Local News 4-17-2014

U.S. 23 Shut Down in Russell Tuesday, After Undetonated Explosives Discovered

Travelers along a busy stretch of Highway in the Russell area of Boyd Co. had to be re-routed Tuesday, after a decade old set of explosives was found alongside U.S. 23 by construction workers. U.S. 23 between Ashland Drive and Kenwood Drive was shut down for about two and a half hours Tuesday, while law enforcement officials checked out the explosives. Several streets also had traffic delays during the closure.

According to the Russell Police Dept. construction workers on the Ironton-Russell bridge saw the white bags of explosives wedged in between the rock wall in the hillside across from the highway. Rather than digging them out and running the risk of hurting someone, the state police bomb squad was called in to detonate the explosives, causing a boom that was heard and felt miles away. Officials say the explosives were from a former construction project and could have been around 10 years old. No one was hurt during the blast.     

Michigan Meth Suspect Caught in Pike

A Michigan man was arrested last week in Pikeville, accused of manufactuing methamphetamine. Noel Davis, 58, who now lives in Pikeville, was arrested Friday on four federal charges, including conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute methamphetamine, possession with the intent to distribute meth, maintaining a residence for the purpose of manufacturing meth, and possession of firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking. Davis is accused of being the cook in a meth conspiracy involving two other men from Detroit.

According to the Floyd Co. Times, a criminal complaint was filed by Wayne State University Officer Michael H. Jacobs, who serves on a Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Detroit Conspiracy One Task Force, Davis, Zachary Biles and Demarlo Biles attracted the attention of investigators Jan. 16, following an undercover buy by a cooperating witness.

On March 26, the task force executed a search warrant at a Detroit residence where the buys took place, where they discovered several items used in the production of meth, as well as a shotgun and a sub-machine gun. After the search, Zachary Biles admitted to investigators that he sold meth on Jan. 16, while Demarlo Biles admitted to possessing the firearms. Davis eluded capture until officials caught up with him in Pikeville. He appeared Tuesday in U.S. District Court, in Pikeville, for an initial appearance, where he was ordered to be transported to the Eastern District of Michigan for further prosecution.

Ky. Lawmakers Finish Work Highlighted By Budget

The 2014 General Assembly session ended at the stroke of midnight on April 16, after a final day of maneuvering Tuesday. The politically divided legislature accomplished its primary tasks - passing a $20.3 billion, two-year state budget, followed by a $4.1 billion transportation spending plan. Kentucky lawmakers also revamped the juvenile justice system to lock up fewer kids and legalized a medicinal oil derived from marijuana to ease the suffering of children stricken with seizures.

Teachers and state employees got pay raises and an adult protection registry will be formed to screen caregivers for some of Kentucky's most vulnerable residents. From the session's outset in early January, Gov. Steve Beshear made education spending a priority. The new state budget raises per-pupil spending to its highest level ever, increases the number of 4-year-olds in preschool, restores cuts to child care programs and provides more money for school technology, textbooks and school safety, Gov. Beshear said. The budget imposed a new round of spending cuts across many state agencies to free up the extra money for education.

But for every bill that made it through the twists and turns of legislative review, many more came up short. Abortion-related bills that stalled in the Democratic-run House would have required doctors to perform ultrasounds prior to abortions and to have a "face-to-face" meeting with women before the procedure. House Speaker Greg Stumbo's proposal to raise the state's minimum wage died in the GOP-led Senate.

A proposed statewide smoking ban was snuffed out. The House didn't take up a bill aimed at spreading wireless and high-speed broadband service by allowing telecommunications companies to scale back on landline investments.Two issues that overshadowed the start of the session - expanded gambling and a tax code overhaul - both fizzled. The budget included $418.9 million in General Fund-supported bonds to help finance construction projects at the state's four-year public universities. The state's two-year schools also are in line for construction projects. The budget includes $145.5 million in agency bonds to support a project at each of the 16 colleges in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System.

Lawmakers OK Expanding Coalfield Scholarship Bill

Lawmakers have given final passage to a bill expanding a scholarship program for students in Kentucky's struggling coal regions. The measure cleared the General Assembly shortly before lawmakers ended the 2014 legislative session Tuesday night. The bill now goes to Gov. Steve Beshear for his consideration. The measure aims to increase the number of people obtaining college degrees in the eastern and western Kentucky coalfields. The students, for the most part, would attend four-year college campuses in coal counties, in hopes they pursue careers in the same region after graduation. The scholarships are funded with coal severance-tax funds. Participating students have to attend four-year campuses in their region, unless their programs aren't offered locally.

Road Spending Plan Passes Ky. Legislature

A $4.1 billion road-spending plan has passed the Kentucky General Assembly on the final day of the session, avoiding an expensive special session. The Senate approved the plan 37-1 Tuesday, and the House 71-26. The plan includes $5.2 billion worth of projects throughout the state. But as much as 25 percent of that money will not be spent. Lawmakers said they like to include a cushion in case some projects are delayed because of environmental concerns or problems acquiring land. Republicans and Democrats clashed over the plan Monday, and leaders of both parties said it was unlikely they would reach a deal. But lawmakers emerged from hours of closed-door meetings Tuesday to say they had reached an agreement both bodies could pass.

Ky. Releases County Unemployment Rates

Annual unemployment rates were lower in 51 Kentucky counties in 2012 than in 2013, while 57 county rates went up and 12 counties had the same annual rate for both years, according to the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training, an agency of the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet. The annual jobless rate for Woodford County was the lowest in the Commonwealth in 2013 at 6.1 percent. It was followed by Fayette and Oldham counties, 6.5 percent each; Scott County, 6.7 percent; Boone, Daviess, Franklin, Madison and Shelby counties, 6.8 percent each; and Caldwell, Owen and Warren counties, 7 percent each.

Leslie County recorded the state’s highest annual unemployment rate in 2013 — 17.7 percent. It was followed by Harlan and Magoffin counties, 17.6 percent each; Letcher County, 17.3 percent; Knott County, 16.1 percent; Fulton and Jackson counties, 15 percent each; Bell County, 14.9 percent; Perry County, 13.7 percent; and McCreary County, 13.5 percent.