Stu Johnson, WEKU

Reporter/Producer - Lexington

Ways to Connect

Along with pressing issues like State pensions, tax reform, or Medicaid managed care, come some lighter matters at the capital.  The Kentucky Senate is considering a bill to declare Clark County as the birthplace of ‘beer cheese.’  Clark County Senator R.J. Palmer testified to the economics of beer cheese in her community.  “We had six thousand people in Winchester Kentucky for a beer cheese festival.     Six thousand people on Main Street in Winchester. We’ve got time to do these things while we’re here,” said Palmer.

Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of severe weather which took the lives of many Kentuckians and caused millions of dollars in structural damage.  The March second, 2012 tornadoes caused vast devastation with the bulk of the damage in communities like West Liberty, Salyersville, East Bernstadt, and Piner.  Statewide, 25 people were killed and more than 45 hundred homes impacted.  671 of those houses were destroyed.

In any given week, three to five burn patients could be treated at the University of Kentucky Hospital.  About half of the injuries in young children are typically ‘scald burns.  A ‘scald burn’ can happen in just a matter of seconds.  University of Kentucky Burn Unit Director Leslie Wong says many children are injured after pulling a hot liquid down off a counter.

A plan to cut Eastern Kentucky University’s budget by ten percent carries with it some expected employee layoffs.   The explanation about the budget alteration came in an email from Eastern President Doug Whitlock to faculty and staff.   Whitlock says about 75 percent of the Richmond school’s budget covers employee salaries and benefits.  In meeting the directive of the board to make a ten percent cut, the Eastern President says forced layoffs are possible.

A new ‘green’ Capital Education Center is now open.  The former heating and cooling facility had been dormant until its renovation into a visitors’ destination.  Governor Beshear says more than 60 thousand students, teachers, and other guests visit the Capital Campus each year.  He says ‘the building will serve as an outstanding resource to promote energy efficiency, sustainability, and more.’  The building is insulated wit recycled denim and features a viewing platform on the roof wit solar panels, a wind turbine, and a rooftop garden.

RICH COPLEY — Lexington Herald-Leader

 A play about a man and his goat hits the stage in Lexington this weekend.  There’s music, then basketball, and then music again in Rupp Arena.  Plus, raising money for the Living Arts and Science Center is on the agenda.  Rich Copley, a cultural arts reporter for the Lexington Herald Leader, speaks this week with Weku’s Stu Johnson.  He says the Balagula Theatre will feature Edward Albee’s ‘The Goat, or Who is Sylvia.’

The sounds of hammers and saws could ring out a little louder in the bluegrass in 2013.  So says Chris Bollinger, Director for the Center of Business and Economic Research at the University of Kentucky.   Bollinger looks for more residential construction over the next 12 months.  “And I think we’re going to begin to see new construction.  Housing starts are beginning to climb in Lexington as they are in Louisville and Cincinnati as well.  And I think we’ll begin to see that new construction going in 2013.  It will probably be 2014 before we really see the housing starts index for Lexington, Louisville, and Cincinnati return to their historic trends,” said Bollinger.

Two Magoffin County officials are being honored for their response to a tornado event in southeast Kentucky almost a year ago.  County Judge Executive Charles Hardin and Emergency Management Director Mike Wilson are recipients of the StormReady Community Hero Award.  Wilson alerted Hardin of the impending tornado heading toward Salyersville.  Jackson National Weather Service meteorologist Shawn Harley says the county judge made door to door visits along highway 460.

A much anticipated report on homelessness in Lexington is due out Tuesday.   The report, which was composed by members of a Mayor’s Commission, will include strategies meant to reduce the number of homeless people.  Commission Co-Chair Steve Kay says they hope to find funding, increase the number of affordable residences, and improve services available to people who could lose their homes.

Within a few weeks, the Kentucky General Assembly could modify the new ‘Pill Mill’ law.  It was intended to help crack down on improperly run pain clinics, but some health care professionals complain it’s too cumbersome.  Dave Hopkins, who oversees the state’s prescription drug monitoring program, agrees one of the law’s provisions is probably not necessary.

Roundball Update

Jan 28, 2013

The aim for the Eastern Kentucky University Colonels will be to bounce back this week.  E-K-U lost its first home game of the season Saturday to league leading Belmont 85 to 74.  This Thursday Eastern travels to UT-Martin.  The University of Kentucky Wildcats got a five point win over L-S-U Saturday.  This Tuesday night UK takes on the SEC leader Mississippi in Oxford.   University of Louisville dropped its third straight game, losing to Georgetown 53-51 over the weekend.  U of L hosts Pittsburg tonight.

Low wage earning Kentuckians are again being urged to file for federal earned income tax credits.  The plea came today/Friday from Governor Beshear in Lexington and Lieutenant Governor Jerry Abramson in Louisville.  West Liberty resident Zach Engle got married, bought a home, and then lost his job a year ago.  He was a tax credit beneficiary turned financial coach.  “My wife and I just recently celebrated our one year anniversary.  I have a job that I enjoy going to every day and I jumped at the opportunity given to me by my wonderful supervisor to become a vita volunteer tax preparer, giving me a chance to truly pay it forward,” said Engle.

For the first time since 2007, the Eastern Kentucky University Colonels have beaten Murray State in Murray.  E-K-U went into the Ohio Valley Conference contest as a heavy underdog, but jumped out to an early lead.  Eastern scored 24 straight points in the first half and held a 14 point lead at half.  Murray mounted a furious comeback to trim the lead to five late in the game, but E-K-U pulled back out and won 77 to 65.

Even with the fiscal cliff looming, newly elected central Kentucky Congressman Andy Barr opposes any tax increase.  Barr was the opening speaker today in Lexington at the annual Kentucky Chamber’s Legislative Preview.  The Republican believes increasing taxes on wealthier Americans will hurt the economy.

Restoration work on a popular Lexington parking garage has some motorists scrambling for parking spots.  The Annex Garage along Main Street was closed in early November.    Normally, Lexington Parking Authority Director Gary Means says over six hundred vehicles parked there each day.  “They come through the garage on a given day.  And then you have at least 300 employees or monthly parkers that could park there on any given day.  And there’s only 380 spaces so it was a busy garage before we had to close it,” said Means.

A Lexington based organization that supports military personnel serving overseas is expanding its program.   For several years, Military Missions has shipped care-packages to soldiers.  This holiday season, the organization has launched an ‘Adopt-A-Hero’ program.  Military Missions Volunteer Larry Neuzel says donors can send items to specific service men and women.   “We have some in Kuwait.  I saw one the other day from Korea, so anybody that’s overseas that have gone to our website and we have a place on there where you can add a hero.  We do this all year long, not just at Christmas time.

The College basketball season doesn’t take much of a break over the Thanksgiving Holiday.  It’s also a busy week ahead for area teams.  Eastern Kentucky University beat Norfolk State by 24 points Saturday night.  E-K-U takes on Delaware State in another home game Wednesday night.  The University of Kentucky ran past Long Island University Brooklyn Friday.  The Wildcats travel to South Bend Indiana for a run in with Notre Dame Thursday.

As the number of immigrants coming to central Kentucky grows, the demand for English lessons also increases.  But, there are not enough instructors here who can teach English-as-a-Second-Language classes.  Lexington’s Multicultural Affairs Coordinator Isabel Taylor says ‘the numbers’ tell a big part of the story.  Taylor says data gathered from the Fayette County School System shows about 15 hundred non-English speaking children were enrolled in 2005.  By last spring, she says that number had almost tripled.

Motorists this Thanksgiving Week are apt to see congested interstate highways around Kentucky.  Holiday travel is anticipated to increase slightly for the five day period.  Triple-A spokesman Christopher Oakford says that’s been the trend in recent years.  “It’s about a one percent increase on last year, but last year was again an increase on the year before so it gradually seeing a rise or a recovery in the number of people who are choosing to travel since the economic downturn in 2008,” said Oakford.

  A Kentucky woman is making history in her new position as a church leader in Alabama.  The Reverend Debbie Wallace Padgett is making her mark on history in a couple ways.  This fall the Eastern Kentucky native became the first female Methodist Bishop in Alabama.  Padgett is also the first woman from Kentucky elected to such a position.  She believes ministerial opportunities for women are growing all the time.

Kentuckians who owe state taxes now have just two weeks to take advantage of an amnesty program.  Delinquent taxpayers can pay what they owe and avoid penalties, fees, and additional interest.  Kentucky Secretary of Finance and Administration Lori Flanery says it’s been ten years since Kentucky has offered tax amnesty.  “The amount of money that is anticipated is about 55 million dollars.  In the 2002 effort, there was actually 40 million dollars collected,” said Flanery.

Tax revenues coming into Lexington city hall seem to indicate the local economy is ‘relatively stable.’  The local unemployment rate in the six percent range, is about one percent lower than a year ago.  City Revenue Director Bill Omara says a number of taxing categories are down slightly, but service-related fees are up.  “Services category was over budget.  That’s a large category that takes into detention fees, e-m-s fees, parks fees.  Those types of fees that are general fund related,” said Omara.

Eastern Kentucky University officials are looking into an allegation of hazing.  The claim was filed against the men’s Rugby Club.  E-K-U Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Mike Reagle says officials are still trying to determine what happened.  “We have an allegation.  That is correct.  We don’t know what has happened until we talk to students who happened to be there.  But, there is an allegation that someone has made and that’s what we’re investigating at this point.” Said Reagle.

The Eastern Kentucky men’s basketball team has been tabbed pre-season to finish near the bottom of a new Ohio Valley Conference division.  E-K-U’s women’s team, meanwhile,  placed near the top of its division. The OVC is debuting its divisional format this season.  The coach and media poll puts the Colonels fifth out of six teams in the East Division. Newcomer Belmont was picked to finish first in the East.  Defending Ohio Valley Conference champion Murray State holds down the number one spot in the West Division.

This is the time of year when deer are likely to be crossing many Kentucky roadways.   There are ways to reduce the risk of car versus deer collisions.   Kentucky State Police report almost fifty percent of all vehicle collisions with deer occur between September and November.   Last year, three of these crashes involved fatalities for vehicle occupants.  Sargent  Rick Saint-Blancard says don’t think a car or truck will be able to sustain a collision with a deer.

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