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DAILY NEWS UPDATES
(Updated Friday April 28, 2017 @ 7:00am)

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 SCHOOL BOARD TO CONSIDER TAX INCREASE TONIGHT
The McCreary County School Board will have their regular monthly meeting this evening (Thursday April 27th) at 6:30pm, but not before they hold a public hearing on a proposed tax increase. The school board will consider what is known as a “nickel tax” which would increase the school tax on real and personal property from the current 41.9 cents per $100 assessed value to 47.7 cents per $100. School officials have said that if the tax increase is approved the additional funding, which locally would amount to about $386,000, would be used to secure additional state funding of about $740,000, all of which could be set aside for building fund projects. Some of those projects could include roof repairs at local schools, additions to the middle school and preschools, and a new school bus garage.

It should also be noted that under state law, if the school board votes to approve the “nickel tax” as proposed, it could be subject to a recall vote from the citizens of the county. That would require a petition with signatures of at least 10% of the registered voters who cast ballots in the last General Election, or about 578 names, which would have to be submitted to the County Clerk's office within 45 days of the school board. That would then prompt a special referendum vote on whether to recall the tax increase.

A public forum will be offered at 6:00pm this evening at the school board office on Raider Way in Stearns, followed by the regular school board meeting at 6:30pm, which is expected to include a vote on the tax proposal on the agenda.

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.

SOMERSET COMMUNITY COLLEGE TO HOST EARTH DAY CELEBRATION
This Saturday April 22nd is Earth Day, a day set aside annually to recognize the importance of protecting the environment and taking on efforts like cleanups, recycling and more. Somerset Community College will host an Earth Day Celebration on Sunday April 23rd from 1:00pm to 4:30pm on the SCC North Campus at 808 Monticello Street in Somerset. Many exhibitors will be set up with information and activities for all ages including music, a rain barrel raffle, and more. The event is free to attend and is the 12th annual Earth Day Celebration at Somerset Community College. For information call Loris Sherman at 606-451-6855.

 

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 SCHOOLS PLANNING FOR CHANGES IN COMING YEARS
The next few years will see some noticeable changes in local schools, with some consolidation of classes and grades being moved to different schools. With just under a month left in this school year, with the last day for students set for May 18th, thoughts are turning to the 2017-2018 school year. The first phase of changes will come next year as Pine Knot Primary and Pine Knot Intermediate School consolidate into one school, Pine Knot Elementary School, under one principal and mascot, “Dragons”. The school will still use two separate buildings to divide the age and grade levels, but will be considered one school.

Over the next few years, plans also include adding on to the existing McCreary Middle School building in order to plan for moving all sixth grade students in the county to the middle school. This would also likely mean that the McCreary Academy (alternative school) would have to be moved from the middle school to another location, although no definite plans had been finalized for that at last report. School officials have said that moving sixth grade back to the middle schools will allow for more space at the elementary schools, which could aid in the possible expansion of the local preschool program. Again, step one in the overall restructuring plan is expected to go into effect next school year with the reintroduction of Pine Knot Elementary School, for preschool through sixth grade at two sites under the mascot “Dragons”.

BIG SOUTH FORK SET TO HOST 17TH ANNUAL SPRING PLANTING FESTIVAL
The 17th annual Spring Planting and Music Festival is set to be held in just ten (10) days on Saturday April 29th, hosted by the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. The event will be held at the Bandy Creek Visitor Center and in the fields around the center, on the Tennessee side of the park, with events throughout the day. Those events will include demonstrations about the Appalachian way of life, ranging from gardening and planting to horseshoe making, blacksmithing, split rail fencing, quilting, marble making and more. In addition, the day will include live music, a bird walk, trail runs, guided wildflower walk and more. For more information about the all day event on Saturday April 29th, call the Bandy Creek Visitor Center at 423-286-7275 or visit www.nps.gov/biso.

 

McCREARY SCHOOL BOARD TO HOLD HEARING ON PROPOSED TAX HIKE
While it is still several months before property tax bills for 2017 will be mailed out to local land owners, the McCreary County Board of Education is already setting its sights on the setting of tax rates for the year. A public notice issued by the local school board states that a public hearing will be held Thursday April 27th at 6:00pm at the board office on Raider Way in Stearns to hear comments from interested individuals regarding the proposed tax rates for 2017. The proposed tax rate would be 47.7 cents per $100 assessed value on both real and personal property. That would be a tax increase over the current year, with tax rates of 41.9 cents in both categories. Just over $1.7 million was generated from the 2016 property taxes for the local school district, with the proposed tax rate expected to generate just over $2.1 million of revenue in 2017, if the new rate is given final approval by the school board. The notice also outlines where the additional revenue would be spent, including just over $11,000 for collections, about $272,000 for the district's building fund, $95,000 for transportation and just under $7,000 for maintenance of plant, for a total added revenue amount of about $386,000. Again, the public hearing on the proposed tax hike will be Thursday April 27th at 6:00pm at the board office on Raider Way in Stearns. The public notice on the hearing can be found in the April 13th issue of The McCreary County Voice newspaper.

COMMUNITY ACTION AGENCY TO ACCEPT SPRING GARDENING APPLICATIONS
The annual spring Garden Program aimed at assisting low to moderate income residents and senior citizens is set to begin taking applications for 2017. The Lake Cumberland Community Action Agency will accept applications for the annual garden program starting this Wednesday April 19th and continuing while funding is available. Eligible households receive vouchers for garden supplies which can be redeemed at approved vendors in the area. Participants must show proof of household income as well as social security cards for household members and other information related to household members. Applications will be taken daily until funds are depleted at the Community Action Office at 431 North Highway 27 in Whitley City, in the former Maloney's building near Big M. For information on the Garden Program and the application process, call Taylor Braden at 376-2593. The program is funded under a contract with the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

McCREARY CENTRAL BASEBALL SQUAD TO PLAY AT SMOKIES STADIUM
The McCreary Central High School Raider baseball team has announced that they will be playing a pair of games at Smokies Stadium, located just outside of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, this Saturday April 22nd. Tickets are only $10 and that will provide admission for both Raiders' games, as well as a third game that day at the stadium. Information and tickets can be obtained by contacting Raider Baseball Coach Marc Taylor at McCreary Central High School this week.

 

EASTER SUNDAY ARRESTS REPORTED BY McCREARY LAW ENFORCEMENT
It was anything but a peaceful Easter Sunday morning as a trio of local arrests were reported on charges related to driving under the influence, possession of drugs and assault. Kentucky State Police arrested 38 year old Chad Corder of Whitley City, charging him with driving under the influence and several traffic offenses. The McCreary County Sheriff's Department nabbed 49 year old Beverly Ellison of London, Kentucky on charges of possession of a controlled substance 2
nd degree and 65 year old Donald Martin, of Cannon, Kentucky, for assault 1st degree. All three suspects were transported to and lodged in the Leslie County Detention Center at about 7:00am Sunday morning. Several other McCreary County inmates were booked in Leslie County over the weekend on a variety of charges ranging from drugs to bench warrants and non-payment of fines.

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.

TRUCK CRASHES IN PULASKI COUNTY KILLING SEVERAL CATTLE
A truck carrying more than two dozen cattle crashed in Pulaski County early Wednesday morning, resulting in the deaths of several of the cows and others being injured. It happened on Kentucky Highway 80 about 4;30am Wednesday, according to authorities, who say it appears the cattle shifted in the trailer and caused the truck and trailer to flip. The driver of the truck suffered minor injuries and traffic was stalled on Highway 80 for some time that morning.

 

McCREARY AMBULANCE SERVICE TO HOST COMMUNITY HEALTH FAIR
The McCreary County Ambulance Service has announced that they will host a community health fair next Saturday April 22nd at their location on Main Street in downtown Whitley City. A flyer for the event targets those who may not go to the doctor because they have no insurance or because of co-pays or other reasons. The local service has joined with Frontline Health Services to provide information and treatment for diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol, UTI, breathing issues and general illness, as well as routine labs and screens for blood pressure, oxygen levels, glucose, flu test, strep test, urine test and pregnancy test. A nurse practitioner will be on hand to serve the public, along with staff from the EMS. There is a cost of $20 per person for all services and the community health fair will be from 10:00am to 2:00pm Saturday April 22nd at the McCreary County Ambulance Service building in downtown Whitley City. For information, call Frontline Health Services at 606-620-4645.

BIG SOUTH FORK PARK TO RECOGNIZE “NATIONAL PARK” WEEK 2017
National Park Week 2017 is set for Saturday April 15th through Sunday April 23rd across America, and the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area will recognize the week by offering a number of recreational opportunities to visitors. Among the special offerings will be free camping at Alum Ford Campground in McCreary County Saturday April 15th and Sunday April 16th, as well as Saturday April 22nd and Sunday April 23rd. In addition, the Big South Fork will offer free backcountry camping permits for those weekends.

 

McCREARY COUNTY MAN TO APPEAR IN COURT ON CHILD PORN CHARGES
The McCreary County man arrested last week following an investigation by the Kentucky State Police Electronic Crimes Branch will appear in McCreary District Court this Thursday (April 13
th) at 9:00am for a preliminary hearing. Grover C. Manning was arrested at his home after officers served a search warrant and confiscated equipment and devices allegedly used in his crimes. Manning is charged with 13 counts of possessing and/or viewing matter portraying a sexual performance by a minor. The investigation is ongoing and Manning, a Pine Knot resident, is lodged in the Leslie County Detention Center.

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 COUNTY FARMERS' MARKET TO OPEN MAY 6TH
The 2017 season of the McCreary County Farmers' Market will open in less than a month, on Saturday May 6th, which is also “Derby Day” in Kentucky. To celebrate “Derby Day” and the market's season opening, the local farmers' market will host stick horse races for kids as well as hosting vendors selling local crafts and local produce. The market will be open Saturdays and some Thursdays through the summer and into the fall at the market location, next to the Soil Conservation District Office on Wilburn K Ross Highway in Stearns, and some Thursdays in Jackson Heritage Park in downtown Whitley City. Applications are available now for those interested in being a vendor for the McCreary County Farmers' Market, and can be picked up at the Judge-Executive's Office or the McCreary County Extension Service.

 

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)

  

McCREARY COUNTY RELAY FOR LIFE HOSTING 6TH ANNUAL HEE HAW SHOW
For the 6th year, McCreary County's Relay for Life will be hosting its fundraising Hee Haw Show to help raise funds and awareness for the 2017 Relay for Life. The show is set for Saturday April 15th with one show time at 5:30pm at McCreary Central High School's Christopher Hubbs Auditorium. The show will include live music and comedy skits with many local performers taking part. The show will be held in two segments, with the first half from 5:30 to 7:30pm, intermission, then the second part starting at 8:00pm. Admission for the 6th annual Hee Haw Show is $5 per person, as a donation to the American Cancer Society, with children 10 and younger admitted free. Tickets will be sold at the door and concessions will also be available. For information, call McCreary County Relay for Life Event Chairman, Freddie Patrick, at 606-310-1242. The McCreary County Relay for Life is scheduled for Friday May 19th starting at 6:00pm at the Sandhill 4-H Camp.

 

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 PUBLIC LIBRARY CELEBRATING “NATIONAL LIBRARY WEEK”
The McCreary County Public Library is celebrating National Library Week, which began Sunday April 9th and runs through Saturday April 15th. The local library is recognizing the week with a sidewalk book sale, no late fees on overdue materials returned all this week, and a special Tween/Teen Game Night. National Library Week was first recognized in 1958, established by the American Library Association in conjunction with libraries across the country. For more information on Library Week activities at the McCreary County Public Library this week, stop by in downtown Whitley City, call 376-8738, visit www.mccrearylibrary.org or follow the library on Facebook.

 

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.

McCREARY COUNTY SCHOOLS SET FOR SPRING BREAK 2017
The McCreary County School District will be out for spring break a full week starting after Friday April 7th, running through Sunday April 16th. School will then be back in session starting Monday April 17th. According to the school district's calendar, the last planned day of school for students will be Thursday May 18th, one of the earliest closing days in memory, due in part to a mild winter and the use of “non-traditional instruction” days this year.

McCREARY COUNTY TOURISM SEASON TO KICK-OFF WITH WEEKEND EVENTS
One could consider this weekend as the official kick-off for the tourism season in McCreary County, with several activities planned. This Saturday April 8th will be the opening day for the Big South Fork Scenic Railway for the new season, marking the 35th season for the train based in historic Stearns, Kentucky. With the McCreary County Heritage Foundation still owning the operation, and a new CEO and manager on the job, the train is set to start regular trips from Stearns to Blue Heron as of this weekend. In a statement posted recently online, the new management team says that nearly $100,000 worth of track work has been completed, along with a new paint job for the primary locomotive used by the railway. Special event trains are being planned through the season along with additional upgrades, according to the statement. For information you can follow the Big South Fork Scenic Railway on Facebook or visit www.bsfsry.com. Other operations of the Heritage Foundation, including the Whistle Stop restaurant, McCreary County Museum and Stearns Heritage Golf Course, are also now open for the season.

This Saturday will also mark the 3rd annual Yamacraw Run Trail Races in McCreary County, an event that draws hundreds of participants and spectators each year. The run includes distances of 10k, 20k and 50k with downtown Stearns as the main staging area for the races, which take in trails around the Big South Fork park and the Daniel Boone National Forest, including sections of the Sheltowee Trace National Trail.

Locals and visitors to McCreary County this weekend can also visit the McCreary Mountain Craft Center on Highway 90, just west of Cumberland Falls, which is now open for the season Thursday through Saturday from 10:00am to 5:00pm. The craft center will also host a yard sale this Saturday with proceeds benefiting the non-profit craft center and its association, located in an 1800s era log cabin.

 

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 HIGH SCHOOL SENIORS FACING SCHOLARSHIP DEADLINES
Seniors getting ready for high school graduation from McCreary Central are facing deadlines to apply for scholarships to help with the cost of furthering their education beyond high school. Two scholarship awards have application deadlines in exactly one month, on May 5th, according to information from the high school. United Cumberland Bank and the McCreary County Chamber of Commerce are each offering $500 scholarship awards for graduating seniors. Additional information on these and other scholarship opportunities is available through the guidance counselor's office at McCreary Central High School.

 

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.

COUNTYWIDE WET/DRY VOTE POSSIBLE IN WAYNE COUNTY?
Reports have surfaced that a petition calling for a countywide wet/dry vote may be circulating in neighboring Wayne County. The Wayne County Outlook reports this week that County Clerk Josephine Gregory confirmed being contacted about a month ago by residents seeking more information on the steps needed to call for such a vote. Now, reports indicate at least one petition is making its way around the county gathering signatures. Just over 2,000 signatures of registered Wayne County voters would be needed to schedule a special referendum vote, representing 25% of the total ballots cast in the last General Election. If that number of signatures is turned in and verified, the Wayne County Judge Executive would then have to schedule the special countywide vote. This comes just a few months after Monticello city voters rejected a wet/dry measure.

 

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.

McCREARY COUNTY BUSINESSES TO GET NOTICE OF TAX INCREASE
After the McCreary County Fiscal Court voted last week to give final approval to the occupational tax increase, Judge-Executive Doug Stephens was asked how local businesses will be notified of the change. He responded that letters will go out from the county's tax administrator, Stephanie Tucker, to businesses currently in the taxpayer database so they will know to begin deducting the higher amount from employees' wages. The tax is set to increase as of April 1st from the current 1% to 1.5%. That increase is estimated to bring in an additional $500,000 for the county each year, with that revenue earmarked specifically for the county's jail fund. Businesses or individuals needing more information on the tax increase or the occupational tax in general can contact the tax administrator's office at 376-1322 or e-mail stephanie@mccrearycounty.com. You can also contact the Judge-Executive's Office at 376-2413.

 

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.

STATE OFFICIALS RESTRICT POULTRY MOVEMENT AMID BIRD FLU CONCERNS
With recent conformation that Avian Influenza, commonly referred to as “Bird Flu”, has been detected in Kentucky, officials with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture have issued restrictions on the movements, sale and transfer of poultry in the state. Effective immediately until further notice, avian, or poultry, sales and show events are banned entirely including things such as stockyards, flea markets, swap meets and shows. In addition, entry of poultry into Kentucky must be permitted by the Office of the State Veterinarian and must have negative bird flu testing within thirty days prior to entry. Additional restrictions are also in place, and anyone with questions regarding what is and is not permitted should contact the Department of Agriculture for information.

 

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.

BIG SOUTH FORK PREPARING FOR “YAMACRAW BRIDGE CLEANUP”
The Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area has partnered with several other groups to hold a trail and river cleanup event this Saturday March 25th. The cleanup will cover areas of the Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail, running between the historic K & T Heritage Trail Bridge and the Yamacraw Bridge, just west of Stearns on Highway 92. Volunteers are being sought to assist with the effort and should meet and sign in at 9:00am this Saturday at the Highway 92 Yamacraw Bridge river access, on the west side of the bridge, off Kentucky Highway 1363. The cleanup will last until about 1:00pm and participants should plan to wear sturdy boots or shoes, long pants, long sleeved shirts, and bring water, insect repellent and gloves with them. Trash bags and trash grabbers will be provided by the event organizers. Since parking at the site is limited, participants are being encouraged to meet in other areas and car pool to the sign in location Saturday morning. For more information you can call Effie Houston, Volunteer Coordinator with the Big South Fork park, at 423-569-9778.

 

McCREARY PARK OFFICIALS HOPE TO SEE SPLASH PADS INSTALLED SOON
With warmer summer weather just around the corner, officials with the McCreary County Park are working to make sure all facilities and recreational features are ready for the upcoming season. The McCreary County Voice newspaper recently reported on one such project, noting that the county had received a cease and desist order from the state halting progress on the installation of the splash pad system at the local park. The article pointed out that the order came as the result of a failure of those involved with the project to submit the required blueprint design plans for the project to state officials and agencies. Sources close to the park and the project tell WHAY Radio that JC Egnew, the local business leader whose family has donated matching funds to make the project a reality, is now working with the company contracted to install the splash pads to obtain the blueprints and submit those to the state. We are also told by those sources that the local health department is working with the park board to resolve the matter as well. All of this is in hopes that the splash pads can be installed and operational at least by late May, when the park is scheduled to host a Summer Kick Off event. Other new features that visitors will notice this year at the county park include outdoor basketball courts, new playground equipment and lights on one field for little league baseball play and the possible hosting of tournaments. The McCreary County Park Board is scheduled to meet again on Monday April 3rd at 5:30pm at the community building of the park.

 

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.

OPEN RECORDS “ REQUEST SEEKS JAIL/TRANSPORT COST INFORMATION
WHAY Radio was provided a copy of an “open records” request filed with the McCreary County Judge-Executive's Office and Fiscal Court by the current issues program “Truth or Politics.” The request seeks information regarding any projections put together on the cost to potentially build and operate a new jail locally as opposed to the costs for transporting and housing inmates out of county. The request seeks the information before the court votes on the final passage of the occupational tax increase, something that is expected when the court meets in special session this Thursday March 23rd at 6:00pm.

In reality, Judge-Executive Doug Stephens and the court have discussed in some detail these numbers in open court meetings and have offered such comparisons. According to Judge Stephens, the projection for the current fiscal year operating as the situation stands now with the county transporting and housing in Leslie County, county leaders expect the overall jail budget to be about $1.1 million. While that is up from what the county was spending previously with a local jail, Judge Stephens has maintained that if the county were to build a new jail now and operate it, it would actually cost even more. He said with the increase in staffing requirements handed down by the state and the cost of operating new jails with a bed capacity of 150, which is the least the state will approve, the cost for operating a jail is estimated at about $1.5 million annually. That does not include the cost for paying off the debt for financing the construction of a new jail, which Stephens has estimated at about $500,000 each year. Those numbers would put the total jail budget at about $2 million annually for a new jail to be in operation. The county would have the possible option of housing state inmates, which could offset that cost to some degree, but the state has told counties not to count on those state inmates to fund their jails.

All of this, of course, would also depend on state officials actually approving the construction, opening and operation of a jail in McCreary County. Judge Stephens has also said that estimates for building a new jail can range from $10 million to $15 million, and that the county's current borrowing capacity is at $9 million.

Again, the McCreary County Fiscal Court is scheduled to meet in special session this Thursday March 23rd at 6:00pm with the second reading and possible final passage of an occupational tax increase on the agenda. That would increase the tax from the current 1% to 1.5% if approved and could go into effect April 1st. The court is also expected to hear the second reading of a business license permit ordinance for the county at that meeting.

 

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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