News in Brief

Coal mining saw 2017 boost but long-term outlook still shaky

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Coal companies in the United States boosted production of the fuel in 2017 to reverse a two-year decline.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said Thursday that companies mined 771 million tons of coal through Dec. 30, a 6 percent increase versus 2016.

Wyoming, the largest coal state, saw production rise 8 percent. Neighboring Montana had a 5 percent increase.

Among other coal states, production rose 13 percent in West Virginia, 8 percent in Pennsylvania and 10 percent in Illinois. Kentucky’s production was relatively flat.

Despite the increases, coal’s long-term prospects remain shaky. Natural gas and renewables such as wind and solar have severely eroded coal’s once-dominant role in U.S. electricity generation.

In the last week of 2017, the government says coal production fell 32 percent versus the previous week.

Unemployment rates fall in 72 Ky. counties

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — State officials say unemployment rates fell in 72 Kentucky counties, stayed the same in 17 and rose in 31 counties between November 2016 and November 2017.

The Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics says the latest county-by-county figures show that Woodford County had the state’s lowest jobless rate at 2.7 percent.

Oldham County was next lowest at 3 percent, followed by Campbell, Fayette and Monroe counties at 3.1 percent each. Jessamine, Scott and Shelby counties each had 3.2 percent rates.

Magoffin County had the state’s highest unemployment rate at 12.7 percent. Elliott County was next at 8.2 percent. Harlan, Leslie and Lewis counties each had 7.7 percent rates, followed by Carter County at 7.6 percent, Lawrence County at 7.2 percent and Letcher County at 7.1 percent.

Trump to tap McConnell aide for Appalachian post

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — President Donald Trump intends to nominate a member of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s staff as the new federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission.

The White House said Thursday in a news release that the president intends to nominate Tim Thomas to oversee the ARC. Thomas works as a McConnell staff member in Kentucky. He previously worked in former Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s administration.

The agency seeks to create jobs in 420 counties across 13 states, including the West Virginia and Kentucky coalfields.

McConnell on Friday praised Trump’s selection. He said “with the right leadership” the ARC will continue benefiting Appalachian communities.

McConnell has resisted Trump’s efforts to shutter the agency. The senator is sponsoring a bill that would move ARC’s headquarters from Washington to the Appalachian region.

‘Disoriented,’ barefoot man dies in police custody

ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky. (AP) — Authorities say a man died in police custody after being found disoriented and barefoot behind a Kentucky home and dressed in only light clothing despite cold temperatures.

A Kentucky State Police release says Elizabethtown police responding to a report of an attempted break-in early Tuesday found 37-year-old Charles Yankey.

The release says despite cold temperatures, Yankey had no shoes and was wearing only light clothing. Officers escorted the “confused and disoriented” man to a patrol car. Shortly thereafter, he slumped over and stopped breathing.

Officers performed CPR. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

His body was taken to the medical examiner’s office in Louisville.

News outlets report state police are handling the investigation since Yankey died in the custody of Elizabethtown police.

Ferry connecting Ky., Mo. closed due to ice

HICKMAN, Ky. (AP) — A ferry that connects Kentucky with Missouri has temporarily stopped operating due to an ice flow on the Mississippi River.

Kentucky transportation officials said Friday that chunks of ice coming from the upper Mississippi have become thick enough to create a hazard to safe operation of the Dorena-Hickman Ferry.

Captain Jeremy Newsom said he expects the ferry to be closed for perhaps two or three days, until warmer temperatures bring improved river conditions.

The Dorena-Hickman Ferry connects KY 1354 at Hickman, Kentucky, with Missouri Route A and Route 77 near Dorena, Missouri. The ferry provides the only direct route between the two states.

Motorists can check on the ferry’s status by calling (731) 693-0210.

Court calls on jailer to resign; cites poor conditions

CATLETTSBURG, Ky. (AP) — A court in Kentucky has called for a county jailer to resign, citing several recent incidents at the jail that include what the court viewed as substandard living conditions, along with multiple escapes and overdoses.

Judge-Executive Steve Towler and county commissioners approved a resolution requesting that Boyd County Jailer Joe Burchett step down, the Independent reported Wednesday. Burchett was not present at the meeting. He is an elected official, so he can’t be fired.

“The jailer shall have the custody, rule and charge of the jail in his county and must keep the jail comfortably warm, clean and free from nauseous odors,” the resolution states. “There have been numerous incidents over the past several months evidencing the current Boyd County jailer’s failure to adhere” to those requirements.

The incidents have created a threat to personal safety and security for county residents, Towler said.

Commissioner John Greer said he hoped that Burchett would “see the light and retire,” but he noted that it is “totally his decision.”

Four maximum-security prisoners escaped from the jail on Dec. 28. Two of the four inmates have been captured.

Last month, Boyd Commonwealth’s Attorney Rhonda Copley announced the existence of an investigation into possible malfeasance by Burchett. Malfeasance is a misdemeanor charge. Under state law, if any elected county official is convicted of the charge, that person’s office would be declared vacant.

Lexington-based attorney Scott White, who is representing Burchett, said he intends to stay in his position through the rest of this year, but he won’t run for re-election. He said Burchett had a heart attack about a month ago and recently suffered “another mild attack.”

“His view is, assuming his health is fine … he is going to finish out his term, which would take him to the end of the year,” White said.

Trial delayed, venue changed for man accused of killing girl

SCOTTSVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A judge has delayed the trial of a man charged with killing a 7-year-old Kentucky girl and changed the venue.

WBKO-TV reports Judge Janet Crocker ruled Friday that the trial for Timothy Madden will be held in Hardin County instead of Allen County, and that it won’t begin on Feb. 26 as scheduled. Crocker set a hearing on Feb. 13 to discuss a new trial date.

Madden faces charges of murder, kidnapping, first-degree rape and first-degree sodomy in the November 2015 death of Gabriella “Gabbi” Doolin. Doolin was found dead in a wooded area near Allen County-Scottville High School, where a youth football game involving her brother was taking place.

Madden’s attorney, Travis Lock, had argued that pretrial publicity prevented Madden from receiving a fair trial in Allen County.

Teen charged with arson, murder in man’s death

AUBURN, Ky. (AP) — Authorities say a Kentucky teenager has been charged in the death of a man whose body was pulled from a burning home.

News outlets report the Logan County Sheriff’s Office charged the 16-year-old on Dec. 29. with first-degree arson and murder in the death of Jerry Caudill.

Sheriff Wallace Whittaker says after the June fire, the sheriff’s office received tips that the teenager had told friends he was responsible for starting it.

Whittaker pulled Caudill’s body from the Auburn home. Caudill died of smoke inhalation.

A motive has not been released. The news outlets did not report if the juvenile has a lawyer.

The Associated Press does not generally identify juveniles charged with crimes.

Paducah city commission to vote on anti-discrimination law

PADUCAH, Ky. (AP) — The Paducah city commission is set to vote on an anti-discrimination ordinance that protects the rights of gay, lesbian and transgender residents.

The vote on the proposed ordinance will be at city hall on Jan. 9. A release from the gay-rights group the Fairness Campaign says Paducah would become the ninth city in Kentucky with those types of protections if the ordinance passes.

The measure would prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

The Fairness Campaign says in a release on the upcoming vote that it has been working with Kentuckians For The Commonwealth and the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky to organize local supporters of the anti-discrimination ordinance. Danville was the last Kentucky city to adopt a similar law in 2014.

State’s natural resources commissioner leaving job

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Natural Resources has resigned after about two years on the job.

A release from the Energy and Environment Cabinet says Allen Luttrell, of Lawrenceburg, is leaving the job for personal reasons.

Luttrell had worked as the state’s director of mining permits and was a deputy commissioner of the department before taking the top job. He worked more than three decades in state government and the mining industry.

Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Charles Snavely says it’s hard to lose someone of Luttrell’s caliber.

Snavely named deputy commissioner John D. Small as acting DNR commissioner.