PIKEVILLE — Pike County officials are helping local residents get a jump start on spring cleaning, encouraging them to take part in the annual tire collection event, which will be observed March 20-21.

The Kentucky Division of Waste Management waives the cost to dispose of tires, allowing the county to save up to $100,000 during the tire collection event.

“This is a great opportunity given to the people of Pike County,” Pike County Judge-Executive Wayne T. Rutherford said. “Everyone who took tires home instead of paying the $3 disposal fee; this is time to get rid of them.”

In past years of the program Pike County Solid Waste has collected more than 70,000 tires.

“The fiscal court was very helpful the last time we did this program in getting the word out to the people of Pike County,” Solid Waste Commissioner Bobby Mullins said. “We want to urge the public to take advantage of this event and get rid of old tires.”

Tires not accepted are: foam filled tires, calcium filled tires, off road construction and solid tires with/without press on rims.

Tires that will be accepted on or off the rim are: truck, light truck, passenger, implement, lawn tractor, ATV tires and bicycle.

The program is beneficial to both the county and its residents, according to Mullins.

The main staging location at 170 Ford Mountain, across from Johns Creek School, will accept old tires from March 20-22 from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Drop-offs can be made March 17-20 between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. at the Pike County Solid Waste locations at Robinson Creek, Belcher and Phelps road lot.

The Belfry area residents can use the Johns Creek location.

  “When anyone buys a tire, they pay $1 toward amnesty,” Mullins said. “This is when the state gives the money back to residents.”

Call Mullins at at 606-432-6245 for more information.

SOMERSET — Several local students were appointed as members of Forward in the Fifth’s first-ever “Our Voices, Our Vision Student Congress.”

The 20-member student leadership group, representing 45 Appalachian counties in Kentucky, will introduce, discuss and synthesize ideas about the advancement of educational progress and growth.

“The Student Congress provides a unique opportunity for students to share successes and challenges at the college level,” said Congressman Hal Rogers. “Their insights have the potential to impact future development of local and regional programs and policies. Forward in the Fifth plans to highlight successful practices at our institutions of higher education, while offering innovative ideas for current and future generations.”

Johnson County resident Ben Hamilton II, a student at Big Sandy Community & Technical College, is happy to work with the Student Congress.

“I am excited about the exchange of ideas with my peers from other institutions on the many issues facing college students today,” he said. “Identifying such areas is crucial for the improvement of my own education and for future generations of students.”

Other local Student Congress members include Demitri BienAime of Floyd County and Georgetta Preece of Martin County, who both attend Big Sandy Community & Technical College, Alicia Baker of Perry County, who attends Hazard Community & Technical College, Kristy Hyden of Floyd County, who attends Somerset Community College, and Nathan Little of Pike County, who attends the University of Pikeville.

Student Congress members are undergoing training in January.

Call 606-677-6000 for details.

PIKEVILLE — Kentucky Travel Industry Association recognized Hillbilly Days as one of Kentucky’s top 10 festivals.

Nominated by Pike County Tourism Commission & Visitor’s Bureau, Hillbilly Days is known for its lively character, rowdy, but family-friendly atmosphere, and heart for raising funds and awareness for the Shriners Hospital for Children. It attracts more than 100,000 visitors each year to Pikeville. 

“The live music, great food, carnival, games and spectacle of Hillbilly Days sets it apart from everyone else,” said Tony Tackett, Pike County Tourism CVB executive director. “These hillbillies know how to have fun, and they truly love donating their time for a worthy cause, and that’s the children’s hospital in Lexington, Kentucky, which serves so many of our children in this region.”

“It truly is the festival with a heart,” Pike County Tourism co-chair Judi Patton said. “This is evident by the variety of people from all over that make their way to Pike County each year to show their support. We are truly grateful for everyone involved.”

“This is such a wonderful honor for Hillbilly Days because there are so many organizations and individuals that work countless hours to make the festival a success,” said Jared Arnett, president and CEO of the Southeast Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

“Hillbilly Days is a treasure to the community and region and the Southeast KY Chamber is proud to be a partner.”

For information about Hillbilly Days 2014, visit http://hillbillydays.com or follow @HillbillyDays on Twitter.

FRANKFORT — The prevention and advocacy efforts of several groups and individuals were highlighted as part of the recent kickoff of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

The Capitol Rotunda event was cosponsored by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services and the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs (KASAP).

Governor Steve Beshear has signed a proclamation declaring March as Sexual Assault Awareness Month in Kentucky.

CHFS Secretary Audrey Tayse Haynes said collaborations between her agency staff and groups like KASAP improves awareness and prevention.

“KASAP works hard to educate Kentuckians in all walks of life about sexual assault, and our staff complements that,” she said.

“These local and statewide efforts are changing the culture of our communities and helping to end sexual violence.”

Justice Secretary J. Michael Brown said that his agency is committed to preventing and responding to sexual assault.

“Recognizing the far-reaching impact that sexual assaults have on individuals, their families and our communities, the Justice Cabinet is proud to support the critical work of KASAP and our rape crisis centers through various grants and the development of ‘Zero Tolerance Cultures,’ ” he said.

Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr of Lexington and House Speaker Greg Stumbo of Prestonsburg have sponsored Sexual Assault Awareness Month resolutions in the state Senate and House of Representatives, respectively. Rep. Rocky Adkins of Sandy Hook will call for the resolution to be read on the House floor.

KASAP Executive Director Eileen Recktenwald said it’s becoming easier for people to talk about sexual violence, and that is making a difference.

“It’s gotten a lot easier to talk about, because — from the White House down — we are seeing a straightforward response to the problem,” she said.

Recktenwald said that sexual assault affects people physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, and it affects their relationships, too.

“When anyone — women, men, children or adults — needs help, the state’s network of rape crisis centers offer comprehensive assistance to all survivors in their path to recovery,” she said.

Recktenwald said that family and friends of assault survivors may get help through the centers, and that greater support from government leaders and community partners are building stronger services.

For more information, visit http://chfs.ky.gov/dcbs/dpp/violenceprevention.htm.

PIKEVILLE — Drivers in Pike County slashed highway crash records again in 2013.

This is the second consecutive year that improved driving habits cut back the number of traffic crashes and injuries on Pike County roadways.

The two-year drop, from January 2011 through December 31, 2013, is 22.5 percent. Raw numbers: Pike County had 1,928 crashes in 2011. That total dropped to 1,495 in 2013, or 433 fewer total crashes.

Property damage crashes fared even better, posting a drop of 28.5 percent.

Fatalities showed a modest improvement, dropping from 19 to 18 during the same period, for a decrease of 5.3 percent.

And the number of injuries in vehicle wrecks dropped by 45, from 766 to 721, a 5.8 percent decrease.

Pike County Highway Safety Team Coordinator Sara George announced the two-year numbers during a recent meeting of the Pike County Highway Safety Team.

“The bottom line,” George said, “is not numbers, really. It’s that people are starting to take care of each other on the road just like they do in other aspects of life.”

George said the Drive Down initiative, started by East Kentucky Broadcasting in April 2012, is a huge part of this success story.

“Drive Down brings constant, consistent attention to what is happening on our roadways,” she said. “No other community in the state, maybe in the country, can boast of a media organization giving so much time and attention to the issue of highway safety.”

East Kentucky Broadcasting President and CEO Cindy May Johnson said the company is very pleased with the results of the campaign.

“It is not often that we can see such a measurable improvement related directly to a public service campaign,” she said. “Our employees have worked hard to make Drive Down a success, and there is no greater reward than knowing we may have saved a life.”

George said the numbers reflect a definite change in driver behavior.

“More people are observing the speed limit, driving slower,” she said. “We also saw an increase in seat belt and child safety seat use. Both of those factors save lives and reduce serious injuries. Our drug and alcohol-related crashes are among the lowest in the state. And we are finally making progress in the areas of cell phone use and texting.”

“What does that mean, really?” she asked. “It means that when people are informed, when they are reminded of the importance of safe driving habits, they self-correct. Everyone thinks he is a safe driver, everyone wants to be a safe driver. Through Drive Down East Kentucky Broadcasting educates and reminds us how we can achieve that goal.”

The Pike County Highway Safety Team is gearing up for its members 2014 activities, which include targeted law enforcement campaigns such as Click It or Ticket, Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over, and the annual Work Zone Safety program.

Team members include representatives from law enforcement agencies in Pike County, both the county and Commonwealth attorneys’ offices, Highway District 12, a number of first responder groups, UPike, the health department, Pikeville Medical Center, county and municipal government, Big Sandy ADD, and interested individual citizens.

The next team meeting is March 17 at 10 a.m. in the first floor conference room at Highway District 12. Bob Stokes, Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor in the Attorney General’s office, will attend to discuss why Kentucky does not have a vehicular homicide law and how that effects prosecution of highway fatalities.

All meetings are open to anyone interested in highway safety.

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MOVING FORWARD: Buchanan County, Va., Attorney Lee Moise, Buchanan County Commissioner of Revenue Ruth Horne, Assistant Pike County Attorney John Doug Hays, Pike County Director of Energy and Technology Charles Carlton, Chairman of the Virginia Board of Commissioners, Buchanan County, Roger Rife, Virginia Board of Supervisors Trey Adkins, Pike County Judge-Executive Wayne T. Rutherford and Pike County District 6 Magistrate Hilman Dotson break ground on the Elk Creek Road Project.

ARGO — Pike County officials report that the Elk Creek Road project is moving forward.

Pike County Judge-Executive Wayne T. Rutherford, Assistant County Attorney John Doug Hayes, District 6 magistrate Hilman Dotson joined officials and residents from Buchanan County, Va. on Monday, Feb. 24 to break ground on the project.

“This is a most unusual project,” Pike County Judge Executive Wayne T. Rutherford said in a press release. “Pike County and Buchanan County, Va. worked hard to [get] this project underway. We held meeting after meeting right here.”

Officials have worked across state lines to make the project a reality. Once completed, the new road will keep 88 families that live up Elk Creek from being stranded when it floods.

“We are so thrilled and elated to finally see this project coming to fruition,” Rutherford said. “It has taken a team effort and lot of cooperation not only across county lines, but across state lines, and our sister state of Virginia really came through for us. Also, we could not have had a more cooperative or supportive partner than Norfolk Southern Corporation and I commend the railroad and its Chairman and CEO Charles Moorman.”

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PARTNERING WITH PATRIOT: J. Eric Mathis and Roger Ford, left, owners of Patriot Bioenergy Corp., are partnering with the University of Pikeville for an intern project with students Tami Blackburn, Mitchell May, Nathan Little, Johnny Robinson (not pictured) and professor Dr. Darla French (second from right).

PIKEVILLE — Patriot Bioenergy recently announced it will work with interns from the University of Pikeville to study soil composition of post-mining land to determine whether the soil is suitable to grow industrial hemp.

UPIKE students, working under UPIKE Professor Dr. Darla French, will conduct field research to collect, process and evaluate soil samples from post-mining land in Kentucky and West Virginia and will explore potential of industrial hemp as an energy feedstock in the region.

“We are delighted to work with UPIKE on this important research that assists us in understanding ecological make-up of post-mining land, that will provide us the necessary data to build a new energy economy in our region,” said Roger Ford, CEO for Patriot Bioenergy.

The project began in January and will continue through the spring semester, with interns visiting post-mining sites, collecting soil samples and processing data obtained from the sites.

The data will be used for identifying potential sites and their soil composition, critical to the production of energy-related biomass.

Participating UPIKE interns include Tami Blackburn, who returned to college in 2011 after working 20 years as a nurse, biology majors Nathan Little, Mitchell May and Johnny Robinson, a veteran.

“The keys to future economic development require us to diversify and integrate our energy resources; develop all capabilities that are economically viable; and, focus efforts towards innovation and emerging technologies, and how those fit within a rural economy. We believe that this study is the next logical step to move forward, to strengthen coal, to build data, and to be able to commercialize biomass — specifically industrial hemp — for energy, chemical, manufacturing, and medical products,” Ford said.

Join Morehead State University’s Alumni Association and other alumni and friends in the Pikeville area for a networking luncheon.

The event will be held Thursday, March 13, from noon until 1:30 p.m. at Mona’s Creative Catering and Fine Foods, 278 Town Mountain Road, Pikeville.

Additional information is available by calling 1-800-783-ALUM.

Elijah Kennith Dwayne Tackett, son of Isabella Hall and Cory Tackett, born Jan. 28, weight: 7 lbs. 1 oz.

Braylon O’Neil Smith, son of Kayla Howell and Ryan Smith, born Feb. 12, weight: 7 lbs. 14 oz.

Madison Grace Carter, daughter of Ashely and Dusty Carter, born Feb. 13, weight: 6 lbs. 12 oz.

Karson Dean Burchett, son of Barbara and Eddie Burchett, born Feb. 13, weight: 8 lbs. 2 oz.

Sienna Drew Elswick, twin daughter of Jennifer and Joshua Elswick, born Feb. 13, weight: 5 lbs. 15 oz.

Salem Eve Elswick, twin daughter of Jennifer and Joshua Elswick, born Feb. 13, weight: 6 lbs. 8 oz.

Savannah Faith Blankenship, daughter of Charity and Robert Blankenship, born Feb. 13, weight: 6 lbs. 10 oz.

Kaylibel Danielle Griffey, daughter of Monica Skeens and Brian Griffey, born Feb. 13, weight: 5 lbs. 6 oz.

Eli Gauge Baker, son of Alyssa Estep Baker and Ricky Baker, born Feb. 14, weight: 8 lbs.

Brayden Mark Lee Craft, son of Ella Kay Tackett, born Feb. 14, weight: 8 lbs. 4 oz.

Logan Wayne Cable, son of Lisa Tackett and Terry Cable, born Feb. 15, weight: 5 lbs. 9 oz.

Maci Marie Ann Cole, daughter of Heather and Lowell Cole, born Feb. 17, weight: 7 lbs. 10 oz.

Colton Jaxon Taylor, son of Kayla Hall and Charles Taylor, born Feb. 17, weight: 6 lbs. 5 oz.

Addison Raelyn Mullins, daughter of Natasha Skeens and Daniel Lonnie Mullins, born Feb. 17, weight: 6 lbs. 15 oz.

Eli Karson Stewart, son of Katlin Kelly and Kyle Stewart, born Feb. 17, weight: 7 lbs. 9 oz.

Mason Randall Glenn Roberts, son of Jodie and Gerald Roberts, born Feb. 18, weight: 8 lbs. 1 oz.

Easton Jase Crowder, son of Lamikka and Logan Crowder, born Feb. 18, weight: 6 lbs. 10 oz.

Ethan Tyler Burnett, son of Jennifer and Dallas Burnett, born Feb. 18, weight: 6 lbs. 12 oz.

Karter Wayne Edmiston, son of Britiany Leedy and Kristopher Edmiston, born Feb. 18, weight: 7 lbs. 10 oz.

Sawyer Harrison Davis, son of Brandi and Mike Davis, born Feb. 18, weight: 8 lbs. 4 oz.

Jeremiah Jaxon Cochran, son of Mandy and Jordan Cochran, born Feb. 19, weight: 6 lbs. 15 oz.

Jonah Scott Runyon, son of Marina and Jason Runyon, born Feb. 19, weight: 8 lbs. 9 oz.

Jaeda Jeannette Henriquez, daughter of Megan Johnson, born Feb. 19, weight: 7 lbs. 1 oz.

Sofie Rose Williams, daughter of Charlotte and Jason Williams, born Feb. 19, weight: 10 lbs. 4 oz.

Christopher Ryder Hall, son of Christy and Jeremy Hall, born Feb. 20, weight: 9 lbs. 11 oz.

Corbin Joseph Vinton Bentley, son of Ashley Thacker of Billy Bentley, born Feb. 20, weight: 7 lbs. 13 oz.

Colton Ryder Cure, son of Amy Cure, born Feb. 21, weight: 7 lbs. 6 oz.

Raegan Elizabeth Conn, daughter of Wendy and Russell Conn, born Feb. 21, weight: 7 lbs. 8 oz.

Toby Nelson Akers, son of Christina Iles and Andrew Akers, born Feb. 22, weight: 6 lbs. 2 oz.

Elijah Brent Coleman, son of Ashley and Charles Coleman, born Feb. 22, weight: 7 lbs. 13 oz.

Kerrah Gabriella Vazquez, son of Chasity Thacker and Julio Vazquez, born Feb. 22, weight: 5 lbs. 5 oz.

Zachary Rylan Moore, son of Alissa and James Moore, born Feb. 22, weight: 5 lbs. 2 oz.

Scarlett Cheyenne Baisden, daughter of Stephanie Elkins and Zachary Baisden, born Feb. 22, weight: 8 lbs. 13 oz.

Aiden Connor Steffey, son of Selena and Steven Steffey, born Feb. 23, weight: 4 lbs. 15 oz.

Connor Steven Adkins, son of Lorie and Christopher Adkins, born Feb. 24, weight: 7 lbs. 15 oz.

Kinlee Elizabeth Little, daughter of Maya Little, born Feb. 24, weight: 8 lbs. 2 oz.

Lilah Rayne Dotson, daughter of Cortland Fields, born Feb. 24, weight: 7 lbs. 4 oz.

Alexis Cheyenne Deboard, daughter of Shawna Drumheller and Corey Deboard, born Feb. 24, weight: 7 lbs. 11 oz.

Silas James Josiah Collins, son of Jamey Wiley, born Feb. 23, weight: 5 lbs. 12 oz.

Lincoln Daniel Anderson, son of Lacy and Daniel Anderson, born Feb. 25, weight: 7 lbs. 10 oz.

Shelby Grace Adkins, daughter of Julie and DD Akins, born Feb. 26, weight: 7 lbs. 3.4 oz.

Alexander Fares Khater, son of Nisrine Boa Malhab and Fares Jaques Khater, born Feb. 27, weight: 6 lbs. 3 oz.

Gabriella Nisrine Khater, daughter of Nisrine Bou Malhab and Fares Jaques Khater, born Feb. 27, weight: 5 lbs. 6 oz.

Arianna Lynn Brown, daughter of Kimberly and Allen Brown, born Feb. 27, weight: 6 lbs.

Alyssa Madison Rae Waddles, daughter of Nicole Layne and Danny Waddles, born Feb. 27, weight: 7 lbs. 15 oz.

Sophie Madel Deskins, daughter of Misty and David Deskins, born Feb. 28, weight: 6 lbs. 5 oz.

Garrison McKale Meade, son of Haley Combs and Mason Meade, born Feb. 28, weight: 6 lbs. 11 oz.

Tristan Bentley Porter, son of Jennifer Mullis and Timothy Porter Jr., born Feb. 28, weight: 6 lbs. 14 oz.

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FOR THE LOVE OF HER SONS: Prestonsburg resident Billie Chain, pictured here with her two autistic sons, organized the walk four years ago to raise awareness about autism.

PRESTONSBURG — Organizers are seeking donations and sponsors for the 4th Annual East Kentucky Autism Awareness Walk, which will be held in Prestonsburg at 11 a.m. on April 12.

Hosted by the Eastern Kentucky Autism Awareness support group, the walk features numerous activities and games for children and prizes donated by local businesses.

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, generally appears in the first three years of a child’s life. It affects the brain’s normal development of social and communication skills, making it difficult for children to communicate and interact with others. 

Billie Chain, the mother of Matthew and William, twin boys who are autistic and face other health issues, organized the walk four years ago to increase awareness about autism. When she first moved to Floyd County, people did not understand why her children acted differently in public than other kids.

Things have slowing been changing, Chain said, thanks to awareness walks in Floyd, Pike and Mingo counties. Her boys, receiving several types of therapy at Pikeville Medical Center and an autism center in Louisville, have progressed tremendously.

They still can’t speak, but they are communicating better, she explained.

“They are becoming more aware of their surroundings,” she said, “and they are definitely communicating through pictures.”

They use cards with pictures to show her things they want and need.

“I got the best Christmas present out of William,” she said. “I was peeling him a tangerine and he tapped me on the back and handed me a paper towel. I turned around and saw that his brother had a nose bleed. That was the best Christmas present I could have gotten. He fully understood that his brother needed help.”

She asks the public to participate in an autism awareness walk this year. She is also seeking donations for the walk in Prestonsburg.

“The biggest thing we need right now is we’re trying to get t-shirts for the kids,” said Chain. “Any other kind of donation anyone could give would also be great. We always try to get donations of things that we can give away to reward parents and kids who come to this walk.”

Dozens of items were given away at the walk last year. More than 250 people from Floyd, Pike, Martin, Johnson, Knott, Perry and Pike counties attended.

“We want anybody who wants to come to come, regardless of what county they are from,” Chain said. 

For more information, contact Chain at 606-226-3003 or by emailing eastkyautismawareness.com. Donations may be mailed to at East Ky. Autism Awareness Support Group, C/O Billie Chain, P.O. Box 182, Banner, Ky. 41603.