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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Health
4:29 pm
Tue May 28, 2013

New Hospital, Three Years in the Making, Set to Open Saturday in Owensboro

The new Owensboro Health Regional Hospital, opening June 1
Credit Owensboro Health

Kevin's interview with Owensboro Health's Gordon Wilkerson

It's the last week of preparations before Saturday's official opening of the new Owensboro Health Regional Hospital. The 447-bed facility sits on 162 acres of land in eastern Owensboro, and is opening this weekend after three years of construction.

Owensboro Health spokesman Gordon Wilkerson says the hospital has been trying to make the transition as painless as possible.

"We'll be identifying patients who will still be in the hospital Saturday morning and who will need to be moved to the new facility. And we're working closely with their family members to ensure they have at least one family member present during the move," said Wilkerson.

The final price tag for the new hospital on Pleasant Valley drive was $385 million, and was paid for by a bond issue in 2010. Wilkerson said the costs associated with the new facility will not lead to increased care costs for patients.

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Business
2:20 pm
Tue May 28, 2013

Scam Making Rounds in Listening Area Involves "Medical Alert System"

Some senior citizens in our listening area have been the targets of a scam involving promises of a free medical alert system.

The Better Business Bureau office that serves Louisville, southern Indiana, and western Kentucky says the scammers tell those who pick up that someone has ordered them a free medical alert system, and that the call is intended to confirm shipping instructions.

"So then the person on the line is to told to press a button to speak to a customer service representative, and that person actually asks them for their personal information, including their credit card number for shipping fees,” says Reanna Smith-Hamblin, from the Better Business Bureau.

Reanna Smith-Hamblin with the Better Business Burea says it appears the scam is originating from an automated dialing system that can place thousands of calls a day. Smith-Hamblin advises anyone getting such calls to immediately hang up the phone.

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Agriculture
7:25 am
Tue May 21, 2013

Comer: Hemp Legalization Could Still Be Part of Federal Farm Bill

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer

Kevin's interview with Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner and Monroe County native James Comer

Kentucky's agriculture commissioner says last week's setback shouldn't cause hemp supporters to give up hopes of getting the crop legalized. James Comer told WKU Public Radio he's not surprised language legalizing industrial hemp failed to get added to the first drafts of farm bills in the U.S. House and Senate.

Last week, a group of Kentucky U.S. Senators and House members tried--and failed--to get that language included in the legislation.

Comer says the federal farm bill has a long way to go before it gets passed, and a lot of things will be added and taken out in the next few months.

"And I learned during this last session in Kentucky, when I read in the papers that (House Speaker) Greg Stumbo would say my bill was dead, that it's not over until the very last day, so we're still holding out hope on it," said Comer, a farmer from Monroe County.

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Politics
6:00 am
Sun May 19, 2013

Richards and Stone: Lawsuits Put Added Pressure on State to Get Redistricting Done

A Warren County lawmaker says he agrees with Governor Steve Beshear on the need to get legislative redistricting maps done before the 2014 General Assembly.

Bowling Green Representative Jody Richards told WKU Public Radio he hopes House and Senate leaders can come to an agreement on new maps ahead of a possible special legislative session this fall.

"I hope that everybody gets together, and that we do a five-day session, which is the quickest you can possibly do," said Richards. "We don't need to get up there and argue. Everything needs to be settled before we go."

Richards says two lawsuits filed against the state over the lack of a redistricting plan are adding to the urgency lawmakers feel about getting new maps passed. Those lawsuits were filed by a group of county clerks in northern Kentucky and the state chapter of the ACLU, and accuse the state of violating federal law by not having in place new legislative maps based on the latest U.S. Census data.

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Politics
10:02 am
Thu May 16, 2013

Beshear: McConnell "Vulnerable" in 2014, Democrats Just Need "Good Alternative"

Governor Beshear has some strong words about the state's senior U.S. Senator. During a visit to Bowling Green Wednesday, Beshear told WKU Public Radio that he thinks Republican Mitch McConnell symbolizes the partisan bickering and obstructionism that has plagued Washington D.C. recently.

"And of course Sen. McConnell has been a part of that for the past 30 years. It's gotten worse, it hasn't gotten better. And he's gotten to be part of the problem and not part of the solution. So I think people are looking for a change," said Beshear. "We just have to give them a good alternative."

Beshear says he believes Senator McConnell would be "vulnerable" against a strong Democratic challenge next year.

McConnell has said he's ready to defend his record against any challengers during the 2014 Senate contest, and believes the majority of Kentuckians support his efforts to block key parts of President Obama's agenda.

McConnell has been amassing a campaign war chest and staffers to help his re-election efforts. Scott Jennings, a longtime Kentucky GOP operative who is working with two SuperPacs that support McConnell, says the Republican incumbent has attracted a great deal of support based on his legislative work in Washington.

"And I think that's why you're seeing such an early formation of a political apparatus designed to re-elect him, because he's done a good job and he's done right by the state of Kentucky and that's why you have some of these folks doing what they're doing," Jennings recently told Kentucky Public Radio.

Democrats have yet to land a high-profile challenger to take on McConnell next year.

Education
1:54 pm
Tue May 14, 2013

New Owensboro Schools Chief: State Should Fully Fund Pre-K Education

Nick Brake
Credit Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp.

Kevin's interview with Nick Brake, incoming head of Owensboro Public Schools

The incoming chief of the Owensboro Public School system says fully-funding pre-Kindergarten programs would be the best education investment state lawmakers could make.

Nick Brake will take over as leader of Owensboro's school system July 1, following seven years with the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation.

He told WKU Public Radio increased pre-K funding is money well spent.

"If you fully fund those programs, not only do you contribute three-to-one to their earnings later, but every dollar you spend there ends up saving the state money on the back end with benefit programs, criminal justice, and other savings," Brake said. "It's a long-term investment and sometimes those are difficult for public policy makers to swallow, but I think it's an investment that needs to be made."

Brake signed a four-year contract Monday to take over as leader of the Owensboro Public School system.

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Health
3:28 pm
Wed May 8, 2013

Beshear to Announce Decision on Medicaid Expansion Thursday Afternoon

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear is set to announce whether or not he’ll expand Kentucky’s Medicaid program.

The Governor’s office says Beshear will share his decision Thursday at a 1:30 p.m. eastern time news conference at the state capitol building.

Under the federal Affordable Care Act, each state has the option of expanding its Medicaid services to those earning less than 133 percent of the poverty rate. The federal government has agreed to pay each state’s additional costs related to expansion for the first three years, with Washington picking up 90 percent of the tab each following year.

Some conservatives and Tea Party activists have called on Beshear not to agree to the expansion, saying the commonwealth can’t afford any additional costs.

Supporters say it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to extend the program to a wider number of Kentuckians who are struggling with high health care costs.

Education
4:00 am
Wed May 8, 2013

Ransdell to Inform WKU Faculty/Staff of Departmental Changes

WKU President Gary Ransdell

WKU employees impacted by departmental consolidations should know by Wednesday if they are affected by the moves.

For weeks, WKU President Gary Ransdell has been warning that the school was going to have to cut personnel in light of an expected $2.1 million dollar budget cut next fiscal year. But this week Dr. Ransdell said the school's vice-presidents were able to find ways to consolidate certain operations and departments without costing any jobs.

Dr. Ransdell says the school has been notifying those workers impacted by the changes this week. The WKU president said he will send an email to all faculty and staff either Wednesday or Thursday detailing the moves the school has made regarding consolidations.

Ransdell added he is happy the school has found a way to deal with the budget cut that didn't involve personnel or salary reductions.

Education
9:11 am
Tue May 7, 2013

Ransdell: No WKU Job Losses Due to Upcoming Budget Cut

WKU President Gary Ransdell says there will be no job losses next year related to the school’s upcoming budget cut. Dr. Ransdell had been warning that personnel reductions were likely following the Council on Postsecondary Education’s decision to allow a 3% in-state undergraduate tuition increase next year, instead of the 5% hike WKU had requested.

But in an email to WKU faculty and staff yesterday, Dr. Ransdell said “no one will lose their employment at WKU" despite the school having to cut $2.1 million from its budget.

The WKU president said some employees might be relocated to other departments during the next academic year. He also said some 200 faculty members will receive market-salary adjustments worth a total of $500,000.

Arts & Culture
3:40 pm
Thu May 2, 2013

Kentucky Derby Weekend Means It's Mint Julep Time

The apotheosis of Kentucky's bourbon culture: the mint julep

Kevin speaks with Cole Phelps about the history and proper preparation of the mint julep.

The mint julep stands proud as the beverage known as Kentucky's signature drink. Unless you're new to the area or haven't been paying attention, you know the julep is synonymous with the Kentucky Derby.

What you might not know, however, is that the mint julep's history traces back to a rose water drink in the Middle East.

WKU Public Radio's Kevin Willis in 2010 visited the famous Seelbach Hotel in Louisville to learn the history and proper preparation of the famous drink. Cole Phelps, who at the time served as the head bartender at Max's Bar on the hotel's second floor shared his favorite recipe for drink:

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