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

On a peaceful hillside in Hardin County stands Kentucky's September 11th memorial.

It was first unveiled on the tenth Anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. With some additions, the memorial is now complete for the fifteenth anniversary this weekend.

Chuck Heater is director of the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery in Radcliff which is home to the memorial. “It’s a reminder that the freedoms that we enjoy every day—we don’t always sit back and think about where they come from, and we sometimes taken them for granted. But this is a reminder that the freedoms we enjoy have been paid for by a great price.” 

The latest additions to the memorial include a pair of winged walls.

“The right one depicts the scenes from that day, and the far left is a granite wall with names inscribed of all the Kentucky veterans who have been killed in action since 9/11 defending America against terrorism," Heater said.

Kentucky's 9/11 memorial will be dedicated Sunday at 2:00 p.m. at the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery in Radcliff. The public is invited to attend the event.

Harman International

An auto parts manufacturer in Simpson County is shedding jobs as it looks to streamline operations and remain competitive.

Harman International announced Wednesday that it will eliminate 215 jobs over the next two-and-a-half years.  Some of the work will be relocated to Mexico. 

Simpson County Judge-Executive Jim Henderson says the jobs news isn’t all bad, however.  He told WKU Public Radio that Sumitomo is preparing to hire 100 workers at its new plant by the end of the year.

"If there is such a good thing as a good part to a company having to lay off some employees is that there are opportunities for those employees to find work still in our community, and I think good jobs," commented Henderson.

Another auto part supplier, Fritz Winter, is building a manufacturing plant and looking to hire up to 350 workers over the next five years. 

Layoffs at Harman will begin at the end of the year.  The company’s Franklin workforce will be left with 110 employees, compared to the 335 who are there now.

Cheyenne Mitchell

An African-American student at Western Kentucky University says a recent act of vandalism has made her become more aware of her surroundings. 

Cheyenne Mitchell’s car was keyed with a racial slur this week while parked on campus.

"I was really scared and upset, honestly, because I just couldn't believe somebody really put that on my car, Mitchell told WKU Public Radio.  "It made me cry."

Mitchell took pictures and posted them on Facebook, prompting a response from WKU President Gary Ransdell who said the incident does not reflect the school’s values and commitment to diversity.  Dr. Ransdell pledged to fully investigate and take appropriate action.  Mitchell has praised the university’s response and says the school even offered to help pay to repair her car. 

The Lexington senior says the vandalism could have been spurred by a dispute over a parking spot.

With local dignitaries on board, Contour Airlines made its inaugural flight out of Bowling Green Monday. 

Before boarding the 30-seat plane bound for Atlanta, anxious passengers passed through a temporary terminal building that included TSA screenings.  The terminal building was one of several infrastructure upgrades that were made to accommodate the first commercial service out of Bowling Green in 44 years. 

Just before boarding, Mayor Bruce Wilkerson said he’s excited about commercial service and what it could mean for economic development.

"Many of the industries here look for direct to a major airport, and this I think, will give us a leg up on the next opportunity to bring a business to town," Wilkerson commented.

Tennessee-based Contour Airlines announced in May that it would begin offering daily trips to Atlanta and seasonal flights to Destin, Florida. 

LRC Public Information

Republican members of the Kentucky House are planning to boycott a meeting on the state’s under-funded pension system.  House Speaker Greg Stumbo has called lawmakers to return to Frankfort Tuesday, but the GOP is calling it a trick. 

Representative Jim Decesare says it’s no coincidence that a Democratic caucus fundraiser is being held the same evening.  The Warren County Republican says Stumbo is essentially asking taxpayers to foot the bill for Democratic members to travel to Frankfort for a political event.

"Thirty thousand dollars is our best estimate of what it will cost the taxpayers of Kentucky to have a meeting where really no action can take place and not involve the governor or the Senate," DeCesare told WKU Public Radio.  "It just seems like bad government."

Representative Decesare says the House could have acted last session and blamed Democratic House leadership for killing legislation that would have brought more transparency to the pension system. 

Stumbo says he called the meeting after receiving more bad news about the state-managed retirements funds, including a 1.3 percent loss on returns into the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System.

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.

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