HAZARD — A lot can happen during a year, even in a small town. These are some of the stories that made headlines in the Hazard Herald throughout 2016.
Last winter, the world’s biggest Powerball lottery jackpot was held, with two winning tickets sold in Hazard, one equalling a million dollars. Winter Storm Jonas created a stand-still situation in Perry County. Citizens said goodbye to the popular Fugate’s Entertainment complex, when the cinema closed and the bowling alley was lost to fire. Beloved Camp Nathaneal personality, Bob Murr, passed away. Main Street finally reopened after nearly half a year closed due to the Grand Hotel fire in Sept. of 2015.
In the spring, Hazard held its first ever Republican Presidential Caucus, with Donald Trump winning Perry County. Numerous Little Free Libraries began to open, making Perry County a prime destination for enthusiasts. The Buckhorn Wildcats surprised basketball fans when they pulled the upset to win the 14th Region title. Members of a Wabaco Church protested the arrest of Parma Lee Mullins on D.U.I. charges. Mullins was later found innocent of the charges. Pine Branch Coal announced an additional 120 layoffs. A jury said Perry County Clerk Haven King was guilty of harassment and official misconduct for running the license plate number of a car that made him angry in a near collision and then confronting the female driver. Hazard Middle School excelled in Governors Cup and Speech and Drama competitions. Forest fires raged across the mountains. After much effort by local tourism and government officials to have the facility located in their counties, the highly anticipated Appalachian Horse Center chose to locate in Breathitt County. Perry County mourned the loss of Chester Jones. The Fiscal Court faced criticism from some members of the public for what they believed to be excessive spending on contractors with close ties to the Judge Exec. Judge Alexander denied that contractor spending was excessive. The community paid tribute to Justin Miller, who lost his life, while working for ASPLUNDH. Ace and Lesa Chaney were found guilty of prescription drug related charges for their time operating the Ace Clinique in Hazard. Former Perry County Judge Exec. Sherman Neace passed away.
As we geared up for summer, Dr. Jennifer Lindon was named new President of HCTC. Buckhorn High School won the state championship in STLP. Perry County fell victim to flood waters. At Civic Night, Luke Glaser, Lena Bakun, Mariweather Hall and John Stacy won the big awards. A jury found Bobby Snell guilty of reckless homicide for the wreck that took the life of 18 year old Caitlin Simpkins. Judge Alexander discussed budget issues facing Perry County, highlighting loss of coal severance funds over the course of two years. Thursdays on the Triangle returned to Triangle Park in Hazard. Bart Massey of Hazard won the world’s bronze medal in wine making. After an extremely close race, a re-canvass of Kentucky votes revealed Hillary Clinton as the winner of the Democratic Presidential Primary over Bernie Sanders. Citizens in Hardburly were faced with possibly losing their homes because of a potential mudslide from a coal company pond. A drug roundup by police in Hazard produced 14 arrests. The Perry County Fair officially became an annual tradition with its second installment. Funnel clouds were spotted over Hazard.
As the atmosphere began to shift toward autumn, a city-wide smoking ban was put in place for Hazard. A wrongful termination suit between Jody Jones and Judge Alexander was settled in Federal Court. Whayne Supply announced 87 layoffs. The Perry County Fiscal Court began a worker furlough of one day per pay period. The trial date for two jail guards accused of murdering Larry Trent was set. The City of Vicco decided not to allow alcohol sales on Sunday after members of the community voiced opposition. A petition to dissolve the City of Vicco government was turned into the County Clerk, but later taken out of consideration. The Perry County Fiscal Court discussed $1.2 million of debt accumulated from past bills at the Kentucky River Regional Jail. The Fiscal Court voted to take out a $1.2 million loan to help cover the debt. The Black Gold Festival honored police and was once again held down the full length of Main Street. Reports from the state department showed the Perry County School District ranking proficient and the Hazard School District ranking distinguished for the year. Citizens paid tribute to local paramedic Gerry Willis, who lost his life due to complications after a wreck on the Mountain Parkway. The Homeless Shelter announced it would start closing during the daytime due to lack of funding. On Election Day, Perry County went straight Republican with the winners. Chris Fugate became the newly elected State Representative. In non-partisan races, Lawrence Dew Gorman and Happy Mobelini joined the Hazard City Commission, with Ricky Steele ending his well-respected tenure. Denny Combs and Llloyd Engle became new members of the Perry County Board of Education, as Yvon Allen and Robin Gabbard left the board following their greatly respected time of service to the children in Perry County. Ralph “Butch” Asher, Lisa Townes and Aster “Cat” Sizemore were voted onto the Hazard Independent Board of Education.
Heading into another winter, some of the former and current employees of the Kentucky River Regional Jail filed a lawsuit over retirement benefits they claim were denied to them under the previous administrator. Forest fires once again raged through the mountains causing devastation. The Hazard High School football team brought great excitement to the area, as they made it all the way to the state championship game, where they claimed runner-up for all of Kentucky. The Perry County Fiscal Court approved a 1 percent payroll tax to be placed on all workers inside Perry County. Christmas in a Small Town delighted citizens with ice skating, a parade and many new Holiday themed attractions. Local National Guard soldiers received a warm sendoff all across the region as they headed out on a year-long mission to the Middle East.
These are some of the stories that made headlines in 2016. As we venture into another year, the Hazard Herald hopes that 2017 is filled with good news for folks in our community.
Sam Neace can be reached at 606-629-3243 or on Twitter @HazardHerald.