Anthony Cloud and
Last year was filled with several national stories that took the world by storm, from the supposed Dec. 21 doomsday myth to real stories such as the massacre that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
Meanwhile, there were plenty of local stories that took Bell County by storm as well. Now it’s time to take a look back at some of the most relevant stories of 2012.
10. In October, a Speedwell, Tenn., man was arrested for allegedly placing cameras in the Middlesboro Walmart men’s bathroom. Randall R. Rogers, 49, was arrested and charged with six counts of promoting a minor under 16 in a sex performance and one count of video voyeurism. He would eventually be apprehended in the Walmart parking lot.
9. In March, several severe thunderstorms and tornadoes ripped through the Tri-State area, wreaking havoc in Harrogate, Tenn., and southwestern Lee County, Va. Tornadoes were reported in both areas. Though no tornadoes were reported in Bell County, at least one funnel cloud was spotted.
8. In April, the news was handed down that Coventry Cares, a managed care organization that provides Medicaid services, would be terminating its contract with Middlesboro Appalachian Regional Healthcare (MARH). The news shocked many patients and angered several doctors. The news meant that anyone covered with the insurance, including elderly people and pregnant women, would have to switch medicaid agencies or switch hospitals. ARH also filed a lawsuit against Kentucky Spirit, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and Coventry Cares for not being properly reimbursed.
7. In November, longtime Bell-Whitley Executive Director Peggy Capps was fired from her position. The move came months after she was placed on administrative leave to be investigated. Capps was fired because of serious allegations of misuse of agency property, giving assistance to persons who did not qualify under agency program guidelines and overall bad treatment of staff. Capps worked for the agency for 20 years, serving as executive director since 1995.
6. In August, Jesse and Juanita Hall pleaded guilty to all charges involving theft from charitable gaming funds. Juanita Hall was charged with five counts of theft of labor in excess of $500, six counts of diversion of charitable gaming funds for financial benefit, theft by failure to make required disposition over $500, theft by deception over $10,000 and theft by failure to make required disposition over $10,000. Jesse Hall was charged with six counts of diversion of charitable gaming funds for financial benefit over $300, three counts of theft by failure to make required disposition over $500 and one count of theft by failure to make required disposition over $10,000. It was recommended that both serve five years in the penitentiary and pay restitution.
5. In June, the Bell County Tourism Commission voted to allow the city of Pineville to use the restaurant tax money to fund the Wasioto Winds Hotel and Resort project. The move came after months of controversy surrounding the project. Originally, the board voted down the project over concern that it was illegal to use restaurant tax revenue to fund the project. Three members of the tourism board were removed prior to the “yes” vote. Lawrence Tuck was removed from the board because he lived in Tennessee and Steve Ausmus and Jill West were removed because their terms ended in December 2011. Though the project was approved, construction on the hotel has yet to begin due to a switch in lending companies.
4. In November, four years after the brutal beating and death of William Taylor, Jeremiah (Jeremy) Evans pleaded guilty to criminal facilitation to commit murder. Evans was the first of four suspects to be arrested in connection with the Taylor murder. Evans allegedly transported the other three suspects to and from Taylor’s house. The typical penalty for the crime is one to five years in the penitentiary and a $1,000 to $10,000 fine.
3. In December, Praise Ministries International hosted a Christmas event, where free gifts and food were given away to community residents. School officials estimated more than 3,000 people attended the event. The event was hosted at Bell Central School Center. There were multiple items on hand for people to choose from, including clothes, shoes, movies, games, toys, household items and much more. People began lining up at midnight for the event.
2. In September, a ruling was handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove that shocked many taxpayers and the Bell County Fiscal Court. In a dispute which begin in 2007, the judge ruled the Bell County Volunteer Fire Department (BCVFD) fire stations and property belonged to the fire department and not the taxpayers. The judge determined Bell County Judge-Executive Albey Brock had not articulated how the fire department’s current corporate status threatened to undo or run afoul state law. The BCVFD closed several stations throughout the course of 2012, and the ruling allowed them to continue accepting bids to sell the fire stations as advertised. The fiscal court cutoff funding to the BCVFD following the closure of the stations. There were several attempts to work out a deal among both sides, but each time the deals failed.
1. The most relevant story in 2012, hands down, was the “Hands of Coal Across Bell County” coal rally that took place in August. The rally was organized by Pineville resident Joe Harris. Thousands of people lined up along U.S. 25E from the Knox County line to the tunnel in Middlesboro in support of the coal industry. According to calculations by county officials, over 5,000 were in attendance. Among those people were coal miners and former coal miners. At 2:30, everyone joined hands in prayer, given by Brian O’Brien broadcast on radio station 106.3. The point of the rally was to send a message to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over the stringent regulations forcing substantial loss of employment in the coal industry. Coal rallies spread throughout the region after the Bell County event.
Anthony Cloud and Reina Parker Cunningham are staff writers for the Middlesboro Daily News. Anthony can be contacted via email at email@example.com or by phone at 606-248-1010, ext. 208. Reina can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 606-248-1010, ext. 205.