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. 

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The Kentucky Department of Agriculture is expecting a busier-than-usual mosquito spraying season.

While state officials have reported only a handful of infections, fears of the Zika virus have the department ramping up operations.

Keith Rogers, chief of staff for Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, says the department has enough pesticides to last through the summer.

“We feel like we’ve purchased enough product, and have the resources, to certainly get us through late summer. If we do see an increase need in spring, or an increase in mosquito population, we will have the resources to purchase additional products.”

Rogers says despite budget cuts, the agriculture department will have enough funding for mosquito pesticides even if it has to make reductions in other areas.

The typical spraying season is June through August.

Lisa Autry

The process is moving forward to find the next president for Western Kentucky University.

Consultants with Isaacson, Miller, the firm hired to help in the search, have been on campus this week meeting with university leaders.  They met Friday afternoon with members of the search committee on what qualities they are looking for in the school’s next leader.

The firm will begin submitting names for consideration to the search committee in September.  Members then plan to send three to five finalists to the full board of regents by December 1.  Chairman Phillip Bale says the finalists’ names will not likely be made public.

"If it's someone that says 'Look, if I'm not the person that's selected, I'm going to lose my job, so you either maintain confidentiality or drop me out,' then we're going to maintain confidentiality," Bale told WKU Public Radio.  "Our objective is to find and get the best person we can, and anything that jeopardizes that, we will avoid."

The board is expected to make its presidential selection by March 2017.

Dr. Ransdell’s retirement is effective June 30, 2017. 

Saving Liberty DH4

Next year will mark the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War I.

Friends of Jenny, a group of volunteers in Kentucky and Tennessee, is working to preserve a piece of that history by purchasing the last remaining fuselage of a DeHavilland DH4, known as the Liberty Plane.  The aircraft was the first fighter plane manufactured in the U.S. for the war.

Army veteran and pilot Dorian Walker of Bowling Green says once the fuselage is purchased, the Liberty will be reconstructed and placed back into flying status.

"Four of the eight medals of honor awarded for air service in World War I were awarded to DH4 crews," Walker told WKU Public Radio.  "It's an amazing story and we're trying to remember those folks that we've long since forgotten."

Once restored, the Liberty Plane will be taken on a nationwide tour in 2017 alongside the Jenny, which was the nation’s first military trainer.

A Kickstarter campaign is underway through next Tuesday to raise $60,000.

A Franklin physician has admitted to illegally prescribing pain and anti-anxiety medicine that resulted in two deaths.

Roy Reynolds pleaded guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Bowling Green to charges that he illegally prescribed controlled substances outside the course of professional medical practice and without a legitimate medical purpose. 

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

WKU

Students applying to Western Kentucky University will need a higher score on one of their entrance exams.  

The College Board, the group that administers the SAT, has redesigned the test.  Due to the changes, the new minimum score for acceptance at WKU is a 1020.  The accepted score on the old test was a 940. 

Jace Lux, director of admissions and recruitment at WKU, says the higher score doesn’t mean the test is harder to take.

"I think it's one of those cases where it's not necessarily harder, but just different.  I think it's a response to some of the different methods of teaching that students are experiencing in high schools now and some of the ways they're prepared for college."

The new required score will apply to students who took the SAT after March 1 of this year.  The old score will continue to be accepted if students took the SAT prior to March 1.

A passing SAT score is one of several ways students can be admitted to WKU.  The ACT is the entrance exam most widely used for college admission in Kentucky.

Six months after being elected, a poll gives Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin one of the lowest approval ratings in the country. 

The survey by Morning Consult shows Republican Governor Matt Bevin with a 33 percent approval rating.  Bevin is ranked in the bottom ten among the nation’s governors.  That’s a stark contrast to former Governor Steve Beshear’s approval rating of 57 percent before he left office. 

Job performance ranking vary in surrounding states.  Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam enjoys 63 percent approval among respondents in his state.  Indiana Governor Mike Pence has a 48 percent approval rating among Hoosiers, and 61 percent of Ohio voters approve of the job Governor John Kasich is doing. 

Morning Consult is a non-partisan media and technology company.  Its survey on the job approval of governors was taken between January and early May.

Lisa Autry

A standing-room-only crowd packed into the Bowling Green Schools’ Professional Learning and Development Center on Friday night for a town hall on the proposed resettlement of Syrian refugees.  Heated exchanges between opposing sides last two hours. 

Albert Mbanfu, executive director of the International Center of Kentucky, explained the extensive screening process that takes 18-24 months before refugees are approved for resettlement in the U.S.  

Mbanfu introduced Major General Allen Youngman, a Bowling Green resident and former Adjutant General of Kentucky.  Youngman tried to put to rest fears of terrorism by explaining that the government’s current vetting process did not exist on September 11, 2001, the date of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.  The screening process, he said, has become much more stringent in the past decade.

“I would not have been able to tell you ten years ago that I had a lot of confidence in the system.  We have things in place today that we didn’t have just a few years ago,” Youngman remarked.  “I feel pretty good about it.  Is it foolproof?  No.”

Youngman said anyone wanting to harm the U.S. would likely not go through the refugee resettlement program, but instead through a student or tourist visa.

Lisa Autry

One of the tour guides stranded by flood waters in a south central Kentucky cave says emergency plans already in place paid off  Thursday. 

Gary Russell was a mile deep into Hidden River Cave in Hart County when he saw water pouring through the cave’s passages. 

He and a group of geology students from Clemson University waded through rushing currents to safety after being in the cave for six hours. 

Russell told WKU Public Radio that he doesn’t think the incident could have been avoided.

"We got up that morning and checked the forecast as we always do.  We had a 30 percent chance of rain, so that's normal, and we always go in under that," Russell told WKU Public Radio.  "Storms make up their own minds sometimes, and as the day developed, the storm hit an hour sooner and it was more intense."

Russell says the group remained calm throughout the ordeal while waters rose to neck-level on some of the students.  He added that the rescue went according to the cave’s plan of action in the case of rising water. 

Waters receded Friday and the cave was able to reopen for partial tours.

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Kentucky principals are offering their perspective on school bullying. 

A statewide survey released Wednesday shows many principals have received no training on how to carry out policies to prevent bullying. 

The questionnaire was conducted by the Kentucky Center for School Safety.  Executive Director Jon Akers recommends districts gives principals more training, which should include helping administrators distinguish between bullying and other misbehaviors.

"Sometimes there's mislabeling of conflicts between kids," explains Akers.  "Peer-to peer conflict with no imbalance of power is a different situation than the imbalance of power and the continual harrassing of a kid."

More than half of the principals who responded to the survey said they were only given copies of their district’s anti-bullying policies, without any training.  About one-fourth of them said they have received training. 

Lisa Autry

The proposed resettlement of Syrian refugees in Bowling Green has some community members questioning their safety.

Albert Mbanfu heads the Kentucky International Center and hopes a public meeting on Friday will relieve some of those concerns.

"I really encourage the population to come out and get this information firsthand rather than listen to people who may not have the right information that may skew their reasoning and line of thought," Mbanfu told WKU Public Radio.

Mbanfu says he will explain the extensive process that refugees must go through before resettling in the U.S.

The federal government is considering a proposal to send 40 Syrians to Bowling Green in October.

The town hall will take place Friday at 5:00 p.m. at the Bowling Green Schools’ Professional Learning and Development Center on Old Morgantown Road.

Three Owensboro attorneys  are hoping to become the first family court judge in Daviess County.  Julie Hawes Gordon, Angela Thompson, and Susan Montalvo Gesser all currently work in family law. 

Daviess County Bar Association President Cheryl Cureton says all three are excellent candidates.

"Each of them are familiar with the demands and I think all of them have really strong qualities," Cureton tells WKU Public Radio.  "They understand the issues and the benefit I think that will come from having a family court."

Cureton and others have lobbied for years for a family court in Daviess County.  Funding to create one was included in the state budget signed into law earlier this year. 

Someone will be appointed by Governor Matt Bevin to fill the judgeship until the November election.  The deadline to apply is June 1.

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More than four million U.S. workers will become eligible for overtime pay under new federal regulations, but some business groups oppose the changes. 

Salaried employees earning $47,476 or less a year must be paid time-and-a-half for working more than 40 hours a week.  The previous threshold was $23,660. 

Kate Shanks, director of public affairs for the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, says thousands of Kentucky workers could see themselves return to hourly pay and companies would face millions of dollars in added costs.

"It is something that would impact both private sector employers or for-profit employers, but it could also affect non-profit organizations and educational institutions," Shanks told WKU Public Radio.  "The affect in Kentucky could be fairly widespread."

The state Chamber fears that medium and small businesses would likely bear the most financial burden.

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Economists with the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis say the nation continues a modest recovery from the Great Recession.  The group held a regional economic briefing Thursday at Western Kentucky University. 

Economists says slow is the new normal for growth in the gross domestic product.  Kevin Kliesen is a business economist and research officer at the Fed.

"You have very strong job growth," Kliesen stated.  "The unemployment rate is low, somewhere around the natural rate of employment.  Wage growth is picking up and consumer spending still looks pretty good."

The nation has seen brisk auto sales, solid gains in construction, and stronger growth in the services sector of the economy.  However, two areas remain disappointing.  Labor productivity growth is weak, and business capital spending has been soft. 

Still, in the near-term outlook, the economy is expected to grow by around two percent this year.  While modest increases are likely, long-term interest rates are expected to remain at historically low levels.

Lisa Autry

The Bowling Green Police Department is preparing to outfit its officers with body cameras. 

In a presentation to the Bowling Green Noon Rotary Club Wednesday, Chief Doug Hawkins said agencies that already use body cameras have seen a reduction in complaints against officers.

"If you know everything we're doing is being recorded, you tend to behave a little better and so does the police officer.  Not that we have a lot of complaints, but we think this will mitigate complaints," Hawkins told the audience. "When a citizen has a justifiable complaint, we're going to capture that, as well."

Hawkins said the department is investing in body cameras now because prices have dropped and the technology has improved. 

Bowling Green Police plan to purchase 95 body cameras at a cost of nearly $160,000. 

The cameras will be deployed by the end of the year.

Lisa Autry

The last commercial flight from Bowling Green was 44 years ago, but that’s about to change. 

The Bowling Green-Warren County regional airport announced Tuesday that Contour Airlines will begin offering service to Atlanta and Destin, Florida. 

Airport Manager Rob Barnett says both business and leisure travelers will benefit.

"The corporate traveler will truly benefit because of the cost savings and time savings through Atlanta, and of course, we're all going to benefit from the Destin flight because we all like to go to Destin at a reasonable cost and keep ourselves from being in a car 16 hours round trip," Barnett told WKU Public Radio.

The flights are expected to start the first week of August.  Tennessee-based Contour will offer service year-round, seven days a week to Atlanta.  Seasonal flights to Destin will be available once a week from April to October.

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