The area's leading online source for news!
Louisa-Lawrence Co, KY

In God We Trust - Established 2008


March 19, 2018



Don BlankenshipDon BlankenshipConvicted coal CEO Don Blankenship is running neck and neck in the race for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination in West Virginia, but he's aiming his blows at Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, the former governor he considers responsible for his year in the pokey.

"In 2016, the former hard-charging chief executive officer of Massey Energy Co. went to federal prison for conspiring to evade safety laws in the lead-up to the worst coal mine disaster in a generation—a 2010 explosion at Upper Big Branch Mine that killed 29 miners. Manchin, the governor at the time, commissioned an independent probe that reached blistering conclusions about Blankenship’s tight grip over Massey and did a lot to seal public opinion about his role in the disaster," Tim Loh reports for Bloomberg. "Years later, as federal prosecutors zeroed in on Blankenship, Manchin, by then a senator, said on national TV that the ex-coal boss had 'blood on his hands'."

Blankenship, who maintained his innocence during his year in prison, "entered this race because he has an axe to grind with Joe Manchin," state House Democratic Minority Whip Mike Caputo told Loh. "It's more personal than politics." But to face Manchin, Blankenship has to get through the May 8 GOP primary. His foes are more experienced politicians, but he has blown past state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey in polling and is only two percentage points (within the margin of error) behind U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, who represents the state's southern third.

Many West Virginians seem to have accepted Blankenship's claim that he's a victim, and some miners associate him with better times, when the state's coal production was three times higher than today. Through his anti-union, anti-illegal immigration stances, "Blankenship has tapped into the anger of working people in West Virginia and their deep frustration over the state’s stagnant economy," Loh reports. "To understand Blankenship’s appeal is to understand the current conservative movement in rural America, and how, in the span of several years, West Virginia became one of the reddest states in the country after decades as a Democratic enclave."


Written by Heather Chapman


March 19, 2018

Four individuals are being held in the custody of the Pike County Detention Center on charges that they assisted and hid alleged cop-killer John Hall during his 36-hour flight from justice last week.

Hall, 55, of Pikeville, was arrested by Kentucky State Police Thursday morning in connection to the Tuesday night murder of Pikeville Police Officer Scotty Hamilton, KSP said. Hall, who has been charged with murder of a police officer and being a convicted felon in possession of a handgun, was located at the Betsy Layne residence of Gregory Dean Slone, 54, of Stoney Brook Drive, court documents said.

Greg Slone was arrested along with Michael T. Slone, 39, of South Rise Road, Banner; Amanda F. Dotson, 37, of Right Fork of Island Creek, Pikeville, and Jeanne Blackburn, 44, of the Left Fork of Toler Creek, Harold, court records show.

Michael Slone and Dotson were contacted by Hall, by telephone, as he was being sought for questioning and for a warrant in connection to the death of Officer Hamilton, the citation said. Hall, according to the citation, requested to be transported to another location and Michael Slone and Dotson “picked up and transported the wanted fugitive to the residence of Gregory Slone.”

Blackburn was present at the residence when Hall was brought there by Michael Slone and Dotson, the citation said.

Each of the four were arrested on a charge of first-degree hindering prosecution or apprehension, court records show. Greg Slone was further charged with first-degree promoting contraband after deputy jailers located two separate types of pills he had attempted to conceal in his socks, the citation said.

Appalachian News-Express


March 17, 2018

PSC grants emergency rate increase to Martin County Water District

Kentucky Press News Service

FRANKFORT – The Kentucky Public Service Commission has granted Martin County Water District an emergency rate increase in order to stave off the utility’s financial collapse.

Michael J. Schmitt, PSC ChairmanMichael J. Schmitt, PSC ChairmanIn an order issued Friday, the PSC granted Martin County Water an annual revenue increase of about 26.5 percent, consisting of an increase in base rates and a separate surcharge that will be used by the utility to reduce its unpaid bills. The average monthly residential bill will rise by $11.17, or about 28 percent, going from $39.90 to $51.07.

The PSC expressed sympathy for the plight of Martin County Water’s customers and the widespread opposition to raising rates for water service that has often been inadequate or, at times, non-existent. However, the district faces a dire situation, the PSC said in a news release.

“The reality of the situation is that, absent some amount of the emergency relief requested, Martin District will be unable to continue operating within 60 to 90 days, leaving every customer with no water service, forcing residential customers to abandon their homes and commercial customers, including schools, to close,” the PSC said in the order. “While raising water rates clearly places an increased burden upon Martin District’s customers, the alternative of not raising rates would create an even greater burden.”

Solving Martin County Water’s problems will require “both time and a massive infusion of capital,” the PSC said, adding that Martin County Water, like all utilities, will have to rely on rates paid by customers to fund operations and pay for system improvements that are not covered by any grants the utility may receive.

The PSC also noted that placing the utility into receivership, as advocated by some customers, will not avoid a rate increase. Martin County Water will need additional revenue regardless of who may be operating the system.

The additional revenue comes with strict reporting requirements. Martin County Water must submit monthly updates to the PSC on its revenue and detailed accounting of its spending. Those reports will be available to the public.

Furthermore, the increased base rates are approved on an interim basis and only until the PSC has conducted a more detailed analysis of Martin County Water’s finances and operations. If the PSC ultimately sets final base rates lower than the interim rates, Martin County Water will be required to refund any excess base rate collections to its customers as a credit on future bills.

Martin County Water has 3,243 customers.

The total annual revenue increase of $482,071 is allocated in the following manner:

$318,884 to a 17.5 percent increase in the utility’s base rates, which fund general operations and maintenance. $163,187 to a Debt Service Surcharge to be placed in a separate account and used to pay off existing unpaid bills over time or as collateral to obtain a loan to pay off Martin County Water’s unpaid bills, which exceed $800,000. Martin County Water cannot expend any funds from the account without prior PSC approval.

Martin County filed an application seeking the increase on January 16, 2018. The PSC conducted an initial formal evidentiary hearing on January 26.

At that hearing, the PSC granted a request by Martin County Concerned Citizens to become an intervenor – or full participant – in the process. Additionally, Prestonsburg City Utility Commission requested to intervene, was allowed to participate in a second evidentiary hearing conducted on February 28, but has been denied intervention by today’s order.

Testimony at the hearings focused on Martin County Water’s financial condition. District officials stated that the utility could become insolvent within two or three months, and that $616,882 of its unpaid debts were more than 90 days past due.

Martin County Water officials also testified that the district has considerable amounts of unpaid bills owed to it by customers.

In tFriay’s order, the PSC directed the district to file monthly reports on efforts to identify those debts, write off uncollectible amounts and sell older debts to a third-party collection agency. The PSC also directed Martin County Water to begin enforcing immediately its existing rules for disconnecting customers who do not pay their bills.

Finally, the PSC directed Martin County Water’s board of commissioners and its managers to attend a PSC training seminar that will be held in April.

The PSC order cited Martin County Water’s lengthy record of difficulties in providing adequate service to its customers. The utility’s current condition is the result of “bad business practices, and ineffective management and leadership” that allowed facilities to deteriorate and left Martin County Water in such dire financial straits that it is “unable to address even immediate repairs,” the PSC said.

Martin County Water’s new board members have recognized the need for a change of direction and have begun implementing better business practices, the PSC said.

“To resolve the financial and operational problems facing Martin District, the commissioners will need to put forth an effort equal in commitment to that of the Martin County citizens who have worked to call attention to their need for better water service,” the PSC said in today’s order. “All citizens of Martin County are affected, and all citizens deserve adequate and reasonable water service around the clock.”

The PSC also warned Martin County Water that failure to comply with the order could lead to measures such as ordering the refund to customers of all money generated by the interim base rate increase, removal of the board members, placing the utility into receivership, or opening an investigation into merging with another water system.

Friday’s order, a video of both hearings and other records in the case are available on the PSC website, The case number is 2018-00017.