Saturday, October 17, 2009
Williamsburg Man Jailed For Beating Grandmother
William Kirkland of Williamsburg remained jailed Saturday on a $75,000 bond after police say he brutally beat his 68 year old grandmother and wife with a metal pipe after they refused to let him use his grandmother's car. Authorities say he took the car anyway and wrecked it not far from his grandmother's home.
Perry County Case Headed To Grand Jury
The case for six Ohio men accused of raping and sodomizing a woman and leaving her in the back of a pickup truck at the Super 8 Motel in Hazard on September 24th. is headed to the Perry County Grand Jury. Investigators say the men were in Hazard as part of a crew contracted to move items to the new Perry County Public Library when the incident occurred.
Beshear Proposes Psychiatric Youth Facilities
Representative Tom Burch has pre-filed a measure aimed at putting the brakes on a plan proposed by Governor Steve Beshear. Despite a unanimous vote by the Administrative Regulations Review Subcommittee against it and strong opposition from the state's hospital and nursing home associations, Governor Beshear is proposing to add up to eight 50-bed psychiatric units for adolescents who are presently being treated out-of-state. Burch says he's not trying to make the governor look bad, but, instead, he fears there will be lawsuits as a result of the plan. About 230 Kentucky children suffer severe physical and psychological problems and are receiving long-term treatment at out-of-state facilities, and, although there have been discussions for more than 25 years about bringing them back to Kentucky for treatment, state hospital officials say the Cabinet for Health and Family Services is attempting to fast-track the proposal. Burch and Beshear agree the children need to be brought back to Kentucky but have not yet finalized a plan.
Kentucky Reports Eighth Swine Flu Death
As swine flu deaths continue to mount in Kentucky, Pulaski County has reported its first swine flu death, while becoming the state's eighth. Health officials confirm a 28 year old man, with no underlying health conditions, died Thursday at Lake Cumberland Regional Medical Center in Somerset. The hospital has activated its pandemic flu plan in which officials are limiting hospital visitation to those who are 18 years of age or older who do not show signs of flu, and people who enter the emergency room with flu-like symptoms are being kept in a separate waiting room while being treated in different areas of the hospital.
Stumbo Says State May Need School Funds
A preliminary state revenue forecast this week predicting a $160 million shortfall for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30th., has the outlook deeming a worse situation for the 2010-2012 state budget and has sent lawmakers searching for a solution. House Speaker Greg Stumbo says one consideration is to dip into local school districts' contingency funds, but school officials say they're not warming up to that idea, while saying they need those funds to balance their own budgets during tight economic times. According to state officials, the school funds contain hundreds of millions of dollars, and Stumbo says they may have to ask to use some of it, but school officials say they would strongly oppose the move.
Environmentalists Petition Drilling At W. Va. State Park
Friday, environmentalists with the Sierra Club, the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and Friends of Blackwater, along with park supporters, presented a petition containing 2,100 signatures, 1,500 from Logan County, to West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin in an effort to prevent drilling inside the Chief Logan State Park. Petitioners say a recent Logan County verdict to allow Houston-based Cabot Oil and Gas to drill could create a domino effect at ten other state parks where private entities own the oil and gas rights under more than half the land. The case is expected to be appealed to the state Supreme Court.
Huntington Teen Wins Gymnastic Gold
For many it would be a golden fairy tale dream come true, but, for 16 year old Kayla Williams of Huntington, the dream came true when Saturday morning she won the women's vault title at the world's gymnastics championships in London, England. This is the second gold medal at these worlds for the U.S. and the first for the U.S. on vault. Williams had a combined score of 15.087 for her two vaults, putting the U.S. ahead of Switzerland and France, just five months after she was competing at the level below elites.
Former Rafting Employee Faces Tax Evasion Charge
Most people don't like paying taxes, but, for a former West Virginia whitewater rafting employee, who was fired in 2003, it could mean up to 25 years in prison. Fifty-nine year old Carl W. Steward of Asheville, North Carolina, a former ACE Adventures employee, has been indicted on charges of tax evasion and providing false statements to the IRS. Investigators say Steward diverted money from ACE into personal bank accounts, while orchestrating a kickback scheme involving several vendors, one of which the indictment alleges paid $46,000 in kickbacks in 2000. Prosecutors say, in response to a civil suit, Steward produced tax returns he never filed and he also filed false returns for 2002 and 2003. If convicted, he could go to prison for 25 years.
Indictment In West Virginia Chemical Spill
A West Virginia man is in hot water up to his neck following a chemical spill on October 28, 2004 which led to the evacuation of several residents in Westmoreland, with 36 families being evacuated for eight days. A Federal Grand Jury has indicted 58 year old James R. Holt of Huntington, the former president of Techsol Chemical Company which was formerly located on Piedmont Road in Huntington. The indictment states that more than 22,000 gallons of coal tar light oil, a benzene-based chemical, spilled from a railcar while TechSol workers attempted to transfer it to a tanker truck for Marathon Petroleum Company, resulting in the chemical contaminating nearby storm drains and a creek. Workers did not realize the railcar had what appeared to be a faulty valve. The indictment alleges Holt knowingly stored the chemical, which posed a threat of fire, at the site for seven months, between April 2004 and November 2004, without necessary permits required by state and federal agencies. He is also charged with failing to take appropriate precautions, failing to have his employees properly trained to adequately handle the transloading operation and failure to provide a secondary containment for the railcar during the transloading. If convicted, Holt faces maximum penalties of six years in prison and/or a $350,000 fine.
EPA Plans To Veto Army Corps Permit For West Virginia Mine
In response to the latest action concerning surface mine permits, the Sierra Club has applauded a move by the EPA which has left angry feelings for miners and officials in West Virginia. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, since Congress enacted the Clean Water Act in 1972, the agency has never used its authority to review a previously permitted project. But, that all changed Friday when the EPA announced plans to use that authority to revoke a previous permit that was issued in 2007 to St. Louis-based Arch Coal Inc. for its Mingo Logan Coal's No. 1 mine. In a letter sent to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Huntington district, Acting EPA Regional Administrator William Early said the agency is "taking this unusual step in response to our very serious concerns" that the proposed project could violate the Clean Water Act. The permit would allow the company to fill valleys at the site with material removed to expose coal, a practice widely opposed by environmentalists. The Sierra Club says the move "underscores the need for the Obama administration to develop new regulations to end mountaintop removal mining once and for all." However, Governor Joe Manchin responded by saying, "To say I am mad would be an understatement." He calls this a prime example of how the federal government is not working for the people. U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller criticized the EPA, calling the action "wrong and unfair" to change the rules for a permit that already was approved. Rockefeller said, "When businesses make good faith efforts and fully comply with all applicable laws and regulations, they must have the confidence that the commitments made by the government will be honored." Company officials issued a statement saying they were shocked by the action, saying the permit was the most carefully scrutinized and fully considered mine permit in West Virginia history, taking almost ten years to be approved.
West Virginia Receives Grants For Affordable Housing
Newly awarded grants from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburg in the amount of $530,315 will allow three West Virginia groups to construct affordable housing units in Fayette, Marion and Pendleton counties. The grants were part of $3.4 million worth of grants the bank's Affordable Housing Program announced Friday. Grants were awarded to Southern Appalachian Labor School for 10 units in Fayette County, Fairmont-Morgantown Housing Authority for 14 units and Almost Heaven Habitat for Humanity for 15 units in Pendleton County.
West Virginia Homeland Security Center Expansion
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection training facility located on 104 acres near Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia is set for a $2.75 million expansion. U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd has announced the Department of Homeland Security has awarded a contract calling for Dunbar-based BrooAlexa Design Joint Venture to begin initial planning and development for new dormitories that will allow the center to expand its course load and allow for increased joint-agency exercises while the center trains and certifies federal officials who train border patrol officers.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Pike County Fire Destroys Two Homes
Fire destroyed two homes and heavily damaged a third Thursday morning when fire broke out at the home of 83 year old Floyd Smith located at Smith Fork Road in Phelps in Pike County. Kemper and Blackberry Volunteer Fire Departments assisted Phelps Volunteer Fire Department in battling the blaze, but two of the homes and belongings were a total loss.
Kentucky Facing Financial Woes
Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, First Lady Jane Beshear and Economic Development Secretary Larry Hayes recently traveled to Japan and China with emphasis on boosting the state's economy. House Speaker Greg Stumbo also made a trip to China to boost Kentucky's coal industry. While unemployment stands at more than 11%, Kentucky's current economic picture looks grim. Earlier this week, a panel of state economists predicted the state could face an additional $160 million revenue shortfall this fiscal year, creating woes for Kentucky state government officials. Experts say a more comprehensive plan than gambling and raising taxes is needed to create new jobs and lure companies to the state.
Ky. Kicks Off Distracted Driving Campaign
At a press conference this week, Kentucky state officials at the Transportation Cabinet kicked off the "Distracted Driving is Deadly Driving" campaign, which is sponsored by the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety. Officials say, with new technology advancements, it's not just talking on a cell phone that can be dangerous for motorists, but, now, people can text, e-mail and even surf the Internet from their phones, which, when used while driving, can become deadly. The campaign is part of a nationwide effort to reduce distracted driving and hopefully reduce distracted driving crashes, while educating the public on safe driving habits.
Pike County Liquid Natural Gas Presentation Set
As Pike County continues to diversify its energy base, the Pike County Fiscal Court and the Pike County Energy Board is geared up to host a presentation at the Landmark Inn Banquet Room in Pikeville beginning at 10:00 A.M. on Monday, October 19th. The presentation will demonstrate the use of natural gas in coal trucks, while showing how the system works and the cost savings associated with its use. Technical presentations will be provided by American Clean Air Partners LLC.
Officials Attempting To Calm H1N1 Worries
With Kentucky confirming its seventh H1N1 swine flu death this week, health officials are attempting to calm worries associated with the virus. Officials say concerns are running particularly high this year. But, officials stress no medication, including flu vaccine, is perfect or without risks, while most fears associated with seasonal and H1N1 vaccines are groundless. They urge people to seek information and get facts about the flu from the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics or similar medical organizations.
Kentucky Prison Inmate Cleared Of Murder Charge
Earlier this week, Edwin A. Chandler was cleared of a murder and robbery conviction after spending almost seven years in a Kentucky state prison while being innocent of the 1993 slaying of a convenience store clerk. Chandler's attorney, Marguerite Thomas, along with two witnesses, cleared him when it was established that a fingerprint on a beer bottle at the scene of the murder was that of Percy Phillips. Jefferson County Commonwealth's Attorney David Stengel offered his apologies to Chandler, who called his prison time "a walking nightmare." Stengel says he hopes to help Chandler receive restution from the state.
Comair And Bluegrass Airport Remain In Kentucky Headlines
Just a little over a week ago a U.S District Court judge ruled that 40 year old Jaime Hebert of Louisana, the widow of 39 year old Brian Keith Woodward, who died in the Comair Flight 5191 crash of August 27, 2006 at the Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, could re-instate a claim of loss of consortium against Comair. Former Executive Director Michael Gobb, who was praised for his leadership in the wake of the crash, resigned amid a spending probe in which it was found the airport and taxpayers who support it allegedly picked up tabs for top executives. A state audit revealed that, in three years, officials tallied more than $500,000 in questionable personal expenses. Earlier this month, Attorney General Jack Conway issued a formal opinion that the public interest in a $10,000 check written in July 2008 to Gobb outweighed Gobb's privacy interests, and the board of Lexington's Blue Grass Airport violated the Open Records Act when it withheld the information from the public.
National Alliance Considering Loan For Ky. Plant
The National Alliance for Advanced Transportation Batteries says its members, including Procter & Gamble, Duracell and 3M, are still interested in pursuing a proposed project to build a $600 million facility in Hardin County to produce lithium-ion batteries. The consortium put forward $100 million for the project and applied for $300 million from the U.S. Department of Energy, but, in August, the project failed to win a grant for construction. Now, National Alliance officials are considering pursuing a loan under the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Program administered by the Energy Department.
West Virginia Officials Meet With EPA
On Thursday, West Virginia Second District Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito and Third District Congressman Nick Rahall made an appearance in front of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on Capitol Hill during a hearing on the Clean Water Act. Capito and Rahall questioned Environmental Protection Agency officials about their "enhanced review process" to further review mining permits and the future of surface mining which they say supplies over 53% of the country's power and 98% of West Virginia's power. Capito told the EPA she wants specifics while saying, "Is this just an effort by the Corps and the Administration to choke off the mining and use of coal ?" Rahall told the committee, with great emphasis, there is a great deal of frustration and concern in the Applachian coalfields. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson told the committee that neither she nor the EPA has any hidden agenda neither do they have any desire to end coal mining. Both Capito and Rahall have requested more time with Jackson to further discuss their concerns.
West Virginia Focuses On Crimes Against Children
Earlier this week, 275 professionals who deal with abused children, including police officers, prosecutors, doctors and victims advocates met in Charleston for the 17th. annual West Virginia Crimes Against Children Conference. They all met with one goal in mind...to better address the investigation, treatment and resolution of child abuse cases without further trauma to the child. Experts who spoke at the conference focused on what professionals need to look for when detecting and handling cases of abuse and neglect and how to prepare kids for one of the most frightening events of their young lives.
Wood-Fired Electricity- Generating Plant Planned For Mingo County
American Clean Energy of Charleston , a subsidiary of East Coast Clean Energy, is planning to build a $150 million wood-fired-electricity-generating plant at the Harless Wood Products Industrial Park in Mingo County. Charleston developer and President Tom Loehr says he selected the abandoned surface mine site along Corridor G because wood waste in the region is plentiful. Loehr says the plant would be "carbon neutral" and produce renewable energy while burning wood chips loggers leave on the ground and would use 400,000 tons of wood waste a year while creating about 40 full-time jobs. Loehr says he plans to submit a proposal to sell the plant's power to American Electric Power. The West Virginia Economic Development Authority has approved a resolution allowing American Clean Energy to issue up to $100 million in tax-free bonds for the construction of the 28-megawatt plant which is slated to begin construction in July and take a year to complete.
More Debate Expected On West Virginia School Calendar
As West Virginia lawmakers ponder the possible upcoming consideration of a year-round school calendar, Putnam County school teacher Delagate Brady Paxton, the House Education Vice-Chairman, says expect to see more debate during the regular legislative session. Paxton believes the 180-day calendar will be just as hot a topic during the 2010 session as it was in 2009, when lawmakers questioned whether the state's 180-day school year could be accomplished in an August to June calendar, due to so many snow days. During the regular session, Governor Joe Manchin proposed letting school start before August 26th. or end after June 8th., but teachers' unions rejected the proposal, causing it to ultimately fail. During the 2008-2009 school year, very few counties in West Virginia met the 180-days requirement. Currently, Kanawha County has three year-round schools, but Paxton says it would be extremely difficult to mix and match schedules in most West Virginia counties. An interim legislative committee met Wednesday to discuss the issue. At the meeting, Gale Gaines, an expert with the Southern Regional Education Board, told members that rearranging school calendars isn't as important as how teachers spend classroom time.
Union Opposes Verizon-Frontier Landline Merger
West Virginia state regulators are reviewing a controversial proposed Verizon-Frontier landline merger. The Communication Workers of America union has launched a newspaper and radio ad campaign against Frontier's plan to purchase 617,000 Verizon telephone lines in West Virginia. The union says the company wants to divest its assets to reap $3.3 billion in tax-free profits. The campaign says the merger is, "Good for Wall Street, Bad for West Virginia." On Wednesday, the heads of Verizon, Frontier and Communication Workers union met while addressing the Joint Standing Committee on the Judiciary. During the interim hearing, Frontier's Vice President for the Eastern Region, Ken Arndt, told those present that substantially all Verizon employees would continue to perform the same functions while remaining employees of Frontier. While being pressed later, Arndt said, with the exception of technicians, the company could not 100% guarantee future employment of all workers and could only guarantee 18 months employment for technicians. State regulators say they're taking a wait and see approach, while a final hearing on the proposal is scheduled in front of the Public Service Commission for January 12, 2010.
Judge Denies Bond For Pagan President
In all, 55 National Pagan Motorcycle Club bikers and associates from West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Florida are facing charges of kidnapping, robbery, extortion, conspiracy to commit murder and additional crimes listed in a 44 count federal racketeering indictment which was unsealed in Charleston, West Virginia. On Wednesday, eight pleaded not guilty, and U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Stanley ordered three would be allowed release on bond, while five would remain in custody, pending hearings. On Thursday, Pagan's President, David Barbeito, pleaded not guilty and was ordered by Stanley to be held without bond, saying he is too dangerous to free.
Letcher County Woman Charged In Tennessee Attempted Murder
The Kentucky State Police arrested 22-year old Linda Kay Collier of Neon earlier this week on charges of robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery and attempted murder. Authorities say on August 26, Collier and two men entered a store in Kingsport, Tennessee and allegedly beat the owner and robbed the store. Officials say the owner was left in serious condition after being beaten with a baseball bat.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Pike County Men Indicted On Drug Charges
Four Pike County men, Darrell J. Swiney, Timothy L. Rich, Timothy D. Rich and Brian Justice, were indicted Thursday (today). They're charged with participating in a drug ring which allegedly smuggled and illegally distributed more than 10,000 drugs in Pike County between June 2005 and September 2009. The indictment is seeking the forfeiture of more than a dozen guns, a car, some land and more than $8,000 in cash. The government is seeking a judgment in the amount of $1 million. If convicted, each faces up to 20 years in prison.
Wood-Fired Plant Proposed For Mingo County
American Clean Energy of Charleston is planning to build a $150 million wood-fired-electricity-generating plant at the Harless Wood Products Industrial Park in Mingo County. The West Virginia Economic Development Authority has approved a resolution allowing American Clean Energy to issue up to $100 million in tax-free bonds for the construction of the 28-megawatt plant that would use 400,000 tons of wood waste a year, while creating about 40 full-time jobs. Construction is expected to begin in July and take a year to complete.
London Company Fined For Dumped Pollutants
Nami Resources Co. of London has been fined $50,000 after pleading guilty to violating the federal Endangered Species and Clean Water Acts. The company admitted it dumped pollutants, used in drilling a natural gas well, into a creek at Acorn Fork in Knox County, resulting in the deathof two rare fish, the blackside dace. The fish are found only in streams that feed the Cumberland River in southeast Kentucky and northeast Tennessee.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Gillispie And U.K. End Contract Dispute
Former University of Kentucky men's basketball coach Billy Gillispie was seeking $6 million in a lawsuit he filed against the University of Kentucky Athletics Association, but Tuesday evening, U.K. officials and Gillispie reached an agreement for $2.98 million plus $265,000 in attorney fees and mediation costs. The settlement was several times more than U. K.'s initial offer. Gillispie had sued alleging breach of contract and fraud related to his March firing which came two years into a seven year agreement.
Kentucky Reports Sixth Swine Flu Death
A Scott County man, 39 year old Matthew Finger of Georgetown, has become the sixth confirmed H1N1 death in Kentucky, the first to die at home. Officials say he had been home bound, with what didn't appear to be extremely serious, for several days but had not sought medical attention before his death on October 3rd. It does not appear he had any significant underlying medical conditions.
More Mining Layoffs
There have been more mining layoffs in eastern Kentucky. While operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Miller Brothers Mining has laid off 85 employees at their sites in Magoffin, Floyd and Knott counties. With the layoffs, more than 200 remain employed while the company says it is committed to continue operating.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Ky. Reports Fifth H1N1 Swine Flu Death
Monday (today), the Lexington Fayette County Health Department confirmed Kentucky's fifth H1N1 swine flu death. A Fayette County woman in her 60s died last week. Officials say she had other serious, chronic medical conditions that also contributed to her death.
Escapee Captured In Wayne County
Freedom was short-lived for 19 year old Jeremy Sescourka who was recaptured just after 1:00 P.M. Monday (today) after escaping from the Wayne County Jail around 4:30 A.M. when jail employees opened a cell door to perform a medical test on an inmate. Authorities say Sescourka and another inmate, Joe Cook, had planned the escape, and, when the door was opened, the two darted out the door and into a nearby control room where Sescourka punched female Deputy Jailer Sherry Kelsay in the face while taking her hostage and threatening her with a makeshift knife. When the inmates failed to open the jail doors from the control room, Sescourka held the knife to Kelsay's throat while dragging her toward a door. A supervisor opened the door in an effort to free her, but the door closed before Cook could escape. Sescourka had been in jail since March on charges of first-degree rape, first-degree sodomy, second-degree escape and tampering with a prisoner monitoring device.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
U OF L Basketball Players Arrested And Released
University of Louisville basketball players, senior guard Jerry Smith and sophomore forward Terrence Jennings, were released from the Clark County Jail Sunday morning after being arrested late Saturday night in Jeffersonville, Indiana on misdemeanor charges of resisting arrest. The two were reportedly arrested after attending a University of Louisville alumni homecoming party. Coach Rick Pitino says the players will be dealt with internally.
Unemployment Benefit Extension Passes Senate
Senate Democrats reached a deal Thursday to extend unemployment insurance benefits for nearly 200 million jobless workers in all 50 states. Those in danger of running out of assistance by the end of the year will receive extended benefits for an additional 14 weeks, and another 6 weeks will be applied for states with an unemployment rate of 8.5% or above. With federal help, the unemployed in states hardest hit by the recession can receive up to 79 weeks of assistance. The national unemployment rate stands at 9.8%.