Lisa Autry

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. 

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Government
10:14 am
Mon July 27, 2015

Kentucky Man Receives Life Sentence for Overdose Death

Originally published on Fri July 24, 2015 10:46 am

An eastern Kentucky man has been sentenced to life in prison for the overdose death of a woman. 

It's the first time in Kentucky that a life sentence was imposed in an overdose death involving prescription drugs. 

Fifty-five-year-old Terry Smith, of Manchester, was accused of giving oxycodone pills to Patty Smallwood in 2011.  She went to sleep and never woke up.  A toxicology report following her death showed four times the therapeutic level of the painkiller in her system. 

U.S. Attorney Kerry Harvey said the sentence should send a message to prescription drug dealers.

"They are not only putting the lives of their customers or victims at risk, but they're putting their own freedom at risk," Harvey told WKU Public Radio.

Smith ran a large-scale drug trafficking ring in eastern Kentucky.  He would recruit addicts to travel to out-of-state pill mills to obtain prescriptions painkillers.  The individual then gave the pills to Smith, who kept a portion for himself and divided the rest among the people who made the trip.

Because of Smith's criminal history, he received a mandatory life sentence under federal law.

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Government
4:25 pm
Mon July 13, 2015

While DOJ Probes Hiring in City Police Department, Bowling Green Mayor Casts Wider Net

Bowling Green Mayor Bruce Wilkerson

Originally published on Mon July 13, 2015 4:01 pm

The mayor of Bowling Green says he is going to look at the hiring practices of every department in the city.  The decision follows notification of a Department of Justice investigation into the police department. 

Mayor Bruce Wilkerson will meet with a federal investigator in August, and by then, he hopes to have in place in place to examine every city department.  While the probe will be across the board, he says the city will not lower its standards to hire more minorities.

"We're going to aggressively recruit in those areas, but we will look for people who, in the motto of the police department, 'We hire for character but we train for skill,''' Wilkerson told WKU Public Radio.

Mayor Wilkerson says he will also push for hiring an affirmative action employee for the city who will actively recruit minorities. 

The changes come as the Department of Justice looks into whether the city discriminates against African Americans with respect to employment opportunities in the police department. 

According to the DOJ, the city should have more black officers based on its population.

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Government
2:19 pm
Thu July 9, 2015

Some Kentucky Judge-Executives Refusing to Perform Same-Sex Wedding Ceremonies

Kentucky County Judge Executive Association President John Settles

Originally published on Thu July 9, 2015 3:15 pm

In the weeks since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage nationwide, some county judge-executives in Kentucky have stopped presiding over marriages altogether rather than perform a same-sex wedding ceremony. 

John Settles, president of the Kentucky County Judge-Executive Association, estimates about half of the state’s county leaders have turned away same-sex couples while the other half have not.

"One in particular said we all have sinned, even heterosexuals," Settles commented to WKU Public Radio.  "He figures that everyone he marries is a sinner anyway, and he can't discriminate between the sins."

As judge-executive of Washington County, Settles has performed about 350 marriages in his 16 years in office, but since the Supreme Court ruling, he has stopped the practice due to his religious beliefs. 

"I have a strong belief in the Bible as the word of God and I believe the Bible states that marriage is to be between one man and one woman," Settles states.  "It's my firm belief that that's the way it was intended to be from the very beginning."

While county clerks are bound by state law to issue marriage licenses, judge-executives are not required to perform marriage ceremonies.

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Business
10:30 am
Mon June 8, 2015

Sinkhole Repair Nearly Complete at Corvette Museum

A 40 foot sinkhole opened up in the Skydome of the National Corvette Museum on February 12, 2014.

Originally published on Mon June 8, 2015 5:03 am

Work crews are prepping the Skydome at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green for reopening in July. 

Construction began last November in an area where eight prized cars fell into a massive sinkhole in February 2014. 

The hole was filled with crushed limestone and flooring supports were added underneath to prevent future collapses.

"If there were ever a future collapse of any kind, the floor is not going to go anywhere, it will stay in place," says NCM Marketing and Communications Director Katie Frassinelli.  "After that, they've been installing guardrail around the perimeter of room, cleaning, and painting."

The $5 million project converted the Skydome from two levels to one and added more display space. 

Once complete, all eight Corvettes will return to the Skydome.  Three of the cars were restored by General Motors.  The other five were too mangled for restoration.

A new sinkhole exhibit will open in the fall.

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Politics
9:37 am
Tue May 12, 2015

Poll: GOP Gubernatorial Race a Toss Up

Originally published on Tue May 12, 2015 9:31 am

One week from Kentucky’s primary election, the four Republican candidates for governor still have some convincing to do.

A survey conducted last week by Public Policy Polling shows only three points separate three of the four GOP contenders.  The poll puts James Comer in the lead with 28 percent support, followed by Hal Heiner at 27 percent, and Matt Bevin at 25 percent.  The survey did not include former state Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott. 

Despite accusations that he abused his college girlfriend, Comer maintains the highest favorability rating of the three candidates.  While he emphatically denies the abuse allegations, 50 percent of voters have a positive opinion of him.  Bevin is close behind at 48 percent.   Heiner is in last place with his 44 percent favorability rating. 

The poll questioned 501 Republicans and was funded by the Democratic PAC Kentucky Family Values.  The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4%.

The winner of next Tuesday’s primary will likely face Democratic frontrunner Jack Conway in the November election.

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Education
11:44 am
Fri May 8, 2015

Schools Sound Off on Federal Nutrition Guidelines

U.S. Representative Brett Guthrie, R-KY, eats lunch with students at Plano Elementary in Warren County.

Originally published on Mon May 11, 2015 9:21 am

A federal law championed by First Lady Michelle Obama is up for reauthorization later this year. 

At Plano Elementary School in Warren County Thursday, Kentucky’s 2nd District Congressman Brett Guthrie solicited feedback on the Healthy  and Hunger-free Kids Act which became law in 2010. 

Following a roundtable discussion, Guthrie said he learned that schools want more flexibility in preparing meals.

"Everyone wants kids to eat healthy, but when you write a single rule that comes out of Washington, DC, that goes into every cafeteria of every school, they don't always work," Guthrie told WKU Public Radio.

While the federal act has brought more nutritious meals into school cafeterias, much of the food is wasted. 

"If a kid doesn't pick up an apple, the school won't get reimbursed from the federal government if the kid is on free or reduced lunch," Guthrie explained.  "A lot of times they have to make the kids pick up an apple and walk out with it knowing that it's going in the garbage."

Cafeteria managers says the healthy food has resulted in more children bringing their lunch from home.  Most of the children not eating cafeteria food are from middle and upper class families that pay full price for their lunch.  It hurts schools monetarily when those children who pay full price bring their lunch from home. 

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Education
3:55 pm
Wed April 29, 2015

Budget Shortfall Forces Henderson County Teacher Layoffs

Originally published on Wed April 29, 2015 3:43 pm

The Henderson County public school system is preparing to lay off teachers for next year. 

The exact number of positions affected is unknown, though cuts are planned at every school.

Public Information Officer Julie Wisher says the school system is over-staffed.

"What we've done is realign ourselves with the staffing formulas that are set out by the Kentucky Department of Education," adds Wisher.  "In the past we had gone over those formulas."

Wisher says the school district has also absorbed the cost of programs previously funded by grants. 

In order to balance next year’s budget, Henderson County schools must reduce expenses by $6.7 million. 

Official layoff notices will be going out at the end of next week.  The cuts are expected to affect only non-tenured staff.

Meanwhile, the Board of Education will meet in special session Thursday morning to discuss the budget and cost savings.

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Politics
8:32 am
Wed April 29, 2015

Most of Kentucky's GOP Gubernatorial Candidates Vow to Pull the Plug on Kynect

Originally published on Tue April 28, 2015 11:13 pm

Less than a month shy of the primary election, three of Kentucky’s four Republican gubernatorial candidates debated Tuesday night in Bowling Green. 

The event at WKU featured Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, Louisville businessman Matt Bevin, and former Louisville Metro Councilman Hal Heiner. 

If elected, all three pledged to dismantle the state’s health insurance exchange known as Kynect. 

Comer said the state took on a lot of responsibility that it can’t afford.

"Eighty-two percent of the people who got on Kynect ended up on Medicaid," Comer explained.  "What Kynect became for Governor Beshear was a way to greatly expand Medicaid to the point to where we have 25 percent of the state on Medicaid, one out of four people.  That's not sustainable."

As governor, Comer said he would get more Kentuckians into private health coverage while changing eligibility requirements for Medicaid. 

Matt Bevin said he would transition those who signed up on Kentucky’s exchange to the federal exchange.

"Frankly, it's a level of redundancy we can't afford.  It's as simple as that," Bevin suggested.  "We were lured into participation through the use of federal dollars."

Starting in 2017, the state must begin bearing a share of the cost of expanding Medicaid.  Currently, the federal government is picking up the entire tab.

Hal Heiner suggested tying the Medicaid expansion to workforce training so people could get a job, get off of Medicaid, and obtain private insurance.  He criticized the Medicaid expansion for lacking any level of personal responsibility.

"It doesn't have what you're seeing conservative governors in other states adopt in their plans which build in incentives to use preventive care, to use primary care providers rather than emergency care, and to make healthy lifestyle choices to reduce the overall cost," Heiner stated. 

The candidates were mostly in agreement on range of economic topics from making Kentucky a right-to-work state to protecting the coal industry. 

The other GOP gubernatorial candidate, Will T. Scott did not attend the debate, citing a scheduling conflict.

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Society
6:11 am
Fri March 27, 2015

Southern Indiana Grappling with HIV Outbreak

Originally published on Thu March 26, 2015 4:42 pm

Governor Mike Pence has declared a public health emergency in one southern Indiana county. 

An HIV epidemic has been linked to intravenous drug use in Scott County. 

Deputy State Health Commissioner Jennifer Walthall says people are abusing a powerful painkiller that’s a cousin to Oxycontin and heroin.

"It's Oxymorphone, which the trade name for that is Opana," Walthall explained to WKU Public Radio.  "It's an incredibly powerful and potent opiate that comes in pill form, but can be crushed, boiled, and then injected."

The Indiana State Department of Health has confirmed 71 cases of HIV.  In comparison, Dr. Walthall says Scott County typically sees around five new HIV cases a year. 

The state is preparing to set up a temporary needle exchange program that will allow addicts to swap out dirty needles for clean ones in an effort to stop the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C.

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Environment
2:51 pm
Thu February 26, 2015

Dangerously High Levels of Arsenic Found on Ohio County Site

Originally published on Thu February 26, 2015 2:26 pm

The Environmental Protection Agency has discovered high levels of arsenic on a property in Ohio County.

Signs have been posted and a gate put up to keep people away from the site on Shinkle Chapel Road.  Ohio County Judge-Executive David Johnston says a former property owner initiated the probe.

"The lady who lived there became sick and her animals became sick.  She was a dog breed," Johnston tells WKU Public Radio.  "She started asking questions and reported it to the federal EPA."

While he only learned of the contamination two months ago, Johnston says the poison had been on the site since the 1940s.

"Someone brought in several drums of arsenic.  We don't know what the purpose of it was, but it was stored in a barn, which burned down seven years ago or so," Johnston adds.  "It wasn't a threat until then, but it got into a large area and killed all the trees on a few acres of land."

Soil samples revealed extremely high concentrations of the toxic element.  The poison hasn’t contaminated any water supplies. The federal EPA will be overseeing the cleanup.

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