Four Roses Names Owensboro Native Master Distiller

Jul 20, 2015
Brent Elliott

Owensboro native Brent Elliott didn’t realize where his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Kentucky might take him. 

For a while, it led him to laboratories, analyzing soil and water samples for agencies like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Ten years ago that chemistry degree led him to Four Roses Distillery, where he’s most recently held the position of director of quality.

Elliott has just been named master distiller at Four Roses. He said it’s his dream job.       

The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education is holding a series of public meetings around the state to gather input on a new five-year plan for higher education.  On Monday night, a meeting will take place at Somerset Community College. 

CPE President Bob King says affordability remains a key area of concern.  Because of higher tuition and tighter state funds, public universities now get more money from their students than from the state.

"Not that long ago, the state contribution to the universities on a per-student basis picked up about two-thirds of the cost of educating a student and tuition picked up about one-third," King told WKU Public Radio.  "That has completely reversed in about a ten-year period."

University presidents will lobby the General Assembly next year to increase higher education funding for the first time since 2008. 

Lawmakers will also be asked to switch to a performance funding model which would administer state funds based on the number of graduates or degrees that a school produces.

The remaining public meetings will be held from 6-8pm at these locations:

  • Monday, July 20: Harold Rogers Student Commons, Community Room, Somerset Community College, Somerset.
  • Tuesday, July 21: Collins Industry and Technology Center, Freed Curd Auditorium, Murray State University, Murray.
  • Wednesday, July 29: Rieveschel Digitorium, Griffin Hall 201, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights.

Pay-What-You-Can Restaurant Opening in Danville

Jul 17, 2015
Grace Cafe

A non-profit, pay-what-you-can community restaurant opens this weekend in Danville. Officials say it’s the first such establishment in Kentucky. 

Grace Cafe will offer a locally sourced brunch menu on Saturday and Sunday accompanied by an exhibition of local artists. A  portion of the proceeds from sold artwork will help support the restaurant. 

Executive Director Rochelle Bayless says that the menu will include donation recommendations, but each customer is asked to pay only what he or she can.

"If your pockets are full, we ask that you pay and pay it forward," comments Bayless.  "If your pockets are light, pay what you can, and if your pockets are empty, enjoy a meal in exchange for an hour of volunteer time."

Bayless says she was working on her master's thesis in food insecurity when she realized the need for assistance in the community.  The non-profit organization Feeding America reports that one-fourth of Danville residents fall below the poverty line, and more than 20% of children in the Boyle County are food insecure. 

After this weekend, the cafe will be open from 11-2 on Wednesday through Sunday, and hopes to expand to offer family dinners in the fall.

Robertson Stepping Down as Kentucky GOP Executive Director

Jul 16, 2015

Steve Robertson is stepping down as executive director of the Republican Party of Kentucky and a staffer for U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell is taking his place.

Robertson will join public affairs firm CivicPoint as a senior vice president. His last day as executive director will be Aug. 15. He will remain the party's chairman through the November elections.

Mike Biagi will be the party's new executive director beginning Aug. 1. He is a field representative for McConnell in Louisville.

Robertson was elected chairman in 2007. Since then, Republicans have added more than 183,600 registered voters in Kentucky while Democrats have added 23,957. Republicans have won five of the six congressional seats and both U.S. Senate seats. But Democrats still hold five of the six statewide constitutional officers and a majority in the state House of Representatives.

Report: Kentucky Drug Overdose Deaths Rose in 2014

Jul 15, 2015

A new report shows the number of people who died from drug overdoses in Kentucky jumped 7 percent last year while the number of deaths attributed to heroin stayed about the same.

The Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy issued the report Wednesday and said it illustrates the persistent challenge the state faces in combating drug abuse.

Louisville had the most overdose deaths with 204, an increase of 12 from 2013. Floyd County in eastern Kentucky had the highest number of overdose deaths per 100,000 people with 55.1.

Autopsies from the Kentucky Medical Examiner's office indicate the majority of people who died had multiple drugs in their system. Morphine accounted for the most deaths, showing up in more than 40 percent of all cases.

The state legislature overhauled its drug treatment and sentencing laws earlier this year.

Flickr/Creative Commons/RA Torsten Kellotat

A recently launched website,, lists surgeons who have been identified as having better than average outcomes based on an analysis of more than four million surgeries by more than 50,000 surgeons.

People can locate a surgeon for a specific surgery using their zip code. A list of surgeons will appear along with the surgeon’s hospital, board certifications, outcomes and recommendations from other doctors.  The listings have been compiled by Consumers’ CHECKBOOK/The Center for the Study of Services.

But people need to proceed with caution when using such websites, said Patrick Padgett, executive vice president at the Kentucky Medical Association.

“It’s really difficult to know exactly what would be an accurate measurement because there are so many different websites and there’s so many different ways of rating physicians,” he said.

A convoy of National Guard vehicles and heavy equipment including excavators and dump trucks, are heading into the hardest hit area of flood-plagued eastern Kentucky on Wednesday morning as crews prepare to resume searching for the missing.

Two people were killed and six disappeared in a raging flood that hit the area Monday afternoon.

Rescue crews combing the hilly Appalachian terrain Tuesday were hampered by more heavy rains, swarming mosquitoes, soupy humidity and knee-deep mud.

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear declared a state of emergency to give local officials immediate access to state resources to assist in recovery efforts.

Authorities say the search area stretches more than 8 miles, from the town of Flat Gap south to Staffordsville -- a rural area with 500 homes and 1,200 residents.

Presidential hopeful and U.S. Senator Rand Paul says he won’t attend the Fancy Farm political picnic next month. 

Paul is also running for re-election to his Senate seat next year, and some analysts say this could prompt future challengers to criticize Paul for not paying attention to his home state while he runs for two offices simultaneously.

Al Cross with the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues says Fancy Farm is a must stop for any politician in Kentucky running for statewide office.

"People in far western Kentucky who are very isolated from the rest of the state expect statewide politicians to come ask for their votes," Cross noted.

But Rand Paul is also battling it out for the Republican Presidential nomination in a very crowded race. So, even though he’s also running for his Senate seat next year—Paul recently told the press he won’t be going to Fancy Farm.

"I think right now they have me in New Hampshire that weekend," explained Paul.

Cross says it’s not surprising Paul is focusing on looming presidential primaries. There are more than a dozen people running for the Republican nomination.  Paul doesn’t have any challengers yet for his Senate seat. Cross says if he does get an opponent, missing Fancy Farm could become a campaign issue.

"I think it does provide an opening for people who want to criticize him for not concentrating on his Senate job," stated Cross.

Rand Paul attended the picnic last year and says he plans to be there in 2016.

Kentucky News Network

Governor Steve Beshear has declared a state of emergency in the wake of severe storms that swept through Kentucky Monday. 

Rowan and Johnson counties in Eastern Kentucky were hit especially hard by the storms, with one fatality reported in Johnson County and several people reported missing. 

The declaration gives local communities immediate access to state and federal resources to assist in recovery efforts. 

The governor has requested assistance from FEMA, and the Kentucky National Guard and the state’s Division of Emergency Management are already helping in the efforts.  Shelters have been set up in Johnson, Jefferson and Rowan counties.

Six state lawmakers are being tasked with finding solutions to Kentucky’s under-funded retirement system for public school teachers. 

Legislators debated a plan in this year’s General Assembly session that would have borrowed more than $3 billion in bonds to shore up KTRS. 

State Senator Joe Bowen of Owensboro was among Republicans who objected to taking on more debt.

"Our opinion was that it was a huge risk to do this and if things didn't work out we stood the chance of jeopardizing the plan even further," Bowen said.

Senator Bowen is one of the appointees of the committee that will offer new recommendations to the governor by December 1.  The panel will have its first meeting on Friday. 

Bowen told WKU Public Radio that new money must be found to invest into KTRS and structural changes are required that will likely affect new hires.

"They're going to be looking at a new retirement plan," stated Bowen.  "We not talking about going from a defined benefit to a defined contribution.  That's never been part of the conversation, but what we are saying is that new hires will probably have to work longer."

Bowen says the KTRS work group will also have to address pension spiking and cost of living adjustments in order to bring a long-term impact to the pension system. 

KTRS, which covers about 120,000 active and retired members, has an unfunded liability of $14 billion.