Stu Johnson, WEKU

Reporter/Producer - Lexington

Ways to Connect

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.

Stu Johnson / Weku

While federal lawmakers wrestle with their debt ceiling, legislators in Kentucky have their own debt problems to worry about. A bill comes due in September that worries state officials and business leaders.  Kentucky borrowed about 900 million dollars from the federal government for jobless benefits, and it must make a 28 million dollar interest payment.  If the state falls short, the premiums paid by business for unemployment insurance could go up 400 dollars per employee or about 640 million dollars.

When President Obama visited Fort Campbell just before Derby Day, Kentucky’s Governor confirms he did not receive a formal invitation to participate.  Nor, could Governor Steve Beshear rework his schedule to join in a ceremony for the Navy Seals who killed Osama Bin Laden.  At the time, Beshear did not talk about not receiving an invitation. The governor said today (Thursday) it was not an attempt to mislead the public for political gain

While exasperated over the debt ceiling debate, Kentucky’s governor thinks its impacts on the Commonwealth could be minimal. The governor says there’s no way the United States ought to be at this crossroads right now.  Steve Beshear says politicians in Washington have allowed partisan politics to rule the day with no thought to the interest of the American public.  Beshear says Kentucky relies on the federal government for Medicaid, transportation, and education funding.

Stu Johnson / WEKU News

The current heat wave in Kentucky could be a record breaker….and Thursday could be the hottest day, so far this year.  It makes one wonder how Kentuckians coped before air conditioning was invented. It was a scant half century ago when air conditioned homes or cars were rare.  Today, one would be hard pressed to find an average wage earner who lives without air conditioning.  Doctor Tom Wayne, who’s a professor of medicine at the University of Kentucky, says certain people could find the 90 plus degree heat more physically oppressive than our ancestors.

Stu Johnson / Weku

Some county clerks say the current system for registering homeless voters is fraught with peril. When a homeless person registers to vote, Boone County Clerk Kenny Brown says something as simple as assigning a poling place becomes complicated.

Stu Johnson / WEKU News

One of Lexington’s best known social service agencies has suffered funding cuts from three different sources, totaling close to 120 thousand dollars. Tough to swallow’ news about funding cuts was delivered this summer to officials with the Salvation Army.  United Way cut its contribution by 73 thousand dollars, the city of Lexington cut another 20 thousand dollars, and the agency lost 25 thousand dollars in federal support.

Stu Johnson / Weku

New recycling containers now enhance the landscape of Lexington parks.  59 containers with one section for waste and another section for recyclables are being situated in parks.   Bill Clarke, who's with Parks and Recreation says the container handles various recyclables. “Primarily aluminum cans and plastic bottles, cardboard, paper.  We don’t like to get items that have been soiled or contaminated with food,” said Clarke.

A growing shortage of dentists who specialize in the treatment of children worries health experts at the University of Kentucky. Children once waited until they were three years old before they made their first trip to the dentist.  The dean of the University of Kentucky’s College of Dentistry says that first trip should now come at age one.  But, Dr. Sharon Turner is increasingly worried finding a dentist qualified to treat toddlers will grow difficult.  Turner says both U-K and the University of Louisville graduate about eight pediatric specialists each year.

The heat wave poses a considerable risk to central Kentuckians who can find no shelter.   Kenneth Newton at Lexington’s Hope Homeless Center is seeing as many men today as he sees in the dead of winter. “Well, right now we are dealing with our winter time numbers.  If there was a major blizzard outside, that’s the type of numbers we are dealing with tonight,” said Newton.

The Food We Eat

Jul 21, 2011

Kentucky has long standing medical issues related to the unhealthy foods we eat.  Serious medical conditions like colon cancer, heart disease and stroke are the result of poor diets.  Food concerns in central Kentucky are expanding into a new territory.

A group of 15 citizens in Lexington is moving ahead with a reworking of the cities’ council districts.  The panel has split into three groups. Committee members crowded around computer screens… reviewing numbers.  They’re drawing new district boundaries so they better represent population shifts within Fayette County.

Algae on the Go

Jul 21, 2011
Stu Johnson / Weku

The algae which once blanketed the prehistoric earth could help power Kentucky’s cars.  Within ten years, plant and soil sciences professor Joe Chappell says algae under study at the University of Kentucky could provide a high value oil.

Stu Johnson / Weku


Before a student can start school in Kentucky, the child must get a clean bill of health from a dentist.  However, many Kentucky kids, especially the children of Spanish-speaking farm workers have little access to dental care.  In response, free screenings will soon be offered in Lexington

Stu Johnson / Weku

A crash course in composting is available this summer in Lexington.  The classes are increasingly popular. The idea is to, for instance, mix green vegetation, brown leaves, and cracked egg shells with potato skins.  The successful compost pile often features leaves, twigs, grass clippings and food scraps.  But, Recycling Program Specialist Esther Moberly  says only certain food scraps should find their way into the compost heap.

For decades, Kentuckians have known they’re vulnerable to radon, but many are not protecting themselves.  The radioactive gas collects in crawl spaces and basements, and has been linked to health problems.  Much of central Kentucky is troubled by radon gas.  Thanks to the region’s limestone and caves, radon levels here are much higher than the national average.

Stu Johnson / Weku

Repairs to a railroad which cuts through the heart of a scenic central Kentucky town is sure to cause some disruption.   But, it’s the view ‘down the track’ which excites business owners who cater to tourists. Railroad crossing repairs along four streets in Midway is expected to snarl traffic over the next couple of weeks.  Each crossing will be impassible for a couple days while it’s upgraded.  It’s inconvenient, but Mary Thoresen of Damselfly Gallery says it’s important to look at the big picture.