Bowling Green

Flickr/Creative Commons/Eric Molina

The leader of Bowling Green-based health group says a needle exchange for intravenous drug users is the best way to fight the state’s addiction problems.

Dennis Chaney, director of the Barren River District Health Department, is applauding the Bowling Green city commission’s decision Tuesday to approve a needle exchange program.

The exchange must now be approved by Warren County Fiscal Court. It has already been authorized by the Warren County Board of Health.

Chaney said he understands those who feel a needle exchange will enable drug users.

But he thinks it’s the best way to break down barriers and start the healing process.

“The opportunity is for those folks who would participate in the program, the responsibility is for us to try to develop a relationship with those folks just like what you may have and you may enjoy with your primary care physician,” Chaney said.

City of Bowling Green

The Bowling Green Police chief says his department has been training for a mass shooting situation since the 1999 Columbine High School attacks.

Police preparation for mass casualty events has once again come into focus following the Orlando nightclub shootings.

Chief Doug Hawkins spoke to WKU Public Radio about the BGPD’s ability to handle catastrophic incident like the one scene at the Pulse nightclub. Hawkins says Bowling Green police have access to high-powered rifles that can penetrate body armor worn by attackers.

“One of the added pieces of equipment that we’ve added over the last few years is a patrol rifle. The Bowling Green Police Department, like a lot of other police agencies, used to utilize shotguns. But shotguns do not defeat body armor.”

Hawkins says his department is putting a lot of effort into building relationships with community members, especially Bowling Green’s immigrant and refugee populations.

GM

Kentucky officials say General Motors Corp. plans to invest $290 million at the automaker's Corvette plant in Bowling Green.

The company's North American manufacturing manager, Arvin Jones, said Friday the investment includes technology upgrades to improve the plant's manufacturing process. It could also create as many as 270 new jobs.

The investment announcement was made by Gov. Matt Bevin's office in Frankfort.

Bevin's office says the investment includes a $153 million project aimed at improving vehicle assembly line processes. The latest investment follows a series of upgrades and expansions in recent years at the Corvette assembly plant in Bowling Green.

To encourage the investment, Kentucky officials recently gave preliminary approval for GM to qualify for up to $3 million in tax incentives, based on the level of investment and job creation.

Barren River Area Safe Space

A Bowling Green-based domestic violence shelter wants to empower women who are trying to land jobs in office settings.

Barren River Area Safe Space—or BRASS--is holding its Dress for Change event May 31-June 15.

The shelter is giving women donated clothing and accessories they can wear for job interviews and while at work.

BRASS Executive Director Tori Henninger says the project can be valuable for low-income women and victims domestic violence.

"They are able to feel a little more confident, a little more secure, and a little bit better about their appearance, especially when they're trying to prepare themselves for work outside of a--say--fast food restaurant."

BRASS serves Warren, Barren, Simpson, and seven other southern Kentucky counties.

Lisa Autry

The Bowling Green Police Department is preparing to outfit its officers with body cameras. 

In a presentation to the Bowling Green Noon Rotary Club Wednesday, Chief Doug Hawkins said agencies that already use body cameras have seen a reduction in complaints against officers.

"If you know everything we're doing is being recorded, you tend to behave a little better and so does the police officer.  Not that we have a lot of complaints, but we think this will mitigate complaints," Hawkins told the audience. "When a citizen has a justifiable complaint, we're going to capture that, as well."

Hawkins said the department is investing in body cameras now because prices have dropped and the technology has improved. 

Bowling Green Police plan to purchase 95 body cameras at a cost of nearly $160,000. 

The cameras will be deployed by the end of the year.

Creative Commons

Bowling Green Police now say as many as 26 businesses have reported broken windows following a late night vandalism spree.

Reports of vandalism have come in from several different parts of the city late Thursday night and early Friday morning.

Bowling Green Police spokesman officer Ronnie Ward says investigators are looking at security camera footage from area businesses in an effort to identify the culprits.

Ward says police think the damage to the windows were caused by shots from a high-power BB gun or possibly a slingshot.

“Two of the businesses that got hit last night were open at the time their windows were broken out. Someone could be injured or killed just by whatever device they’re using,” Ward said.

Some of the impacted businesses include the Waffle House on Russellville Road, Pier 1 Imports on Scottsville Road,  and Steamer Seafood and the law firm of English, Lucas, Priest, and Owsley, LLP in the city’s downtown.

Creative Commons

The federal Department of Justice is closing its investigation into the hiring practices of the Bowling Green Police Department.

Last summer the DOJ said it was looking into the low number of African-American police officers on the force.

Bowling Green Mayor Bruce Wilkerson says federal investigators have told the city they found nothing out of the ordinary.

“They went through the process and what we understand, there was a statistical anomaly regarding the number of minorities that have been employed over the last couple of reviews and they wanted to examine our practices to determine that we weren’t setting up any artificial barriers to the hiring of minority applicants”

Bowling Green conducted its own investigation into the police department’s hiring practices.

Lisa Autry, WKU Public Radio

A Warren County lawmaker is asking the state to put a traffic signal at a location where a younggirl was killed last month.

Bowling Green Representative Jody Richards has written a letter to Kentucky’s acting Transportation Cabinet secretary, requesting a signal be installed at the intersection of Gordon Avenue and Scott Way.

That’s where 10-year-old Giselle Arias died after being struck by a car March 30.

Richards says a traffic signal with a pedestrian crossing button is needed to avoid future tragedies.

"While I understand that other options are being considered to remedy the danger at this intersection, they are either inadequate or impractical," Richards wrote in the letter. "A traffic signal like the one I have described is practical and will be effective in allowing people of all ages, particularly children, to safely cross at the intersection. I am confident it will reduce injuries and perhaps prevent other fatalities."

Lisa Autry, WKU Public Radio

Grief counselors will be at the Parker-Bennett-Curry Elementary School in Bowling Green Thursday following the death of a 5th grade student Wednesday evening. 

Ten-year-old Giselle Arias was struck by a car on Gordon Avenue near her home. She was pronounced dead at the scene by the Warren County Coroner's Office.

Bowling Green Police Department Spokesman Ronnie Ward said the car that hit Arias was driven by 36-year-old Angela Clark of Bowling Green. Three juveniles were in the car. No one inside the vehicle was injured.  Ward added that he doesn't expect any criminal charges to be filed.

Kentucky State Police are investigating how two inmates from the Warren County Jail walked away from a work detail this week. 

Twenty-five-year-old Bates Cole was captured the same day, while 23-year-old Anthony Embry was taken into custody after a two-day search. 

Warren County Jailer Jackie Strode told WKU Public Radio that all inmates who work outside are considered low-risk offenders.

"Nobody can be on it that has assaultive-type charges. Nobody can be on it that has sexual-type charges. It has to be lower felonies such as child support, forgery, maybe DUI-4th, that kind of thing."

The inmates eligible for work release are serving a five-year sentence or less.  Cole was in jail for violating parole. Embry was also serving time for a parole violation, as well as charges of Carrying a Concealed Deadly Weapon, Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon, and Giving an Officer False Name or Address.

Asked how Embry was considered low-risk, Jailer Strode said the Kentucky Department of Corrections determines what classification level inmates are assigned.

Creative Commons

The Bowling Green City Commission will vote Tuesday on the hiring of ten police officers.  This will be the first round of hiring since the federal government launched an investigation into the hiring practices of the city police department.

Among the new hires are four African-Americans and one Hispanic.  The city has been working to recruit and hire more minorities since a Department of Justice investigation last summer found the city should have more black officers based on its population. 

While some changes have been made to recruit more minority candidates, Human Resources Director Mike Grubbs says the city is still hiring the overall best candidates.

"The police department looks at character for hiring.   They can train someone to be a police officer," Grubbs told WKU Public Radio.  "Candidates have to meet certain minimum requirements, which all of our candidates did, but they have to have good character and good background, and the department has not wavered on that."

Kevin Willis

Bowling Green is partnering with a Nashville company to provide health care for city employees and their dependents.

The City Care Center will open Friday in 1,100 square feet of renovated space in the city hall annex.

Mayor Bruce Wilkerson says the city expects to save as much as $125,000 a year in health care costs with the new arrangement.

The care center will initially be staffed by a registered nurse for 20 hours a week.

Dr. Jane Gibson will be on site 16 hours a week.

"We've tried to make the hours somewhat flexible to accommodate employees,” Dr. Gibson said. “So we open early at 7:00 in the morning one day, and we stay until 6:00 another day, and work through lunch hours. It helps get people in without missing work."

WKU Public Radio

A Bowling Green group is again seeking expanded protections for the LGBT community.

The Bowling Green Fairness Coalition Tuesday night delivered the signatures of over 1,000 residents asking the city commission to amend the local civil rights ordinance. The group wants to outlaw discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

Bowling Green landlord Don Langley was one of three speakers to address the commission on behalf of expanding the city's Fairness Ordinance, which currently bans discrimination based on factors such as race, ethnicity, age, and disability. Langley says his experiences with LGBT renters led him to believe that discriminating against them is wrong.

“They pay their rent on time, they work hard, they have jobs, and they’re tax paying citizens," Langley said after he addressed the commission. "I think they should be treated fairly.”

This is the third time the Fairness Coalition has asked the Bowling Green City Commission to vote on an expanded civil rights ordinance. So far, it hasn’t come up for a vote.

The mayor of Bowling Green says the city continues to examine how it conducts hiring for all of its departments.

The move was prompted by a federal investigation into how the city makes hiring decisions related to its police force. A Department of Justice investigator is scheduled to visit the city on August 13.

A letter from the DOJ to the city said only five-percent of Bowling Green’s sworn police personnel are African-American.

Speaking Wednesday following a speech to the Bowling Green Noon Rotary Club, Wilkerson said he’s in favor of a “color blind” hiring process for all city departments. The mayor believes it’s important for the city’s minority communities to see a police department they can relate to.

“How better to gather trust in that community than if they see someone who looks like them, or who can speak their language,” the mayor said.

The U.S. Department of Justice says it is investigating hiring practices at the Bowling Green Police Department.

The Daily News reports the Justice Department has sent a letter to Bowling Green Mayor Bruce Wilkerson saying it is looking into whether the city "is engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination against African-Americans with respect to employment opportunities."

The letter says the city should have more black officers based on its population. Out of 113 sworn police personnel, six, or 5.3 percent, are black. The 2010 U.S. Census showed the city is made up 13.9 percent black residents.

Wilkerson says the department has used a pre-employment exam from McCann Associates since at least the 1970s. He says the city "clearly thought we had a colorblind hiring process at the police department."

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