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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An 11-year-old Hardin County girl and her father are dead following what police are calling a murder-suicide.

Kentucky State Police says the girl died at the hands of her father, 49-year-old John Jonas. Both were found dead outside their home in Vine Grove.

Hardin County Schools spokesman John Wright says grief counselors will be available for students and staff at Vine Grove Elementary, where the girl was a fifth-grade student.

“The most important part is that we’re letting students express themselves. If they need to visit with a counselor, or teacher, or friend, we’re allowing them to do that today.”

A police investigation into the deaths is ongoing. Autopsies are scheduled today in Louisville.

The name of the girl who was killed has not been officially released by the school or police.

A traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall is coming to Hardin County this week as part of a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the war.

The traveling wall contains all of the names of U.S. military personnel killed during the war, and will arrive in Radcliff on Thursday. Event organizer and Vietnam veteran David Cowherd says the replica wall offers a chance for those who haven’t seen the Washington memorial to pay tribute to those who died, as well POWs and MIAs.

“They served there with us, and they are in some case family members and really close friends. So it helps with some of the healing, in my view,” said Cowherd, who served in the Navy during the war in southeast Asia.

The replica wall will be on display in Radcliff from Thursday through Sunday. Area schools are bringing students to see the wall, and a candlelight service honoring Hardin County natives killed in the Vietnam War is being held Saturday night.

Vietnam War veterans are invited to a Sunday afternoon group photo shoot in front of the traveling wall.

Motorists heading north on I-65 in Hardin and Bullitt counties will be impacted by road work starting Sunday evening.

The interstate will be reduced to one lane between mile markers 104 and 102 starting at 7 pm eastern Sunday as crews make concrete repairs. The project should be complete by Wednesday night.

Delays are likely during peak volume hours in the mornings and afternoons, and motorists may want to consider alternate routes.

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NPR’s Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg is coming to WKU later this year as part of the school’s 2015-16 Cultural Enhancement Series.

Totenberg is a familiar voice to public radio listeners who have heard her report on U.S. Supreme Court cases throughout her NPR career that began in 1975.

Totenberg will speak at WKU September 21st, and will kick off the Cultural Enhancement Series that also features appearances by the Martha Graham Dance Company, British author Neil Gaiman, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

Ticket information for the events will eventually be released by the Cultural Enhancement Series at its website.

Kevin Willis

The Carol Martin Gatton Academy of Math and Science at WKU is preparing to undergo a transformation that will sharply increase its population.

The academy has been given a financial gift from businessman Bill Gatton to expand the residence hall that houses the academy’s students. The renovation is needed because the academy is expanding its class size from 120 to 200 students this fall.

The academy is home to some of the top high school juniors and seniors in the state who take college courses for two years at WKU, and has been repeatedly ranked as the top high school in the nation.

Speaking at a ceremony Wednesday at WKU announcing the gift from Gatton, Governor Steve Beshear said the academy is a point of pride for the state.

“The Gatton Academy is a shining example of how our educators are preparing the next generation of highly-trained graduates. I’m proud that my last budget will allow another 80 students the opportunity to study in the nation’s best high school.”

Ft. Knox is the first military post in the nation with the potential to supply 100-percent of the energy needed to run its operations.

At a ceremony Wednesday, officials demonstrated the results of the post’s Energy Security Project, which converts natural gas beneath the installation into electricity. The post uses a micro-grid to control a group of sub-stations and generators.

“We can power the entire installation independent of the outside utilities,” said Ft. Knox Energy Manager R.J Dyrdek. We make our own water here, and we have our own sewer plants. So with electricity, natural gas, water, and sewer—we were basically able to come off the grid.”

The energy project allows Fort Knox to switch back-and-forth from its own power supply to nearby utility companies, depending on factors such as the cost of electricity.

The project also ensures Fort Knox won’t be affected by power outages that impact the region. The effort was conceived in 2009 when an ice storm left the post and much of the surrounding area without power.

WKU

WKU President Gary Ransdell is expecting a list of recommendations from the school’s divisional leaders over how to reallocate $7.7 million.

The moves are needed for the school to pay its fixed costs and balance its budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. In an email to faculty and staff Monday, Ransdell said declining state funding for higher education and a drop in enrollment have forced the school to act.

Ransdell said WKU was facing increased expenditures of $9.6 million related employee benefits, contractual obligations, and maintenance for new and expanded facilities. While a 3 percent tuition increase will create $4.3 million for the school, the actual benefit is only $1.9 million when enrollment decreases are factored in.

Speaking to WKU Public Radio Tuesday, President Ransdell says the school’s vice-presidents have been given the ability to decide how to best handle the changes.

“I would say within the next month, all of those decisions will have been made about how each division will address its required reallocation.

National Corvette Museum

A ten-county region in southern Kentucky is seeing the biggest increase in tourism revenue in the state.

The region including Warren, Barren, Simpson, and Logan counties experienced a 6.7 percent jump in tourism and travel spending in 2014 versus the year before. A report from the Kentucky Tourism, Arts, and Heritage Cabinet says the state saw a 4.4 percent increase in tourism dollars last year. 

Telia Butler, with the Bowling Green Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, says record-setting attendance at the National Corvette Museum was one reason why the southern Kentucky region saw its gains.

“We definitely can thank the sinkhole that happened in February of last year. They made lemonade out of lemons out of what could have been a very negative thing over what happened over there,” Butler said, referring to the sinkhole that opened up beneath the Corvette Museum’s skydome, swallowing up several vintage vehicles.

Far from driving visitors away from the museum, the massive publicity created by the story drew visitors from around the world to the Bowling Green attraction.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Dave Connor

Officials with the Kentucky State Police have no plans at this time to purchase body cameras for their troopers.

The issue of equipping law enforcement officers with body cameras has gained increased national attention following several high-profile deaths of unarmed African-Americans during encounters with police. KSP spokesman Paul Blanton says troopers were asked about the possibility of using body cameras after some field-tested the technology about three years ago.

“We had the troopers fill out a questionnaire to see if it was something that would assist them in doing their job, however that project has not moved forward into a next step.”

Blanton says while troopers largely responded favorably to using body cameras, the biggest concerns related to the technology are the costs, and how to store the large amount of video that would be recorded.

While state police aren’t equipped with body cameras, Blanton points out that about one-third of the agency’s troopers have cruisers with dash-mounted cameras that begin to record whenever the vehicle’s sirens are turned on. Those same troopers also wear body microphones that record audio of any encounters that take place after the cruiser’s sirens are engaged.

Kevin Willis

It’s the time of year when animal shelters across the state become inundated with kittens.

Margie Patton, with the Barren River Animal Welfare Association in Glasgow, says many in the shelter community come to dread the spring and summer months because of the number of cats that are dropped off.

She says it’s a problem that could be largely solved by increased spaying and neutering.

“Most people don’t realize that female cats can get pregnant when they’re four or five months old, and so often people come in and they’ve had this surprise litter,” Patton says. “So we’re trying to encourage people to spay or neuter their cats before they’re four months of age.”

According to Patton, BRAWA has made solid gains in recent years in the number of dogs it’s been able to match with new owners. But the ability of cats to procreate at such a prolific level makes it nearly impossible for the shelter to handle the number of felines that are dropped off.

“They can have three litters a year, four litters a year. The females will stay in heat and just keep having kittens. We’ve had some who were in here to get spayed, who had eight-week old kittens, and they were already pregnant again.”

Patton says many kind-hearted people feed stray cats in their communities. She suggest bringing those strays to the shelter to be spayed or neutered is an even better idea, because it’s much easier to find a home for one cat, as opposed to a litter of kittens.

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