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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Arts & Culture
3:47 pm
Wed March 19, 2014

Bluegrass Musician Buried in Unmarked Somerset Grave to Get Proper Marker, Ceremony

Leonard Rutherford (left) and Dick Burnett. It was recently discovered that Rutherford was buried in an unmarked cemetery in Somerset.
Credit Kentucky Explorer

A bluegrass musician buried in an unmarked grave in Somerset is going to receive a proper grave marker this weekend.

Leonard Rutherford was a popular bluegrass artist in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, and performed as part of the Burnett-Rutherford Duo.

But Rutherford fell on hard times and was found dead along a Somerset road in 1951 at the age of 53.

Somerset Cemetery manager Tricia Neal says Rutherford's grave site was only recently identified when a local historian began asking about the long-forgotten musician.

"I started looking and I couldn't find him anywhere,” Neal told WKU Public Radio. “And I ended up just finding a penciled-in name on the back of an old index card. It had a note where he had been buried in this grave, and I went out to the cemetery and found it."

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Education
9:43 am
Wed March 19, 2014

Rupp Arena Beckons for Students at Schools Competing in Sweet 16

The Kentucky Boys Sweet 16 champion will crowned Sunday afternoon in Lexington.
Credit KHSAA

Attendance at some schools in our listening area could be light today and tomorrow--but not because of weather.

The Kentucky Boys Sweet 16 basketball tournament gets underway Wednesday in Lexington, and many students from participating schools will be at Rupp Arena, as opposed to the classroom.

Bowling Green High School plays its first round game tomorrow afternoon against Knott County Central. Bowling Green High Principal Gary Fields says his school system understands that attending the tournament is a great experience for students.

"We didn't want to dismiss school, so what we're doing is if a student buys a ticket and travels with their parents or family friends, then they are excused from school that day. It is an absence. We're required to count them absent, but it's an excused absence," Fields told WKU Public Radio.

Fields says calling off school wasn't an option, especially since Bowling Green has missed five days already due to winter weather. Several county school systems in our region have missed a dozen or more days.

Other schools in our listening area competing in the Sweet 16 are Bardstown, Hopkinsville, Owensboro, and Wayne County.

Sports
1:34 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

Bowling Green, Owensboro, Bardstown Among Schools Competing for Sweet 16 Title

Lexington's Rupp Arena is the site for the 2014 Kentucky Boys Sweet 16 basketball tournament.
Credit UK Athletics

March Madness isn’t just for the collegiate basketball ranks.

One week after Kentucky crowned a girls’ champion, the state’s best boys’ teams are set to open their Sweet 16 tournament Wednesday at Lexington’s Rupp Arena.

Here is a schedule of the tournament's first-round games, with all times eastern:

Wednesday

South Oldam vs. Hopkinsville  12:00 pm

Trinity vs. Owensboro  1:30 pm

Scott County vs. Fleming County  6:30 pm

Campbell County vs. Johnson Central  8:00 pm

Thursday

McCracken County vs. Wayne County  12:00 pm

Knott County Central vs. Bowling Green  1:30 pm

Bardstown vs. Pleasure Ridge Park  6:30 pm

Clay County vs. Covington Catholic 8:00 pm

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Health
2:14 pm
Thu March 13, 2014

With Deadline Approaching, Nearly 300,000 Kentuckians Have Signed Up for Health Insurance

The deadline to sign up for insurance through the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange, and avoid a 2015 tax penalty, is March 31.

The vast majority of Kentucky's health benefit exchange enrollees are signing up for coverage under Medicaid.

Numbers released Thursday by the state show 80 percent of those who have signed up for medical coverage through Kentucky's benefit exchange have done so through the expanded Medicaid program. The remaining 20 percent will get coverage through private insurance companies.

Kentucky has enrolled nearly 300,000 people so far in its health exchange, known as Kynect. Deputy Executive Director Bill Nold says officials are pleased with the number of young Kentuckians who have signed up through the exchange.

"If you look at our total enrollment, about 48 percent are under the age of 35," Nold said.

Health exchange operators throughout the nation have been concerned that not enough younger, healthier people would sign up for coverage before the March 31 deadline.

Those younger customers are needed to subsidize health care for older and less healthy individuals.

Sign Up Saturday

To avoid a tax penalty in 2015, people must have signed up for insurance by the end of March, or at least be insured for nine months of the year.

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Education
3:38 pm
Wed March 12, 2014

Southern Kentucky Superintendent Open to Idea of Year-Round School

North Jackson Elementary is one of the Barren County schools that has missed 16 days due to winter weather.
Credit Barren County Schools

The superintendent of Barren County Schools says he would be willing to consider the idea of year-round school.

The concept has come up recently following several episodes of harsh winter weather that led many school systems to cancel classes over a dozen times.

Barren County Superintendent Bo Matthews says it might be a good idea to think about officially shortening the summer break, since it is often gets impacted by make-up days caused by bad weather.

"The summer break, if you will, continues to get smaller if you look at school calendars around the state,” Matthews told WKU Public Radio. “So, in some respects, it wouldn't be a stretch to see us begin to creep further into the month of June."

Barren County has missed 16 days this school year due to bad winter weather. Lawrence County has missed 32.

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Politics
10:00 am
Wed March 12, 2014

Bill Regulating Use of Drones by Police Languishing in Kentucky General Assembly

House Bill 342 would require police in Kentucky to first get a warrant before using drones to gather evidence on suspects.

A bill that seeks to define how drones could be used by Kentucky law enforcement groups has yet to get a hearing in the General Assembly. 

Under the measure, police would have to secure a warrant before using a drone to gather evidence against an individual.

Kentucky ACLU program director Kate Miller says it’s important to note that House Bill 342 does not ban all uses of drones by law enforcement groups.

“There was recently a train derailment in Louisville. If they wanted to take images of that in order to help out with the cleanup, they would be allowed to use a drone for that," Miller told WKU Public Radio. "But if they think I’m a suspicious character and want to check out what I’m doing, they’re going to need a warrant for that.”

Miller says the bill would continue to allow police to use drones to search for missing persons without getting a warrant.

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Regional
11:31 am
Tue March 11, 2014

Proposed Trail Would Begin in Audubon State Park, Connect with Breckinridge County

Owensboro's Adkisson Greenbelt Park
Credit City of Owensboro

Daviess County Judge-Executive Al Mattingly on proposed trail

Leaders in five Kentucky counties are gauging public support for an 80 mile trail that could be used for hiking, biking, and horseback riding.

The proposed trail would begin in Audobon State Park in Henderson County, and run through Daviess, Ohio, and Grayson counties before ending at Rough River Dam State Resort Park in Breckinridge County.

Daviess County Judge-Executive Al Mattingly told WKU Public Radio that local leaders are taking the idea to the public.

"All the county judges and mayors are going back to their communities to set up meetings where they can gauge the support in their communities,” Mattingly said. “We've kinda formed a loose coalition of the counties involved, so that we can apply for a federal grant."

Mattingly says the federal grant would fund a study that would look at the direction the trail would follow.

The Daviess County Judge-Executive cautions that it would take decades to plan and create an 80 mile trail. Mattingly says it took 25 years to finish the 15 mile greenbelt that rings Owensboro.

Politics
9:32 pm
Sat March 1, 2014

At Lincoln-Reagan Day Dinner in Bowling Green, Republicans Claim No Worries Over Senate Primary

Senator Mitch McConnell speaks at the Lincoln Reagan Dinner at the Carol Knicely Center at WKU on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Abbey Oldham WKU Public Radio

If Kentucky Republicans are sweating their party's U.S. Senate primary, they didn't show it Saturday night in Bowling Green.

At the 2014 Lincoln-Reagan Day Dinner, southern Kentucky Republicans rallied behind U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is facing a primary challenge by Tea Party activist Matt Bevin.

Second District Congressman Brett Guthrie told WKU Public Radio he believes the GOP will be able to unite before the November general election. The Warren County Republican said it’s not the first time a well-known incumbent has faced a primary.

“Hopefully what you can do is that people can come back together," Guthrie said. "And that’s what you hope will happen—people will air out their views. You know, primaries can be tricky, there’s absolutely no doubt about it, because somebody’s going to win, and somebody’s not going to win.”

Senator McConnell took the stage Saturday night and told the audience that he believes he’ll return to Washington next year as Senate Majority Leader. Republicans need to pick up six Senate seats to control the chamber.

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Regional
3:34 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

Three Corvettes Could Be Out of Bowling Green Sinkhole by Wednesday

The sinkhole opened up at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green on Feb. 12.
Credit Abbey Oldham

Engineers expect to start pulling out Corvettes from a Bowling Green sinkhole next week.

Eight vintage versions of the car fell into the sinkhole that opened up two weeks ago beneath the National Corvette Museum. The construction company Scott, Murphy, and Daniel says the removal of the first three cars could begin next Monday, with the hopes of having those vehicles out of the sinkhole by Wednesday.

The construction team has been told it can bring excavation equipment into the Skydome area of the museum where the sinkhole opened up.

Workers will be allowed to set up cranes that will suspend engineers and contractors into the hole so that they can better examine the condition of the sinkhole and create a recovery plan.

The company estimates the crane will be in place by Saturday.

Politics
2:28 pm
Tue February 18, 2014

Former Kentucky Pension Trustee Sounding Alarm on Funding Shortfalls Facing KERS, KTRS

The cover of Chris Tobe's book, Kentucky Fried Pensions

Chris Tobe's interview with WKU Public Radio about the harsh reality facing Kentucky's pension programs

Chris Tobe is a man who is currently playing the role of “bearer of bad news.”

He worked as a trustee with the Kentucky Retirement Systems from 2008 to 2012, where he got an up-close-and-personal look at how the state’s pension systems were being underfunded. Tobe is also the author of the book Kentucky Fried Pensions, and he makes presentations around the state detailing the crisis facing the commonwealth’s pension programs.

While Gov. Steve Beshear and state lawmakers from both parties have hailed pension reform efforts passed in 2013, Tobe says it’s a drop in the bucket compared to what is needed to fix the underfunding issue.

Compared to the rest of the nation, Tobe believes “Kentucky is probably second worst to Illinois” when it comes to the health of its public pension programs.

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