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Louisa-Lawrence Co, KY

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JULY 7, 2015

Street flooding was rampant all over Louisa after heavy rains dropped approximately 3 inches of water onto the town in three or four hours. Photo courtesy of John Nolan


LOUISA, Ky. -- "It seemed like it wasn't going to stop raining Sunday evening, it just poured as hard as I've ever seen it and there is no way these 75 year old drains and water lines could handle it," Louisa mayor Harold Slone said Monday afternoon.

City crews worked all day Monday fixing three major leaks in the eight inch line.Slone has been busy trying to answer calls from city residents concerning flooded streets and low water pressure after the unusual deluge of rain.

"I think the TV news said it rained three inches in just a few hours and we will never be able to handle that much water at one time, we would have to redo the entire system which we simply cannot afford to do," Slone said.

He said the city street crews as well as the Water Dept. spent the entire day Monday mainly fixing three major leaks, two of them on Lock Avenue where the mayor lives.

"As far as I can tell the same thing happened all over town but we haven't received any news of major damage to anyone's property," Slone said. "These guys have been at it all day and they have just about gort the leaks in the 8 inch water line fixed, we don't know for sure about the damage to the sewer plant with the increased drainage, but it is still working right now."

JULY 6, 2015

What do you think should be done about the heavy dependancy on government handouts in the region?


LOUISA, Ky -- This county and region just finished celebrating our Independence but the biggest issue could be "dependence" instead.

Almost ten percent of the people living in Lawrence County are drawing assistance and/or disability payments from the U.S. government, a recent study shows.

Surprised? You shouldn't be because the numbers are nearly the same across eastern Ky. and southern W.Va. and have been for years. The rolls are growing every day.

Along with this comes an underground market where food stamps are used like money and pills received from Medicaid are sold for ten to twenty times their value. There is no tax paid on these trades and many who are not eligible receive them and use the benefits to survive in the local economy without working. And the tax paying is left to the few working families and retirees that are left.

In fact, a person on Medicaid who does not work at all pays little to nothing for expensive medical procedures while working men and women and retirees who worked all their lives to earn benefits, pay the bills which are becoming more and more difficult to afford.

So what will the local economy be like as coal jobs disappear and many of those dependant on these benefits will lose them when they are re-examined by the SS administration in coming months?

Local businesses make a large chunk of their money from the folks on the "draw" and without that first of the month kick in of federal dollars, times could be bleak before the economic development efforts of local officials have time to materialize.

Statistics from the Social Security Administration reveal part of the impact of the agency's decision to suspend disability benefits for hundreds of people in our region.

SSA officials last week sent letters to more than 1,200 people indicating they face a review of whether they can keep their federal assistance. And some say a complete review of everyone on benefits is coming soon.

Numbers published by the SSA last year indicate 78,560 people in the WYMT-TV coverage area - which includes Eastern Kentucky and parts of Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee - are on disability. That translates to 8.25 percent of the coverage area.

Buchanan County, Va., has the highest rate of folks on disability at 12.9 percent.

Floyd County, Ky., is second at 11 percent.

Government investigators suspect fraudulent information was used by Floyd County lawyer Eric C. Conn to secure the benefits that have been suspended. Conn has denied the allegations and has not been charged. But some say the Conn scam barely scratches the surface of the dependance on government handouts present in the region.

Here is a closer look at what percentage of each county's population receives disability payments:

Bell - eight percent
Boyd - 6.4 percent
Breathitt - 9.6 percent
Buchanan (Va.) - 12.9 percent
Campbell (Tenn.) - 7.2 percent
Claiborne (Tenn.) - 7.5 percent
Clay - 8.5 percent
Estill - 6.6 percent
Floyd - 11 percent
Harlan - 9.3 percent
Jackson - 7.4 percent
Johnson - 8.9 percent
Knott - nine percent
Knox - 7.8 percent
Laurel - 6.8 percent
Lawrence - 8.2 percent
Lee (Ky.) - 7.7 percent
Lee (Va.) - nine percent
Leslie - 9.8 percent
Letcher - 9.4 percent
McCreary - 7.6 percent
Magoffin - 9.9 percent
Martin - 9.4 percent
Mingo (W.Va.) - 10 percent
Morgan - 6.9 percent
Owsley - 7.8 percent
Perry - 8.8 percent
Pike - 10.5 percent
Powell - 8.1 percent
Pulaski - 6.5 percent
Rockcastle - 4.9 percent
Rowan - 4.9 percent
Wayne (Ky.) - 6.9 percent
Wayne (W.Va.) - six percent
Whitley - 7.1 percent
Wise (Va.) - 9.4 percent
Wolfe - 9.4 percent

The Floyd County Bar Association is set to file class action lawsuits against the federal government and Eric C. Conn on behalf of more than 100 people in Eastern Kentucky whose benefits were suspended by the SSA.

Many of them have said they do not know how they will survive financially without their disability benefits.

Johnson County native Clyde Music said, "The uncertainty is kind of scary.”

(This story contains the observations and opinion of its author)

July 1, 2015

Lawrence woman sentenced to 14 years on drug charges

Hope HundleyNearly every case heard during last motion hour of Lawrence County Circuit Court, was related to methamphetamine. Hope Hundley, 28, received the most time at 14 years, running concurrent, but consecutive to a separate case.

Other Circuit Court News

Joshua W. Burris, 31, was arraigned, and pled not guilty to charges of Complicity Manufacture Meth, Complicity Controlled Substance Endangerment to Child 4th Degree (3 counts), Complicity Possession Controlled Substance 1st Degree. Pre-trial conference July 31.

Samuel D. Collins Jr., 22, was arraigned and pled not guilty to charges of Complicity Manufacture Meth, Complicity Controlled Substance 4th degree (3 counts), and Complicity Possession Controlled Substance 1st Degree. Pre-trial conference July 31.

Scott Fisher, 44, was arraigned and pled not guilty to charges of Criminal Possession Forged Instrument 2nd Degree (2 counts), and Persistent Felony Offender 1st Degree. Pre-trial conference July 31.

Kenneth Gauze, 29, was arraigned, and pled not guilty to Complicity Manufacture Meth and Bail Jumping 1st Degree. Pre-trial conference July 31.

Elmer Hall, 60, was arraigned and pled not guilty to charges of Complicity Manufacture Meth. Pre-trial conference July 31.

Hope Hundley, 28, was sentenced to 10 years for Complicity Manufacturing Meth, 3 years for Complicity Possession Controlled Substance 1st Degree, 12 months for Drug Paraphernalia Buy/Possession. The charge of Persistent Felony Offender was dismissed. Sentence to run concurrent but consecutive to other case. A total of 166 days jail credit was applied.

Jason Kelly, 41, was arraigned and pled not guilty to Complicity Manufacture Meth. Pre-trial conference July 31.

Nathaniel Pack, 32, was sentenced to 1 year for Theft of Legend Drug, 30 days for Illegal Possession of Legend Drug, Possession Controlled Substance 3rd Degree, 12 months for Theft By Unlawful Taking, and 1 year for Tampering With Physical Evidence. A Persistent Felony Offender charge was dismissed with 2 years probation with 15 days jail credit.

Michelle Roop, 43, was arraigned and pled not guilty to charges of Complicity Manufacture Meth, Complicity Controlled Substance Endangerment to Child (3 counts), and Complicity Possession Controlled Substance. Pre-trial conference July 31.

Gary Skaggs, 48, was arraigned and pled not guilty to charge of Complicity Manufacture Meth. Pre-trial conference July 31.

Duranda Smith, 30, was sentenced to 5 years pre-trial diversion supervised 5 years on Facilitation Manufacture Meth. Six days jail credit was applied.

Christina Betzner, 45, was not present. A bench warrant was issued.

Other cases were reset to next motion hour or dismissed.

Information taken directly from Circuit Court Docket