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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Kevin Willis

A group of WKU students is spending the next two weeks in the Great Plains tracking severe storms and dangerous weather patterns.

WKU Meteorology Professor Josh Durkee is taking eight students to a part of the country that is often hit by tornados and other storms this time of the year. He says the class is an opportunity for participants to collect and analyze weather data that are used to predict where storms will next appear.

“The most common phrase I hear students say is, ‘I learned more in two weeks that I have in two years.’ That’s because it takes a lot of the stuff we have been learning about in the classroom and they get to see it in real-time, and they get to put their hands on it.”

Durkee says the students taking his annual Field Methods in Weather Analysis and Forecasting course are never in danger and stay at least five miles away from the storms they are tracking. The class travels throughout the Midwest and Great Plains regions to learn more about how to predict how and when severe weather will impact the area.

Metcalfe County native and graduating senior Tori Hampton has been looking forward to taking the class for years. She says experiencing a tornado at the age of five fueled a passion to learn more about storms.

The head of Kentucky’s Department of Veterans Affairs is hoping to hear soon on whether Bowling Green will be the site of a 90-bed long-term care facility for veterans.

Commissioner Heather French Henry says the state has submitted to the federal government a needs assessment for veterans in the southern Kentucky region.

Speaking after an address to the Bowling Green Noon Rotary Club Wednesday, Henry said  if the federal VA  gives its approval, she would then lobby state lawmakers to support the project in the next two-year budget.

“There is a grant matching fund process that takes place, so if they see the need and they give us a favorable outcome to the needs assessment that we’ve given, we’ll go to our state legislature and we will try to get the match for the money we’ve asked for.

Commissioner Henry says she’s hopeful the state will get the go-ahead soon.

“I have not gotten an official response, though they have called several times and we’ve been able to answer any questions they have. So hopefully, to me, that shows they have interest.”

Office of the Attorney General

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway is suing Marathon Petroleum in federal court for allegedly inflating gas prices in parts of the state.

Conway accuses the company of engaging in anti-competitive practices that have led to higher gas prices in parts of the state. The suit alleges that Marathon’s acquisition of Ashland Oil in 1998 allowed the company to keep gas prices 12 to 20 cents per gallon higher on average, with the Louisville and northern Kentucky regions impacted the most.

According to Conway, per-gallon prices in Louisville are 20 to 30 cents higher than the rest of the commonwealth.

The Kentucky Attorney General in 2011 took the company to court for allegedly illegally inflating wholesale prices following flooding in parts of the state.

The company denied the charges and said its prices were based solely on market conditions.

Conway is a Democratic candidate for Kentucky governor, and is considered the heavy favorite to win his party's nomination next week.

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.

Youtube

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.

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