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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Somerset Police Department

The Somerset Police Department will soon have an extra set of eyes in the sky. 

According to the FAA, it’s the first law enforcement agency in Kentucky to receive federal approval to fly an unmanned aircraft. 

Captain Shannon Smith said it should not be confused with a military-type drone.

"It's not a spy plane as some people have called it," Smith told WKU Public Radio.  "It's designed as an aerial photography platform and that's exactly how we intend to put it into play."

The drone will supplement the department’s existing gyroplane.  Smith says the un-manned aircraft will be especially helpful in search and rescues.  It could also be used in criminal investigations to gather evidence, though police would still need to obtain search warrants. 

The aircraft is expected to be off the ground by the end of summer.

An effort is underway in Owensboro to help prevent drunk driving. 

A program called SafeRide provides free rides to people who have consumed too much alcohol at restaurants and bars, or any venue that serves alcoholic beverages. 

One of the architects of the program is City Commissioner Bob Glenn who says the service is needed in Owensboro which is home to four colleges.

"We have lots of young people with a social life," Glenn told WKU Public Radio.  "We have a convention center with thousands of guests every week attending events where alcohol is served, and we're a city that has a lot of festivals where alcohol is served."

Businesses can purchase $10 vouchers that can be given out to customers who are intoxicated.  The vouchers can be used for a free cab ride home.  The city partnering with Yellow Cab, but hopes to add other taxi companies and a limo service in the future. 

One restaurant is already participating and Glenn expects more to come on board by the end of summer.

The program does not use taxpayer dollars, and is instead, funded through voucher sales and private donations.

An eastern Kentucky man has been sentenced to life in prison for the overdose death of a woman. 

It's the first time in Kentucky that a life sentence was imposed in an overdose death involving prescription drugs. 

Fifty-five-year-old Terry Smith, of Manchester, was accused of giving oxycodone pills to Patty Smallwood in 2011.  She went to sleep and never woke up.  A toxicology report following her death showed four times the therapeutic level of the painkiller in her system. 

U.S. Attorney Kerry Harvey said the sentence should send a message to prescription drug dealers.

"They are not only putting the lives of their customers or victims at risk, but they're putting their own freedom at risk," Harvey told WKU Public Radio.

Smith ran a large-scale drug trafficking ring in eastern Kentucky.  He would recruit addicts to travel to out-of-state pill mills to obtain prescriptions painkillers.  The individual then gave the pills to Smith, who kept a portion for himself and divided the rest among the people who made the trip.

Because of Smith's criminal history, he received a mandatory life sentence under federal law.

Kentucky Department of Parks

The Kentucky Department of Parks will no longer sell merchandise featuring the Confederate battle flag at park gift shops.

The policy is modeled after one recently established by the National Park Service in the wake of the church shootings last month in South Carolina.

"We're doing it because we want our parks to be welcoming to all people and we feel like this is a step in the right direction," Department of Parks Spokesman Gil Lawson told WKU Public Radio.

Under the policy, already in effect, items such as caps and shirts bearing the Confederate emblem are banned from gift shops.  There are some exceptions, including items featuring both the U.S. and Confederate battle flags, and educational material such as books and DVDs.

The ban will primarily affect gift shops at three sites that feature Civil War history: the Jefferson Davis Birthplace, the Perryville Battlefield, and the Columbus-Belmont State Park.

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear plans to issue an executive order on Wednesday that confirms the state’s existing policy toward arming National Guard members. 

The order comes nearly a week after five servicemen were shot to death in Chattanooga, Tennessee. 

Through the executive order, Governor Beshear will reiterate that Kentucky already has security procedures in place to protect guard members at armories, recruiting stations, and training facilities. 

"We anticipated these kinds of possibilities, and some time ago, we already instituted the protections that states like Indiana and others just created," Beshear told WKU Public Radio.

Before the Chattanooga shootings, Kentucky already allowed Guard members to carry weapons while on duty with approval from their commanding officer.  In addition, Guard members are allowed to carry concealed weapons as long as they have a state permit. 

While Governor Beshear is confident of the measures already in place, his executive order instructs Kentucky’s adjutant general to take whatever steps he feels are needed to secure military facilities.

The governors of Indiana, Tennessee, and other states have recently issued executive orders allowing National Guard members to carry guns at places such as armories, recruiting centers, and training sites.

According to Kentucky National Guard Spokesman David Altom, the commonwealth has been proactive in protecting soldiers and airmen. He told WKU Public Radio that since 2013, state law has allowed members to carry guns as long as they have a concealed-carry permit.

"We issued a memorandum authorzing concealed carry of weapons on state facilities," Altom explained.  "The purpose of that is to give soldiers the option of responding in case of something like what happened in Chattanooga."

Following the shooting deaths of five servicemen in Tennessee last week, State Representative Kevin Bratcher, R-Louisville, is urging Governor Beshear to issue an executive order allowing all National Guard members to be armed now instead of having to wait to obtain a permit. 

Beshear has said the order is unnecessary, adding that guardsmen are also able to carry weapons in state facilities and recruiting stations with approval from their commanding officer.

Two state lawmakers have pre-filed legislation for the 2016 Kentucky General Assembly session that provides protections for anyone who removes a child from a locked car due to extreme heat. 

State Representative David Hale of Wellington says the legislation would treat people as Good Samaritans and give them civil immunity from damage done to a vehicle.

"In about the last 20 years, there's been over 700 children that have died in automobiles across the United States.  That's a terrible tragedy and we need to education people on the dangers of this."

The bill also encourages the Kentucky Department of Highway Safety to create an educational campaign called “Look Before You Lock” to focus on the importance of checking the backseat before exiting a vehicle. 

State Senator Danny Carroll of Paducah is sponsoring the bill in the Senate.

The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education is holding a series of public meetings around the state to gather input on a new five-year plan for higher education.  On Monday night, a meeting will take place at Somerset Community College. 

CPE President Bob King says affordability remains a key area of concern.  Because of higher tuition and tighter state funds, public universities now get more money from their students than from the state.

"Not that long ago, the state contribution to the universities on a per-student basis picked up about two-thirds of the cost of educating a student and tuition picked up about one-third," King told WKU Public Radio.  "That has completely reversed in about a ten-year period."

University presidents will lobby the General Assembly next year to increase higher education funding for the first time since 2008. 

Lawmakers will also be asked to switch to a performance funding model which would administer state funds based on the number of graduates or degrees that a school produces.

The remaining public meetings will be held from 6-8pm at these locations:

  • Monday, July 20: Harold Rogers Student Commons, Community Room, Somerset Community College, Somerset.
  • Tuesday, July 21: Collins Industry and Technology Center, Freed Curd Auditorium, Murray State University, Murray.
  • Wednesday, July 29: Rieveschel Digitorium, Griffin Hall 201, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights.

Six state lawmakers are being tasked with finding solutions to Kentucky’s under-funded retirement system for public school teachers. 

Legislators debated a plan in this year’s General Assembly session that would have borrowed more than $3 billion in bonds to shore up KTRS. 

State Senator Joe Bowen of Owensboro was among Republicans who objected to taking on more debt.

"Our opinion was that it was a huge risk to do this and if things didn't work out we stood the chance of jeopardizing the plan even further," Bowen said.

Senator Bowen is one of the appointees of the committee that will offer new recommendations to the governor by December 1.  The panel will have its first meeting on Friday. 

Bowen told WKU Public Radio that new money must be found to invest into KTRS and structural changes are required that will likely affect new hires.

"They're going to be looking at a new retirement plan," stated Bowen.  "We not talking about going from a defined benefit to a defined contribution.  That's never been part of the conversation, but what we are saying is that new hires will probably have to work longer."

Bowen says the KTRS work group will also have to address pension spiking and cost of living adjustments in order to bring a long-term impact to the pension system. 

KTRS, which covers about 120,000 active and retired members, has an unfunded liability of $14 billion.

City of Bowling Green

The mayor of Bowling Green says he is going to look at the hiring practices of every department in the city.  The decision follows notification of a Department of Justice investigation into the police department. 

Mayor Bruce Wilkerson will meet with a federal investigator in August, and by then, he hopes to have in place in place to examine every city department.  While the probe will be across the board, he says the city will not lower its standards to hire more minorities.

"We're going to aggressively recruit in those areas, but we will look for people who, in the motto of the police department, 'We hire for character but we train for skill,''' Wilkerson told WKU Public Radio.

Mayor Wilkerson says he will also push for hiring an affirmative action employee for the city who will actively recruit minorities. 

The changes come as the Department of Justice looks into whether the city discriminates against African Americans with respect to employment opportunities in the police department. 

According to the DOJ, the city should have more black officers based on its population.

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