a series of public forums which were held to allow interested citizens to provide input. The committee, consisting of school officials, parents, community members and others, hired an architect and engineer to survey the school district's buildings and facilities to make recommendations on work needed. Once that firm came up with those recommendations that was submitted to the Kentucky Department of Education for approval and then came back to the local school board to sign off on officially.

School officials have noted that regardless of what funding it has on hand or available, no project can be completed, or even started, unless it appears on the approved District Facility Plan. The plan includes a priority section, with those items required to be completed before any other listed projects can begin. On that priority list is renovations and additions to McCreary Middle School including a band room, classrooms, a science wing. Officials have said, if completed, that would also allow for the placement of sixth grade classes at the middle school, which would in turn allow for additional classroom space at the two elementary schools which could be used to provide for a full time preschool program, rather than having students attend half days or only a couple of days per week.

Other priorities on the plan include renovations and new roof for Pine Knot Elementary School building #1, the former primary school and renovations and new roof on the older section of McCreary Central High School. That section of roofing is said to be the original 1978 roof on that part of the high school. The total estimated price tag of the priority projects for the school district comes to just over $7 million, with officials saying if the nickel tax goes through it will allow them to increase their bonding, or borrowing, capacity to a level to be able to move forward on those projects.

Future building projects that could be completed, depending on available funds, would include renovations to both Pine Knot Elementary School buildings and McCreary Central High School. Also included on the plan is $1.2 million for a new bus garage building, but that is something that school officials say has been on the district facility plan for about twenty years, but has yet to be completed due to limited funding. The total “district need” projected cost would be just over $26 million, if all projects were to be completed. Previous plans for the school district have included a $17.6 million estimate for 2012 and $15.8 million for 2008, although not all projects on those plans were completed within their four year time frame.

FOREST SERVICE SEEKING PUBLIC COMMENT ON GREENWOOD PROJECT
A public comment period is now underway in the Greenwood Vegetation Management Project, managed by the Stearns Ranger District of the Daniel Boone National Forest. A public notice was published in the July 27, 2017 issue of The McCreary County Voice stating that the public comment period begins as of that date, running for 45 days, or until about September 10th. Forest officials have prepared a draft environmental assessment for the project, which involves the management and maintenance of the area with various implementation alternatives included. The assessment is available at the Stearns Ranger District office at 3320 Highway 27 North Whitley City or online at www.fs.usda.gov/projects/dbnf/landmanagement/projects. Comments or objections can be submitted by mail to Dan Olsen, Forest Supervisor, 1700 Bypass Road, Winchester, KY 40391 or by faxing to 859-744-1568 or by e-mailing to objections-southern-daniel-boone@fs.fed.us. For additional information call the Stearns Ranger District office at 376-5323 or e-mail timreed@fs.fed.us.

 

CIRCUIT JUDGE DAN BALLOU ANNOUNCES RUN FOR SUPREME COURT
While the official start of candidate filings for the 2018 election cycle is still three months away, starting on November 8th, one candidate is apparently already throwing his hat in the ring. Circuit Judge Dan Ballou this week released a campaign flyer announcing that he will be running for the District 3 seat on the Kentucky Supreme Court in 2018. WHAY Radio received a copy of this campaign flyer which details Ballou's experience, both as a judge and as a Marine Corps veteran with the tag line “Battle Tested Leadership”. Judge Ballou serves as Circuit Judge for McCreary and Whitley Counties, a post he was elected to in 2006 and re-elected to in 2014. He previously served as district judge for the two counties. With his current seat on the bench being an eight year term and not up for election again until 2022, Ballou can run for the Supreme Court seat and would still retain his current position, even if he loses the 2018 bid. District 3 of the Kentucky Supreme Court includes 27 counties across this region, including McCreary and all neighboring counties.

PRINCIPAL ADDRESSES QUESTIONS ABOUT NEW MASCOT, GYM FLOOR
During an interview this week, Whitley City Elementary School Principal Foster “Skip” Jones addressed some questions and rumors about the school's new mascot and new gym floor for this school year. Some of the “buzz” in the community has dealt with the expense of the new floor, with some saying it was done simply to change the school's mascot from “Tigers” to “Indians.” In fact, according to Jones, the refinishing and repainting of the floor was already planned and needed, and the mascot change just happened to come about at the same time. He added that due to wear on the floor and some incorrect lines on the floor, the work was needed for safety and for proper sports functions.

 

TWO MEN INDICTED BY McCREARY GRAND JURY IN KIDNAPPING CASE
The July session of the McCreary County Grand Jury included an indictment being handed down against two suspects in a kidnapping case. Police began the investigation after a naked man, allegedly the victim, was found after he says he was picked up by three individuals in a van and was assaulted before losing consciousness. Steven Johnson of Ferguson and Matthew Harness of Burnside were indicted in connection with the incident, charged with unlawful imprisonment first degree, robbery first degree, and assault fourth degree. A third suspect said to have been involved was not listed in the July indictment report. Listeners are reminded that an indictment is a formal charge in a case, and is not a finding of guilt.

McCREARY CENTRAL HIGH TRACK PROJECT WORK UNDERWAY THIS WEEK
We previously reported on the project to resurface, paint and improve the track at McCreary Central High School, with the local school board taking action in recent months to move ahead with the project. As of this week, McCreary Central Principal Sharon Ross-Privett reports that crews are on site with equipment working on the project, with hopes of having it completed within a couple of weeks. The total price tag for the track rehabilitation project is said to be just over $300,000 and it will allow for the resurfacing of the track, painting of lane lines and other features, as well as putting the “Raider” logo and maroon and gold colors on the track. This, according to school officials, will not only be a benefit to the local community that uses the public track, but also allows the high school to offer a full track program with competitions potentially hosted at the school.

CUMBERLAND FALLS ASKING FOR VOLUNTEERS FOR CLEANUP EVENT
Following some recent flooding, the river and banks around Cumberland Falls are littered with debris and trash, with volunteers being sought to help with a cleanup event this month. Park officials and interested groups are joining for a clean up day on Saturday August 19th with registration starting at 9:00am near the gift shop area of the park and the clean up continuing until noon, when volunteers will be treated to free admission at the pool and a free pizza lunch. Trash bags will be provided and areas assigned to clean for all who take part. Organizers ask that you wear appropriate clothing and shoes for the weather and the activity involved and that you join in on making the area around Cumberland Falls clean and beautiful. For information, call the park at 606-528-4121.

 

OAKLAND, KENTUCKY MAN INDICTED FOR MANSLAUGHER IN FATAL CRASH
The list of July indictments handed down by the McCreary County Grand Jury included a formal charge of manslaughter against an Oakland, Kentucky man. That comes in connection with a fatal crash back in May of this year. That crash took place on US Highway 7 in McCreary County and claimed the life of Jimmy “Sam” Daugherty age 55. Michael Crabtree has been indicted in the case because he was allegedly driving under the influence of intoxicants at the time of the crash. A conviction on the manslaughter charge could result in a prison sentence of 5-10 years, according to officials. Listeners are reminded that an indictment in a case is a formal charge against a suspect, but is not a finding of guilt.

McCREARY COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY BEGINS “STUFF THE BUS” EFFORT
Again this year the McCreary County Public Library is hosting the “Stuff the Bus” campaign during the month of August to help collect school supplies for local students. The effort will run throughout the month and allow patrons to drop off school supply donations at the library, which will then be distributed through the local schools' Family Resource Centers to students. In exchange for your school supply donations at the public library, you can have any overdue fines on your account excused. Drop off supply donations at the desk at the McCreary County Public Library during regular hours now through the end of August.

 

McCREARY FAMILIES FILE SUIT IN CONNECTION WITH POST ARTICLE
It has been nearly a year since The Washington Post published an article detailing the high number of early deaths from drugs and other lifestyle issues in McCreary County. You may recall that the article, published in August 2016, included extensive interviews and information provided by the owners, managers and staff of Pine Knot Funeral Home, in relation to deceased individuals they were serving at the time and in the past. Now, three local families have filed a lawsuit in connection with that article. The McCreary County Voice reports that the families of Betty L. West, Lois A. Maxwell and Jerry and Amanda Ridner have filed suit against the funeral home and owner Debbie Campbell Murphy. The lawsuit seeks punitive and personal damages, claiming that the funeral home, its owners and staff, acted improperly by providing personal information and participating in the article. A defendant response filed denies the claims and also cites First Amendment rights, according to The Voice article. No court date has been set in the case at this time.

McCREARY COUNTY PARK IMPLEMENTING “NO CASH” POLICY
A decision made this month by the McCreary County Park Board will go into effect next Tuesday August 1st. The new policy involves how payments can be made by those renting facilities that are managed by the park board, including shelters and the community building at the county park and facilities at Sandhill Camp. Cash payments for rentals will no longer be accepted, with only checks or money orders taken for payment by park officials. According to park board members who approved the change, this will help with better documentation and with audits of county finances and records moving forward. Again, that policy of no cash for payments at the park facilities goes into effect August 1st. The board is also reportedly looking into changes to the waiver signed by those renting facilities with more specific standards to be set. The Park Board's next regular monthly meeting is scheduled for Monday August 7th at 5:30pm at the park's community center building. The park board members are appointed by the McCreary County Fiscal Court and their meetings are open to the public.

 

McCREARY COUNTY DEPUTY ARRESTED FOR FALSELY REPORTING SHOOTING
In late June, we reported on the shooting of a McCreary County Sheriff's deputy. Rumors have swirled for weeks that the deputy actually shot himself, and now there is evidence pointing in that direction. Frank Brown, age 43, was arrested by Kentucky State Police on Thursday charged with falsely reporting an incident, tampering with physical evidence and official misconduct 1st degree. At the time of the incident, Brown reported that he had been shot in the chest by a suspect on a motorcycle in western McCreary County during a traffic stop and that the suspect had fled the scene. Brown did not suffer serious injury due to wearing his bullet proof vest. Now, Kentucky State Police confirm that the investigation has determined that Brown falsely reported that incident. Brown was charged and lodged in the Leslie County Detention Center Thursday night.

McCREARY COUNTY JOBLESS RATE UNCHANGED IN JUNE 2017
State officials released the latest unemployment numbers by county on Thursday, with 96 counties in Kentucky recording higher jobless rates from June 2016 to June 2017, with 20 counties recording lower rates and only four counties unchanged. Two of those unchanged counties were found in the Lake Cumberland area, including McCreary County and Russell County. Locally, McCreary County's unemployment rate was 7.8% in June of this year, the same as the June last year, but up from the 6.5% rate in May of this year. In Russell County, the rate was unchanged from last year at 7.7%. All other counties in the ten county Lake Cumberland area saw higher jobless rates in the latest report. Kentucky's unemployment rate went from 5.3% in June 2016 to 5.7% in June of this year, which was up by one full percentage point over the 4.7% rate from May. That compares to a current national unemployment rate of 4.5%. Unemployment rates are based on estimates of active job seekers within a four week period and do not include those who have dropped out of the job search market for various reasons.

 

FOREST OFFICIALS ANNOUNCE CONTINUED BAN ON GINSENG HARVESTING
As was the case in 2016, officials with the Daniel Boone National Forest have announced a continued ban on the harvesting of ginseng from US Forest Service lands across the region in 2017. The ban remains in place in an attempt to reestablish the wild ginseng population on national forest lands, according to the official announcement, after years of what is called noticeable ginseng decline across the forest. Much of that decline, according to those same officials, is due to illegal harvesting methods practiced by many in the forest. Kentucky ranks at the top of the list for states with ginseng harvest, followed by West Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina. Kentucky law requires wild ginseng collectors to plant seeds from harvested plants within 50 feet of the harvest location and prohibits the harvesting of plants less than five years old or with fewer than three leaves. However, on forest service property any harvesting of wild ginseng is illegal during 2017, with the ban currently in place and being enforced by forest officials. Penalties for poaching may include a fine up to $5,000 or a six month prison sentence or both.

BIG SOUTH FORK PREPARING FOR ANNUAL “BLUE HERON GHOST TRAIN”
The Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area is again joining with the Big South Fork Scenic Railway to offer the annual “Blue Heron Ghost Train” this September. Park officials say the event is scheduled for Saturday September with the special storytelling program starting at 7:00pm at the Blue Heron Interpretive Center, at the end of Kentucky Highway 742, west of historic Stearns, Kentucky. Attendees will experience a wide range of stories and tales and can drive to Blue Heron or ride the Big South Fork Scenic Railway from Stearns to the event. For information on the train ride, visit
www.bsfsry.com or call 1-800-462-5664. There is a fee for riding the train, but it is free to attend the storytelling portion of the event at Blue Heron. For information on the event on September 9th, call the Blue Heron Interpretive Center at 606-376-3787.

 

McCREARY'S DELINQUENT PROPERTY TAX BILL LIST TO BE PUBLISHED
McCreary County officials estimate that about 95% of property tax bills are paid in full each year, which is good news and good numbers for a county as economically strapped as this one is. However, that still leaves about 5% of property tax revenue on the table and about 5% of property owners not paying their share. In an attempt to deal with that issue, each year officials publish a list of delinquent tax bills in the local newspaper and prepare bills for a tax bill sale at the courthouse. The McCreary County Clerk's office is responsible for that phase of the tax collection effort and has announced that the 2016 delinquent real property tax bill list will be published in The McCreary County Voice this Thursday July 27th for all to see. That list can also be inspected by the public at the county clerk's office Monday through Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm and Saturday from 9:00am to 12:00pm.

The tax bill sale is scheduled for August 29th at 10:00am at the courthouse, at which time those third party participants who have preregistered will be able to potentially purchase those bills, meaning they would hold a lien on that property which would have to be released before the property could be sold, transferred or financed in the future. Those wishing to register for the tax sale should contact the McCreary County Clerk's office no later than close of business on August 21st.

Those taxpayers who owe 2016 bills can still pay those up to the time of the tax sale, to avoid having them included. Additional information is available by contacting the McCreary County Clerk's Office at 376-2411 or 376-9773 or online at www.mccrearycountyclerk.com.

TENNESSEE MEN PLEAD GUILTY TO VIOLATIONS IN NATIONAL PARK
Two Tennessee men have entered guilty pleas to charges related to violations within the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, a National Park. Park officials say the Knoxville men were in federal court last week where they entered the pleas to charges related to a hunting incident last October in which they admitted to shooting a bear illegally in the park. They were also accused of using an illegal all-terrain vehicle and illegal bait sites during that hunting trip. Both men were ordered to give up their hunting privileges for one year in the state of Tennessee and one of the men will pay $10,000 in fines and restitution. Park officials remind hunters that it is your responsibility to know and understand all applicable laws and regulations that apply to hunting in the National Park. Anyone observing what they believe to be illegal hunting activity or wishing more information can call Big South Fork park headquarters at 423-569-9778 or visit www.nps.gov/biso.

 

McCREARY MAN JAILED ON CHARGES INCLUDING ASSAULT ON OFFICER
A McCreary County man was arrested early Monday morning on a list of charges, after having already had felony charges on his record. 42 year old Dewayne Goins of Parkers Lake was jailed in the Leslie County Detention Center on charges including fleeing or evading police on foot, resisting arrest, and assault 3rd degree on a police officer. Additional charges included public intoxication of a controlled substance, terroristic threatening, wanton endangerment and leaving the scene of an accident. Goins was also charged as a persistent felony offender.

HOSPITAL IN ONEIDA, TN SET FOR AUGUST 8TH RE-OPENING
The hospital in Scott County, Tennessee, which has now been closed for more than a year, will reportedly reopen next month under new ownership and management. Rennova Health purchased the hospital and there has been speculation for months on when the facility would reopen to provide needed services to Scott and neighboring counties, including McCreary County. Scott County media sources are now saying that the company has confirmed Tuesday August 8th at 8:00am as the official reopening date and time for the hospital in Oneida. The emergency department will begin operations on that date with around the clock service and other services will be brought on line starting from that date including inpatient and outpatient care, testing, radiology, lab services and more. The surgery wing of the hospital is also expected to reopen in the near future, according to statements from company officials. The new name for the facility will be “Big South Fork Medical Center” and it will be a 25 bed facility with a staff of about 80 employees.

McCREARY COUNTY SHERIFF AWARDED BODY ARMOR GRANT
We had previously reported that the McCreary County Sheriff's Department had applied for a grant to furnish all staff with new body armor vests. The McCreary County Voice reports that Sheriff Randy Waters has been awarded that grant in the amount of $12,295, to be used tp purchase 23 vests for deputies and courthouse security officers. Sheriff Waters said the grant allows for older vests, which are reaching the end of their service time, to be retired and replaced, as well as to provide vests for all officers. The department is still awaiting word on two additional grant applications filed this year, including funding for a new police cruiser and a grant to hire two additional full time deputies. Sheriff Waters was assisted with the grant applications by McCreary County Emergency Management Director Stephen McKinney.

 

McCREARY COUNTY SCHOOLS TO OPEN CLASSES AUGUST 16TH
With school set to start for students in the McCreary County School District on Wednesday August 16th, local school officials and staff and getting ready for the new year, just as parents and guardians are preparing. Open house and registration dates have now been announced for each of the local schools starting on August 1st.

Whitley City Elementary will hold registration for kindergarten students, known as “Kinder-Camp”, on Tuesday August 1st from 3:00 to 7:00pm, the same times as registration for 1st through 3rd grades at the school. 4th through 6th grades at Whitley Elementary will register Thursday August 3rd between 3:00-7;00pm. Pine Knot Elementary School, which this year is again one school combing the former primary and intermediate schools, will have registration at building #1, the former primary, for kindergarten on Tuesday August 1st from 1:00 to 5:00pm while 1st through 3rd grades at that location will not register until Monday August 7th between 1:00-6:00pm. The 4th through 6th grade, which will be located at the former intermediate, now considered building #2 for Pine Knot Elementary, will register Wednesday August 2nd from 1:00-6:00pm. McCreary Middle School registration is set for 7th grade Monday August 7th 4:30-7:30pm and 8th grade Tuesday August 8th 4:30-7:30pm. McCreary Academy registration will take place for all grades, 6th through 12th, August 1st, 2nd and 3rd from 12:00-6:00pm.

McCreary Central High School registration includes seniors on Tuesday August 1st 3:00-5:00pm and juniors that day from 6:00-8:00pm. Sophomores will register Thursday August 3rd between 6:00-8:00pm and freshmen will have a kick-off event Friday August 4th from 2:00-6:00pm at the high school. New enrollees will register on Monday August 7th between 10:00am – 2:00pm. More information about registration dates and times as well as what to bring with you to register can be obtained by contacting each individual school.

Again, opening day for students in the McCreary County School District will be Wednesday August 16th.

McCREARY SCHOOLS OFFERING “KIDS FEST” TO GET READY FOR NEW YEAR
Many in McCreary County may remember the annual “Ready-Fest” held each year just before the start of another school to help students and parents get ready. That event would include things like free school supplies, entertainment, food and more. For several years, that centralized event has not taken place, but each individual school has had its own way of welcoming back students. During an interview this week, McCreary County Schools Superintendent Mike Cash announced that school officials are planning for “Kids Fest” which will invite all students and parents within the local school district to attend, getting school supplies, free haircuts, and more. Cash says the event is tentatively set for Friday August 4th between 11:00am and 7:00pm at McCreary Middle School.

 

PULASKI CO. MAN ARRESTED ON McCREARY CO. WARRANT IN SCOTT CO.
A Pulaski County man was arrested last Saturday in Scott County, Tennessee on an outstanding warrant from McCreary County. Authorities with the Scott County Sheriff's Department report locating 35 year old Christopher Collingsworth of Science Hill, Kentucky, during a traffic stop in Oneida. Officers determined that Collingsworth was wanted an a warrant from McCreary County for non-payment of child support. At some point, they say he gave them the slip and they had to search a wooded area before finally locating him and placing him under arrest. Collingsworth was charged with resisting arrest and being a fugitive from justice.

PULASKI COUNTY MAN BUSTED ON CHILD SEX EXPLOITATION CHARGE
A Pulaski County man was arrested this week by Kentucky State Police following an investigation by the agency's Electronics Crimes Branch. 24 year old Brandon Hoskins was charged with distribution and possession of matter portraying a sex performance by a minor and was lodged in the Pulaski County Detention Center. The investigation included the execution of a search warrant at a residence this past Tuesday with equipment allegedly used to facilitate the crime confiscated and sent to the KSP lab for examination. If convicted on the charge, Hoskins could face one to five years in prison for each count of the Class D felony. He is currently charged with 15 counts of the crime.

STATE OFFICIALS ISSUE WARNINGS ABOUT DEALING WITH EXTREME HEAT
With temperatures now reaching into the 90s and heat index values soaring to near triple digits across the region, Kentucky's top health officials are issuing some warnings about dealing with the extreme heat. They say that 39 children died last year due to heatstroke from being left unattended in hot vehicles. The first set of warnings deal with making sure you double check vehicles and ensure you do not leave children in a vehicle without air conditioning or unattended. Remember that the inside of a vehicle can heat very quickly in the hot summer sun, and it does not take much time for the body's temperature to heat to dangerous levels, especially for children. Never leave a vehicle unlocked with children in the area as they may get inside the vehicle and become trapped without anyone's knowledge. If you see a child unattended in a vehicle you should immediately dial 911.

Other warnings involving extreme heat include drinking plenty of fluids, preferably water, to ensure you stay hydrated. Wear clothing appropriate for the weather and sunscreen when outdoors and stay inside in air conditioning as much as possible. When scheduling outdoor activities, try not to have them at times that are the hottest part of the day and make sure plenty of shade is available. If working or playing in the heat, make sure to take plenty of breaks and stay hydrated. Also check on neighbors and relatives, especially those without air conditioning and the elderly. These and other heat safety tips are provided by the Kentucky Department of Public Health, part of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

 

SOUTH KENTUCKY RECC ISSUES SCAM WARNING TO ITS MEMBERS
South Kentucky RECC has issued a scam warning to its members this week stating that people are being contacted by telephone by individuals claiming to be employees of RECC. The caller tells the targeted victim that their electric service will be disconnected immediately if they do not pay their bill by providing account information. Officials with RECC say the only phone calls that go out to members about disconnection of service are automated and would be after hours. During those calls, you may be given the option of paying your bill but it would be automated and you would not be giving your account or personal information to a live individual. South Kentucky RECC urges its members to never give out personal or financial information to anyone who calls you claiming to be from the electric co-op. If you are approached in person by someone claiming to work for RECC, remember they should be in a company vehicle with the South Kentucky RECC logo displayed and should have identification. Anyone who thinks they may have been a scam target should contact law enforcement and provide as much information as possible.

FISCAL COURT ACCEPTS EXCESS FEES, RESTRUCTURES POLL WORKER PAY
Meeting for their regular session last week, the McCreary County Fiscal Court accepted a check for excess fees from the County Clerk's office. The check was in the amount of $3,169.45 for the remaining balance of excess fees from calendar year 2016 from the office. Added to the amount already turned over by County Clerk Eric Haynes, the total in excess fees received by the county was about $27,000. The clerk's office, as well as the sheriff's office, are required to turn over any excess fees collected and not expended by their office in the calendar year.

The court also approved a request by County Clerk Eric Haynes to restructure the pay rate for precinct poll workers in the county who work on an Election Day. The court approved a pay rate of $125 per day per poll worker, effective January 1, 2018, instead of the current pay rate of $100 per day. Poll workers can put in well over twelve hours on Election Day, as they have to be at their polling location by 5:30am and stay well past the poll closing at 6:00pm.

McCREARY PUBLIC LIBRARY TO HOST “LOCAL AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT”
McCreary County is home to a number of talented authors who have had books published over the years, and the public library is hosting a “local author spotlight” program this Thursday July 20th from 4:30 to 6:30pm. Local residents are invited to attend and meet the authors and will have a chance to have books signed at the event. Among the authors who will be on hand are Tonya Coffey with her “A New World” young adult series; Estil Daugherty with “The History of Pine Knot High School”; Peter Ferrara with the book “Jonathan Winters: My Life In Search of a Playground”; Sam Perry with various works including “McCreary Conquest” and “Southfork Country”; and several others. All are invited to stop by the McCreary County Public Library Thursday July 20th from 4:30 to 6:30pm for the “local author spotlight” event.

 

COUNTY TO TAKE LEGAL ACTION AGAINST “DEADBEAT” LOAN RECIPIENTS
After months, even years now, of talking about taking action against those who received small business revolving loans from the county in past years but have failed to repay those loans, county officials finally took a step toward taking action during their meeting last week. The McCreary County Fiscal Court was questioned about the list of delinquent loan recipients which was published last week in The McCreary County Voice newspaper and asked whether a time line exists to take legal action to collect the outstanding balances. Judge-Executive Doug Stephens said there was no set time line as he wanted to give those individuals enough time to start repayment. Magistrate Roger Phillips stated he felt they had been given plenty of time and that the list has now been published three times in the local newspaper with no response and no effort from those individuals to start repayment. He motioned that the court direct County Attorney Conley Chaney to begin legal action as a civil matter in an attempt to collect the amounts owed. That motion was approved by the court, and Chaney said he would begin work on the legal proceedings. In the meantime, any of the loan “deadbeats” who want to avoid legal action can still make arrangements to pay off those outstanding loans by contacting the Judge-Executive's Office.

The list of individuals and businesses delinquent in paying back the loans includes:

M & L Mini Mart, owned by William Michael Jones, with an original loan of $40,000 and a balance still standing at more than $39,400;

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

Marcum's Pressure Washing, owned by David Marcum, for a loan in the amount of $21,000 and a balance of more than $20,500;

Jack Winchester with a loan of $5,000 and more than $4,200 still owed to the county;

and Bethel Mower Repair, owned by Bobby K Jones, Sr., for a loan of $5,000 and a balance still owed of more than $3,100.

The revolving loan program was established and funded, in large part, by a grant through the USDA to offer loans to businesses for start up or expansion in hopes of creating jobs in the local economy. That program has recently been restructured by county leaders with more stringent requirements and limit son the amount that can be borrowed.

CLARIFICATION AGAIN OFFERED ON BUSINESS LICENSE, IMPACT ON YARD SALES
Despite receiving heavy coverage in all forms of local media, there appear to be some in the local community who still are unaware of the new business license or its details for McCreary County. The issue came up again during last week's meeting of the McCreary County Fiscal Court with a clarification offered on the new ordinance and its impact on yard sales locally. Magistrate Roger Phillips pointed to an error in the local newspaper which stated that those having yard sales would have to purchase a business license for $50. In fact, that is the fee for transient businesses, or businesses that are traveling through the county, setting up and making money. Local businesses pay $20 per year for the business license and those who are simply individuals having a yard sale at their home or private property are not required to obtain the license. The exception to that is if the individual is having a sale more than three times in a month, at which time county leaders would consider that a business. However, if an individuals sets up a sale on the property of a business that has the county business license, and they receive permission from that business owner, the person having the yard sale would not have to receive a license. One example used heavily is people selling at the former M3 location in Whitley City. That is not technically permitted under the county ordinance and is by legal definition trespassing, if the people setting up have not obtained permission from the land owner. For additional information or questions regarding the business license in the county, contact the Judge-Executive's office or the Tax Administrator's Office.

 

McCREARY FISCAL COURT “TALKS TRASH” DURING JULY MEETING
The regular session of the McCreary County Fiscal Court held Thursday evening included a bit of “trash talk”, as county leaders again took up the issue of garbage collection service in the county. The extended contract with Scott Solid Waste will only run until the end of December, at which time a new plan will need to be in place for garbage collection and disposal. Judge-Executive Doug Stephens said during the meeting that a committee recently met to discuss options with some leaning toward the county taking over and operating garbage disposal service. In previous discussions on that possibility, county leaders noted that one major hang up with the option is the start up cost of purchasing trucks and equipment, plus the cost of disposal at a landfill. Judge Stephens said he preferred the option of drafting a request for proposals that can be sent out and advertised and accepting proposals from interested companies. He did say if the county could figure a way to do the billing and collections from residents for the service and then simply contract with a company for countywide pickup, they could get a better rate from companies. Magistrate Roger Phillips said his concern with going that direction would be that the county would be stuck paying the full bill to a company, even if they could not collect from everyone and that could mean a drain on the county's general fund. Most seemed in agreement with that argument and the county opted to allow Judge Stephens to draft a request for companies to submit proposals based on doing the full service including garbage collections, as well as billing and collecting for the service. Stephens said he hoped to have something ready for initial approval at the August meeting, in hopes of being able to open and review proposals from companies in September. Residents in McCreary County currently pay $15 per month for garbage collection with the $1 per bag program and bulk item drop off continuing, under county management, at the transfer station in Stearns. Scott Solid Waste no longer has a local office, meaning customers must pay their bill at their Oneida office, mail payments in or arrange for online payments.

McCREARY COUNTY LEADER PRESSED ON RECENT AUDIT FINDINGS
The “citizen participation” portion of last week's meeting of the McCreary County Fiscal Court included questioning from citizen and former Judge-Executive candidate Bevo Greene concerning recent audit findings for the county. He referenced the most recent audit released by Kentucky Auditor Mike Harmon for the county, which was for fiscal year 2015-2016, which ended last June. Greene noted that many of the same issues were found in the audit, specifically related to financial management and practices, as have been seen in previous year's audit findings. He said that after the 2014 audit report, personnel changes were made to deal with some of the finance issues, referring to the termination of former County Finance Officer Candice Greene. He noted that he had a personal stake in the issue, since it was his daughter who was fired from her job, but asked if any personnel changes were planned now since many of the same issues are still being reported in audits. Judge-Executive Doug Stephens did not directly answer that question but did make a number of excuses for the audit report's findings, noting that most or all are being dealt with. One such example was an audit issue with credit card disbursements which Stephens said related to a credit card charge simply listed as “Internet Charge” to which auditors sought a more detailed explanation. Judge Stephens said that turned out to be a hosting fee for the county's website. That is the same site, www.mccrearycounty.com, which had provided citizens financial reports, budgets and meeting notices, but has not been updated in recent months.

CHRISTMAS IN JULY PLANNED AT MOUNTAIN CRAFT CENTER
The McCreary Mountain Craft Center is again hosting its annual “Christmas in July” celebration, and have set the date for the event for this Saturday July 22nd. From 10:00am to 5:00pm the craft center will host craft demonstrations, music, refreshments and other activities, in addition to being decorated for Christmas all this month. The Mountain Craft Center is on Highway 90 about seven miles east of Highway 27 in Parkers Lake and about five miles west of Cumberland Falls.

 

McCREARY COUNTY MAN ARRESTED IN WHITLEY COUNTY BUST
The Whitley County Sheriff's Department is reporting the arrest of a McCreary County man during a bust Tuesday night. Officers responded to a mental health petition at a residence in Williamsburg where one man fled the scene when he spotted officers. That man was not located, despite a search of the area. Inside the home, officers reportedly found two marijuana plants, a 9mm pistol, and a sawed off shotgun. 49 year old Robert C. Cole of Whitley City told officers the shotgun was his and he was arrested, charged with two counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, receiving stolen property and tampering with physical evidence. 42 year old Tricia Croley was also arrested for endangering the welfare of a minor due to allegedly being under the influence while in custody of her grandchildren at the residence. Croley was also charged with cultivating marijuana and public intoxication. Both suspects were lodged in the Whitley County Detention Center.

McCREARY CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL TO HOST ADULT WELDING CLASSES
McCreary Central High School is ready to expand its welding department by offering after hours adult classes starting next month. The high school, in collaboration with “Workforce Solutions” at Somerset Community College, will offer the classes starting August 14th and running through October 5th with classes Monday through Thursday from 5:00 to 8:00pm each day at the high school. The cost of the class will be $950, but Charlotte Barnett, McCreary Central's Curriculum and Instruction Coordinator, says the fee may be waived for those who are eligible under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. For details on that program and the possibility of waiving the class fee, contact Barnett at 606-516-0438. To register for the class starting August 14th, you can also contact Valerie Hogan with Workforce Solutions at 606-451-6797. Completion of this class will earn the participant their “Gas Metal Arc Welding Certification”.

 

McCREARY BOARD ELECTIONS GETTING READY FOR “NICKEL TAX” VOTE
The McCreary County Board of Elections met briefly Tuesday morning in the office of County Clerk Eric Haynes to finalize dates and prepare for the special vote on the school district “nickel tax” which is set for Tuesday August 8th. Among the important upcoming dates will be the inspection of ballots of voting machines by the board of elections next Tuesday July 18th at 1:00pm in the lower level of the county's ambulance service/911 building, where the machines are stored. Absentee voting, sometimes referred to as “early voting”, will begin the county clerk's office on Monday July 24th continuing through Monday August 7th. Mail-in absentee ballots can also be requested from the McCreary County Clerk's Office. Election officers' training, including poll workers for each precinct, will be held Thursday July 27th at 6:00pm at the courthouse with all those set to work the August 8th election expected to attend training. The polls will be open at all McCreary County precinct voting locations Tuesday August 8th from 6:00am to 6:00pm with any registered voter in the county eligible to vote in the “nickel tax” special election. The ballot will include the question regarding the “nickel tax” which was approved by the school board with options to vote “For” or “Against” the measure.

LAWSUIT AGAINST McCREARY HERITAGE FOUNDATION MOVING FORWARD
The lawsuit filed against the McCreary County Heritage Foundation, owners and operators of the Big South Fork Scenic Railway in Stearns, is moving forward with a court date on the docket for Monday July 24th. The motion hour starting at 9:00am in McCreary Circuit Court lists the case of “DSRR, LLC vs McCreary County Heritage Foundation”, giving the opportunity for both sides to make initial motions in the case. The lawsuit stems from accusations from DSRR, which is “Diana & Sam Rail Road” owned by Diana Bybee and Sam Carpenter, that the Heritage Foundation failed to live up to its end of a deal to sell the Scenic Railway to the company earlier this year. The company claimed to have spent money preparing the railway for the season and making upgrades early in the year, before the foundation backed out of the deal to sell the business to them. The Heritage Foundation has maintained that it was DSRR that failed to follow through on the deal and that the company kept changing the details of the deal to the point of preventing final closure on the deal. DSRR is seeking reimbursement of funds they say were expended and also has asked for a judgment requiring the deal to move forward. Meanwhile, the Heritage Foundation brought in a new manager this season and continues to operate the Big South Fork Scenic Railway, in addition to their management of the McCreary County Museum, the Stearns Historic District and Stearns Heritage Golf Course.

 

McCREARY COUNTY ELDERLY MAN KILLED IN DOG ATTACK
Kentucky State Police are reporting that an elderly McCreary County man was killed Tuesday morning in a vicious dog attack. They say reports were received at about 9:00am Tuesday of a body lying in a yard of a residence on Kentucky Highway 1651 in the Whitley City area. Upon arrival, officer found 79 year old Vinson Tucker who was pronounced dead from his injuries. Police were able to get surveillance video footage from a nearby residence and determined that several dogs had attacked and fatally injured the victim. The dogs were reportedly located a short time later in the area and had to be put down. Their bodies were sent to the State Veterinarian's Office for testing, including for rabies. Vinson Tucker's body was sent to the State Medical Examiner's Office in Frankfort for autopsy. Kentucky State Police are continuing the investigation.

PULASKI COUNTY MURDER, ASSAULT SUSPECT PLEADS NOT GUILTY
The man arrested for a machete assault and murder in Pulaski County made his first court appearance in recent days, where he entered a not guilty plea to the charges. 28 year old Cody Hall was taken into custody following the alleged attack on two women and a man at a home on Bonnie Blue Lane last Thursday morning. 50 year old Lilburn Scott Holbrook was killed in that attack and two women, identified as 25 year old Ashley Coots and 40 year old Wilma Hislope, were seriously injured. Hall is being held under $1,000,000 bond in the Pulaski County Detention Center awaiting a scheduled July 17th preliminary hearing in that case.

 

WHITLEY COUNTY AUTHORITIES CONTINUE ATTEMPTED MURDER INVESTIGATION
Authorities in neighboring Whitley County are continuing the investigation into an attempted murder case. The Whitley County Sheriff's Department reports that early Friday morning, 49 year old Kenneth Wagers of Corbin is accused of entering the home of another man where a confrontation took place. During that dispute, Wagers allegedly pointed a shotgun at the other man and pulled the trigger, striking the victim in the thigh. The unidentified victim was transported to UK Medical Center in Lexington for treatment while Wagers reportedly fled the scene. Later that day, officers apparently found the shooter at his residence asleep and took him into custody charging him with criminal attempt to commit murder, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and first degree burglary. Kenneth Wagers was lodged in the Whitley County Detention Center as the investigation continues.

 

TWO PEOPLE HOSPITALIZED AFTER BOAT FIRE ON LAKE CUMBERLAND
A weekend on the lake turned into a mad scramble for life or death for people aboard one boat. Authorities say a fire broke out on the boat on Lake Cumberland Saturday afternoon and that when the smoke cleared two people were airlifted to the hospital for treatment from injuries they suffered in the blaze. The exact conditions of those individuals was not being released over the weekend by investigators, who did say that it happened on the Wayne County side of Lake Cumberland. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife is leading the investigation into the lake fire with assistance at the scene from various emergency responding agencies.

TWO WEEKS WITH NO NEW UPDATES ON DEPUTY SHOOTING SUSPECT
It has now been more than two weeks since McCreary County Sheriff's Deputy Frank Brown was shot during a traffic stop near the Jones Hollow-Cowhorn area in the western part of the county. Deputy Brown was shot in his bullet proof vest and suffered only minor injuries in that incident. The suspect was described only as a male subject who was riding a red, older model possibly Honda motorcycle. Tips concerning the shooting and the case can be submitted to Kentucky State Police at 606-878-6622 or toll free at 1-800-222-5555.

 

KSP SEARCHING FOR SUSPECT IN STEARNS BUSINESS ROBBERY 

Kentucky State Police are seeking the public's help in identifying and locating the suspect in a late evening robbery in McCreary County. KSP report that a male subject entered the Fastway convenience store in Stearns around 10:00pm Wednesday night and approached the clerk with a handgun, demanding money. After receiving an undisclosed amount of cash, the suspect fled the scene on foot. Officers responded and searched the area but could not locate the suspect at that time. He is described as a male subject who was wearing a gray hoodie at the time of the robbery, along with a green ski mask, dark colored pants and brown gloves. Surveillance video images of the suspect inside the store were released by police and anyone with information on his identity or whereabouts is asked to call Kentucky State Police at 606-878-6622 or their toll free hotline at 1-800-222-5555. The Kentucky State Police are leading the investigation with assistance at the scene from the McCreary County Sheriff's Department and US Forest Service K-9 unit.

McCREARY COUNTY LOSES LONG TIME LEADER IN LAW ENFORCEMEMT
McCreary County lost one of its long time leaders in law enforcement this week with the passing of former sheriff Regal Bruner. After a long career with the Kentucky State Police, Bruner retired from that agency in the 1990s and ran for and was elected McCreary County Sheriff in 1998. After serving a full four year term, Bruner ran for re-election in 2002 but was defeated in the General Election by Clarence “Penny” Perry. Regal Bruner passed away on Tuesday July 4th, 2017 at the age of 69. Hickman-Strunk Funeral Home is handling funeral arrangements.

McCREARY MAN ACCUSED OF SHOPLIFTING, DRUG CHARGES IN TENNESSEE
A McCreary County man was arrested this past week in Scott County, Tennessee on charges of shoplifting and drug possession, among others. 31 year old Brandon L. Hill of Pine Knot landed in the Scott County Jail after he allegedly shoplifted from the Oneida Wal-Mart. After his arrest, and while reportedly handcuffed and in the police cruiser on his way to jail, Hill allegedly ingested several pills in what police say was an attempt to dispose of the evidence. Hill reportedly admitted to authorities that he had taken two Hydrocodone tablets along with half a dozen Xanax tablets. Police also recovered a straw, apparently used for snorting drugs, from the suspect's pocket. Hill was charged with possession of a schedule II controlled substance, possession of a schedule IV controlled substance, tampering with evidence, possession of drug paraphernalia, and, of course, the initial charge of shoplifting less than $1,000. Brandon Hill was lodged in the Scott County Jail with Oneida Police conducting the investigation.

 

McCREARY COUNTY MAN ACCUSED IN DOG BEATING HEADED TO GRAND JURY
In an update to the story we have been following on the McCreary County man accused in the beating death of a dog, court records show that 71 year old Larry Meadows of Whitley City is now headed to the grand jury. The court report shows that the case against Meadows has been waived to the grand jury to hear and determine if formal charges, also known as an indictment, will be filed against him. The current charge Meadows faces is “torture of a dog/cat with serious physical injury or death.” A preliminary hearing is also set for July 24th in McCreary Circuit Court to review the case.

McCREARY LEGEND TO BE HONORED AT MASTER MUSICIANS FESTIVAL
A legend in McCreary County will be honored during this year's Master Musicians Festival in Somerset. Edsel Blevins is known locally for his work in the McCreary County School District for many years and also as a master banjo picker, including his work with the band at the Big South Fork Scenic Railway train depot in Stearns. More recently, Blevins has been seen and heard playing at venues in and around Somerset, where he currently resides. Edsel Blevins will be awarded the “Master Musicians Festival Lifetime Achievement Award” during a ceremony scheduled for 4:30pm this Saturday July 8th on festival field on the campus of Somerset Community College. Blevins is expected to perform following the award presentation.

This year's festival also includes two full days of great music starting with the group Frontier Friday July 7th at 4:15pm. The group has been featured on the television program “Tim Farmer's Country Kitchen” as well as other programs and at events across the state. Other Friday performers include Roanoke, The Wooks, Colter Wall and the Old 97s. On Saturday July 8th the music begins at 11:00am and includes the Local Honeys, Shannon McNally, Parker Milsap, the Dawes and Blackberry Smoke. Tickets to the Master Musicians Festival will be $25 at the gate Friday and $45 at the gate Saturday or you can get a two day pass for $65. Visit www.mastermusiciansfestival.org or MMF on Facebook.

BIG SOUTH FORK PARK PROPOSES INCREASE IN CAMPING FEES IN 2018
The Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area is looking to increase some camping fees starting in 2018. According to a release from park officials, the change would go into effect January 1, 2018 and would impact several campgrounds in the park, including Blue Heron in McCreary County. The change for that campground, located off Kentucky Highway 742 west of Stearns, would increase the fee from the current $17 per night to $20 per night. The campground provides electric and water hook-up sites. The Bandy Creek Campground in Tennessee would also be included in the proposed increases, with rates going from the current $22 per night for a 30 amp electric and water site to $25, $22 for a 50 amp electric and water site to $32, and from $19 to $20 for non-electric sites. The Bandy Creek group campsites will increase from $100 to $125 per night, under the new proposal. The park is currently accepting public comment on the proposal, with comments to be submitted to: Superintendent, Big South Fork NRRA, 4564 Leatherwood Road, Oneida, TN 37841 or by calling 423-569-9778 or e-mailing biso_information@nps.gov. Again, the proposed camping fee increases would go into effect January 1, 2018 in the Big South Fork Park.

 

JUNE GRAND JURY SESSION INCLUDES INDICTMENTS AGAINST SEVEN
Seven individuals were named in the June list of indictments handed down last week by the McCreary County Grand Jury. Among those formally charged by the grand jury were Brooklyn Stephens and Jackie King for trafficking in a controlled substance 1
st degree for methamphetamine greater than two grams and possession of drug paraphernalia; Gary Baker for operating a motor vehicle under the influence 2nd offense, possession of a controlled substance 1st degree and possession of drug paraphernalia; and Dwayne Watson for theft by failure to make required disposition of property more than $500. Other indictments included Patricia Meadows for criminal possession of a forged instrument 2nd degree, 3 counts, theft by deception of the value of $500 or more 25 counts and fraudulent use of a credit card, 3 counts. Robert Meadows was indicted for theft by deception $500 or more and Barbara Lynch was indicted for criminal possession of a forged instrument 2nd
degree. Listeners are reminded that an indictment by the grand jury is a formal charge in a case, but is not a finding of guilt.

AUDIT OF McCREARY FISCAL COURT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2016 RELEASED
Kentucky Auditor Mike Harmon released the findings of his office for the McCreary County Fiscal Court for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016. The audit shows a number of issues found by auditors related to county government and its financial accounting practices. Among those was an issue raised during lats week's Fiscal Court meeting when Judge-Executive Doug Stephens was asked about issues regarding the county's required match for USDA grants received for its revolving loan program. The audit states that in 2013 the county received a $75,000 grant from USDA for the program, requiring a $20,000 match. The county issued a loan to a business totaling $50,000, with $40,000 of that to be paid from the grant and $10,000 from the county as part of that match. The audit shows that the county paid that amount out of its Revolving Loan Fund and that due to “poor accounting practices” auditors were unable to determine if the prior repayments of loans, which were said to be used for the match, were from the USDA grant or from earlier loan payments made back to the county. On that issue, the county responded that USDA had previously told them, although not in writing, that it was acceptable to use funds from the revolving loan fund for that purpose, as long as it was not funds directly received from the grant. The audit suggests that the county continue talks with USDA to clear up that matter. A number of other issues were called out in the most recent audit on McCreary County Fiscal Court including not having proper purchase and procurement procedures; payroll account not properly reconciled; not having sufficient internal controls over payroll; not having proper control over credit card disbursements; penalties and interest on late payments for invoices paid late; and not having proper internal controls over the revolving loan program. The complete audit finding can be found on the Kentucky Auditor's website at
auditor.ky.gov.

 

NEW LAWS NOW IN EFFECT IN KENTUCKY AFTER 2017 APPROVAL
After being approved by the Kentucky General Assembly and being signed into law this year by Governor Bevin, a set of new laws went into effect in Kentucky officially on June 29th. That was 90 days after the close of the 2017 session of the General Assembly, the time that by law puts the new laws into effect. Among those laws is the “Hate Crimes” legislation that allows an attack on a first responder to be considered, and prosecuted, as a hate crime, which could mean a stiffer penalty at sentencing. House Bill 277 now allows individuals to serve on a local school board even if they have an aunt, uncle, son-in-law or daughter-in-law employed by the school district, something previously precluded by state law. School districts are now, under new law, able to use a “variable student instructional year” if they start school on or after the Monday closest to August 26th, starting with the 2018-2019 school year. The “Charter Schools” bill also passed and is now law, stating that publicly funded charter schools will be allowed to operated in Kentucky starting with the 2017-2018 school year. Local school boards would need to authorize the charter schools, which would be established by contract, and would be governed by an independent board. These and other new laws adopted this year in Kentucky officially went into effect last Thursday June 29th.

 

McCREARY COUNTY FISCAL COURT ADOPTS 2017-2018 BUDGET
Meeting in special session Friday morning the McCreary County Fiscal Court voted to give final approval to the 2017-2018 budget, which officially went into effect on July 1st. The total amount of the budget is just under $8 million with a jail fund budget of just over $1.1 million. Citizen Vicki Kidd asked Judge-Executive Doug Stephens if he had based that jail budget on what the county has spent in the last year plus 10%, adding that she was not sure the new budget amount would even be enough. Judge Stephens did say that the budget was based on expenditures in the last year plus some contingency funds, with Deputy Judge & Finance Officer Randy Jones confirming that the contingency was close to 10% for the jail fund. Judge Stephens was also asked how the county was ending the fiscal year in terms of the budget and any shortfall. He said that thanks to about $278,000 received from the federal government for PILT (Payment In Lieu of Taxes) payments, which was more than $90,000 more than county leaders anticipated, the county was able to pay back the $200,000 borrowed from the road fund early in the year and was able to pay all bills that were approved at the June regular court meeting. Judge Stephens said that with that, and the increase in occupational tax revenue, the county actually ended the fiscal year on June 30th with no debt moving forward, with the exception of the regular long term debt. In other words, the county ended the fiscal year in the black rather than in the red, with Treasurer Mark Sewell commenting that he felt the budget was in the best shape it had been since he started the position with the county.

McCREARY LEADERS APPROVE RESTRUCTURING OF REVOLVING LOANS
During their special meeting last week, the McCreary County Fiscal Court approved recommendations for restructuring and “jump starting” the county's revolving loan program. The program has been in place for several years and uses USDA grant money and other funding sources to provide loans to local small businesses to start-up or expand, thus creating additional jobs in the community. There have been many issues with the program through the years, and Judge-Executive Doug Stephens noted that there are still currently “two or three” delinquent loan recipients from previous years who are not making good on payments on their loans. He said all others have refinanced and are at least making regular payments. The list of current delinquent loan accounts will be published again sometime this month and Stephens said legal action will also begin soon against those individuals or businesses. The recommendations for the program moving forward include capping the total amount that can be loaned at $15,000; setting a maximum of eight years for financing; setting interest rates at 3% for all loans; and ensuring that all loans are properly secured with capital and that the county is listed as the primary, or first, lien holder on property to secure the loans. The court approved the changes and Judge Stephens said business entities interested in information or applying for revolving loans through the county can begin contacting his office starting this week.

BIG SOUTH FORK PARK EXTENDS ANNUAL PHOTO CONTEST DEADLINE
Today (Monday July 3rd) was set to be the deadline for submissions for the annual photo contest for the Big South Fork Park, but park officials have announced that they have extended that deadline another month to give more opportunity for photographers to take part. The new deadline for the 2017 contest will be August 7th with all entries to be accompanied by a completed entry form and submitted in digital format by that date. Categories for the contest include Action/Adventure; Artistic; Cultural; Flora & Fauna; Youth; Kentucky Landscapes; and Tennessee Landscapes. Entries will be judged with selected images printed for exhibit at the Bandy Creek Visitor Center, on the Tennessee side of the park. Submit entries via e-mail to biso_information@nps.gov or hand deliver entries to Big South Fork park headquarters at 4564 Leatherwood Road in Oneida, Tennessee. For additional information, call the park at 423-286-7275.

 

NEIGHBORING WAYNE COUNTY TO BEGIN COLLECTING TRANSIENT TAX
While McCreary County has had a tourist commission and a 3% transient tax on lodging rooms locally for decades, neighboring Wayne County, with the benefit of Lake Cumberland, is just now getting in on that action. The Wayne County Fiscal Court recently approved the transient tax for their county, which will go into effect and start being collected as of this Saturday July 1st. All of those funds, by state law, must be used for tourism activities and the promotion of the county and must be directed by a tourist commission. The first seven members of that group were also recently appointed by the Wayne County Judge-Executive.

NATIONAL COUNCIL ON FIREWORKS SAFETY OFFERS TIPS FOR JULY 4TH
With the July 4th holiday weekend set to begin, the National Council on Fireworks Safety has a number of tips to stay safe if you plan to use fireworks to celebrate. Among the safety tips are things like reading all instructions and precautions on fireworks; do not mix alcohol use with fireworks; wear safety glasses when shooting fireworks; do not relight a “dud” firework that does not go off; use fireworks outdoors only in a clear area away from buildings; and do not experiment with homemade fireworks. The council also reminds people to remember their pets during fireworks displays. They say you should never bring your pets to a fireworks display; make sure your pets have a safe place to go when fireworks are being set off; and never shoot fireworks near your pet. For more fireworks safety tips over the July 4th holiday weekend, visit the National Council on Fireworks Safety online at www.fireworkssafety.org.

 

ISSUES WITH “NICKEL TAX” VOTE RESOLVED; ELECTION SET FOR AUGUST 8TH
We reported that the special election regarding a potential recall of the McCreary County School Board's “nickel tax” was on hold pending a Circuit Court decision. McCreary County Clerk Eric Haynes now reports that the issues regarding the actual question for the ballot have been resolved between the school board and county election officials. Haynes said Wednesday that the special “nickel tax” election is now set for Tuesday August 8th at all polling locations in McCreary County, adding that early absentee voting will begin July 24th in his office at the courthouse for those who will be unable to vote on election day. The question submitted by Tim Crawford, McCreary County School Board Attorney, that will appear on the ballot is:

Are you for or against the McCreary County Board of Education's levy of an equivalent (state matching funds) “nickel tax” to raise funds that would be dedicated strictly to major renovations including replacing the roof at Pine Knot Elementary and McCreary Central, new construction, and debt service?”

Registered voters in McCreary County will have the opportunity to go to the polls to vote on that question on Tuesday August 8th at their regular polling locations between 6:00am and 6:00pm. Again, early absentee voting will begin in the county clerk's office on July 24th. 

McCREARY COUNTY FISCAL COURT TO MEET FOR BUDGET APPROVAL
The McCreary County Fiscal Court is expected to give their final nod of approval to the 2017-2018 budget for county government during a special session of the court set for this Friday June 30th at 9:00am. The budget received its first reading by the court on May 11th and was then given tentative approval by state officials earlier this month. The budget includes just over $2.8 million for the General Fund, $2.3 million in the Road Fund, and a Jail Fund of just over $1.1 million. Other funds for county government include the Solid Waste Fund at $182,000, Local Government Economic Assistance (LGEA) Fund at just over $180,000, Parks and Recreation $172,000, Airport Fund at about $57,000, 911 Fund at $430,000, Economic Development Fund at $109,000, and Revolving Loan Fund at $150,000. The Ambulance Equipment Fund, which is money set aside specifically for new ambulances and equipment for the service, is listed at about $90,000 for the year. The budget also includes the Grant Fund at about $275,000. The total county budget is nearly $8 million with all funds accounted for in appropriations. Again, Fiscal Court is expected to give final passage of the 2017-2018 budget during a special session this Friday June 30th at 9:00am upstairs at the McCreary County Courthouse.

McCREARY COUNTY AGAIN SELECTED TO RECEIVE FOOD & SHELTER FUNDS
McCreary County has once again been selected to receive federal funding through the emergency food and shelter program, administered by a National Board chaired by the head of the Department of Homeland Security's FEMA organization. Each year, the board awards funding to community boards that display a need and proper use of funds to help their local residents. McCreary County's local board has been awarded $7,295 this year under the program. In the past, the funds have been used locally by the McCreary Christian Care Center to provide food including an estimated 74,000 meals. Public or private volunteer agencies in McCreary County interested in applying for the funds can submit an application by next Wednesday July 5th to the local board. For information, contact Sue Singleton at 376-8742.

LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS SET FOR PATROLS ON LAND & WATER
Law enforcement officials across the region are gearing up for the holiday weekend with increased patrols and police presence on land and on water. While the Independence Day holiday is not until next Tuesday July 4th, many will begin celebrating early and law enforcement will be out early as well. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife is taking part in “Operation Dry Water” Friday June 30th through Sunday July 2nd with a public campaign to encourage sober operating of boats on the water. This will include increase presence of officers on Kentucky's lakes and rivers through the weekend. In addition, Kentucky State Police and local law enforcement agencies will also be increasing their patrols through the weekend and through July 4th. The main focus will be impaired and distracted drivers.

 

McCREARY COUNTY TEEN DROWNS IN LAUREL LAKE
Authorities from Whitley County confirmed this week that a 16 year old from McCreary County drowned Monday afternoon in Laurel Lake near the Holly Bay Marina area. Crews were called to the scene after 4:00pm Monday where they searched the waters and eventually pulled the teen boy's body from the lake. Reports indicate the victim, identified as Joshua Antonio Hipolito, was swimming with a friend when they jumped off a cliff into the water. The other teen was able to swim across the lake, but the victim went under and did not resurface. Emergency crews from Whitley and Laurel Counties responded to the scene.

McCREARY SCHOOL BOARD TAKES ACTION ON HIGH SCHOOL TRACK PROJECT
Meeting in regular session last Thursday, the McCreary County Board of Education took action to move forward on the track rehabilitation project at McCreary Central High School. The project has been slightly delayed with only one bid received from a contractor to complete the work. Hinkle Contracting in Somerset submitted a bid including a base amount of just over $377,000 and an alternate addition of about $251,000 for additional features including a retaining wall and concrete pad for bleachers on the west side of the track and football field. The board voted to reject the lone bid received and to revise the project with no alternate bids including a savings of $46,000 for several options that were adjusted. That would bring the base bid for the completed project to just over $331,000. The board approved the change and the revised bid from Hinkle to move ahead with the project. Under discussion, Superintendent Mike Cash questioned whether plans to have the track color as maroon and gold was still going to happen. Due to restrictions on getting surfacing that color and the additional cost, it was noted that the track will be the standard black color, but that a “Raider” logo can be added along with track lane lines that are maroon and gold. The track project is expected to begin in the coming weeks and should be completed before cold weather hits. The project is expected to allow the school to host track and field competitions and meets.

 

McCREARY COUNTY DEPUTY SHOT, SUSPECT REMAINS AT LARGE
A McCreary County Sheriff's Deputy was reportedly shot by a suspect Saturday afternoon in the western part of the county, near the Jones Hollow area. Kentucky State Police told media sources that McCreary County Sheriff's Deputy Frank Brown was shot while conducting a traffic stop and was taken to Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital where he was treated and released. He did not suffer serious injury thanks to his bulletproof vest. The suspect in the shooting reportedly fled the scene and was still at large at last report. He was last seen riding an older model red motorcycle and wearing khaki shorts, black t-shirt, black riding boots, black Nike backpack and red helmet. Anyone with information regarding the incident, the suspect or the motorcycle is asked to call Kentucky State Police at 606-878-6622 or 1-800-222-5555. Kentucky State Police Detective Billy Correll is leading the investigation.

McCREARY MAN AMONG TARGETS IN SCOTT COUNTY DRUG ROUND-UP
The Scott County, Tennessee Sheriff's Department launched a massive drug round-up last Thursday with a total of twenty-six (26) arrest warrants issued. Among those targeted for arrest was a McCreary County man named Marcus Wade Troxell of Strunk. Troxell was listed as wanted for a violation of probation for possession of a schedule VI drug. Charges against the long list of suspects in the drug round-up included possession and sell of drugs.

BIG SOUTH FORK TO HOST KENTUCKY TRAIL HEALTHY HIKE JUNE 28TH
The Big South Fork Park is inviting locals and visitors to the area to take part in the next in a series of “healthy hikes” this Wednesday June 28th on the Kentucky Trail in the park. Meet at 2:30pm at the Blue Heron Interpretive Center's train depot, at the end of Kentucky Highway 742 west of Stearns, Kentucky. From there, participants will be led by a park ranger along the 5.4 mile hike which is rated moderate and will take in historic coal mining sites, rock formations and the Nancy Grave School site. For information or directions contact the Blue Heron Interpretive Center at 606-376-3787. Remember to dress for the weather and activity and bring water and snacks. Wednesday's hike should last about three and a half hours.

 

McCREARY COUNTY UNEMPLOYMENT RATE SHOWS SLIGHT IMPROVEMENT
The unemployment rates for May 2017, the latest data released by the state, show lower rates for 74 out of 120 Kentucky counties compared to May of last year, with McCreary County among those showing a slight sign of improvement. In May 2016, the county's jobless rate was 7.4% and dropped by nearly a full percentage point to 6.5% in May of this year. It should be noted that changes in unemployment rates do not necessarily mean there are more or fewer jobs available in an area because it could represent individuals who have simply dropped out of the job market for one reason or another, such as no longer looking for work. Unemployment rates are based on estimates of active job seekers for the four week period. The ten county Lake Cumberland region saw a higher jobless rate from May 2016 to May 2017, going from 5.6% to 5.7%. Russell and Wayne Counties seemed to be driving that increase for the region as each county saw rates nearly a full percentage point higher this year, compared to last year. Kentucky's statewide unemployment rate was 4.7% in May, compared to 4.8% for the same month last year. Kentucky's lowest jobless rate continues to be Woodford County at just 3% and the highest continued to be Magoffin County at 16.6%.

 

McCREARY SCHOOL BOARD MOVING FORWARD ON “NICKEL TAX” ELECTION
The McCreary County Board of Education met in regular session last night (Thursday June 22nd) with a number of items on the agenda under their “Actions by Consent” section, meaning no discussion on those issues. One item under “Actions with Discussion” was to discuss with possible action all matters related to the “nickel tax” for McCreary County. That item began with comments from Bill Boyd, who is contracted with the school district as Director of Management Services. Boyd said the board needed to attempt to get the “nickel tax”, especially since the state is offering the 3 to 1 match for building fund projects. He noted that a 4% property tax increase, which could be approved by the school board with no chance of recall by citizens, would generate less than $60,000 in additional revenue while the “nickel tax” would bring in about $250,000 plus $750,000 from the state and would increase the district's bonding capacity. Superintendent Mike Cash said the revenue generated from the “nickel tax” could not be used for salaries, despite some reports or rumors of that in the community, and that the funds have to be earmarked in a dedicated building fund only for use in renovations or construction on existing or new building facilities. School Board Chairman Brandon Kidd noted that in finance training received by board members, the trainers had often commented that McCreary County was “behind the ball” in terms of revenue because it had not increased taxes at the same level as other school districts in the state. Boyd noted that the McCreary School District had only taken the 4% property tax increase once in the last five years, compared to about 68% of districts in the state that increase by the maximum each year. Cash said funding is needed for two priority projects on the District Facility Plan recently adopted by the school board, including a new roof on the older section of McCreary Central High School, where water damage and leaks are impacting the gym and auditorium among other areas, and a new roof on Pine Knot Primary School's older building. He said black mold and leaks have been noted in that building and that it was a necessity to deal with those issues.

Following discussion, the school board was given their options by Board Attorney Tim Crawford, who said the board could essentially vote to rescind their original April 27th vote which would make it as though they never approved the “nickel tax”, or they could vote to move ahead with a special countywide election on whether to recall the tax. A motion was made by Chairman Kidd to proceed with the special election and allow the citizens to weigh in, which was seconded and approved unanimously by the board. The special election must now be scheduled by County Judge-Executive Doug Stephens once bond to cover the cost of the election is posted by the school district. That will allow all registered voters in the county to go to the polls and vote whether to keep or recall the tax.

 

POLICE INVESTIGATING DISCOVERY OF BODY IN SOUTHERN PULASKI COUNTY
Police are investigating the discovery of a body inside a burned out camper in southern Pulaski County. According to information from the Pulaski County Major Crimes Task Force, consisting of Kentucky State Police, Pulaski County Sheriff's Department and Somerset Police, the body was found Tuesday evening near the Loop 5 area off US Highway 27 just south of Burnside. It was inside a camper that had apparently been set on fire, possibly to destroy evidence or cover up the crime. At last report, the name of the deceased had not been released pending notification of family members. Anyone with information related to the crime is asked to call authorities. You can contact the Pulaski County Sheriff's Department at 606-678-5145, Somerset Police at 606-678-5176 or Kentucky State Police at 606-878-6622. Anonymous tips can also be made on the departments' websites.

FUTURE OF “NICKEL TAX” VOTE IN HANDS OF McCREARY SCHOOL BOARD
The future of a possible countywide vote on whether to keep or recall a “nickel tax” approved in April by the McCreary County School Board, is now in the hands of that very board. The school board meets this evening (Thursday June 22nd) at 6:30pm for their regular monthly meeting. It is expected that the “nickel tax” will be taken up by the school board in some form, with a couple of options on the table for the five member board. After approving the tax in April, a group of five citizens formed a committee to work toward a vote to allow citizens to decide the future of the potential tax hike or personal and real property. That committee gathered well over 900 signatures, with fewer than 600 actually needed to call for the vote. The McCreary County Clerk's Office verified 721 signatures, more than enough to be certified and call for a vote. However, the county Board of Elections voted during their June meeting to put any action on hold until the school district posts bond to pay for a potential vote, which could cost the district up to $20,000. Now, the issue will be in the hands of the local school board, which can decide to go ahead with posting the bond or can vote to rescind their previous vote approving the nickel tax. Again, the McCreary County Board of Education will meet tonight at 6:30pm at the central office on Raider Way in Stearns.

McCREARY TOURISM OFFICIALS PROMOTING “COPPERHEAD TRAIL” RIDE
You may not have heard of the “Copperhead Trail” in McCreary and Whitley Counties, because it is a new concept recently developed mainly by county and tourism officials in Whitley County. The idea is to use the hills and curves along the backroads in the two counties to the advantage of tourism and the attraction of visitors to the region. The 60 mile “trail” begins in Williamsburg and travels across the mountain into McCreary County, then circles back around on local backroads before ending up back in Whitley County at Cumberland Falls. A “Copperhead Trail Ride” is scheduled for later this summer to help introduce motorcycle riders to the route in hopes they will continue riding and tell others. The ride is set for August 12th with registration from 8:30-9:30am at Kentucky Splash Water Park in Williamsburg and kick stands up at 10:00am. Additional information is available on the McCreary County Tourism Facebook page or by calling their office at 606-376-3008.

 

CHILD PORNOGRAPHY CHARGES FACED BY McCREARY COUNTY SUSPECTS
A Pennsylvania man was reportedly arrested in McCreary County this past Sunday on child pornography charges. According to booking records for the Leslie County Detention Center, which is the primary facility used for local inmates, 19 year old Tyler Pietschmann of Pennsylvania was arrested and booked Sunday evening for possessing and/or viewing matter portraying a sexual performance by a minor.

In another child pornography case, Pine Knot resident Grover Manning will be in McCreary Circuit Court next Monday June 26th, according to current court docket information, where he will officially be arraigned on multiple counts of possessing or viewing matter portraying a sexual performance by a minor.

McCREARY MAN FACING ANIMAL TORTURE CHARGE TO BE BACK IN COURT
After being arrested a little more than a week ago and being arraigned last week, a McCreary County man facing animal torture charges is set to be back in court next Monday June 26th. Court docket records show that 71 year old Larry Meadows of Whitley City will be in McCreary District Court at 9:00am next Monday for a preliminary hearing. Meadows is charged with torture of a dog or cat with serious physical injury or death, in connection with the alleged beating death of a dog. Meadows was released from jail on bond following his arrest.

McCREARY PUBLIC LIBRARY SUMMER READING PROGRAM IN FULL SWING
A special summer reading program kick-off event was held this past Monday, with the program now in full swing for the next several weeks for the McCreary County Public Library. This is a busy week at the library, which is hosting its regular “Baby Lap Sit” and storytime activities for kids each Wednesday starting at 10:00am and will host a teen and tween birdhouse building activity, co-sponsored by the McCreary County Extension Service, this Thursday June 22nd at 9:00am. Registration is required for that activity by contacting the library or the extension office. This Friday, June 23rd, the library will host a “Fun Friday” magic show with Ronald McDonald at 2:00pm and the “Reading Ranger” program will be held this Saturday June 24th at 10:30am at Blue Heron, all as part of the library's summer reading program. For additional information contact the library in downtown Whitley City, call 376-8738, visit Facebook or www.mccrearylibrary.org.

 

McCREARY GOVERNMENT “PUSHING LIMIT” ON BUDGET APPROVAL TIMING
The current budget for McCreary County Government is set to expire at midnight on Friday June 30, 2017 with a new budget needed to start July 1st. The McCreary County Fiscal Court approved the first reading of the fiscal year 2017-2018 budget last month and sent the draft budget to the state for any changes and for their approval. A special session of the court is needed for the second reading and final passage of the budget and that is going to be held right at the limit of time for budget approval. Judge-Executive Doug Stephens has announced that the special meeting will be held on Friday June 30th at 9:00am with the main item on the agenda being final approval of the budget.

Judge Stephens was asked at the regular June court meeting if the county was going to be able to pay its bills as the current fiscal year comes to a close. He answered that not all bills would be paid, due to a lack of available funds, but that all essential bills will be covered and that the county still expects to repay about $200,000 borrowed early in the year from the road fund using federal funds expected this month.

HISTORIC STEARNS, KY GETTING READY FOR JULY 4TH FESTIVITIES
This year, historic Stearns, Kentucky will be filled with activities before and after the July 4th Independence Day holiday. The traditional Stearns Homecoming and Heritage Days will be held Friday June 30th and Saturday July 1st in downtown Stearns, including a carnival, games, rides, food and fireworks after dark on Saturday July 1st. The McCreary County Museum will also offer free admission and a silent auction on July 1st as part of the festivities. Charles E Moore VFW Post 5127 will also hold a special Independence Day ceremony at 2:30pm Saturday July 1st on the steps of the museum in Stearns. For additional information, visit the McCreary County Museum Facebook page.

The annual “Moonshiner's Run Car Show” is going to be in Stearns this year, being held the following weekend on Friday July 7th and Saturday July 8th. Friday's event includes a horespower competition and pin-up contest, with Saturday's event including the main car show with live music and awards presented. For additional information visit www.moonshinersrun.com or look it up on Facebook.

 

BUSY WEEK AHEAD IN THE BIG SOUTH FORK PARK IN KY & TN
This will be a busy week with a number of activities planned for locals and visitors in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area in both Kentucky and Tennessee. Among the activities will be a healthy hike to Devil's Jump Overlook here in McCreary County this Wednesday June 21st. Participants can meet at 2:30pm at the Blue Heron Interpretive Center at the end of Kentucky Highway 742 west of Stearns. This hike is rated moderate and is 4.4 miles taking about two and half hours and including the unique rock formation known as “Crack in the Rocks” and ending at Devil's Jump Overlook before returning to Blue Heron. You are encouraged to bring snacks and water and dress appropriately for the activity and the weather.

A “Big South Fork Dark Sky” Program will be offered this Saturday June 24th starting at 9:30pm at the Bandy Creek Visitor Center parking area on the Tennessee side of the park. The program will be led by Paul Lewis of the University of Tennessee and will include descriptions and discussion on various items visible in the night sky. Telescopes will be set up for those in attendance and the program is free and open to the public. In the event of rain, the discussion program will move indoors with an alternate date set for the night sky viewing.

The Big South Fork park will offer another healthy hike next Sunday June 25th starting at 11:00am at the Yahoo Falls area in McCreary County. Meet at the Yahoo Falls parking area and hike the one hour guided trek to the falls, which is Kentucky's tallest at 113 feet. The trail is 1.2 miles and is a loop trail rated easy to moderate and does include a long set of stairs.

For more information or directions to any of the Big South Fork programs this week, call the Blue Heron Interpretive Center in Kentucky at 376-3787 or the Bandy Creek Visitor Center in Tennessee at 423-286-7275. You can also visit the park's website at www.nps.gov/biso.

BIG SOUTH FORK OFFICIALS ANNOUNCE PHOTO CONTEST DEADLINE
Officials with the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, which straddles in the Kentucky-Tennessee state line, have announced the approaching deadline for the park's annual photo contest. That deadline is set for Monday July 3rd with a variety of categories for photo entries. Among them is “Action/Adventure”; “Artistic”; “Cultural”; “Flora & Fauna”; 'Youth”; “Kentucky Landscapes”; and “Tennessee Landscapes”. All photos must be submitted in digital format and be received no later than close of business on July 3, 2017 and be accompanied by a completed entry form. The form and information are available online at www.nps.gov/biso/planyourvisit/biso-photo-contest.htm. Entries may be e-mailed to biso_information@nps.gov or may be hand delivered to park headquarters at 4564 Leatherwood Road in Oneida, Tennessee. For more information on the Big South Fork Photo Contest call 423-286-7275.

 

McCREARY COUNTY SHERIFF WARNING ABOUT COUNTERFEIT MONEY
The McCreary County Sheriff's Department is reporting that counterfeit bills have been showing up this week at some local businesses. The department confirms that some fake $10 and $100 bills have been reported and urges anyone handling and accepting money locally to be cautious and watch for the bills. If you encounter any counterfeit bills or other suspicious activity, you can contact the McCreary County Sheriff's Department in the courthouse annex building in Whitley City or by calling 376-2322.

WARNING FROM EMERGENCY OFFICIALS: ENJOY “MC-ROCKS” BUT BE SAFE
With the latest craze locally being the “MC Rocks” campaign to hide and seek painted rocks, emergency officials are warning residents to enjoy the hunt but to be safe. “MC Rocks” adds McCreary County flavor to an online craze that has taken over many communities, encouraging people to paint rocks with designs and messages and hide them at various places around the community. People then search for the rocks, with the intention of posting pictures of their find on Facebook and then hiding the rocks again for others to find. Many in the local community have been taking part in the effort and there were even organized “Mc Rock” hunts during the recent Blazin' Bluegrass Spring Fest and even a program for tweens and teens at the McCreary County Public Library.

However, those taking part in the rock hunts should keep several things in mind to remain safe during the search. The McCreary County Ambulance Service recently posted on their Facebook page a warning about finding used needles, which had been reported to the service in recent weeks. The first precaution would be to avoid touching or picking up used needles, but if you desire to dispose properly of used needles, the local ambulance services does have the proper disposal containers available. Contact the ambulance service in downtown Whitley City for details. You should also avoid hiding or searching for rocks on private property as you could find yourself facing trespassing charges or be held liable for any damage reported to the property.

 

McCREARY COUNTY MAN ARRAIGNED ON ANIMAL ABUSE CHARGES
We reported previously on the arrest of 71 year old Larry Meadows of Whitley City this past weekend on charges related to the alleged beating of a dog. Meadows was jailed Saturday morning on the charges of “torture of a dog or cat with serious physical injury or death.” He was released from jail on bond Monday, awaiting arraignment on the charges which was scheduled for this morning (Thursday June 15th) in McCreary District Court. Meanwhile, the case remains under investigation and online petitions have been started calling for the maximum sentence possible for Meadows, being backed by animal rights groups and individuals.

FIRST READING OF BUSINESS LICENSE AMENDMENT APPROVED
The McCreary County Fiscal Court voted last Thursday night to approve the first reading of an ordinance which amends the previously approved business license ordinance for the county. The measure is set to go into effect July 1st, requiring all businesses operating in the county to have and display their license. Changes made by the amendment include changing the period covered by the business license from a calendar year, which have put it running January through December, to a fiscal year running July 1st through June 30th. That will allow businesses to obtain the license now for a full year, rather than having to come back and renew the license before January, in just six months.

In addition, Judge Executive Doug Stephens noted some clarification when it comes to “professionals” such as those having to have a certification, degree or license for their trade or profession. Specifically, he said he had been asked about hair dressers and pharmacists and if each of those individually need to have a county issued business license. Stephens said if the “professional” is working for a business, that business would have to obtain the license but not each individual. However, if the person is renting space or pays the business to operate at the location, then the individual would also need a business license. He added that questions have been raised about farmers in the county and said if that farmer files a state and federal tax return for their farm, then it is a business and therefore would require a county business license. Anyone making more than $600 annually from a business or other activity is legally required to file a tax return and must also obtain the county license. Another example given during last week's court meeting was those operating mowing services in the county. Judge Stephens said if those individuals are making more than $600 per year from that work, they fall under the category of having to file a return and get the license.

For more information on the new business license requirement in McCreary County, which goes into effect July 1st, contact the Judge-Executive's Office at 376-2413 or the tax administrator's office at the courthouse.

THREE STUDENTS FROM McCREARY MIDDLE NAMED ROGERS EXPLORERS
Each year, middle school students from across the region compete for selection as Rogers Explorers, a program named after US Congressman Hal Rogers. In 2017, three McCreary Middle School students were selected to take part in the program including Dalton Daugherty, Alexa Bruce, and Marah Hamlin. The students take part in three days and two nights of activities on a college campus in Kentucky, where they learn skills and participate in hands-on activities in math and technology. Dalton Daugherty is from Pine Knot and is the son of Donnie and Jennifer Daugherty, while Alexa Bruce is from Whitley City and is the daughter of Geoff and PJ Bruce. Marah Hamlin is from Pine Knot and the daughter of Dwayne and Brenda Hamlin. The Rogers Explorers program is administered through the Center for Rural Development in Somerset. For more information on this and other Center programs, call 606-677-6000 or visit www.centeryouthprograms.com.

 

MORE THAN 700 SIGNATURES VERIFIED FOR SPECIAL VOTE ON “NICKEL TAX”
A special election to determine whether the McCreary County School District can impose a “nickel tax” increase countywide on real and personal property may be moving closer to reality. We reported that a committee calling for the vote turned in more than 900 petitions last week with signatures of local voters. The McCreary County Board of Elections met for its regular meeting Tuesday morning to discuss the status of the petitions, with County Clerk Eric Haynes confirming that 721 signatures had been verified and certified. Haynes said some of the other signatures may have been legitimate, but some petitions may have been incomplete, using examples like petitions including a precinct name but no precinct code. He noted that any that could be questioned were set aside, since there were still more than enough valid signatures to call for the election with just under 600 required, based on 10% of the voter turnout in the last local General Election. Since the petitions have been certified by the county clerk, those were forwarded to the Judge-Executive to prepare for the step of scheduling a date for the special election countywide. Meanwhile, the county Board of Elections voted Tuesday to await posting of a bond by the school district before moving ahead with preparations for a special election. This, according to Haynes, is due to the requirement that the school board pay for the cost of the special election. The school board can also still decide to rescind its vote to approve the “nickel tax” to avoid the countywide vote. The school board's next regular meeting is just over a week away on Thursday June 22nd, at which time the issue could be taken up by the board.

KSP ISSUES WARNING ABOUT SUMMER HEAT DANGERS FOR KIDS
With summer officially just one week away and temperatures already heating up, Kentucky State Police are warning parents and guardians about the dangers of summer heat to children. In the United States last summer, 39 children reportedly died from heat stroke after they were left for a time in a hot vehicle. So far in 2017, there have already been 11 such deaths, according to data from kidsandcars.org online and reported by the state police. Officials remind that the interior of a vehicle can heat to 125 degrees in a matter of just a few minutes. Children should never be left in a vehicle in the heat for any period of time, especially since a child's body heats up at a rate of three to five times that of an adult. Some cases involve kids that become curious or are playing and get into a vehicle without their parent's knowledge and become trapped as the vehicle heats up.

Those caring for children should also note that Kentucky law can hold a person liable for second degree manslaughter or first degree wanton endangerment for leaving a child younger than eight years of age in a motor vehicle where circumstances poses a grave risk or death.

Assistance is also sought from the public in this area. Anyone who spots a child left ina hot vehicle on hot days should contact authorities by calling 911.

 

McCREARY COUNTY MAN JAILED FOR BEATING, TORTURE OF DOG
A McCreary County man was arrested this past weekend, charged with the alleged torture and beating of a dog. 71 year old Larry Meadows was lodged in the Leslie County Detention Center following his arrest early Saturday morning. The official charge filed was “torture of a dog/cat with serious physical injury or death”. McCreary County Attorney Conley Chaney posted a statement via social media regarding the case, stating that under KRS 525.135 the charge was warranted and that “the Commonwealth of Kentucky is committed to the protection of both human and animal rights.” He goes on to recommend that anyone interested in furthering animal rights, proper treatment of animals and supporting local animal needs should contact the group Gracie's Rescue Outreach in McCreary County.

PLANS BEING ANNOUNCED FOR McCREARY'S 2017 COUNTY FAIR
The 2017 County Fair in McCreary County is set for about one month from now, being held Monday July 10th through Saturday July 15th at the fairgrounds and community center building at the county park. The McCreary County Extension Service is overseeing the exhibit portion of the county fair, taking entries Monday July 10th from 1:00 to 7:00pm with the exhibit hall open to the public Tuesday and Wednesday July 11th and 12th from 5:00 to 8:00pm. There is no admission fee to stop by the exhibit hall which will be inside the community/senior citizens center building. Entries may then be picked up Thursday July 13th between 5:00-7:00pm. For additional information on the exhibit hall for the McCreary County Fair, contact the extension office at 376-2524.

Fair Board President Sharon Morrow reports that activities at the fairgrounds this year will be Tuesday July 11th through Saturday July 15th with nightly entertainment and mud bogs on July 15th. There will be a carnival and other festivities throughout the week, with additional information to be released soon.

McCREARY SHERIFF APPLYING FOR “COPS HIRING PROGRAM” GRANT
The McCreary County Sheriff's Department is working to secure federal funding to hire additional deputies, according to McCreary Emergency Management Director Stephen McKinney. He told members of the McCreary County Fiscal Court during their June session that Sheriff Randy Waters has given the go ahead for the application to the Department of Justice “Cops Hiring Program” for the three year grant. Under the terms of the grant, if approved, the sheriff would receive funding to pay 75% of the salary and 100% of the benefits for two full time paid deputies for the full 36 months, or 3 years. There is also a “financial distress” provision which could pay the additional 25% of the salaries if approved, otherwise the sheriff would pay that amount out of his budget with no impact on the county's General Fund. McKinney said after 3 years, the sheriff's department can apply for a 3 year extension on the grant. If that is not successful, the department would be required to maintain employment of the deputies for at least 12 more months, with the local department covering the full amount of that expense. It was also noted that the grant, if received, would be for the department, not specifically the sheriff, meaning that if Sheriff Waters is not re-elected in 2018, an incoming sheriff would benefit from the funding. Fiscal court approved a resolution supporting the grant application by the sheriff's department. Information on the grant program posted online shows the application deadline as July 10th of this year.

KENTUCKY COMMUNITY & TECHNICAL COLLEGE TUITION INCREASING
Students who take classes through the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) will have to pay a little bit more for those classes starting in the fall. A tuition hike was approved late last week by the Board of Regents for the system, following guidelines put forth by the Kentucky Council on Post-Secondary Education. The increase is $6 per credit hour, which officials say will average an extra $108 per semester for students taking a full load of 18 hours. That is for in-state students, while out of state students from counties neighboring Kentucky will face a $12 per credit hour hike and other out of state students will pay $21 more per credit hour. The board also approved a pay raise of 3% for community and technical college faculty and staff at the same meeting.

 

McCREARY LEADERS APPROVE JAIL FEASBILITY STUDY PROPOSAL
After the McCreary County Fiscal Court recently agreed to a motion by Magistrate Roger Phillips to include the cost of a jail feasibility study in the budget for fiscal year 2017-2018, set to begin July 1st, the court has now approved a proposal from a company to conduct such a study. Meeting in regular session this past Thursday, the McCreary County Fiscal Court opened and reviewed the lone proposal received from a company based in Indianapolis, Indiana. The proposal stated that the company would complete a study on the feasibility of constructing and operating a new jail facility locally, including the cost of construction and ongoing operating expenses. This will allow the county to compare those numbers with the current cost of transporting and housing inmates in other counties to determine the best course of action moving forward. The company proposed to charge an hourly rate for their work on the study, with a maximum charge of $8,000 to the county. County leaders have said that the company has completed similar studies for other Kentucky counties in the past. The court approved the proposal Thursday night with the study to begin sometime after July 1st.

McCREARY COUNTY FISCAL COURT APPROVES BIDS FOR NEW YEAR
Thursday's regular meeting of the McCreary County Fiscal Court also included the opening and approval of a number of bids for goods and services needed by the county for the new fiscal year. Many times in the past the court has opened and reviewed bids at their regular June meeting, but tabled approval until a special session to allow more time for review and consideration. That was not the case this year, as the court voted to approve bids for all services advertised, and in several cases approved multiple bids for the same products in order to ensure they are getting the best price at any given time. One bid approved was for self loading, automatic stretcher systems for the county's ambulances. The bid approved was from “Striker” at just over $182,000 for units for six ambulances. That was slightly higher than another bid received, but EMS Director Jimmy Barnett noted that the service currently uses Striker products that work well, adding that purchasing from another company could involve having to replace some other existing equipment to make it all work together. He added that the cost will be covered using a Homeland Security grant received by the local ambulance service.

BLUE HERON LOOP HIKE TO BE HOSTED THIS WEEK
The Big South Fork park will be hosting a “healthy hike” on the Blue Heron Loop trail in McCreary County this Wednesday June 14th starting at 2:30pm. Participants should meet at the Blue Heron Interpretive Center, at the end of Kentucky Highway 742 west of Stearns. The four hour hike is a moderate 7 mile trek that will include climbing “Cracks in the Rocks”, and scenic views including the Devil's Jump rapid of the Big South Fork. You should dress appropriately for the weather and bring water and snacks for the four hour journey.

This is part of the GO BIG 2017 Challenge in the Big South Fork which allows participants to earn points for each activity they participate in with a chance to earn a challenge patch with 100 points by December of this year. For more on the challenge you can visit the park's website at www.nps.gov/biso or call the blue Heron Interpretive Center for information or directions on this Wednesday's hike at 376-3787.

 

COUNTY INCHING CLOSER TO RECALL VOTE ON SCHOOL “NICKEL TAX”
McCreary County voters could be moving closer to having the chance to vote on whether to keep or to recall the “nickel tax” increase recently approved by the local school board.
The McCreary County Voice reports that a committee of five citizens working over the past several weeks to gather signatures to prompt a recall vote have turned those petitions and signatures in this week. The committee is required to have signatures on petitions representing at least 10% of the votes cast in the last General Election, which was this past November when 5,893 locals voted. That means about 590 signatures are needed to call for the recall vote on the school board “nickel tax” which was approved by that board on April 27th. The Voice reports that more than 900 signatures were turned in to the county clerk, with the clerk's staff now going through the process of verifying those, including ensuring all are registered voters in McCreary County and that there are no duplicate signatures. If verified and certified with enough signatures, a special referendum vote would be called with 45 days of that certification. However, state law does give the school board the option of challenging the petitions in Circuit Court or voting to rescind their original vote to approve the “nickel tax” to avoid the special countywide vote. If the county does vote on the recall, the school board is responsible for paying the cost of the special election, which could top out at nearly $20,000.

McCREARY COUNTY PARK SETS REGULAR SPLASH PAD SUMMER HOURS
The McCreary County Park Board met earlier this week following the recent summer kick-off celebration at the park last Saturday. The park board has established regular summer days and hours for the new splash pads, which are ready for use by the public. The pads will be available from 12:00-3:00pm and from 5:00-8:00pm seven days a week, with the splash pads on a timer so they will automatically turn on and off for those set times, according to Melissa Vanover, Park Manager. The park has also recently opened some new playground equipment and outdoor basketball courts for public use.

FOREST SERVICE WAIVES NATURAL ARCH FEES SATURDAY JUNE 10TH
This Saturday, June 10th, is “National Get Outdoors Day” which is being recognized by the Stearns District of the Daniel Boone National Forest by waiving recreational fees at the Natural Arch Scenic Area. The normal fee required to park at and use the area will be waived this Saturday. Natural Arch includes several picnic shelters with grills and tables, play areas, hiking trails and a spectacular arch that spans nearly 100 feet with an overlook and panoramic view. The Natural Arch Scenic Area is located on Kentucky Highway 927 (Day Ridge Road) off US Highway 27 in northern McCreary County.

National Get Outdoors Day” was introduced in 2008 as a partnership of the US Forest Service and the American Recreation Coalition as a way of promoting the many outdoor recreational opportunities across the nation.

McCREARY MOUNTAIN CRAFT CENTER TO HOST “OLD SETTLERS' DAY”
The McCreary Mountain Craft Center will host a special event this Saturday June 10th with activities planned throughout the day. The “Old Settlers' Day” will include demonstrations on the traditions and life ways of our ancestors such as old time meals being prepared over an open fire, rag dolls being made, the use of primitive tools and traditional music. All of this will take place at the McCreary Mountain Craft Center, the 1800s era log cabin located on Highway 90 about seven miles east of Parkers Lake and about five miles west of Cumberland Falls in northern McCreary County. The craft center association invites everyone to attend the special event this Saturday June 10th.

 

McCREARY COUNTY MAN FACING FEDERAL CHILD PORN CHARGES
It has been a very eventful week for one McCreary County man who was arrested last Friday and is facing federal child pornography charges. 35 year old Donald A. Koger of Pine Knot was indicted on the counts, was arrested and then appeared in US District Court in London this past Monday. Koger entered a not guilty plea on five counts of producing sexually explicit content in Pulaski County and one count of possession of sexually explicit content involving a minor, with that offense allegedly taking place in McCreary County. An attorney was appointed to represent Koger and the not guilty plea was entered on Monday, before he was returned to custody in the Laurel County Correctional Center. Court records indicate that a tentative trial date has been set for August, pending any motions or orders before that time. As part of the federal investigation, a number of items were seized from Donald Koger, including a laptop computer, external hard drives, and a Smart phone. Listeners are reminded that an indictment against a suspect is a formal charge in a case, but is not a finding of guilt. If convicted, Koger could face between 15 and 30 years in prison for each of the first five counts and up to ten years on the other count.

KSP INVESTIGATING DOUBLE HOMICIDE WITH ARREST REPORTED
Kentucky State Police are continuing to investigate what appears to be a double homicide in neighboring Whitley County. Police say two bodies were discovered, dead from gunshot wounds, early Wednesday morning on Fred Nash Road just outside the Corbin city limits. The deceased have been identified as 47 year old Denver Nicely of Corbin and 28 year old Joshua Wernicke of Keavy, Kentucky. Both were sent to the State Medical Examiner's Office for full autopsies. Meanwhile, KSP reports the arrest of 47 year old Paul Parsons of Corbin on two counts of murder and burglary 1st degree. Parsons was lodged in the Whitley County Detention Center as the investigation continues by Kentucky State Police.

 

LEADERSHIP POSITIONS ANNOUNCED FOR SOME McCREARY SCHOOLS
As attention turns to preparing for the next school year in the McCreary County School District, announcements have been made regarding some leadership posts within the district and some local schools. Todd Waters has been named the new principal for McCreary County Middle School, set to take the position effected in July to prepare for the new school year. Waters was selected by the school's Site Based Decision Makking Council for the post, replacing former principal Clint Taylor, who took a position at the district office early this past school year. Rick Kenney had been filling the seat as interim principal but will now return to his job as an assistant principal at McCreary Central High School, where he was previously. Todd Waters was a teacher in Pulaski County for ten years before taking a job at McCreary Academy two years ago, when he also started as Head Coach for the high school Girl's softball and basketball teams. He will reportedly vacate all of those positions as he begins his new role as McCreary Middle principal.

Meanwhile, there was also speculation about who would fill the post as principal for Pine Knot Elementary School next year, as Pine Knot Primary and Pine Knot Intermediate consolidate as one school. The McCreary County Voice newspaper reports that officials have announced that Rebecca Blakely, who has been serving as the principal for the Intermediate school, will continue as principal in Pine Knot for grades preschool through 6th grade. Stuart Shepherd will reportedly move from his post at Pine Knot Primary as principal to the position of Director of Transportation for the school district.

McCREARY CENTRAL HIGH LISTED IN TOP 30% NATIONWIDE IN REPORT
The 2017 US News & World Report's ranking of high schools nationwide includes McCreary Central High School, according to an announcement made recently by school principal Sharon Privett. The report ranks high schools across the United States based on a number of factors, including test scores, and lists McCreary Central among 3,432 public high schools in the top 30% of the rankings. Mrs. Privett said in her announcement of the news that the success can be attributed, at least in part, to many academic initiatives that have been implemented in recent years, including dual credit programs, supportive instructional engagement, and expanding community and industry partnerships.

BIG SOUTH FORK TO OFFER TWO DAY EDUCATORS WORKSHOP
Educators within the region of the Big South Fork park are being invited to take part in a two day workshop next week. The sessions will teach educators basic photography concepts, how to teach photography to kids and how to link photography with other activities promoting environmental educational learning and creative expression. No photography experience is needed for educators wishing to participate in the workshops, to be held Monday June 12th from 10:00am to 5:00pm and Tuesday June 13th from 9:00am to 3:00pm. The sessions are free for educators and educational volunteers in the region and will be held at the Bandy Creek Interpretation and Education Building, located adjacent to the Bandy Creek Visitor Center in Oneida, Tennessee. Organizers ask that you register for the workshops no later than this Friday June 9th by contacting Veronica Greear at 423-346-6294.

 

SCOTT COUNTY, TN MAN DROWNS DURING WEEKEND FISHING TRIP
Authorities in Scott County, Tennessee have confirmed that a man drowned this past weekend at Flat Creek Reservoir during a fishing outing. 46 year old Roger Scott Wright of the Winona, Tennessee community was pulled from the waters early Sunday, after going under Saturday night. Emergency crews responded to the scene where they searched for several hours before locating and recovering the man's body. Wright was reportedly not wearing a life jacket and the seat in his boat was broken with investigators speculating that may have contributed to his falling in the water.
The drowning has been ruled as accidental by authorities in Scott County.

McCREARY COUNTY GRAND JURY RECORDS FAIRLY LIGHT SESSION
The McCreary County Grand Jury recorded a fairly light May session, with only five individuals indicted last month. We reported previously on the indictment of Grover Manning of Pine Knot on child pornography charges. In addition to Manning, Ashley Martin, aka Ashley Perkins, of Strunk was indicted for trafficking in a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia connected to methamphetamine and for being a persistent felony offender. Ronnie Hicks of Whitley City was indicted for tampering with physical evidence, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia and Brandon Stephens of Strunk was indicted for fleeing or evading police, operating a motor vehicle under the influence and burglary, as well as being a persistent felony offender. Tommy Daniels of Monticello was charged by the grand jury with flagrant non-support for more than $1,000. Listeners are reminded that an indictment by the grand jury is a formal charge in a case, and is not a finding of guilt.

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED FOR “EXTREME BUILD” IN McCREARY COUNTY
Extreme Build XII” is set for June 11th through 17th in McCreary County with volunteers still needed to help make the project a success. This year, local grandmother Kimberly Powell is the recipient of a new home for herself and her grandchildren. Volunteers will work during the week to build the home to provide a decent, safe place for the family to live. Volunteers can be skilled or unskilled in the field of building and do not have to commit to the whole week. For additional information on the project or to volunteer your time and effort, contact Scarlette Jasper, Rural Poverty Advocate, at 606-305-3134.

 

MISSING TEENS UPDATE IN McCREARY COUNTY
We reported last week on the search for missing teens in McCreary County. We have received word from family members of the teens that both did return home late Thursday, both apparently unharmed but tired and hungry. The search had continued for several days for Leslie Stephens and Christian Rose.

McCREARY COUNTY MAN INDICTED ON CHILD PORN CHARGES
The Pine Knot man arrested in April on charges related to the distribution of child pornography has been indicted by a grand jury. The McCreary County Grand Jury returned the indictment against Grover Manning during their May session. The indictment officially charges Manning with 13 counts of possession of matter portraying a sexual performance by a minor, or child pornography. An investigation into the alleged sharing of the child porn online led to the initial arrest of Manning. Each of the 13 counts is a Class D felony which could carry between one and five years in prison on each count if convicted. Listeners are reminded that a grand jury indictment is not a finding of guilt in a case, but is a formal charge against a suspect in a case.

BLAZIN' BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL TO HOST SPRING FEST THIS WEEKEND
The Blazin' Bluegrass Festival is held each September, but the organization also holds a Spring Fest each June as a way of promoting the main festival as well as raising funds for the fall festival. The Blazin' Bluegrass Spring Fest is set for this weekend running from Thursday June 8th through Saturday June 10th at Sandhill Camp on Highway 700 just east of Whitley City. The event will include an open jam session Thursday June 8th, and groups like Higher Tradition, Double Portion, Joyful Noise and others performing Friday and Saturday. There will be a painted rock hiding contest on Saturday with 1st, 2nd and 3rd place prizes awarded for those finding the rocks. In addition, there will be food and other activities throughout the weekend. Admission is $5 on Friday June 9th and $8 on Saturday June 10th or $10 for both days. For information on the Spring Fest or Blazin' Bluegrass contact Freddie Patrick at 606-310-1242 or Doris Slavey at 606-382-5005. You can also look up Blazin Bluegrass in the Big South Fork on Facebook or go to www.blazinbluegrass.com.

WOMAN HITS DECEASED BEAR WITH CAR IN PULASKI COUNTY
It is not just dogs, cats, or deer you have to watch for on the roadway to avoid hitting with your vehicle. A woman in Pulaski County learned that on Friday as she reportedly struck a bear with her car. Authorities say the bear was already deceased after apparently being hit by some other vehicle, possibly a large vehicle such as a semi truck. The woman was traveling on Kentucky Highway 80 in the early morning hours on Friday and reportedly did not notice the bear in the roadway until it was too late and her car struck the bear. The woman was not seriously injured but her vehicle did suffer major damage and had to be towed from the scene.

 

HEALTHY HIKE TO BE HELD AT YAHOO FALLS SUNDAY MORNING
The Big South Fork will offer a healthy hike option this Sunday June 11th starting at 11:00am from the Yahoo Falls parking area in McCreary County. The hike will take in the 1.2 mile loop trail around Yahoo Falls, Kentucky's tallest waterfall, and including scenic views of the area. This will be a ranger led hike and it is free of charge to participate. Dress for the weather and bring water to drink. Meet at the Yahoo Falls parking area, off Kentucky Highway 700 west of Whitley City, at 11:00am Sunday morning. For more information or directions call the Blue Heron Interpretive Center at 376-3787.

 

McCREARY COUNTY'S NEW BUSINESS LICENSE TO TAKE EFFECT JULY 1ST
The new business license requirement in McCreary County will go into effect in exactly one month on July 1st with businesses operating in the county required to have a license as of that date. Regular businesses in the county must obtain a license which must be displayed and transient businesses operating in or moving through the county are also required to be licensed. County leaders said at the time of the approval that the step was being taken, at least in part, as a way of tracking businesses in the county to ensure they are also registered with the tax administrator's office and are paying their fair share of the occupational tax. When first approved, county leaders set the license period for July through December with a new license to be obtained starting in January for a full year. However, that was changed by fiscal court so the license will be good for July through next June, running concurrent with the county's fiscal year.

There have been questions about how the business license will impact yard sales and others setting up at public locations selling items. The ordinance does not change anything for individuals having yard sales on their person property, unless they are doing a sale on a regular basis, when it may be considered a business by the county. Those setting up to sell at other sites would have to have permission from a business owner, who would have to have a business license through the county. For full details on the business license requirement, going into effect July 1st, contact Stephanie Tucker, McCreary County Tax Administrator at 376-1322 or e-mail stephanie@mccrearycounty.com or the Judge-Executive's office at 376-2413.

McCREARY CENTRAL RECOGNIZED AS “BETA SCHOOL OF MERIT”
McCreary Central High School has been recognized as a 2017 National Beta School of Merit by the National Beta Club. A letter announcing the award was sent to McCreary County Schools Superintendent Mike Cash recently stating that the recognition comes along with being publicized at the National Beta Convention to be held this month in Orlando, Florida. To qualify for the status, a school must offer Beta Club activities to all grades in the school and present a level of academic and leadership development and excellence, according to the award notice.

 

OFFICER INVOLVED WEEKEND SHOOTING IN ONEIDA, TN LEAVES MAN DEAD
This past Memorial Day weekend was anything but clam and peaceful in Oneida, Tennessee, as a police officer involved shooting was reported early Saturday morning. Police reports indicate that an attempted traffic stop turned deadly when the driver of the suspect car apparently refused to stop. Officers say they were able to remove a female passenger from the car, but the driver, identified as 30 year old Ron Harlan Lewallen of Georgia, refused to stop and allegedly drove toward officers. The officers fired shots into the vehicle and reportedly struck Lewallen who was pronounced dead at the scene. The investigation into the shooting remains under investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations.

McCREARY COUNTY OFFICIALS SEEKING FIRM FOR JAIL FEASIBILITY STUDY
After more than four years without a local jail, McCreary County officials are finally seeking outside help in determining the best option for moving forward on the issue. That issue has been draining the county's General Fund with rising inmate housing expenses and transportation costs, although Judge-Executive Doug Stephens has continued to maintain his position that the county is actually saving money over operating its own jail. During a recent fiscal court meeting, Magistrate Roger Phillips took the position that the county needed to contract with an outside, impartial firm to conduct a full feasibility study on the possibility of constructing and operating a new jail locally, as opposed to continuing with transporting inmates out of county for housing.

The McCreary County Fiscal Court is currently advertising for bids and proposals for the new fiscal year, set to begin July 1st, with one item on that list being proposals for a jail feasibility study. Proposals are due in to the Judge-Executive's Office no later than 4:00pm on Thursday June 8th, the date of the next regular court meeting at which it is expected the bids and proposals will be opened, reviewed and possibly considered for action. Additional information on the bid and proposal submission process can be obtained through the office by calling 376-2413 or by e-mailing Judge Stephens at dstephens@mccrearycounty.com.

Other services for which bids are being sought for the new fiscal year include hot mix asphalt, crushed stone and other products for the road department, as well as pest control services for county buildings and drug testing for county employees. The fiscal year runs from July 1st through June 30th.

 

McCREARY SCHOOL BOARD GIVES FINAL APPROVAL TO FACILITY PLAN
Meeting in regular session Thursday evening, the McCreary County Board of Education took up a number of items under their “Actions by Consent” section of their agenda. Included was final approval of the proposed District Facility Plan, which was presented to the school board for initial approval last month. The plan includes several phases of potential facility renovation and construction projects for the school district. Assistant Superintendent Aaron Anderson explained during a previous presentation on the plan that there is a good likelihood not all projects would be completed, as funding would not be available for all listed projects, but that projects can not even be considered if not on the facility plan for the next several years. The first phase, which would have to completed before moving on to any other projects, includes roof replacements for three local schools and renovations on older sections of school buildings.

The school board also approved their 2017-2018 revised salary schedule and the tentative 2017-2018 budget for the school district. The next regular meeting of the McCreary County Board of Education is set for Thursday June 22nd at 6:30pm at the board office in Stearns.

McCREARY COUNTY RECORDS LOWER JOBLESS RATE FOR APRIL
McCreary County was one of only 28 counties in Kentucky that saw a lower unemployment rate between April 2016 and April 2017. According to the latest numbers released last week by officials with the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training, the county's jobless rate dropped from 7.2% in April of last year to 6.7% in April of this year. That was also down from 7.7%, which was the rate recorded in March for McCreary County. Overall, 83 counties in the state saw higher jobless rates from last year to this, while 28 recorded lower rates and nine were unchanged. Kentucky's highest unemployment rate in April was in Magoffin County at 17.3% with the lowest rate in Woodford County at just 3.1%.

 

HIGHLAND TELEPHONE ANNOUNCES WINNERS OF ANNUAL SCHOLARSHIPS
The annual scholarship awards presented by Highland Telephone Cooperative have been awarded with one student from McCreary County on the list to receive $1,000 in assistance for their education after high school. Laura Duncan, a graduate of McCreary Central High School, was awarded a scholarship for the “354” exchange, while no students were listed for the “376” exchange in McCreary County. Each year, Highland Telephone accepts entries from area high school seniors who are judged and awarded the $1,000 scholarship to help as they further their education. The awards were officially presented to the graduates this week at the Highland Telephone main office in Sunbright, Tennessee.

 

KSP WARNING OF SOCIAL WORKER SCAM TARGETING McCREARY COUNTY
Kentucky State Police have issued a warning, aimed specifically at residents of McCreary County. They say they have had several complaints about residents being contacted, either by telephone or in person, by someone claiming to be a social worker attempting to obtain personal or financial information from the victim. The incidents were first reported last month and have apparently continued since that time. Authorities caution anyone who is contacted in this manner or by anyone seeking personal or financial account information to check them out and make sure they have from government credentials from a legitimate government agency. Anyone with information regarding this scam or related incidents is asked to report it to Kentucky State Police by calling the London post at 606-878-6622 or the toll free line at 1-800-222-5555. The investigation into this scam is continuing.

KENTUCKY COUNTY REJECTS “NICKEL TAX” FIRST IMPOSED IN 2014
As McCreary County awaits a possible vote on the “nickel tax” voted for recently by the local school board for 2017, another Kentucky county has rejected the tax in a vote this week. The Johnson County School Board first implemented the “nickel tax”, which represents a nickel on each $100 of assessed value, in 2014 and has had the tax in place each year since. This year, citizens there gathered enough signatures on a petition to prompt a recall vote which took place on Tuesday with the “no” votes outnumbering the “yes” votes by about 300. The final tally was 1,551 against the tax and 1,278 voting in favor. School officials said they had been receiving matching funds from the state each year the “nickel tax” had been in place and that the money was to be used for things like improving existing facilities, making sure all facilities are in compliance with ADA standards and building a new high school for Johnson County. In McCreary County, the process is reportedly continuing to gather the needed signatures to move toward a recall vote on the local “nickel tax” with a deadline approaching to submit those petitions to the county clerk. The committee heading that process has 45 days to do that from the date of the school board vote, which was April 27th.

 

SOMERSET MAN CHARGED IN FATAL CRASH THAT KILLED McCREARY MAN
A McCreary County man was killed and a Somerset man charged after a crash on US Highway 27 near Stearns this past Saturday. Kentucky State Police report that the collision happened at about 3:30pm when a 2008 Chevy Cobalt, driven by 37 year old Michael Crabtree of Somerset, apparently crossed the center line of the highway and struck a motorcycle head-on. That bike was operated by 55 year old Jimmy “Sam” Daugherty of Stearns. Daugherty's motorcycle then struck a 1997 Ford Focus driven by 36 year old Robert Jones of London, Kentucky. Daugherty, who police say was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash, was pronounced dead at the scene by the McCreary County Coroner's Office.

Jones was not injured, but Crabtree was airlifted from the scene to UT Medical Center in Knoxville for treatment of his injuries. Michael Crabtree was later released from the hospital and was then arrested and charged with manslaughter 2nd degree in connection with Saturday's fatal crash. He was lodged in the Knox County Detention Center in Knoxville, Tennessee, awaiting return to Kentucky to face the charges. Kentucky State Police are leading the investigation with assistance at the scene by the McCreary County Sheriff's Department, Coroner's Office, South McCreary Fire Department and Whitley City Fire Department.

Funeral services for Jimmy Dale “Sam” Daugherty were scheduled for today (Wednesday May 24th).

TOURISM OFFICIALS RELEASE IMPACT NUMBERS FOR YAMACRAW RUN
The Yamacraw Run trail races have become an annual event, held each April in McCreary County along the various trails in the Big South Fork, Daniel Boone National Forest and along the Sheltowee Trace National Trail. The McCreary County Tourist Commission has now released a report detailing economic impact numbers for the 2017 race, which was held last month. The report takes into account the 580 racers for the event, most of whom, the tourist commission reports, brought others with them for support for the weekend event. Based on those numbers, and a formula applied by state tourism officials, the economic impact number released from that one event is $152,000 for McCreary County. The tourist commission adds that this does not include the direct impact on lodging facilities seen that weekend and that based on their surveys of local lodging properties, $13,210 was realized that weekend directly from the event for lodging. That would bring the total local economic impact of the race this year to just over $165,000. A press release from the local tourism office states that the tourist commission receives about $20,000 annually from the transient tax, paid by those staying at lodging facilities in the county. That money is used primarily for the promotion of the county and coordination of events aimed at drawing people to the county. Out of that budget, tourism spent about $2,000 sponsoring the Yamacraw Run this year. The tourism office also employs a part time administrative assistant, who works as a county employee at a pay rate of $10 per hour for up to 24 hours a week and no benefits.

 

McCREARY MAN JAILED ON CHARGES INCLUDING DRUG TRAFFICKING
A McCreary County man was jailed late Sunday night on a long list of charges, including drug offenses. 40 year old Eddie Mobley was picked up and transported to the Leslie County Detention Center where he was booked on charges including trafficking in a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, prescription drugs not in proper container, and driving under the influence. Mobley was also charged with a number of traffic violations.

TRUMP'S 2018 BUDGET PLAN TO INCLUDE CUTS TO FOOD STAMPS, MEDICAID
President Donald Trump is expected to officially release his first budget proposal today (Tuesday May 23rd) for Fiscal Year 2018, which would go into effect this October for the federal government. Sources cite White House officials as saying that the budget plan includes major cuts to programs like food stamps and Medicaid, aimed at helping low income Americans. The budget would reportedly slash $193 billion from food stamps over the next ten years, a cut of more than 25% according to experts. In addition, the budget would cut money for Medicaid, federal employee pensions, welfare benefits and farm subsidies. Many of the cuts, especially to food stamps and Medicaid, would be made by cutting back on eligibility and by imposing new work requirements for recipients. The budget, of course, would be subject to Congressional approval, with many in Congress already vowing to make changes to Trump's proposal.

 

TWO WINFIELD, TN RESIDENTS KILLED IN FRIDAY MORNING WRECK
A Friday morning wreck in Winfield, Tennessee claimed the lives of two people and stalled traffic as crews worked to clear and investigate the scene. Authorities say it happened near the Highway 27-Pine Grove Road junction when 28 year old Jeffrey Maney of Winfield apparently crossed the center line in his 2010 Nissan Sentra and struck a 2013 Kia Optima, driven by 60 year old Margaret (Gayle) Bridges, also of Winfield. Both were pronounced dead at the scene. Witnesses reportedly told investigators that Maney may have been trying to pass another vehicle when the collision happened. Neither deceased was wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident, which happened just before 10:00am Friday morning.

McCREARY COUNTY STUDENT WINS 2017 PRIDE T-SHIRT DESIGN CONTEST
2017 marks twenty years of service for the region by the Eastern Kentucky PRIDE program and to commemorate the anniversary, the program held a design contest for students across southern and eastern Kentucky. US Congressman Hal Rogers announced late last week that a McCreary County student had won that design competition and that her design was used on the 2017 PRIDE t-shirts given to volunteers during the spring cleanup campaign. Pine Knot Intermediate School 6
th grader Caroline Richmond was the winning designer for the contest with her artwork, which inspired the t-shirt design featuring a smart phone and a clean environment with the theme “Times Change and PRIDE Grows”. Congressman Rogers presented Caroline with a framed t-shirt and award during a presentation that included local school officials. Caroline Richmond is the daughter of Ann and Brock Richmond.

 

McCREARY COUNTY WATER DISTRICT RECOGNIZED BY STATE AGENCY
The McCreary County Water District was recognized this week by the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet for meeting their goals set forth by the Kentucky Area Wide Optimization Program for 2016. The local water district is among a total of 36 water treatment plants and facilities to be recognized for the accomplishment in the past calendar year. The multi-state initiative is administered through the US Environmental Protection Agency and is aimed at encouraging drinking water systems to achieve optimization goals that are more stringent than the regulations in place. Kentucky is one of 26 states to participate in that program.

The McCreary County Water District Plant B was awarded certification for meeting or exceeding their goals through the program. Other water districts in the region included on the list were the Laurel County Water District Number 2, Barbourville Water and Electric, and the Williamsburg Water Department. Additional information on the program can be found on the EPA website at www.epa.gov.

 

FUNERAL SERVICES SET FOR MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT WILBURN K ROSS
We reported previously on the passing of Congressional Medal of Honor recipient and McCreary County native Wilburn K Ross. Funeral arrangements have been set and announced for the local hero with services to be held this evening at 5:00pm in Lakewood, Washington, the state that Ross had called home for many years. Graveside burial services are scheduled for Thursday (May 18th) at 12:30pm in the Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent, Washington. The local Charles E Moore VFW Post 5127 placed American flags throughout downtown Whitley City in honor of Wilburn K Ross and his heroic service and those flags are set to remain in place through Thursday May 18th, when Ross will be laid to rest. Wilburn K Ross was born in McCreary County on May 12, 1922 and passed away in Washington state on May 9, 2017 at the age of 94.

McCREARY CENTRAL STUDENT WINS 3RD PLACE IN ART CONTEST
Each year, high school students from across the 5th Congressional District in southern and eastern Kentucky compete in the Congressional Art Contest. This year, US Congressman Hal Rogers has announced that a McCreary Central sophomore won third place in the contest with her artwork titled “Sunshine”, featuring a woman dancing in a blue dress with bright colorful spots under her feet. Emilie Loudermilk was the artist selected for her work and she is the daughter of Tony and Madonna Loudermilk. The 5th District Art Contest was won by Somerset Christian School student Yedarm Lee with Corbin High School student Ariel Cline picking up second place, followed by Emilie Loudermilk from McCreary Central in third place. The winning artwork will be displayed for one year at the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC and all artists receive a Congressional Certificate of Recognition and a letter from Congressman Rogers.

McCREARY COUNTY LEADERS DISCUSS GARBAGE DISPOSAL NEGOTIATIONS
McCreary County is now nearly five months into a one year extension on the garbage disposal franchise agreement with Scott Solid Waste, which went into effect January 1st. After failing to reach a new deal or find more than one interested company to bid on garbage disposal in the county last year, Scott Solid Waste agreed to continue its previous rates for customers for one more year with a few changes to the franchise agreement. Those changes included Scott Solid Waste shutting down its local office and ceasing operations at the transfer station in Stearns, leaving the county to operate that facility.

The current deal between the company and county government will expire at the end of this calendar year and some county leaders want to make sure that action is taken early enough to ensure a good deal for all involved. Magistrate Roger Phillips raised the issue during this month's regular meeting of the McCreary County Fiscal Court, held last week, saying that he wants to see some action taken before the end of August. Judge-Executive Doug Stephens said it will require drafting and approving a new ordinance for solid waste disposal as well as negotiating with Scott Solid Waste and possible advertising for proposals from any other interested companies. The court authorized Judge Stephens and Magistrate Jason Mann, who also serves on the county's 109 Solid Waste Board, to begin discussions and negotiations with Scott Solid Waste for a new deal. In the meantime, a new ordinance will be drafted spelling out what would be expected of citizens, county government and the disposal company. Leaders expect to have a first reading of that ordinance by July with the second reading and final passage coming in August.

The transfer station in Stearns remains open, being operated by county employees, Tuesday through Friday from 8:00am to 4:00pm and the first Saturday of each month from 8:00am to 12noon. For additional information contact the Judge-Executive's office at 376-2413.

 

RETRIAL FOR FORMER McCREARY COACH FOR “SEXTING” DELAYED
We reported last week on the retrial of former McCreary Central coach and teacher Toby Curry on “sexting” charges involving an underage female student. The second trial in the case, after his previous conviction was set aside last year, was set to start last week in Whitley County Circuit Court. However, the trial did not begin and the case has been continued with a pretrial conference scheduled for June 5th in Whitley County Circuit Court. Curry was accused of texting with a student with the alleged intention of engaging in a sexual relationship with her.

McCREARY COUNTY OFFICIALS LOOK TO REVAMP REVOLVING LOANS
The revolving loan program sponsored by McCreary County Fiscal Court has had many issues through the years including lack of adequate paperwork, lack of collateral to back up loans, loan recipients failing to pay back loans and more. Recently, the county has taken steps to renegotiate loans with recipients and has gotten several to start making payments. During this time, no new loans have been awarded and the program has essentially been on hold. Last week, during the regular meeting of the McCreary County Fiscal Court, Magistrate Roger Phillips said he has had several local businesses contact him with interest in pursuing a loan through the county. During the meeting, a motion was approved to appoint a committee consisting of Judge-Executive Doug Stephens, Deputy Judge and Finance Officer Randy Jones, Magistrate Leroy “OL” Perry and Treasurer Mark Sewell to begin looking at ways to revamp the program. They will review how to open the program to new loan applicants. Magistrate Phillips said he believes the county should not take on loans where they are a second lien holder and should look to avoid some of the mistakes of the past with the program. Judge Stephens has said he thinks the program should be used for smaller loans, possibly in the range of $5,000 to $10,000, rather than larger loan amounts. Some of the delinquent loan recipients from the past have had outstanding balances as high as $25,000 and more. More information on the revolving loan program, which is funded using USDA grant funding, can be obtained through the Judge-Executive's Office.

 

McCREARY AMBULANCE SERVICE UTILIZING $190,000 GRANT
The McCreary County Ambulance Service was once again award a grant through the Assistance Firefighters Grant program. According to EMS Director Jimmy Barnett, the grant is generally limited to fire departments with only about 5% of ambulance services getting an award. He said, during last week's regular meeting of the McCreary County Fiscal Court, that this is the third time in six years that the local service has been selected to receive the grant. This year, the award was in the amount of $190,000 with a match of only $9,500 required from the service. That money is coming from a dedicated grant fund with no funds coming directly from the county's General Fund. The grant is being used to outfit all local ambulances with self loading systems, meaning that patients are loaded into the ambulance by the system, rather than by EMTs and paramedics having to lift patients into the trucks. Barnett said that prevents injuries to staff and makes the process much safer and easier. Fiscal court voted this month to begin the bidding process to purchase the systems using the grant funding.

 

McCREARY COUNTY'S OWN WILBURN K ROSS DIES AT AGE 94
Today (May 12th) would have been the 95th birthday for Wilburn K Ross, but the McCreary County native and Medal of Honor recipient passed away this week at the age of 94. Ross died in Washington state where he had lived for many years on Tuesday May 9th, just days before what would have been his 95th birthday.

Wilburn K Ross was born in Strunk, Kentucky on May 12, 1922 and started working in the coal mines locally at the age of 18, before joining the US Army in 1942 at the age of 20 during World War II. In October 1944, Ross was serving in France manning a machine gun when his unit came under heavy German attack. Even after his supporting riflemen had run out of ammunition and many in his unit had been killed, Ross continued the fight and held off the enemy attack for hours. Because of his bravery and valor under fire, Wilburn Ross was awarded the Medal of Honor in April 1945. He continued his Army career, serving in the Korean War, and eventually retiring as a Master Sergeant.

Dupont, Washington, where Ross had lived for years, dedicated a park in his honor, and locally a section of Highway 92 in Stearns is named the “Wilburn K Ross Highway” in his honor. Ross died this week at the age of 94 and would have been 95 today (May 12th).

McCREARY COUNTY LEADERS PREPARING FOR FISCAL YEAR 2017-2018
Meeting in regular session Thursday evening, the McCreary County Fiscal Court began setting the stage for fiscal year 2017-2018, which will begin in just a few weeks. The court first voted to adopt the new year's salary schedule, which spells out the pay and benefits for each county employee, full and part time. It was noted that the only change over the current year was slight adjustments in retirement benefit amounts and insurance had increased slightly. The hourly wage and overall pay for employees was unchanged. The court then approved the first reading of the budget for 2017-2018, with Judge Executive Doug Stephens saying it was very similar to the current year's budget except for a few things the county was able to trim including no longer having to make quarterly payments on its Ten Commandments lawsuit, since that has now been paid off. The budget must still undergo a second reading, which comes after the state reviews it for any needed changes. That final passage will come next month with the new budget to go into effect July 1st. The fiscal court also voted to authorize advertising for bids for goods and services for the new fiscal year. The court will accept bids which will be opened and awarded next month. Magistrate Roger Phillips asked if the feasibility study he called for, with which the court agreed, on the local jail situation is included in the bids to be sought. Judge Stephens confirmed that it would be included and qualified parties would be sought to do the study which should tell county leaders the costs and pros and cons of potentially building a new jail versus continuing with transporting inmates to other counties.

Another issue dealt with this week by the court in preparation of the new fiscal year was amendments to the new business license permit ordinance, set to go into effect July 1st. Magistrate Roger Phillips moved for two changes, including changing the term of the license to July 1st through June 30th each year. Initially, the ordinance called for the license to be for July through December the first year, then January through December each year after. Tax Administrator Stephanie Tucker agreed with the change saying now people, or businesses, will file their taxes for the year and she will then have a better idea who should have a license starting July 1st. The other change involved a clause stating that occupational tax revenue could not be collected and the business license not required during events sponsored by county government, including tourism events. Magistrate Phillips used the example of the various trail races, such as Yamacraw Run, in which a private for-profit entity makes money but pays no local tax because of the clause. He moved, with initial approval from the court, that the ordinance be changed to include those types of events. The changes will still require a second reading, likely to come in June, before the ordinance goes into effect July 1st. As a side note, Tucker said more than eighty (80) businesses had already obtained their business license permit in anticipation of the new regulation.

The next regular meeting of the McCreary County Fiscal Court is scheduled for Thursday June 8th at 6:00pm.

 

PULASKI COUNTY MAN CHARGED WITH ATTEMPTED MURDER IN STABBING
A Pulaski County man found himself behind bars this week, charged with attempted murder after he allegedly stabbed another man in the neck. Police say it happened Monday on Caney Branch Road in Pulaski County when Ryan Wade reportedly went to a residence and may have been asking about a woman when he allegedly pulled a weapon and stabbed the victim multiple times around the face and in the neck, injuries which were serious and could have been life threatening. Wade's girlfriend apparently told investigators he acted in self defense, but other witnesses reportedly disputed that claim. Ryan Wade was arrested and was charged with attempted murder and other charges. Police also say he kicked a deputy in the face as he resisted arrest. The case remains under investigation and the suspect was booked in the Pulaski County Detention Center.

KENTUCKY TOURISM OFFICIALS ANNOUNCE INCREASE IN ECONOMIC IMPACT
Officials with the Kentucky Department of Tourism, part of the state's Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, announced the 2016 economic impact numbers for tourism for the state, regions and county-by-county. The numbers show an increase in economic impact statewide from $13.7 billion in 2015 to $14.5 billion in 2016. Nearly 193,000 tourism related jobs were reported in Kentucky last year, generating more than $1.5 billion in tax revenue, according to the data released this week. Each of the state's nine tourism regions also registered impact gains in 2016 over the previous year.

McCreary County is in the ten county Southern Shorelines region for tourism reporting, with the region seeing an economic impact gain of about $26 million in total spending, increasing from just over $335 million in 2015 to more than $361 million in 2016. McCreary County's total tourism spending rose from about $7.4 million to more than $8 million, with direct tourism spending also increasing from $4.7 million in 2015 to $5.1 million in 2016 locally. While that does represent a strong gain in economic impact from tourism locally, McCreary County still shows the third lowest level of tourism spending of all counties in the ten county region, ahead of only Green County and Casey County. Pulaski County recorded the largest tourism impact numbers at more than $132 million in total tourism spending last year.

The report also records the number of tourism related jobs by county, with McCreary County listed with 992 jobs in 2016, up from 915 in 2015. A total of more than 9,000 tourism industry related jobs were recorded for the ten county Southern Shorelines region.

The full tourism impact report for 2016 is available online at www.kentuckytourism.com/industry.

 

PETITION FOR RECALL VOTE ON “NICKEL TAX” NOW BEING CIRCULATED
As of Monday May 8th, a petition seeking signatures of voters in McCreary County to call for a special vote on whether to allow or recall the “nickel tax” increase by the local school board is being circulated. McCreary County Clerk Eric Haynes confirmed Monday morning he expected an affidavit to be submitted to his office that day from a committee of citizens seeking the special vote and social media posts later in the day confirmed that the signature gathering on the petitions had begun. This stems from the vote nearly two weeks ago by the McCreary County Board of Education to raise the school tax on real and personal property at a rate higher than the maximum 4 cents per $100, also known as a “nickel tax” increase.

Under Kentucky Revised Statute (KRS) 132.017, such a tax increase is subject to a recall vote by citizens after a committee submits an affidavit to the county clerk and collects the signatures of at least 10% of the number who voted in the last General Election in the county. The petition must be submitted according to law within forty-five days of the vote by the school board and would then be subject to verification by the county clerk and his staff. Law states that each sheet of the petition shall include signatures from registered voters in one precinct only, meaning a sheet would need to be submitted for each precinct in which signatures are gathered, and should include the signature, printed name, street address, and either Social Security number or birth date of each person signing.

If a petition is submitted to the county clerk within the appropriate time line and is verified with the needed signatures, that will prompt a special vote by citizens of McCreary County who will select that they are either in favor or against the “nickel tax” increase by the school board. Law states that the special vote can take place during a regular election, however with no regular elections on tap in 2017 it would require a special election to decide the issue. The local school board, under law, does have the option of rescinding or changing its vote to avoid the special vote and the tax increase if they so choose. A special election on the issue would have to be paid for by the entity calling for the tax increase, in this case the local school board, and that cost could be several thousand dollars.

In terms of timing for a potential special “nickel tax” vote, once a petition is submitted to the county clerk, state law gives him up to thirty days to official certify the petition, after which a special vote must be scheduled between thirty-five and forty-five days.

School officials have said that the tax hike was necessary to allow the local district to receive 3 to 1 dollars from the state to go in the district's building fund and to allow the district to increase its bonding, or borrowing, capacity from about $1 million to $13 million. All of this so projects such as roof replacements and renovations for some local schools can proceed as part of the school district's overall district facility plan. A public hearing on that plan is slated for Thursday May 25th at 6:00pm, just prior to the next regular school board meeting that date at 6:30pm.

 

McCREARY COUNTY LIBRARIAN AWARDED 2017 SERVICE AWARD
The Kentucky Public Library Association hosted their spring 2017 conference last month where they presented a number of special awards. Among those was the 2017 Outstanding Public Library Service Award, which was presented to McCreary County Library Director Kay Morrow. She was recognized for her outstanding achievements in providing library service to the people of McCreary County and Kentucky. According to the association website, the purpose of the annual award is to recognize the contribution of an administrator whose career has exemplified a combination of excellence in local service with promotion of libraries on a regional or broader basis. Kay Morrow has now been serving as director of the McCreary County Public Library for more than forty years and has also remained active in many civic projects through the years.

 

TWO DEAD IN FRIDAY NIGHT TRAFFIC CRASH IN McCREARY COUNTY
Two McCreary County residents are dead and a third seriously injured after a Friday night traffic crash. Kentucky State Police report that the three vehicle crash happened on US Highway 27 north of Whitley City at about 11:30pm Friday night when a 2000 Ford Focus, driven by 36 year old Glenn Hamilton of Whitley City, crossed the center line and struck a 2002 Ford Taurus head on. That car was driven by 63 year old Norma Ross of Whitley City. A 2002 Dodge Intrepid, driven by 26 year old Brandon Lannum of Canmer, Kentucky, then reportedly struck the Ford Taurus. Pronounced dead at the scene by the McCreary Country Coroner's Office were Glenn Hamilton and Norma Ross, the drivers of the first two vehicles involved in the collision. Lannum was reportedly not injured. A passenger one of the vehicles, identified as 58 year old Bronica Howard of Whitley City, was airlifted from the scene to the UK Medical Center in Lexington in critical condition. The Kentucky State Police are leading the investigating into Friday night's fatal accident with assistance at the scene from the McCreary County Sheriff's Department, Coroner's Office, McCreary County EMS, North McCreary Fire Department and Whitley City Fire Department.

COUNTDOWN IS ON TO CANDIDATE FILINGS FOR THE 2018 ELECTIONS
In exactly six months from today, on November 8, 2017, candidates can begin filing into the McCreary County Clerk's Office in order to file to run for public, elected offices in the 2018 election cycle. Candidate filings will continue for nearly three months, from November 8th through January 30, 2018 for a great number of public offices that will appear on the ballot next year in the May primary and November General Election. Among the races next year will be all US House of Representative members and all state representatives, all of whom serve two year terms. In addition, the Kentucky Senate seats for even numbered districts will be on the ballot in 2018, including District 16 which includes McCreary County. District Judges, who serve four year terms, will be on the ballot including the two seats serving McCreary and Whitley Counties, along with the position of Commonwealth's Attorney. The office of Circuit Clerk will also be up for grabs next year, a position that serves a six year term and was last on the ballot in 2012. In addition, all county offices will be up for election, including district posts like constable and magistrate, as well as countywide positions such as judge-executive, sheriff, jailer/transport officer, coroner, PVA, and county clerk. Locally, two McCreary County school board seats will be on the ballot in 2018, including for districts served by Brandon Kidd and Rhonda Armijo, although since school board races are not on the ballot until November next year the filing for those posts will begin later in 2018 and not at the same time as other candidate filings. It should be noted that any candidate opting to run as an Independent, rather than Democrat or Republican, and those who may file as a write-in, have additional time to file as a candidate. There are no regular elections on tap in 2017, but again filing for 2018 races will begin in exactly six months, on November 8, 2017.

 

WAYNE COUNTY MAN CHARGED AFTER SCHOOL PLACED ON LOCKDOWN
A Wayne County school was placed on lockdown this week after gunshots were reportedly heard being fired near the school. Monticello Elementary was on lockdown while law enforcement officers responded and investigated the incident. 27 year old Tommy Craig of Monticello was arrested for the incident and charged with wanton endangerment. The investigation continues by police.

McCREARY COUNTY MAN ARRESTED IN ONEIDA ON DRUG CHARGES
The Oneida City Police Department in Scott County, Tennessee reports that arrest last week of a young McCreary County man on drug related charges. It began with a traffic stop in which 23 year old Justen L. Sloane of Pine Knot was allegedly found to be in possession of a marijuana pipe, scales, a quantity of marijuana, and more than $2,000 in cash. Sloane was arrested and charged with possession of a schedule VI controlled substance (marijuana) for resale and possession of drug paraphernalia. Because the vehicle was reportedly close to a school, Sloane was also charged with violation of the Drug Free School Zone law.

OFFICIALS SAY HOSPITAL IN ONEIDA STILL ON TRACK FOR 2017 OPENING
Many people across the region are waiting to see when the hospital in Oneida, Tennessee will reopen. This after Rennova Health, Inc. purchased the facility and announced it was accepting applications for a number of positions at the hospital, which has now been named Big South Fork Medical Center. Officials close to the project announced last week that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had completed its review of the application for participation in those programs by the hospital, something that would be necessary in order for the facility to bill for services provided to patients on Medicare or Medicaid, which includes much of the region's population. The center has reportedly recommended to state officials and regional officials that the application be approved, but a site visit or survey must still be completed before final approval is given. Officials say they expect Big South Fork Medical Center, the hospital in Oneida, to open with some services offered in the second quarter of 2017, which would mean before June 30th, with full operations open during the third quarter, which runs July 1st through September 30th.

McCREARY SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT PRESENTS TWO AWARDS FOR APRIL
Continuing the practice of recognizing staff within the McCreary County School District for excellent service to students and the schools, Superintendent Mike Cash presented awards to two staff members during the regular April meeting of the school board last week. First to be recognized was Melinda Higginbotham, a cook at McCreary Middle School, who Cash said is an outstanding member of the school staff who helps the kids she serves daily. Jeff Terry, the school district technology director, was also presented an award by Cash for his dedicated work putting the local district at the forefront of technology and the latest advances. Terry said there are 2400 computers in the district that he and his staff maintain, along with 1800 wireless devices. The district is reportedly working to move to an all wireless ability in the near future and is working to outfit schools with chrome books with a goal of having one for use by each student.

 

McCREARY COUNTY GRAND JURY RETURNS 11 APRIL INDICTMENTS
The April session of the McCreary County Grand Jury resulted in nearly a dozen individuals being indicted on a variety of charges. Topping the list was 22 year old Nathan Hamby of Winfield, Tennessee, indicted locally for use of a minor in a sexual performance with a victim under age 12, prohibited use of electronic communications to procure a minor to engage in sexual performance, distribution of obscene matter to a minor and sexual abuse 1st degree. All of this allegedly involved a victim who was 11 years old at the time of the offenses this past February.

Also indicted this past month were Scott Navarro of Pine Knot for driving under the influence and wanton endangerment; Billy Goodin of Sawyer for driving under the influence, receiving stolen property, possession of drug paraphernalia, and tampering with physical evidence; Helen Aston of Oneida, Tennessee for driving under the influence, wanton endangerment and criminal mischief; and Randall New of Whitley City for tampering with prisoner monitoring device for allegedly removing his electronic monitoring device intentionally.

Also indicted were Jennifer Claxton of Whitley City and Eddie Dean Phillips of Pine Knot on charges of receiving stolen property; Bennie Smith of Whitley City for failure to comply with sex offender registration; Tyler Richmond of Pine Knot for assault 1st degree and being a persistent felony offender; Jason Sutton of Williamsburg for driving under the influences, fleeing or evading police, resisting arrest, and criminal mischief; and Billy Slaven of Murfreesboro for bail jumping.

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.

KENTUCKY HIGHWAY FATALITIES INCREASE, HIGHEST IN TEN YEARS
The Kentucky Office of Highway Safety announced last week that the state's number of highway fatalities increased in 2016 over the previous year, and all years for the past decade. The number of 2016 highway fatalities statewide was listed at 834, which was up by 73 over 2015 when the number was 761. The last time an annual fatality report was higher than the 2016 number was in 2007 when it was 864. The number of deaths on Kentucky's highways continued to drop over a number of years before beginning to increase again. Officials blame a number of factors on the increase in highway fatalities including a reduction in the number of people wearing seat belts and distracted driving. The data shows that 50.9% of those killed in traffic crashes in the state last year were not wearing a seat belt and nearly 17% of the deaths involved alcohol. Motorcyclists accounted for 90 fatalities with 60% of those not wearing a helmet of the time of their crash. The numbers for 2017 so far show that there have been 210 traffic fatalities in Kentucky to date, which is down from 226 for the same period in 2016. The numbers were compiled and released by the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety using information from law enforcement across the state.

MCHS FORESTRY TEAM WINS STATE TITLE, MOVING ON TO NATIONALS
It was recently announced that the McCreary Central High School Forestry team has won the 2017 Kentucky FFA State Forestry Judging Championship. The team that won the high honors will advance to the National Competition to be held in Indianapolis, Indiana this coming October. On the team that won the state title were Brandon Spradlin, TJ Privett, Allison Perry, Austin Tucker and Jonah Starrett, with TJ Privett winning the highest score in the state for an individual and Austin Tucker winning the second highest score. The McCreary Central High School FFA and Forestry department is under the leadership of Cameron Lee.

 

KENTUCKY AUDITOR RELEASES 2015 REPORT ON McCREARY SHERIFF
The Kentucky Auditor's Office has released its report and findings on the 2015 tax settlement for the McCreary County Sheriff's Department. The department works on a calendar year running January through December, rather than the July through June fiscal year seen by most of county government. The 2015 audit shows a nearly clean report with only one item of concern listed, something that is seen in almost every audit for small government offices. The auditor states that the local sheriff's office “lacks an adequate segregation of duties over all accounting functions.” This means that ideally separate staff members would handle money and perform various tasks within the office and accounting, however the audit does states that a limited budget for the department has restricted the number of employees available, making that task nearly impossible. No other issues were noted in the 2015 tax settlement audit for the McCreary County Sheriff's Department, which is responsible for property tax collections for the county, along with law enforcement and other duties assigned by the courts and county government. Most funding for the sheriff's department comes from their collection fees for taxes and other services, with three deputies currently funded by McCreary County Fiscal Court from their General Fund.

McCREARY COUNTY SCHOOL GIVES NOD TO DISTRICT FACILITY PLAN
Every four years, the McCreary County School District undergoes the process of developing a new district facility plan to look at improvements and changes needed in the school facilities and buildings. Assistant Superintendent Aaron Anderson outlined that process last Thursday during the regular school board meeting, saying that a committee of twenty individuals was put together to begin that process. That committee included local school officials, parents, county leaders and others. An architect and engineer were hired to examine all school facilities in the county and make recommendations, which were then forwarded to the committee and to the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE). KDE then approved of the recommendations which became the draft district facility plan which came before the school board for approval Thursday night. That plan includes a first phase, which Anderson noted would have to be fully completed before moving on to other sections of the plan. That first phase includes the critical projects of renovations and additions for the McCreary County Middle School; new roof and renovations at Pine Knot Primary School; and renovations and new roof on the older section of McCreary Central High School.

Anderson also noted that all of this is to move in the direction of organizing local schools with two elementary schools with preschool through 5th grade, middle school 6th through 8th grade, and high school 9th through 12th grade. That is something being pushed by KDE, according to Anderson, not something that is being pushed by local officials. He said that money does not exist currently to complete these projects, but the approval of the “nickel tax” will allow the school district to significantly increase their borrowing capacity to possibly finance such building projects.

The district facility plan was given approval Thursday by the school board with a public hearing on the plan set for Thursday May 25th at 6:00pm, just prior to the regular school board meeting.

 

TANKER TRUCK SPILL CLOSES HIGHWAY 92 FOR NEARLY 24 HOURS
We reported Friday on a tanker truck spill on Highway 92 in McCreary County, near the Whitley County line, in the Holly Hill area. The spill was first reported to McCreary 911 at about 11:00pm Thursday night with crews responding to the scene, closing the highway to all traffic and working to clear the area. Officials say about 8,500 gallons of gasoline spilled onto the ground and into a nearby stream. Haz-Mat was called to scene, along with the Kentucky Fire Marshall's office, Kentucky State Police, McCreary County Emergency Management and others. Highway 92 remained closed for nearly twenty four hours, as we are told the road did not open fully to traffic until Friday evening. The driver of the truck was reportedly transported to the hospital for treatment, but the exact extent of his injuries was not known at last report.

McCREARY CENTRAL HIGH JUNIOR ROTC PROGRAM REPORTS BUSY WEEK
This past week has been busy for those involved with the McCreary Central High School Junior ROTC program. First, the program hosted its annual Military Ball last Saturday April 22nd, then underwent Command Inspection on Wednesday April 26th. During that inspection, the school reports that the program was awarded a “Gold Star” rating, which for Junior ROTC programs means “Honor Unit with Distinction” and is the highest grade that can be received by such a program from inspection. The Junior ROTC program was initiated in 1978 when the new consolidated McCreary Central High School opened, meaning the school and the program are nearing their 40th anniversaries.

 

McCREARY COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD VOTES ON “NICKEL TAX” PROPOSAL
Meeting in regular session Thursday evening, the McCreary County Board of Education voted on the proposed “nickel tax” proposal, which has been publicized heavily in recent weeks. The proposal would increase the school tax on real and personal property from 41.9 cents to 47.7 cents per $100 assessed value. Before voting, Superintendent Mike Cash made a few points on the issue, first stating it should be noted that the increase is not a nickel per dollar or a 5% increase, but is actually a nickel per $100. He said that according to the PVA's office, the average property assessment in McCreary County is just over $29,000, on which the owner would pay an additional $14 per year under the proposal. Cash also explained the reason behind needing the tax increase, stating that currently the school district can take advantage of what is known as “equalization”, which means those districts that have fewer resources can share in state funding to help with building projects. This means for every $1 the local district raises through a tax increase, the state will provide $3 for such projects. He also said that approving the increase would allow the school district to increase its bonding, or borrowing, capacity for building projects from the current $1 million cap all the way to $13 million.

Following all discussion, and at the very end of a meeting that had lasted nearly three hours, not to mention a public tax hearing preceding it, the school board voted unanimously to approve the “nickel tax” increase. It should be noted that the tax hike is, under state law, still subject to a potential recall vote by the citizens of McCreary County. There is still time before the tax hike would actually hit the wallet or pocket book of local citizens, as the tax increase would go into effect with the issuing of the 2017 property tax bills, likely to be in September.

SCHOOL DISTRICT FACILITY PLAN DRIVES NICKEL TAX APPROVAL
Some may question why the McCreary County School District needs to raise the school tax on property. In fact, during the public tax hearing Thursday evening, the only citizen to address the local school board was Darlene Price, who hurled a series of questions at the board, none of which dealt directly with the tax, but skirted around the issue. For example, Price questioned whether the school district is sitting on a $1.7 million surplus, and if so why are they raising taxes. Later in the regular board meeting, before voting on the tax issue, the question was answered by Finance Officer Michelle King who said the district has a 5% contingency set aside in its budget, something she said is common practice. She noted that the state requires at least 2% and that many districts prefer to have 10% on hand, in case of special projects or emergencies. Mike Cash, Schools Superintendent, said the district currently has about $1.4 million on hand and is expecting to end the school and fiscal year with about $800,000.

In reality, school officials say the “nickel tax” increase is being implemented in large part due to the availability of state dollars, with the state offering $3 to every $1 from the local tax, and the fact that the district can increase its borrowing capacity for building projects from $1 million to $13 million. The school district facility plan seems to be driving the tax hike, with officials noting that an engineer recently conducted a survey of all school facilities, returned recommendations, and the Kentucky Department of Education signed off on those recommendations. They include a first phase of renovations at McCreary Middle School, a new roof for Pine Knot Primary School where leaking and mold issues have been cited, and roof replacement for the forty year old McCreary Central High School. Cash said he felt it was a matter of safety and security for the students of the McCreary County School District.

We will have more on this week's school board meeting and the District Facility Plan next week on our “Daily Update” reports.

 

McCREARY COUNTY PAIR JAILED FOR ENDANGERING MINOR'S WELFARE
A McCreary County pair found themselves behind bars late Tuesday evening on a variety of charges related to being under the influence and endangering a minor's welfare. 66 year old Stanley Alcorn and 25 year old Holly Singleton, both listing Whitley City addresses, were arrested by Kentucky State Police, transported to and lodged in the Leslie County Detention Center. Alcorn was charged with driving under the influence 1st offense, possession of an open alcoholic beverage container in a motor vehicle, menacing, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and endangering the welfare of a minor. Singleton was booked on charges of alcohol intoxication in a public place 1st and 2nd offense and endangering the welfare of a minor. Again, the arrests took place late Tuesday evening by Kentucky State Police who investigated the case.

McCREARY SHERIFF CALLING ON DRUG DEALERS TO TURN IN COMPETITION
The McCreary County Sheriff's Department is calling on local drug dealers to turn in their competition. An ad published in The McCreary County Voice newspaper from the sheriff's office calls on local drug dealers to cut out their competition by filling out a form detailing the competition's name, contact information, where they get their drug supply and other related details. The form can then be turned in to the sheriff's department by mail or by e-mail. This creative way of seeking tips is part of the department's overall push to fight the illegal drug trade in McCreary County, according to Sheriff Randy Waters who can be contacted at his office at 376-2322 or by e-mailing randy.waters@mccrearysheriff.com.

 

McCREARY COUNTY SHOWS IMPROVED JOBLESS RATE FROM 2015 TO 2016
State officials this week released numbers showing the annual jobless rates for the state and county-by-county for 2016, as compared to the previous year. The data shows that McCreary County was one of 86 Kentucky counties with lower unemployment rates in 2016, while 26 counties saw higher rates and eight remained unchanged. Locally, in 2016, the total labor force was recorded at 4,748 with 4,382 of those listed as “employed” and 366 listed as “unemployed” for a jobless rate of 7.7% in 2016. That was down slightly from 2015's rate of unemployed at 8.2% in McCreary County. All ten counties in the Lake Cumberland district saw improved jobless rates between the two years, with nearby Russell County recording the state's largest improvement, with a jobless rate that dropped 3.4% between 2015 and 2016. The highest 2016 jobless rate in the state was in Magoffin County at 18.8% compared to the lowest rate for the year in Woodford County at just 3.2%. It should be noted that unemployment rates only take into consideration those who are in the labor force searching for employment and do not count those who may be unemployed but not looking for work for various reasons. For more on unemployment rates and the labor market in Kentucky, visit kylmi.ky.gov.

 

MAN RESCUED FROM CUMBERLAND RIVER IN WHITLEY COUNTY
The heavy rainfall seen over the weekend and rising waters not only prompted school closures, but also resulted in mudslides across southern and eastern Kentucky and posed other dangers to human life. That was evident based on a rescue from the Cumberland River in Whitley County that took place Sunday. Emergency crews were called to the scene after the victim, identified as Jerry Shadoan, was swept away by rising river waters along with his tent, as he was reportedly camping along the banks of the river. Crews were able to locate the man, whose tent apparently became snagged on a tree limb. They were able to pull the man to safety and say he did not suffer any serious injuries. Emergency officials urge people to use extra caution when camping, driving or if you live near areas where waters may rise quickly. About five inches of rainfall was recorded over a three day period in McCreary County this past weekend.

PULASKI COUNTY DOCTOR SENTENCED IN MEDICAID FRAUD CASE
We previously reported on charges being faced by Somerset Dr. Ezekiel O. Akande, who operated the Somerset Pain Clinic. The doctor was sentenced last week in Pulaski Circuit Court to five years in prison and was ordered to pay back more than $10,000 after he was convicted last month on charges of Medicaid fraud and theft by unlawful taking over $10,000. The prosecution was handled by the Kentucky Attorney General's Office of Medicaid Fraud and Abuse.

 

WAYNE COUNTY COUPLE GOES FREE AFTER SECOND TRIAL CONVICTION
We reported previously on the second trial for a Wayne County couple accused in the death of their toddler. Jared Futrell and Kayla Lord were first convicted in 2013, but the verdict was overturned by the Kentucky Supreme Court with a second trial ordered. That trial ended in a guilty verdict for both, with Futrell found guilty of reckless homicide and Lord guilty on charges of complicity. The pair appeared in a Pulaski County courtroom last week where they were set free when a judge handed down three year and two year prison terms respectively. With time already served, both have already served their full sentences, although prosecutors told media sources they had hoped for tougher sentences following the second trial. The toddler died while in the custody of the couple.

$20+ MILLION IN VISITOR SPENDING AROUND BIG SOUTH FORK IN 2016
Officials with the National Park Service have released reports on visitor spending and the economic benefit to the region from that spending for parks around the country. The Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area numbers show visitor spending of $20,763,300 for calendar year 2016, with that spending reportedly supporting 282 jobs around the region of the park. The figures show that lodging spending in the Big South Fork area dominated the dollars at about 31%, followed by food and beverage purchases at 27%, gas and oil spending at nearly 12%, and admissions and other fees for visitation at 10%. The remaining dollars from visitor spending last year came from souvenirs and expenses, local transportation and camping fees. The National Park Service has an online tool that allows for viewing park spending for various parks across America and that tool is available at go.nps.gov/vse.

 

McCREARY WOMEN ARRESTED IN SCOTT COUNTY LAST WEEKEND FOR DRUGS
Two McCreary County women were reportedly arrested last weekend in Oneida, Tennessee in separate drug related cases. The Oneida Police Department reports the arrest of 27 year old Samantha Alexander of Pine Knot Saturday April 15th after she was allegedly found to be in possession of marijuana and a piece of a Xanax bar. She was charged with possession of a schedule IV controlled substance and possession of marijuana. The arrest came as the result of a traffic stop in which Alexander was said to be a backseat passenger.

19 year old Alisa Yancey of Parkers Lake was arrested Sunday by Oneida Police following a traffic stop. Yancey was found to be in possession of Oxycodone, two marijuana pipes, and marijuana seeds. She was charged with possession of a schedule II controlled substance, possession of schedule VI controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

BODY FOUND IN WHITLEY COUNTY IDENTIFIED AS MISSING MAN
In January, we reported on a man that apparently walked away from a rest stop on Interstate 75 near the Kentucky-Tennessee state line in Whitley County. A search for that man turned up few clues and he had not been seen since. Earlier this week, a body was located caught on a limb just above the river in the Clearfork area that was thought to be that of the missing man. The Whitley County Coroner's Office has since announced that positive identification confirms that the body is that of 54 year old Randall Walker of Ohio, the man missing for the last few months. Details of how Walker died and how his body came to be found in that area are not yet fully known, as the investigation continues.

PAIR OF SCOTT COUNTY INMATES CHARGED WITH ATTEMPTED ESCAPE
Two Scott County, Tennessee jail inmates were charged early Sunday with an alleged escape attempt, including a McCreary County woman. 40 year old Tonya Sexton Ferrier of Whitley City was charged, along with 49 year old Lilly Sue Murray of Pioneer, Tennessee. The women are accused of trying to dig through the wall of their jail cell in an escape attempt. The pair were caught after someone on the other side of the wall apparently heard digging and officers then say they observed the women trying to dig in the wall with a metal rod. Authorities say they admitted to digging but told officials the hole was already in the wall and they had simply continued the digging. Both women face additional charges including destruction of county property, along with their original charges which include drug and burglary offenses for both women.

NORFOLK SOUTHERN ANSWERS TO CHARGE OF BLOCKING CROSSINGS
It seems to be a case of state law versus federal law, at least according to the defense put forth by Norfolk Southern Railroad. An attorney representing the company appeared in Pulaski District Court this week to answer to charges that trains owned and operated by Norfolk Southern have been blocking railroad crossings for more than ten minutes. Witnesses have even said that some trains have been seen blocking crossings for more than an hour at a time. The company says that while state law limits trains to blocking crossings ten minutes or less, federal law does not have the same requirement and they say those laws outweigh state law. A pretrial conference was set in the case for next month in Pulaski County. Trains blocking crossings has also been something that McCreary County residents have complained about in the past.

 

McCREARY JUDGE-EXECUTIVE QUESTIONED ON BUDGET SHORTFALL
For months, McCreary County Judge-Executive Doug Stephens has been telling members of the fiscal court and citizens that the county is facing a major budget shortfall by the end of this fiscal year on June 30th. During last Thursday's court meeting, a citizen asked Judge Stephens to outline how much he projects that shortfall to be. He responded that the county will face a shortfall of about $250,000 from the jail fund and another $200,000 for the funds that were borrowed from the road fund and must be paid back by year's end, for a total of about $450,000. When asked how the county would make up that kind of a shortfall, Judge Stephens said the county is not expecting a major boost from the increased occupational tax for this year, since it was adopted so late in the year, adding that the county will be faced with not being able to pay its bills before June 30th.

This was questioned, however, by Magistrate Roger Phillips who asked if the county has enough money to pay this month's bills, to which Stephens answered that they did. Phillips questioned how the county keeps managing to pay its bills each month if Judge Stephens' numbers are correct and the county is facing such a large shortfall in just over two months. Phillips noted after the meeting that he feels money still to be received from the federal government for “payment in lieu of taxes” should cover the repayment to the road fund. In fact, the county budget for the current fiscal year does project receiving well over $200,000 in PILT funds from the federal government.

Judge Stephens was asked by a citizen during last week's meeting what the county's plan is for dealing with the budget shortfall by June 30th, to which Stephens responded that the county will simply not be able to pay all its bills by the end of the year.

 

McCREARY COUNTY MAN NABBED ON CHILD PORNOGRAPHY CHARGES
Another McCreary County man has found himself behind bars on charges related to the possession of child pornography. 35 year old Donald Koger of Pine Knot was reportedly arrested by Kentucky State Police Thursday afternoon and was transported to and lodged in the Leslie County Detention Center. Koger was charged with possessing and/or viewing matter portraying a sexual performance by a minor. The investigation continues by KSP.

McCREARY COUNTY MAGISTRATE PUSHES FOR STUDY ON JAIL ISSUE
During the regular meeting of the McCreary County Fiscal Court last evening (Thursday April 13th), Magistrate Roger Phillips made a motion that the county include in its jail budget for the next fiscal year contracting with an outside agency to conduct a feasibility study on the local jail situation. Citizens have been calling for county leaders to take some action to deal with the lack of a jail and growing inmate housing expenses, and Magistrate Phillips said this type of study will tell county leaders the best way to proceed. He noted that the idea came from conversations he had with other officials during a recent conference, adding that the cost of such a study would be about $6,000-$8,000 and could be included in the jail budget starting July 1st. Phillips said the study could tell the county the actual cost of building and operating a new jail, versus the cost of continuing to transport and house inmates out of county. A decision can then be made based on solid numbers and analysis from an independent source. The court voted to go along with the motion and to seek an agency to conduct the study after July 1st, when the new fiscal year, and the new budget, will go into effect.

Fiscal court members were also presented with a draft copy of the jail budget for 2017-2018, and voted to accept the draft, although no formal action was taken to approve the budget. It will be included with the overall county budget which will have a first reading next month.

 

550+ RUNNERS TAKE PART IN 2017 YAMACRAW RUN TRAIL RACES
The 3
rd annual Yamacraw Run Trail Races were held this past weekend, staged in Stearns and taking in trails around the Big South Fork and Sheltowee Trace National Trail. More than 550 runners took part in the three separate divisions of the weekend races, including the 10k, 20k and 50k races. In the 50k division, 261 racers took part with Tim Hill, age 29 of Knoxville, Tennessee coming in first at four hours and forty-one minutes, while last place came in at just over eleven hours. In the 20k distance, Alex Johnson, age 25 of Louisville, Kentucky, was first out of 197 runners with a time of one hour and thirty-one minutes, compared to the last place finisher at just over four hours and thirty-eight minutes. The 10k race included 96 runners, with 17 year old Jordan Tucker of Marshes Siding claiming first place with a time of about forty-nine minutes, compared to a last place finish time of two hours and thirty-seven minutes. The Yamacraw Run is an annual weekend event that started in April 2015 and is now held each April, with McCreary County Tourism as the presenting sponsor. A post on the tourism Facebook page announced last week that all lodging rooms in McCreary County were booked for this past weekend, due in large part to that event.

 

McCREARY BUSINESS LICENSE PERMIT GOES INTO EFFECT JULY 1ST
After being given final approval last month by the McCreary County Fiscal Court, the new business license permit requirement will go into effect for the county July 1st. According to Judge-Executive Doug Stephens, businesses and others impacted by the requirement will have a one month “grace” period to have their permit applied for, received and posted for the public to see. That means, all businesses should have their county issued business license permit posted by August 1st at the latest. After the first year, the permits will be issued on a January through December basis. The McCreary County Occupational Tax Administrator's office will be responsible for accepting and approving permit applications and for issuing those permits to successful applicants.

The fee for the business license is set as $20 for a regular business, and $50 for temporary or itinerant businesses, defined as a transient business operating in the county. There is also a non-profit license available with no permit fee, with these groups required to show proof of state Tax ID as a non-profit. School groups, churches and other organizations hosting fundraisers do not need a permit, unless they are selling through a store front, booth or special event, for which the non-profit license would be required.

In terms of yard sales, Judge Stephens confirmed that the new business license ordinance will not affect regular yard sales on private residential property, although county officials say they will consider yard sales that are continuous as a business and that would require obtaining the permit. The ordinance specifically states that this includes yard sales occurring more than an average of three days per month. Sales on commercial property will only be permitted if the commercial property is registered with a business license and with written permission of that business owner.

Under the penalty section of the county ordinance, those required to obtain a business license permit who do not do so may be penalized $5 per day and a $50 fine can be imposed for any business failing to post their permit for the public to view. Judge Stephens said enforcement of the ordinance will fall on local law enforcement officers, who will receive compensation for enforcement. He adds that he would like to see the county eventually employ a code enforcement officer to handle enforcement of this and other county ordinances.

For information on the business license and the application process, contact the Tax Administrator's Office at 376-1322 or the Judge-Executive's Office at 376-2413.

Click here to download the new McCreary County Business License Ordinance (pdf)

  

 

MULTIPLE VEHICLE CRASH CLOSES HIGHWAY 27 IN PINE KNOT THURSDAY
Emergency responders were called to the scene of a multiple vehicle crash on Highway 27 in Pine Knot Thursday. Reports indicate that there were several individuals with various injuries in the wreck and that a medical helicopter was dispatched to the scene, along with ambulances and other responders. Highway 27 was closed in the area for some time and reportedly reopened about 3:30pm Thursday.

LAWSUIT FILED AFTER BIG SOUTH FORK SCENIC RAILWAY DEAL COLLAPSES
It is probably not surprising to most who have followed the negotiations and the break down of those negotiations for the potential sale of the Big South Fork Scenic Railway that a lawsuit has now been filed in the matter.
The McCreary County Voice reports that such a suit was filed in McCreary Circuit Court recently by DSRR, which stands for Diana Sam Rail Road, a company owned by Diana Bybee and Sam Carpenter which sough to purchase the scenic railway from the McCreary County Heritage Foundation. The suit names the Foundation and Stearns Properties, LLC as defendants in the case and claims that there was never any real intention on their behalf to sell the railway to DSRR and the claims state that the Foundation acted fraudulently in the negotiation process. While the Foundation had not yet responded to the lawsuit at last check, Heritage Foundation members had maintained once negotiations broke down that it was DSRR that kept making changes to the terms of the potential sale and that they were the ones who never truly intended to follow through with the deal. The lawsuit is seeking more than $175,000 in expenses claimed by DSRR for work they say was completed while they operated under a Memorandum of Understanding to operate the railway in recent months. They are also seeking compensatory and punitive damages and future profits from the railway. In addition, the company is seeking a judgment that would force the Heritage Foundation to follow through with selling them the railway. Meanwhile, as the Heritage Foundation prepares a response to the lawsuit, the Big South Fork Scenic Railway began its 35th season of operations this past weekend, still owned by the Foundation with new management in place.

 

McCREARY COUNTY MAN CHARGED IN CHILD PORNOGRAPHY CASE
Kentucky State Police announced this week the arrest of a McCreary County man in a child sexual exploitation case. 43 year old Grover C. Manning was taken into custody Tuesday evening after an investigation by the Kentucky State Police Electronic Crimes Branch, which resulted in charges of possession of matter portraying a sex performance by a minor. The undercover investigation led officers to find evidence that Manning was sharing images of child sexual exploitation online. A search warrant was executed at his residence Tuesday and equipment allegedly used in the crime was confiscated from the property and sent to the KSP forensic lab for examination. A total of 13 counts have been filed against Grover Manning of Pine Knot, each a Class D felony which could carry a one to five year prison sentence if convicted. Manning was lodged in the Leslie County Detention Center following his arrest and the investigation is continuing.

 

TWO McCREARY MEN ARRESTED IN TENNESSEE THIS PAST WEEKEND
Two McCreary County men were arrested on charges in Tennessee this past weekend, in separate incidents both involving traffic stops in Winfield.

The first incident was Saturday when 67 year old Jack David Lynch of Whitley City was pulled over and, according to officers, was too intoxicated to take the field sobriety test on the scene. Lynch was arrested and taken to the Scott County Jail, where reports indicate a second test was attempted but the man was still unable to complete it. Lynch was charged with driving under the influence, 4th offense, driving on a revoked license, 2nd offense, and other traffic offenses. He was lodged in the Scott County, Tennessee Jail following his arrest Saturday.

On Sunday, officers stopped a vehicle in Winfield and a search of the driver allegedly turned up methamphetamine and marijuana. 52 year old David Russell Vanover of Stearns was arrested at the scene and charged with possession of a schedule II controlled substance for resale, possession of a schedule III controlled substance, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, filing a false report, tampering with evidence and failure to maintain lane. Vanover was also jailed in Scott County following his weekend arrest.

Both cases were worked by the Scott County Sheriff's Department.

WHAT WOULD IT COST TO OPERATE A JAIL IN McCREARY COUNTY?
With so much focus being paid these days to the lack of a jail in McCreary County, and questions of whether the county should or could build and operate a new jail, we look at a comparison of numbers with one of our neighboring counties. While not an exact comparison, we look at Wayne County with its population of about 21,000, compared to the slightly smaller McCreary County at about 18,000 residents. Last year at this time, the Wayne County Fiscal Court adopted a budget for the 2016-2017 fiscal year that included $2.3 million for its jail fund. The court has recently been given a draft copy of the 2017-2018 budget, which increases that budget for the detention center to $2.4 million. Wayne County does house some state inmates, which helps in some way to offset that budget. Wayne County maintains and operates a 180 bed facility, and with state officials saying the minimum number of beds they will approve for any new jail is 150, that would be roughly the size facility McCreary County would have to construct and maintain.

Most expenses would be the same between the two counties, such as staffing, for which the state sets minimum numbers, as well as food, utilities, medical and other related jail expenses. Given those numbers, the estimate of $1.5 million annually to operate a new jail, which has been given in open court meetings by Judge-Executive Doug Stephens, seems reasonable, and possibly even a low estimate. Judge Stephens has estimated a $500,000 annual payment for financing of a new jail, which, by his numbers, would put the McCreary County jail budget at $2 million or more each year with a new jail in place.

Current projections for transporting and housing inmates in other counties, mainly Leslie County at this point, put the annual jail budget for McCreary County at about $1.1 million. That means to construct and operate a new jail locally, even if the state were to approve such a move, the county would need to come up with an additional $1 million annually to cover that budget. Aside from further increases in the occupational tax or the adoption of an insurance tax, county leaders have few options for raising that kind of additional revenue.

The next meeting of the McCreary County Fiscal Court is set for next Thursday April 13th at 6:00pm.

 

McCREARY COUNTY COUPLE CHARGED WITH THEFT IN ONEIDA, TN
A McCreary County couple found themselves behind bars last Friday in Oneida, Tennessee following their arrests for attempted theft. According to reports from the Oneida Police Department, 27 year old Shala Gregory of Stearns and 27 year old Nicholas Norris of Pine Knot were arrested in the parking lot of the Oneida Wal-Mart after the couple was accused of trying to steal several items from the store. The reports first came from a store employee who allegedly saw Gregory take items from shelves inside the store. When stopped outside by law enforcement, police say she admitted to stealing hundreds of dollars worth of items in several trips to the store. Nicholas Norris was also reportedly in violation of a no trespass order after he was banned from Wal-Mart corporate property for thefts at other stores. Shala Gregory was charged with criminal attempt and theft under $1,000, while Norris was charged with criminal trespassing. Both suspects were also charged with possession of drug paraphernalia.

HEALTH DEPT GRANTS TO BENEFIT FARMERS MARKET, TRAIL PROJECT
Grant funding in the total amount of $20,000 was recently approved for two McCreary County projects, according to Roger Owens with the local Champions/UNITE chapter. Owens was on the weekly current issues program “Truth or Politics” this past Monday and said the grants were awarded in $10,000 amounts to each of two local projects, including funding to assist with upgrades of the McCreary County Farmers' Market and for a trail around the Bridge Fork Pond area, a project spearheaded by the Lord's Gym. The grant funding was secured by the Champions/UNITE organization and awarded through the Lake Cumberland District Health Department.

 

McCREARY COUNTY JOBLESS RATE SHOWS SIGNS OF IMPROVEMENT
Whether or not local residents can feel an improvement in their daily lives or the local economy, the McCreary County unemployment rates are showing some signs of improvement. The latest numbers released by state officials show the county with a jobless rate at 8.4% for February, down slightly from 8.5% in January. That is a significant drop from the rate one year ago, however, when the February 2016 rate was 10.1% locally. In fact, every county in the ten county Lake Cumberland area saw improved unemployment numbers from last year to this year, according to the data. The Lake Cumberland area jobless rate was 6.7% in February, down from 7.7% in February last year and also down from 7.1% in January of this year. Kentucky's statewide rate was also slightly improved from 5.9% last year to 5.5% in February this year, compared to a 4.9% unemployment rate nationwide. Unemployment rates are based on estimates of actual job seekers within a four week period, and do not take into consideration those who may be jobless but have stopped looking for employment. For more on the labor market and unemployment rates in Kentucky, visit kylmi.ky.gov online.

 

McCREARY COUNTY MAN ARRESTED ON CHILD ABUSE CHARGE
A McCreary County man was arrested last Friday morning on charges related to a child abuse investigation. According to jail records at the Leslie County Detention Center, 26 year old Matthew Dixon of Pine Knot was arrested by the sheriff's department and was charged with criminal abuse 1st degree involving a child 12 or under. The investigation into that case is reportedly continuing.

DRUG RELATED CHARGES DOMINATE MARCH GRAND JURY INDICTMENTS
The March session of the McCreary County Grand Jury was dominated by drug related charges, including a Stearns woman who was indicted for allegedly driving under the influence when she struck a school bus on January 2nd. Diana Cordell was charged with wanton endangerment and operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicants. Brian Garland of Pine Knot was indicted for trafficking in a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of marijuana; Jack King of Strunk was indicted for trafficking and possession, as well as driving under the influence; and Darrel Koger of Revelo was indicted for possession of meth. Other trafficking indictments included Dominic Strunk of Pine Knot, Joshua Baird of Whitley City, William C. Perry of Whitley City, Billy Roberts of Whitley City, Danny Lee Ball of Stearns and Danny Clark of Whitley City.

Other indictments in March included Toby Dodson of Marshes Siding, charged with possession of a handgun by a convicted felon, terroristic threatening, and driving under the influence; Hank Lemay, aka Hank Patrick, for possession of a handgun by a convicted felon, possession of a controlled substance and being a persistent felon offender; Ryan Daugherty of Stearns for flagrant non-support in the amount of more than $8,000; Raymond Griffis of Stearns for wanton endangerment; and Jennifer Dobbs of Pine Knot, charged with theft by unlawful taking over $10,000 and criminal mischief. The grand jury also indicted Joey Watson of Marshes Siding for possession of a handgun by a convicted felon and possession of a controlled substance; Samina Meer Jones of Stearns for criminal possession of a forged instrument;and Rodney Warman of Strunk for burglary and theft.

These indictments are in addition to the indictment of Kenneth Mullins II, who was indicted for manslaughter in the death of Gary Roberts.

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.

SCOTT COUNTY, TN MAN INDICTED ON CHILD SEX ABUSE COUNTS
A Scott County, Tennessee man was indicted last week by a grand jury on child sex abuse counts. Christopher Nicol Cox was charged in connection with inappropriate sexual contact with at least four underage girls, ranging from age 5 to age 12 at the times of the alleged incidents. The offenses allegedly took place between 2012 and December 2016 and led to the indictment, including ten counts of child rape, twenty counts of aggravated sexual battery, two counts of sexual battery and four counts of continuous sexual abuse of a child. The indictment represents formal charges against Christopher Cox in Scott County, but is not a finding of guilt.

 

McCREARY COUNTY MAN'S DEATH LEADS TO MANSLAUGHTER INDICTMENT
The death of a McCreary County man in January of this year, led to the indictment of another man on manslaughter charges. The McCreary County Voice reports that the local grand jury heard the case earlier this month and returned a true bill, issuing an indictment, against Kenneth Mullins II. It comes in connection with the alleged dragging death of Gary Roberts two months ago. The charges against Mullins include manslaughter second degree for allegedly operating the motor vehicle in a manner that caused the death of Roberts. Officers first responded to reports of a kidnapping when Roberts was last seen leaving a residence in the vehicle operated by Mullins at a high rate of speed. Roberts body was located a short time later suffering from the fatal blunt force trauma.

McCREARY RANKS NEAR THE BOTTOM FOR HEALTHY KY COUNTIES
Among the 120 Kentucky counties, McCreary County ranks near the bottom for healthiest counties. That according to the latest report issued on health outcomes by
www.countyhealthrankings.org online. The report shows that a number of health factors were taken into consideration, including premature deaths, low birth weights, obesity, smoking, quality of life, and more. With all factors considered, each county was given a ranking from 1 to 120, with 1 being the healthiest Kentucky county and 120 being the least healthy. On that scale, McCreary County recorded a ranking of 108 out of 120, putting it near the bottom of the list. In the “quality of life” category, McCreary County was even lower, at 116th out of 120. The least healthy county was Breathitt County, according to the data. Oldham County was listed as the healthiest county in the state.

FORMER INMATE AT SCOTT COUNTY, TN JAIL FILES SUIT AGAINST COUNTY
A former inmate at the Scott County, Tennessee jail has now filed a lawsuit against the county and several officials connected to the jail. Scott County media sources confirm that Tammy Brawner filed the suit, saying that negligence while she was incarcerated at the jail led to brain injury and neurocognitive impairment. The suit claims that while Brawner was at the jail, between late June and mid July 2016, employees of Advanced Correctional Healthcare, which is contracted to provided medical services at the Scott County Jail, failed to provide adequate care for a condition she had and that the lack of care led to her irreversible condition. The former inmate further claims that officials were provided a list of her prescribed medications but that she did not receive here needed medications and that led to her allegedly suffering numerous seizures while in jail custody. The lawsuit seeks $2.5 million in compensatory damages as wells lost wages, loss of earning capacity, and pain and suffering. Named in the suit as defendants are Scott County, members of the Scott County Sheriff's Department, and the medical provider.

 

MCCREARY COUNTY MAN ARRESTED ON WARRANT IN WAYNE COUNTY
The sheriff's department in neighboring Wayne County reported a number of arrests this week on various charges. Among those arrests was a McCreary County man, picked up on a Pulaski County District Court warrant. Ronald Rollins of Parkers Lake was arrested on the warrant for failure to appear for arraignment on a charge of operating a motor vehicle on a suspended or revoked license, as well as various other traffic offenses.

HIGHLAND TELEPHONE ISSUES SCAM WARNING TO ITS MEMBERS
Members of Highland Telephone Cooperative are being warned to watch for a potential scam, involving the payment of their bills. HTC reports that doing a search for “HTC webpay” may take you online to a site that is not affiliated with Highland Telephone. It begins with doxo.com and includes the Highland Telephone logo and information. However, if you submit a payment through that site it will not go to Highland. They ask that you call their office to pay by credit or debit card or to set up online bill paying. You can dial “611” or call or stop by any of the Highland Telephone offices for information or with questions.

McCREARY STUDENT HONORED AS “KAGE DISTINGUISHED STUDENT”
A McCreary County student received an honor last month when he was recognized during the annual conference of the Kentucky Association for Gifted Education (KAGE). The group named Lucas Strunk the 2017 KAGE Distinguished Student for his service projects including “Art for Everyone”, which collected new art supplies that were then donated to local schools for students who did not have supplies at home. Lucas Strunk is a Pine Knot Intermediate School student.

 

LAND CONSERVATION FUND PRESERVES 90 ACRES NEAR ROCK CREEK
It was announced this week that the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund has purchased 90 acres of land in western McCreary County. The land is located along Rock Creek, which is designated as a Kentucky Wild River, and was purchased for preservation, according to the announcement. The purchase comes as part of the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission's Wild Rivers Program. Officials say at least three federally endangered species are known to live in Rock Creek and the surrounding area. That fact, coupled with the stocking of Rock Creek with trout by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, means that the area is an example of conservation and recreation in the same location.

 

FATAL WEEKEND FIRE IN McCREARY COUNTY UNDER INVESTIGATION
A McCreary County man is dead and the fire that claimed his life is under investigation by the Kentucky State Police Arson Investigator. KSP released a statement Monday saying that a residential fire in Pine Knot at about 12:30am Saturday led to the discovery of 63 year old William South inside the home. South was pronounced dead and the fire investigation launched to determine the cause of the blaze. Police say at this time there is no sign of foul play but they did not yet know the cause. The investigation is ingoing with assistance at the scene from several agencies including the South McCreary Fire Department, Whitley City Fire Department, McCreary County EMS, McCreary County Sheriff's Department, McCreary County Coroner's Office and Kentucky State Fire Marshall.

VOLUNTEERS SPENT SATURDAY CLEANING UP TO KICK OFF SPRING
Dozens of volunteers from McCreary County spent this past Saturday cleaning up along roads and rivers just as spring has arrived and tourists begin visiting the area. A group of volunteers gathered near the Yamacraw bridge area Saturday morning and picked up trash along Highway 92 and Highway 1363 as well as along the Big South Fork River. That comes just a couple of weeks before the annual Yamacraw Run Trail races will be held in the area on April 8th. Meanwhile, volunteers also gathered at Cumberland Falls and headed out on Highway 90 in McCreary and Whitley Counties picking up trash for that annual cleanup. McCreary County won the competition with Whitley County for the most volunteers, claiming the “Trash Cup” after losing the competition the last two years. In addition, a special “Greene Service Award” was presented to the family of the late Jimmie W. Greene in honor of his leadership and volunteering through the years with cleanups and related efforts.

Now that the spring kick off cleanup events are completed, non-profit groups in McCreary County will begin regular cleanup efforts through the spring and summer as fundraisers. Groups can be paid $50 per mile cleaned through the litter abatement grant received annually by McCreary County Fiscal Court.

 

QUESTIONS RAISED ABOUT IMPACT OF BUSINESS PERMIT ON YARD SALES
A number of social media posts have raised questions and concerns over the impact that a new county ordinance may or may not have on yard sales in McCreary County. The county fiscal court approved final passage of a business license ordinance last week which will require businesses operating in the county to obtain a business permit and display it for all to see. Those not doing so can face penalties from the county. Some are questioning if that will have any impact on yard sales and others setting up to sell items around the county. The ordinance does state that yard sales on private property are not restricted, but sales on commercial property can only be held with written permission of the business owner, provided that owner has a business permit from the county. Sales will not be allowed at anytime on public property or on commercial property without permission. Those with further questions regarding the ordinance and how it may impact you, can contact the McCreary County Judge-Executive's Office at 376-2413.

COUNTY OFFICIALS DEALING WITH BUDGET, LACK OF JAIL...AND MOLD
In addition to issues like transporting and housing inmates, budget shortfalls and other daily business, officials with McCreary County government have also been dealing with the issue of mold in the county courthouse. The McCreary County Voice reported on the issue this past week and the matter was also discussed during an informal “citizen participation” session following Thursday night's special meeting of the McCreary County Fiscal Court. Reports indicate that the Kentucky Labor Cabinet's Office of Occupational Safety and Health, OSHA, cited the county earlier this month for being in violation of their standards regarding safe and health workplaces in Kentucky. The citation says that mold growth had been reported in the Circuit Clerk's office in the courthouse. Reports further claim that employees of the office have had various health issues that they trace back to the mold being present where they work daily. A professional inspection was conducted by the county according to the reports and work to remove and clean the mold and replace a section of wall has already been completed. Judge Executive Doug Stephens was asked about the issue Thursday night and stated that the issue had been dealt with, however at least one circuit clerk employee commented during that open discussion that even more mold is present in other areas of the courthouse, including the district judge's chambers. Judge Stephens said he was not aware of that issue and the claim has not been confirmed, but Stephens did say if any courthouse workers know of mold or other workplace safety issues they should bring those to his attention. The Voice reports that the citation issued to the county gives an April 17th deadline to deal with mold in the courthouse, meaning another inspection could be forthcoming following that deadline.

 

McCREARY FISCAL COURT APPROVES TAX INCREASE, BUSINESS LICENSE
With a budget shortfall looming for this fiscal year, the McCreary County Fiscal Court met in special session Thursday evening with a short, but impactful, agenda at hand. The court first approved budget amendments, which as previously explained, can involve things like unanticipated revenue or expenses that were not called for the original budget. The court then turned to the ordinance requiring business license permits to operate and do business in McCreary County. The second reading and final approval passed unanimously by the court in a 5-0 vote after Magistrate Roger Phillips moved that the permits be issued as of July 1st for the first year, then starting on January 1st each year after, as called for in the ordinance. That measure will go into effect July 1st meaning every business in the county will be required to obtain and display their business license and that those who may be contractors or others moving through the county working must also receive a permit. Yard sales and other such practices will be allowed only on the seller's private property or with written permission on the property of a business license holder.

The next measure taken up by the court was the increase in the occupational tax from 1% to 1.5% with the additional revenue to be earmarked for the jail fund, from which inmate housing and transporting expenses are paid. Magistrate Jason Mann moved to give final approval to the increase, explaining that in his view the county had explored all other options to avoid a budget shortfall and this was their last option to avoid losing services like the ambulance service or sheriff's deputies paid for by the county. Magistrate Duston Baird seconded the motion, and was joined by Judge Executive Doug Stephens in voting in favor of the tax hike. Magistrates OL Perry and Roger Phillips voted against approval, but the measure passed 3-2 and the tax increase will go into effect as of April 1st.

The only remaining item on the agenda was paying bills, which the court approved quickly and adjourned the official meeting Thursday night. With no “citizen participation” section on the agenda with it being a special session, some citizens in attendance were upset that they were not given a chance to speak or ask questions. That prompted the court to stay and discuss issues and answer questions well after the close of the official meeting. Issues raised in that informal discussion included why the jail closed more than four years ago, whether or not the county can, or should, look at building a new jail for the future, and what plans the court has to dig the county out of the financial hole it is in, aside from simply raising taxes.

The next regular meeting of the McCreary County Fiscal Court is scheduled for Thursday April 13th at 6:00pm.

 

BODY LOCATED ALONG PULASKI COUNTY ROAD MONDAY IDENTIFIED
Authorities in neighboring Pulaski County have reported the discovery of a lifeless body lying along side Highway 80 Monday afternoon. Investigation led to the identification of that body as being 29 year old Jeremiah Childers of Cumberland in Harlan County. While authorities say the man had suffered some type of trauma to his cheek, they were not sure if that was directly related to his death. The body was sent to state medical examiner in Frankfort for autopsy as investigators continue searching for clues in the man's death.

McCREARY COUNTY MAN AMONG TRIO ARRESTED IN PULASKI COUNTY
The Pulaski County Sheriff's department arrested three men Monday morning on Highway 27, with one of those suspects being from McCreary County. Officers observed a vehicle at about 4:00am Monday with no registration plates, according to the arrest reports, and stopped the vehicle, which also had only one working tail light. A search of the vehicle turned up a quantity of methamphetamine, as well scales and other drug paraphernalia. Arrested were the driver, 27 year old Joshua Akin of Columbia, Kentucky, along with his passengers, 24 year old Tyler Rose of Whitley City and 25 year old Blake Tuttle of Somerset. Charges against Rose included trafficking in a controlled substance 1st degree, 1st offense for meth. Charges against the other suspects including trafficking, possession, promoting contraband and a number of traffic offenses. All three were lodged in the Pulaski County Detention Center at the Pulaski County Sheriff's Department continues the investigation with assistance from the Somerset Police Department.

 

McCREARY COUNTY MAN FACING MORE THAN A DOZEN CHARGES
A McCreary County man faces more than a dozen separate charges after his weekend arrest. According to booking information at the Leslie County Detention Center, 20 year old Codey Stephens was booked Sunday morning after his arrest by the McCreary County Sheriff's Department. Stephens was charged with possession of and trafficking in marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, driving under the influence, driving on a suspended or revoked license, reckless driving, fleeing or evading police, resisting arrest, wanton endangerment, escape third degree and carrying a concealed deadly weapon. He was also charged with theft by unlawful taking under $500 for shoplifting and several other offenses. Stephens was transported to and lodged in the Leslie County Detention Center. This caps off several other local arrests and inmates being transported and booked at that jail, which continues to function as McCreary County's main inmate housing location.

 

DESPITE SOCIAL MEDIA BUZZ SCENIC RAILWAY PLANS MOVE AHEAD
There has been a good deal of rumors and “buzz” on social media recently concerning the future of the Big South Fork Scenic Railway and historic Stearns, Kentucky. The “buzz” stems from posts initiated by the owners of a new company that was in negotiations with the McCreary County Heritage Foundation for the purchase of the railway and depot building in Stearns. The company is owned by Sam Carpenter and Diana Bybee, who began posting earlier this month on the Scenic Railway Facebook page about plans if the purchase was completed. Shortly after those posts began, it was announced that the negotiations had broken down and that the deal appeared to be dead. That has not stopped the social media posts or rumors online about the situation.

The McCreary County Heritage Foundation met this past Tuesday with the future of the railway at the top of their agenda. The foundation manages the historic district of Stearns, as well as the historic buildings in Stearns, the McCreary County Museum, golf course and railway. During their meeting, a summary of how negotiations for the sale of the railway and depot building broke down was offered with much of the blame placed on the potential buyers' initial desire to sign what is called a “triple net lease” for the deal. That would put the responsibility of all expenses for the railway and depot building on the buyer, including maintenance, upkeep, utilities and insurance. Heritage Foundation members indicated that the potential buyers later changed their mind and wanted the foundation to take on some expenses like maintenance and liability on certain areas, while leaving the foundation with little sources of revenue on which to operate. Foundation members who were involved in the negotiations also noted that the agreement was changed multiple times by the buyers resulting in the talks being halted.

With the purchase deal off the table, the Heritage Foundation turned the corner and began looking at the future of the scenic railway, including the pending season opening next month. Foundation chairman Buddy Wilson said plans do include having the railway open starting April 8th. Two train cars are currently being refurbished and should be ready by the end of this month while locomotives are being painted and prepared for the season. Another issue being dealt with is washout, which it was noted is a regular occurrence, near the meeting of the Big South Fork River and Paunch Creek. Crews are expected to work on the area this month including replacing 500 track ties before the season opens.

The Heritage Foundation did approve a deal to hire a new manager for the scenic railway who will reportedly start almost immediately and will manage and operate the attraction this season. The manager reportedly comes from out of state and has experience operating railways in other areas.

In other business, it was noted that the museum is working on some repairs to get ready for the new season and the Clubhouse Restaurant at the golf course will be open as of April 1st and the golf course is getting new sod for the year.

A year end financial statement was reviewed for 2016 for the Heritage Foundation, noting a net income for the year of just over $8,000. That was said to be an improvement over the previous year, indicating a loss in 2015.

 
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