A slice of Appalachian Kentucky life once again descended on the State Capitol for the annual “I Love Mountains Day." The rally at the mid-point of the General Assembly traditionally attracts a large group from eastern Kentucky. That proved to be true again on Wednesday.
The state of Kentucky is now part of a new federal program designed to improve the economics of impoverished communities. The Commonwealth joins West Virginia, Tennessee, and Louisiana as the newest partners in the U-S Department of Agriculture’s Strike-Force Initiative.
Pike County's judge-executive is calling on Kentucky elected officials to extend federal unemployment benefits to help out-of-work miners. Wayne Rutherford wrote a letter this week to Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul and Rep. Hal Rogers. Rutherford said he finds it "unconscionable and heartless" that lawmakers would decline to extend unemployment benefits.
Magoffin County construction firm owners accused in a bid-rigging and kickback scheme with the judge-executive of Morgan County are scheduled to be arraigned today in federal court. The Independent reports the indictment accuses Morgan Judge-Executive Tim Conley of steering contracts worth $1.1 million to a company owned by Kenneth and Ruth Gambill in exchange for "gifts, payments and other things of value."
A group in Harlan is selling coal-theme candles to help unemployed miners in eastern Kentucky pay their bills. The Lexington Herald-Leader reports a group called Harlan 20/20 is managing the project. Rie Whitfield and Kathy Bianchi say they wanted to come up with a way to help the thousands of coal miners who have been laid off due to a slump in the coal industry.
Road crews in southeastern Kentucky could have a new weapon in their snow and ice fighting arsenal this winter. State transportation officials met with workers recently to outline this year’s snow removal strategy. Les Dixon, from the Manchester district office, says a new salt product called ‘clear lane’ is being considered.
Using the arts to further local economies in eastern Kentucky is the focus of a Somerset conference this week. The Citizens’ Institute on rural Design meeting brings together local leaders, non-profits, community organizations, and citizens. Jack Herlihy studies economic development in Appalachia. He says many eastern Kentuckians take their talents to other communities, such as musicians heading to Tennessee.
Hundreds of Kentuckian are expected to gather in early December to plan a strategy that will help Appalachian counties move forward. Governor Steve Beshear, Congressman Hal Rogers and many other local and state officials made the announcement this morning in Hazard. The December ninth summit is called ‘Shaping Our Appalachian Region.’ Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo believes the event can help generate an agenda.
Credit Blue Ridge Kitties / Flickr, Creative Commons
Reclaiming an old mine site in eastern Kentucky offers new hope for re-establishing American chestnut trees in the Commonwealth. The chestnut, which was a major food source for mountain residents and wildlife, was virtually wiped out by a blight in the early 19 hundreds. Some 14-thousand hardwood seedlings were planted on 16 acres last March in Lawrence County. Kentucky Forest Management Chief Pam Snyder says the project served a dual purpose.
Officers with the Harlan City Police Department have a new accessory for their uniforms — a mobile video camera. WYMT-TV reports the device is worn near the center of an officer's chest and records audio and video for his or her entire shift. The information is downloaded to a computer at the end of the shift.
Heroin abuse, according to an eastern Kentucky prosecutor, is growing more evident in Appalachia. Given the Commonwealth’s crackdown on prescription drug abuse, more users are turning to illegal narcotics like heroin. Commonwealth’s Attorney Brent Turner is seeing it in Floyd County.
An eastern Kentucky state park will provide another opportunity this year for people to get a look into the world of caterpillars. Natural Bridge State Resort Park has set aside Aug. 23-24 for guided caterpillar walks and butterfly expeditions, both of which proved especially popular last year for children with a fascination for creepy crawlies.
Kentucky officials say a coal miner has been killed and two more injured in an underground mine. The miners were working with a mining machine and became trapped when a wall apparently collapsed. The collapse killed 56-year-old Lenny D. Gilliam of Appalachia, Va.
Two eastern Kentucky deputy jailers have been charged in the death of an inmate last month. Kentucky State Police say indictments were returned Tuesday in Perry County charging 36-year-old Damon Hickman of Hazard and 57-year-old William C. Howell of Estill in Floyd County with one count of first-degree manslaughter.
UPDATE: Authorities in eastern Kentucky have found four bodies in two homes along the Kentucky-Virginia border. The Letcher County coroner says 58-year-old Timothy Shelby used a Glock pistol to kill 35-year-old Jennifer Walters, 25-year-old Joshua Wyatt and 31-year-old Amy Ratliff before turning the gun on himself.
Kentucky State Police say a helicopter conducting an ongoing investigation crashed this morning in eastern Kentucky. Trooper Shaun Little says the pilot and a trooper were airlifted for their injuries from the Evanston community in Breathitt County. Media reports say the crash involved a Drug Enforcement Agency helicopter working with a marijuana suppression team. Little declined to release the names of the crash victims. The accident remains under investigation.
Inmates at a federal prison in northeastern Kentucky have refused two meals but officials say they aren't sure why. The inmates at the Federal Correctional Institution-Ashland in Summit turned away lunch and evening meals on Wednesday. The warden's executive assistant, David Brewer, told The Ashland Independent newspaper the prison is operating on a status just below lockdown, with inmates confined to their cells at all times other than for meals.
Proposed improvements for US Highway 25 between London and Corbin are up for public review tonight. The State Transportation Cabinet meeting comes after two years of study and citizen comment. Transportation Cabinet spokesman Jonathon Dobson says deadly accidents are common on the nine-mile stretch of roadway.
Another 18 miles of eastern Kentucky natural scenery is now open to horseback riders, cyclists, and hikers. The Dawkins Rail Trail runs through Johnson and Magoffin counties. Kentucky Tourism Spokesman Gil Lawson says the path was originally used by railroads.
Credit The Kentucky County Judge Executive Association
The arrest of Harlan County Judge-Executive Joe Grieshop by Sheriff Marvin Lipfird on Tuesday has created a wave of publicity and stirred discussion on social media. However, not much has been said by other Harlan County officials on the matter. Previous reports state Lipfird arrested Grieshop in his office Tuesday afternoon. Lipfird said Grieshop would not come out of his office. Read more...
By Valarie Honeycutt Spears and Lexington Herald Leader
Credit Air Evac Lifeteam
Three men died Thursday night in Manchester when a medical helicopter crashed, Missouri-based Air Evac Lifestream officials said Friday. The accident occurred around 11:16 p.m. Thursday while the helicopter was on its final approach to its Manchester base. "We are devastated at this loss," Air Evac Lifeteam President and CEO Seth Myers said in a news release. "These were members of our family. Our focus at this time is on providing support for the family and friends of these crew members." The crew members included pilot Eddie Sizemore, flight paramedic Herman "Lee" Dobbs and flight nurse Jesse Jones, the release said. Read more...
By Elizabeth Thompson and Appalachian News-Express
“Good news” for the Eastern Kentucky coal industry was announced Wednesday, with officials saying several new mines are opening in Pike County, bringing more than 250 jobs. According to a statement from the Pike County Judge Executives Wayne T. Rutherford’s office, High Ridge Mining, a Kentucky corporation owned by Bill Smith, of Raccoon, announced the opening of seven deep mines in Pike County.
Traffic is moving a bit slower on the Mountain Parkway and likely will for the remainder of the summer. One lane in each direction will be kept open during the construction of a bridge, but the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, Department of Highways announced the closures will keep traffic slowed around the 10- and 11-mile markers on the Parkway. Read more...
Heavy rains shut down some roads in Southeast Kentucky earlier today. National Weather Service Meteorologist Sean Harley says some communities received as much as three inches of rain overnight. He says waters are expected to recede, easing the threat of more flooding today. “Not in the near term. We do expect some heavy rain again later in the week, so we will have to watch that real close,” said Harley.
A group of nine young adults is blazing a trail through parts of eastern Kentucky. The Americorps team is improving trails in Letcher County and at Cumberland Falls State Resort Park. Kentucky Tourism Spokesman Gil Lawson says hikers, bicyclists, and horseback riders will all benefit. “Most folks can put on a pair of either hiking shoes or tennis shoes and get out on a trail. Some people like to do things with bicycles and horses. But, we are fortunate in Kentucky that we have trails in a lot of places, not just one area. We’ve got trails in urban areas and rural areas,” said Lawson.
Two Magoffin County officials are being honored for their response to a tornado event in southeast Kentucky almost a year ago. County Judge Executive Charles Hardin and Emergency Management Director Mike Wilson are recipients of the StormReady Community Hero Award. Wilson alerted Hardin of the impending tornado heading toward Salyersville. Jackson National Weather Service meteorologist Shawn Harley says the county judge made door to door visits along highway 460.
An eastern Kentucky coal miner who reported unsafe work conditions is now facing sanctions by the state. Mackie Bailey is a longtime roof bolting machine operator who worked at Manalapan Mining’s P-1 mine in Harlan County. For several weeks, Bailey says he and other miners had been working without a required safety device called the Automated Temporary Roof Support (ATRS), which is supposed to brace against the roof of the mine and protect miners from a potential roof collapse.