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LOCAL OBITUARIES
 
William "Doc" Coffey age 77 of Stearns passedaway Friday May 19, 2017. Funeral services will be Monday at 11:00AM at Hickman-Strunk Funeral Home with burial in Methodist Cemetery. Visitation will be Sunday after 6:00PM at the funeral home. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to your favorite charity. Hickman-Strunk Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements. 
Donnie Parmley Upchurch age 76 of Stearns, wife of Earl (Hondo) Upchurch, passed away Friday May 19, 2017. Funeral services will be Tuesday at 1:00PM at Hicks-Vaughn Funeral Home in Monticello with burial in Elk Spring Cemetery. Visitation will be Monday after 5:00PM at the funeral home. In lieu of flowers, expressions of sympathy may take the form of donations to Hospice of Lake Cumberland or the Alzheimer's Association. Hicks-Vaughn Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements. 
Jimmy Dale "Sam" Daugherty age 55 of Stearns, son the Alma (Whitehead) Daugherty and the late Verlin Bud Daugherty, passed away Saturday May 20, 2017. Funeral services will be Wednesday at 1:00PM at McCreary County Funeral Home with Bro. David Troxell officiating. Burial will be in Nancy Grave Cemetery. Visitation will be Tuesday after 6:00PM at the funeral home. McCreary County Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.  
 
DAILY NEWS UPDATES
(Updated Monday May 22, 2017 @ 7:00am)

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 BASEBALL, SOFTBALL TEAMS SET FOR DISTRICT TOURNAMENTS
The 48th District Tournaments are set to begin today (Monday May 22nd) for both boys' baseball and girls' fast pitch softball for high school. The district consists of McCreary Central, Wayne County and Southwestern Pulaski. The boys' tournament will be played at Wayne County with the host school taking on the McCreary Central Raiders in the opening round tonight at 7:00pm. The championship will be played between tonight's winner and Southwestern. The girls' tournament is being hosted at McCreary Central High School with the Lady Raiders hosting Wayne County in opening round play tonight at 7:00pm and the winner facing Southwestern in the championship. The Raiders finished their regular season with a record of 8-18 while the Lady Raiders wrapped up the regular season at 5-16.

 

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.

McCREARY SCHOOLS TO HOST WEEKEND GRADUATION CEREMONIES
The McCreary County School District will host two graduation ceremonies this weekend, including the combined kindergarten graduation for Whitley City Elementary and Pine Knot Primary. That ceremony will be this evening (Friday May 19th) at 6:00pm at McCreary Central High School. Parking at the school, as well as McCreary Middle and the Board of Education office, will be with parking pass only. Others may park at Pine Knot Primary or Whitley City Elementary with shuttle buses running from 4:30 to 5:45pm ahead of the ceremony.

The McCreary Central High School graduation for the class of 2017 will be Saturday May 20th at 10:00am at the high school. Again, parking at the high school, middle school and board office will be with a parking pass only. Other parking Saturday will be at Outdoor Venture in Stearns, Pine Knot Primary and Whitley City Elementary with shuttle buses running from 8:00-9:40am.

BIG SOUTH FORK HOSTING “DECORATION DAY” EVENTS THIS WEEKEND
This Saturday, May 20th is recognized as “Decoration Day” in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, with the park hosting special events at Blue Heron Mining Camp on the McCreary County, Kentucky side of the park. Events will run from 12:00 to 4:30pm at Blue Heron including live music, food, and history. There will be guided ranger led history walks and individuals with historic photos from the region are encouraged to bring those for copying to provide to the National Park Service museum collection. Saturday evening at 5:30pm a program will be held in the train depot in historic Stearns featuring Michael Nagle, author of Justus S. Stearns: Michigan Pine King and Kentucky Coal Baron 1845-1933. Mr. Nagle will also be available to autograph copies of the book.

For more information on “Decoration Day” activities at Blue Heron and Stearns Saturday sponsored by the Big South Fork Park, call 423-569-9778 or visit the park online at www.nps.gov/biso.

 

SCHOOL BOARD SCHEDULES HEARING ON SCHOOL DISTRICT FACILITY PLAN
After giving initial approval to the proposed District Facility Plan for the McCreary County School District last month, the local school board set a date and time for a public hearing on that plan. That hearing will be one week from today on Thursday May 25th at 6:00pm at the board office on Raider Way in Stearns, to be followed by the regular school board meeting at 6:30pm.

Assistant Superintendent Dr. Aaron Anderson outlined details of the plan at the last school board meeting, saying that while many projects appear on the plan, they can only be completed one phase at a time and only as the district has the funds in their building fund to do so. The first phase on that plan includes items such as roof replacements and renovations at Pine Knot Primary and McCreary Central High School and roof work at Whitley City Elementary. Anderson noted that it is likely not all things on the plan will get done, but without having them listed in the plan the school district would not be able to work toward those projects, even if money becomes available.

The district facility plan was actually put together by a hired engineering firm and was then approved by the Kentucky Department of Education before getting approval from a local planning committee of twenty members. The plan then went before the school board last month where it got further approval, leading to the public hearing to gather comments from citizens. Again, that hearing will be next Thursday May 25th at 6:00pm at the school board office, followed by the school board meeting at 6:30pm. Copies of the district facility plan can be obtained at the McCreary County Board of Education office in Stearns.

APPLICATONS BEING TAKEN FOR 4-H CAMP FOR McCREARY YOUTH
Youth from McCreary County enjoy the fun of 4-H Camp each year and applications are now being taken from those interested in attending camp this summer. Local youth ages 9-13 can attend 4-H Camp at the JM Feltner Camp near London, Kentucky June 12th through 15th where they will be able to take part in various fun classes and activities. The cost to attend camp is $125 per child which includes transportation to and from camp, lodging, meals, snacks, t-shirt and most classes. The deadline to apply for proper t-shirt size is Friday May 26th with applications available from the McCreary County Extension Service Office at the McCreary Center college campus. A $50 non-refundable deposit is required at the time the application is submitted with the remaining balance due by the time camp begins. For information, stop by the extension office or call 376-2524.

 

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.

ANNUAL KIDS' FISHING DERBY TO BE HOSTED AT BARREN FORK
The annual Kid's Fishing Derby is set to be held Saturday June 3rd at the Barren Fork Horse Camp pond. Again this year the derby will be open to kids age 5 through 15 to fish and win prizes at the derby between 8:00-11:00am. An adult guardian must accompany all children who attend. A hot dog lunch will provided after the derby at which time prizes will be awarded. Barren Fork is located behind the US Forest Service Stearns District Office north of Whitley City off Highway 27. For information on the annual kids' fishing derby set for Saturday June 3rd call Dwayne Wright at 606-376-5323 ext 108.

 

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 SCHOOLS MOVE INTO FINAL WEEK BEFORE SUMMER BREAK
The final week of school before summer break in McCreary County is now underway with only three days remaining for students, including today (Monday May 15th). The last day for students will be this Thursday May 18th, with schools dismissing two hours early Wednesday and Thursday. In addition, there is no school in McCreary County Tuesday May 16th. The school calender states there is no school Tuesday, due to Election Day, although there are no regular elections in 2017. Some other activities taking place this week in local schools include preschool promotion ceremonies for the north campus at Whitley City Elementary today Monday May 15th and the south campus at Pine Knot Primary Tuesday May 16th.

McCreary Central High School has a full schedule of activities during this last week, including awards night today, band banquet Wednesday at 6:00pm, Senior breakfast Thursday morning, Raider baseball senior night Thursday night, and McCreary Central graduation Saturday May 20th at 10:00am at the high school.

This year, McCreary County Schools are hosting a combined kindergarten graduation with students from both Whitley City Elementary and Pine Knot Primary Friday May 19th at 6:00pm at the high school. Parking for that event will be at Pine Knot Primary School and Whitley City Elementary with buses shuttling attendees to the high school. Parking at the high school, middle school and Board of Education office will be limited to students and staff only with an official parking pass. Buses will run Friday from 4:30 to 5:45pm.

Parking for the high school graduation Saturday will be at Outdoor Venture in Stearns, Pine Knot Primary, and Whitley City Elementary with buses running from 8:00am to 9:40am. Staff will be on hand at loading points to assist those who need help and handicap buses will also be available.

Again, there will no school Tuesday May 16th, and school will dismiss two hours early Wednesday May 17th and Thursday May 18th, with Thursday being the last day of school for the year for students in McCreary County.

ANNUAL RELAY FOR LIFE IN McCREARY COUNTY FRIDAY MAY 19TH
The annual fundraising effort in the fight against cancer in McCreary County will be held this Friday May 19th at the Sandhill 4-H Camp in Whitley City. The Relay for Life will begin Friday evening with the cancer survivor lap at 7:00pm with the evening's activities including live music and entertainment, games, concessions, silent auction and more. The theme for this year's Relay for Life is “Super Heroes” for the family friendly, free event. A number of sponsors and teams have joined to make the event possible. For more information on McCreary County's Relay for Life, call Freddie Patrick, event chair, at 606-310-1242.

 

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.

 

FORMER McCREARY COACH SET FOR SECOND TRIAL FOR “SEXTING”
After first being convicted in a McCreary County courtroom on charges that he texted an underage student with the intent of engaging in a sexual relationship with her, a former teacher and coach is now set for a retrial starting this week. Toby Curry was convicted of the charges locally but a ruling last year by Circuit Judge Dan Ballou awarded him a new trial because of claims that some jury members may have been former students of Curry's, something they apparently failed to disclose during jury selection for the first trial. Another motion was also granted seeking a change of venue, moving the second trial to neighboring Whitley County Circuit Court. That second trial for Toby Curry, on the charge of prohibited use of electronic communication system to procure a minor for a sexual offense, is on the court docket to start at 9:00am this Wednesday May 10th. Curry is a former teacher and coach at McCreary Central High School.

BIG SOUTH FORK TO HOST TOURISM WORKSHOP IN McCREARY COUNTY
Officials with the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area will host a tourism related workshop this Wednesday May 10th in McCreary County. The “Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program” information session will be held Wednesday at 5:00pm at the McCreary County Public Library in downtown Whitley City. The session will introduce the program to the community around the Big South Fork Park and will offer discussion on how the program may be helpful for tourism planning in the region. The program is sponsored by the National Park Service to assist local communities with tourism related planning and conservation with a goal of working toward a greener, healthier community. Issues and topics covered during the program's informational session may include identifying funding sources, defining project vision and goals, setting priorities, mapping community resources, and engaging partners and stakeholders in projects. For additional information on the session, set for May 10th at 5:00pm at the McCreary County Public Library, call Big South Fork park headquarters at 423-569-9778.

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.

McCREARY COUNTY FARMERS MARKET GETS OFF TO SOGGY START
This past Saturday May 6th was Derby Day in Kentucky and was also opening day for the 2017 season for the McCreary County Farmers' Market. It was a cold, rainy morning to kick off the market, but that did not keep about ten vendors from turning out and setting up to display and sell their produce, food products and crafts. The schedule for the market moving forward will include setting up each Saturday morning from 9:00am to 12noon at the location next to the soil and water conservation district office, across from the school entrance, off Wilburn K Ross Highway in Stearns. In addition, the market will be open each Thursday from 3:00 to 6:00pm on a rotating schedule, setting up the first and third Thursday each month at Jackson Heritage Park in downtown Whitley City and the second and fourth Thursday at the regular market location in Stearns. The market is still accepting members and vendors and accepts cash, credit and debit cards, senior vouchers and double dollar on EBT/SNAP purchases.

 

McCREARY COUNTY JOBLESS RATE DROPS SLIGHTLY IN MARCH 2017
The latest unemployment rates for counties in Kentucky have been released, with McCreary County's jobless rate dropping slightly from 8.5% in February to 7.7% in March, which was also down from 8.8% in March of last year. McCreary County is one of eight counties in the ten county Lake Cumberland area that saw a lower unemployment rate in March, with only Green and Pulaski Counties showing a slightly higher rate between the two months. The overall Lake Cumberland area unemployment rate was 6.6% in March of this year, down from 6.8% in February, but up slightly from March 2016 at 6.7%. Kentucky's statewide jobless rate was down from 5.6% in February to 5.4% in March, which was nearly unchanged from 5.5% in March of last year. The US rate for job seekers was 4.6% in March. For more on Kentucky's labor market and unemployment rates, visit kylmi.ky.gov.

BIG SOUTH FORK TO HOST ANNUAL “DECORATION DAY” MAY 20TH
Each year, the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area hosts “Decoration Day” activities on the McCreary County, Kentucky side of the park. This year, the event will be held Saturday May 20th and will include activities at the Blue Heron Mining Camp Interpretive Center from 12:00 to 4:30pm. Those activities will include live music, the history of the area and more. Ranger guided programs will be held throughout the afternoon and individuals are invited to bring pictures showing the history of Blue Heron and the area to be copied. The day will cap off with a special program and book signing at the train depot in historic Stearns, Kentucky at 5:30pm featuring a talk by Michael Nagle, author of the book Justus S. Stearns: Michigan Pine King and Kentucky Coal Baron, 1845-1933. Mr. Nagle will discuss the life of Mr. Stearns, the book and will also sign copies of the book. For information on the event on Saturday May 20th, visit www.nps.gov/biso/planyourvisit/blue-heron-decoration-day.htm or call the Blue Heron Interpretive Center at 376-3787.

 

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.

PVA OFFICE OPENS REAL PROPERTY DATABASE FOR ANNUAL INSPECTION
Each year, the McCreary County Property Valuation Administrator's office, or PVA, opens the real property database for the county for public inspection. This allows property owners to review their information to ensure it is accurate and to ensure they agree with the assessed value of their property. This is important as the county prepares for the setting of tax rates and printing of property tax bills in a few short months. The database may be inspected at the PVA's office starting today, Monday May 1st, through May 15th between 9:00am and 4:00pm daily, excluding Sundays. Any taxpayer wishing to appeal their real property assessment must first request a conference with PVA staff, then may file a formal request for appeal through the McCreary County Clerk's Office no later than close of business on Tuesday May 16, 2017. Appeals will be heard by the Board of Assessment Appeals locally in mid-June. For more information on property assessments, inspecting the real property assessment database or the appeals process, contact the McCreary County PVA office in the courthouse during regular business hours.

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.

 

McCREARY COUNTY RECORDS NEARLY 5 INCHES OF RAIN IN THREE DAYS
Flooding conditions across the region prompted McCreary County School officials to cancel classes locally for Monday April 24th. A statement from Schools Superintendent Mike Cash says that many roadways in the county are covered, or nearly covered, with water due to heavy rainfall over the past few days and that school is canceled for the safety of all involved with NTI (Non-Traditional Instruction) Day #6 being used by students.

According to the Mesonet official weather station based in McCreary County, nearly one and a half inches of rain fell each day Friday and Saturday, but that was topped by just over two inches of rain that fell on Sunday, for a total of nearly five inches of rain in just three days. The site reports that the total precipitation for the month of April thus far is 9.65 inches, with nearly a week remaining in the month. That compares to just 3.8 inches of rain in April last year.

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.

RAIDERS BASEBALL TEAM SPLITS PAIR OF GAMES AT SMOKIES STUDIUM
The McCreary Central Raider baseball squad played a pair of games at Smokies Stadium, near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, this past Saturday. The Raiders, under Coach Marc Taylor, split the games, picking up a win over Claiborne from New Tazewell, Tennessee 6-2 and dropping their game against West Knoxville 12-1 in 5 innings. This brings the Raiders record to 5-9 on the season at just about the midway point of the season. Their next game is scheduled for today (Monday April 24th) as their host Scott County, Tennessee at 5:30pm.

Meanwhile, the Lady Raiders fast pitch softball team is still on the hunt for their first win of the season, as they host Southwestern today at 6:00pm. That game had been scheduled for this past Friday but was rescheduled due to weather issues.

 

McCREARY CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL PREPARES FOR BUSY MONTH
The last month of the 2016-2017 school year will be very busy for students and staff at McCreary Central High School. Among some of the upcoming activities will be the annual Junior ROTC Military Ball, set for this Saturday April 22nd. Two deadlines are approaching for high school seniors to apply for scholarships for their post-secondary education, including awards from the McCreary County Chamber of Commerce and United Cumberland Bank, with deadlines set for May 5th to apply. Prom is set for Saturday May 13th at McCreary Central, heading into the final week of the school year. The school calendar shows no school on Tuesday May 16th for election day, although no elections are scheduled to take place this year. The lats day of school for students in McCreary County will be Thursday May 18th and high school graduation is scheduled for Saturday May 20th.

HIGH SCHOOL GEARING UP FOR TRACK REHAB PROJECT
The McCreary Central High School track program is getting a boost after getting back into competition mode this year, after years away from the sport. Another boost will come in the form of a track improvement project set to get underway in the coming weeks at the high school. The local school board recently received an update on the project which will resurface eight lanes of the track, setting the stage for sanctioned running events to be hosted locally. Some other areas will be added including for the long jump, pole vault, shot puts and more. The total cost of the project is said to be about $317,000 and work should begin in June with a completion date early this coming fall.

 

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.

BIG SOUTH FORK TO HOST TOURISM WORKSHOP IN McCREARY COUNTY
As the tourism season gets underway, officials with the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area are planning for a tourism related workshop, scheduled for early May in McCreary County. The “Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program” information session will be held Wednesday May 10th at 5:00pm at the McCreary County Public Library in downtown Whitley City. The session will introduce the program to the community around the Big South Fork Park and will offer discussion on how the program may be helpful for tourism planning in the region. The program is sponsored by the National Park Service to assist local communities with tourism related planning and conservation with a goal of working toward a greener, healthier community. Issues and topics covered during the program's informational session may include identifying funding sources, defining project vision and goals, setting priorities, mapping community resources, and engaging partners and stakeholders in projects. For additional information on the session, set for May 10th at 5:00pm at the McCreary County Public Library, call Big South Fork park headquarters at 423-569-9778.

 

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.

McCREARY PARK GETTING READY FOR SUMMER KICK-OFF CELEBRATION
It is still two months away but planning is underway now for the “Summer Kick-off Celebration” at the McCreary County Park. Park Manager Melissa Vanover released a draft flyer about the event this week stating that the celebration will be May 27th from 12:00-4:00pm centered around the shelter adjacent to the multi-purpose building at the county park. The event will include free food, face painting, and other activities, some of which will be announced as the date draws closer. Donations and participation are currently being sought from any local businesses, organizations or individuals who want to get involved to help make the day a success. Vanover noted that this is a free community event at the park, which is being put together solely on donations. The day is also being used to showcase some of the new features of the park including outdoor basketball courts, additional playground equipment and more. For more information on the event, or the park facilities, call Melissa Vanover at 376-7275 or e-mail melissa@mccrearycounty.com.

 

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.

 

WAYNE COUNTY COUPLE FOUND GUILTY OF CHILD'S DEATH IN SECOND TRIAL
A Wayne County couple found guilty in the death of their 17 month old child in 2013 have now been convicted again in the retrial which concluded this week in Pulaski Circuit Court. Kayla Lord and her boyfriend, Jared Futrell, were both convicted four years ago of wanton murder after the child died in 2011 after being found unresponsive and taken to the hospital. The second trial in the case was held in Pulaski County with both suspects convicted, this time on the charges of reckless homicide for Futrell and complicity to commit reckless homicide for Lord. Sentencing will be held April 21st in Pulaski Circuit Court.

 

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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