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

T.J. Samson Community Hospital

T.J. Samson Community Hospital in Glasgow is working to acquire and operate Westlake Regional Hospital and its clinics in Adair County. 

Westlake’s parent company is currently in Chapter 9 bankruptcy proceedings, having filed for protection in 2013.

In a news release, T.J. Samson CEO Bud Wethington said he is excited about future prospects for Westlake Regional Hospital.

"Westlake has been an important part of the healthcare infrastructure of Columbia and Adair County for 35 years," noted Wethington.  "We see great opportunities to collaborate with the physicians and employees to grow the health care services and continue its efforts to advance the health status across the region."

The planned acquisition is contingent upon several factors, including approval from creditors and healthcare regulators.

The Kentucky School Boards Association has adopted a resolution that would keep the school start date a local decision. 

Two state lawmakers plan to file a bill in the 2016 General Assembly that would move the start of the school year to  late August. 

Spokesman Brad Hughes says the KSBA believes a one-size-fits-all school calendar won’t work.

"The things that affect a calendar differ from a small district in one part of the state to a large district in another part of the state," Hughes told WKU Public Radio.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, one of the sponsors of the bill, says it would allow a waiver for districts that have a lot of snow days. 

Thayer argues a later start date would save on energy costs since temperatures are typically highest in August and result in more recreational spending.

"There are no high school kids to work at our state parks, marinas, swimming pools,amusement parks and there's no one to attend either because they're all back in school," claims Thayer.

The School Boards Association plans to send the resolution to all state lawmakers ahead of next session.

WKU

A former swim team member at WKU has filed a federal lawsuit against the school.

The suit was filed by Collin Craig whose allegations of hazing and underage alcohol consumption resulted in a five-year suspension of WKU’s swimming program. 

The suit names WKU, former head swimming coach Bruce Marchionda, and an associate head coach.  Athletic director Todd Stewart is also a defendant along with two associate athletic directors and three former teammates. 

The 21-page complaint filed in U.S. District Court claims Craig suffered verbal, physical, and emotional abuse.  The suit alleges the coach and others knew of the abuse and didn’t take action. 

The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of compensatory and punitive damages.  The university said Thursday it had not yet seen the lawsuit.

Monday is the deadline to register to vote in the November 3 election. 

Topping the ballot this year is the race for governor followed by other constitutional offices, including Secretary of State, Auditor, Treasurer, and Agriculture Commissioner. 

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes says says it’s too soon to make turnout predictions.

"Our hope is that folks are not so inundated with the upcoming 2016 presidential election that they are forgetful of the duties and responsibilities on their shoulders for this election," Grimes told WKU Public Radio.

Turnout has varied in past gubernatorial elections from 37 percent in 2007 to 28 percent in 2011. 

Democrats outnumber Republicans in Kentucky by more than 430,000 registered voters.

County clerks’ offices throughout Kentucky will accept voter registration cards until the close of business Monday, October 5. 

Voters can find out if they are registered and check their current information online at www.sos.ky.gov.

Bowling Green Police are warning area residents of a phone scam. 

Someone is contacting customers of Bowling Green Municipal Utilities and claiming their power will be disconnected unless they pay a fee. 

Bowling Green Police Public Information Officer Ronnie Ward says these types of scams are fairly common. 

"The Warren County electric department has also had this happen," Ward told WKU Public Radio.  "I had one person tell me their phone company told them they were going to cut their service off it they didn't pay the late fee."

Ward says if anyone receives such a call, hang up and contact the company the caller claims to be representing to verify the information. 

According to BGMU, the utility does not contact customers by phone and all correspondence is done through the mail.

All across the nation Saturday, people will be throwing out un-needed medications in an effort to keep the drugs out of the wrong hands. 

It’s the annual National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, and Bowling Green-Warren County Drug Task Force Director Tommy Loving says there are several reasons to dispose of old prescriptions.

"Obviously if there are children in the house they could get to them and not know what they are and overdose," Loving told WKU Public Radio.  "It makes you the target of a burglary  if people know you have a bunch of pain meds in your medicine cabinet."

Collection drives will be held across the U.S. Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. local time. 

In Bowling Green, the city police department, Kentucky State Police post, and Greenwood High School will serve as drop-off locations. 

Prescriptions may also be disposed of at the Owensboro Police Department and the Kentucky State Police post in Elizabethtown. 

Log on to www.dea.gov to find locations in your area.

Kentucky Department of Education

The Kentucky Board of Education has voted to hire Stephen Pruitt as the state’s next education commissioner. 

Pruitt is senior vice president of Achieve Inc., an education reform organization.  He also served in various roles with the Georgia Department of Education before joining Achieve, Inc. in 2010. 

In a special meeting Wednesday, Board Chairman Roger Marcum read a statement from Pruitt.

"As a classroom teacher, a state administrator, and a vice president for an education non-profit, my focus has always been on doing what is best for students and that will not change as commissioner," Pruitt stated.

The state Board of Education will meet October 6 to ratify a contract with Pruitt.  He is expected to start his new duties later in the month.

Pruitt replaces Terry Holliday who retired in late August.

Office of Florida Governor Rick Scott

The Governor of Florida is visiting the commonwealth this week, but his Kentucky counterpart isn’t rolling out the welcome mat. Rick Scott is trying to convince Kentucky business to expand or relocate to the Sunshine State.

In visits to Lexington and Louisville, Governor Scott touted Florida as a right-to-work state with no personal income tax.  Scott is using a familiar tactic.  As CEO of Columbia\HCA, he relocated the company’s headquarters from Louisville to Nashville in the 1990s after criticizing Kentucky’s tax code. 

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear says Scott’s recruitment trip is a waste of time.

"What Governor Scott needs to realize is that last year Kentucky placed first in the nation for job creation per capita, not Florida, Kentucky," Beshear told WKU Public Radio.  "That tells us all we need to know about our business climate."

In Lexington Tuesday, Scott announced that an aerospace company in Hebron is expanding to create 40 jobs in Florida. 

Beshear calls the trip political, noting that Scott is on the Republican Governor’s Association executive committee and is trying to influence Kentucky’s gubernatorial election. 

Besides Kentucky, Scott has visited four other states this year, all with Democratic governors.

Lisa Autry

Some students in the Warren County school system are getting a musical education with help from The Symphony at WKU. 

The strings program at Warren Elementary was presented with 14 violins and violas Tuesday.  The program, funded by donations, allows students to learn how to play an instrument at no cost during the school day. 

Warren County Schools Superintendent Rob Clayton says the strings program gives every student the same opportunity.

"This is a prime example of one of our schools that has a more challenging environment in terms of the students they serve," Clayton told WKU Public Radio.  "They will now have more students involved in the program than any of the other elementary schools, which speaks volumes to our commitment to equity across our district."

The strings program is now in nearly every school in the Warren County system.  The program began in 2003 with 21 students and currently has 750 enrolled.

Lisa Autry

Community colleges across Tennessee are starting the academic year with a higher-than-usual number of students.  That’s because of a first-year program called Tennessee Promise, an initiative that provides new high school graduates two years of tuition-free attendance at community and technical colleges in the state. 

Richard Briley is one of the new faces at Nashville State Community College.  The future business major says that without Tennessee Promise he would have probably enrolled at a four-year school and taken on a lot of debt.

“I’d probably be going to TSU, Tennessee State University, but I would have to take out a loan," explained Briley.

On the first day of classes, Briley and other students got to meet one of the architects of Tennessee Promise, Governor Bill Haslam.

"Just out of curiosity, how many of you are the first person in your family to get to go to college," asked Haslam.

Half of the students in the room raised their hands.

"At this point in time, if I said what will keep you from walking across the stage and getting a two or four-year degree, what are you most worried will stop that from happening," Haslam asked.

The resounding answer was money. 

Tennessee Promise is the first statewide program of its kind in the nation.  About 16,000 students are attending the state’s 13 community colleges, about a ten percent jump over last fall, according to Tennessee Promise Executive Director Mike Krause.

Archdiocese of Louisville

Pope Francis will make his first trip to the U.S. this week and an Elizabethtown native will have a front row seat. 

Sean McKinley is studying at the Theological College at the Catholic University of America in Washington.  He and fellow ordained deacons have been invited to help serve communion at a mass the pope will attend at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in D.C.

McKinley isn’t sure what he will say if he gets to meet the pope.

"I don't speak too much Spanish, but I just think it will be really exciting to hear the pope speaking about America, our generation and our time," McKinleny told WKU Public Radio.

McKinley praises Pope Francis for being charismatic and compassionate.

McKinley hopes to become an ordained priest next spring and begin work with the Archdiocese of Louisville.

Seven Republican Kentucky House members are asking the state to look into how taxpayer funds are used by Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky.

The lawmakers have mailed the state Auditor and Treasurer a letter asking for an audit of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

According to a statement from the Cabinet, health departments in Louisville and Lexington received about $330,000 in federal funds this fiscal year for Planned Parenthood services.

Republican Representative Tim Moore of Hardin County says if the state refuses to audit the group’s funding, he’ll sponsor a bill to halt all taxpayer support for Planned Parenthood.

"The General Assembly, to our understanding, has never approved that kind of expenditure that would support Planned Parenthood, and that has not been forthcoming," Moore told WKU Public Radio.

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services says all public funds that support Planned Parenthood were approved by lawmakers in the last two-year budget.

The GOP request for an audit comes as abortion opponents continue to criticize Planned Parenthood’s family planning services. The group says those services are vital for low-income women, and points out federal law prohibits taxpayer money to fund abortions.

Owensboro-Daviess County Regional Airport

Aviation students in the Owensboro region can complete their degrees and receive training without ever leaving home under a new program between Owensboro Community and Technical College and Eastern Kentucky University. 

Under the agreement, students will take their first two years of classes at OCTC and complete their bachelor’s degree at EKU online.  They’ll then have hands-on training at the Owensboro-Daviess County Regional Airport. 

EKU’s Director of Aviation Ralph Gibbs says programs like this will fill a real need.

"There's a forecast demand of pilots over the next 20 years that is 500,000," Gibbs told WKU Public Radio.  "That's such an astronomical number that even if I had the next 20 years to create new pilots at the Richmond campus, it wouldn't even put a dent in it."

EKU has similar agreements with community and technical colleges in Hazard, Middlesboro, and Ashland.

Kentucky Attorney General's Office

A for-profit college in Kentucky has agreed to pay more than $1 million in a settlement with former students.  Multiple lawsuits accused Owensboro-based Daymar College of enrolling students through bogus claims about job placement and transfer credits. 

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway sued Daymar College, alleging the school violated consumer protection laws.  Former students claimed in lawsuits that they were deceived about the quality of Daymar’s degree programs and were left deep in debt with few career opportunities. 

The total settlement is for $12.4 million, and requires Daymar to pay $1.2 million to qualified students who attended the school between 2006 and 2011. 

At a news conference Thursday, Conway acknowledged the amount is only a small portion of the tens of thousands of dollars in loan debt incurred by students.

"We wanted to get as much as we could for the students in this affected period," said Conway.  "It's not all that we wanted.  I'll readily acknowledge that, but based on Daymar's financial situation, we really thought that it was the best we could get."

Under the deal, Daymar denies any wrongdoing, but Conway said the settlement speaks for itself.

"I've practiced law and been attorney general for seven and a half years," he added.  "You don't agree to a settlement worth 12 and a half million dollars, as well as strong injunctive terms for two years with a compliance monitor if you didn't do anything wrong."

Daymar will also forgo collection of $11 million in debt owed it by former students.  The school had no immediate comment.

For-profit colleges are under scrutiny across the nation for low graduation rates and enrolling students who are unable to pay their bills.

Funtown Mountain Facebook

The future of an amusement park in south central Kentucky looks grim as the owner faces legal troubles.  Officials have closed Funtown Mountain just off I-65 in Cave City because of safety violations. 

Cave City Police Chief Jeff Wright says much of the park has been destroyed since owner and Louisville businessman Will Russell announced publicly that he was giving away some of the property.

"The bottom building where the gift shop used to be is ransacked.  Everything is broken, torn out.  Everything that used to be inside the building like ice cream machines, coke machines, they've all just been thrown out in the parking lot," Wright told WKU Public Radio.  "In all my law enforcement career, I've never seen anything like this happen.  To be honest with you, it's just been an embarrassment to the city of Cave City as far as I'm concerned."

Russell himself has caused some of the destruction, claiming it was a form of art. 

Russell made the following statement on the Funtown Mountain Facebook page Wednesday:

"When we acquired the property in June, there were buildings and warehouses full of old stock and souvenirs that we could never use," wrote Russell.  "This is why we decided to let the people of Kentucky have these items for free. This has created some good will towards the project and inexplicably some animosity from a small group of opposing voices."

The post also noted that Russell is taking some time to execute plans for Funtown Mountain and that he intends on it being a full-time amusement park by spring 2016.

Russell has been arrested twice since July and is facing drug and alcohol charges. 

Russell purchased the old Guntown Mountain property and re-opened it in June as Funtown Mountain.  He received a $250,000 loan from the Kentucky Tourism Development Land Program and raised more than $26,000 through an online campaign.

Pages