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Jewelene Lavender age 92, widow of Harold Lavender, passed away Tuesday September 19, 2017. Funeral services will be Saturday at 1:00PM at Pine Knot Funeral Home with burial in Lower Hickory Grove Cemetery. Visitation will be Saturday after 11:00AM. Pine Knot Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
 
DAILY NEWS UPDATES
(Updated Wednesday September 20, 2017 @ 7:00am)
 

McCREARY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE TO HOLD ELECTION MEETING
The McCreary County Chamber of Commerce will hold their regular monthly membership meeting Wednesday September 20th at 12noon upstairs at the McCreary County Public Library. In addition to the catered lunch, regular business and any special announcements, the meeting will include the annual election of new officers and board members for the Chamber. All Chamber members are being encouraged to attend and vote. The guest speaker will be Lucian Musgrove, talking about the upcoming “No Business 100” trail race set for October 13th through 15th in McCreary County. This will be the first of that particular trail race event, but is branching off from the annual “Yamacraw Run Trail Race” held each April locally and sponsored by McCreary County Tourism. The Chamber of Commerce is also preparing to take nominations for their annual awards to be presented at their banquet set for October 26th.

KENTUCKY AUDITOR RELEASES REPORT ON McCREARY COUNTY CLERK
The Kentucky Auditor's office has released its audit report for the McCreary County Clerk's fee account for the year 2016. Unlike other county government functions that operate on a fiscal year from July 1st through June 30th, fee offices like the county clerk and sheriff operate their budgets on a calendar year from January through December. The most recent audit report on the local county clerk's office shows only one issue found by auditors, and that was an issue reported at nearly all small government offices. The reports states that “the McCreary County Clerk's Office lacks adequate segregation of duties” stating that due to a limited budget and a limited number of staff members the office is not able to properly segregate duties of handling and accounting for funds. This was the only issue flagged by auditors in last year's findings for the McCreary County Clerk's office. The audit report is available on the Kentucky Auditor's website at auditor.ky.gov under “Audit Reports” for local government entities.

McCREARY COUNTY FISCAL COURT HEARS CITIZEN PLEA FOR ZONING
The issue of zoning has been discussed many times before by McCreary County's elected leaders, but has never been able to get much traction toward actually passing. During last week's regular fiscal court meeting, a citizen pleaded with court members to consider some kind of action dealing with the behavior of individuals near other residences. Citizen David Jones said he lives on Bridgefork Pond Road in Whitley City and said that neighbors routinely fire guns adjacent to his property, where children are often playing. He said he was concerned for their safety and while law enforcement officers had reportedly spoken with the individuals, they stated there was little they could do without some kind of county ordinance or zoning law in place. Fiscal court members seemed open to looking at the issue and trying to come up with a solution, although no specific recommendations were made. County leaders said they would consider the request and speak with the County Attorney in an attempt to find an answer.

LOCAL HEALTH OFFICIALS ENCOURAGING FLU VACCINATIONS NOW
The normal flu season each year runs from October to May, but at least two confirmed cases have already been reported in Kentucky so far this season. Local health officials, including Laura Woodrum, Director of Nursing with the Lake Cumberland District Health Department, are encouraging people to get vaccinated for flu early to reduce their risk. Those being especially urged to get a flu shot are those at greatest risk, such as infants and young children, those age 65 and older, pregnant women, and those with health conditions that weaken their immune system. The flu vaccine can help you avoid the flu, can make the flu less severe if you do get it, and can help keep you from spreading the flu to your family and others. Symptoms of the flu include fever and chills, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue, cough, headache and runny or stuffy nose. For more information on getting a flu vaccination, contact the McCreary County Health Department at 376-2412 or contact your physician or pharmacy.

 

McCREARY LEADERS REVIEWING TWO GARBAGE DISPOSAL PROPOSALS
The McCreary County Fiscal Court advertised for proposals from garbage disposal companies to continue the service once the current franchise agreement with Scott Solid Waste expires at year's end. Two such proposals were received by last Thursday's deadline, with those opened during that evening's regular court meeting. The companies submitting proposals included the currently contracted Scott Solid Waste, part of Waste Connections, and POFF Carting, based in nearby Laurel County. The regular single dwelling residential rate for trash pickup was not much different between the companies, although both represented a slight increase from the current $15 per month paid by McCreary County households. Scott Solid Waste proposed a $1 increase per month, going to $16 monthly, with a $1.75 per month discount for senior citizens. POFF Carting proposed two different options, charging $15.45 per month on option one and $16.95 per month on option two. The second option would include each paying household receiving a 96 gallon container for placing garbage in at the curbside. Both options from POFF Carting included a $1.50 per month discount for senior citizens. It would be up to county leaders which of those two options to select if they decide to contract with POFF over Scott Solid Waste.

One question posed to POFF Carting representatives by Magistrate Roger Phillips was whether the company would locate an office locally and operate the local transfer station in Stearns. That was something that Scott Solid Waste previously did but opted out of at the start of the current one year extension on their agreement with the county. POFF Carting indicated they would be willing to have a local office and operate the transfer station, but said they would need to work with the county on the exact schedule for the location. Currently, the county keeps the transfer station open Tuesday through Friday and the first Saturday of each month for those who want to dispose of bulk items or recycling. That currently comes at county taxpayer expense by having to employ staff to operate the station.

Judge-Executive Doug Stephens and Magistrate Jason Mann, who make up a solid waste committee of the McCreary County Fiscal Court, were set to meet with each company's representatives yesterday (Monday) and a special court meeting is set for this Wednesday September 20th at 11:00am with plans of voting on which company will get the franchise agreement with the county starting January 1st.

McCREARY FISCAL COURT EXPANDS CONTRACT WITH COLLECTION AGENCY
McCreary County Fiscal Court members heard from Hill Crest Collection Agency during their regular September meeting last week, and following discussion decided to expand the county's contract with the agency. The company already handles collections for the McCreary County Ambulance Service, after the regular billing agency is unable to collect on past due bills to the service. The collection agency uses tactics such as letters, phone calls and even possible legal action to collect what is owed. The expanded contract with county government will now include other aspects such as possible occupational tax collections, past due jail housing fees, and other delinquent bills owed to the county. The agency does not receive any up front money for their services and instead collects a percentage of what they do collect on the back end.

 

HEATED EXCHANGE AMONG ELECTED OFFICIALS AT FISCAL COURT MEETING
A heated exchange which started over a proposed tax being imposed by the county's extension service district board ended with a top official in the McCreary County PVA's office shouting profanity at the County Attorney as she left the courtroom, along with the elected PVA. It started when PVA Bruce Lominac addressed the McCreary County Fiscal Court during their regular session last Thursday and expressed concerns over the authority being used by the extension district board to levy the tax, which would be added to local property tax bills. Lominac said he found nothing in the order issued by the court establishing that board that gave them express authority to levy a tax. He had obtained an injunction from the courts to stall the approval of the tax for one day to allow fiscal court to decide whether they intended to allow the extension board to have that authority. Judge-Executive Doug Stephens said the board was established under KRS, Kentucky Revised Statute, and that the state law allows the board to levy a tax. All court members seemed in agreement on that point and looked to County Attorney Conley Chaney for a legal clarification. Chaney said that KRS did give the board that authority and noted the court's only option would be to dissolve the board, but that could only be done under specific circumstances, none of which currently exist in his opinion. Lominac disagreed with the opinion from Chaney, noting he felt the court did have options to stop a tax and at one point Lominac pointed the finger of blame squarely at the court saying they were essentially allowing the tax to be imposed and did not care they were taxing local citizens more. Magistrate Roger Phillips took issue with that statement, saying the court had no authority to stop a special taxing district from levying its own tax and setting that rate, something that also applies to taxing districts like the health district, public library, fire districts and others.

County Attorney Conley Chaney told court members that the issue was not really about them or even about the tax, but that he felt it was directed personally at him by the PVA, adding that Lominac had recently told him he had to fire two employees of the County Attorney's office or Lominac would ensure Chaney was out of office by not being re-elected next year. Chaney said he refused to fire the employees at Lominac's demand and that issues have continued to boil over since that time. PVA Bruce Lominac and one of his top staff members, Joni Carson, took issue with Chaney statements, not actually with a denial of the claims but by asking what that matter had to do with the tax being discussed. Following a very heated exchange between Chaney, Lominac and Carson, the PVA and Carson left the room with the court meeting still in session, but not before Carson openly called Chaney a “Son of a B....”.

As the fiscal court meeting came back to order, Greg Whitis with the McCreary County Extension Service gave a lengthy explanation for the need for a tax for the extension board, noting that funding that has traditionally come from the county's General Fund is being cut due to county budget shortfalls, adding that funding from other sources is also limited. He noted that a budget of about $190,000 for the year for the extension service could be covered by levying the tax on property locally and that would cover services provided by the service, as well as the addition of a third extension agent who could work full time with local youth through the well known 4-H program. The extension board opted to impose a tax of 3.95 cents per $100 assessed value for the year.

McCREARY FISCAL COURT SETS PROPERTY TAX RATES FOR THE YEAR
The McCreary County Fiscal Court voted last week to receive tax rates from each special taxing district, again having no authority to change or influence those districts in setting their own tax rates. Those rates for the year will be slightly down for the public library, as they take the compensating rate; unchanged for the health district, fire districts and soil and water conservation district; and set at 3.95 cents per $100 for the extension board. The school district also recently set its tax rate keeping all unchanged except actually lowering the real property rate by taking the compensating rate. The county tax rate was set at 9.4 cents per $100, the same as last year on real property and 20.40 cents on motor vehicle and watercraft.

It is expected property tax bills will be printed and mailed to local property owners by the end of this month and will then be payable in the McCreary County Sheriff's Office.

 

TRIPLE HOMICIDE INVESTIGATION UNDERWAY IN WHITLEY COUNTY
When a homeowner returned to her residence in Whitley County this past Wednesday, she was shocked by what she found inside. First, she located her daughter, identified as Emogene Bittner, dead. Further examination of the home turned up two additional family members, her son-in-law Christopher Bittner and her grandson Robert Kennedy III, all dead. The Whitley County Sheriff's Department reports that a triple homicide investigation is underway and that there are people of interest in the case, but no arrests had been reported at last check. All three victims appeared to have been strangled, but autopsies were planned.

SOMERSET MURDER SUSPECT BEHIND BARS IN PULASKI COUNTY
After evading capture for some time and reports about his possible whereabouts, the suspect in the murder of 70 year old Carolyn New in Somerset is back in Pulaski County and behind bars. Dwight Bell was arrested this week in Dandridge, Tennessee and was transported back to Kentucky where he was lodged in the Pulaski County Detention Center on Wednesday, charged with murder, and other charges related to the homicide investigation. New was killed while cleaning at her church in Somerset late last month.

McCREARY CENTRAL TO RECOGNIZE NATIONAL “GEAR UP” WEEK
Next week will be National “Gear Up” week and McCreary Central High School is working to get the word out about all the program offers. “Gear Up” is made possible in part through a $75,000 grant awarded this school year to McCreary Central, allowing the program to serve students who are set to graduate in 2020 and 2021, meaning those currently in 9th and 10th grades at the high school. The program focuses on providing early awareness and readiness for undergraduate programs for students to continue their education beyond high school graduation. Included are services like tutoring, technology, college and vocational school visits, information for students and parents about preparing for college and the costs associated, assistance in transitioning into high school, mentoring and more. For more information on “Gear Up” at McCreary Central High School, contact Ashley Waters, Academic Specialist, or Russell Gilreath, College and Careeer Guide, at the high school. National “Gear Up” Week is recognized September 18th through 22nd this year.

 

SCOTT COUNTY, TN MAN ARRESTED AFTER THREATENING GIRLFRIEND
A Scott County, Tennessee man has been arrested after weeks of evading capture on charges that he threatened to cut his girlfriend's throat. He also allegedly held her against her will in early August during the altercation. He later fled on foot from police to avoid being arrested and remained at large for several weeks. He was finally arrested last week and was jailed in the Scott County Jail, charged with kidnapping and aggravated assault. 28 year old Justin L. Powell of Oneida was jailed under $20,000 bond as the investigation continues.

KY FISH AND WILDLIFE RECOMMENDING INCREASE IN LICENSE FEES
A recommendation by the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission could mean a little more money out of pocket for those hunting and fishing in the state starting next year. The recommendation would increase the fee for a resident hunting license from $20 to $27 and the resident fishing license from $20 to $23, and increase of $7 and $3 respectively for the year. A combination, hunting and fishing, license would increase under the plan from the current $30 to $42 per year. An increase in the fee for senior and disabled hunters would also be included. It will be up to state lawmakers to approve the move increasing the fees before they could go into effect.

 

HIGHWAY CREWS CONTINUE RESURCFACING PROJECT IN McCREARY COUNTY
After starting work a few weeks ago on a resurfacing project in McCreary County, crews continuing working daily, as weather permits, to complete the project. The resurfacing includes the stretch of US Highway 27 from Pine Knot, at the intersection of Highway 27 and Highway 2792, north to the intersection with Kentucky 478, known as Williamsburg Street. The project is expected to continue for several more weeks, with a completion date of November 15th set. During this time, motorists between Pine Knot and Whitley City can expect some delays and traffic to be slowed or stopped at times during work hours.

McCREARY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT WELCOMES FOUR LEGGED OFFICER
The most recent addition to the McCreary County Sheriff's Department was a new officer of the four legged persuasion. The McCreary County Voice newspaper recently reported on the addition of a K-9 officer to the local department, to be handled by Deputy Derek Dennis who completed training for the task. Deputy Dennis, working with Sheriff Randy Waters, was able to obtain the K-9 officer through a program that offers training and the dog to military veterans who are now working as law enforcement officers. The department expects the K-9, named “Lyon” to be very useful in drug cases and other searches by officers.

HEALTH DEPARTMENT SEEKS PARTICIPANTS FOR PREPAREDNESS SURVEY
The month of September is Preparedness Month and the Lake Cumberland District Health Department is seeking participants for an online survey. The survey covers questions about preparedness for emergencies and various public health issues that may arise within the community. Officials say answers will help them plan and coordinate for a greater level of preparedness locally. They say it only takes a few minutes to complete the survey and each person who does so now through the end of September will be entered for a chance to win a large preparedness kit. You will find the survey online at www.surveymonkey.com/r/LCDHDPrepared. One winner of a preparedness kit will be drawn weekly in each county served by the Lake Cumberland District Health Department, including McCreary County.

 

DATE FOR McCREARY COUNTY CHRISTMAS PARADE ANNOUNCED
We reported previously on plans to bring back a Christmas season parade to McCreary County and now a date has been set and announced for that event. McCreary County Tourism officials have posted via social media that the Christmas parade will be Friday December 15th starting at 6:00pm in downtown Whitley City. The theme for the parade will simply be a holiday theme. Those seeking more information or applications for entering the parade can contact Cristy Hill at the tourism office weekdays between 8:00am-4:00pm at 376-3008 or by e-mail at tourism@mccrearycounty.com.

MEMORIAL PLANNED IN SOMERSET FOR SLAVES WHO DIED LOCALLY
Planning for a new memorial to be located in Pulaski County is now in its final stage, as a section of a grass field on the campus of Somerset Community College will be used for the 24 foot tall monument. With recent talk about Confederate statues and their place in history and modern times, this effort seeks to recognize and remember slaves who died in Pulaski County. Dr. Jo Marshall of Somerset Community College recently told media outlets that the close proximity of the memorial site to an actual former slave cemetery makes it an appropriate location. The effort is being led by the Lake Cumberland Slaves Memorial Association and the monument will be a stainless steel structure, being built by a sculpture professor from Georgia. More information on the project is available online at www.facebook.com/LCSMFund.

 

TRAFFIC FATALITIES DOWN SLIGHTLY IN KENTUCKY FOR 2017
With the Labor Day holiday weekend behind us, we look at the current state of traffic fatalities on Kentucky's roadways so far this year. According to numbers compiled by the Kentucky State Police, there have been a total of 496 fatalities through this past Wednesday September 6th. That is down slightly from the same period last year, when 539 fatalities had been seen and also down slightly from 2015 when 500 had been killed on Kentucky's roadways through that date. Of the 496 fatalities so far this year, 386 were motor vehicle deaths, while 45 were motorcycle riders, 6 were on ATVs and 53 were pedestrians. 84 traffic fatalities so far this year were listed as alcohol related. The KSP also lists fatalities by county, with McCreary County recording five traffic deaths so far in 2017.

McCREARY COUNTY COALITION WORKING ON A HEALTHIER COMMUNITY
A group of interested individuals from various walks of life and agencies are working on efforts to make the community healthier. The coalition meets monthly and invites those interested in working on health issues in McCreary County to attend. Roger Owens, with the Champions/UNITE chapter locally, says the coalition consists of a number of emergency officials, in addition to health officials, volunteers and others working together. Owens added that the “Give Me A Reason” effort to provide free drug testing kits to parents and guardians is also continuing with more than 200 drug testing kits already provided. For more information on the health coalition meetings or the free drug testing kits, call Owens at 606-310-0193.

 

DEADLY HOLIDAY WEEKEND BOATING ACCIDENT ON LAKE CUMBERLAND
Authorities continue to investigate the cause and circumstances surrounding a deadly boating accident on Lake Cumberland this past weekend. They say the call came in Sunday morning as a father and son who were taking part in a benefit fishing tournament on Lake Cumberland were thrown into the water after their boat struck a rock embankment in heavy fog. 70 year old Donnie Flynn was pulled from the waters and pronounced dead at 8:20am Sunday, while his son was rescued from the water but injured. Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife officers are leading the investigation into the deadly holiday weekend boating accident.

BUSY HOLIDAY WEEKEND FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ACROSS REGION
This past Labor Day holiday weekend was busy and eventful for law enforcement across the region, including in counties neighboring McCreary County. In Whitley County, a man was jailed and charged with causing a deadly crash early Sunday morning on Flat Creek Road. Police say 38 year old Joshua Woods was driving and failed to make a curve, causing the vehicle to overturn and crash. His passenger, 25 year old Laura Carter, was killed in that crash and Woods is accused of driving under the influence, leading to charges of reckless homicide and various traffic offenses. Another passenger, reportedly Carter's father, had to be extricated from the vehicle and was sent to the hospital.

In Wayne County this past weekend, a man and woman were arrested after allegedly leading officers on a chase. 41 year old Justin Smith and 29 year old Tamara Chalfant fled from a traffic stop after the officer learned they both had outstanding warrants. A chase followed several roads through Wayne County before police were able to stop the vehicle and make the arrest. Smith was charged with wanton endangerment of a police officer, seven counts; fleeing or evading police; resisting arrest; three counts of disregarding a stop sign; reckless driving and other related charges. Chalfant was charged with an outstanding warrant for criminal trespassing. Both were lodged in the Wayne County Jail.

In Pulaski County this past holiday weekend, a constable reportedly shot a man accidentally while handling his gun. The victim was 25 year old Joshua Mullins who was transported to Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital for treatment of the gunshot wound to his abdomen. Constable Mike Wallace was apparently handling the gun when it accidentally discharged hitting the victim. Police say they do not expect any charges to be filed in that case.

DEER HUNTING BOW SEASON NOW UNDERWAY ACROSS KENTUCKY
The archery deer hunting season is now officially open in Kentucky, starting this past Saturday September 2nd and running a total of 136 days. The modern gun season is set to open the second Saturday in November, with that season running either 10 or 16 consecutive days depending on your individual hunting zone in the state. The modern gun season accounts for about 70% of the overall harvest annually, according to information from Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. Deer that are harvested must be checked, but that can be done by phone at 1-800-245-4263 or online at fw.ky.gov. You can also visit that site for more information on the hunting seasons and on the recent spread of the EHD outbreak in deer. Through the end of August, Fish and Wildlife officials say more than 1400 cases of deer suspected to have EHD had been reported. That threat is expected to end once the first hard frost is realized, killing the biting gnats that carry the disease.

 

LONG TIME McCREARY WATER DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENT RETIRES
The long time Superintendent of the McCreary County Water District, Steve Owens, officially retired from that post last Thursday August 31st. This comes after a long career with the water district, including many years as the top official with the district, overseeing many water line and sewer expansions, the construction of the water plant on Big Creek at Wiborg and other related projects. Sources close to the water district board confirmed late last week that the board had voted to approve water district employee Stephen Whitaker as the new head of the service effective immediately.

McCREARY TOURISM OFFICIALS HOPE TO REVIVE “CHRISTMAS PARADE”
It has been a few years now since McCreary County had a Christmas parade, and two years since the county had any kind of parade. A letter from a local tourism official indicates that there is an effort to change that in 2017. The letter comes from Cristy Hill, local tourism administrative assistant, working with the McCreary County Tourist Commission, and is addressed to the McCreary County Chamber of Commerce. The letter states that the tourist commission is “looking for support in hopes of bringing back a Christmas parade.” The letter continues that support could come in the form of organizations and businesses pledging to submit float and other parade entries to make the event successful, indicating that at least 25 such entries would need to be committed before tourism officials would move forward with plans. Any organization or business interested in pledging any type of support for a Christmas parade this year in McCreary County can call Cristy Hill at the tourism office at 376-3008 or e-mail tourism@mccrearycounty.com.

The annual Christmas Parade, known as “WinterFest” previously, was first begun in the early 2000s under the leadership of the Chamber of Commerce, before being handed off to the non-profit group McCrearyFest & Parade, Inc. for several years. In 2015, the tourist commission took on McCrearyFest, changing it to “Heritage Trail Days,” and also ending the annual “WinterFest” tradition at the same time. Planning is continuing for the third annual “Heritage Trail Days” sponsored by tourism this October, but that is not expected to include a parade or downtown festivities.

 

PERSON OF INTEREST” SOUGHT IN SOMERSET MURDER CASE
Police in Somerset have named a “person of interest” in the murder case that we reported on earlier this week. 41 year old Dwight Mitchell Bell is being sought by police for questioning in connection with the death of Ruthie Carolyn New, who was killed while cleaning at a church in Somerset last week. Bell is not officially named a “suspect” but police apparently do believe he at least has information in the case. They reportedly think Bell could be in the Indianapolis, Indiana area. The investigation into the murder is continuing.

McCREARY COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY WELCOMES NEW BOOKMOBILE
After many years of use out of the previous bookmobile, the McCreary County Public Library now has a new set of wheels on the road serving the local community. The new bookmobile was picked up by library staff a couple of weeks ago and work has been completed during that time installing flooring and shelves to accommodate the many patrons served and the many books and supplies housed in the mobile library outreach. During a recent interview, Holly Daugherty from the public library, encouraged those who may benefit from the services of the bookmobile to contact the library for information and to sign up for that service. Daugherty also spoke about some upcoming activities being planned at the library, including a local artisan program set for October. For more information on the many services of the McCreary County Public Library, stop by in downtown Whitley City, across from the courthouse, call 376-8738 or visit www.mccrearylibrary.org. You can also look up the McCreary County Public Library on social media.

 

McCREARY GRAND JURY DROPS CASE AGAINST MAN FOR DOG TORTURE
Meeting for their regular August session, the McCreary County Grand Jury returned a “no true bill” in the case of Larry Meadows who had been charged with torture of a dog or cat. Meadows was arrested after a dog suffered severe injuries and eventually died from those injuries. A no true bill from the grand jury means there was not sufficient evidence presented to warrant charges and for the case to proceed.

DRUG OFFENSES TOP INDICTMENTS BY McCREARY GRAND JURY
It is probably no surprise that drug offenses topped the indictments handed down this month by the McCreary County Grand Jury. Among those charges were Jeff Anderson for possession of a controlled substance 1st degree 1st offense; Leatha Rose for possession of drug paraphernalia 1st offense and possession of a controlled substance 1st degree; Rodney Hamby and Ashley Cooper for manufacturing meth and possession of drug paraphernalia. Ashley Cooper was also charged in a separate case for possession, operating a motor vehicle under the influence and driving a motor vehicle on a suspended or revoked license. Tosha Maxey and Eddie Mobley were indicted for trafficking in a controlled substance 1st degree and possession of drug paraphernalia. In addition, Michael Soard and Joshua Wilson were indicted in separate cases for cultivating marijuana over 5 plants. Tasha Cox was charged with driving while license suspended or revoked for DUI, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Other August indictments in McCreary County included Cody Burke for burglary and receiving stolen property, as well as being a persistent felony offender; Leroy Wallen, Jr. for flagrant non-support; and Jeffrey Stephens for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Dana Bowling was indicted for sexual abuse 1st degree, sodomy 3rd degree and being a persistent felony offender. Fleeing or evading police charges were levied against Brandon Crabtree, along with the charge of wanton endangerment. Michael Tapley was charged with burglary and theft by unlawful taking over $500; Adam Hill was charged with burglary 3rd degree and being a persistent felony offender; and criminal possession of a forged instrument charges were handed down against Tonnie Webster and Jared Gosnell.

The grand jury session this month also included three indictments involving individuals allegedly providing false statements or misrepresentations in order to obtain benefits over $100. Those charged were Linda Slaven, Christie Boyatt, and Bradley Stephens.

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

 

PASTOR'S WIFE IN SOMERSET MURDERED WHILE CLEANING CHURCH
Residents in Somerset have called it a shocking tragedy as a former pastor's wife was killed last week, reportedly as she cleaned the church. Investigators say 70 year old Ruthie Carolyn New was found in a storage room near an activity room of Denham Street Baptist Church Thursday afternoon. It appears New had been dead for sometime, and was likely killed late Tuesday or early Wednesday. An autopsy was performed on Friday and that ended with a ruling that the death was a homicide, which moved the investigation into another category for police. New was the wife of the church's former pastor, who had passed away several years ago.

ANOTHER JUDGE ENTERS RACE FOR KENTUCKY SUPREME COURT
After we previously reported that Circuit Judges Dan Ballou and David Tapp were officially entering the race for this area's Kentucky Supreme Court seat, a third judge has now entered the contest. Somerset's
Commonwealth Journal reports that former Pulaski County Family Court Judge Debra Lambert will run to fill the post being vacated by the retiring of Supreme Court Justice Daniel Venters. Lambert is a graduate of Eastern Kentucky University and the University of Kentucky College of Law. She began serving as a Family Court Judge in 1999, being appointed to the position, and was then elected to the seat, serving until 2006. Lambert currently serves on the Kentucky Court of Appeals, a seat she won in November 2014. She joins Circuit Judge David Tapp, who serves Lincoln, Rockcastle and Pulaski Counties, as well as Circuit Judge Dan Ballou, who serves McCreary and Whitley Counties, as candidates for the Supreme Court seat. It is a non-partisan race which will put the candidates facing off in the may primary next year, with the top two vote winners moving on to the November General Election. The Supreme Court district involved serves a total of 27 counties across southern and central Kentucky.

 

McCREARY SCHOOL BOARD ADOPTS “COMPENSATING TAX RATE”
Meeting for their regular August session last Thursday, the McCreary County Board of Education took up the issue of property tax rates for 2017-2018. This comes just weeks after McCreary County voters soundly rejected the idea of a “nickel tax” increase on the property tax bills to replace roofs on a couple of local schools and provide for additional building projects in the school district. The recommendation put forth on the agenda for the school board was to adopt what is known as the “compensating rate” for the new year, which would actually lower the effective tax rate on local real and personal property from 41.6 cents per $100 value to 41.1 cents. That still allows the school district to collect the same revenue from one year to the next, due to a slight increase in overall in property value assessments in the county this year. The board voted to approve that recommendations and also approved keeping the same motor vehicle tax rate as last year, 46.7 cents per $100 value, and the same utility bill tax rate of 3%. It is expected that the McCreary County Fiscal Court will receive and accept tax rates from each of the various taxing districts in the county, including school, health, library and fire districts, as well as set the county property tax rate at their September meeting. That will allow for the printing and mailing of property tax bills by the end of September.

McCREARY FISCAL COURT SEEKING GARBAGE DISPOSAL PROPOSALS
Companies interested in submitting proposals for the franchise agreement with McCreary County for the exclusive rights to collect and disposing of solid waste for residential and commercial customers in the county now have the opportunity to do just that. During a special session last Thursday, the McCreary County Fiscal Court gave final approval to an updated garbage disposal ordinance for the county and also began the process of accepting proposals from interested companies. The deadline to submit the proposals is 4:00pm Thursday September 14th, just ahead of the court's regular meeting that same evening at 6:00pm. At that time, the court could review any received submissions and begin making the decision for an agreement to go into effect January 1, 2018. Scott Solid Waste currently handles the service in McCreary County, under an agreement set to expire at year's end.

FOREST SERVICE REMINDS OF BAN ON GINSENG HARVESTING IN FOREST
Officials with the US Forest Service have issued a reminder that the ban remains in effect for this year on the harvesting of ginseng, and that it does include all national forest lands. This is being done, according to the announcement, in an effort to reestablish the wild ginseng population which has taken a major hit in recent years due to various factors, including over harvesting. The ban was issued last year in the Daniel Boone National Forest and was extended to include 2017. Anyone caught harvesting wild ginseng plants or its parts on national forest lands could be facing a penalty of up to six months in federal prison, a $5,000 fine, or both.

 

PAVING ON US 27 IN McCREARY COUNTY BEGINS TODAY (FRIDAY AUGUST 25TH)
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has announced through its District 8 Office that resurfacing paving on US Highway 27 in McCreary County will begin today (Friday August 25
th) and is likely to continue for several weeks. Officials say the work will begin on Highway 27 at mile point 4.6, the Highway 1651/2792 intersection in Pine Knot and will continue north, ending at mile point 9, the Kentucky 478, Williamsburg Street, intersection. Work is expected to be completed by mid-November, but the duration of the work and progress could be adjusted depending on weather and other conditions. Drivers in the areas should drive with caution and expect delays as traffic could be reduced to one lane at times. You can follow activity by the Transportation Cabinet online at goky.ky.gov or look up District 8 on Facebook or Twitter.

WAYNE COUNTY TEEN CHARGED WITH MURDER FOLLOWING SHOOTING
Police in neighboring Wayne County are investigating a shooting death that took place this week. They say 20 year old Matthew Young was shot to death Wednesday night on Mercer Drive in Monticello. A 16 year old juvenile was arrested in connection with the shooting and was lodged in the Juvenile Detention Center in Adair County. The teen will reportedly be in court today (Friday August 25th) for arraignment in the case. The shooting remains under investigation by the Monticello Police Department.

McCREARY COUNTY RECORDS SLIGHTLY IMPROVED JOBLESS RATE
McCreary County was one of 18 counties in Kentucky that recorded a slightly improved jobless rate from July 2016 to July 2017. The latest numbers released by state officials on the unemployment rate show the county at 8.1% for last month, down from 8.3% in July one year ago. The number was up slightly from this year's June rate of 7.8%. McCreary County was actually the only county in the ten county Lake Cumberland area to see an improved rate from2 016 to 2017 during the month of July. The overall Lake Cumberland rate went from 6% in July last year to 6.9% in July this year. Meanwhile, Kentucky's rate increased from 5.1% a year go to 5.9% last month, while the US jobless rate was at 4.6% in July. Unemployment rates are based on estimates of active job seekers in an area within a four week period. Find out more about the labor market and jobless rates in Kentucky online at kylmi.ky.gov.

 

WINFIELD, TN MAN CHARGED IN CHILD PORN INVESTIGATION
A Winfield, Tennessee man was arrested this week as part of an ongoing child pornography investigation being led by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Scott County media sources are reporting that 24 year old James Logan Shoemaker was nabbed Tuesday after a grand jury returned an indictment against him, formally charging him with one count of Sexual Exploitation of a Minor and one count of Aggravated Sexual Exploitation of a Minor. The suspect was lodged in the Scott County Jail under $25,000 bond. Investigators say they began looking into the case in December 2015, nearly two years ago, after getting information that someone in the area was allegedly sharing images on the internet involving children involved in sex acts.

McCREARY SCHOOLS PROVIDE INFORMATION ON SCHOOL NURSE PROGRAM
With the start of a new school year in progress, officials with the McCreary County School District are providing information and clarification on how the local school nurse program operates. A letter issued Monday by Brandy Rowe, Registered Nurse and School District Health Coordinator, states that the local district is contracted with Family Health Associates, based in Knox County, Kentucky, to provide health and nurse services in all local schools. Through the partnership, a nurse, who is a school district employee, is stationed at each of the schools in the district to provide services such as basic or emergency medical attention, as well as offering physicals, immunizations, and screenings at school. Family Health Associates then bills insurance providers for these services, using those proceeds to help cover the cost of the services and to reimburse the school district for the cost of salaries of school nurses. That means the school nurse program ends up not costing the school district any money and also means that parents are not charged for any of these services, even if they do not have insurance coverage. School officials also noted that nursing consent forms were completed and signed by parents or guardians at the start of the year, which gives permission to the nurse or a practitioner from Family Health to provide care for students as needed.

McCREARY COUNTY HEALTH OFFICIALS EXPLAIN “NEEDLE EXCHANGE”
We previously reported on recent actions by the McCreary County Health District Board and the McCreary County Fiscal Court giving their stamps of approval to a “needle exchange” program, to be administered through the local health department. Representatives of the local health department were on the Truth or Politics current issues program, heard on WHAY Radio this week, where they further explained the program, including why health officials would offer to give clean needles to drug addicts. They said that the program is a comprehensive program including information on testing, treatment and other issues to try to help the addict get off drugs, not just giving out needles. In terms of the health concerns over shared needles, the officials did say that HIV is not just a big city problem, and is in McCreary County currently. Roger Owens, known for his long time work on the local drug and addiction problems, stated on the same program that education and prevention will be the answers to solving the problem in the future. Health officials say the needle exchange at the McCreary County Health Department will be started within a few months, following training by local staff.

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

KSP SEARCHING FOR SUSPECT IN STEARNS BUSINESS ROBBERY 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 
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