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

WKU

Plans for a sports medicine complex at Western Kentucky University have been scrapped, at least for now. 

After issuing a request for proposals in September, WKU has determined that no proposal met all the requirements of the RFP.  Therefore, and the university was unable to award a contract and is closing the current RFP process.

WKU agreed to bid the project after Western Kentucky Orthopaedic and Neurosurgical Associates filed a formal protest against the way the university created the 99 year, $22 million deal with the Bowling Green Medical Center.  WKONA's protest claimed the deal was done in secret, without a competitive process.

WKU issued an RFP for a medical provider to construct the complex, lease the campus health clinic, and provide orthopaedic services to student athletes.  With the bidding process closed, the university plans to pursue other options to build a sports medicine facility through private support or other means.

Lisa Autry

The trial of a Scottsville man charged in the brutal murder of a young girl is still more than a year away. 

Timothy Madden returned to court Friday afternoon for a pre-trial hearing.  Allen Circuit Judge Janet Crocker set a March 31 deadline for attorneys to request a change of venue.  After the hearing, Madden's attorney Travis Lock said he would ask for the trial to be moved to another county.

"Can Tim Madden get a fair trial in Allen County, Kentucky?  I think that's very questionable," Lock stated.  "I think it's going to be tough to impanel a jury in any contiguous county.  I'm not sure where this case should be tried.  I'm sure that's something the court will address in due time."

Madden is facing the death penalty for allegedly kidnapping, raping, sodomizing, and murdering seven-year-old Gabbi Doolin last November. 

The case will not be ready for trial until late next year.  Judge Crocker said she would not set the trial date near the anniversary of Doolin’s death or the holidays.  Therefore, the death penalty case is expected to be tried in January 2018.

A former Franklin doctor whose prescribing practices resulted in patient deaths will have to wait a while longer to learn his punishment. 

Roy Reynolds returned to federal court in Bowling Green Wednesday for sentencing after pleading guilty earlier this year to illegally prescribing pain and anti-anxiety medicine. 

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Kentucky, two patients under Reynolds’ care died from drug overdoses.  One was a 46-year-old man with a history of illegal drug use and psychiatric issues.  Two days prior to his death, Dr. Reynolds prescribed him 180 Oxycodone pills and 90 Xanax tablets. 

Dr. Reynolds is also accused in the death of a 41-year-old man with a history of doctor shopping and drug and alcohol abuse.  An autopsy of his body showed Hydrocodone at 30 times the therapeutic concentration.

Vickie Carson, Mammoth Cave National Park

The ongoing deterioration of a dam on the Green River in south central Kentucky is creating potential safety hazards.  A hole in the foundation of the dam has lowered water levels and resulted in swift currents.  The Corps of Engineers is advising boaters to avoid the upstream side of the dam. 

The river runs 26 miles through Mammoth Cave National Park.

"The river is really dynamic on a good day, a normal day, so after this, we're waiting to see how it reacts to this new level, said Vickie Carson, public information officer at Mammoth Cave National Park.

Access to the Green River at Houchin Ferry is closed due to the sudden drop in water levels following the breach.  Levels have dropped by as much as nine feet in some areas.  The park will re-assess river access at Houchin Ferry in the coming months.  The campground and picnic area will remain open.

Officials says while the collapse of the dam is possible, it would not be severe enough to cause any damage.

Kentucky’s troubled pension systems continue their downward slide. Plans covering teachers and state employees lost $1.8 billion this year, bringing the total unfunded liability to more than $32 billion.

David Eager, interim executive director of KRS, addressed the Public Pension Oversight Board this week.  Co-Chairman Joe Bowen, a state senator from Owensboro, says the news isn’t all bad.

"What folks need to understand is that we have seven retirement systems that are publicly funded, and there's actually only one that you would consider to be in dire straits," Bowen told WKU Public Radio.

That pension plan is the Kentucky Employees Retirement System, or KERS, which has only 16 percent of the funds needed to pay the benefits of future retirees. That makes it among the worst-funded public pension plans in the country.

Other retirement plans covering teachers, judges, and lawmakers are in much better shape.

U.S. Postal Service

The building that houses the post office in downtown Bowling Green is for sale, which puts future operations at the facility in question. 

Postal Service Spokeswoman Susan Wright tells WKU Public Radio that no decisions have been made about how the move will affect service in the city.

"The postal service has a track record of transparency in any of our retail operations, and it would be premature to provide information about any real estate transaction before it's final," says Wright.

Wright adds that any changes to retail operations would be decided following public input. 

The postal service has operated out of the downtown location since 1972.  Bowling Green has one other mail-processing facility on Scottsville Road.

Western Kentucky University is seeking a declaratory judgment against the Kentucky Retirement System.  The feud relates to the pension benefits of former buildings and grounds workers.

In a budget-cutting move, WKU privatized all facilities and grounds services in August.  The school out-sourced 202 positions in a contract with Sodexo. 

After becoming Sodexo employees they were told by KRS that they would not be allowed to withdraw or roll over employee contributions the individuals made to the pension system while they were employed by WKU. 

The Kentucky Retirement System, which administers the Kentucky Employees Retirement System, views Sodexo employees as “common law employees of WKU” and should not be allowed to access the funds they contributed to the retirement system individually.  KRS also stated that WKU would be expected to pay pension contributions for Sodexo employees and those workers would also have to continue to pay the applicable employee contributions to KERS, despite their employment with Sodexo.

Lisa Autry

As Western Kentucky University President Gary Ransdell prepares to retire next year, the hunt for his replacement remains on schedule. 

The presidential search committee met today in closed session.  Some faculty and staff have raised concerns about the transparency of the process.  They want to know who the finalists are and be allowed to comment on the final choice.  Search Committee Chairman Phillip Bale says it’s important for the names of candidates to remain confidential.

"That being said, if we have three or four finalists that want to come to campus and it doesn't injure their career or the institutions where they may be at now, we're fine with that too, but at this point we simply don't know," Bale told WKU Public Radio.

Dr. Bale says the search has yielded “an outstanding pool of applicants.”  About 40 people have applied or been nominated for the position. 

Candidate interviews will start next month.  The university’s 10th president will be named by March 1.

Kentucky Division of Forestry

Dry conditions and unseasonably warm temperatures have caused a rash of wildfires across Kentucky. Nearly 30,000 acres of forest and grassland have burned in the eastern half of the state.

After an extremely dry September and October, a level one drought has been declared for 117 of Kentucky’s 120 counties.

"We're at a time of year where, generally, we're not as vulnerable to drought because the demand for water decreases as we get into the cool season of the year," State Climatologist Stuart Foster told WKU Public Radio.  "Nonetheless, there's a possibility that this could extend through the winter months."

More than 60 counties have issued burn bans as a result of the wildfires and drought conditions. Relief is nowhere in sight in the seven-day forecast.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Erin Pettigrew

A recanvass of votes has not changed the outcome of a district judge race in Barren and Metcalfe counties. 

Gabe Pendleton will remain in the judgeship after narrowly defeating Kathryn Thomas in Tuesday’s election.  Thomas requested a recanvass after losing to Pendleton by 36 votes.

The clerks' offices in Barren and Metcalfe counties conducted the recanvass Thursday morning and reported no change in vote totals.

In March, Pendleton was appointed by Governor Matt Bevin to serve as the 43rd District judge until the election.  Based on the outcome, Pendleton will finish  former District Judge John Alexander's four-year term that began in January 2015.  Outgoing Governor Steve Beshear appointed Alexander as a circuit judge last December after Judge Phil Patton retired.

WKU Social Science Research Center

A survey from Western Kentucky University finds Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump with widespread support in the Bluegrass state.  Trump leads Democratic Nominee Hillary Clinton by 17 points. 

Dr. Joel Turner, director of the Social Science Research Center at WKU which conducted the poll, says Trump leads among Kentucky’s female voters, despite several controversies over the candidate’s treatment of women.

"In this race, we're re-writing the rules of political science on a daily basis, if not an hourly basis," Turner told WKU Public Radio.  "If this is a trend that she's not going to do well with women nationwide, it's going to be really difficult for her. However, I think this is probably Kentucky conservatism more than anything else and I don't expect her to struggle nationwide with female voters."

The same poll gives Senator Rand Paul a 16-point advantage over his Democratic rival, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray. 

The poll was taken October 25-30 and questioned 602 likely voters.  It has a margin of error of plus or minus four percent.

Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services

Kentuckians wanting to buy health insurance on the federal exchange will have fewer options and higher costs.

Starting Tuesday, enrollees will apply for coverage at www.healthcare.gov instead of the state-based exchange known as Kynect.  Anthem will be the only insurance provider, and the company will offer customers four plans.

Tonya Wooton works for Community Action of Southern Kentucky, and helps enrollees navigate the online application process. She says while premium increases are expected, they should be offset by subsidies.

"People also need to understand that if premiums increase and you're getting payment assistance, then you're payment assistance is also going to increase, so you may not feel it as much as you think you will," Wooton told WKU Public Radio.

Discounts and payment assistance are based on income.

Republican Governor Matt Bevin’s administration says the Affordable Care Act has caused insurers to pull out of exchange markets across the country, with those that stayed offering higher rates.

Open enrollment on the federal exchange is November 1-January 31, 2017.  Consumers must enroll in a plan by December 15 if they want coverage to begin January 1.

A southern Indiana community is experiencing a large jump in the number of fatal heroin overdoses. 

Vanderburgh County is reporting 22 deaths this year—that’s triple the number from 2015.  The victims’ ages have ranged from the early 20s to late 50s. 

Chief Deputy Coroner Steve Lockyear says more people in the Evansville region are now dying from heroin overdoses than from prescription drugs.

"I think everybody is shocked that heroin has made such a large presence in this area," Lockyear told WKU Public Radio.  "I think they've thought it to be a drug from the alleys of New York City or Chicago and not something that would strike middle America, but it has definitely come here and come here in a big way."

Many of the people who have died this year from heroin overdoses also had Fentanyl in their system.  Fentanyl is another powerful opioid often added to heroin to increase its potency.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Erin Pettigrew

Workers with Kentucky’s largest employer are being told to dress a little more appropriately. 

A new dress code for executive branch workers that went into effect this month bans flip flops, midriff shirts, large commercial logos, and offensive language. 

David Smith, executive director of the Kentucky Association of State Employees, says he supports the dress code if applied for the right reasons.

"Other the other had though, it could be they don't like the fact you bought that shirt because that brand is sold at Wal-Mart. You could potentially, as an employee, be disciplined up to and including termination, depending upon their interpretation of the policy and the severity of the violation of the policy," Smith told WKU Public Radio.  "That gives us grave concern."

The new policy that took effect this month applies to about 31,000 executive branch workers, but they may not all be affected the same.  The Personnel and Labor Cabinets have implemented more stringent dress code policies.

Lisa Autry

October is Farm to School Month in Kentucky and the state agriculture department is hoping to expand the number of schools using locally produced foods. 

Seventy-seven school districts already have programs in place to buy local foods.  Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles says local chefs play an important role too.

"These chefs help train food preparers to go buy food from farmers' markets or farmers," Quarles told WKU Public Radio.  "They learn how to properly store it and manage it , and also, it makes their recipes a little more enjoyable."

A grant program allows the agriculture department to contract with nine chefs and each one is assigned to a region of the state.  The goal is to bring fresh, healthy foods to school cafeterias while opening up new markets for farmers.

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