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Voters in neighboring Williamsburg went to the polls Tuesday for a special referendum vote on whether to expand alcohol sales to retail stores. The city had previously voted to allow sales by the drink at restaurants but Mayor Roddy Harrison started a petition to allow for sales of beer, wine and liquor at qualifying stores. Voters approved that measure by a vote of 448 in favor to 241 against. Harrison said the move should help boost the local economy of Williamsburg and help with their tourism industry.

Emergency responders in Wayne County were called to the scene of a fatal crash on East Highway 92 Monday afternoon at about 2:30pm. Authorities say it happened about 4 miles outside of Monticello when a passenger vehicle and a log truck collided. 28 year old Timothy Gregory was pronounced dead at the scene, while another occupant of the passenger vehicle, 31 year old Heidi Kennedy, was airlifted to UK Medical Center in critical condition. The driver of the log truck was not reportedly injured. Kentucky State Police are investigating the fatal crash and say Gregory and Kennedy were not wearing seat belts, but they say they do not suspect alcohol or drugs as a factor in the crash.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more than one hundred years, Stearns has celebrated Independence Day on or around July 4th with various activities, including a fireworks show. This year will be no different as the annual Homecoming and Heritage Day is set for this Saturday July 2nd in downtown Stearns. The classic car cruise in will begin at 11:00am with all cars welcome, along with various vendors set up along the streets in Stearns. Vendors interested can call the McCreary County Museum at (606)376-5730 to reserve their space.

The museum will host its “Southern Writers' Series” with author Terry Lynn Crane signing her book “Fiddle Dee Dee Recipes”. The event will be held inside the train depot from 10:30am to 5:00pm. Terry's late husband, Fred, portrayed Brent Tarleton in “Gone with the Wind” and the day's theme will be a taste of “Gone with the Wind” as the Whistle Stop bar will serve a Sacrlett O'Hara cocktail.

Open house will also be held throughout the day at the museum with free admission and a silent starting at 10:00am. In addition, Fox Creek Amusements will be offering carnival type rides in the OVC parking lot in Stearns throughout the day, as well as a 16' water slide and a 34' slip-n-slide. The day will close with fireworks after dark over Stearns this Saturday July 2nd.

For additional information on the festivities, call the McCreary County Museum at 376-5730 or look them up on Facebook.

With summer now in full swing and temperatures soaring above 90 degrees, and in some case heat the index topping 100 degrees, McCreary County Emergency Management Director Rudy Young is urging caution during times of extreme heat. Remember, according to Young, that heat kills by pushing the human body beyond its limits. During times of extreme heat and high humidity, the body must work extra hard just to maintain a normal temperature. Try to stay indoors as much as possible and limit exposure to the sun; avoid outdoor activities, especially during the hours of 10:00am to 4:00pm when temperatures and the heat index can be the highest; eat well balanced, light, cool meals and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated; limit intake of alcoholic beverages as they can have a dehydrating affect; never leave children or animals alone with closed vehicles or other areas without circulation; and check on neighbors and family, especially the elderly, during times of extreme heat. If you have animals outdoors, make sure they have shaded areas and plenty of water to drink. If you do have to be outdoors, such as for work, make sure to take plenty of breaks, get in the shade when possible, dress in loose fitting clothing, and drink plenty of water.

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

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin announced this week his plan for dealing with the state's expanded Medicaid program. Former Governor Steve Beshear expanded the program during his term as part of changes made to accommodate the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, and to get health coverage for many low income Kentuckians who could not afford to buy private insurance. Governor Bevin now says the state cannot afford the $1.2 billion it will cost between 2017-2021 to pay for the expanded Medicaid program. As a way of paying for that program, Bevin announced he wants to create a program called “Helping to Engage and Achieve Long Term Health” or simply known as “HEALTH”. It would include a waiver application process for those on Medicaid coverage and would include those recipients being asked to start paying a monthly premium for health coverage. That premium could range from as low as $1 per month to $15 per month per individual, depending on income levels relative to the national poverty line. Another change would be the loss of dental and vision coverage for those on Medicaid. Governor Bevin said two goals of the plan are to help pay for the cost of the expanded Medicaid program and to encourage those getting benefits through the program to start transitioning to private insurance. The plan must still be approved by federal Medicaid officials. If it is not approved, it could mean that some 400,000 Kentuckians currently on Medicaid would lose their coverage.

The staff of the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area is offering some weekend programs including “Bear on the Plateau” which will be held Saturday evening. The program will cover black bear biology, how to stay safe in bear country, and your role in keeping bear populations wild. The program will be offered at Blue Heron Campground starting at 7:00pm this Saturday and is free and open to the public.

On Sunday June 26th, park staff will guide a healthy hike starting at 11:00am at the Yahoo Falls parking area. The hike takes in the 1.2 mile loop trail around Yahoo Falls and back to the parking area, and is rated easy to moderate. The hike is also free and open to the public with those taking part reminded to dress appropriately for the weather and bring water.

For information on either weekend program, call the Blue Heron Interpretive Center at 606-376-3787.

We previously reported that Pioneer Community Hospital of Scott County in Oneida, Tennessee was set to close this coming Sunday June 26th. Scott County media sources now say that the closure has been delayed, but only by a few days. The facility will now close at 8:00am on Friday July 1st, giving at least a few extra days of service to the region and work time for its employees. Media sources say Pioneer did not release full details of the decision to delay the closure, but say it may have to do with a change in Tennessee state law regarding requirements of facilities closing. That law reportedly changes July 1st. Pioneer's Family Care Clinic will also apparently remain open until next Friday July 1st as well.

Investigators looking into the hit and run crash in Pulaski County earlier this week that killed a 10 year old boy say they have reason to believe that a red four door car in the area at the time may have been involved. They are seeking the public's help in identifying that car as well as a woman seen driving the car around the time of the crash. The car that hit the boy fled the scene. The boy was taken to the hospital after being hit but was pronounced dead a short time later. The Pulaski County Major Crimes Task Force is leading the investigation.

An environmental assessment has been developed for the remediation of contaminated mine drainage sites in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area in McCreary County, on the Kentucky side of the park. The plan was put forth by the National Park Service and the US Army Corps of Engineers in an effort to determine the impacts to park resources as a result of contaminated mine drainage remediation. The project would help improve water quality and aquatic habitat in the park and the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River, according to park officials. Public comments are currently being accepted through July 20th on the proposal with copies of the assessment available online as well as at the McCreary County Public Library in downtown Whitley City. Interested persons can also request a hard copy of the assessment by call park headquarters at 423-569-9778. A public hearing to discuss the project and accept comments will also be held next Thursday June 30th from 4:00-6:00pm at the Big South Fork Park Stearns Ranger Station on Wilburn K Ross Highway in Stearns.

To find information online, go to www.nps.gov/biso/learn/management/publicinvolvement.htm.

Authorities in Pulaski County are investigating what they say was a hit and run crash Monday night. The incident resulted in the death of a 10 year old boy on Rock Lick Creek Road which is near Science Hill in northern Pulaski County. The boy was reportedly hit by a car, which fled the scene, and was then taken to the hospital where he later died from his injuries. At last report, police were searching for the vehicle and the driver involved, with charges likely to be filed in the case.

The Stearns District of the Daniel Boone National Forest will be offering two public field trips next month, and today (Wednesday June 22nd) is the last day for interested parties to reserve their space. The trips are being offered as educational workshops, primarily for local landowners interested in managing their land for improved wildlife habitat. The trips will be led by professionals in the field, including foresters, biologists, and fire management officials, who will discuss best management practices that landowners can use to improve land use for habitat. Participants will also learn about cost share programs that help provide funding for habitat improvement efforts. Field trips within the Stearns District will take place on Friday July 8th and Saturday July 9th between 9:30am and 4:00pm. The workshops are free and lunch will be provided, but registration for transportation and the meal is required with today being the last day to sign up. Contact the Forest Service at 859-745-3148 for details and to register.

The American Red Cross is searching for volunteers to respond to the needs of individuals and families in the event of a home fire. Volunteers will help families with finding shelter after a fire destroys a home, as well as providing for basic needs of the individuals involved. Volunteers should have flexible schedules and be willing to help their neighbors in need. An orientation session for new volunteers is scheduled for this Thursday June 23rd from 6:00-7:30pm at the Hal Rogers Training Center on Oak Leaf Land in Somerset. Prospective volunteers can get information and apply online at www.redcross.org/volunteer. You can also call the Lake Cumberland Area American Red Cross office at 859-893-2395.

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

Representatives from Joshua Housing Foundation will be in McCreary County this Wednesday June 22nd taking applications from area residents for their 2017 build. The foundation donates its time to build homes for families in need and will be set up this Wednesday taking applications from 9:00am to 12noon. Take Highway 90 to Highway 896 and follow for about 7.2 miles and turn right onto Sawyer Church Road. Go to the fourth place on the left on that road where you can meet with representatives from the organization and submit an application. You must submit a copy of your W2 or proof of income, two recommendation letters, copy of your deed to the land on which you want to build, or a letter showing that you can have land deeded to you. Land with mortgages or land contracts will not be considered. For more information on the Joshua Housing Foundation or plans for the local build, contact Danielle Ridener-Wyatt on Facebook, by e-mailing danielleridener06@gmail.com or by calling or texting 606-310-0777.

The 2016 Country Fair in McCreary County will open tonight (Tuesday June 21st) at the fairgrounds at the county park. Gates open at 5:30pm with carnival rides, baby pageant, and other activities this evening. Admission will be $10 per person through Thursday, and $12 per person Friday and Saturday. Entries for the exhibit hall will be taken in the gym of the McCreary County Senior Citizens Center from 1:00-7:00pm today with the exhibit hall open to the public Wednesday and Thursday from 6:00-8:00pm.

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

Last week, we reported on comments made by McCreary County Chamber of Commerce President Diana Bybee at the June Fiscal Court meeting which indicated that employees at Pioneer Hospital in Oneida, Tennessee were beginning to be notified of the loss of their jobs. Following that report, a representative from the hospital contacted WHAY Radio denying the reports that the hospital was preparing to close. However, Scott County media sources report that the very next day, last Thursday June 16th, employees at the hospital were told by Tony Taylor, CEO of the local facility, that in fact the hospital will close on June 26th at 8:00am. In addition, Pioneer will close its Family Care Clinic in Oneida this Friday June 24th. This comes after Pioneer had filed for bankruptcy protection on the facility.

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

The Blue Heron Campground will be the site of a weekend program, giving local residents and visitors to the Big South Fork a chance to ask rangers questions about things they can or cannot do in the park. Whether the question relates to recreational activities like swimming, hiking and camping or things like hunting and fishing regulations, questions can be asked during the “Ranger, Can I...?” program. The program begins at 7:00pm this Saturday June 18th at the Blue Heron Campground on Highway 742 west of Stearns and is free and open to the public.

The Big South Fork is inviting participants to take part in a nature hike at the Yahoo Falls area this Sunday June 19th starting at 11:00am at the Yahoo Falls parking area off Highway 700 west of Whitley City. The hike will follow the trail that descends a series of steps to pass behind the waterfall under a large rock shelter. It then loops around, crosses the creek, and returns back to the parking area after passing towering sandstone cliffs. The ranger led hike is 1.2 miles and is rated easy to moderate, but does contain a set of long steps. For information or directions, call the Blue Heron Interpretive Center at 376-3787.

A project which has been in the works for many months is now set to get underway. The road to Yahoo Falls is set for improvements including paving a total of 1.7 miles at a width of 17 feet allowing easier access to the Yahoo Fall picnic area and trailhead off Highway 700 west of Whitley City. McCreary County officials, working with officials from the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, applied for funding through the Federal Lands Access Program to be able to complete the project. Paving work is set to begin this coming Monday June 20th with the picnic area and trailhead to remain open to visitors throughout the project. However, those traveling in the area could experience delays during the work period. Yahoo Falls is a major destination in McCreary County, promoted as the tallest waterfall in Kentucky at 113 feet. Trails around the area lead to Yahoo Falls, Yahoo arch and overlooks including looking out on the scenic gorge and the Big South Fork River.

The McCreary County Park Board will hold a special session this afternoon (Thursday June 16th) at 5:30pm at the shelter next to the main building at the park. The meeting is being held to allow park board members a chance to review bids received by the county for splash pads to be installed at the park. The McCreary County Fiscal Court opened the two bids received at their regular meeting last week, with Splash Pads USA coming in as low bid at $65,000 and another company bidding more than $190,000 for the same project. That project includes the installation of a 30' x 40' splash pad with related equipment and facilities at the local park. The court voted to accept the low bid pending a review by the park board, which will take place at this evening's meeting. The board is also currently working on a list of other improvements and upgrades at the park.

The annual McCreary County Fair will be held next week with dates set from Tuesday June 21st through Saturday June 25th at the fairgrounds at the county park, just north of Whitley City on Highway 27. The fair will be open starting at 5:30pm each day during the week with carnival rides, live music, corn hole tournaments, cake walk, and more. A baby pageant will be held Tuesday June 21st with registration at 5:30pm and the pageant at 6:30pm. Corn hole and cake walk will be held Wednesday evening June 22nd, Thursday night June 23rd will be gospel music night, and Friday June 24th will include live music from Hap Strunk & Southern Smoke, plus KOI with trucks and jeeps welcome to try out the track. Saturday June 25th will include music from Ryan Patrick, followed by the group Springs. Admission to the county fair will be $10 per person Tuesday through Thursday and $12 per person Friday and Saturday.

Fair exhibit entries will be accepted at the McCreary County Park/Senior Citizens Center Gym Tuesday June 21st from 1:00-7:00pm with the exhibit hall open to the public June 22nd and 23rd from 6:00-8:00pm. Entries should be picked up by the owner on Friday June 24th starting at 7:00pm. For information on the exhibit hall of the McCreary County Fair, contact the extension service at 376-2524.

State Treasurer Allison Ball has issued a warning of a check scam to citizens across Kentucky. According to a press release issued this week, the scam seeks to steal the identity of Kentuckians by mailing a check to the intended victim, asking them to deposit or cash the check. When the check is rejected and the victim contacts the sender, they are told to provide bank account information for a direct deposit. The victim then gives up their name and account information which the scammer can use for future activity and gain. The letters being sent with the checks were reportedly signed as “Mrs. Alison Lundergan Grimes”, who is of course Kentucky Secretary of State. Keep in mind this is scam and is not a legitimate letter or check and that you should not give out personal or account information. The investigation into this scam is continuing with several state agencies involved, including the Treasurer's office, Secretary of State's office and the office of Kentucky's Attorney General.

With state funding being cut to colleges and universities and other economic factors in play, many institutes of higher learning are being forced to make tough decisions, like cutting offerings and programs, laying off staff and raising tuition. The Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) announced this past Friday that it will now be forced to raise tuition on students beginning in the 2016-2017 academic year, which begins this coming fall semester. The increase will be $9 per credit hour for students who pay in-state tuition. The overall operating budget for KCTCS for 2016-2017 will be $48.5 million less that the current year budget and an $89.1 million reduction from just a couple of years ago. The increase in tuition will impact students attending community and technical college across the state, including at the McCreary Center and Somerset Community College, where budget cuts, reduced enrollment numbers and other factors are already fueling rumors that the future of the local center is in question.

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

An elderly Pulaski County man lost his life this past Thursday in a traffic crash on Highway 39. Police say 74 year old Gerald Snowden of Burnside was killed when his car was hit by a U-Haul van being driven by Joshua Nottingham. The U-Haul was reportedly heading southbound when it veered into the northbound lane, striking the other vehicle. Nottingham had to be extricated from the van and was airlifted to UK Medical Center in Lexington, while Snowden was cut from his vehicle and was taken to Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital in Somerset where he was pronounced dead. The cause of the crash remains under investigation by Somerset Police.

The summer season is now underway and part of that is special activities in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. One special event coming up is a Blue Heron hike on Wednesday June 15
th at 2:30pm. The hike allows participants to enjoy nature while also stepping back in time to learn more about life from generations past in the coal mining communities. The hike is a 45 minute program walking around the outdoor museum at the Blue Heron Mining Community at the end of Highway 742 west of Stearns, Kentucky. Pets are welcome as long as they are on a leash and well behaved. Bring water and dress appropriately for the weather. For information or directions call the Blue Heron Interpretive Center at 606-376-3787.

While we have not received confirmation from other sources, McCreary County Chamber of Commerce President Diana Bybee told the McCreary County Fiscal Court, and all in attendance at their regular meeting last week, that Pioneer Health Services hospital in Oneida, Tennessee will in fact be closing. She said that employees at the hospital had received letters last week notifying them of the company's intentions to close the facility. We previously reported that Pioneer had filed for bankruptcy protection for the facility and that the closure was a possibility, although at that time company officials said they were still hopeful it could remain open. We also reported that before the hospital could close, employees there must be given at least 60 days notice of termination of their jobs. Again, according to comments by McCreary Chamber President Diana Bybee, that notice has apparently been given to employees.

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

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

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

A Pulaski County woman was arrested this week, charged with child sexual exploitation offenses according to the Kentucky State Police. 46 year old Jennifer L. Summers of Nancy, Kentucky was charged with possession and distribution of matter portraying a sexual performance by a minor. She was arrested following an undercover investigation by the Internet Crimes Against Children division of the KSP after officers discovered images being shared online. A search warrant was then executed at Summers' home where investigators say they confiscated equipment that will be examined at the Kentucky State Police Forensic Lab. Summers was lodged in the Pulaski County Detention Center following her arrest with the investigating continuing.

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

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

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

The annual Spring Fest hosted by the Blazin' Bluegrass Festival kicks off today (Thursday June 9th) at Sandhill RV Camp on Highway 700 in Whitley City. The event is held to shine additional light of publicity on the festival while also raising money for the main event in September. Tonight's part of the event includes “open mic” night from 5:00-9:30pm. On Friday June 10th, gospel night will be held from 5:00-10:00pm with groups like Southern Grace, Higher Tradition, Chimney Rock Boys, Joyful Noise and others. Saturday June 11th will feature a full day of bluegrass music from 12:00-10:00pm with the host band CF Bailey and Shadow Ridge, Cumberland River String Band, Open Rail and more. Admission to the Blazin' Bluegrass Spring Fest is free Thursday night, $5.00 per person Friday night and $8.00 Saturday or a three day pass is available for $10.00. Camping is also available on site and food will be sold with all money raised supporting the Blazin' Bluegrass Festival in September. For details you can visit the festival online at www.blazinbluegrass.com or look them up on Facebook.

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

Two neighboring counties have been the locations for a couple of major marijuana discoveries in the last week. Drug agents from the Scott County Sheriff's Department, working with the 8th Judicial District Drug Task Force, located and seized almost three pounds of pot last week. That was at a home on Pistol Lane where the property's owner, 43 year old Travis Newport, was charged with possession of marijuana for resale, a felony charge. In Whitley County, authorities discovered marijuana being grown at a residence in the Siler community on Monday morning. This came following a tip to the Whitley County Sheriff's Department. 29 year old Jesse Hembree was arrested at the scene and charged with cultivating marijuana 5 plants or more and resisting arrest and was lodged in the Whitley County Detention Center. Officers confirmed locating and seizing 15 cups containing small marijuana plants growing at the location. The investigations continue in both cases.

The McCreary Mountain Craft Center is gearing up for several exciting summer events at their location on Highway 90, about 7 miles east of Highway 27 in Parkers Lake and about 4 ½ miles west of Cumberland Falls. You can “bring in the Summer Solstice” with the Craft Center the weekend of Saturday June 18th and Sunday June 19th including activities for children as they can make gifts and cards for Father's Day. A candle wicking embroidery class will begin at 11:00am and 1:00pm on Saturday June 18th at a cost of $3.00 per person.

Other summer events include the Independence Day crafters' weekend Saturday July 2nd through Monday July 4th. The craft center will then be decorated for “Christmas in July” starting July 5th, with the main holiday celebration on Saturday July 23rd. A writers' workshop, with author Sam Perry, is also planned for August 20th.

The craft center is full of locally, handcrafted items in an 1800s era cabin and is open from 10:00am-5:00pm. For information call 376-3463 or e-mail mountaincraftcenter@gmail.com.

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

The summer season is now underway and part of that is special activities in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. One special event coming up is a Blue Heron hike on Wednesday June 15th at 2:30pm. The hike allows participants to enjoy nature while also stepping back in time to learn more about life from generations past in the coal mining communities. The hike is a 45 minute program walking around the outdoor museum at the Blue Heron Mining Community at the end of Highway 742 west of Stearns, Kentucky. Pets are welcome as long as they are on a leash and well behaved. Bring water and dress appropriately for the weather. For information or directions call the Blue Heron Interpretive Center at 606-376-3787.

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

An unusual call came in to the Whitley County 911 Dispatch Center last week, as a man said the woman he was with had just given birth in a tent while they were camping. When authorities arrived on scene they learned this was no ordinary camping trip. Officers discovered a number of items used in the manufacturing of methamphetamine. 25 year old Meagan Helton was taken to the hospital along with her newborn, but that did not prevent police from charging her, and 42 year old David Osborne, with manufacturing meth and unlawful possession of meth precursors. Osborne was taken to jail while Helton was cited to court because of her status in the hospital. The baby was taken to UK Medical Center in Lexington in critical condition. Police if the newborn lives, it will be placed with Social Services. The case remains under investigation by the Whitley County Sheriff's Department.

With school out for this year and planning already underway for the next school year, McCreary Central High School has at least two new names to add to their roster of staff for 2016-2017. Two new athletic coaches have been hired by the school district for the high school, starting with Jimmy Voight who was recently named head boys' basketball coach, after long time coach Robert Jones stepped down. Jones will remain as Athletic Director for the school district. Meanwhile, school leaders have now announced Lucas Ford as the new head football coach, after Justin Bozeman recently resigned the post. Both new coaches have a steep hill to climb with losing records to overcome for both sports at McCreary Central. Voight and Ford are reportedly already working to get the programs moving in the right direction ahead of next school year.

Authorities in Pulaski County say a homeowner there thwarted attempts by a suspect in a home invasion robbery. It happened late Tuesday evening off Wesley Chapel Road when an armed suspect reportedly kicked in the back door of the home and entered, armed with a shotgun. The homeowner confronted the suspect, they struggled, and the owner came away with the gun. He held the suspect until police could arrive. Arrested was 32 year old Shane Longlott of Somerset, charged with the home invasion attempt as well as outstanding warrants for him for a previous home break in. The Pulaski County Sheriff's Department is leading the investigation.

It is no secret that many children in America live below the poverty line, which means for many the only meals they can count on are those they receive while at school. Where does that leave those children during summer months when school is on break? Some programs continue working to ensure that children can still get healthy, hot meals during these months. The Eagle Community Center, part of the Christian Appalachian Project, is again offering the summer food service program beginning next Tuesday June 7th and continuing through the end of July. During that period, meals will be served each Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 12:00-1:00pm at the center. Meals are served without charge on a first come, first served basis. The center is located on Highway 90 at the site of the former Eagle Elementary School.

In addition, the Lord's Cafe, sponsored by Crossroads Community Baptist Church, will be offering lunch meals from 11:00am-1:30pm each weekday starting next week. The cafe is located in the former Blue Heron Restaurant building, next to Parkland Motel, Highway 27 just south of Stearns. Meals at the Lord's Cafe are also free and open to all ages, with donations accepted.

This is an exciting week in the McCreary County School District as staff and students get ready for the end of another school year. It is especially exciting for members of McCreary Central High School's class of 2016, who will graduate this Saturday June 4th. Graduation is set for 10:00am Saturday in the high school gym with shuttle buses running from several parking locations to the high school, to help cut traffic congestion at the school. Buses will run from 8:00am to 9:40am leading up to the graduation and will also run back to the parking sites after the ceremony. Parking sites this year include Outdoor Venture at the former ABC plant in Stearns, Pine Knot Primary School parking lot and the Whitley City Elementary School parking lot. Parking at McCreary Central, McCreary Middle and the Board of Education office will be limited Saturday to students graduating and staff with official parking passes. There will be buses at each location for those with handicap permits as well and school staff will be on location at each site to assist when needed.

Seniors at McCreary Central are having their senior breakfast and graduation practice tomorrow (Friday June 3rd), which will also be the final day of classes for students. School in the McCreary County School District will be dismissing at 1:00pm Thursday June 2nd and Friday June 3rd as the school year comes to a close.

The future of the hospital in Scott County, Tennessee continues to look rocky as Pioneer Health Services, the company which manages the facility, has given state officials notice that a closure of the hospital is possible. Company leaders have said they are still hopeful that the facility can remain open, but state law requires notice to be filed at least 30 days before any hospital closes. That has been done now, according to company statements, as a precautionary measure and does not necessarily mean a closure is pending. However, the company has filed bankruptcy on the facility and talked of laying off employees. Reports indicate that the hospital in Oneida currently has more than 100 employees and would have to give them a 60 day notice before terminating their jobs, or pay them a severance package. There is also the matter of the physical hospital building and property which, under the terms of the company's agreement with Scott County, would revert back to the county if the hospital does not remain open for a designated amount of time. Overall, the future of the hospital remains uncertain.

The Memorial Day holiday weekend turned tragic with fatalities reported in two neighboring counties. A 17 year old girl died over the weekend when she was thrown from an all terrain vehicle on which she was riding in Laurel County. A teenage boy was reportedly operating the ATV at the time of the crash. Both were transported to St Joseph Hospital in London where she was pronounced dead. In Scott County, Tennessee, 25 year old Danielle Kay Stahley of Michigan was killed Friday evening in an all terrain accident on River Road when the vehicle in which she was riding went over an embankment and went into New River. The driver of the vehicle, 26 year old Joshua Michael Ward, was injured in the crash. Both occupants had been drinking prior to the accident, according to investigators, and Ward has been charged with driving under the influence.

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

The Whitley County Sheriff's Department has reported that a 21 year old man from Corbin was arrested this past weekend, charged with abusing a two year old child. Joshua Eaton was taken into custody after officers investigated claims by an adult female who said she was struck by him while trying to protect her two year old son. Police said the child did show signs of being physically abused. Eaton was lodged in the Whitley County Detention Center and was charged with first degree criminal abuse of a child under age 12 and fourth degree assault for domestic violence. The case remains under investigation.

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

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

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

With only a few days remaining in the school year for the students and staff of the McCreary County School District, Superintendent Mike Cash has announced that school will dismiss early the final two days of the year. Schools will dismiss students at 1:00pm Thursday June 2nd and Friday June 3rd due to additional instruction hours that were built into the school year calendar to use for any early dismissals or missed days needed. Additionally, there will be no school this coming Monday in McCreary County for Memorial Day.

With Memorial Day weekend set to begin, law enforcement officials across Kentucky are gearing up to help make the roadways safer and are using their participation in the nationwide campaign known as “Click It or Ticket” to help in that effort. The Kentucky Office of Highway Safety and the Kentucky State Police have announced that the effort is already underway and will continue through this holiday weekend, next week and next weekend, ending Sunday June 5th. Police will be focusing on a number of traffic violations including failure to wear seatbelts, speeding and driving under the influence, but the national effort this year has a special emphasis on pickup trucks. Studies show the use of seatbelts is lowest in pickup trucks at only about 79%, compared to about 86.7% overall. Of the 761 highway fatalities in Kentucky last year, authorities say 61% of the fatalities involving motor vehicles were unrestrained occupants who were killed. Additional patrols and traffic checkpoints will be used by law enforcement through the effort, with special focus on the holiday weekend which will run through Monday night.

The Centennial Challenge hikes, being held all this year to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the creation of the National Park Service, will continue in the Big South Fork this Memorial Day holiday weekend. The next challenge hike is this Saturday may 28th along the Rock Creek Loop. You can join Park Ranger Mary Grimm for the strenuous 7.1 mile hike which will take all day and passes the gently flowing Massey Branch and Rock Creek with rock houses and large boulders to be seen along the way. Visitors can join the hike by meeting at the trailhead at 10:00am Saturday morning. Take Highway 154 and turn on Divide Road, then look for the Hattie Blevins Cemetery sign. The Rock Creek trailhead is at the end of the road. For additional information, call the Bandy Creek Visitor Center at 423-286-7275 or visit www.nps.gov/biso. The hike is free to join, but participants are reminded it will be a strenuous all day hike. You should bring water and snacks with you and dress appropriately for the weather.

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

One issue that appeared under “public comments” on the agenda for this week's McCreary County Board of Education meeting was an effort to name the auditorium at McCreary Central High School after long time choral teacher Chris Hubbs. Principal Sharon Privett spoke to the board about the influence and impact Hubbs had on students throughout the years, noting that he had started at the school in the late 1970s. Even after retiring, Hubbs came back to teach several more years at McCreary Central before retiring again. All in attendance at the school board meeting seemed open to moving ahead with honoring Hubbs by naming the auditorium for him, but because the items was not an action item on the agenda, the board could only ask that the item be placed on the June meeting's agenda for vote at that time. That meeting will be Thursday June 9th at 6:30pm at the board office in Stearns.

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

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

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

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

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

A shooting incident Sunday evening in neighboring Pulaski County led authorities to begin a search for a suspect in the case. Police were called to the scene on Ringgold Road where they found 37 year old Harlan Richardson suffering from a gunshot wound. Richardson was flown to UK Medical Center in Lexington for treatment. The suspect in the shooting was identified as Dewayne Peters and a search began for the man who police say had fled the scene. The car he left in, a Nissan passenger car, was later located in a flea market parking lot in Somerset but Peters remained at large with authorities searching for him. The Pulaski County Sheriff's Department is asking that anyone with information on the shooting call their office at 606-678-5145.

A Pulaski County woman was in court this past Friday where she entered a guilty plea to the charges of theft and tampering with physical evidence. Amanda Braddock was originally charged with complicity to commit murder in connection with the disappearance and murder of Edward Vanwormer last September. That man was eventually located under newly poured concrete at his own home after tips led police to his son, Jedidiah Vanwormer and Amanda Braddock. The pair had later fled the area and were arrested in North Carolina. Vanwormer is facing murder charges in connection with the case.

The Friday afternoon trip home from school turned scary for those on one local school bus. The McCreary County School District confirmed that school bus number 702 was involved in what they call a minor accident just after 4:00pm Friday at the junction of Highway 90 and Piney Grove Road in the north end of the county. According to an e-mail sent out to parents from McCreary County Schools Superintendent Mike Cash, emergency responders were on the scene of the accident quickly and, after each student and the bus driver on board were checked by local EMS personnel, it was reported that there were no injuries in the accident. On the scene of the accident were McCreary County EMS, the McCreary County Sheriff's Department and Kentucky State Police.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 2016 Relay for Life in McCreary County will see some changes as compared to previous years. Those attending the event in the past have been used to activities at the McCreary Central High School football field and track, but this year's event will be moved to the Sandhill RV Camp on Highway 700. The Relay for Life, which raises money and awareness for the American Cancer Society and the fight against cancer, will be held this Saturday May 21st with opening ceremonies beginning at 12noon and activities continuing through the afternoon and evening to midnight. The traditional survivor's lap will be included in the schedule at 7:00pm Saturday evening along with the lighting of luminaries to honor those who have battled cancer just after dark. There will also be live music and concessions throughout the day, along with a silent auction to help raise money for the effort. Organizers emphasize that the event will be held rain or shine on Saturday at Sandhill Camp. Information on McCreary County's Relay for Life can be obtained by calling Freddie Patrick, local event chairman, at 606-310-1242 or by contacting Brooke Whitis with the American Cancer Society at 606-678-0203 or by e-mailing brooke.whitis@cancer.org.

This Saturday May 21st is “Kids to Parks” Day, which is a nationwide day of outdoor play in parks sponsored by the National Park Trust. Locally, the Big South Fork Scenic Railway is taking part by offering a special discounted rate to ride for kids on Saturday. The train runs from historic Stearns to Blue Heron Mining Camp, which is operated by the Big South Fork. Discounted rate applies for Saturday only with tickets purchased in person. For information call the Big South Fork Scenic Railway at 376-5330 or visit www.bsfsry.com. For more on “Kids to Parks” Day, visit

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

The 48th district high school baseball and softball tournament schedules have been set for this year, with both McCreary Central teams to play this coming Monday May 23rd. The Raiders baseball team will hit the field at Wayne County, playing the host school, Monday night at 7:00pm. The winner will take on Southwestern Pulaski on their home field in the district championship at 8:00pm Tuesday May 24th. The Lady Raiders will play at Southwestern Monday night where they will take on Wayne County at 7:00pm. The winner of that game will play Southwestern on their home field at 7:00pm next Tuesday in the girls' championship game.

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes was right on the mark with her prediction ahead of Tuesday's primary election in the state when she said about 20% of the state's voters would probably cast ballots. In fact, the unofficial tally from yesterday's election put Kentucky's voter turnout at 20.65%. McCreary County did not even show that much interest in the primary with only about 11% of local voters heading to the polls. Grimes appeared on Kentucky Sports Radio Tuesday morning where she noted that Republican turnout across the state was expected to be low because of confusion among many who thought they could not vote because they had already cast ballots in the Presidential contest back in March. It was noted that there were still a number of races on the ballot for Republicans to choose from, including the primary for US Senate and US Representative. Locally, roughly 800 Republicans did vote along with just over 400 Democrats.

Statewide results gave Hillary Clinton a slight edge in the Democratic race for Presidential nominee, but only about 2,000 votes separated her from Bernie Sanders out of more than 400,000 ballots cast in the state.

In the US Senate race, incumbent Republican Rand Paul claimed victory over his challengers getting nearly 85% of the votes. Democrat Jim Gray won his primary with nearly 59% of the vote to Sellus Wilder's 12.87% and all other challengers getting less than 30% combined. That will set up a Rand Paul/Jim Gray match for US Senate in November.

US Congressman Hal Rogers had no problem claiming re-election, winning the GOP primary with more than 82% of the vote, to his challenger, John Burk, Jr's 17.57%. Hal Rogers will face no competition in the November General Election.

Another US Congressional race of interest in the state was in the 1st district in western Kentucky, where former Agriculture Commissioner and former candidate for Governor, James Comer, had no problem claiming victory in the Republican primary with nearly 61% of the vote. Comer lost his bid to be Governor in 2015, losing that primary to current Governor Matt Bevin.

McCreary County numbers show 11.30% of the voters turning out Tuesday, with 79.63% of Republicans casting ballots for Rand Paul for US Senate and 81.41% for Hal Rogers. Democrats locally went for Bernie Sanders with 50% of the vote to Hillary Clinton's 42% and others at about 8%. Jim Gray won the McCreary County vote from Democrats for US Senate with 63% of the votes.

McCreary County voters heading to the polls in November will be asked to vote for President of the United States, US Senate and, some districts locally, will vote for school board member later this year.

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

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

American Legion Post 115 in Stearns is seeking help from the local community to honor veterans who have passed on this Memorial Day. The legion is asking citizens of McCreary County to help distribute American flags on the graves of veterans at cemeteries throughout the county prior to Memorial Weekend, which is now less than two weeks away. You can pick up flags and a checklist of veterans and cemeteries at the American Legion post on West Highway 92 in Stearns. Organizers of the effort also say if you are out distributing flags and see a veteran's grave that is not on the list, place a flag on the grave and add it to the list. Old flags should also be returned to the legion for proper retirement. For more information or to help honor veterans this Memorial Day, contact the American Legion Post in Stearns.

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

The past week or so has been busy for McCreary County law enforcement officers, mainly dealing with a number of drug related arrests. The McCreary County Voice reports that one such case involved a traffic stop last Wednesday night by Deputy Milford Creekmore with several glass pipes, scales, and two bags containing what was believed to be methamphetamine found inside the vehicle. Arrested was 38 year old Bradley Smith on charges of trafficking in a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance. His passengers were also arrested on drug offenses, including 32 year old Jenny Alice Kidd, 26 year old Zachery Dean Rexroat, and 35 year old Brenda Lee Smith.

Authorities also told The Voice of a separate incident that same evening involving the arrest of 27 year old Charles B. Kennedy who they say acted suspiciously and admitted to using meth. He was arrested on charged of criminal mishief, arson, menacing, resisting arrest, public intoxication and criminal trespassing.

Another drug related case started with Constable Donald Daugherty going to a residence on Owens Road in Stearns looking for a suspect with outstanding warrants. There officers found a number of items related to drug use and trafficking and arrested five individuals who were at the residence, including Elizabeth A. Chambers, Ronnie Johnson, Timothy Ross, Laura Taylor and Daniel Taylor, all on trafficking charges.

These cases remain under investigation by local law enforcement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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