Well-known American author and journalist Hal Borland said, “a year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.” With a new year upon us it’s time to look back at some of the most relevant stories of 2012.
10. In April, new cadets reported to the Appalachian ChalleNGe Academy at Grays Knob. This was the first class of cadets and after completing a 22-week program 60 cadets graduated in December.
9. In March, victims in Laurel and Morgan counties received help from Harlan countians after a devastating tornado hit their area. Lives, homes and businesses were lost during this March storm.
8. In June, the Harlan County Board of Education began their search for a new superintendent after Tim Saylor submitted his intention to retire effective July 1. Saylor served 12 years as superintendent and 30 years in education. He is one of the district’s longest tenured superintendents. Following a mandated application process by state law, Assistant Superintendent Mike Howard was chosen to replace Saylor as superintendent. He had previously overseen the district’s finances.
7. In September, the Kentucky State Police discovered Bruce Penix, 47 of Kildav, deceased inside a resident. Robert E. Curry, 39, of Evarts, was arrested as a suspect in that death.
6. In May, Appalachian Regional Health care hospitals, including Harlan, and Coventry Care began negotiations over health care in eastern Kentucky. Facing a backlash from patients furious at the prospect of losing medical care, Coventry threatened to cancel its contract with ARH Health care affecting approximately 25,000 people in eastern Kentucky. After state involvement and failed negotiations, Coventry cancelled their contracts with ARH in November.
5. In February, Kentucky National Guard A Company 103rd BSB of Danville was activated to assist residents of the Green Hills Water District after Harlan County Judge-Executive Joe Grieshop declared a state of emergency. A 6,000 gallon water holding tank was set up and filled with spring water on top of Pine Mountain to provide water for residents. A few weeks later Black Mountain Water District consolidated with the Green Hills Water District to make improvements to the water system for Pine Mountain residents.
4. In March, the first of Kentucky’s 2012 mining fatalities occurred at Parton Brothers Contracting Company’s Timber Tree Mine No. 9 in Blair. James Bailey, 32, of Cumberland, died when he was pinned by the canopy he was installing on a mine shuttle car.
3. In May, during the primary election, S. Parker Boggs defeated incumbent Henry Johnson for the office of commonwealth attorney in Harlan. Boggs took 59.9 percent of the vote with 2,048 votes and Johnson received 36.5 percent with 1,246 votes. Boggs will assume that office in January.
2. A horrific Christmas Eve traffic crash in Knox County sent shock and grief throughout Harlan and Letcher counties, as well as Scott County, as two prominent school officials and community members died, along with their daughter and son-in-law. Gary and Patricia Caldwell had picked up their daughter, Julia Robinson, and her husband, Brent Robinson, at the airport in Lexington and were heading to Putney to be joined by other relatives to celebrate Christmas. Police said a vehicle crossed the median of the highway and slammed head on into the Caldwell vehicle, killing all four in the car as well as the driver of the other car, David Vanderpool, 31, of Williamsburg.
Emergency workers commented after the fiery crash that it was the worst scene they had ever encountered. As the story continues to unfold toward the start of a new year, details of an extensive criminal record for Vanderpool and his recent release from jail continue to add to the tragedy. A joint-funeral service was held at the Harlan Baptist Church on Friday, with hundreds attending to pay final respects to Gary, the finance director for Letcher County Schools, Patricia (Patty), the assistant principal at James A. Cawood Elementary School, Julia, a speech therapist at an elementary school in Bradenton, Fla., and Brent, a software developer. The funeral produced a scene that many attending commented that they had never seen nor ever want to see again - four hearses waiting to carry so many members of one family away from a funeral at one time.
1. Possibly no story has generated more discussion and concern than the layoffs in the coal industry stemming from the Environmental Protection Agency’s failure to approve mining permits for the area due to stiffer environmental regulations. As a result, this, along with the substantial message sent to President Barack Obama by Harlan County voters during the General Election in November has been the top story of 2012 for the county.
And, with news out of Washington, D.C., this week that Lisa Jackson, the head of the EPA was stepping down, Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers called the action a belated Christmas present for the coal industry. Industry officials and local mining employees are hoping the new leader will lift some of the stringent regulations that have been imposed in recent months, stifling the permitting process for coal. As we move to 2013, the the future of the mining industry continues to have a lot of uncertainty.
Happy New Year to you from the staff and management of the Harlan Daily Enterprise.
Reach Nola Sizemore at 606-573-4510 or at firstname.lastname@example.org