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Headlines for Sunday, December 11, 2016

Here's what's happening.

Kansas Suicide Prevention Center in Lawrence Raises Funds to Stay Open

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A suicide prevention center that serves all but one of Kansas' 105 counties will remain open after an influx of private donations and help from a state agency.  Headquarters Counseling Center in Lawrence said it needed to raise $90,000 by December 5 to stay open after it lost several grants.  KPR reports that the organization has met that goal. The organization said it received $60,000 in private donations. And last Friday, the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services said it could give the organization $25,000 in grant money and suggested it could be used as matching funds. Headquarters executive director Andy Brown says the online fundraising campaign will continue until December 31 to meet the match offer from the state agency.


Agency Chief: Kansas Has No Backlog of Child Abuse Reports

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The top administrator of the state agency charged with investigating reports of child abuse and neglect in Kansas is rejecting allegations that it fell behind in reviewing those reports.  Secretary Phyllis Gilmore, of the Department for Children and Families, also said in a recent interview that a legislative leader's resulting criticism could hinder the agency's efforts to protect vulnerable kids.  Questions arose because of a DCF manager's internal September 22 email saying reporting centers faced a "backlog" because of "a severe staffing issue."  Incoming Kansas House Democratic Leader Jim Ward said Republican Governor Sam Brownback should fire Gilmore. But DCF officials said "priority" reports of abuse to its two reporting centers are being handled within hours. The reports include any cases involving children with visible bruises.


Man Sentenced in Wichita Shooting

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man has been sentenced to more than 30 years in prison for a Kansas store robbery shooting that left a retired guidance counselor so seriously injured that doctors had to amputate her hands and feet.  The Wichita Eagle reports that 27-year-old James Michael Phillips was sentenced Friday to 31 years for shooting Julie Dombo during a robbery attempt at an AT&T store in Derby in August 2015.  He was convicted earlier of nine counts, including attempted first-degree murder. Dombo, who had gone to the store to have her phone fixed, spoke during the sentencing hearing and told the judge the shooting changed her life. Doctors had to amputate portions of Dombo's arms and legs to save her life. She spent 114 days in the hospital.


Kansans Tell Brownback Their Ideas on School Finance

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansans responded to Governor Sam Brownback's request for input on school finance with scores of ideas and observations, ranging from a substitute teacher who recommended dropping school sports to another person who floated a sales tax for education.  The governor issued his call in August and accepted input through November to a special email address. The governor's office opened the emails to inspection late Friday afternoon, allowing reporters about two hours to comb through thousands of pages of printed emails.  The missives came ahead of a legislative session in which lawmakers aim to craft a new school finance formula.  In a statement, Brownback said educators, parents and students submitted quality proposals.


Developers to Renovate Salina Hospital into Apartments

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A development group is hoping to turn the former St. John's Hospital in Salina into 50 apartments for people ages 55 and older.  The Salina Journal reports Sunflower Development Group met with the Salina Heritage Commission recently to approve a plan to demolish part of the former hospital. The approval must go through a 14-day appeal period.  The project would further expose the original hospital built in 1914, as well as a wing built in 1951. The Kansas Historic Society asked the developers for the newer parts of the structure to be removed, so that there is a possibility the building could be added to the National Register of Historic Places and qualify for historic tax credits. Renovation could start next summer provided the tax credits are received.


STAR Bonds Retired on Kansas City, Kansas Development

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have made the last payment on state-backed bonds used to develop the Village West shopping district in Wyandotte County.  The last payment was made earlier this month, five years ahead of schedule. The STAR bond program provides cash for entertainment or tourist developments repaid with local and state sales tax revenue generated by the projects.  Retirement of STAR bonds for the Village West development in Wyandotte County is expected to free $12 million in sales tax revenue annually for use by the Unified Government of Wyandotte County-Kansas City.  State lawmakers have questioned reliance on STAR bonds to promote economic development as lawmakers search for revenue to fill shortfalls in general state tax revenue.


O'Neal Announces Departure from Kansas Chamber of Commerce

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Mike O'Neal says he's leaving his position as chairman and chief executive officer of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce.  O'Neal announced his retirement Friday after four years leading the chamber. O'Neal also served 28 years in the Kansas House. He says he's reached the typical retirement age of 65 but plans to remain active in Kansas politics.  O'Neal was hired in 2012 to lead the Kansas Chamber after the Legislature pushed through a tax reform bill that eliminated the state income tax on owners of 330,000 businesses and lower state personal income tax rates.  A number of Chamber-endorsed GOP candidates were defeated in the August primary and November general elections. And, the incoming 2017 Legislature is expected to try to repeal the business-owner tax exemption.


Pittsburg State to Appeal Sexual Harassment Ruling

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — Pittsburg State University plans to appeal a recent federal jury decision that awarded $230,000 to a former employee who accused a university employee of sexually harassing her. A jury in U.S. District Court in Kansas found recently that Pittsburg State violated Martha Fox's civil rights and awarded her $230,000.
Court records show that Fox, a former custodial specialist, alleged that a supervisor sexually harassed her and Pittsburg State officials didn't appropriately investigate her harassment claims. The supervisor denied the accusations and later retired. Pittsburg State President Steve Scott told The Joplin Globe that no sexual harassment took place, and that the university's position "will prevail."



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