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May 2, 2018

'Justify' early morning line favorite for Saturday's 144th run for the roses

Undefeated Justify is the morning-line favorite at 3-to-1 for Saturday’s 144th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville.

Twenty-one Thoroughbreds have been entered in the 1 ¼-mile race for three-year-olds with a post time of 6:50 p.m.

NBC television coverage begins at 2:30 with pre-race broadcasting starting at noon on NBCSN.

 Justify (Photo courtesy Benoit Photography) Justify (Photo courtesy Benoit Photography)

Trainer Todd Pletcher has four entrants as he seeks his third Derby victory while Bob Bafftert’s two colts are trying to give him his fifth victory in the Run for the Roses.

Other notable duplications are in the pedigrees as four runners (Combatant, Flameaway, Justify and Mendelssohn) are sired by the late Scat Daddy and three (Good Magic, Solomini and Vino Rosso) are sons of Lexington-based Curlin. Eighteen of the hopefuls are seeking to become the 110th Kentucky-born winner. The other entrants took their first breaths in Ontario, New York and Florida.

The field in post-position order is:

1. Firenze Fire (Florida)

Consistent in top shelf company, Firenze Fire comes to the Derby after finishing fourth in the Wood Memorial Stakes at New York’s Aqueduct on April 7.

Kentucky connection: He is trained by East Coast-based Jason Servis, whose brother John won the 2004 Kentucky Derby with Smarty Jones.

2. Free Drop Billy (Ky.)

Named for a golf term and for an owner’s friend, Free Drop Billy won at Churchill Downs in June in his first career start and was third in Keeneland’s Blue Grass Stakes on April 7 in his most recent effort. His trainer Dale Romans is a lifelong resident of Louisville.

Kentucky connection: He was sold for $200,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale. His sire Union Rags resides at Lane’s End in Versailles.

3. Promises Fulfilled (Ky.)

The budget-priced colt will be a sentimental favorite by virtue of his Louisville-raised trainer Dale Romans—who also trains Free Drop Billy—but he is a likely longshot in the wagering due to his poor performance in the Florida Derby on March 31. His name refers to his owner’s charmed life that includes his 44-year marriage his grandchildren.

Kentucky connection: He was sold for $37,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale. His sire Shackleford resides at Darby Dan Farm in Lexington.

Flameaway (Photo courtesy Coady Photography/Keeneland)


April 30, 2018


Kentucky Press News Service



FRANKFORT – The Kentucky Public Service Commission has granted Big Sandy Rural Electric Cooperative Corp. (Big Sandy RECC) a revenue increase slightly larger than the amount requested by the electric distribution cooperative, a PSC news release said.

With the rate increase granted by the PSC, a typical Big Sandy RECC residential customer will see their average monthly electric bill rise by about $7. That includes a $6.25 increase in the monthly customer charge, to $21.25 from the current $15, as proposed by Big Sandy RECC.

The new rates took effect Thursday, April 26, with the issuance of the PSC’s final order in the case. Big Sandy RECC’s last rate increase was in October 2012.

In that order, the PSC granted Big Sandy RECC an increase in annual revenue of just over $1 million. The utility had requested a revenue increase of $927,642.

However, in analyzing Big Sandy RECC’s finances, the PSC found that additional revenue was needed in order to maintain the utility’s financial health and to allow it to meet its obligations to its lenders.

Big Sandy RECC has nearly 13,000 customers in eight eastern Kentucky counties: Breathitt, Floyd, Johnson, Knott, Lawrence, Magoffin, Martin and Morgan. It is one of 16 electric distribution cooperatives that together own and purchase power from the East Kentucky Power Cooperative.

In a rate adjustment application filed in October 2017, Big Sandy RECC stated that it needed additional revenue in order to cover increasing operational costs and to maintain the utility’s ability to meet the terms of its agreements with its lenders.

The PSC made several adjustments to the revenue amount requested by Big Sandy RECC, with the largest involving the proper accounting of flood disaster recovery payments received by the utility from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. When combined with other adjustments, the net effect was a revenue increase larger than requested by Big Sandy RECC.

The PSC also made some changes to the allocation of the revenue increase to different classes of commercial and industrial customers in order to better reflect the cost of providing service to those customers.

Finally, the PSC granted Big Sandy RECC’s request to extend the time that customers have to pay their bills from the date of the bill. It will now be 20, rather than 15, days.

The PSC conducted a public evidentiary hearing on Big Sandy RECC’s application on March 27. There were no other parties to the case.

The April 26 final order, a video of the evidentiary hearing, and other records in the case are available on the PSC website, The case number is 2017-00374.


PSC approves interim rate decrease for Columbia Gas because of Trump tax decrease for corporations

Kentucky Press News Service

FRANKFORT – The Kentucky Public Service Commission has approved an interim rate decrease proposed by Columbia Gas of Kentucky, Inc., to reflect the federal corporate income tax reduction which took effect this year.

As a result, the amount Columbia charges to deliver gas will decrease for all customer classes. Residential customers will see an immediate reduction of 22 cents per 1,000 cubic feet (mcf) of natural gas used, a PSC news release said.

Because natural gas usage often fluctuates dramatically with the time of year, the effect on residential customer bills will vary. A residential customer who heats with natural gas and uses 10 mcf per month in the winter will see a reduction of $2.20 in the monthly bill as a result of the interim rate reduction.

But further changes to Columbia’s rates will come later this year.

The interim rate reduction addresses only Columbia’s current federal corporate income taxes. Yet to be addressed is the more complex question of the accounting for deferred tax liabilities carried on the utility’s books, as well as Columbia’s tax savings in the first four months of this year. The federal tax cut was enacted in December and took effect January 1, 2018.

Columbia said it has not yet been able to calculate those savings, in part because it has not yet received needed guidance on certain issues from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

In an order issued Monday, the PSC directed Columbia to determine the additional tax savings by Sept. 1, and to begin reflecting those savings in rates by Oct. 1. In the event that the IRS has not yet provided the guidance requested by Columbia, the utility is to estimate the savings and reduce rates accordingly, the PSC said.

The PSC late last year began reviewing the results of the federal corporate income tax changes on the rates of Kentucky’s investor-owned utilities. The PSC initially opened a combined investigation into the rates of several natural gas distribution companies and subsequently restructured the proceeding to address each utility separately.

The rate reduction applies only to Columbia’s base rate, which covers the utility’s cost of operating and maintaining its system, as well as any profit margin. The commodity cost of the gas itself, which is adjusted quarterly to reflect market prices, is determined separately and is passed through to consumers on a dollar-for-dollar basis by Columbia. Because there is no additional profit for the utility, the commodity cost is not affected by Columbia’s tax rate.

The Kentucky Office of Attorney General is a party to the Columbia case.

Monday’s order and other records in the case are available on the PSC website, The case number is 2018-00041.



April 27, 2018

County Treasurer failed to deposit checks; audit taking place

Billiter says she will get 'everything straightened out'; Deskins says 'no money missing'

The Pike County Fiscal Court has spent the past couple of months working on its budget. During that time, magistrates have asked on several occasions how much money the county has and how much is being spent, to which County Treasurer Johnda Billiter declared the county to be in a state of surplus.

Pike Treasurer Johnda Billiter agreed to have all discrepancy corrected by next week. Pike Treasurer Johnda Billiter agreed to have all discrepancy corrected by next week. However, according to records obtained by the Appalachian News-Express, the county’s financial standing may include more money than was recorded. Several entities within the county have noted that checks written from their accounts to the fiscal court, going as far back as October 2017, had not been cashed. Billiter told the News-Express she is currently working to get things back in order.

One check from the Pike County Clerk’s Office, dated for Oct. 3, 2017, two checks dated for Oct. 4, 2017 and one check dated for Oct. 9, 2017 all “cleared the bank” on Feb. 4, 2018, according to a statement from the Clerk’s Office. Those checks accounted for a combined total of $76,317.89. However, no check dated after Oct. 9, 2017 had been cashed as of presstime Wednesday, according to those records. The remaining 14 checks to the court were listed as uncashed, resulting in a total of $314,237.53.

According to documents retrieved by the News-Express from the Pike County Sheriff’s Office, the fiscal court also has an excess of uncashed checks from the detention center. The records showed that the sheriff's office had written a total of $643,786.44 in checks to the fiscal court since February 2018, none of which, according to records, had been cashed as of April 19.

Records retrieved from the Pike County Detention center show that checks written from that entity to the fiscal court had also gone uncashed. Those records show seven uncashed checks, totaling $20,577.63, written to the fiscal court from the jail since October 2017.

The three combined entities have claimed that a grand total of $978,601.60 in checks has remained uncashed.

County Deputy Judge-Executive Herbie Deskins said that while Billiter failed to deposit checks in a timely manner, no money is missing.County Deputy Judge-Executive Herbie Deskins said that while Billiter failed to deposit checks in a timely manner, no money is missing.The News-Express reached out to Billiter April 5, in order to get the fiscal court records, but that request has gone unfulfilled as of April 19. Deputy Judge-Executive Herbie Deskins said the delay was due to some issues in Billiter’s personal life.

“She’s had some personal problems, but we just said we need to comply with all of these things and get everything straightened up,” Herbie Deskins told the News-Express. “I don’t know what her timetable is. That’s the bad thing about just having one treasurer. But, she has said that she’s got everything coming.”

Herbie Deskins said the fiscal court was made aware of an issue with its accounts when the bank called to inform them that the county’s account had overdrawn.

“So, I talked with her and (Judge-Executive Bill Deskins) talked with her, and she said she’s going to get everything done,” Herbie Deskins said. “We both said, ‘If you need help, we’ll give you help.’ But, she said, ‘No, I can work it out.’ That’s the extent of my working with her.”

Herbie Deskins said he could advise Billiter on how to move forward, but the magistrates on the court would be in charge of making sure she followed through. He also said no time constraints were included in the discussion, just an agreement that she would “get caught up.”

The 2016-2017 audit showed that Billiter has not been compliant in paying bills in a timely manner, which the county claimed was due to software issues. Billiter, according to Herbie Deskins, has been working on addressing the issues of that audit, which has taken up the majority of her time. He said the court has not had this type of issue with Billiter’s work in the past, saying it’s “out of character” for her and citing her recent personal issues as the cause. 

When asked how the court would address the issues with the uncashed checks, Herbie Deskins said someone would have to inform the magistrates of the problem first. 

“I think, when this becomes known, they’ll have to act pretty fast and pretty stern,” Herbie Deskins said. “She just told us the other day in the fiscal court that we had money … that we had a $1 million surplus.”

He said he doesn’t know if anyone else is privy to the financial situation of the county, adding that Billiter and Finance Director Frankie Stacy are the only two people who have access to the checks and ledgers.

Billiter told the News-Express this is not what she wanted her legacy to be as county treasurer. She said recent issues within her life have created a distraction for her, making it harder to focus on her duties as treasurer.

“Since December, I’ve just been a basket case,” Billiter said. “I’ve tried to pull myself together and I’m trying to get everything caught up. I don’t want to leave it in the shape I’ve put it.”

According to Billiter, even with the checks sitting in the vault, the county’s financial situation is stable. The solid waste account for the county is currently sitting at $601,663.11 and the consolidated account is sitting at $498,839.06, according to Billiter. She said the uncashed checks will be an addition to the current balance, but are not negatively impacting the county’s current finances.

Billiter told the Lexington Herald-Leader this week she hoped to have all the checks deposited within a week, and that she apologized to the county’s magistrates for the delay.

County Deputy Judge-Executive Herbie Deskins said that while Billiter failed to deposit checks in a timely manner, no money is missing.

Billiter, who has served as Pike County’s treasurer since 1986, told The Herald-Leader she plans to retire in December.