Train derailment, fire prompts evacuation in Tenn.
MARYVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — At least one car of a CSX train carrying a flammable and toxic substance derailed and caught fire in eastern Tennessee, prompting the evacuation of thousands within a 2-mile radius.
Blount County Fire Department Lt. Johnny Leatherwood said a call about the train derailment came in Wednesday night at 11:50 p.m. EDT. Firefighters and hazardous materials crew were on the scene and the fire was still burning at 6:05 a.m. Thursday, he said.
About 5,000 people in the Maryville area were being evacuated along with several businesses, Leatherwood said.
Six or seven police officers had to be decontaminated but no deaths have been reported, Leatherwood said. He could not say how many cars derailed or what substance they were carrying.
On its Facebook page, the Blount County Sheriff’s Office said early Thursday that the evacuations could last from 24 to 48 hours.
A shelter for residents has been set up at a local high school.
Noah’s ark developer seeking lost Ky. tax incentive
FRANKFORT (AP) — Lawyers for a Christian ministry that’s building a Noah’s ark theme park in Kentucky say state officials violated First Amendment religious protections when they denied the project a state tax incentive worth millions.
Answers in Genesis, developer of the 510-foot wooden ark, is suing to get back into the tourism incentive program, which could be worth around $18 million.
The group’s lawyers argued Wednesday in federal court in Frankfort that the Christian group should not face different treatment for the incentive just because its theme park will have religious themes.
Kentucky tourism officials say the giant wooden ark would be an evangelism tool and shouldn’t receive tax dollars. They are asking that the group’s lawsuit be dismissed.
U.S. District Judge Greg Van Tatenhove will issue a ruling later.
Board approves tobacco settlement funds for hemp project
FRANKFORT (AP) — The state board that manages the tobacco settlement funds has approved $500,000 in grants and loans to a Winchester company that plans to process hemp seed grown in Kentucky.
WDRB-TV in Louisville reports Atalo Holdings will process Kentucky-grown seed into hulled hearts, protein powders and other legal commercial products.
The Kentucky Agricultural Development Board agreed to fund the project last month.
Joel Neaveill of the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy says the award is the first time settlement funds have been set aside for a hemp-related project.
Kentucky lawmakers passed a bill two years ago allowing industrial hemp to be grown in the state. Hemp and marijuana are the same species, but hemp has a negligible amount of the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana users a high.
State officials to meet with FBI about former mine inspector
FRANKFORT (AP) — State officials have asked to meet with the FBI to determine the extent of a former mine inspector’s falsified reports.
The Lexington Herald-Leader reports officials with the Energy and Environment Cabinet want to know whether Kelly Shortridge took bribes from mine owners other than former Democratic state Rep. Keith Hall.
Shortridge has pleaded guilty to taking bribes from Hall. Last week, a federal jury in Pikeville convicted Hall of bribing Shortridge to overlook safety violations at his mines. Both are awaiting sentencing and could face up to 10 years in prison.
“Any investigation by the cabinet would be focused on whether Shortridge falsified inspection reports at these particular mines on those particular visits and dates,” cabinet spokesman Dick Brown said. “If he accepted money from coal operators, that is a criminal matter that would have to be addressed by the FBI or other law-enforcement agencies.”
FBI forensic accountant Tressa Whittington testified last week during Hall’s federal bribery trial that Shortridge deposited about $46,000 in cash at his bank over five years, sometimes making deposits within hours of inspecting mines in Pike County that were owned by Hall and others. Evidence at the trial convinced the cabinet to re-examine Shortridge’s other mine inspections.
Brown said the agency has taken action to prevent similar problems in the future, including rotating inspectors at least once every three years to avoid cozy relationships with mine owners. He said “hundreds of Kentuckians do their job well and without incident.”
“It is extremely unfortunate that the actions of one employee cast the other hardworking men and women of this agency in a negative light,” Brown said.
Ky. Fire Commission has tips for fireworks safety
VERSAILLES (AP) — The Fourth of July is almost here, and that means fireworks season.
Officials say the safest way to enjoy fireworks is at a public display. But the Kentucky Fire Commission, which is part of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System in Versailles, says people who want to set off fireworks in a county where it is allowed should follow these guidelines:
• Buy from a reputable dealer and follow manufacturer directions.
• Have water nearby to extinguish discarded fireworks or for an emergency.
• Place fireworks on a flat surface, clear of combustible materials and buildings.
• Light one firework at a time.
• Never point or throw fireworks at anyone.
• Keep bystanders at least 25 feet away.
• Don’t let young children handle or ignite fireworks.
• Store fireworks in a cool, dry place.
• Stop, drop and roll if your clothes catch fire.
Attorney seeks in-court demonstration of Instant Racing
FRANKFORT (AP) — A Franklin Circuit judge has heard arguments over whether a slot-machine type of horse racing game can be demonstrated in court.
The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that Stan Cave, an attorney for the plaintiffs, the Family Foundation of Kentucky, urged Judge Thomas Wingate on Wednesday to order that a demonstration take place.
The Family Foundation of Kentucky is challenging the legality of Instant Racing, where people bet on the outcome of an old horse race without knowing which contest they are betting on. Kentucky Downs in Franklin and Ellis Park in Henderson each offer the game.
The racetracks and the state opposed Cave’s motion. Attorney William Hoskins says Cave is trying to mislead the court by emphasizing that the machines look like slot machines — a fact that Hoskins says is irrelevant.
Magoffin judge-executive trying to halt removal from office
FRANKFORT (AP) — The Magoffin County judge-executive is seeking reconsideration of a decision that would force him out of office because of corruption accusations.
The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that Charles Hardin filed a motion for reconsideration Tuesday with the state Court of Appeals, disputing a three-judge panel’s June decision that the judge-executive’s election last year was corrupt and the position should be vacated.
Hardin’s motion will allow him to stay in office while the request is being considered.
Hardin, the incumbent, defeated John Montgomery by 28 votes in November. But Montgomery sued, offering evidence of vote buying and bribes. Hardin has denied being involved in vote fraud.
The appeals court found evidence of violations and said a special election should be held for the position.