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

Kentuckians who heat their homes with natural gas will see lower prices this heating season than they did last winter. 

The Public Service Commission reports natural gas prices are down more than a third from this time a year ago.  PSC Spokesman Andrew Melnykovych says supply has kept pace demand.

"There's been a lot of development of new domestic natural gas sources in the United States, so we're in a situation now where there's actually an over-supply of gas in many parts of the country," Melnykovych told WKU Public Radio.

On average, consumers can expect their gas bill to be about 20 percent smaller this month compared to last November. 

Kentuckians may also get a financial break from the weather.  The long-term outlook for this winter is for temperatures to be normal or a bit warmer than usual.

Emil Moffatt

An environmental non-profit group will be in Owensboro Saturday to help clean up the Ohio River. 

Living Lands and Waters provides industrial strength cleanup with the use of barges, excavators, and tugboats.  The organization pulls from the rivers everything from cans and plastic bottles to tires and appliances. 

Programs Manager Tammy Becker says every cleanup is an eye-opening experience.

"Cleaning our rivers and keeping them clean are two different things, so by getting the volunteers out there to see firsthand how much stuff is out there, it creates a lot of public awareness," Becker told WKU Public Radio.  "I guarantee there's not a single person that volunteers with us and later goes out and throws a piece of garbage out their car window or off the side of their boat."

Living Lands and Waters is still looking for volunteers to help with Saturday’s cleanup on the Ohio River.  Those interested can register online at the group’s website

The cleanup will begin at 9:00 a.m. and volunteers should report to the boat ramp at English Park in Owensboro.

A Warren County manufacturing plant is launching a major expansion that will add 450 jobs. 

Bowling Green Metalforming, located in the Kentucky Transpark, is investing $261 million over the next four years to better serve the automotive industry.   It’s one of the largest corporate expansions that south central Kentucky has seen in the last decade. 

Mayor Bruce Wilkerson said the company has been a great corporate neighbor.

Over a thousand people working there now means there's that many families have the wherewithal to take care of themselves in providing stable employment and a good location for them to work," Wilkerson told WKU Public Radio.

The expansion will include equipment purchases and a 260,000-square-foot-addition to the company’s current facility.  It’s the sixth expansion for Bowling Green Metalforming since breaking ground 11 years ago.

Kentucky State Police are investigating an incident of road rage that resulted in a shooting this morning on I-65. 

The Bowling Green KSP post received a call from someone who claimed he was shot at on northbound I-65 near mile marker 27 in Warren County. 

"The caller stated that he accidentally cut this other vehicle off in traffic," said Trooper BJ Eaton.  "A road rage incident occurred thereafter for a short distance."

The caller’s vehicle was struck by a bullet in the passenger side rear door, though none of the five occupants were injured. 

The shooter then got off the interstate at the next exit and has not been found.  He was described as a black male with a scar on his cheek and was driving a newer model silver or gray Ford SUV.

For Courtney McDowell of Bowling Green, life is pretty good right now, but recent years have been a struggle.  Last December, at the age of 32, she earned a college degree.  Before then, money was tight.

"I was one medical catastrophe away from complete and total bankruptcy," McDowell told WKU Public Radio.  "I’m just glad I didn’t have any major illnesses or injuries during that period because it’s a real risk.”

When Kentucky created an online health insurance exchange known as Kynect and expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, McDowell qualified for coverage through Medicaid and remained on the government program until she graduated and began working full-time.

McDowell currently does IT work and has private health insurance through her employer, but the upcoming election makes her nervous for others who aren’t so fortunate. 

The state of healthcare in Kentucky could look very different depending on who wins the governor’s race on November 3.

Kentucky could become the first state to repeal the expansion of its Medicaid program.  In a September speech to the Kentucky Rural Health Association, Republican nominee Matt Bevin said the state can’t afford to have a fourth of its population on Medicaid.

"When you’re spending other people’s money, it’s easy to be successful," suggested Bevin.  "We say by any measure it’s been a success.  For crying out loud, it’s been 100% under-written and subsidized by other people’s money.  We’re part of those other people.  Federal dollars are our own dollars coming back to us.”

Currently, the federal government is picking up the entire tab for the expansion.  Starting in 2017, the state must begin bearing a share of the cost estimated to be anywhere from 250 to 400 million dollars.  Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jack Conway, who supports the Medicaid expansion, says an improving economy would trim the Medicaid rolls.

"I agree we have too many of our citizens on Medicaid, but you fix that by growing the economy, creating better paying jobs, bringing wages up, and then people eventually roll off Medicaid," Conway remarked in an interview with WKU Public Radio.

Conway says if the state determines in the future it can’t sustain the Medicaid population, adjustments will be made.

Lisa Autry

A German steel processor broke ground today\yesterday on a new manufacturing plant at the Kentucky Transpark in Bowling Green. 

Bilstein is Europe’s largest supplier of cold-rolled steel products.  The company will build a 250,000-square-foot facility to better serve its automotive industry customers in North America.  Company officials call it their first major investment outside Europe. 

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear says Bowling Green was the ideal location.

"It's located here on the interstate of I-65.  It's got a wonderful university in Western Kentucky University," noted Beshear.  "Kentucky is not only the center of manufacturing, it's the center of a pipeline all the way from Detroit down south of us where the automobile alley runs these days."

Bilstein is making a $130 million investment in the steel plant and will create 110 jobs. 

Meanwhile, one of Logan County’s largest employers is adding nearly 200 jobs.  Logan Aluminum is expanding its operations to become an automotive supplier. 

Governor Besehar made the announcement in Russellville Wednesday.

"More and more, vehicles are being made out of aluminum because you need a lighter weight to meet all the fuel requirements the government is putting on there these days to get the mileage necessary," Beshear added.

Logan Aluminum already produces rolled sheets for beverage cans.  The company has more than a thousand employees and will add another 190 with the expansion.

The Republican Governor’s Association is back on the air in Kentucky in support of Matt Bevin. 

The RGA stopped running TV ads for Matt Bevin last month, but returned to the airwaves this week in a seven-figure ad buy.  Following a speech on Wednesday to the Bowling Green Noon Rotary Club, Bevin said the RGA’s return is a sign his campaign is strong.

"There's others too that I understand are interested in coming in," Bevin told WKU Public Radio.  "The momentum is our side.  We are going to win this race and I think people want to help push us over the finish line."

Most of the RGA’s ads have attacked Democratic opponent, Jack Conway, for supporting the policies of President Obama.  Independent candidate Drew Curtis is also in the race for governor.   

Most political pundits view the outcome of the race as a tossup between Bevin and Conway with less than two weeks until election day.

WKU will soon end its designation as the only public university in the state that isn’t tobacco-free.

In an email to faculty and staff this week, President Gary Ransdell said the campus would go tobacco-free by 2018 through a phased-in approach. 

Public Health Professor Dr. Cecilia Watkins helped draft the policy and hopes it will spur healthier choices

"Although I've never smoked, I know how addictive nicotine is, and I think it gives people the opportunity to get help with cessation and to change habits they need to change anyway," Watkins told WKU Public Radio.

The new policy will apply to electronic cigarettes, as well.  

Starting in January, WKU will reduce the number of sites where smoking is permitted on its main campus in Bowling Green from 48 to 12.  The number of sites will be reduced over the next three years until the campus is completely tobacco-free.

Supporters of the new policy say it will reduce litter on campus, but more importantly reduce secondhand smoke, and possibly help smokers kick the habit altogether.

Kentucky News Network

A jury has begun deliberations in the federal trial of two aides to Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign who are accused of secretly paying a state lawmaker to endorse their boss.  One of the men worked for two Kentucky politicians.

Twelve jurors are deliberating in Des Moines, Iowa, in the trial of Jesse Benton and Dimitri Kesari.  Benton, a former campaign chairman for Ron Paul, faces one count of making false statements. Kesari, an ex-deputy campaign manager, faces five charges including conspiracy and obstruction.

Prosecutors say the men concealed payments to former Iowa Sen. Kent Sorenson after he jumped from the Michele Bachmann campaign to the Ron Paul campaign. Both have pleaded not guilty. 

Benton also served as campaign manager for Kentucky Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul.  Most recently, he managed the campaign of State Auditor candidate Mike Harmon before he was asked to resign.

The national park system is turning 100 next year and the national parks in Kentucky are making plans to celebrate. 

Park leaders discussed some of their plans for 2016 in Bowling Green Tuesday during the Kentucky Travel Industry Association conference. 

Mammoth Cave National Park Superintendent Sarah Craighead says one of the goals of the centennial celebration is to connect with the next generation of park visitors.

"The national park service over the last 100 years has grown and changed, but what we have realized is that the visitors tend to be of a pretty limited demographic," Craighead told WKU Public Radio.

The parks have a number of ways they’re planning to celebrate, including special exhibits and reduced price admissions. 

Kentucky is home to five national parks, including Mammoth Cave, the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace, Cumberland Gap, Fort Donelson, and Big South Fork.

Kentucky has set a new voter registration record.  More than 3.2 million residents are eligible to cast ballots in the November 3rd election.  That’s nearly 26,000 more than were registered for the May primary. 

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes hopes that translates to a strong turnout at the polls.

"Making sure all eligible Kentuckians have their voice heard is what the democratic process is all about," Grimes told WKU Public Radio.  "Our hope is that folks aren't so inundated with the upcoming 2016 presidential election that they are forgetful of the responsibilities and duties on their shoulders for this election."

Grimes says each political party has seen an increase in registered voters since Kentucky’s May primary.  Democrats currently make up 52 percent of the electorate.  Thirty-nine percent of voters are Republican, and seven percent are identified as other.

For the first time since at least 1999, Republicans now have a registration advantage in one of Kentucky’s six Congressional Districts, with 11 more registered voters than Democrats in the Fourth Congressional District that includes northern Kentucky. 

Voters will elect a new governor next month and other constitutional officers, including Attorney General, Secretary of State, Auditor, Treasurer, and Agriculture Commissioner.

Art Smith, EPA

Preliminary work has begun to clean up a contaminated site in Ohio County.  The EPA is targeting large amounts of arsenic discovered a year ago.

The full-scale cleanup on Shinkle Chapel Road won’t begin until next year, but the EPA this week began preparing the site by re-building a driveway to the property, constructing a staging area for personnel and equipment, and moving contaminated waste into a pile and covering it. 

Art Smith is an on-site coordinator for the EPA’s Louisville office.  He says the arsenic has been there for at least 50 years and the concentration is extremely high.

"The concentrations are up to 75 percent pure arsenic in some locations, which is quite a bit unusual for a residential property," Smith told WKU Public Radio.

It’s unknown how the arsenic got on the property, which has one unoccupied home.  Smith says there should be no threat to the public.  The contaminated area is surrounded by a fence, locked gates, and signage.

Kentucky’s unemployment rate fell in September to five percent, down from 5.2 percent from the month before. 

According to the Office of Employment and Training, the state’s jobless rate hasn’t been that low in 14 years.  State Economist Manoj Shanker says Kentucky has outperformed the U.S. average in 13 of the last 14 months. 

"The reason the national average is a little bit higher than ours is because whatever is happening abroad, in Europe and China, is hitting markets in California, New York, and the rest of the east coast," Shanker told WKU Public Radio.  "We've been immune to it, so we've been growing quite steadily since actually April of last year."

Despite the drop in jobless numbers, Kentucky faces the challenge of a shrinking workforce. The state has a higher number of retirement-age individuals than the U.S. average. Last month, Kentucky’s civilian labor force declined by more than 11,000 people compared to the previous month.

As Kentucky’s gubernatorial campaign enters the final three weeks before the election, the latest poll shows Democrat Jack Conway with a very slim lead over Republican Matt Bevin. 

Statewide, 43% of likely voters support Conway while 41% back Bevin.  Six percent favor Independent Drew Curtis and ten percent are undecided.  Conway’s 2  point lead over Bevin is well within the survey’s margin of error of plus-or-minus four percentage points.

The survey, conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, shows Conway has slightly better positive name recognition.  However, Bevin is getting a stronger party cross-over vote, which is crucial for a GOP candidate to win statewide in Kentucky.  Democrats outnumber Republicans among registered voters by more than 430,000. 

The poll was taken October 6-8 and questioned 625 registered Kentucky voters by phone.

A former Georgia physician has pleaded guilty in federal court to illegally providing pain medication to thousands of Kentuckians.

Fifty-eight-year-old Michael Johnston appeared in U.S. District Court in Kentucky Thursday and admitted he conspired with the owner of a Georgia pain clinic to distribute Oxycodone and Xanax to residents of several Kentucky counties, including Laurel, Rockcastle, Pulaski, and Whitley. 

The former doctor acknowledged he ignored the fact the patients were addicts and likely selling the drugs for profit upon their return to Kentucky.  Many of the patients at the clinic were seen by non-physicians and received little or no medical examination before being prescribed pain pills.  The clinic operated on a cash-only basis and Johnston said he was encouraged to see as many patients per day, as possible. 

Johnston will serve ten years in prison after his sentencing in January.

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