A YEAR OF CHANGE
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School Superintendent Search Began
The McCreary County Board of Education met with Tim Eaton, a KY School Board Association (KSBA) field consultant, in a special called session to conduct their initial Superintendent Search Planning Meeting. KSBA (through Eaton) served as the search consultant for McCreary County and guided the board through the superintendent hiring process.
Redistricting landed a new state senator for McCreary
After McCreary County was redistricted into Kentucky’s Senate District 25, The Voice conducted a quick interview with the county’s new state senator, Senate President Robert Stivers. Senator Stivers replaced Senator Max Wise through redistricting brought about by the results of the 2020 Census. The District 25 Senate seat will be up for vote through the election process in 2024. Senator Stivers has served in the Kentucky Senate since 1997 and as Senate President since 2013.
Face Coverings in schools became optional
The McCreary County Board of Education met in regular session and approved an amended COVID Operations Plan for the school district which effectively steered the district away from handling COVID-19 as a pandemic. Instead, the amended plan outlined procedures dealing with COVID as an ongoing endemic-much like flu season.
Under the amended plan, the wearing of face coverings (masking) became optional from that point forward in all school environments. Individuals were still able to wear masks if they chose to do so.
A McCreary Countian was among 17 indicted in Federal crackdown on cockfighting
According to the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky, a McCreary County man was one of seventeen Kentuckians indicted on February 24, 2022 in four separate indictments issued by a federal grand jury seated in London, KY for various offenses related to animal fighting and cruelty.
Seventy-two year old Bradley Cye Rose of Parkers Lake, KY, along with four additional individuals, was indicted in the second indictment and charged with exhibiting an animal, specifically a rooster, in an animal fighting venture at the Bald Rock chicken pit in nearby Laurel County. In the same indictment, the grand jury charged Rickie Dale Johnson, Jacklyn Rachelle Johnson, and Harold “Fuzzy” Hale (all of London, KY) with knowingly sponsoring and exhibiting animals in an animal fighting venture, in connection with the Bald Rock chicken pit in Laurel County.
High speed pursuit linked to missing Tennessee man
A high speed pursuit through McCreary County and via back roads into Pulaski County to Mt. Union/Keno resulted in the arrest of the female driver and recovery of a silver 2013 Toyota Corolla with black rims and Tennessee registration plates. Officials confirmed the vehicle was registered to Curtis Lee Lowe of the Smokey Creek community in Scott County, Tennessee. Lowe was allegedly last seen driving the car as he departed from his home on February 6, 2022. He was subsequently reported as missing.
Hamming it up
McCreary County was represented by some real “hams” at the 2023 Kentucky State Fair. However instead of being comical, the hams were mouth-watering tasty.
In preparation for the State Fair, several young McCreary County 4-H participants began curing their own hams as part of the Kentucky 4-H Country Ham project, continuing the country ham tradition -a tradition in Kentucky and the southeast for hundreds of years.
Board entered closed session to discuss pending litigation
The McCreary County Board of Education entered Executive/Closed session during their regular March School Board meeting on Monday, March 25, 2022 to discuss pending litigation in Cynthia Moore v. Board of Education of McCreary County, et al (15-CI-00168), and in Timothy Moore, Melissa Stephens, and Jenny Lynn Wilson-Davis v. Board of Education of McCreary County (15-CI-00169).
Upon returning to regular session, the Board did not discuss or take immediate specific action regarding the closed session; however, in approving actions by consent (nine agenda items approved simultaneously with no discussion), the Board authorized the Superintendent to sign all documents and items necessary to settle the legal action styled McCreary Circuit Court, Civil Action No. 15-CI-00168.
He’s a survivor
Thanks to prayer and a dedicated team of healthcare workers, Brandon Vaughn was a miraculous survivor of COVID-19.
McCreary County’s eighteen year old Brandon Vaughn was welcomed home as a miracle and answer to prayer after battling COVID-19 and its aftereffects for more than four months of confinement at the University of Kentucky’s Children’s Hospital in Lexington and a rehabilitation center in Louisville.
A Dream Come True
Misty Shepherd’s love of books and writing blossomed at a very young age. In 2022, the McCreary County native was excited to return to the place where that love began-at the McCreary County Library-to host a book signing for her first published book, a suspense thriller entitled, Find Me.
“My grandmother worked at the McCreary County Library during most of my childhood, so at a very early age, I developed a hunger for books and fell in love with the art of storytelling,” Shepherd recalled. “As a McCreary County native, I found there was magic within the county lines that many people never see. Even as a little girl, I was inspired to write my first story sitting next to my grandfather as he fished on the river near Alum Ford.”
McCreary County EMS approved for ultrasound equipment
McCreary County EMS began using state of the art ultrasound equipment on board each of their six ambulance trucks. After waiting approximately two years, the Commission of the KY Board of EMS gave its stamp of approval for McCreary County EMS to purchase and use the ultrasounds.
County’s General Fund Got $1.3 Million from ARPA
McCreary County’s general fund increased significantly as magistrates approved anticipated inter-fund cash transfers including the transfer of $1,300,355.65 of McCreary County’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds into the County’s general fund. ARPA funds were federal funds allotted to counties as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic
Gravel rally event arrived in McCreary County
McCreary County hosted Kentucky’s first official stage gravel road rally in April as the McCrearyGravelRally event, sanctioned by NASA Rally Sport , roared onto county backroads.
The McCreary County Farmers Market opened for Season 10
The McCreary Farmers Market opened for its 10th season with shoppers finding locally grown vegetables, meat, eggs, and more!
Primary voters supported incumbents
During Tuesday’s Primary Election, McCreary County voters deemed McCreary County’s local General Election in November would consist mostly of incumbents running unopposed with only two locally contested races for Sheriff and PVA. During May’s primary election, Republican challenger David Sampson was selected to face off against incumbent Sheriff Randy Waters in the November General Election. Republican PVA Dwight Ross and Independent challenger Bruce Lominac emerged to face each other in the November.
During their regular meeting, the McCreary County Board of Education authorized Board Chairperson Braxton King and Board Member Johnny Barnett to work with the Board Attorney to negotiate a contract with Dr. John Gunn to become the next McCreary County School District Superintendent. Dr. Gunn’s contract began July 1, 2022 as he replaced retiring superintendent, Corey Keith.
Outdoor Venture Corporation (OVC) Celebrated 50 Years in McCreary County
As McCreary County’s longest existing manufacturing industry, OVC’s Board of Directors and employees have played a significant role in growing the local community including spearheading the establishment of a local public library and county park.
Fishing Derby Reeled in 179 Participants
The June weather was fine, the catfish were jumping, and with much of COVID-19 behind us, the U.S. Forest Service, Stearns Ranger District hosted a record-breaking “Kids Fishing Derby” at the Barren Fork fishing pond.
Breaking the former record of 164 registered participants, this year’s fishing derby reeled in 179 registered participants ranging in age from 5 to 15.
$8 million school renovation set to begin
McCreary County Middle School’s $8 million renovation project underwent the bid process with construction expected to begin in August.
Woman missing; vehicle found in Revelo
Scott County, TN and McCreary County, KY law enforcement, family, and friends searched for a McCreary County native who went missing on Saturday, June 18, 2022. The missing, fifty year old Darlene Chitwood, with an address of Winfield, TN, has several family members residing in McCreary County who asked the public to help them find their missing loved one.
Chitwood’s daughter filed a missing person report at the Scott County (TN) Sheriff’s Office on Sunday (6-19) after an individual received a message from Chitwood at approximately 7:00 p.m. on Saturday evening stating her vehicle had broken down at Station Camp in Tennessee. Family members went to Station Camp to help Chitwood but were unable to locate her. Chitwood did not return home that night. Subsequently, Chitwood’s older model red Chevy Blazer was found abandoned and parked at the Big Blue Tire Shop in Revelo, Kentucky.
McCreary County’s Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library announced
The local non-profit, Friends of the McCreary County Public Library, Inc., proudly announced the pending arrival of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library of McCreary County!
The program provides free books for children from birth until age 5.
Residential drug/alcohol rehab opened in Whitley City
McCreary County took a big step forward in tackling the scourge of local drug and alcohol abuse when Next Chapter LLP, a residential rehabilitation center, opened on July 18, 2022 in Whitley City.
Six cars derailed in Whitley City train incident
Six of 198 cars of a northbound Norfolk Southern train derailed just south of the Lumber King crossing in Whitley City early Sunday (July 10, 2022) morning. Four of the six derailed cars overturned. According to Norfolk Southern’s Media Relations Manager Connor Spielmaker, Norfolk Southern crews and contractors were on scene quickly to clean up and make repairs.
UCB took measures to address security incident
Customers of United Cumberland Bank in McCreary County who were impacted by a security incident occurring in March, 2022 received letters notifying them about the incident. All customers were not affected by the security breach, and only those who received letters needed to be concerned about the breach.
According to UCB President Michael Laxton, UCB concluded an investigation into a security incident that caused certain devices in their network to become unavailable. Laxton stated that as soon as the bank’s IT staff discovered the incident through their established security monitoring protocols, the bank immediately began an investigation, engaged a cybersecurity team, and took measures to address the incident. Federal law enforcement was also notified.
60 years of helping their neighbors
In McCreary County, plans for a water system to provide safe, clean water were began in 1957, and in 1962, the McCreary County Water District was established. As a result, the McCreary County Water District celebrated its 60th Anniversary with the public on August 5.
$3.9 Million grant for renovation of Historic Stearns awarded to Heritage Foundation
Thanks to a $3.9 Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant, the McCreary County Heritage Foundation (MCHF) began preparations to make its first big investment in the restoration of downtown Stearns. Although the grant requires a $600,000 match from the Foundation, MCHF Chairperson Ray Moncrief vowed the Foundation will find a way to meet the match requirement.
With the grant, leaders will focus on “redressing” Downtown Stearns. Funds from the grant will be used to totally renovate the original Administrative Building (now known as the McCreary County Museum). Since the building is on the National Historical Register, the building will be renovated to historical accuracy. According to Moncrief, the first floor will be renovated to accommodate museum displays and a welcome center area. The second floor will house professional offices and a large conference room. The third floor will consist of rbnb vacation type rental rooms. Stores 1 and 3 will also be renovated.
County employees scored pay increases based on length of service
Magistrate Bill Hale cast the sole vote against a proposal designed to grant raises based on length of service to all non-elected county employees.
Woman found alive after four day search.
For the Dobbs and Trammell families, the outlook seemed grim.
Concern over the whereabouts of Anna Marie Trammell Dobbs first surfaced when her locked vehicle was discovered parked at the Janie Shoals crossing of the Little River, in Wayne County, just barely across the McCreary/Wayne County boundary. Most of Marie’s belongings were safely inside her locked vehicle; however, Marie was nowhere to be found. As concern over Marie’s whereabouts escalated, a witness recalled having seen Marie at the crossing, just a short distance off of the Clark Hollow Road in western McCreary County, earlier on that same afternoon. After four days of searching, Dobbs, who had gotten lost in the forest, was found alive and well.
Dr. Rand Paul Honored Larry’s Mini Mart of Whitley City as Senate Small Business of the Week
U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, arrived in Whitley City to recognize Larry’s Mini Mart as the Senate Small Business of the Week.
The Search Continued
Numerous volunteers, including those with four wheelers and ATVs, gathered on to once again search for Darlene Chitwood of Winfield, TN. The last confirmed sighting of Chitwood was on Saturday, June 18, 2022 as she walked west on East Appletree Road in Revelo.
There’s a new voice in town!
After many years as publisher of The McCreary County Voice, Patti Stephens sold McCreary County’s only newspaper to current publisher/owner, Jessica & Steven Thomas and Donna Hancock. Under new leadership, The Voice began a renewed emphasis based on community news and features.
“We love you, Josh”
As the community gathered to support one of their own, it was an evening filled with emotion.
Along with family members and friends who loved him, thirty-two year old Josh Goodin’s family of first responders (including firefighters from adjoining counties) joined in a parade that travelled slowly past his home with lights flashing, sirens and horns blasting, and heartfelt expressions of love on display for the young first responder who was battling cancer for the second time in his life. Designed to lift the beloved first responder’s spirits, the event was organized to show love and support for Josh. Sadly, Josh passed soon after.
McCreary’s new Senator visited County
Kentucky’s 25th State Senate District Senator Robert Stivers (Republican) visited McCreary County for the first time since being named McCreary County’s Senator due to mandated redistricting of Kentucky’s state senatorial districts.
McCreary County established youth soccer league
As two moms who recently spearheaded the establishment of McCreary County Youth Soccer League Inc., Candice Slavey and Chelsea Decker wear the titles of “soccer mom” proudly.
The idea for a soccer league began innocently enough. Discussing McCreary County sports while sitting together at a T-ball event, the two women suddenly looked at each other and exclaimed, “We should have soccer!”
County received funding based on amount of federal land
“The funding will go to benefit the citizens of McCreary County, and overall, help provide better services,” McCreary County Judge Executive Jimmie “Bevo” Greene said as he announced McCreary County’s receipt of $709,869.98 of Local Assistance and Tribal Consistency Fund (LATCF) dollars for the FY 2022. McCreary County is eligible for the same amount of funding again in FY 2023.
LATCF dollars are funded under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), and payment of the funding is based on the amount of federal property within each county, as defined by the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program and the Refuge Revenue Sharing program under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Population levels and various economic conditions such as historic poverty levels, unemployment, etc. are also figured into the final calculations.
Election resulted in new sheriff and two new school board members
The November General Election resulted in Sheriff-elect David Sampson ousting incumbent Sheriff Randy Waters, and Division 4 School Board Member-elect Estle Swain defeating incumbent Lori Foster. Division 3 School Board Member Cody Perry ran unopposed.
Many voiced concerns in town hall meeting regarding Forest Service’s Jellico/Little Rock Creek proposal
“We live over there on Osborne Creek, and it is a beautiful place,” an elderly McCreary County woman named Birdie told Forest Service officials during a public meeting concerning the US Forest Service’s proposed Jellico Vegetation Management Project held in November at the Whitley County Extension Agency Office north of Williamsburg. The project proposes vegetation management treatments, including timber harvest with some clear cutting, on approximately 5,000 acres over a period of 40 years in the Jellico Mountain area of Whitley County and approximately 5, 000 acres in the Little Rock Creek/Osborne Creek area of McCreary County.
“I’m against it,” Lovett said firmly. “My husband was a logger. He’s against it, too. It would be a shame if you ruined such a beautiful place.”
Overwhelmingly, those attending and speaking out during the town hall styled meeting were opposed to the project as it is currently proposed-particularly parts of the plan calling for the use of clear cutting and other similar logging techniques as part of the project. Concerns about the project varied but centered mostly on the issues of clear cutting, the size of the project, excessive targeting of mature forest, the use of herbicides, and the potential for erosion, landslides, and related flooding.
CEDIK analysis provided feedback from “mystery visitors’” regarding their first impressions of McCreary County
“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Commentator Will Rogers once said. Rogers’ words are especially true when it comes to tourism. After all, visitors and tourists rarely give a second chance or grant a second visit to a destination that initially leaves a bad first impression.
As part of the University of Kentucky’s Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky (CEDIK) and unbeknownst to McCreary Countians, seven individuals recently paid “mystery visits” to McCreary County to analyze and provide feedback regarding their “first impressions” of McCreary County in terms of community and economic development.
Unidentified human remains found in Stearns area
McCreary County Sheriff Randy Waters responded to a 911 call regarding the possible discovery of a human skull located in the yard of a resident at the end of the Tunnel Ridge road in Stearns.
A happy “next chapter” for Bobby Duncan’s General Store & Hardware
Linda Duncan, daughter of the late Bobby Duncan of Strunk, met the McCreary County Heritage Foundation’s reversal of their earlier decision to place Bobby Duncan’s General Store & Hardware on the auction block with a happy heart and sigh of relief. Instead, Duncan now becomes the sole owner of the store following the Foundation’s adoption of a resolution to accept her offer to purchase the store for the sum of $15,000.
New Businesses opened in county
Thanks to Apolonio Cruz and Nelida Chavez, owners of Whitley City’s Santa Fe Mexcan Restaurant, McCreary Countians can now enjoy sweet visits to a local ice cream shop. Additionally, South Fork Clothing Company opened to a busy month filled with excited shoppers. The new shop on Main Street in Whitley City is located in the former Conatser’s Store and offers fashionable women’s clothing at affordable prices in sizes from Small to 3X. Shoppers can also find jeans, shoes (Corky’s shoe line), fashion jewelry, purses, accessories, KY vendors, and a variety of items perfect for gift-giving.
Residents responded during Jellico Vegetation Management Project public comment period
McCreary Countians were among many members of the public who responded vigorously to the U.S. Forest Service’s proposed Jellico/(Little Rock Creek Area) Vegetation Project during the proposal’s public comment period, which ended December 5, 2022. The proposed project impacts approximately 5,000 acres in Whitley County and approximately 5,000 acres in McCreary County.
Approximately 300 public comments, most voicing concerns or seeking modifications in the proposal, were submitted on the proposal’s website during the project’s public input period. Public input was sought as part of the project’s scoping process and is used by the Forest Service to help determine the appropriate scope of environmental analysis to conduct. Submitted comments became part of the public record.
County will receive quarterly payments to grow local economy
During their December 8, 2022 regular meeting, McCreary County Fiscal Court approved payment of the final two expenditures from Outdoor Venture Corporation’s (OVC) Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). Since CDBG guidelines require OVC to repay, with interest, the federal dollars they received through the grant to the local Industrial Development Authority (IDA), OVC will begin paying back nearly one million dollars in federal CDBG funds to the McCreary County IDA. McCreary County IDA expects to begin receiving quarterly payments from OVC in January, 2023. The money will be paid back over a period of ten years and must be used for economic development in McCreary County.
Sheriff Waterswithdrew petition contesting election; Sheriff-elect Sampson takes office in January
McCreary County Sheriff Randy Waters withdrew his petition contesting the November McCreary County Sheriff’s Election results. Sheriff Waters said he withdrew his petition so the County can move forward and to prevent further mistrust of the election process. Sheriff Waters said he wishes his successor, Sheriff-elect David Sampson, nothing but the best during Sampson’s upcoming administration.
Sheriff-elect Sampson and new deputies sworn in
In preparation for the beginning of a new year, Sheriff-elect David Sampson and several new deputies were sworn into office along with magistrates and other county officials.