Becca Schimmel

Multimedia Journalist

Becca Schimmel is a multimedia journalist with the Ohio Valley ReSource a collaborative of public radio stations in Kentucky, West Virginia and Ohio.  She's based out of the WKU Public Radio newsroom in Bowling Green. 

Becca was born in Charleston, SC but grew up in Lexington, Kentucky. You can often find her behind a book or near a cup of coffee. In her time away from the newsroom she enjoys running and lifting weights. She’s a sucker for unintentional puns, a good cup of coffee, a nice craft beer and a story.

Becca earned her Bachelor of Science in journalism from Murray State University with a minor in psychology. She interned with The Paducah Sun in Paducah as a general assignment reporter. From there she went on to become Morning Edition producer and general assignment reporter for WKMS in Murray.

flickr creative commons Brent Moore

The Bardstown City Council has unanimously passed a new law to protect whistleblowers. The law will be similar to the one that protects state employees.

 

Bardstown City Councilman John Kelley explained the city ordinance allows criminal penalties of up to 12 months in jail and/or a $500 fine for those who retaliate against whistleblowers.

 

“We wanted to afford the city employees the same protections that the state employees have,” Kelley said.

Becca Schimmel

Tens of thousands of retired coal miners and their families in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia face another deadline on expiring healthcare benefits and pensions. A temporary extension Congress funded late last year expires in April.

 

A regional Senate Republican and Democrat have offered competing bills to address the issue. The two measures differ sharply in the support offered for miners’ benefits and in the strings that would be attached to the funding.

 

West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin has reintroduced the Miners Protection Act with bipartisan support. The bill, which would include protections for health benefits and pensions for miners, was approved by the Senate Finance Committee last year but did not get a full floor vote before the end of the session.


Owensboro Convention Center

Construction on a new hotel in downtown Owensboro will begin next summer. The new hotel will hold 110 to 120 rooms. The Owensboro Messenger Inquirer reports it will bring the number of rooms within a block of the convention center to about four hundred.

One of the project’s partners, Jack Wells, said the brand of the new hotel will be announced in a few months. The project should includes up to 160 new apartments but those plans are flexible. Wells said the estimated cost will be more than $33 million. He expects construction to be complete in the summer of 2018.

Creative Commons

A level one drought issued for Kentucky last month has been lifted due to the recent rainfall. Drought and high winds contributed to wildfires in eastern Kentucky that burned about 50,000 acres.

The state Division of Forestry expects the timely precipitation and cooler temperatures will significantly reduce the risk of wildfires. Farmers are still expected to feel the effects of the drought for months to come.

Adam Hatcher

Students at Kentucky’s first international high school are preparing to finish their first semester. Gateway to Educational Opportunities International is located on Warren Central High School’s campus in Bowling Green.

About 65 percent of the school’s 180 students are refugees. Assistant Principal Adam Hatcher said some students know four or five languages, with most able to speak at least rudimentary English.

US Army Corps of Engineers

A bill transferring control of infrastructure on the Barren and Green rivers to local communities has passed the U.S. Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement the legislation will give more control to Kentucky communities and help with flood protection in Paducah.

The bill will transfer control of inoperable locks and dams along Barren and Green rivers from the U.S. Army Corps of engineers to state and local entities. That will allow local communities to do necessary repairs and maintenance.

Becca Schimmel | Ohio Valley ReSource

During the presidential campaign I visited two regional manufacturing executives who do business in the same county but hold views on trade that are worlds apart. Now that Donald Trump is the president-elect, I asked them and some regional economists how the new administration’s approach to trade might affect the Ohio Valley region.


becca schimmel

Congressional leaders have included short-term funding for health care benefits for retired miners in a must-pass spending bill this week. If approved that would buy some time for thousands of miners in the Ohio Valley region whose benefits would otherwise expire at the end of the year.  

US Army Corps of Engineers

A recent breakdown at an Ohio River dam served as a wake-up call about the aging infrastructure that keeps river commerce flowing. The Ohio is one of the country’s busiest working rivers and some navigation controls are approaching the century mark. I went to see these ailing structures and a new multi-billion dollar project in the works.

Barges are once again moving through this section of the Ohio near Paducah, Kentucky, after a failure at the aging Lock and Dam Number 52 forced a two-day closure in September.

“It’s one of the busiest locations on the inland waterways,” said Army Corp of Engineers Colonel Christopher Beck. “We pass about 90 million tons of cargo through here every year. So it’s critical to both this region, to industry and the nation.”

Lock and Dam 52 uses wooden structures called wickets that work a bit like a bathtub to keep the river at the depth needed for boat traffic. When three wickets broke free of their bases and even more wouldn’t cooperate, a hole let too much water through. That threatened both navigability and a water intake facility used by nearby chemical manufacturing plants.

Becca Schimmel

Kentucky’s Democratic U.S. Senate candidate says the state’s economy would get a major boost from an infrastructure overhaul. Lexington Mayor Jim Gray spoke to students Friday at Western Kentucky University.

Gray said if nothing is done by the year 2020 it will take a trillion dollars to fix the nation’s infrastructure problems. The Barren County native cited a report from the American Society of Civil Engineers that gave Kentucky’s infrastructure a grade of C. Gray said lawmakers have to address the declining health of the nation’s roads, bridges and other modes of transportation first.

“What I would do is create a national infrastructure act, a bill, and I would be a champion for infrastructure and through that we will examine the needs and we will prioritize those needs and we will get the projects done,” Gray said.

 

The report from the ASCE gives the nation’s infrastructure an overall grade of D+.

Becca Schimmel

Attorney General Andy Beshear is commending victims of sexual assault for stepping forward and reporting what happened to them. He spoke in Bowling Green Wednesday about the backlog of 3,000 untested rape kits in Kentucky. Beshear said everything must be done to get the kits tested as soon as possible.

“These are not a box on a shelf, they represent a victim of one of the most heinous crimes imaginable that had the courage to report an underreported crime,” Beshear said.

Beshear’s office recently transferred $4.5 million from a pharmaceutical settlement to the Kentucky State Police crime lab. The Attorney General said the funding should ensure that there’s never a backlog of untested rape kits again.

Becca Schimmel

Senator Rand Paul is speaking out against accepting refugees from countries considered to have a high risk of terrorism, as well as the vetting process for Syrian refugees.

The Bowling Green Republican is critical of using federal dollars to resettle refugees in the U.S. During a visit to Western Kentucky University Monday, Paul said he thinks refugees should instead depend on sponsorships from third-party groups, like churches or non-governmental organizations.

“So, I’m not against it. My church here in town helped some of the first Bosnian families to come to town who’ve become a good part of our community. But at the same time I don’t think we should open our borders and say to the world, ‘Come to America.’”

Becca Schimmel | Ohio Valley ReSource

Bowling Green, Kentucky is one of twelve refugee resettlement areas in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia. The International Center of Kentucky, in Bowling Green, will be resettling forty Syrian refugees this month. Those new arrivals will join a community of more than 10,000 asylum seekers from around the world the center has helped to resettle since beginning operation in 1981.

Ohio Valley ReSource reporter Becca Schimmel recently sat down with a former refugee to better understand his journey, and how the small business he has started is creating a community of support for new refugees.

 

From the Middle East to the Midwest

In 2013 Wisam Asal opened Jasmine International Grocery, a small family run store with sweets, religious items and food from many countries.

Becca Schimmel

A bill to protect health care and pension benefits for about 120,000 retired coal miners and their families has moved forward in the Senate.

The Senate Finance Committee approved the measure Wednesday, with a vote of 18 to 8.

 

Six Republicans, including Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch, joined all 12 Democrats in endorsing the bill. The office of Indiana Republican Senator Dan Coats released a statement explaining his opposition to the bill.

Senator Coats has great sympathy for coal retirees, many of whom live in Indiana, and the senator will continue fighting the Obama Administration’s War on Coal, which has put retired miners in this terrible position. The senator does not support federal bailouts of private pensions, especially when many pension plans across the country are underfunded by trillions and could ask for their own bailout. Senator Coats does not believe that Congress should expose taxpayers to trillions in liabilities, especially when our debt is climbing to dangerous levels and the largest retiree benefit plans for taxpayers – Social Security and Medicare – are headed for bankruptcy themselves.

US Army Corps of Engineers

A 25-mile section of the Ohio River from Smithland, Kentucky, to Brookport, Illinois, will be closed to shipping traffic later this week for up to four days of emergency repairs. It’s all due to something called a “wicket.”

“It looks like teeth in the river,”  explained Army Corps of Engineers Public Information Officer Todd Hornback. The wickets, which are about four feet wide and 20 feet long, are crucial to controlling the water levels for river traffic.

“You have several wickets that are crossing the Ohio River, and when those are pulled up that helps hold back water and helps maintain a pool for the lock and dam,” Hornback said. “And then when they’re lowered water can go through and then also navigation can go through.”

Hornback said three wickets broke free from their bases at Dam 52, near Paducah in western Kentucky. The closed section of river carries approximately ninety million tons of waterborne goods annually.

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