American Federations of Government Employees Local 1405 Opposes Job Cuts

There's a growing concern in Lee County about staff reductions at the federal prison located in southwest Virginia. These job cuts are because of a nationwide reduction by the Bureau of Prisons.
According to the union representing prison employees, the American Federations of Government Employees Local 1405, concerning the federal prison USP Lee, located in Lee County currently has 427 authorized staff postitions but with the BOP cuts underway they could eventually eliminate sixty -two of those postitions.
Brian Shoemaker, Union President stated, "It's caused a burden on all departments, not just correctional services because the agency relies on what they call augmentation to back fill those crucial correctional sevices posts and they're pulling teachers, dentists, doctors, nurses."
The Bureau of Prisons stated that several thousand positions natiowide were eliminated by the Department of Justice and Congress to 'rightsize' staffing levels. Further stating that the reduction will not hamper it's ability to maintain safety.
Shoemaker disagrees, stating "The escape attempt we had back in 2014 was directly related to cost saving initiatives. They closed all the perimeter towers down. It doesn't take the inmates long to figure out. They've got 24 hours a day to figure out our flaws."
County leaders including Lee County Sheriff Gary Parsons are concerned. Parsons stated, "There's extreme danger if they get out they're going to hurt somebody. Those people in that maximum facility, they're the worst of the worst."
Lee County Supervisor D.D. Leonard stated, "our county is not in great financial shape. Anytime there is a job loss, even one job, it impacts. It's a huge impact. That's our main focus, is to keep as many employees as we can there."

Operation Frostbite Targets Local Drug Offenders

Targeting local drug offenders in a series of arrest in Wise County, Virginia is one way that law enforcement is handling the drug addiction problem. With the crackdown on the illegal use of presciption medication this may also create another cycle of abuse.
Commonwealth Attorney, Chuck Slemp stated "By limiting the supply of drugs, our hope is that it limits the individuals who become addicted. We're able to break up that network and stop the distribution network, so that hopefully drugs don't wind up in the hands of kids or on the street or in the community."
The latest roundup included eighty people with more than 110 indictments and 200 charges. All of it, a part of a multi-agency roundup entitled 'Operation Frostbite.' The Commonwealth has made progress in fighting synthetic drugs and prescription opiods, but there's still a lot to do, especially with the new increase in meth cases.
Norton City Police Chief James Lane stated, "Drug usage doesn't stop at boundary lines. It doesn't stop where your jurisidiction stops. It extends on. It even goes into surrounding states, so it really takes a team effort." Chief Lane estimates that 85-95% of crimes in the city have drug related activity involved, which is usual for much of Wise County.
Coeburn Police Chief, Scott Brooks stated, "It just seems like Coeburn is sometimes the hot spot for drugs. We're doing all we can to combat that." Both Police Chiefs agreed that crack downs and roundups like these severe a connection to dealers.

Overdose Death Review Process Teams

Delegate Todd Pillion for the Commonwealth of Virginia, is wanting a death review process team in cases of overdose deaths. Pillion stated "We know it's a terrible crisis that is affecting every community and every family in the Commonwealth. We're working hard to make sure we do what's necessary to fight against it."
The propsed teams would consist of medical experts, social services, mental health and law enforcement personnel. Those as well as others who might be considered stakeholders in the community that would be able to assist in the investigations.
Bristol, Virginia Detective Sgt. Steve Crawford stated that they have seen a rise in opiod overdoses, further commenting "It can only help any agency in this area to combat this problem. It's hard to combat this when these things are obtained illegally a lot of times."
One problem law enforcement has is keeping track of the statistics because a lot of patients are transported to the nearest hospital which often is across state lines simply because that is the closest hospital.

February 2018 Monthly Meetings

The Lee County Board of Supervisors will meet Tuesday evening, February 20th at six p.m.
The Pennington Gap Town Council will meet Tuesday evening, February 20th at six p.m. for their regular meeting at the Town Hall in Pennington Gap.
The Jonesville Town Council will hold their regularly scheduled monthly meeting on Tuesday evening, February 6th at six p.m.
The Wise County Electoral Board will meet on Tuesday, February 6th at 9:30 a.m. in the Electoral Board’s Conference Room at the Wise County Justice Center. This meeting is mandated by Section 24.2-115 of the Code of Virginia to appoint Officers of Election.
The next LENOWISCO meeting will be held Monday evening, February 5th at five thirty p.m. in the LENOWISCO Office Building located in Duffield.
The Town of Wise Planning Commission's next meeting will be Monday evening, February 5th at six p.m. at 501 West Main Street in Wise.
The Lee County Industrial Development Authority (the IDA) will meet Thursday evening, February 1st at six p.m. in the the second floor conference room, room 208 for their regular monthly meeting.

Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services 2017 Report

According to the annual report released by Adult Protective Services, that monitor the financial exploitation of our older senior citizens. In 2017 the number has risen an estimated 20% for Virginians aged sixty or older, or incapacitated aged 18 to 59, that are abused, neglected or exploited.

In 2017, the local departments of Social Services received 27,105 reports of instances of exploitation or abuse, and of those 55% were verified by investigation. Having the biggest increase amongst the categories of abuse, neglect or exploitation, was financial exploitation with 11% having been substantiated after investigations. The report also stated that the total amount of allegations had jumped 15% from the previous year with 12% having been substantiated.

Director of the Adult Protective Services Division at the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services, Paige McCleary, stated that she expected the incidences of financially exploited Virginians to continue to rise due in part, to a recent law requiring all reports of financial exploitation receive by the state APS hotline or local branches of Social Services to be reported immediately to law enforcement.

The Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services, collaborates with local partners to provide and advocate for resources and services that improved the employment, quality of life, security and independence of older Virginians, Virginians with disabilities and their families. The complete report can be found by clicking You may also contact the APS free at their hotline number 1-888-832-3858


West Morgan Avenue Sidewalk Project Update

During the last Pennington Gap Town Council Jeff Cochran representative of the Lane Group provided updates on the wastewater treatment plant (completed design). Cochran also commented on other water related projects including the West Morgan Avenue Sidewalk Project with Phases I, II and III to be submitted by VDOT in the next few months.

Treasurer, Tina Rowe stated that the town had begun their audit.

Brian Skidmore, Assistant Town Manager began his report by commenting that the town employees should be acknowledged for their efforts in general and especially in the past few weeks in having to deal with various severe cold weather difficulties. Skidmore also request approval from the council for the recent election results of the town fire department with Skidmore being reelected as Chief of the Fire Department. The Council approved and congratulated Skidmore for another term. The Fire Department had 133 calls last year with 1131.5 man hours for the year 2017. Of the 133 calls, 104 of them were out of town.

The Town Council then entered executive session to discuss various other matters Following their Closed Session, the Council then approved the paying of bills, and also set the Town observance for Independence Day this year on July 4th, 2018.

Kentucky Utilities Old Dominion Base Power Rate Increase Hearing

Kentucky Utilities/Old Dominion Power Company (ODP)’s request for an electric base rates adjustment has been scheduled for a public hearing on Thursday evening February 22nd, at 4 and 7 p.m. in Norton. The public meeting concerning the ODP’s request case number PUR-2017-00106 will be held in the City of Norton’s Municipal Building Council Chambers at 618 Virginia Avenue, Northwest.
ODP filed an application on September 29, 2017 for an adjustment to its electric base rates requested to increase its total revenue by approximately $6.7 million which is a 10.4% increase in its total operating revenues which includes fuel. ODP indicated that this rate increase includes a $4 increase from $12-$16 in the monthly customer charge.
If the proposed rate increased is approved, customer bills would increase and the amount would depend on the individual customer’s rate schedule and usage. The proposed increase would raise the monthly residential bill for those customers using one thousand kilowatt hours per month from $103.82 to $116.46 according to the company, an increase of 12.17%.
Both the company’s application and the commission’s order for notice and hearing are available to the public during regular business hours at each of the company’s business offices in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Interested individuals may also obtain a copy by submitting a written request to the counsel for the company by mail at:
Kendrick R. Riggs, Esquire
Stoll Keenon Ogden PKKC
2000 PNC Plaza
500 West Jefferson Street
Louisville, Ky 40202-2828
Additional information may be found at the SCC website at:

Board of Supervisors Consider Lighting Up Stone Face Rock

In a discussion concerning the lighting of Stone Face Rock, Harless stated that a couple of Board of Supervisors members desire a meeting with some of the council members to discuss costs related to the project with Pope and McElyea agreeing to meet with country representatives .

Town Council & Moving Forward Physical Therapy to Sponsor Sleepy Hollow Bike Race

Keith Harless further requested approval by the Town Council for the town to co-sponsor alongside  Moving Forward Physical Therapy, the Sleepy Hollow Bike Race scheduled for May 5th. Stating funds accrued from the bike race would go towards the new all inclusive playground/park destined for Pennington Gap. With an estimated cost that among other attributes would include a playground, new bathrooms, a riverfront pavillion, fitness support area and numerous overlooks of the river for fishing of $800,000.00

Greenway Trail Project Complete According to Town Manager

The Pennington Gap Town Council heard from Town Manager Keith Harless, who stated that the Greenway Trail project has been completed except for the installation of a couple of barriers at the bridge and appropriate signs. VDOT will conduct their inspection soon with a grand opening to be scheduled afterwards.
Harless has also started a fund raising endeavor for the remaining stations on the Greenway Trail project in which the design calls for seven stations including a bench, trash can receptacle and the planting of a tree. Several individuals and businesses have already given their support for funding.