Letters to the Editor
Your healthcare decisions matter
The Affordable Care Act has dramatically impacted the delivery of health care services across the country and this region. The impact has been both good and bad for eastern Kentucky’s doctors and hospitals. One thing that hasn’t changed is community based organizations like Highlands Health System, which remains committed to meeting the health care needs of our region.
It is great so many more Kentuckians have access to Medicaid coverage but if payment practices of the managed care organizations do not improve soon, our region risks losing skilled doctors and essential services. In Kentucky, rural hospitals and doctors have been negatively impacted by Medicaid Managed Care Organizations that claim they manage care of their members. The truth is there is little care management occurring in our region. Instead, local doctors and hospitals have to fight for timely and appropriate payment for their services. Often, patients are unaware of this dynamic. Patients can make a difference as some plans are more conscience about paying providers appropriately than others. People should carefully consider their choice of plans and take into consideration the long term impact their selection of plans has on our regional health care system. Open enrollment in the Medicaid program will begin in October and November.
The pressures on our local hospital and doctors are very real. Recently, Highlands completed negotiations with its union. To the credit of Highlands’ employees, they recognized the pressures caused by the state’s new Medicaid program and our distressed local economy. The employees of Highlands demonstrated great insight and sacrifice by increasing their out of pocket expenses for health coverage. This was done in part to preserve jobs and also to assure this region continues to have a vibrant hospital that delivers low cost and high quality care. Highlands employees come primarily from Floyd, Johnson, Martin, and Magoffin counties. They know firsthand the important role a hospital plays in the overall health of our economy. It is important our region support their sacrifice and choose to use their local not-for-profit hospital. Our 600 employees and 250 doctors are committed to you and the vitality of the region.
Harold C. Warman, Jr., FACHE
President & CEO, Highlands Health System
Letters to the Editor
Class of ‘69 thanks Ramada staff
On behalf of the Paintsville High School Class of 1969, we want to express a big “thank you” to staff of the Ramada Inn of Paintsville. A special “thank you” to Mika VanHoose and the employees for the beautifully decorated room and their gracious service. You made our reunion special and we truly appreciated all the hard work everyone put into making the day memorable.
Come to church
To the citizens of Paintsville and Johnson County — young and old — once again, God has spared our fair city from death and destruction.
Why did He spare us? There are saved, born again, praying Christians in the City of Paintsville and in Johnson County. God heard our prayers and spared us.
I believe I would be held accountable to God if I did not warn you that there is a Heaven to gain and a Hell to shun.
Don’t you know that’s what our pastor preaches at our Freewill Baptist Church on the corner of Third and West Street?
Don’t you know he preaches the birth, death, and resurrection of our blessed Savior, JESUS CHRIST, and that Heaven is real and Hell is HOT.
Come and visit our church. I believe you will be glad you did.
Letters to the Editor
Threat to America
Our elected leaders in Washington are the only serious threats to America.
China will have a larger Navy than America in six years. While our elected leaders built bridges to nowhere, the Chinese were building warships paid for by American taxpayers. From January 1 through August 31, 2014, interest on our debt was $411,217,855,816.94 cents. That amount times six years will pay for China’s navel expansion and buy munitions for the other nations that hold our debt and old grudges.
Our elected leaders see grave danger in Americans with valid passports returning home from terroristic groups, but they have never seen any actionable danger in the aliens who have crossed our borders by the millions without a passport. Given their selective eyesight, it was only dumb luck that fence-jumper Omar Gonzalez was not wearing a bomb when he entered the White House recently, and only dumb luck will prevent another 9/11-like disaster, not their due diligence.
Beware of good economic reports before midterm elections, and expect a change in ISIS strategy after the votes are counted. Our elected leaders are already lobbying for boots on the ground. “Bombing is a limited strategy,” they say. “Ground forces will have to mop up, and mop-up can’t wait a year while we train indigenous personnel to fight.” What nonsense!
Indigenous factions have fought one another in the Middle East since God promised Abram a great nation in Genesis 12:2, and we have fought them for 13 years at a cost of 7,000 lives, 42,000 heavy wounds, and a projected $3.7 trillion. What did those three payments buy? More of the same. Only the names have changed.
When will our elected leaders end their stupidity and brainwashing lies? Simple, only when the electorate and the “sentinels of democracy” fulfill their duties as envisioned by our founding fathers.
War on Coal
I was born in Letcher County in Southeast Kentucky, in the old company town of Jenkins on the border with Virginia. My grandfather (he died of black lung) and his brothers were coal miners who lived and raised their families in coal camp houses without indoor plumbing, shopped at the company stores and had to grow their own food to survive. My own family left Eastern Kentucky in 1963 so my father could find work. We moved to Virginia and then Florida before returning in the early ‘70s to Whitesburg where I finished high school. I worked on strip-mines in Letcher and Perry County in the ‘70s and early ‘80s, and I lived there into the ‘90s. As a native East Kentuckian – one who’s worked in mining and industries peripheral to the mining industry, I am embarrassed for anyone from Kentucky or, more specifically, Eastern Kentucky, who has fallen for the lies or believes there really exists a ‘War on Coal.’
Anyone with any experience or history in the region knows coal has always been boom or bust, a cycle established over a century of coal operations. There have been prosperous times (the coal boom of the early ‘70s, when Pike County had more millionaires per capita than anywhere else in the nation), several mini-booms before and since. But, more often, extended periods of “Bust,” periods of unemployment, deprivation, ‘on the dole,’ out-migration to places where jobs can be found … all those symptoms Eastern Kentucky experienced before and since Lyndon Johnson visited Mr. Fletcher in Pike County when he declared the War on Poverty.
A coal miner is a carpenter when the mines are closed or, if one is forced to, one leaves ‘home’ as did my family (it’s always home no matter how far you go away from the hills) to find work. What this all means is, “Reading, Writing and Route 23” didn’t just happen since 2009 because Barak Obama was elected – that path to Ohio, Detroit or south and west was used for decades before he entered office. It was written about in such novels as Harriet Simpson Arnow’s The Dollmaker, in song by Dwight Yoakam and in Harry Caudill’s many books about the negative impact of coal on the region and the political power coal wields in the Commonwealth. Many, many factors effect that pattern of boom and bust and today’s economic problems are the result, exacerbated by the Great Recession.
Here’s a dose of reality: when George W. Bush came into office in 2001 there were 654 coal fired plants in this nation – and when he slithered out of office in 2009 there were 595. Bush’s War on Coal? When Mitch McConnell came into office three decades ago, there were almost 70,000 jobs in the coal industry nationally – now there is less than one-third that number. McConnell’s War on Coal?
Go back a little further, to Charles Kuralt’s CBS documentary about ‘Christmas in Appalachia,’ in 1965, when, about 13 minutes into the video, Kuralt asked a store owner in Letcher County about jobs and unemployment in the area. Why were so many without jobs, he asked? The store owner, seen giving credit to customers so they could survive, replied it was “machines,’ mechanization – the industry didn’t need as many workers. That was in 1965 – it’s only become worse for miners with mountain top removal, continuous miners and the like.
Let’s talk about those plants McConnell claims he is worried about —- some of them were and are 80 years old, and closed through attrition. Or because other forms of energy have become more available and less expensive. Natural gas was over $15 per million BTU in 2005 – and today it’s about $4 per million BTU. But then there may not be a market for the product. Arch Mineral in E. Kentucky laid off hundreds of miners this year and closed operations because of a glut in the metallurgical coal market. Even as mine owners complained about the EPA, they were closing operating mines. Obama’s War on Coal?
The need for someone to blame is perhaps natural – and Republicans and Mitch and Rand are quite willing to point to President Obama. What Republicans, Mitch and Rand are not so willing to do is be honest with Kentuckians. Time, technology, market forces, other forms of energy competing with coal – that’s reality, not the War on Coal myth manufactured by the industry and marketed by Republicans. If Kentuckians fall for those lies this year, they have only themselves to blame for the consequences of that election and Kentucky’s time in the desert will be extended.
William R. Adkins
Letters to the Editor
The Johnson County Public Library recently celebrated the end of its two-year-long 150th Anniversary Civil War Commemoration as Judge John David Preston led a very well received discussion of the book “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Those who have attended the events that have been part of the Commemoration regret seeing it come to an end, but we would like to assure our patrons that the library will continue to offer quality programming on a variety of topics. Also, for those interested in the Civil War, we will be scheduling discussions of a few more books concerning important people of the era and reconstruction per the request of those in attendance at the “Team of Rivals” discussion. We are also in the process of scheduling speakers and Chautauqua performers through the Kentucky Humanities Council. We will have a wide variety of offerings from KHC, which will include a couple more Chataquans representing characters from the Civil War Era. Visit the library to obtain a copy of our calendar or check our website, www.johnsoncountypubliclibrary.org, or like us on Facebook to stay up-to-date on all of our library happenings.
The library would like to thank all those who helped to make our Commemoration a success. We applied to receive a traveling exhibit titled “Civil War 150” and, though we didn’t receive it, we were awarded a $500 stipend from the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History in partnership with the Library of America and the National Endowment for the Humanities. This was a nice addition to the funds we had already budgeted to conduct the Civil War programming we had planned.
The Kentucky Humanities Council, Inc., in partnership with the National Endowment for the Humanities, provides funding so that nonprofits like the library can host Kentucky Chautauqua performers and speakers from Kentucky Humanities Council Speakers Bureau. We took advantage of this funding almost monthly as we presented programs at the library in the evenings and daytime programs for fifth graders studying the Civil War for the first time as part of their curriculum. The Kentucky Humanities Council is also supported by organizations statewide, such as Morehead State University, Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels, and Cralle Foundation. The National Endowment for the Humanities receives federal funding and, for that, we have our legislators to thank: Congressman Hal Rogers, Senator Mitch McConnell, and Senator Rand Paul.
Our local media and Family Resource/Youth Service Center Directors have played a key role in getting the word of these events out to the public and for this we thank Hometown TV, Paintsville Tourism, WKLW, WSIP, The Paintsville Herald, The Big Sandy News, and the FRYSC director from each school. These directors are: Tama Ramey, Karen Salyer, Anita Cantrell, Elizabeth Bruner, Lynn Wilcox, Joanie Daniel (retired), Belinda Meek, Pam Tackett, Kathleen Burchett and Jason Hurt.
We give most honorable mention and thanks to all the local scholars, authors, educators, and general Civil War enthusiasts who contributed to our programming by speaking on related topics, leading book discussions, and/or helping us brainstorm: the Honorable John David Preston, Dr. Donald Barlow, Dr. Douglas Herman, Dr. Thomas Matijasic, Jimmie Epling, J.R. VanHoose, Dorothy Lewis, Bryan Auxier, Dirk Cook, Christie Cook, and Denny Dorton.
A special note of gratitude is given to Dirk Cook for loaning us his personal collection of Civil War era art. We didn’t get the traveling display, so we made our own! This collection is on display for a short time longer at the library as the “Scenes of the Civil War” art gallery. We give thanks to Christie Cook for editing the Historical Walking Tour of Paintsville to create a second “Civil War Walking Tour” and conducting it for fifth grade classes and other interested groups. To Greg Swartz and his team of Civil War reenactors who joined us for our Civil War Family Fun Days, we also extend a special note of appreciation.
Last but not least, I must mention that none of these programs would have been possible without the vision, unfailing support, and passion for community education of the Director of the Johnson County Public Library, Karen Daniel, and the support of the JCPL Board of Trustees. These board members are Ben D. Tackett Jr., president; Frank Heaberlin, vice-president; Rhonda Pack, secretary; Bryan Auxier, treasurer; Zella Wells, member and Robert Conley, Director Emeritus.
One of the best parts of the Civil War Commemoration has been knowing that the participants of each program have looked forward with anticipation to the next offering. Emphasizing that every program we present is free and open to the public, we hope that each person in our community will find a future offering that will be just as exciting to him or her.
Johnson County Public Library
I would like to take this time to thank The Paintsville Herald for assisting Dumas Rescue in placing our animals in wonderful homes. The Paintsville Herald donated some space in their paper to help place homeless animals here in Johnson Co., where this is a major issue due to the fact there is no shelter in this county. Recently a dog by the name of Brindle was advertised as up for adoption. Brindle has been in rescue since he was a 6-week-old puppy. He was found in a ditch at the top of Whipporwill Rd hill. His mother had already been hit by a car and was dead in the ditch. Brindle was in poor shape and suffering from skin issues, rickets, and various parasites. Brindle was taken to Highland Vet Clinic, where he was treated for all his issues and sent home in hope a home would be found. Well it was a long wait for this wonderful guy, but here at Dumas Rescue we don’t give up easily… We know that all animals need to be given a chance even if that means waiting two years for that wonderful home. Last week, because of the ad in The Paintsville Herald, we were contacted about a potential home for Brindle. We did a home visit and his potential family hit it off!!!! We are so happy for Brindle and his new family! His adoption is almost final and we are so happy for such a great ending for a throw away pup that waited so long for his forever home! Thank you Paintsville Herald for taking the time to help the helpless animals of Johnson Co! If you are looking for your next pet, please consider adoption and be looking for our next available pet in the Paintsville Herald!
Shame On Congress
Congress does it again. They took a five week recess in August to campaign,
went back to DC September 8th. Now another recess days later to campaign.
What is wrong with Congress? The ISIS threat is on the table, our
President needs backing on this explosive situation. There are
Congressional Bills requiring attention, where is Congress? On vacation to
Is Congress thinking about the threat of another war? Are they thinking
about the thousands of our veterans who need help? Is the VA scandal
settled? No to these issues and many others.
If we have another war and troops are once again boots on ground, more of
our men and women in uniform will die, more will come home broken. Bills
that need attention to help our veterans are being sat on. For example, an
important House Bill HR-543, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Agent
Orange Act, is stalled in committee. What sound advice is Congress giving
the President of the terrorist group ISIS?
All Congress is doing is thinking of themselves for the November
election. What about our veterans, are they not worth concern and the
American people’s concerns, do we all not have a say-so? It is shameful!
Stand up America and be counted, voice your opinion. Let Congress know
what you think is best.
John J. Bury, US Navy retired
Letters to the Editor
Proposed property tax increase
Dear Editor and Fellow Johnson County Employees,
As Superintendent I would like to take a moment to reach out to each of you in regards to the important endeavor that the Johnson County Board of Education has recently embarked upon, the proposed property tax increase. As you already know, in recent years the Johnson County Board of Education has strived to provide every student in Johnson County with the best staff, facilities, and resources possible in order to ensure a healthy, safe, and positive learning environment. This has been made possible primarily due to the dedication and support of each and every employee that we have. Because of our employees’ devotion to success, we have been able to maintain and improve our exemplary academic standing by ensuring that every child receives a quality education ultimately resulting in college and/or career readiness. However, this has not been an easy feat due to scarce resources caused by declining state and federal revenues.
In fact, over the past several years, we have experienced a reduction in revenue from federally funded programs and state SEEK funding. Consequently, this has resulted in numerous cutbacks in allocations that provide for textbooks, extended school services, professional development opportunities, and school safety initiatives. Additionally, as many of you are well aware, the cost of utilities has drastically increased. Although we have been able to reduce our district wide consumption of electricity, our expenses have ultimately remained high. To help offset these changes over the last five years, our district has absorbed many positions through attrition and worked diligently to reduce the cost of day-to-day operations. While this has allowed us to balance our budgets, it has caused the district to sacrifice essential purchases like textbooks, which in some cases are as many as 10 years old and in severe disrepair. New textbooks for one subject area countywide this school year will total over $210,000. Yet, state funding provides only $92,000 of the required $210,000, leaving Johnson County to absorb more than half of the total cost.
Another necessary expense that the district must face yearly is transportation costs. The current cost for a new school bus is $100,000. Johnson County has approximately 45 buses on the road that travel roughly 4,000 miles each day. In order to provide safe and reliable transportation our goal is to replace four buses annually. This schedule ensures a modern fleet of quality buses for both school and extracurricular travel. As a result of the recently declining economy, however, we have been forced to reduce our purchases and only replace three buses every other year. If this current replacement schedule continues, we will have students traveling on buses that are 30 years old by the end of their life cycle.
Furthermore, every district in Kentucky is mandated by the Kentucky Department of Education to use Infinite Campus and the Munis Financial System to manage and maintain student and financial records. The cost tooperate these progams is nearly $50,000. While at one time KDE funded these programs, they are now the financial responsibility of our district. Another essential resource that contributes to a safe learning environment in our schools are nurses. The nurses, who ensure that students remain healthy and are able to remain at school and help increase attendance rates, were once provided at no cost to our school district. Now 100 percent of nursing services must be covered by district funds and total over $167,000.
I can list other examples of cuts and shifts of costs to the local school district, but hopefully you can see why I am amazed that our district has been able to achieve the level of success we have experienced the last few years with so many budget cuts occurring. In planning for the future it is clear that we cannot continue to sustain our high levels of success using only the existing revenue.
As teachers and instructional leaders, you have helped during these tough economic times by supplementing educational expenses through the numerous grants that you have applied for and received. In many instances, our teachers have purchased resources for their classrooms out of their own pockets and have done so without raises. In fact, this is the first in several years when employees have received a meager raise. While any raise is nice, I would love to be able to provide more in the future. The step increases, rank changes, and raises mandated by the state legislature this year cost Johnson County Schools approximately $400,000; only $260,000 of that expense was subsidized by the state. Again, Johnson County was left to absorb the remainder of the balance. Our employees are worth every penny the district pays out and I am glad to be able to pay that amount. Without each and every one of you working to your highest potential, Johnson County could not be one of the top districts in the state.
To address these budget shortfalls, the Johnson County Board of Education is seeking a school tax rate increase. Currently, Johnson County Schools’ tax rate on total real estate is 36.9 cents per $100 assessed value. In 1891, the real estate tax was set at 33.3 cents per $100 assessed value. In the last 123 years, the real estate tax has increased only 6 tenths of a cent while every district around us currently has a significantly higher total real estate rate than Johnson County. While I am amazed at the hard work of every employee and the role each of you have had in obtaining our current level of success, I feel that the proposed tax rate of 56.6 cents per $100 of assessed value is essential to helping Johnson County provide the necessary resources that other districts are already able to provide their students.
We realize that this increase is sudden and will not only affect you but every family that you serve. However, every economic indicator used for school budgeting suggests that this increase is critical to sustaining a strong and productive school system for our community. Our school system is one of, if not the best thing, our community has going for it right now. Realizing the importance of keeping as much money in the local community as possible, Johnson County Schools is the largest employer in our county and is crucial to the sustainability of our local economy. Based on our role in and contributions to our local community, it is imperative that we maintain a healthy and productive school system. Last year, personnel costs totaled over 82 percent of our budget. Tax revenue utilized by the district and paid by you, as property owners, will continue to be spent in the community by you, our employees, and recycled multiple times in our own local community, helping ensure future growth for our area.
As a distinguished school district this proposal will ensure that our students and teachers will be able to continually meet the high expectations set by our community. Revenue generated by this real estate tax increase will ensure new textbooks, one-to-one computers, and state of the art facilities for our teachers and students. Ultimately, these resources will help enable our students to compete in the global workforce. I believe that our students, with the leadership of our educators, encouragement from our support staff, and provided with innovative resources, can and will compete with anybody in the world. Hopefully you agree with me and believe that our students deserve the best because educating our students must be our primary focus in investing for Johnson County and Kentucky’s future.
As employees, parents, property owners, and citizens of this great Commonwealth, I encourage you to reach out to me with your concerns and/or support of this proposal intended to benefit our students. As always, my door is open. So, please don’t hesitate to stop by, phone, email, or contact me in any way.
Thomas R. Salyer
Johnson County Schools