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April 25, 2015
Kentucky is only state in nation that has jailers without jails
(Editor's Note - WOWK.com's Randy Yohe came out with his second story about the fact that the 24th judicial district (Lawrence, Martin and Johnson) joins 38 other counties in Kentucky that have jailers but no jails to put prisoners in. Yohe noted in the story (click the WOWL icon to see video) that Kentucky is the only state in the U.S. that has them. Yohe mistakenly called new Lawrence Co. Jailer Roger Lee Jordan "Roger Workman" and failed to mention the fact that Jordan works at the Big Sandy Detention Center, or at least he did until he was elected. Jordan's salary was also not mentioned although former three term Jailer Phil Triplett made more than $60,000 as Jailer and Chief Transport officer plus about $25,000 in benefits. Yohe, who is best known for his work on WSAZ-TV for several years, also did not mention the fact that County Judge/Exec. and County Atty. Mike Hogan and some members of the Lawrence Fiscal Court said at the last fiscal court meeting that they will not vote to accept the Regional Jail Budget, which costs Lawrence County taxpayers nearly half a million dollars per year and the bills keep rising. But as only one county out of four with more populated Johnson County having the most votes, what can the local court really do? The issue is sure to come up soon with the tightening of belts in counties where the coal severance tax used to pay for such items, but does not anymore. Here's Yohe's story...
BIG SANDY REGION -- Newly elected Lawrence County jailer Roger Jordan said he and his deputy jailers transport county prisoners back and forth from court to the regional jail.
"We just hang around here and wait around until someone gets arrested and if there's paperwork to do," Jordan said.
"We've got counties with no jails but there's still criminals." Bill Hall, a deputy jailer, said. "They've got to go somewhere and we're the one's that take them."
Lawrence, Martin and Johnson are just three out of 41 of Kentucky's 120 counties that long ago closed their jails when the piecemeal regional jail system began. But they kept their jailers.
Martin County's jail is now an abandoned storage unit. Paul Stepp is the dayside deputy jailer.
Stepp says, "At times, it's all night. Some of the other times? Well, it's always busy."
The elected Martin County jailer, Boone Mahon, works full-time making about $22,000 annually as the local high school's head custodian. His full time, $40,000 a year jailer duties, when there are any, are at night. Mahon says he is on call during the night for his jailer duties.
"They may go three shifts and never leave the house," Martin County Judge Executive Kelly Callaham said.
With coal tax revenues dwindling by the millions, the tightly budgeted county judge executive recently cut three extra deputy jailers Martin County had on it's payroll.
"I'm paying people and they're staying home until they get a call," Callaham said. "Not the best bang for my buck."
The regional jail director, Pete Fitzpatrick, said, jailers with no jails can do one of two jobs - transport prisoners or work as a court bailiff. His issue is with an uneven taxpayer funded jailer with no jail pay scale.
"It needs to be across the board," Fitzpatrick said. "If they are limited to these two functions then the pay should be commensurate with their actions, not up to $69,000 a year, [which is] a lot more than I make."
Some Johnson County taxpayers said they had no idea they were paying for a jailer without a jail. Others said they need to do away with that salary.
Still, Kentucky is the only state where the position of a jailer is an elected position.
"You know it's one of these things when you think, 'all the states are not wrong, are we right?'" Callaham said. "The state jailers lobby is very strong, you'll see."
Long-time Kentucky state legislator Hubert Collins represents counties with no county jails. Unlike Callaham, Collins fully supports jailers with no jails and rejects any thought of a constitutional change to eliminate electing jailers.
"I've always been a person that, just because another state does it, I'm not in favor of it," Collins said. "There's not a lot of support out there to do it."
"No, we're not right," Callaham said. "We should have a different system."
APRIL 22, 2015
Most people think the connector road from golf course/county park to marina is good idea...
Louisa, KY -- The public information meeting held last week by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet concerning the upcoming Yatesville Lake Connector Road, brought out a good sized crowd to the Lawrence County Community Center.
Officials from the KYTC presented an overview of the road project and were available to answer questions and receive comments.
The road, which will connect KY 3215 to KY 1185 from the marina to the campground, will have two 11 ft. wide driving lanes, a 30 MPH design speed, and for most of its distance, be on new alignment along the ridge top paralleling the lake.
In 2011, the U.S. Corp of Engineers documented average visitation to the area of over 300,000 visits annually. In 2013, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC)
District 12, completed a study which identified the following issues and conditions in the project area:
1. System Linkage--There is no direct linkage between KY 3215 (Yatesville Campground) and KY 1185 (Yatesville Lake Marina). With a new connection, travel can be reduced from over 15 miles to 2.7 miles and will also keep travelers in the park.
2. Social Demand--The park suffers from a lack of connectivity between the north side of the lake and the south side. This connector road will help to integrate the activities of the park, allowing for the potential of increased usage.
3. Transportation Demand--The new road will provide a connection that will allow a quicker route from the KY 32 area of the county to KY 3. Roadway commuters, emergency responders, and the school system will benefit from this route.
As a result of the Master Plan and the KYTC Study, alternatives were developed to provide a bridge connection across the lake.
State Representative, Rocky Adkins said that money has been appropriated for the beginning of this project. However, construction and completion dates are not available at this time.
If you were not available to attend last week's meeting, you may still let your voice be heard. Mail or email your comments by Friday, May 1, 2015, to:
KYTC Department of Highways
109 Loraine St.
Pikeville, KY 41501
Attention: Ron Slone
APRIL 20, 2015
by WADE QUEEN
A missing elderly Maryland man, who is suffering from dementia, was found safe in Wayne County, West Virginia after authorities on both sides of the Big Sandy river coordinated a search and rescue with help from US Air Force unit.
According to Lawrence County Emergency Management Agency director Mike Woods, the gentleman, identified as Joseph Fitzhugh, who will turn 78 on April 28, was discovered to be in the local area after law enforcement and a wireless cell phone company from Maryland alerted local law enforcement officials shortly before 9 PM Saturday night that Mr Fitzhugh was in the area.
Fitxhugh, who had been reported missing and had not been seen since April 7, had suddenly locked on his cell phone signal and the signal had been traced to Lawrence County, Ky. later determined to be coming specifically from the Patrick Gap Hill area of U.S. 23.
Maryland authorities gave a description of Joseph Fitzhugh as 6 foot, 213 lbs, blue eyes, gray hair, wearing glasses with a tattoo of a Navy Ship on his arm, that he was wearing blue jeans, black sketchers, blue denim shirt and a Miami dolphins jacket. They also gave a description of the vehicle Fitzhugh was driving as a black 2014 Ford F-150 P/U with Maryland plates 6AV6556.
Various Lawrence county entities began immediately their search for Fitzhugh, and put out a BOLO to neighboring counties as well.
After several hours of search, with the help of a local wireless company and with additional help from a US military unit, the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC), they got in contact with Fitzhugh who stated that he had recently "went through a 'small town' and over a bridge in West Virginia and gave a specific description of where he was at.
Lawrence County authorities quickly alerted Wayne County law enforcement of Fitzhugh's location in Wayne County.
Just after 4:30 AM, Wayne County sheriff's deputies located Fitzhugh in his vehicle safe and sound.
Among the rather large number of groups involved in the search of Mr Fitzhugh included: Appalachian Cellular - Maryland, Verizon Wireless - Ky, Wayne County Sheriff's Department, Lawrence County Emergency Management Agency, Lawrence Co. Search and Rescue, Lawrence County E-911, Lawrence County Sheriffs Department, Louisa Ky., Rough Terrain Rescue Knott County and the AFRCC with the United States Air Force