Wednesday, May 04, 2011
EKB Capsule News...Kentucky...5-5-'11
- Governor Steve Beshear was notified Wednesday that President Barack Obama has approved his request for a major disaster declaration for Kentucky. After learning that Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel in Kentucky had submitted a letter to the President recommending granting the disaster declaration, Governor Beshear immediately called the White House to urge a quick response. Beshear declared a state of emergency on April 25th to allow local officials immediate access to state resources to assist in public safety and recovery efforts. Requests for Public Assistance and Hazard Mitigation have been granted. All other requests are under review. Beshear has also requested a disaster declaration for Kentucky's farm families from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and directed the temporary suspension of restrictions on certain motor carriers and utility vehicles delivering disaster relief supplies. In addition, he implemented an executive order to protect consumers from price gouging. Damage assessments continue across the state.
- In Pikeville Wednesday morning, officials announced the newly created Southeast Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. The Southeast Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, made up of Pike, Lawrence, Magoffin, Martin, Johnson, Knott and Letcher Counties, wipes out county lines when it comes to business. Officials plan to recruit new industries not related to coal, and new retail stores and restaurants. Brad Hall says the new Chamber will represent the entire region, while bringing together a population of 216,000 people. The Southeast Kentucky Chamber will also work as a liaison between businesses and state legislators. Any business that wants to become a member of the Southeast Kentucky Chamber of Commerce can call 1-877-738-4400.
- Former Whitley County High School football standout Jamie Lebanion is being held on a $10,000 cash bond at the Whitely County Detention Center charged with second-degree burglary, third-degree burglary and misdemeanor theft. Lebanion admitted to stealing $1,500 worth of jewelry from his former high school coach, Jim Black, whom he lived with while he played football for the Colonels before going to Georgetown College on a football scholarship. He's also accused of stealing $140 from the Whitley County High School athletic trainer. Lebanion says he did it because he has a drug problem that caught up with him. His next court appearance is scheduled for May 16th.
- Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer didn't report or pay taxes for six years on his personal use of a state vehicle, even after multiple warnings from state auditors. Farmer, who is running for the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor, plans to get amended wage and tax statements and have an undetermined sum of money deducted from his paychecks in coming months to compensate retroactively for his past failure to pay. An attorney for the state auditor's office wrote a letter Monday to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and Kentucky Revenue Department about the issue. Farmer is the running mate of state Senate President David Williams for the May 17th primary.
- A Jefferson County prosecutor entangled in a drug investigation has resigned, but did not disclose the reason. Matt Conway, the younger brother of Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, turned in a two-sentence letter on Friday. Commonwealth's Attorney David Stengel says he did not demand Conway's resignation and it was unrelated to drugs. Matt Conway was the subject of drug investigations in 2008 and 2009, but not charged either time. Conway admitted to investigators that Louisville Police Detective Ronald Russ had tipped him off that he was a subject of a drug probe. Police Chief Robert White fired Russ in December. A spokeswoman for Jack Conway said he was unaware of his brother's resignation.
- Employees with the Perry County Clerk’s Office are busy readying an alternate set of voting machines for the upcoming primary election after the county’s machines were recently impounded, apparently as part of an investigation by the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office. A new set of machines recently arrived from Lexington, some of which were still in the hallways of the courthouse Wednesday afternoon. Perry County Clerk Haven King said he didn’t have any further information as to what authorities are investigating, but he does expect the alternate set of machines will be up and and running in time for the May 17th primary election.
- Attorney General Jack Conway has announced the successful implementation of an electronic warrant management system (eWarrants) in the 24th Judicial Circuit (Johnson, Lawrence and Martin counties). This brings to 54 the number of counties that have received the eWarrant system under a $3.9 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grant awarded to the Office of the Attorney General in 2009. A total of 64 counties, including urban areas not covered under the ARRA grant, now have eWarrants.
- The Kentucky Floral Clock on the Capitol grounds in Frankfort is 50 years old, and Wednesday first lady Jane Beshear marked the occasion with a celebration of the clock and the rose garden at the opposite end of the Capitol grounds. The clock was installed after Governor Bert Combs came up with the idea in 1961 following a trip in which he saw one at Niagara Falls. The Kentucky clock was designed by Frankfort architect Bill Livingston. The hands of the clock were painted gold to commemorate the 50th anniversary. Beshear says everything for the garden project was donated.
- Kentucky Kingdom was formerly operated by Six Flags, but was abandoned in 2010 during a bankruptcy filing. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer is pitching a proposal aimed at reopening Kentucky Kingdom amusement park in 2012 by issuing $17.5 million in city bonds. Fischer says parking fees, a third-party investor and taxes collected from jobs at the park would pay off the bonds. Under the proposal, the city would commit its portion of the occupational tax revenues collected at the park toward the bond payment, up to $1 million. The park's operators would commit parking fees generated toward any difference between the taxes collected and the $1 million. Fischer has presented the plan to Kentucky Kingdom investor Ed Hart and Kentucky State Fair Board President Harold Workman.
- At the direction of Governor Steve Beshear, nearly 600 Kentucky National Guard troops are currently assisting flood relief efforts in six western Kentucky counties. About 3,800 people have been evacuated because of flooding concerns. Most people have sought shelter with family members and about 37 residents are spread out between four shelters, and two shelters are on stand-by, if needed. The cities are Hickman in Fulton County along the Mississippi River and Ledbetter and Smithland in Livingston County along the Ohio River.
- A Louisville teenager has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for his role in a planned robbery that prosecutors say turned into a murder. Hardin County Circuit Judge Kelly Mark Easton sentenced Jason William Gowers on Tuesday, just more than a month after he pleaded guilty to charges of complicity to commit murder and complicity to tamper with physical evidence. The charges stem from the death of 18-year-old Mackenzie Smyser, whose remains were found in November near Interstate 65 and Fort Knox. Two others, Ryan Wilt and Connor Galenski, both of Louisville, are scheduled for trial on October 10th. Police say the trio planned to rob Smyser, but instead shot him over a debt for a gun.
- A northern Kentucky city could lay off 25 full-time employees, including police and firefighters, if the economic situation doesn't improve in the next two months. The Covington City Commission, by a 4-1 vote, put a contingency plan in place to help meet a projected $3.8 million shortfall for the next fiscal year. City Commissioner Steve Casper said layoffs might be averted if revenues increase, or if costs decrease or health care concessions are made by employees before the end of June. If the city enacts the contingency plan July 1st, it would lay off 10 full-time employees in the fire department, eight full-time employees in public improvements, four full-time and one part-time employee in the police department as well as a school resource officer.
- The Kentucky attorney general says two caregivers have pleaded guilty in the abuse of a mentally disabled patient at a Carter County care facility. Attorney General Jack Conway said 55-year-old Robert Thompson of Ironton, Ohio, entered guilty pleas on Tuesday to three separate indictments of knowingly abusing a vulnerable adult and one count of wanton endangerment. Ira Griffith of Mount Sterling pleaded guilty to one count of wantonly neglecting a vulnerable adult. Investigators said Thompson and Griffith unreasonably confined and intimidated Craig Martin, who was a resident at Community Presence, Inc., in September 2007. Thompson's sentencing is scheduled for May 26th and Griffith is scheduled for sentencing June 20th in Carter Circuit Court.
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