Lisa Autry

Reporter/Producer

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum.  She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years.  Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville.  She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky.  Many of her stories have been heard on NPR. 

Ways to Connect

Flickr/Creative Commons/Doug Kerr

Owensboro is joining the federal interstate system.  The Natcher Parkway will become an interstate spur connecting Owensboro to I-65 in Bowling Green. 

Mayor Ron Payne says the designation has been years in the making and will be a major boost to tourism.

"We have an international bluegrass music center and museum that's under construction, and with our riverfront and all the conventions we're having, I think to finally get Owensboro on that interstate map is really going to be a boost to economic development here," Payne told WKU Public Radio.

Governor Matt Bevin will make the official announcement Friday afternoon at the Owensboro Riverport Authority.  Signage will be unveiled designating the Natcher Parkway as a future interstate spur connector. Bevin is expected to offer more details in the news conference, including a start and end date for the project.

The state budget includes $66 million in construction funds for Daviess, Ohio, Butler, and Warren Counties for upgrading the Natcher Parkway to interstate standards.

Bowling Green and Warren County are joining a growing list of communities establishing needle exchange programs. 

In 2015, the Kentucky General Assembly approved a measure allowing local governments to set up the exchanges in response to the state’s heroin epidemic.  The aim is to prevent the spread of disease such as HIV and Hepatitis. 

The Barren River District Health Department serves an eight-county region including Barren, Butler, Edmonson, Hart, Logan, Metcalfe, Simpson, and Warren Counties.  From January 2014 to April of this year, the region saw more than 600 cases of Hepatitis-C. 

Warren County's needle exchange, which begins Thursday, will allow any drug user to come to the health department and anonymously swap dirty needles for clean ones. 

In this interview, Lisa Autry spoke with Dennis Chaney, director of the Barren River District Health Department.

Flickr/Creative Commons/TaxCredits.net

Kentucky’s leaders are grappling with how to get more of the state’s residents into the labor force. 

In 2015, the commonwealth ranked 46th in the nation for its workforce participation rate, according to Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet Secretary Hal Heiner.  The rate is determined by the number of adults between the ages of 21 and 65 who are able to work.

Kentucky Labor Secretary Derrick Ramsey says employers are frustrated that too many prospective workers can’t pass drug tests.

"Of the worst 220 counties in America, 54 of those counties are here in the state of Kentucky, where the drug scourge and epidemic is just sucking the life out of us, if you would," Ramsey told WKU Public Radio.

Kentucky has about 130,000 able-bodied residents who choose not to work.

WKU Public Affairs

Western Kentucky University is entering into a long-term partnership with the Medical Center at Bowling Green. 

The WKU Board of Regents met in special session on Friday and approved a new $22 million sports medicine complex on campus that will be constructed and paid for by the hospital. 

The new facility will provide space for WKU’s Department of Physical Therapy and the Med Center Health’s new Orthopaedic/Sports Medicine/Rehabilitation group.  WKU President Gary Ransdell says the complex will benefit the school in many ways.

"Let's start with the $22 million investment on campus, major enhancements to our Doctorate of Physical Therapy program to pick them in concert with a sports medicine and orthopaedic group, and a partnership with an exceedingly strong health care provider in our community," Ransdell told WKU Public Radio.

The 57,000-square-foot complex will also include an indoor multi-purpose facility.  It will be located between the football practice field and the baseball field on Avenue of Champions.

Med Center Health will become the official health care partner of WKU will eventually operate the campus health services center that is currently run by the Graves-Gilbert Clinic.

Clinton Lewis/WKU

The president of Western Kentucky University is pledging to move full steam ahead for the remaining ten months of his tenure.  Gary Ransdell spoke of his upcoming retirement during his annual opening convocation to faculty and staff Friday.

"I have every intention of presenting my successor with an institution which has a stable enrollment, high academic quality, a rebuilt campus, and a campus ready to launch its next capital campaign."

Ransdell said much of his remaining time will be spent on helping shape a performance-based funding model for higher education in Kentucky. 

Ransdell will also continue his efforts to bring a University of Kentucky Medical School to Bowling Green as part of WKU’s partnership with UK and the Medical Center at Bowling Green. President Ransdell will also oversee an upgrade of residence halls and a new dining contract that would include renovation of the Garrett Conference Center. 

He retires June 30 of next year after two decades of leading WKU.  A national search is underway for the university's next president. 

TaxCredits.net

Kentucky’s unemployment rate is now at the lowest point in 15 years.  Figures released Thursday by the state show that the July unemployment rate was 4.9 percent, the lowest in Kentucky since May 2001. 

The state is now on par with the national average which also posted a 4.9 percent jobless rate last month.  Manoj Shanker, an economist at the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training, says Kentucky is at nearly full employment.

"When the unemployment rate is 4.9 percent, that means that anybody who really wants a job has a job," Shanker told WKU Public Radio.

On the flip side, the low jobless rate can present a challenge for employers, making it difficult for them to find workers without raising wages or bringing them in from other states. 

Kentucky’s strongest job sector continues to be manufacturing followed by the financial activities sector.  The retail trade, construction and government sector all reported losses last month.

City of Bowling Green

A former Bowling Green firefighter is seeking compensatory damages in a federal lawsuit against the fire department and city. 

Jeffrey Queen claims he endured a hostile work environment based on his sex and religion.  His attorney is Michele Henry of Louisville. She says during his five years at the department, Queen also overheard derogatory comments towards Muslims and African-Americans.

"He was greatly disturbed by that, and tried to complain on a number of occasions and was never able to resolve the situation," Henry told WKU Public Radio.  "The fire department never took those complaints seriously, never investigated them, or took any action to resolve this problem."

The city has acknowledged that one firefighter was placed on administrative leave for burning a copy of the Quran.  He retired before receiving any further discipline. 

Warren County Regional Jail

A Bowling Green man who admits to trying to kill his father during a Sunday church service was in court Monday.

Warren Circuit Judge Sam Potter set Ethan Buckley’s bond at $500,000 and appointed him a public defender.  He is due in court again Friday for a preliminary hearing. 

According to the arrest citation, the 21-year-old Buckely said he felt “moved by the message” at Hillvue Heights Church before he stabbed 40-year-old David Buckley several times in the neck with a pocket knife.  He told police his intention was to kill his father and that he tried to cut his jugular vein so the death would be painless. 

David Buckley is in The Medical Center at Bowling Green, but his condition is unknown.  Ethan Buckley remains in the Warren County Regional Jail charged with First-Degree Assault-Domestic Violence.  The felony charge carries a possible ten to 20-year prison term if convicted.

Warren County Regional Jail

A Bowling Green teenager is charged in the shooting of another teen at a city park. 

Police were called to Kereiakes Park around 3:00 a.m. Tuesday morning where officers found 19-year-old Mason South with a gunshot wound to the head.  South is being treated at the Medical Center in Bowling Green. 

Eighteen-year-old Cameron Buckner was arrested and charged with assault.  BGPD Officer Ronnie Ward says Buckner confessed to shooting South following an argument and physical altercation. 

"He pretty much told the story about the fight and him going to his backpack and pulling the gun out," explained Ward.  "He said he fired a shot in the air to try to scare them and there were some more words exchanged, and he said he pointed the gun at the person and pulled the trigger."         

The Daily News reports Buckner is a former football player at South Warren High School and had signed to play for Kentucky Wesleyan College in Owensboro this fall.  He is now in the Warren County Regional Jail.

The first commercial flight out of Bowling Green in 44 years will take off later this month. 

Contour Airlines announced Thursday that the inaugural flight will be August 29 to Atlanta.  September 1 will mark the first flight to Destin. 

Once tickets went on sale, the first customer to book a trip was the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce. 

"It's an economic development trip, said Chamber CEO Ron Bunch.  "We'll probably take some of our local elected officials here with our economic development staff from the Chamber, build on some of the relationships were already have, but demonstrate to them too that now there's a direct flight connecting the two that makes their life even easier when we show clients our great community."

Contour will offer flights to Atlanta seven days a week and to Destin two days a week.  The airline is offering introductory ticket prices of $59 each way to both destinations. 

A temporary terminal building is being constructed at the airport to accommodate passengers that will include a security and waiting area.

Lisa Autry

U.S. Senator Rand Paul says a more hybrid approach is needed in providing health care to the nation’s veterans.  He told a veterans group in Bowling Green on Wednesday that they should be able to get more care locally. 

Speaking at the Joint Executive Committee of Veterans Organizations meeting, Senator Paul said the nation can’t keep building billion-dollar VA hospitals and that much of the care veterans receive could come from their local doctors.

"I think if you have a war-related injury like an amputation, a gunshot, a burn, post-traumatic stress, I think the VA hospital should specialize in those things," Paul said.  "If you need routine care, and the military has promised to give it to you, maybe we should do it locally and it might be less expensive and more convenient for the veteran."

Senator Paul has said the quality of care at VA hospitals is good, but their distribution of health care is bad.  He said treatment is often rationed through long waiting lists under the single-payer military health insurance system. 

Kentucky Department of Education

As a new school year approaches, Kentucky drivers will soon see reminders across the state to watch out for stopped school buses. 

Billboards are going up in cities across the state warning of the danger in passing school buses that are stopped to load or unload students.  The billboards feature an extended stop sign arm on the side of a school bus with the words “It’s not just a stop sign.  It’s a child’s life.” 

“It is paramount that our children arrive at school and back home safely each day,” said Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt. “While stopping for a school bus might be a minor inconvenience for drivers, it could be a matter of life or death for a child."

Most school bus-related fatalities occur when a child is hit by a passing vehicle. It’s illegal in Kentucky to pass a stopped school bus in either direction on a two-lane road if the warning lights are flashing. 

More than 385,000 children in the state ride school buses each day.

Creative Commons

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says a new federal law can begin to turn the tide of drug fatalities in Kentucky and nationwide. 

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, or CARA, sets up a federal grant program to help combat heroin and prescription drug abuse.  The law seeks to improve prevention and treatment resources, and provide more first responders with anti-overdose drugs. 

Flanked by law enforcement in Bowling Green on Wednesday, McConnell said CARA will give local agencies the funds to help addicts while prosecuting drug dealers.

"For the people who are using, it's obviously a sickness and they must be cured," remarked McConnell.  "These guys have a lot of sympathy for those people, but they have no sympathy, I assume, for the people making it possible for this addiction to be fed."

While not every area of Kentucky has a heroin problem, most of the state is experiencing prescription drug abuse, as well as crystal meth and synthetic drugs.  Statewide, more than 1,200 people died last year from drug overdoses.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is hosting a public meeting Thursday on plans to widen a portion of Nashville Road in Warren County.  

The section of highway is from Buchanon Park to the Simpson County line.  Transportation Spokesman Wes Watt says the project will create a continuous alternating passing lane.

"It just means there will be a passing lane in each direction.  They'll just rotate," explains Watt.  "You may have a passing lane for three-fourths of a mile in one direction, a transition, and then the passing lane will switch to the other direction, and then it will rotate back."

The passing lane is needed due to increasing traffic between Bowling Green and Franklin, and a high number commercial trucks and slow-moving farm equipment using the highway. 

The public meeting will be from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at Woodburn Baptist Church. 

There is currently no timeframe for beginning and completing the project.

The Civil War Trust

A non-profit organization is preserving part of Kentucky’s Civil War history.

The 1862 Battle of Perryville was Kentucky’s largest and bloodiest Civil War battle.  The Civil War Trust recently purchased 70 acres of the hallowed ground in Boyle County. 

Meg Martin, Communications Director for The Civil War Trust, says the latest area to be preserved is known as the Western High Water Mark of the Confederacy, which refers to the farthest point reached by Confederate soldiers in the Western Theater during the Civil War.

"An interesting tidbit about this particular parcel is that there are likely still several Union soldiers laid to rest there," Martin told WKU Public Radio.  "Their bodies would not have been moved."

Grants and a national fundraising campaign allowed the Civil War Trust to purchase the 70 acres, bringing the total amount of land preserved at Perryville to 1,027 acres.

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