Stu Johnson, WEKU

Reporter/Producer - Lexington

Ways to Connect

The weekend schedule doesn’t get any easier for two area college football teams.  Eastern Kentucky University came from behind to win 28 to 16 over Tennessee Martin Saturday.  The Colonels travel back to the Volunteer state this weekend to battle Tennessee State.  The Tigers are undefeated at five and oh.  The University of Kentucky, coming off a 21 point loss to South Carolina, stay home to host Mississippi State.  The Bulldogs come to Commonwealth without a loss.

In preparation for the vice presidential debate, Centre College yesterday tested their telecommunications system.  It will be in high demand on October 11th when the school hosts its second debate.   Students were invited into the media center, where they hooked up their smart phones, laptops, and similar devices to the internet.  Pottinger Professor of History Clarence Wyatt says such preparations are vital.  “In 2000 we got our media center up and running early.  There were some people on campus who wondered why we needed to take their space that early, but we wanted to make sure that all of that worked because that’s the heart of the story,” said Wyatt.

Presidential political polling is in full gear right now.  One high profile national poll shows President Obama with a ten point lead over challenge Mit Romney in some key background states.  Centre College Political Scientist, Ben Knoll says it’s important to get a read from many polls.  “The important thing is not to look at any one poll, but to look at an average of many, many, many polls.  Even by reputable polling industries, the chances of any one poll being 100 percent accurate is very small.  But, the chances go up the more and more polls that are done,” said Knoll.

A proposed law that makes littering a civil violation will go before Lexington’s full council for a vote.  By making it a civil violation, Patricia Knight, who chairs “Keep Lexington Beautiful,” says the city could prosecute more litter bugs.  “People make the choice to litter, they should take the responsibility for it,” said Knight.   Knight says most littering cases currently don’t result in punishment.  She says the change would ease criminal prosecutions, but not eliminate them altogether.

The advisory board tasked with overseeing Kentucky's health insurance exchange is set to have its first meeting Thursday.  The 19-member board is made up of public officials, insurance executives, doctors and consumer groups. The agenda is short, focusing mainly on organizational tasks like forming subcommittees. The board is also getting an overview of the exchange from Executive Director Carrie Banahan. The exchange will offer Kentuckians an online marketplace to compare and buy health plans, and one of the panel's first tasks will be to choose a vendor to help set up the system.

17 members have been named to a panel to help ensure state agencies meet policies related to the reporting of child abuse and neglect.  The group will investigate child fatalities and near fatalities determined to be the result of child abuse or neglect.    Members of the Child Fatality and Near Fatality External Review Panel will meet quarterly.  They will examine official records and case records.  The group will also analyze medical, psychosocial, and legal circumstances of children to identity conditions which contribute to death or serious injury.

One of Kentucky’s first regional substance abuse treatment centers will benefit from a quarter million dollar grant.  The Trilogy Recovery Center for Women opened in the fall of 2008.  Recovery Kentucky is a program aimed at helping Kentuckians recover from substance abuse and prevent chronic homelessness by offering long term care housing centers.  The Hopkinsville Trilogy Recovery Center provides peer support, addiction counseling, health and daily living education, and job training.

More than two thousand absentee ballots have been sent to Kentuckians in military service and other voters overseas.   With the presidential election less than six weeks away, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes says it’s important to allow for time and distance.  “The process of receiving, filling out, and returning an absentee ballot, whether you are in the middle east or here in the United States, it can take weeks, especially for those active duty military members that I saw,” said Lundergan Grimes.

A move to exempt the Bluegrass Airport from a tax that funds mandatory sewer improvements has failed.  Officials at Bluegrass Airport believe Lexington should give the facility a tax break.  They want their runways, taxi ways, and ramps exempted from the city’s storm water management fee.  The fee, which is paid by public and private entities, will finance a half billion dollars in sanitary and storm water sewer improvements.  Airport officials argue these are public surfaces, much like roadways.  Vice Mayor Linda Gorton, who chaired the storm water management task force, says an exemption would set a bad precedent

Kentucky’s adventure tourism effort is traveling down a new trail.  Ground was broken Tuesday on the Dawkins Line project in eastern Kentucky.  The trail, which runs along a former railroad line, is expected to attract hikers, horseback riders, and cyclists.  It’s a 36 mile trek that travels through Johnson, Magoffin, and Breathitt counties.  Work is underway for the first phase of the project.  It spans 18 miles from Hagerhill in Johnson County to Royalton in Magoffin County.

Military veterans across Kentucky can now secure a driver’s license with a new ‘veteran’ designation.  The new license option was approved during the 2012 general assembly session.  The word ‘veteran’ will be printed vertically and in capital letters along the right border of the license holder’s photo.  To obtain the license, a veteran must present a Department of Defense form that verifies service at the local circuit court clerk’s office.  Representative Tanya Pullin says the designation will help veterans receive benefits they have earned.

Talk continues at city hall over a proposed affordable housing trust fund for Lexington.  The idea, which has been under study for years, would finance homes for low-income residents.  Proponents say the city could raise two-million dollars each year for the fund with a half-percent tax on insurance premiums.  Council member Chris Ford says the time to act is now.  “Nobody can refute the need.  We can leave these chambers right now and drive throughout our districts and recognize the need.   The question is will we respond and react to the need,” said Ford.

A stomach virus is making its way through some Fayette County Schools.  Health officials suggest spending a little more time over the sink.  It’s not hand to hand combat when it comes to fighting a stomach bug.  It’s soapy hands over the sink which offers the best protection.  Kevin Hall, with the Fayette County Health Department, says a quick squirt of a hand sanitizer might not do the trick.

Hard hits are fact of life for football players who compete on the high school, college, and professional levels.  With those hits, comes the risk of significant head injury.  While much is known about head injuries, Eastern Kentucky University Professor of Exercise and Sports Medicine Matt Sabin recommends caution.  For example, when a helmet hits a helmet, Sabin says diagnosing the health consequences can be difficult.

Some 16 central Kentucky arts projects are receiving government support to further an environmental message.  This year’s Eco-Art grants cover everything from performances, to photographs, to sculptures.  Each has an environmental theme.  Lexington Mayor Jim Gray says the Eco-Art program helps the city creatively connects citizens with the environment.

Gross receipts for Keeneland’s eleven day yearling sales were down slightly from a year ago.  But, the average price and median figure were up.  Just over 25 hundred horses were auctioned off during the eleven day sale,  A little more than 29 hundred horses were sold last year.  The cumulative average price this year increased 14 percent while the median jumped up 50 percent.

The final disposal of chemical munitions stored at the Bluegrass Army Depot is years away.  Still, local leaders are already considering the economic potential of the Madison County installation once the clean-up is complete.  It’s a challenge, but there’s also optimism the site can remain a major employer.  The clean-up’s timeline remains tentative, at best.  Assuming Congress fully funds the project, over the next decade, some one-thousand people will work to eliminate the chemical weapons stockpile at the Bluegrass Army Depot.

Great medical strides have been made in the treatment of childhood leukemia.  Follow up care is a critical part of the formula for a healthy success long term.  A half century ago, the survival rate for children with leukemia hovered around ten percent.  Today, that percentage is more like 90 percent.  Despite the success, University of Kentucky Chief in the Division of Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Lars Wagner says there can be a cost to these kids…later in life

The Bluegrass Community and Technical College and Jefferson Community and Technical College will benefit from a half billion dollar federal grant program.  The money is being spread across the country to  develop and expand training programs.  The two Kentucky schools will receive a part of 15 million dollars coming to the Henry Ford Community College Consortium.

In rural counties, state-run prisons are often major employers.  And, after state budget cuts and reforms in the penal code, they remain an important part of the local economy. Some 12 state operated prisons are situated in relatively small towns.  There’s a maximum security prison in Eddyville and the others are either community or medium security complexes. Kentucky Department of Corrections Commissioner Ladonna Thompson says they’re a state agency that’s hiring.

Fayette County’s criminal electronic monitoring program has grown substantially over the last three years.   The ankle bracelet system was reviewed during an Urban County Council meeting Tuesday.  Jail officials say 42 people are on electronic monitors currently.  39 of those individuals have not gone to trial.  Jail Sargent Chris Toombs says there’s room for growth in the program.  “We could have as many as need be.  We can get over a hundred if that’s what the community requires and if the judges and city leadership wants to get together, then the jail can make that happen,” said Toombs.

Opening up Lexington to natural gas filling stations was a point of discussion today at City Hall.  With natural gas cheap and plentiful, it’s prompting interest among some motorists.  Council member Bill Farmer has heard a lot of buzz about the potential of natural gas as a cheap, clean-burning fuel.  “I just became familiar with it from a couple of conversations in terms of how much natural gas there is here naturally and how many pipelines this state and this part of the state to supply natural gas to other parts of the country,” said Farmer.

Unrest in countries around the world makes national as well as international headlines.   A central Kentucky lawmaker believes those events have taken some of the focus away from pressing domestic issues.  Jessamine County Senator Tom Buford says it seems to be the case with the federal health care law.  “Well to me it appears that much of the emphasis on the health care act has taken a back seat to the events overseas in Libya and Syria, other countries where we’re having difficulties now.  Probably that could be to the president’s advantage to thrown off the opposition that still is out there for the health care act,” said Buford.

There’s interest in a total overhaul of the Lexington’s historic downtown courthouse.  Last week, the city indefinitely closed the building, which sits at the corner of Main and Upper Streets, to the public.  Lexington General Services Commissioner Sally Hamilton says the 114 year old building has lead, asbestos and structural problems.  “We know we have got a lot of lead in there, but we would like to have something in concrete that tells us exactly where the majority of that lead is and some of the recommendations on how to abate that,” said Hamilton.

“Expansive” is the term Kentucky’s President of the State Council on Postsecondary Education offers to describe research at Kentucky’s Universities.  Bob King and the other members of the council will learn more about research efforts at the Universities of Kentucky and Louisville during a meeting Friday.  “In the long run, the payoff of having research success on our campuses can translate into economic prosperity in terms of creating more jobs for Kentuckians down the road,” said King.

Lexington’s effort to redo much of its sanitary and storm water sewer systems brings with it the cost of hiring consultants.  The most recent engineering contract presented to Lexington’s council was for a half-million dollars.  Council member Ed Lane says it deserves close scrutiny. “This should be the highest due diligence of our council is to make sure that our process is protecting our taxpayers and ratepayers and make sure we’re getting a fair return on our investment,” said Lane.  Mayor Jim Gray agrees….saying city officials are closely tracking expenses.

An international law firm is expected to bring more than 200 jobs to the Lexington community.  Bingham McCutchen announced Wednesday plans to open a shared services center next spring.  Company officials say the center will eventually house about 250 employees, who will be relocating from Bingham offices or hired from the Lexington area.  The move is tied to pending state and local economic development incentives.

Work continues on a multi-million dollar disposal facility designed to eliminate chemical munitions stored at the Bluegrass Army Depot.  Under the current Army timeline, actual destruction of nerve and mustard gas agents is set to start in 2020.  As technology improves, Chemical Weapons Working Group Director Craig Williams says  ‘neutralization’ will remain their preferred method of disposal.

Thousands of Lexington city employees will be making decisions about their health insurance plans in the coming weeks.  The new plans and rate structure is expected to save the city and workers money.  Urban County Council members were briefed on insurance matters Tuesday.  Benji Marrs is Senior Vice President with Benefit Insurance Marketing.  “So, for next year, employees, we anticipate, 50 percent of them will have a lower payroll deduction that what they have today.  And for some employees, there’s 28 percent of the population participating on an H-S-A and for those non tobacco users, they will experience anyway from a rate reduction to a one or two dollar increase per pay period,” said Marrs.

Governor Beshear is in India for a seven day economic development visit.  This is the governor’s third trip to India.  Last year, he announced 250 new jobs in Elizabethtown for the India based packaging company, Flex Films.  The firm is investing 180 million dollars in the Commonwealth.  Almost 30 percent of all capital investment and more than 22 percent of all jobs announced in 2011 were the result of foreign owned enterprises.