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Headlines for Thursday, August 21, 2014


KCC Files Federal Complaint over Westar's Transmission Rates

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas regulators have filed a complaint against Westar Energy Inc., alleging the utility is charging unjust and unreasonable electric transmission rates. The Kansas Corporation Commission filed the complaint Wednesday with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission against the state's largest electric utility. The agency is objecting to what it called Westar's unreasonably high return on equity in a formula that sets rates. But Westar contends the KCC's action could cause Kansas to underinvest in critical high-voltage transmission infrastructure. Westar President Mark Ruelle says in a news release that the company and the KCC "just have to agree to disagree." He says Westar trusts the federal agency's process for reviewing its concerns. KCC says that Westar's rates could be cut $15.8 million annually if the state prevails.


Ousted KS House Member Plans Write-In Campaign

GRANDVIEW PLAZA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House member Allan Rothlisberg is planning a write-in campaign for November's election after losing his Republican primary race this month. KJCK-AM reports that the first-term lawmaker from Grandview Plaza says Democrats and Republicans alike have asked him to run. Rothlisberg lost the August 5 GOP primary in the 65th House District to Lonnie Clark, a political newcomer from Junction City. The Democratic nominee is Tom Brungardt, of Milford. Rothlisberg says he's been assured by Kansas ethics officials that it's legal to use campaign funds he's already accumulated for his write-in effort. Rothlisberg gained attention this year with a proposal to track the citizenship status of public schoolchildren. He said his goal was to calculate how much the state spends to educate children who are in the U.S. without legal permission.


Topeka Educators Had Access to Confidential Student Data

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Some educators in the Topeka school district have had illegal access to data that identifies students from low-income families, which is legally protected as confidential, according to a newspaper report. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported this week that principals and other educators were able to see the data through the district's student information platform called PowerSchool. The data is used to determine which students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches. Although Superintendent Julie Ford assured the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Tuesday that the problem had been fixed, the Capital-Journal reports that was not the case, after a person who is not legally allowed to review the data provided samples to the newspaper. On Wednesday, the district shut down a data-exporting function in PowerSchool that was allowing the leak.


State Agency Closes Wichita Treatment Facility

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas state agency has shuttered a Wichita group home after regulators say they found improperly stored medications, rodent infestations and unlicensed staff members. The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services ordered the immediate closure of the Atishwin Institute. The state also revoked the license for the substance abuse treatment group home. The facility has 35 beds and was assisting 25 residents when it was closed. The agency says the institute was noncompliant with federal regulations through the violations. Inspectors also say they found disconnected smoke alarms. The institute has 15 days to request a hearing over the license revocation. The agency is helping to relocate the residents.


Kansas Fights Labor Rule for Home Health Workers

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says he's not sure the federal government knows the unintended consequences of a planned labor overtime rule that aims to protect domestic service workers. Brownback met Thursday with home health care givers and their charges at the Independent Living Resource Center in Wichita to rally opposition to the regulation. Kansas contends the rule that takes effect next year would increase the cost of services for Kansans who receive home-based care. The state has asked U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez for an exemption or delay for disabled and elderly Kansans who direct their own care. The governor is asking the public to contact the Labor Department to voice their concerns. The rule is designed to ensure domestic service workers are protected by federal wage and overtime rules.


Pedestrian Dies on I-70 in Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Topeka police say a man died after he was hit by a semi-trailer truck on Interstate 70 in western Topeka. Police say the man was struck about 6:30 am Thursday. He was pronounced dead at the scene. No further information was immediately available. Eastbound traffic on the interstate was restricted to one lane for about three hours before the interstate was reopened.


American State Bancshares Moving from Great Bend to Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - American State Bancshares, a bank holding company, plans to move its headquarters from Great Bend to Wichita. The company, which has $675 million in assets, is a holding company for three Kansas banks. CEO Don LacKamp says six staff members will join him in moving to Wichita. He expects the move to be complete in 60 days. The Wichita Eagle reports the company is the holding company for American State Bank & Trust Co. in Great Bend, Rose Hill Bank and Peoples Exchange Bank in Belleville. It was established in 2001.


Leavenworth Cuts Property Tax by 40 Percent

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) - A sales tax increase approved by Leavenworth voters earlier this year is paying off with a 40 percent cut in the city's property tax. The City Commission this week passed a $38 million operating budget for 2015 that includes a 21-mill drop in the property tax for homeowners and business owners. Leavenworth officials note the decline affects only the city's mill levy, which is separate from other taxing authorities such as the school district and Leavenworth County. The decrease is funded by a 1 percent increase in the city sales tax approved by Leavenworth voters in February. Mayor Mark Preisinger called the city's property tax reduction the largest in Kansas.


Economy Slowing Down in Rural Parts of 10 States

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new monthly survey of bankers suggests the economy is slowing down in rural areas of 10 states in the Plains and the West. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says falling crop prices have farmers spending less, and crop prices are expected to continue declining this fall. The overall economic index for the region fell into negative territory to 48.3 in August from July's 51.8. The survey indexes range from 0 to 100. Any score below 50 suggests decline in the months ahead. Goss said bankers are not very optimistic about the next few months. The survey's confidence index dropped to 39.9 in August, from 42.9. Bankers from rural areas of Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.


Topeka Police: Abandoned Truck Crashes into Home

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Police are searching for whoever abandoned a truck that rolled down a hill and into a Topeka home. Topeka Police Lt. Jana Harden says the truck was empty when it hit the house Wednesday evening. She says the truck was involved in a hit-and-run crash earlier in the day. Harden says someone drove the truck up the hill and abandoned it. The vehicle then rolled down the other side, hitting the home. Police say the driver wasn't the owner of the truck. They didn't report the damages to the house or whether anyone was home at the time.


State Told to Release More 'In Cold Blood' Files

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas judge has ordered the state to turn over more documents to people fighting to write a book about the 1959 "In Cold Blood" murders. Judge Larry Hendricks issued the order Thursday after hearing arguments over case files kept at the home of a deceased Kansas Bureau of Investigation agent who was part of the murder probe. The killings of Herb and Bonnie Clutter and two of their children became the subject of Truman Capote's novel "In Cold Blood." The state filed suit to recover the files, arguing the agent's family doesn't own the materials. Lawyers for the family contend the state has been refusing to turn over documents it needs to defend itself against the claim.


Police: 800-Pound Wok Stolen from Wichita Restaurant

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Police are searching for whoever stole an 800-pound wok from an Asian cuisine restaurant in Kansas. Wichita Police Lt. James Espinoza says the wok was stolen Tuesday afternoon from the Bamboo Express Asian Cuisine restaurant. He says the large wok was placed outside when a replacement pan was installed in the kitchen. Authorities say the wok "would have taken several people to move." No arrests have been reported.


Toddler Badly Injured in Lawn Mower Accident

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The state has issued an emergency license suspension for a Wichita home day care where a toddler was severely injured by a lawnmower. The 18-month-old girl was playing in the backyard of the home when the accident occurred around 9 am Thursday. Police Lieutenant Chris Bannister told The Wichita Eagle that the girl's leg was nearly amputated below the knee by the lawnmower being pushed by the day care's operator. The girl was hospitalized in critical condition. Bannister says it's unclear how the accident happened. Four other children, all under 4 years old, were also in the yard at the time. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment issued the emergency license suspension later Thursday at the request of the Sedgwick County sheriff while the accident is investigated.


Pet Food Factory Opens in Joplin

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — A pet food company has opened a $90 million factory in Joplin. The Joplin Globe reports the Heartland Pet Foods Manufacturing plant opened Wednesday. Blue Buffalo Co. is the parent company of Heartland Pet Foods Manufacturing. The Joplin plant is Blue Buffalo's first. The company had been contracting out its pet food production by using other plants. The 415,000-square-foot production plant will slowly begin operating. It is expected to be near full production by April. Officials say the plant will hire 150 full-time workers. The Joplin location was selected in March 2012 by Blue Buffalo. Construction started in October 2012. CEO Kurt Schmidt says about 75 percent of its dry products will be handled at the new plant.

Police: Man Shot by Police Was Threatening Woman

HAYSVILLE, Kan. (AP) — Haysville police say a man was holding a bleeding woman at knife point before an officer shot him to death. Police Chief Jeff Whitfield said in a statement Thursday that officers found 40-year-old Chad Leichhardt holding the woman at a Haysville apartment on Tuesday. One officer shot Leichhardt after he refused commands to drop the knife and continued to threaten the woman, who was bleeding from several cuts. The woman was treated and released at a hospital. The Wichita Eagle reports state prison records show Leichhardt was released from parole last Thursday after being jailed on a theft conviction. He also had several other convictions in Sumner and Sedgwick counties and escaped from work release for a few days last October while at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility.


KC Chiefs Mascot Reaches Settlement over Injury

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The man who performs as the mascot for the Kansas City Chiefs has reached a legal settlement over severe injuries he suffered last November while practicing a zip line routine. Lawyers for Dan Meers, better known as KC Wolf, announced the settlement Thursday but said the terms prevent disclosure of the dollar amount or the parties involved. Attorney Tim Dollar said in a news release that Meers is still recovering and is talking with the Chiefs about a modified role as KC Wolf in the future. Meers has performed as KC Wolf since the Chiefs adopted the mascot 24 years ago. He suffered what was described as a severe back injury November 23 while practicing a zip line routine at Arrowhead Stadium. Few details have been disclosed, but Dollar said earlier there may have been an error by a third-party company in securing the rigging.


New Jersey Governor Stumps for Brownback

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is lending Sam Brownback support in the Kansas governor's tougher-than-expected race against Democrat Paul Davis. Speaking Wednesday at Oklahoma Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-Que in Kansas City, Kansas, the Republican Governors Association Chairman praised Brownback as a leader. Christie said Brownback took on difficult issues, including reforming the public employee pension system. He said he never expected Kansas to be an easy win for Brownback, noting that the state previously elected Democrat Kathleen Sebelius as governor. Christie called Kansas voters "independent thinkers." Brownback used the campaign stop to talk about job creation and criticize Davis as an "Obama Democrat." Christie also was stopping at a private campaign event in Mission Hills and later in the day in Oklahoma City with Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin.


Trial Date Set for Kansas Bondsman on Sex Crimes

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - The often-delayed trial for a Kansas bail bondsman accused of coercing women he bailed out of jail to have sex with him is now scheduled for September 9. Sixty-six-year-year-old Dwight Jurgens is accused of two counts of aggravated human trafficking, four counts of attempted aggravated human trafficking, aggravated criminal sodomy and rape. Prosecutors allege Jurgens told four women he bailed out of jail that he would revoke their bonds if they didn't have sex with him. The alleged crimes occurred between 2010 and September 2012. He was a bonding agent for TNT Bonding. Jurgens pleaded innocent in June 2013. His trial has been delayed several times, including in June after he suffered a heart attack.


Pedestrian Hit on Interstate Near Kansas City

BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri Highway Patrol is investigating after a man was struck and killed on the Interstate 70 in the Kansas City suburb of Blue Springs. The patrol says the man was hit in the westbound lanes of the highway about 6 am Wednesday. He apparently was trying to cross the highway when he was hit by several vehicles. Investigators said the man was possibly on his way home from work when he was hit. His name has not been released. WDAF-TV reports that one of the drivers who hit the man said he was unable to avoid the impact. Charles Williams stayed on the scene and spoke with police. He says he is extremely distressed to be one of the drivers who hit the man's body.


Kansas Man Indicted in Video Fraud Scheme

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A southern Kansas man has been indicted on charges of creating dozens of false identities so he could buy discounted DVD and Blu-ray movies and then resell them. The U.S. Attorney's Office said Wednesday that 45-year-old Harvey C. Self, of Derby, is charged with nine counts of mail fraud, plus money laundering and tax fraud. Self told The Associated Press he has eight children and was raising money to support his kids by buying discs in bulk and selling them individually. He says armed agents came to his house last year and took what they wanted. He says they also cleaned out his bank account and that of his then- 75-year-old mother. The indictment says agents seized 2,833 DVDs and Blu-ray discs from his home.


Former Altoona City Clerk Charged with Bank Fraud

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The former city clerk of Altoona in southeast Kansas is accused of embezzling public funds. A federal indictment on Wednesday charges 30-year-old Chrystal M. Scherbarth, of Altoona, with three counts of bank fraud. Prosecutors allege she used her access to the to the city's payroll system to raise her own salary, issue unauthorized checks to herself and give herself vacation and sick leave she had not earned. The indictment also accuses Scherbarth of making more than $36,700 worth of unauthorized charges on a city credit card. Court documents do not show an attorney and no home phone number could be found for her. She was employed with the city from June 2011 through November 2013. If convicted, she faces up to 30 years in federal prison.


Man Charged in Double Kansas City Homicide

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — An 18-year-old Kansas City man has been charged with killing two people as they sat inside a stopped vehicle. Ra'mond Taylor was charged Wednesday in Jackson County Circuit Court with two counts of second-degree murder in the January killings of 21-year-old Rollonn Gordon and 33-year-old Deon Drew. Taylor also faces multiple counts of armed criminal action and unlawful use of a weapon. No attorney is listed for him in online court records. Court records say the victims were stopped at a light when shots were fired out of a stolen vehicle. Investigators found the stolen vehicle and matched shell casings from it to the scene of the killings. Court records say paperwork from the stolen vehicle later was found in a hotel where Taylor stayed the night of the killings.

Animal Health Company to Open Plant in St. Joseph

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — A company that handles animal medicines plans to open a missive new warehouse and packaging plant in St. Joseph next week. Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica Inc. will open its $28.7 million plant next Wednesday. It's about the size of four football fields, and eventually will have 150 employees. The Kansas City Star reports Boehringer will package, handle and distribute animal vaccines and medicines for shipment to more than 50 countries. The products are used to prevent and treat disease in the swine, cattle, equine and pet markets. Boehringer, with U.S. headquarters in St. Joseph, said the plant could be expanded by about 100,000 square feet for manufacturing. The company also has operations in Ames, Fort Dodge and Sioux Center, Iowa. It is a division of a Germany-based company.


Kansas Man Pleads to Manslaughter in Traffic Death

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A 20-year-old Wichita man has pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in a car crash that killed a 6-year-old girl. Raudel Sandoval Jr. was initially charged with second-degree reckless murder for the June 2012 death of Feodora Two-Hatchett. Police and witnesses said Sandoval was driving up to 70 mph in a 35 mph zone when his car hit a vehicle driven by Feodora's mother at an intersection. The girl died at the scene. The Sedgwick County prosecutor said Wednesday that Sandoval told police after the crash that he had just left a carwash and was driving fast to dry his car. Sandoval is to be sentenced Oct. 24.


Injured Woman Gives Birth Before Dying

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Wichita say a pregnant woman who was injured in a two-vehicle crash delivered her baby before she died at a hospital. Twenty-one-year-old Trevadawn Pauley was one of six people injured in the crash Tuesday night. Pauley was seven months' pregnant. Police say doctors at Wesley Medical Center delivered the baby girl before Pauley was pronounced dead around 1 am Wednesday. The newborn was reported in critical condition later Wednesday. The crash happened at a southwest Wichita intersection when a southbound SUV hit a northbound car making a left turn. Two other people suffered serious injuries in the crash, while three were treated for minor injuries.


6,500 Tickets Sold for Pipeline Opposition Concert

NELIGH, Neb. (AP) — Organizers say nearly all the $50 tickets for a Willie Nelson and Neil Young concert organized by opponents of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline have been sold. The group Bold Nebraska said in a statement Thursday more than 6,500 of the 7,000 tickets for the September 27 concert had been sold since Wednesday. The TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline would carry oil from Canada south to the Gulf Coast. The concert will be held on a farm near Neligh that's in the proposed path. Pipeline critics worry it could contribute to pollution and contaminate groundwater. Young and Nelson have said they agreed to perform to highlight concerns. TransCanada says the pipeline would be built with advanced safety features. The southern leg of the pipeline between Oklahoma and Texas is already operational.


K-State's Truman Makes Big Splash in Weight Room

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Every school has "max-out day," when guys try to better their best in a variety of weightlifting exercises. The Kansas State University weight room is no different. But when Jonathan Truman settles under the bar, everybody else in the room stops what they're doing to watch. The former walk-on-turned starting linebacker is quite possibly the pound-for-pound strongest player to have ever come through Bill Snyder's football program. Truman has been known to bench press more than 430 pounds and squat more 540, numbers that are impressive for anyone but even more so considering he's just 5-foot-11, 215 pounds. In fact, that weight training is a big reason he'll be starting for the second straight year when Kansas State...ranked number 20 in the nation in preseason polling...opens its season August 30 against Stephen F. Austin.



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