News in Brief

Chief justice warns House panel of Bevin’s budget proposal

FRANKFORT (AP) — Kentucky Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr. has told a legislative panel that the governor’s proposed budget cuts would effectively shut down the courts temporarily.

The Courier-Journal reports that Minton appeared before a House budget subcommittee on Tuesday and said budget cuts proposed by Gov. Matt Bevin would cripple the court system.

Minton said the courts would likely have to shut down the court system for some three weeks just to enact the 4.5 percent cuts Bevin has proposed for the current fiscal year that ends June 30. He said other justice initiatives would be threatened “by a crippled court system.”

Bevin has proposed cuts of 9 percent in each of the next two fiscal years.


Murray Energy idling W. Va coal mine

LOUISVILLE (AP) — A large West Virginia underground coal mine owned by Murray Energy is halting production for nearly two weeks and possibly longer.

Murray Energy chairman and CEO Robert Murray said Wednesday that the Marion County mine would be idled until at least March 7 because of reduced demand for coal from electric utilities. The mine employs about 500 workers.

The Ohio-based company is one of the nation’s largest coal producers. Murray said regulatory enforcement from President Barack Obama’s administration and inexpensive natural gas are stifling the demand for coal. He says all of his mines in six states are running on reduced schedules, and the company’s workforce has shrunk from 8,400 in May to 5,800 this month.

Murray bought the Marion County mine along with four others from Consol Energy in 2013.


Records show firm with Beshear ties won last-day contract

LOUISVILLE (AP) — Records have revealed that on its last day in office, Kentucky’s Steve Beshear administration awarded a no-bid contract of about $3 million to a technology company that retains the husband of one of Beshear’s top officials as a consultant and employs one of Beshear’s former officials as a lobbyist.

Citing records it obtained under the Kentucky Open Records Act, The Courier-Journal ( ) reports that on Dec. 7 the administration awarded a contract to SAS Institute of Cary, North Carolina to extend work that SAS was doing in analyzing data to detect fraud in billings made to Medicaid and other state programs.

The husband of Beshear’s executive cabinet secretary, Mary Lassiter, has been a consultant for SAS Institute since 2012. Frank Lassiter says he didn’t make any additional fees because of the contract.


2 Fort Campbell soldiers accused of impersonating police

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Two Fort Campbell soldiers have been arrested after Clarksville police say they were impersonating police officers.

The Clarksville Police Department says in a Facebook post that Brett Jewell and William Jones were arrested Tuesday on three counts each of criminal impersonation. Both men are Fort Campbell soldiers.

Media outlets report that Clarksville police had received several reports of drivers being pulled over by police impostors with flashing lights, badges and a dispatch radio.

Police say they had identified Jewell and Jones as suspects. A detective brought them in Tuesday for interviews, during which both men confessed.


Lexmark releases 4Q earnings, says it’s cutting 550 jobs

LEXINGTON (AP) — Lexmark says it will cut 550 jobs over the next year, with some of the positions being moved out of the country.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports Lexmark spokesman Jerry Grasso declined to comment on how many affected employees would be in Lexington, where about 2,300 of the company’s 14,000 employees work.

The company released fourth-quarter earnings on Tuesday. Fourth-quarter revenue was down from $1.023 billion to $969 million, but gross profit margin of 39.8 percent was up from 35.2 percent in the same period in 2014. Earnings per share were $1.16 in 2015, up slightly from $1.14 in 2014.

Lexmark said in a news release some of the jobs being eliminated would be moved to “low-cost countries.” The release said the restructuring will save Lexmark $67 million in 2016 and $100 million annually beginning in 2017.


Horse park director defends his stewardship of attraction

FRANKFORT (AP) — The Kentucky Horse Park’s executive director has defended his stewardship of the tourist attraction in an appearance before state lawmakers.

Jamie Link made his comments before a Senate committee that voted Tuesday to revamp the commission overseeing the horse park in Lexington.

The bill’s sponsor, Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, says “things have gone awry” at the horse park.

Thayer’s bill would reduce membership on the park’s governing board from 17 to nine. Current members include the wife of former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear.

Thayer is also calling for a full performance audit of the park.

Link says he fixed numerous problems he inherited that were found in a prior audit of the park. He says his staff members are “good custodians” of expenses.


Mumps confirmed at UK, vaccine clinic offered to students

LEXINGTON (AP) — A vaccine clinic is being held at the University of Kentucky after three students tested positive for mumps and several others reported symptoms.

University Health Services said in a statement that a walk-in clinic is being held Wednesday for students who haven’t had the MMR vaccine.

Health Services Director of Nursing Mindy Scott told WKYT-TV that the most effective way to prevent mumps is with two doses of the MMR vaccine. She said those who haven’t been vaccinated, those who have gotten only one dose of the vaccine or those who don’t know if they’ve been vaccinated should come in.

Scott says it’s still possible to get mumps after being vaccinated, but the symptoms are usually less severe.


Man dies, deputy injured after police chase ends in crash

BOWLING GREEN (AP) — An Auburn man has died and a sheriff’s deputy has been injured after a police chase ended in a crash in Bowling Green.

The Bowling Green Daily News reports the crashed happened Tuesday.

Kentucky State Police say in a statement that the Warren County Sheriff’s Office notified them that a deputy tried to stop a motorcycle driven by 23-year-old Alexander Meador.

Chief Deputy Maj. Tommy Smith says the motorcycle was speeding and deputies couldn’t keep up.

KSP Post 3 spokesman B.J. Eaton says the pursuit continued until Meador collided at an intersection with a marked sheriff’s office SUV driven by Deputy Brian Wise.

Eaton says Meador was airlifted to a hospital, where he died. Wise was taken to a hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

State police are investigating


Harrodsburg voters approve expanded alcohol sales

HARRODSBURG (AP) — Harrodsburg voters seem to have approved the expansion of alcohol sales in the Mercer County seat by a wide margin.

News outlets report that the unofficial vote on Tuesday totaled 813-534 to expand sales to smaller restaurants and open the door to bars and retail package stores.

By voting in favor of the measure, voters made it possible for restaurants with a minimum of 50 seats to serve alcoholic beverages, as long as 50 percent of their sales come from food. The vote also makes it possible for three or four licenses to sell packaged alcohol.

Phil Crump, chairman of the pro-alcohol sales group Citizens for Economic Growth, says residents want to see their community’s economy improve and want to buy alcohol without driving to Danville or other neighboring communities.


Gift to Speed Art Museum to provide free Sunday admission

LOUISVILLE (AP) — A gift from Brown-Forman Corp. will enable visitors to see the renovated Speed Art Museum at no charge on Sundays for the next five years.

The museum said in a news release Tuesday that the program will be called “Owsley Sundays” in honor of the late Owsley Brown II, who was CEO of spirit maker Brown-Forman from 1993 to 2005. The program starts March 20 and continues through March 2021.

Brown’s daughter, Brooke Barzun, is co-chair of the Speed’s capital campaign. She said she hoped the program will allow everyone a chance to visit the reopened museum.

The museum has been closed for three years for a $60 million renovation and expansion. The museum will be open for 30 straight hours following a March 12 ribbon-cutting ceremony.


Wildlife center opening for season in Frankfort

FRANKFORT (AP) — The Salato Wildlife Education Center in Frankfort will be opening for the season next week.

The center features native species of Kentucky, including exhibits of snakes, turtles, frogs and fish. It opens March 1.

An outdoor exhibit trail allows views of black bear, deer, bison, an eagle, turkey, elk and more.

The center’s newest addition is a young bobcat. The cat will be on display in the bobcat exhibit daily from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Visitors can also get a closer look at some of the center’s animals during a special “Meet-A-Critter” event on Saturday, March 5.

The Salato Center off U.S. 60, west of the U.S. 127 intersection. It is closed on Sundays and Mondays.

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