Kevin Willis

News Director

Kevin is the News Director at WKU Public Radio.  He has been with the station since 1999, and was previously the Assistant News Director, and also served as local host of Morning Edition.  He is a broadcast journalism graduate of WKU, and has won numerous awards for his reporting and feature production.  Kevin grew up in Radcliff, Kentucky and currently lives in Glasgow.

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Education
2:56 pm
Fri July 26, 2013

WKU Regents Approve Bonds for Honors College, Raises for Basketball Coaches

The WKU Board of Regents has approved a $37 million bond issue to fund a new international center and Honors College building, as well as the next phase of the ongoing renovation of the Downing University Center.

While the motion passed, three regents voted against the proposal.

Faculty Regent Patty Minter joined Student Regent Keyana Boka and Staff Regent James Kennedy in dissent. Dr. Minter says while she fully supports the WKU Honors College and the school's efforts to grow its international student population, she questions the need to issue bonds and build a brand new facility.

“There were a lot of better ideas that were not explored," said the WKU History Professor. "For example, having a floor in the replacement building for the Gordon Ford College of Business—what a great place that would be. And it would also integrate that group and the international student services into the entire student population, as opposed to segregating them out.”

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Health
3:41 pm
Wed July 24, 2013

New Edition of Glasgow State Nursing Facility to Open Soon

Governor Steve Beshear joined Glasgow and Barren County leaders Wednesday for a ceremony honoring a new facility that will offer long-term care for those with mental illnesses.

Residents will begin moving into the new Glasgow State Nursing Facility in early September. Glasgow mayor Rhonda Trautman says residents at the facility require a higher level of care than those at most long-term care facilities in the state.

"These are people who are primarily suffering from mental problems who need counseling. They have a variety of issues, and there is a large group of patients there who suffer from Huntington's Disease."

The new facility in Glasgow replaces another state-run long-term care facility in Barren County that had become antiquated.

"The older center has been part of our community for decades. The original building used to be the state tuberculosis hospital," said Mayor Trautman.

The new nursing center will employ 167 people.

Environment
3:24 pm
Tue July 23, 2013

Report: No Rules Prevent Kentucky Coal Plants from Dumping Pollutants into Waterways

A report released by a coalition of environmental and clean water groups says twenty coal-fired power plants in Kentucky are discharging toxic metals into nearby waterways.

The report is called “Closing the Floodgates”, and was authored by the Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, the Environmental Integrity Project, EarthJustice, and WaterKeeper Alliance.

The report points out coal plants are under no requirement to monitor or report discharges of toxic metals such as arsenic, mercury, and selenium.

You can see the full report here.

Sierra Club organizer for the western Kentucky region Thomas Pearce says his group and others want the Environmental Protection Agency to start enforcing tough new standards for coal-fired power plants.

Pearce says under current rules, coal plant operators don't even feel like they have to hide what they're doing.

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Education
11:33 am
Tue July 16, 2013

Aggressive Construction Deadline Set for Early College and Career Center in Hardin County

Ground will be broken Wednesday morning at the future site of the Hardin County Schools Early College and Career Center. The effort is a collaboration between the school system and WKU, and will allow high school students in the Hardin County system to take classes during the academic year that will transform into college credit from WKU, Elizabethtown Community and Technical College, or Sullivan University.

Hardin County Schools Superintendent Nannette Johnston says the Early College and Career Center is facing a strict construction deadline.

"I can sum it up in the one word: aggressive. Typically, we look at construction projects of this magnitude taking about 18 months. We want this project to be completed by August of 2014," Johnston told WKU Public Radio.

The Early College and Career Center will offer Hardin County students classes in fields such as engineering, manufacturing, automotive technology, media arts and communication, and culinary arts and hospitality services.

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Politics
10:56 am
Thu July 11, 2013

Embry: House GOP Leadership to Share Redistricting Proposals Monday with Republican Members

Rep. C.B. Embry is a Republican representing Butler and Grayson counties, and part of Hardin County.
Credit Kentucky LRC

Kevin's interview with C.B. Embry, Jr., of Butler County

A south-central Kentucky state lawmaker says he'll find out Monday what House Republican leaders are proposing for next month's special session on redistricting.

Butler County Republican Representative C.B. Embry, Jr., has a major stake in the new legislative maps that will come out of that session. Embry and two other GOP Representatives--Jim DeCesare of Warren County and Michael Meredith of Edmonson County--were placed in the same district under maps that were passed earlier this year by the House, but rejected by the Senate.

Embry told WKU Public Radio he's not sure next month's special session will be the last word on the redistricting issue.

"I hope this doesn't happen, that the passing of  the redistricting plan might again be unconstitutional and wind up in the courts," said Embry, whose district covers Butler and Grayson counties, as well as part of Hardin County. "If that should happen, I think the courts will draw the lines rather than the General Assembly."

The state Supreme Court threw out maps passed last year by lawmakers, finding that the plans were unconstitutional because they weren't balanced by population. Lawmakers tried, and failed again, during the 2013 General Assembly to get new legislative boundaries passed.

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Regional
9:58 am
Wed July 10, 2013

Funds Raised to Bring Replica of Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall to Southern Indiana

The Wall That Heals will come to Grandview, Indiana, Sept. 11-15.
Credit www.vvmf.org/twth

A Spencer County, Indiana, man hopes a replica version of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall will bring healing to those in the region who served in that war.

Frank Richey was in the Army for twenty years, including tours in Vietnam in 1969 and 1970. Richey has led the effort to bring to the southern Indiana region a traveling replica of the Vietnam Wall known as "The Wall That Heals."

Richey and a small committee of family members and supporters have raised over $10,000 to pay for the costs associated with bringing the replica wall to the town of Grandview, Indiana.

Richey hopes Vietnam veterans and their family members from southern Indiana and northwestern Kentucky will come to Grandview this fall to see the exhibit.

“That’s what this traveling wall is for. It’s for people who can’t actually make it to Washington D.C. to see the real wall,” said Richey.

You can learn more about The Wall That Heals by clicking here.

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Politics
2:27 pm
Mon July 8, 2013

Meade County Democrat Eyes Seat Held by U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie of Bowling Green

A Meade County Democrat with nearly 30 years of military experience is entering Kentucky's Second District Congressional campaign.

Retired U.S. Army Major Ron Leach wants to win the seat currently held by Bowling Green Republican Brett Guthrie. Leach told WKU Public Radio he believes the majority of Kentuckians are "being left behind" by a Congress more interested in partisanship than solving problems.

He was asked how he would describe the kind of campaign he hopes to run.

"It's not left, it's not right. You know, the idea that we need leaders and not looters, that we need a Kentucky and an America that works, and works for all of us. That we need a functioning government that represents all Kentuckians---that's not left or right, and that's not partisan," said Leach, who also served eight years in the National Guard.

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Agriculture
10:21 am
Mon July 8, 2013

New "Udderly Kentucky" Line Features Milk 100% Sourced and Processed in Bluegrass State

The new milk program is part of the Kentucky Proud effort.
Credit Kentucky Dept. of Agriculture

A new partnership in Kentucky is combining the efforts of state dairy farmers and the world's largest retailer.

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer announced Monday that Walmart stores in central and south-central Kentucky will soon begin stocking a line of milk products that is sourced and processed entirely at commonwealth dairy farms.

Calling it one of the most significant developments in the history of the Kentucky Proud marketing program. Comer unveiled the “Udderly Kentucky” partnership, which will stock Walmart stores in the Bluegrass State with milk from 105 Kentucky dairy farms.

The program will return a 7-cent-per-gallon premium to each participating supplier. According to Comer, the average participating Kentucky dairy operation will generate $19,000 annually from the agreement.

Comer told WKU Public Radio he's been working on the partnership with Walmart since he took office in 2012. And he says he’s aware that many in the local-food movement eye Walmart with a great deal of suspicion and even disdain, given controversy surrounding the company’s business and employment practices.

Comer says he brought the issue up with the retailer when negotiating the deal.

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Arts & Culture
2:23 pm
Fri June 28, 2013

Work Continues to Save Downing Paintings Damaged in Museum Fire

A Joe Downing work

The job of determining how many paintings can be saved following a fire at a Bowling Green art museum continues.

An estimated 90 percent of the Joe Downing paintings housed at the estate of Jerry Baker are not seriously damaged. But WKU President Gary Ransdell told faculty and staff in an email this morning that nearly all of the paintings sustained smoke damage.

Dr. Ransdell said WKU Planning, Design, and Construction staff members are working with restoration experts and insurance professionals to start the recovery process for the museum building and the art.

Downing is a Hart County native who is one of only a few Americans that have an exhibit shown at the Louvre in Paris, France. He lived most of his adult life in France and was inspired by the natural beauty of the French countryside. He died in 2007 at his country home in the town of Menerbes.

WKU Art Department Head Brent Oglesbee says Downing’s work stands out because of its unique style, and use of color and pattern.

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Regional
12:54 pm
Wed June 26, 2013

Minter: Supreme Court Decision Does Not Impact Kentucky Law on Same-Sex Marriage

The U.S. Supreme Court has declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.

The U.S. Supreme's Court ruling Wednesday striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act does not impact Kentucky laws regarding the definition of marriage. Kentucky voters in 2004 approved an amendment to the state constitution defining a marriage as being between one man and one woman.

WKU constitutional law scholar Patty Minter says the Supreme Court's decision on DOMA concerns those in same-sex marriages being able to receive the same federal benefits as those in heterosexual marriages.

"It does not affect the definition of marriage in Kentucky, and it does not require the state of Kentucky to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. It also has no impact on civil unions anywhere in the 50 states," Dr. Minter told WKU Public Radio.

Dr. Minter, a WKU History Professor, says those wanting same-sex marriage in Kentucky would likely have to get a referendum on the ballot that would repeal the 2004 state amendment.

"Or you would need another case at the U.S. Supreme Court--one that rendered all of those state marriage amendments to be moot. They would also be rendered moot if you passed a federal amendment to the Constitution that mandated that marriage rights could not be abridged based on status.

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