Rhonda Miller

Reporter

Rhonda Miller joined WKU Public Radio in 2015.  She has worked as Gulf Coast reporter for Mississippi Public Broadcasting, where she won Associated Press, Edward R. Murrow and Green Eyeshade awards for stories on dead sea turtles, health and legal issues arising from the 2010 BP oil spill and homeless veterans.

She has worked at Rhode Island Public Radio,  as an intern at WVTF Public Radio in Roanoke, Virginia, and at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Rhonda’s freelance work called Writing Into Sound includes stories for Voice of America, WSHU Public Radio in Fairfield, Conn., NPR and AARP Prime Time Radio.

She has a master’s degree in media studies from Rhode Island College and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University.

Rhonda enjoys quiet water kayaking, riding her bicycle and folk music. She was a volunteer DJ for Root-N-Branch at WUMD community radio in Dartmouth, Mass. 

Owensboro Middle School

Owensboro Middle School is likely to be separated into two schools by the next academic year. 

The middle school already has a south campus for grades five and six and a north campus for grades seven and eight. The two buildings are separated by a football field.

 

Owensboro Public Schools Superintendent Nick Brake says there are some good reasons to change that set-up.

“Part of the challenge that we’ve seen with that is, it’s very difficult for one principal to govern both schools, to work with both faculties, and you have an age group that has a lot of variation.”

Radcliff Veterans Center

The opening day has been set for the new Radcliff Veterans Center.  On Feb. 15, the first three residents will arrive at what’s been designed as a showplace for skilled nursing care for those who have served our country.

Preparations for opening day are in high gear, including a job fair to be held on-site Jan. 5. The Radcliff Veterans Center already has a staff of 49 and it's growing every day. When fully staffed, the center will have 260 employees.

Israel Ray is administrator of the Radcliff Veterans Center. He says, in a way, the opening day will be a welcome home for those first three residents.

Public schools in Daviess County are getting 250 new security cameras.  

Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations Matt Robbins said the installation of the 250 cameras at 18 Daviess County schools is not in response to any threat or issue. He said the cameras will complement the district’s ongoing training for an active shooter situation and other emergencies. 

“This is just another measure in the long line of things we’re doing here to try to make sure our students and our staff are safe.”

Robbins said it’s a proactive measure to upgrade an eight-year-old system.

“What’s happened is there’s been a revolution in the technology with cameras over the course of that period of time, a tremendous revolution, I might add, and a capability that you can view remotely, you don’t even have to be on site, and you can move  them.”

He said the cost of the cameras has come down substantially in the past several years. The price tag of $158,000 covers all the schools. The district originally expected to pay that much for about 70 new cameras in each of the two high schools.  The installation began during the winter break and is expected to be complete by the end of this month.

Rhonda J Miller

A Kentucky barn dance-style program for military veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury has been approved for a research study at a Connecticut university.

Deborah Denenfeld is a dance educator and leader who launched "Dancing Well: The Soldier Project" five years ago at Fort Knox, and since then has held sessions in Louisville. She said data collectors will survey the veterans on non-medical factors that play an important role in their daily lives.

“We’re going to be looking at measures of optimism and hope, feelings of connectedness, trauma symptoms, and how much people avoid participating in events and projects that have been meaningful to them in the past,” said Denenfeld, who is executive director of Dancing Well.

Somerset Community College

A discovery during a sunrise service in the Somerset City Cemetery has led to the creation of a memorial for slaves buried in unmarked graves. 

Charles Leveridge is president of the Lake Cumberland Slaves Memorial Association. He said a section of the city cemetery that was thought to be unused is actually an unmarked burial site for area slaves. He said the original plan was to place a marker in that one cemetery, but the group is now focused on a bigger mission.

“The more we researched the issue, the more we found that there were numerous cemeteries throughout Pulaski County, and surrounding counties around Lake Cumberland, that have slaves interred that have no markers,” said Leveridge.

The group now has a design for a memorial sculpture designed by an Atlanta artist that will be located at Somerset Community College. The artist will be a guest at a unity breakfast at the college on Jan. 13, in advance of Martin Luther King Day on Jan. 16. 

Louisville VA Medical Center

An offer by the city of Radcliff to donate 50 acres of land for a new Veterans Affairs medical center has apparently been rejected. 

Radcliff Mayor and retired Army Colonel Mike Weaver made a pitch to the VA last week in hopes of snagging the $1 billion veterans medical center that’s expected to bring with it nearly 2,000 jobs. Weaver offered 50 acres in Millpond Business Center off Kentucky Route 313 that already has utilities in place and direct access to Interstate 65.

However, the VA already has plans to replace the aging Robley Rex Medical Center in Louisville with a new complex in the city on Brownsboro Road off the Watterson Expressway. 

The News-Enterprise reports a VA spokesperson said plans are proceeding for the Brownsboro Road site and no other locations are being considered.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and some residents have expressed environmental and traffic concerns about the Jefferson County site.

The VA has published an Environmental Impact Statement on the project, which you can read here. The public comment period runs through Jan. 11. 

Evansville Rescue Mission

As bitterly cold temperatures move across our region, a shelter in Evansville, Indiana is giving out some life-saving equipment to the homeless.

It may look like a jacket, but the unique garment doubles as a sleeping bag that protects against severe cold.

Henderson County High School

A new School of Fine Arts at Henderson County High School is getting ready to accept its first students. The deadline to apply is Jan. 10. The School of Fine Arts is offering tracks in visual arts, dance, theater, voice and instrumental music.

Students who are in eighth grade now at North Middle School, South Middle School or Holy Name School can apply. Students who are freshman now at Henderson County High School can also submit an application. Information about the SoFA is available here, along with the application.   

Fruit of the Loom

Fruit of the Loom has named a senior vice president at its global headquarters in Bowling Green as the company’s new chairman and CEO. Melissa Burgess-Taylor will lead the company following the unexpected death of former CEO Rick Medlin last month.

Rhonda J. Miller

Kentucky manufacturers are confronting a problem facing the entire United States – a shortage of skilled workers for technically sophisticated industries. A recent study found that two million manufacturing jobs in the U.S. will go unfilled over the next decade due to a lack of trained workers. A program developed in the Owensboro region is confronting that shortage with an apprenticeship program called GO FAME. 

At Sun Windows in Owensboro, President Frank Anderson says the machinery for production gets more sophisticated every year.

“This our insulated glass room. And the robot is applying the spacer material that separates the two panes of glass. And it’s all done automatically without ever touching a human hand.”

That’s the trend in advanced manufacturing and that’s the reason GO FAME was created. GO FAME stands for Greater Owensboro Federation of Advanced Manufacturing Education. 

Apprentices take classes two days a week at Owensboro Community and Technical College. Companies pay at least half the tuition and at least $12-an-hour for work time.

Daviess County Sheriff's Office

The Daviess County Sheriff’s Office has identified a vehicle that may have been used in a case of vandalism at the Islamic Center of Owensboro.

Deputy Jared Ramsey said the sheriff's office has video of a white sedan with the driver’s side headlight out. The driver never got out of the car, but made a U-turn and left.  

Surveillance video shows the drivers of other vehicles getting out and going into the facility.

The suspect shot what appeared to be blue paintballs at the Islamic Center’s sign and at the building in the Nov. 13 incident. Community volunteers cleaned up the damage. It was the second time this year the Islamic Center has been vandalized.

Anyone with information about the car or its owner is asked to call the Daviess County Sheriff’s Office at 270- 685-8444 or Crimestoppers.

Flickr/Creative Commons/plantronics

A new 2-1-1 phone line will launch on Dec. 6 to give central Kentucky residents a one-stop place to get information about hundreds of services.

Megan Stith is president and CEO of the United Way of Central Kentucky, the organization that’s sponsoring the phone line.  She says people who answer the 2-1-1 line 24 hours a day, seven days a week, will be able to refer callers to resources in their own community.

“It will include information for state programs, for local nonprofits, schools districts, services for children after school, prescription and medical care, mental health, job assistance and senior services.”

Stith says the 2-1-1 line is not intended for 9-1-1 calls, but if a caller is in a critical situation, they can be connected directly to the emergency line. She says the people who  answer the calls are trained to have a “conversation” that may be able identify other needs related to what prompted the person to reach out and make the call.

"For example, if someone is looking for utility assistance, perhaps they have children in the home who might need mentoring or an after school program, or maybe there's a senior, an aging parent in the house.”

The new service is for residents in Hardin, Breckinridge, Grayson, LaRue and Meade counties.

Business Wire

A major Bowling Green, Kentucky company is mourning the loss of its president and CEO who died Nov. 27 of natural causes. Rick Medlin led Fruit of the Loom since 2010 and held several other positions in the company prior to that.

“Rick was a special leader and a special person. He was extremely proud of the progress and success we have shared in the last six years,” the company said in an announcement of Medlin's death.  “We owe it to his legacy and honor to continue taking this company forward in accordance with his vision."

Medlin is a South Carolina native who attended Clemson University on a football scholarship. He earned a bachelor’s and master's degree in education.

An interim president will lead the manufacturer of family and athletic apparel until a new president is named.

Fruit of the Loom employs 1,400 people at its global headquarters and distribution center in Bowling Green and has a total of 30,000 employees in 17 countries.

Fruit of the Loom is a Berkshire Hathaway company with a portfolio of many well-known brands, including Russell Athletic, Spalding, Jerzees and Vanity Fair.

Friends of Sinners

A faith-based addiction recovery program in Owensboro broke ground on a new residence for women this week. 

The new facility being built by the group “Friends of Sinners” is in response to a growing demand in the region.

Friends of Sinners Executive Director Joe Welsh says the group already operates five residential sites for men and women in Daviess County.  He says there’s been a trend since the group opened its first women’s residence in 2011.

“One of the things that we’ve noticed in Owensboro, in Daviess County, is that there’s a big need for beds for women. We just wanted to target that and try to increase the number of beds Owensboro has for ladies.”

The new residence will house 12 women when it opens next summer. It’s one definite, but small, step in confronting Kentucky’s drug addiction crisis that kills about 1,000 people in the state each year. That crisis is reflected in communities across the state.

Friends of Sinners was formed in 2009 and has  served about 500 men and women since its inception. Welsh says the five residential treatment centers currently have a total of 40 residents and the waiting list for the program is longer than ever.                

“Locally and statewide, Kentucky is doing a great job making a stand against this and fighting against this, and we are proud to be part of that,” said Welsh. “But at the end of the day, we are fighting a fight that is an extremely hard fight and substance abuse isn’t going away.”

The beginning of construction on the new treatment facility in Owensboro comes in the same week the U.S. Surgeon General estimates that 20 million people in the U.S. are living with a substance abuse disorder.

Southern Kentucky Film Commission

The cameras are rolling in Hart County for a Hallmark Channel movie that’s expected to wrap-up filming on Nov. 19.  Local officials are hoping the movie signals a long and profitable relationship with the film industry.

The film called “An Uncommon Grace” is about a military nurse falling in love with an Amish man.

Hart County Judge-Executive Terry Martin hopes it’s just the beginning of the region’s focus on a new segment in economic development. Martin says when filming began in October, it was the spark that led the county fiscal court to create the Southern Kentucky Film Commission. He says the benefits are obvious.

“This film right here, being a small-budget film, like one-and-a-half-million-dollars compared to the big budget films, they’re still spending around a half-million-dollars in six weeks in Hart and surrounding counties.”

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