Stu Johnson, WEKU

Reporter/Producer - Lexington

Ways to Connect

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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
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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

More than politicians on Capitol Hill are taking stock in the current U-S debt ceiling debate.  University of Kentucky professor of economics, John Garren says finding a solution to long term debt can be a confidence builder for Kentucky business people.

The women, infant, and children assistance program, which has been in place for decades, will soon provide benefits through a plastic, debit card. The list of supplemental foods offered through WIC for low income mothers and their infants and toddlers includes dairy products, produce and cereals.  Now, a plastic debit type card will allow low-income moms buy healthy food when it's needed and without stigma.

A newly formed Early Childhood Advisory Council will help Kentucky create policies, standards, and goals which should improve the education given pre school children.

26 people have been named to a state council charged with seeking ways to improve early childhood education.  They were named today (Tuesday) in an executive order issued by Kentucky's governor.  Former C-E-O of United Way of Kentucky Terry Sims Tolan will direct the brand new Early Childhood Advisory Council.  Tolan says consistency of care is the highest priority.

For the first time in three years, Kentucky’s general fund tax receipts have increased.  The fiscal year, which ended last month, saw a six point five percent increase...that's the highest growth rate since 2006.  State budget director Mary Lassiter says it’s a sign of economic recovery.

A team of state officials will soon meet with Kentucky Speedway representatives to discuss next year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Race.  Gridlock Saturday meant thousands of ticket holders didn’t see the race.  Governor Steve Beshear says his team will get together in the next few days. “I think everyone anticipated that we would have some problems.  Obviously nobody anticipated that the parking situation would end up creating the problem that it did,” said Beshear

Health insurance costs have caused headaches for employers, both private and public.  Now, they're giving a big headache to city officials in Lexington. The city has failed to collect enough money from its workers for health care.  As a result, Lexington has lost tens of millions of dollars. The news comes at a bad time. Leaders at Lexington City Hall have just balanced their budget for next year.  Now they must find their way out of a ten million dollar hole that they are digging this year.

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On a day that marks the end of an era for the U-S Space program, students, staff, and interested onlookers at the University of Kentucky gathered to watch the launch.   They were in a room designed to give them a feel for what’s happening at NASA. Just minutes before the final launch of the space shuttle in Florida, everyone jammed inside a simulator modeled after mission control in Houston. Senior Jason Rexroat offered some insight to prospective students, while other eyes focused on the simulator's television monitors and live coverage of a real space flight

Members of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council have decided to let stand three budget vetoes by Lexington Mayor Jim Gray. Mayor Gray made three line item vetoes to the council approved budget.  Only one veto was challenged by the council Thursday night.  Members were asked to over-ride the mayor’s action and restore funding for more than 20 outside agencies.

Come this fall, a large percentage of Kentucky's Medicaid patients will enter a managed care program.  Governor Steve Beshear hails the change as a major cost saver that ensures quality care The Governor says the statewide expansion of Medicaid managed care will save taxpayers more than a billion dollars over three years.   Beshear announced the state has awarded three contracts to firms which will manage the care given thousands of Medicaid recipients.

Tonight’s (Thursday) the night Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council members may attempt to override budget vetoes issued by Mayor Jim Gray.  The mayor line item vetoed three areas of the council approved budget, including funds for disc golf facilities and a half-dozen jobs in the city's communications office.  The mayor also imposed a ten percent funding cut on some 26 outside agencies that provide city services.  David Barberie (BAR-ber-ee) with the city’s law department, Tuesday explained to council members their options.

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Kentucky’s first Nascar Sprint Cup Race isn’t until Saturday.  But,  the racing frenzy is being felt far ahead of the competition and far away from the northern Kentucky track.

It wasn’t the roar of the nascar vehicles that race car fans heard in the parking lot..  It was the sound of idling trucks that transport race cars as they waited Wednesday in a Lexington parking lot.  Daytona, Florida native Ron Utter works on the cars and drives the truck which holds the Toyota driven by Tony Raines.  Utter says actual race cars rarely leave their trucks…and are only seen at the track.

A poor review by Men's Health magazine has prompted a response by a member of Lexington's urban county council.  The publication recently rated Lexington the nation’s most sedentary city.  Council member Jay McChord suggests he, along with Lexington's mayor , the president of the University of Kentucky, and the Fayette County Schools Superintendent  travel to Pennsylvania to meet with magazine representatives.

The fourth of July weekend is barely history and there’s already interest among some Lexington council members to change the city’s fireworks policy. Several Lexington area residents complained to city hall about fireworks activity in their neighborhoods.  The new state law opened the nighttime skies to flying fireworks. Plus, the newly legal fireworks on the ground were quite a bit louder than usual.  Council member Kevin Stinnett says he heard the blasts and got an earful from constituents.