Stu Johnson, WEKU

Reporter/Producer - Lexington

Ways to Connect

State DARE Program Re-accredited

Aug 30, 2011

FRANKFORT – DARE America (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) has re-accredited the Kentucky State Police as the official DARE. Training Center for the anti-drug and violence program in Kentucky. The program is a police-officer-led series of classroom lessons that teach children from kindergarten through 12th grade how to resist peer pressure and live productive drug and violence-free lives.

Many cities in central and southeast Kentucky draw water from the Kentucky River.  Other communities tap into the Big Sandy, Ohio, Licking and Mississippi Rivers.   Still, wells remain the chief source of drinking water for many rural towns.  Joe Burns, with the Kentucky Rural Water Association, says well water is often cleaner and cheaper.

Stu Johnson / Weku

Muslims of all ages across Kentucky and around the world today mark the end of Ramadan and celebrating Eid.  The Eid festival ends 30 days of dawn to sunset fasting.  It’s also a time to reflect on the last month, a period many Muslims say is the most moving of the year. The timing of Ramadan shifts each year, but its purpose remains constant.  It allows Muslims to commemorate the first verses of the Qur’an, which were revealed to the Islamic prophet Muhammad.  Muslims not only fast from dawn to sunset.  They offer up prayers and share their wealth with people who are less fortunate.

The last of the septic systems inside the city Lexington will almost certainly become history someday.  First though, city officials must find the necessary funds.

Septic tanks were once commonplace in Lexington.  The concrete containers, which were normally buried, use a system of pipes to safely distribute waste water underneath a backyard.  But, Division of Engineering section manager Bob Bayert says the central Kentucky topography sometimes works against the process.

Stu Johnson / Weku

Lexington’s Greek Festival presents an annual opportunity this weekend to experience the European country’s culture.  The three day event at the Red Mile Clubhouse is hosted by members of the Greek Orthodox Church.  Many Kentuckians know relatively little about the Christian faith.

Stu Johnson / Weku

Several female police officers from around the world Thursday were tested on their driving and shooting at a Lexington police range.

A small group of officers at this week’s International Association of Women Police Conference underwent training mandated by the United Nations.  Comfort Miah from the west African nation of Ghana worked on her driving skills.  Such driver education would have been helpful in Darfur, Africa….where Officer Miah served previously.

A project meant to connect community leaders in nine central Kentucky counties is being launched Friday.  The ‘Bluegrass Connector Project’ hopes to collect the e-mail addresses of some 40 thousand movers and shakers who work ‘under the radar.’ United Way of the Bluegrass President Bill Farmer says it’s all about getting key people together.

The debate over whether a portion of major artery through downtown Lexington should offer parking or a bike lane has been decided…at least for now. A striped bike lane, that runs along one block of Maxwell Street between Woodland and Kentucky Avenues, will be erased.  The short stretch had offered parking, but was accidentally painted over as a bike lane.  Richard Sexton, who owns both business and residential property in the neighborhood, says they need parking spots.

Stu Johnson / Weku

The interim director of the Fayette County Detention Center has lots of ideas for moving forward.  Former director Ray Sabbatine) was called back into a leadership role earlier this summer.  Sabbatine says a ‘fish eye’ type camera at the booking area of the jail could enhance ‘transparency’ by streaming video and audio on a web site.

Stu Johnson / WEKU News

It takes a bit more effort to get inside Lexington’s city hall these days.  Work crews are moving ahead with the final phase of cosmetic improvements along Main Street.  For possibly another week, most workers and visitors to city hall must use a side door.  Project manager George Milligan says their excavation uncovered some surprises.

“We found basements that came all the way out under the sidewalk.  We found coal chutes that had just been concreted over that required some additional work to clear those types of problems,” said Milligan.

Monday found fairly a consistent flow of students into Richmond’s book stores.  Classes resume this week at a number of state universities across the Commonwealth. The job market is on the minds of many of the college students. If all goes as she plans, Lancaster Junior Sarah Elliot will graduate next year from Eastern Kentucky University with a nursing degree.  Then, Elliot hopes to work for a Lexington hospital.  Despite the slow economy, the health industry is relatively health.  Still, Elliot worries job seekers may soon flood the healthcare professions.

Training for Female Peacekeepers

Aug 22, 2011

Female police officers from close to 60 nations are in Lexington for training.  Among them are officers with the United Nations police division.  U-N gender officer Lea Biason says some of the training is for international peacekeepers. “These are the minimum requirement skills needed for police officers to be deployed in international peace keeping operations,” said Biason.

Stu Johnson / Weku

An innovative highway interchange in Lexington remains a ‘work in progress.’  Work on the ‘Double-Cross-Over-Diamond’ interchange at Harrodsburg and New Circle is backing-up traffic, especially during  peak driving times.  Opening a third lane in each direction will help, but, Site engineer Tony McGaha can’t say when that will happen.

“At this time we don’t have a real firm date.  Like any construction project, there are way too many variables to really give you a date.  As soon as we feel that third lane is safe for the public and we’ve got the work completed so the workers are protected, we will open it with no delay on it,” said McGaha

Stu Johnson / Weku

A cultural center that celebrates Lexington’s Black community now also sets a standard for energy efficiency

The Lyric Theater and Cultural Arts Center is the first city owned building to earn Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold Certification.   LEED certified buildings are designed to reduce waste, conserve energy and water, and improve indoor air quality.  For example, architect Susan Hill says the theater will benefit from solar power generated by the Fayette County School System

Hoping to fight identity theft, an organization known for its anti-scam advice offers consumers a counter-measure

The Better Business Bureau of Central and Eastern Kentucky is coordinating a free document shredding event Saturday at Lowes in Lexington’s Hamburg Pavilion.  Spokeswoman Heather Clary says there’s no need to remove staples, clips, or rubber bands from the documents.

Parents and educators involved in Kentucky’s Head Start program are watching Washington warily.  The federally-funded pre-school program could lose funding if Congress cannot agree on a budget reduction plan.  If there’s no deal, Kentucky Head Start executive director Bob Wilcher says it would mean a serious cutbacks.

An advocate for early childhood education says more attention needs to be paid to existing programs in rural communities.  June Widman serves on the Early Childhood Advisory Council. The panel met for the first time Wednesday in Frankfort.  Widman says sound quality child care should not go un-noticed.

“If we want to increase the availability of quality programs for young children, let’s look where young children already are…instead of saying it could only be done at school or could only be done under the auspices of Head Start,” said Widman.

The proposed merger of three hospital systems prompted questions from a panel of Kentuckylawmakers Wednesday.

Under the plan, the University of Louisville Hospital, Jewish Hospital, along with St. Mary’s Healthcare and St. Joseph Healthcare would merge. Most of the questions asked by lawmakers centered on the availability of reproductive health care.  Since Roman Catholics oppose procedures like tubal ligations, they would no longer be offered at these medical facilities. Instead, hospital officials say such treatments would be offered at facilities not involved in the merger

Stu Johnson / WEKU News


A long time Lexington businessman worries a relatively short stretch of bike lane could have a large impact on area retailers.

Mike Courtney, the owner of ‘Black Swan Books,’ has been a part of Lexington’s Woodland triangle for more than a quarter century.   Saying he has a number of bicycling customers, Courtney  is still concerned about a striping for a bike lane running along Maxwell street from Woodland to Kentucky


It’s not just the students in the classrooms across Kentucky who are learning new subjects this year.  Classes are underway in many sections of the state.  It’s also a time of learning for many educators from Kindergarten through college.  The last in a series of workshops designed to orient college faculty and staff on recently enacted education reforms is scheduled Monday in Williamsburg


Guaging  public sentiment on a wide variety of issues is common practice today.   But, political surveys may top the list.  And, assessing Congressional performance is a question routinely put before likely voters.

“Congress tends to be unpopular and has been for decades really since we’ve done polling…there’s some ups and downs, but this we’re reaching new lows every day at this point,” said Joe Gershtenson

The B-52s are ready to drop some tunes on spectators, a few School for the Creative and Performing Arts grads offer a parting show, and the art of bugs.   All this is on tap this weekend in Lexington.  Weku’s Stu Johnson spoke to Lexington Herald arts reporter Rich Copley about these events

Stu Johnson / Weku

More than 200 Fayette County students had the opportunity on their first day of school to get a ‘little closer to nature.’

Plant and land science, environmental bio-technology, and agriculture power systems are all areas of study at the new Locust Trace Agri-Science Farm.  The educational complex off Leestown road also includes a heavy emphasis in solar power.  In fact,  principal  Joe Norman says the solar paneled structures could help to power area homes

Deep digging in backyards across Kentucky continues to cause problems for utility companies.    Today is designated as Kentucky 8-1-1 Underground Facility Protection Day.  State public service commission spokesman,  Andrew Melnykovych says ‘cutting buried utility lines’ is still a problem on a daily basis.  He says losing ‘land line’ telephone access can present health and safety issues

It’s ‘back to school’ time in Fayette County Thursday and the students numbers continue to rise.

New school construction and renovation are a part of the fabric of the Fayette County School System.  Acting school superintendent, Mary Wright says projections show an additional 800 students coming into the Lexington district this year.  She says the district has been growing by about 600 students in each of the last few years.  Wright says some renovation work continues

Chemical Concerns

Aug 10, 2011
Stu Johnson / Weku

A variety of chemicals are found in all kinds of products we use every day.   There are concerns about health impacts of chemicals included in some of these items.  A group of central Kentuckians is asking Congress to pass the ‘Safe Chemicals Act of 2011.’  Among them is Lois Kleffman with the Kentucky Environmental Foundation.

“I don’t really mind kids being out in the dirt as much as I would mind them putting certain things in their mouths that are manufactured…have chemicals in them”

Stu Johnson / Weku

A section of a major thoroughfare in Lexington will be shut down this weekend.  Come Monday, it could  result in a whole new approach to easing traffic congestion in southwest Lexington.

Road crews have been working on the unique ‘double diamond’ cross over project at Harrodsburg and New Circle roads for about two months.  The four on and off ramps to New Circle and Harrodsburg road from Pasadena to Beaumont Centre Drive are expected to be closed this weekend.  But, Natasha Lacy, with the state transportation department, says the new traffic pattern should be in place early Monday

‘Energy conservation’ is a primary feature in the University of Kentucky’s Davis Marksbury building.  The structure, part of UK’s College of Engineering, is the first building on the Lexington campus to receive a LEED (LEAD) certification.  LEED or Leadership in Energy and Environment Design is considered the standard rating system for the most energy efficient buildings.

Lexington area youth are invited to share their thoughts with city leaders Tuesday night during a town hall meeting.

The meeting, at the Lyric Theater, will be attended by several representatives of city agencies.  It’s sponsored by the Commission on Youth Development and Public Safety.  The commission was formed in June in response to criminal activity in the community.  Vontella Thomas, with the Mayor’s Youth Council, expects adult leaders to listen to teenager concerns.

Salvation Army of the Bluegrass

Social service agencies that have long received funds from United Way of the Bluegrass this year lost that support.  Funding cuts have programs at organizations like the Salvation Army and Catholic Charities scrambling for cash.  United Way, with collects donations and then distributes the funds among such charities, has narrowed the list of programs that qualify.