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School board to discuss masks in meeting

The Christian County Public School board may make wearing masks by students and staff indoors optional at tonight’s regular board meeting.

According to the agenda, released by CCPS on Wednesday the board will discuss and possibly approve “to lift the mask mandate and making masks optional for faculty, students, staff, and visitors on any of the district’s campuses but authorizing the superintendent to reimpose the mask mandate, in whole or in part, in the event the incidence of COVID-19 in the district or any school requires mandatory masking in the discretion of the Superintendent.”

The discussion will not include lifting the mask mandate for students and staff on buses, however.

Last month, superintendent Chris Bentzel made a recommendation to the school board this week that the district continue having students and staff wear masks inside the buildings, saying that it could be discussed again at a later date.

According to the most recent numbers from the Christian County Health Department, the county saw an increase of cases by 72 the week following Nov. 5. The previous week saw an increase of 74 between Nov. 5 and Oct. 29. While the week prior saw an increase of 72 between Oct. 22 and Oct. 29, revealing a constant rate of between 70-75 new cases each week for the last several weeks.

The demographic breakdown of the new cases contracted is as follows: 19, or 26%, are pediatric cases, while 38 (53%) of the new cases are white, 21 (29%) are Black and 13 (18%) are unknown.

The health department began this week offering Pfizer vaccines to children aged between 5-11.

The department is accepting both walk-ins and appointments for Pfizer COVID vaccines for children every Wednesday from 7:45 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.

While walk-ins are available, CCHD encourages parents to schedule appointments in order to avoid long wait times at the department.

Christian County Public Schools announced Tuesday that it will be looking into partnering with WildHealth clinic to administer COVID-19 vaccines to ages 5 and up.

Earlier this school year, Christian County Public Schools successfully teamed up with with WildHealth to get students ages 12 and up vaccinated.

The school system said in a press release that more information will be coming soon.

Nurse practitioners recognized for contributions
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“That’s the best thing,” said Helen Cayce, who borrowed the dialogue from a commercial to describe what she likes about working as a nurse practitioner.

Among other things, Cayce said she enjoys the contact with patients, the camaraderie among the group of professionals and the satisfaction of patient care, especially as it relates to preventative medicine.

“(We have) the ability to provide a wide range of patients (with) care,” she added.

Cayce and several other nurse practitioners were on hand Wednesday as Christian County Judge-Executive Steve Tribble shared a document proclaiming this week as National Nurse Practitioner Week.

The proclamation was signed by Tribble and Hopkinsville Mayor Wendell Lynch and included the seal of the city and county.

It was read in the courtroom of Christian County Fiscal Court by Tribble and Cayce.

The judge-executive said he had a recent opportunity to receive care from a nurse practitioner, and he had a great experience.

“They did a great job with me,” Tribble observed, adding that “what you do is wonderful, and you’re needed.”

“We’re so glad you’re here,” he continued of the impact of the nurse practitioners.

The judge noted that the Christian County government has actually been doing a proclamation for several years at the request of Jill York, the executive director of the Kentucky Association of Nurse Practitioners and Nurse Midwives.

That document has then been returned to York, but Cayce suggested doing something to recognize local practitioners, Tribble said.

In reading the proclamation, the judge noted that nurse practitioners serve as trusted frontline providers of healthcare for patients in the state, and he said they’re at the forefront of efforts to combat COVID-19, have been educating patients about prevention and ensuring the equitable distribution of the coronavirus vaccines.

The proclamation identified 325,000 licensed nurse practitioners in the U.S. and more than 5,400 in Kentucky who diagnose, manage and treat chronic and acute healthcare conditions.

Cayce said the role of nurse practitioners has evolved over the years. The practitioners address the health needs of everyone from birth to old age, she said, but they can also specialize in sub-practices that can include gastroenterology, aesthetics, primary care and surgery.

Additionally, Kentucky is one of 12 states where they can function as independent practitioners in private practice.

Cayce said she was one of the first nurse practitioners in Christian County, which at one time had fewer than five practitioners.

She is now in private practice.

Also attending Wednesday’s proclamation ceremony were Candice Perkins, a nurse practitioner with the hospitalist at Jennie Stuart Medical Center; Amy Wells, a practitioner with Enhance Aesthetics; Ellery Naghtin, an advanced practice registered nurse with Enhance Aesthetics; and Autumn Triplett, a nurse practitioner who also is in private practice.

Wells noted that practitioners work to give care across the life span of their patients, with an emphasis on — and a passion for — preventative care.

Naghtin said it was good to be acknowledged for the work that she and others do.

“It’s nice to get recognition for our profession,” she said.

Reach Tonya S. Grace at 270-887-3240 or tgrace@kentuckynewera.com.

Rep. Bechler files for reelection

On Tuesday, State Representative Lynn Bechler of Marion announced that he had filed with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance in preparation for his coming reelection campaign in House District 4.

That district includes Caldwell, Crittenden and Livingston County and part of Christian County.

“I’ve always made it my top priority to fight for the values of our district in Frankfort,” Bechler said in a press release. “I’m a proud conservative, and protecting gun rights and the sanctity of life while fighting for balanced budgets, lower taxes and better schools makes a difference for our communities. I’m looking forward to the coming campaign because our constituents deserve the best possible representation and I’m excited to keep fighting for them in Frankfort.”

Bechler is a retired engineer.

Also this week, Christian County Circuit Judge Andrew Self filed for reelection. All judicial positions in Kentucky are nonpartisan.

Two others also filed locally this week so far. Republican Donald Marsh filed for Hopkinsville City Council Ward 3 and Democrat David Fernandez became the third person, but the first from his party, to file for Magistrate District 7. Republicans Mike Walker and Russ Guffey will also be running for the seat currently held by Jerry Gilliam, who is running for Judge Executive.

Other candidates who had previously registered to run for office during the 2022 election cycle include:

  • Republican Vince Farrell, Hopkinsville Mayor
  • Republican James R. Knight, Hopkinsville Mayor
  • Democrat Michael Pendleton, Hopkinsville Mayor
  • Republican Katie Moyer, Christian County Judge Executive
  • Republican Jerry Gilliam, Christian County Judge Executive
  • Republican Dan Mason, Christian County Judge Executive
  • Republican Tyler
  • DeArmond, Christian County Sheriff
  • Republican Erica Newby, Christian County Clerk
  • Democrat Walter G. Cummings, Christian County Clerk
  • Republican Adam Smith, Christian County Jailer
  • Republican Scott Daniel, Christian County Coroner
  • Democrat Mark Wells, Magistrate District 2
  • Democrat Mark E. Cansler, Magistrate District 3
  • Republican George Barnett, Magistrate District 3
  • Republican Darrell L. Gustafson, Magistrate District 4
  • Democrat Rich Leibe, Magistrate District 5
  • Republican Phillip Peterson, Magistrate District 6
  • Republican Mike Walker, Magistrate District 7
  • Republican Russ Guffey, District 7 Magistrate
  • Republican Chuck Crabtree, Hopkinsville City Council Ward 4
  • Republican Travis W. Martin, Hopkinsville City Council Ward 6
  • Republican Mark A. Graham, Hopkinsville City Council Ward 7
  • Republican Jamie Lynn Lienberger, Hopkinsville City Council Ward 9
  • Republican Steve Keel, Hopkinsville City Council Ward 10
  • Republican Mark O. “Bubba” Haddock, Constable District 8.

The deadline for filing for partisan races that may require a primary is Jan. 7, 2022, at 4 p.m. the non-partisan filing deadline is June 7, 2022, at 4 p.m.

The primary election will be held on May 17, 2022 and the general election will be held on Nov. 8, 2022.

Walmart shooting suspect granted diversion
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The man accused of shooting another man during a dispute at Walmart in August, 2020, was granted a diversion Wednesday afternoon in Christian Circuit Judge Andrew Self’s court.

James L. Martin, 62, who was originally charged with first-degree assault, first-degree wanton endangerment and receiving stolen property (firearm), entered a guilty plea deal Wednesday afternoon to amended charges.

The plea deal dismissed Martin’s assault and endangerment charges and recommended that his receiving stolen property charge, which carries a usual sentence of one year in prison, be diverted for a period of one year.

“To be clear, the victims in this case are also in agreement that the other charges are to be dismissed as part of the plea agreement,” Self said to the court regarding Martin’s plea deal.

After entering his plea, Martin and defense attorney Sands Chewning chose to waive a separate final sentencing hearing and proceed with his sentencing.

Ultimately, Self chose to follow the commonwealth’s recommendation within the plea deal and granted Martin a one year diversionary period.

A diversion means that as long as Martin follows all the rules placed upon during his diversion period and does not commit any additional crimes, his charges would be dropped and expunged from his record.

“So, what that means is, for the next year, you’ll have this kind of hanging over your head,” Self said to Martin. “If you complete that one year period of probation or diversion, at the end of that time period, this remaining charge would be dismissed/diverted at that time.

“Basically, you’ll be on probation for the next year. You’ll have a probation officer to report to and certain conditions you’ll need to comply with.”

According to New Era archives, Martin is accused of shooting a man during a custody exchange at Walmart on Aug. 23, 2020.

Martin allegedly grabbed a child belonging to Wesley Beach and drug him toward a vehicle causing an argument between Martin and Beach. Martin then allegedly brandished a firearm and shot Beach, according to archives.

Beach allegedly attempted to return fire from his own firearm during the altercation, but was not able to hit Martin.

Beach was transported to Jennie Stuart Health and was treated for gunshot wounds to his chest and arm, archives added.

In other court news, Tyler Frances, 30, who is accused of juvenile sexual abuse on a church bus, received his final sentence Wednesday morning from Christian Circuit Judge John Atkins.

Frances is charged with first-sexual abuse.

Frances recently entered a guilty plea to first-sexual abuse.

As the sentencing hearing began, Atkins allowed Frances’ defense attorney Sands Chewning to speak on Frances’ behalf in order to argue for him to be granted probation in the case.

Chewning explained that prior to the sentencing hearing, Frances had been evaluated by the Pennyroyal Mental Health Center in August this year and the evaluation revealed that he had been diagnosed with autism and ADHD.

“This happened very late in life — this was the first time he had been diagnosed with these since these charges were brought up,” Chewning said. “I think he is a victim of neglect as a child for not being diagnosed and treated with these, but now, his sister has stepped in making sure that he gets the treatment and care he needs.”

Chewning continued to share that Frances would be living with sister and is now getting the family support he needs.

Chewning added that when he was charged in the case he had been working and as soon as he was released from custody, he continued to work and maintained employment. He also shared that Frances has no other criminal history.

“He has learned from his mistake and already has an appointment for outpatient sex offender treatment classes to be done if the court probates him,” Chewning said. “We are asking that the court probate him and allow him to do those classes and also continue his mental health treatment.”

Following Chewning’s arguments, Christian County Commonwealth’s Attorney Rick Boling shared with the court that the victim’s family in the case wanted Frances to be convicted of a felony, be required to register as a sex offender and complete sex offender treatement.

“Those were all the mandatory things that they wanted to ensure and all of those were accomplished with this plea,” Boling said. “And, I explained to the family of the victim that the court would make the ultimate decision whether to grant probation or not to grant probation.”

Boling made no other arguments regarding Frances’ sentencing.

Atkins then chose to grant Frances probation in the case for five years, with strict conditions, including having to register as a sex offender.

“I’m doing that because the victim and the family obviously feel that incarcerating you would accomplish nothing and I share that belief under all of the circumstances of the case as I know them to be,” Atkins said.

Atkins continued to explain to Frances that he would also be required to be on ankle monitor for the first six months of his probation and would be restricted to only be at his home or his appointments with sex offender or mental health treatment.

According to New Era archives, Frances is accused of inappropriately touching a 15-year-old female on a church bus in April 2019.

The girl’s parents told officers their daughter told them a man named Tyler ripped off her underwear and put his fingers into her vagina.

The incident reportedly happened on a church bus and members of the church identified the man as Frances.

Officers then went to his home, arrested him and read him his Miranda rights. After being read his rights, Frances allegedly admitted to officers that he had touched the victim’s buttocks and vagina while on the church bus.