News in Brief
City declares water emergency amid cold conditions
HAZARD, Ky. (AP) — Citing “extraordinary” cold weather conditions, a Kentucky city has declared a water emergency and implemented mandatory conservation measures.
The City of Hazard’s Sunday declaration followed its difficulty with supplying all of its utility customers with water because of cold temperatures over the past two weeks, according to a press release issued Sunday.
City Manager Carlos Combs issued mandatory water-saving measures, including a ban on washing vehicles and paved surfaces like streets.
Water system personnel have located and repaired more than 10 major waterline breaks and incurred more than 1,500 total overtime hours since Dec. 27, the release said.
Assistant City Manager Sam Stacy told WYMT-TV that the overtime stemming from the water shortage has taken an economic toll on the eastern Kentucky city.
Stacy said residents should leave just a steady drip in their faucets to keep pipes from freezing, as opposed to a stream of water, to prevent unnecessary water usage.
Stacy also warned that the warmer weather expected to come this week might cause additional problems.
“If we get a rapid rise in temperature, that’s when the lines are susceptible to breaks,” Stacy said.
Clerk who denied marriage licenses files for re-election
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A Kentucky clerk who spent five days in jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples has filed for re-election.
Kim Davis filed for re-election last week, according to documents on the Secretary of State’s website. She had announced in November she planned to seek a second term.
Davis caused an international uproar when she stopped issuing marriage licenses in 2015 after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down laws banning same-sex unions. Davis was jailed after she refused to obey a judge ordering her to issue the licenses. The state legislature later changed the law to remove clerks’ names from the licenses.
Davis will run as a Republican. Four Democrats have filed for the seat. They include David Ermold, a gay man who was initially denied a marriage license in 2015.
Ky. official unveiling initiative to fight hunger
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky’s agriculture commissioner plans to announce an initiative to combat hunger.
A statement from the Agriculture Department says Commissioner Ryan Quarles will unveil a program on Monday to create an economic incentive to provide fresh local produce for residents in need. The initiative is being announced at the Kentucky Fruit and Vegetable Conference in Lexington.
Quarles formed a statewide Hunger Task Force in 2016 to delve into the problem at a time when food banks were struggling to keep up with demand. The panel has held meetings around the state to determine what logistics are necessary to meet the needs of each area.
Quarles has said that it’s unacceptable to have a hunger problem in a state with a rich agricultural history.
Labor Cabinet says on-site visits save companies from fines
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky’s Labor Cabinet says it saved companies up to $434,000 in potential fines by conducting five on-site visits last month for employers across the state.
As a result of the free, on-site visits — also known as “consultative surveys” — the cabinet says employers corrected 62 serious violations. The agency says those violations could have affected up to 1,100 employees and resulted in enforcement penalties of up to $434,000.
The cabinet says its Division of Occupational Safety & Health Education & Training leads the efforts to create safe and healthful workplace conditions.
It says the consultative surveys are an effort to increase workplace safety by improving injury and illness rates. Employers who make use of the agency’s consultative surveys do not face penalties unless violations are not corrected.
Pair convicted in ATV death avoid prison under agreement
GREENUP, Ky. (AP) — A man and a woman convicted in the 2015 death of a Kentucky woman that involved an all-terrain vehicle will avoid prison.
The Daily Independent reports James Wyatt Ratliff and Kelly Dummitt are free on pre-trial diversions allowing each to avoid serving their seven-year sentences, as long as they don’t use drugs or alcohol, possess or use firearms or violate any laws. Charges will be dismissed upon the program’s completion.
Dummitt and Ratliff were originally charged with manslaughter and other offenses in the death of Mattellen “Mattie” Conley, but negotiated plea bargains late last year.
Investigators said Conley and Ratliff were riding on an ATV when Ratliff’s then-17-year-old girlfriend, Dummitt, spotted and chased them. Investigators said evidence didn’t support their explanation for Conley’s death. She died of a skull fracture.
Ex-House Speaker Jody Richards decides not to seek new term
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Former Kentucky House Speaker Jody Richards has decided not to run for re-election this year.
Richards becomes the latest veteran House Democrat planning to give up his seat in a chamber now run by Republicans.
Richards, a Bowling Green Democrat, has been a House fixture for decades, and he played an important role in shaping Kentucky’s sweeping education reforms in 1990.
He served as House speaker from 1995 until early 2009, when he was unseated by fellow Democrat Greg Stumbo. Richards returned to a leadership post when he served as House speaker pro tem during the final two years Democrats controlled the House.
With Republicans in control of the House, several incumbent Democrats have signaled they won’t seek new terms. They include Reps. Jim Wayne and Steve Riggs of Louisville.
Southern Ind. Masonic temple saved from demolition
JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (AP) — A nearly century-old Masonic temple that was facing possible demolition in southern Indiana will become the headquarters of a real estate company.
The Jeffersonville building’s current owner had sparked an outcry in the Ohio River city when he sought a permit to demolish the brick and limestone Neoclassical-style building.
But The News and Tribune reports that Denton-Floyd Real Estate Group announced last week that it plans to buy the 91-year-old temple and turn it into its corporate headquarters, and a space for events.
Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore says finding a buyer has been a struggle. But he says everyone in the city recognizes the value in the beautiful building.
The temple was built in 1926 and is on Indiana Landmarks’ list of the state’s 10 most endangered historic buildings.
Riggs says he will not see re-election to Kentucky House
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky state Rep. Steve Riggs has announced he will not seek re-election.
In a news release, Riggs said Friday that he will not seek to return to his seat in the Kentucky House of Representatives
Riggs, a Louisville Democrat, has served as the chair of the House Local Government Committee. He entered the House in 1991.
Riggs said the committee “passed many new laws to improve cities and counties and help them become better at delivering services.”