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Headlines for Thursday, October 27, 2016

Here's a look at area headlines from the Associated Press

Voting Heavy at Early Polling Sites Across Kansas 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — More than twice as many Kansas voters are now casting ballots at early polling sites across Kansas, compared to the last presidential election. The latest figures from the Kansas Secretary of State's office show 67,211 people voted in-person as of 8 am Thursday — more than double the 33,832 who did so at that point in the 2014 election. Mail-in ballots are going out at roughly the same pace, with 173,893 mail-in ballots sent out since October 19 across the state. Johnson County Election Commissioner Ronnie Metzger says they have broken all-time records every day since in-person voting began Monday. Metzger says they are also processing a backlog of 9,700 voter registrations — part of what he calls a "tsunami" that hit during the two days before last week's deadline.

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Kansas DOC Names Warden for Larned Mental Health Facility

LARNED, Kan. (AP) - Kansas Department of Corrections has named a new warden for the department's mental health facility in Larned. Corrections officials announced that Don Langford will take over for the acting warden who had been filling in after the departure of Douglas Waddington. State officials provided no details in September when announcing that Waddington was no longer leading the Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility. The center for mentally ill convicted criminals at Larned is separate from Larned State Hospital, which is on the same campus. Langford currently serves as the deputy warden at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility. He has been working in corrections since 1989. 

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Kansas Supreme Court Weighs Mission's So-Called 'Driveway Tax' 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court is weighing the legality of a Kansas City suburb's so-called "driveway tax" in a case that has statewide implications. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the court heard arguments Wednesday about Mission's approach to raising money for road repairs. A funding mechanism adopted in 2010 typically generated nearly $800,000 annually. It based collections on the number of vehicles coming and going from a property, including homes and businesses in the northeast Johnson County city of about 9,500 people. The key issue is whether it's a fee, as the city argues, or a type of tax that cities are generally barred from imposing under Kansas law. The legal challenge comes from the Heartland Apartment Association Inc., which represents apartment owners and managers in the state.

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Westar Energy Requests $17.4M Rate Increase 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Westar Energy has filed a request to raise its prices by about $17.4 million, which would raise the average residential bill in Kansas by about $1.54 per month. Westar spokeswoman Gina Penzig says the company filed the request with the Kansas Corporation Commission to recover costs that weren't available when last year's full price was conducted. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the bulk of the $17.4 million request is related to environmental upgrades at power plants, primarily in the LaCygne Generation Station, to meet federal requirements. Other costs include $6.5 million used to make investments in the grid design for improved reliability.

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Emergency Officials Say Saline County​ Tornadoes Cost $500,000 in Damage

SALINA, Kan. (AP) - The Saline County Emergency Management director says two tornadoes that recently touched down in the eastern part of Saline County caused an estimated $500,000 in damage. The Salina Journal reports that Emergency Management Director Hannah Stambaugh told county commissioners about the costs during their weekly meeting. An EF2 tornado touched down just after 4:00 p.m. on October 6 and an EF3 tornado touched down near the town of Kipp about five minutes later. Stambaugh says no one was injured, but a home, several outbuildings and power lines were damaged.

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Kansas Senate Candidates Want to Save Docking Building 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Democratic and Republican candidates for Kansas Senate districts that include the Docking State Office Building say they want to consider rehabilitating the building. Governor Sam Brownback's administration wants to demolish the building in Topeka. The building's future has caused a dispute between lawmakers and the governor for several months. Democratic Senator Laura Kelly wants a task force to determine the building's future. Her Republican challenger, Dave Jackson, wants the state to consider lease-back options with private developers. The building will be mostly empty of state employees by summer. Brownback entered into a $20 million contract to build a new Capitol complex energy center last spring, as a step toward demolishing the Docking building. The administration backed down after lawmakers objected to the deal.

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Crews Clean Up Kansas State University Chemical Spill 

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A chemical spill at Kansas State University's Biosecurity Research Institute was reported this week. The Manhattan Mercury reports that fire crews responded to the spill of potassium hydroxide, which is often used in industrial processes, around 5:30 Tuesday evening. The spill was contained in the room and there were no injuries. 

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Changing Manhattan High School Mascot Could Cost $318K 

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A Manhattan-Ogden School District official says changing Manhattan High School's Indians mascot could cost about $318,000. Manhattan-Ogden USD 383 assistant superintendent Eric Reid prepared a cost estimate to change the mascot that some have said is disrespectful to Native American culture. The Manhattan Mercury reports that according to Reid's analysis, costs include $40,000 to change the turf at the school's stadium, which includes the "Indians" logo and $55,000 for new football team uniforms. Other costs would come from changing the uniforms of other sports teams and signage using the mascot. Members of Reimage MHK, the advocacy group pushing for the change of the mascot, say they're working to raise money to offset the cost. The school board is scheduled to consider the matter during its December 7 meeting.

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University of Kansas Investigating Rape Complaint 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — An 18-year-old man is in custody in Lawrence after he was accused of rape and sexual battery at a University of Kansas residence hall. University police arrested the man Thursday morning at Oliver Hall. School officials confirmed he is a student at the university. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that university police and the Douglas County District Attorney's Office declined to comment or provide further details. The man was booked into the Douglas County Jail, where he is being held without bond.

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Arkansas Scientist Pleads in Rice Seed Theft Case

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) _  A scientist has pleaded guilty to a federal charge nearly three years after he was accused of stealing proprietary rice seeds developed in the U.S. and giving them to a visiting delegation from China. The Justice Department said Wednesday that 61-year-old Wengui Yan (Wen-gway Yahn), of Stuttgart, Arkansas, pleaded guilty in federal court in Kansas City, Kansas to one count of making false statements to the FBI. Yan, who worked as a geneticist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture at the Dale Bumpers National Research Center in Stuttgart, was originally charged in December 2013 along with Weiqiang Zhang, an agricultural scientist at the Ventria Bioscience facility in Junction City, Kansas, of conspiracy to steal trade secrets. According to the plea, Yan admitted knowing about plans to steal rice samples and send them to China. 

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Lawsuit Filed over Fatal 2014 Crash at Wichita Airport 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — FlightSafety International is suing nearly 20 companies over a fatal plane crash at Wichita Eisenhower National Airport. A Beechcraft King Air B200 crashed into a FlightSafety building at the airport in October 2014, killing four people and injuring six. The building and several flight simulators were destroyed. The lawsuit filed this week alleges the various companies contributed to the crash because of negligence, breach of implied warranty and other counts. It does not indicate the amount of damages FlightSafety is seeking. The Wichita Eagle reports a FlightSafety spokesman said Wednesday the company wouldn't elaborate on its reasons for filing the lawsuit. The National Transportation Safety Board says the plane was in the air for just over a minute when it crashed. The pilot, Mark Goldstein, was among the dead.

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3-Year-Old Boy Dies of Gunshot Wound in Kansas City 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police say a 3-year-old died from a gunshot wound inside a home in eastern Kansas City. Police spokeswoman Stacey Graves says police were called to the home Thursday morning and found the boy with a gunshot wound. Efforts to revive him were unsuccessful and he died at the home. Several people were inside the home when the shooting occurred. Police are investigating to determine the circumstances of the shooting and few other details were immediately available.

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Man Dies After Being Shot During Argument in South Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man has been fatally shot during an argument in a strip mall parking lot. Police Lieutenant Nikki Woodrow said in a statement that the shooting happened late Wednesday afternoon. The Wichita Eagle reports that witnesses told police that two men argued before the victim was shot in the chest and the right leg. He was taken to a Wichita hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Police say the suspect left in a vehicle with California tags. The vehicle was recovered later but the suspect wasn't immediately arrested.

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$80 Million Settlement Reached in Missouri Asbestos Case

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ An $80 million settlement has been reached in a class-action lawsuit over removal of asbestos during renovation of the Jackson County (Missouri) Courthouse in Kansas City. The Kansas City Star reports that $25 million will go toward attorney's fees and the cost of the litigation. The rest of the money will go to a medical monitoring fund to cover the costs of diagnostic tests for people exposed to the asbestos 30 years ago.   The case was scheduled to go to trial this week. Instead an agreement was reached between Jackson County and Kansas City-based U.S. Engineering, which removed the asbestos from 1983 to 1985. A judge is expected to finalize the agreement in late December. About 7,500 people could be eligible for the medical screenings.  

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Kansas Man Convicted of Arkansas Murder as Juvenile to Be Released

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — A judge has ordered the release of a 59-year-old man convicted of a killing that occurred in Arkansas more than 40 years ago. Dennis Lewis of Wichita, Kansas, was 17 years old when Jared Cobb was fatally shot during a robbery at a Springdale pawn shop in April 1974. Lewis was convicted of capital murder and assault with the intent to rob in the case, and he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Recent state and federal appeals court rulings have said mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles are cruel and unusual punishment and therefore unconstitutional. A judge this week ordered that Lewis' sentence be vacated and that he be immediately released.

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Federal Agency Fines Pipeline Company $732,000 After Kansas Fire

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ The U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has announced fines totaling $732,000 against Tulsa-based ONEOK following a fire at a company facility in Bushton, Kansas. The PHMSA says 15 safety violations of pipeline safety regulations were found during an investigation following the fire. The federal agency says ONEOK operates 11,500 miles of pipeline transporting natural gas liquids in Oklahoma, Kansas and several other states. 

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Fraud Costs Sedgwick County Government $566,000 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Law enforcement authorities say that Sedgwick County is the victim of fraud. The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office said in a news release Wednesday that the resulting loss to the county government was about $566,000.  A sheriff's office spokesman says the offense report shows the fraud occurred during the past month. The sheriff's office says the investigation is just beginning and that is all the information they have to release right now.  

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Wichita Man Fatally Shot During Argument 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man has been fatally shot during an argument in a strip mall parking lot. Wichita police say that the shooting happened late Wednesday afternoon. The Wichita Eagle reports that witnesses told police that two men argued before the victim was shot in the chest and the right leg. He was taken to a Wichita hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Police say the suspect left in a vehicle with California tags. The vehicle was recovered later but the suspect wasn't immediately arrested.

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2 Dead, 1 Hospitalized After Crash on US 71 in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Police say two people are dead and third person is hospitalized after a sport utility vehicle crashed into a retaining wall on U.S. 71 in Kansas City. The Kansas City Star reports that the crash happened early Wednesday when the driver of the SUV lost control. After hitting the retaining wall, the SUV crashed onto the exit ramp below. The 31-year-old driver died at a hospital and a 29-year-old female passenger died at the scene. A second passenger was taken to a hospital in serious condition. The names of the victims weren't immediately released. As investigators gathered evidence, the ramp was closed for three hours.

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Woman Convicted for Scamming Missouri Woman's Lottery Prize 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal jury convicted a former Kansas City woman of defrauding another woman out of hundreds of thousands of dollars from lottery winnings. Federal prosecutors say 43-year-old Freya Pearson used the money to support a gambling habit and for personal extravagances. Pearson also improperly received federal housing benefits and didn't pay income taxes, causing a total loss of more than $640,000. She was found guilty Thursday of nine counts arising from the schemes. Prosecutors say she convinced a woman who won $2.4 million in the Missouri Lottery in 2008 to transfer money from an annuity to Pearson's account. Pearson didn't tell her victim that she intended to use the money for such things as gambling, buying cars and travel. She faces up to 100 years in federal prison without parole.

 

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