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Regional Headlines for Friday, August 30, 2013


KS, NV Tout Expansion of Voter Check Program

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach says Nevada has joined a program in which states compare voter registration records annually, bringing the number participating to 25. The Voter Registration Crosscheck Program is designed to identify people who are registered in two or more states and people who cast ballots in more than one state. Kansas, Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska launched it in 2005, and it's been expanding since. Kobach and Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller jointly announced Nevada's participation Thursday. The four original states had about 9 million registration records. With Nevada, there will be more than 90 million voter registration records in the program's database in 2014.


Spirit Aerosystems Announces More Wichita Job Cuts

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Aircraft parts maker Spirit Aerosystems plans to cut more jobs at its plant in Wichita, starting in September. Thursday's announcement came roughly a month after Spirit said it was laying off about 360 salaried support and management workers at its facilities in Kansas and Oklahoma. Spirit says in a statement that the number of upcoming cuts in Wichita hasn't been finalized. The company says it will start by offering voluntary retirement and voluntary layoff programs, followed by layoffs of management and salaried employees. Spirit has about 11,000 employees in Wichita and 2,500 at its plant in Tulsa, making large airplane components for such manufacturers as Boeing and Airbus. The company says its remains strong, with a "robust backlog" of orders worth about $38 billion.

West Nile Virus Claims a Life in Sedgwick County

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas health officials say a resident of the Wichita area has died from West Nile virus, the mosquito-borne disease that affected 57 people around the state last year. The Wichita Eagle reports the Kansas Department of Health and Environment confirmed Thursday the death of a Sedgwick County resident. It's the first West Nile death in Kansas this year. No information about the victim or the date of death was released. Department spokeswoman Miranda Steele told The Eagle she could not provide details about specific patients. Four cases of West Nile virus have now been confirmed in Kansas this year, including a second instance in Sedgwick County. The others were reported in Atchison County, located in northeast Kansas, and Rush County in the west-central part of the state.


Contracts to Be Awarded for Controversial Lawrence Road

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Work is expected to begin soon on a highway project in Lawrence that has been debated since the early 1990s. The Kansas Department of Transportation is scheduled to award bids for the South Lawrence Trafficway on September 18, and construction is expected to begin by mid-October or November. The $190 million project has been stalled by protests and lawsuits for more than 20 years. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that some of the first work is likely to occur in the Baker Wetlands, which has been center of the debate. Opponents say the project will damage the wetlands and is disrespectful to Native American groups. Kansas officials say the road will divert traffic around Lawrence. Once completed, the 14-mile route will connect Interstate 70 with Kansas HIghway 10.


Kansas Cites 2 Companies for No-Call Violations

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Companies from Missouri and California have been ordered to pay about $1 million in combined penalties for violating do-not-call laws in Kansas. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt's office said Friday that Buzz Marketing and Communications of Springfield, Missouri and WordSmart Corporation of San Diego have been cited for breaking "The Kansas No-Call Act." Buzz Marketing was ordered to pay Kansas $952,000 in penalties and fees for violations for contacting at least 93 Kansans and trying to sell them vacation packages in Branson, Missouri. WordSmart agreed to pay Kansas $10,000 in penalties and fees. Several Kansans on the federal no-call list called Schmidt's office to complain they were receiving telemarketing calls trying to sell them computer software designed to prepare students to take standardized tests.


Census Indicates Number of Uninsured Kansans Drops

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — U.S. Census Bureau data shows the number of Kansans without insurance declined in 2011. The Wichita Eagle reports that nearly 349,000 Kansans under age 65 were uninsured in 2011, which is about 14.4 percent of the state's population. That compares with about 380,500 people who were uninsured in 2010, or about 15.8 percent of the Kansas population. Compared with the percentage of uninsured people under that age 65 in other states, Kansas sits in the middle, at 22nd lowest in the nation. Johnson County, in suburban Kansas City, had the lowest uninsured rate in the state at 9.9 percent. Southwest Kansas counties tended to have higher percentages of uninsured. The lowest number and rate of uninsured in Kansas in the last six years of data was in 2008, with about 305,000 uninsured.


Convicted Fort Hood shooter arrives at death row

FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) — Fort Hood officials say the Army psychiatrist sentenced to death for the 2009 shooting rampage has arrived at the military prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. Officials released a statement Friday saying Major Nidal Hasan had arrived at the prison's death row. A military jury convicted Hasan last week of killing 13 people and wounding more than 30 at Fort Hood, a sprawling Army post in central Texas. The same jurors deliberated less than two hours on Wednesday before deciding Hasan should be put to death. Hasan joins just five other inmates on the military's death row. Death sentences are rare in the military court system, and they're automatically appealed. The appeals process often takes years if not decades. The military hasn't executed an active duty U.S. soldier since 1961.


State Library of KS to Launch Wi-Fi Pilot Project

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Four public libraries have been selected as pilot sites for a Wi-Fi network project being coordinated by the State Library of Kansas. The Kansas City K-20 Librarians Initiative is part of the national Gigabit Libraries Network's super Wi-Fi project. It involves a four-month test of TV White Space Technology which will deliver public library Internet access to remote locations in the communities. The public libraries taking part are located in Lawrence, Manhattan, Topeka and Kansas City, Kansas. State librarian Jo Budler says the project will help libraries provide greater public access to Internet connections that she said can be useful in economic development, lifelong learning and professional development.


New Kansas License Plate to Support Arts Programs

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is promoting a new license plate aimed at raising money for arts programs in the state. The Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission says in a release that the goal of the "Driving the Arts" license plate program is to raise at least $100,000 a year for arts programs. The arts commission is a division of the state Commerce Department. The program hopes to sign up at least 2,000 people who will pay the annual $50 fee for the license plate by April 1, 2014. All the revenue from sales of the license plate will be used by the commission to fund arts programs in Kansas. The commission says the plates will go into production when 500 have been reserved.


K-State Cuts Ribbon on Major Stadium Renovation

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University has dedicated an extensive renovation to Bill Snyder Family Stadium by unveiling a bronze statue of its longtime coach before the Wildcats' season opener against North Dakota State University. The renovation to the west side of the football stadium was supposed to cost $75 million, but the price of materials and alterations to the plan pushed the price tag to $90 million. The project is being funded entirely through private pledges. Snyder was on hand for the dedication along with Governor Sam Brownback and U.S. Senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran. Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Terence Newman, who played for the Wildcats, and Emmy Award-winning K-State alumnus Eric Stonestreet of "Modern Family," also taped messages. The ceremony concluded with the unveiling of an 8-foot tall bronze statue of Snyder.


Pet Python on the Loose in SE Kansas Town 

PARSONS, Kan. (AP) — Police in a southeast Kansas community are asking the public to be alert for an escaped python. The Parsons Police Department says officers responded late Thursday to a report of a large snake outside a home. Officers tracked down the python's owner in the same neighborhood. The owner said the pet snake, reported to be 5 to 6 feet long, had been missing since earlier in the week. The python remained at large Friday afternoon.


New Roofing Permits Generate Millions in Revenue

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A hailstorm that pummeled Hutchinson in July has meant a lot of new roofs in the city. The city says it's issued $4.4 million in new roofing permits since the July 23 hailstorm. The total was helped last week by two big projects — re-roofing the Hutchinson Mall and the Dillon Living Center. A total of 202 roofing permits worth $2.4 million were issued just last week. The city has issued 476 permits since 2.5- to 4-inch hail pounded the eastern half of the city, leaving baseball-sized holes in some structures. The Hutchinson News reports the city issued an average of 6.5 roofing permits in the four weeks before the storm. The newspaper reports 342, or 72 percent, of the permits were issued for a 1.5-mile-wide in eastern Hutchinson.


Hutch Teen Admits to Continuing String of Church Burglaries

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A Hutchinson teenager has admitted burglarizing two churches and a grocery store while he was on probation for a string of similar break-ins. KWBW reports that 17-year-old Joshua Hickey pleaded guilty to the burglaries Friday in Reno County District Court. Judge Tim Chambers scheduled sentencing for October 4. Hickey was granted probation in November 2012 after pleading guilty to 14 burglaries of Hutchinson churches and businesses. But he was sent to jail for 30 days last December for violating probation by failing to report his residence to a Community Corrections supervisor. Hickey left jail in January and began a new burglary spree within seven hours. The grocery store and one of the churches he burglarized were among those he had broken into previously.


FHSU Band Members Suffer in Heat

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — Four members of the Fort Hays State University marching band were taken to a hospital because of the heat. Lane Weaver, director of marching bands at FHSU, told The Hays Daily News that four of his students were taken to the hospital with symptoms of heat-related illness Thursday during a march from campus to downtown Hays in 100-degree weather. Weaver says band members were dressed in T-shirts and shorts or jeans, and water was available. The four taken to Hays Medical Center as a precaution were all dismissed from the hospital that night. Weaver says the incident has led him to think about having the band wear T-shirts and khakis instead of their full uniforms for the upcoming football game against Emporia State.


Minor Injury in Haysville School Bus Crash

HAYSVILLE, Kan. (AP) — A school bus was involved in a crash near the Wichita suburb of Haysville, leaving the lone student on board with minor injuries. KWCH-TV reports the accident happened Friday morning when the bus from the Mulvane district was hit by another vehicle. The Sedgwick County sheriff's office says the bus turned in front of the other vehicle. The student was treated at the scene. The bus driver was cited for failing to yield the right of way.


MO Man Crashes Experimental Plane Near Emporia

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — An 82-year-old Missouri man suffered minor injuries when his experimental aircraft crashed near Emporia. The Kansas Highway Patrol says James Zerkel, who lives near Joplin, Missouri, was flying a Challenger Experimental Light Sport aircraft from Herington to Joplin when the plane went down Wednesday afternoon in a creek. Trooper Chris Markham says the accident is still being investigated, but it appears to have been caused by mechanical failure. The Emporia Gazette reports that Zerkel was able to walk to a nearby highway and sought medical treatment on his own.

Zebra Mussels Confirmed in Lake Shawnee

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas wildlife officials have confirmed the presence of zebra mussels in still another lake. The Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism said Thursday the tiny mollusks were spotted by an angler at Lake Shawnee in Topeka. The discovery brings to 19 the number of Kansas lakes infested by zebra mussels, which quickly grow into huge populations and clog intake pipes for public water systems. The agency says it found zebra mussels at multiple locations in the 416-acre lake owned by Shawnee County. Zebra mussels are usually introduced into lakes after attaching themselves to boats or winding up in bait buckets. Kansas officials urge anglers and boaters to clean, drain and dry their boats between uses and use wild-caught bait only in the body of water in which it was caught.


Driver in School Bus Accident Out of Hospital

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — The driver of the school bus that overturned in Bonner Springs last week has been released from the hospital. Elmer Scott Jr. was the most seriously injured of those who were hurt when the bus went off Kansas Highway 7 on August 21. He was driving sixth-grade girls from The Pembroke Hill School in Kansas City to a camp in Linwood, Kansas when the bus went off the right side of the road and tipped over. Twenty-two students were taken to hospitals but none was seriously injured. KMBC-TV reports that the crash remains under investigation.


1 Dead, 1 Injured in Electrocution Accident

MEDICINE LODGE, Kan. (AP) — A 20-year-old lineman has died after being electrocuted in an accident in south-central Kansas. The Barber County Sheriff's Office says in a release they received a 911 call reporting someone had been electrocuted Thursday. Two men were apparently shocked while setting up an electric pole for Track Utility. When the wind kicked up, the pole fell and struck a power line above the area where the men were working. The sheriff's department says 20-year-old Dakota Holt of Coulee Dam, Washington was taken to a hospital, where he died. The other worker has been hospitalized in Wichita for burns to his face, hands and feet.


K-State Receives $1M Donation for Biz School

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A couple from Des Moines, Iowa has donated $1 million to Kansas State University to help pay for a new building for the College of Business Administration. The school says its proposed building plan has 140,000 square feet of space, with tiered classrooms, a large showcase lecture hall, labs and an executive conference room. Stephen Lacy graduated from Kansas State with a bachelor's degree in accounting in 1976 and a master's in business administration a year later. He is chairman and CEO of Des Moines-based Meredith Corporation, which has publishing and broadcasting offices across the U.S. Cathryn Wiltfong Lacy graduated from Kansas State in 1979 with a degree in dietetics and institutional management, and earned a master's degree at Drake University in Des Moines in 1986.


Compromise Allows Kansas City Crime Lab to Proceed

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A compromise has been reached that apparently ends a dispute over a new police station/crime lab campus in eastern Kansas City. The compromise announced Thursday means the construction on the police station could start by October. The entire project is expected to be finished in the fall of 2015. The compromise keeps the project within the city's proposed budget. And it allows a somewhat larger lab than city planners had envisioned, thanks to a redesign. The Kansas City Star reported that the compromise prompted the city council on Thursday to approve a $78 million bond package that includes $14 million for the East Patrol's cost overruns. Designers believe they can expand the lab size to between 56,000 and 60,000 square feet, which is more than the current 31,000-square-foot lab.


Kansas State University Offers Online Open House

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State is offering a virtual open house to connect with distance education students who aren't able to travel to campus. The school says in a news release that the virtual open house features videos of online instructors and advisers, a campus photo tour and online program information. Lynda Spire, assisting continuing education dean, says the online open house is designed to allow prospective virtual learning students to experience the campus and see what resources and services are available. The effort also gives current distance education students a chance to explore campus up close using interactive features like Google Street View. A live chat feature will also let students communicate directly with distance student services staff to answer questions.


KC Mayor Refuses Request to Audit Water Dept.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City, Missouri Mayor Sly James has turned down a request from the state auditor's office to audit the city Water Services Department. The Kansas City Star reports that Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich proposed the audit in July. Schweich said in a letter to James that he had received complaints about the water department's performance and he wanted to do an audit. Schweich said while he didn't have authority to do it on his own, the City Council could request a state audit. The payment structure would be worked out. But James declined the offer this week after polling the City Council members. James says the water department staff is working with consultants to address its challenges, and he's confident the department will show progress.


KC Man Admits Killing Pet Deer in Local Cemetery

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 19-year-old Kansas City man says he's the one who shot a pet deer in an east-side cemetery, but he didn't know it was tame and was just trying to feed his family. The Jackson County (Missouri) prosecutor's office says a state conservation agent ticketed Phoenix Vankirk for taking a deer out of season, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000. Vankirk told the agent he was on his front porch grilling on August 3 when he saw the deer in Elmwood cemetery near his home. He says retrieved his .45 caliber handgun, jumped the cemetery fence and shot the deer when it got close. Vankirk said he took his car to retrieve the dead deer, but the cemetery gate was locked and he had no way to get to it.


High School Coach Wants Job Back Following Plea

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas high school coach who pleaded guilty to patronizing a prostitute wants to teach again. Todd Puetz pleaded guilty in June to a misdemeanor count of patronizing a prostitute and was given a 30-day suspended sentence. His lawyer, Lee Kinch, told The Wichita Eagle that Puetz, a tenured physical education teacher and coach in the Renwick school district, has requested a due-process hearing. The Renwick district chose not to renew Puetz's contract in 2011 after police arrested him and six other men in a case authorities said involved a detective posing as a 15-year-old to catch suspects willing to buy sex with underage girls. Kinch says the hearing has been continued until the state determines if it will act on Puetz's teaching license.


Former Sedgwick County Deputy Pleads Not Guilty

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Sedgwick County deputy has pleaded not guilty to charges accusing him of sexually assaulting two jail inmates. The Wichita Eagle reports that not guilty pleas were entered Friday on behalf of 23-year-old David Kendall, who's charged with crimes ranging from aggravated sodomy to misdemeanor sexual battery. Kendall's lawyers contend the incident that led to the charges was staged by an inmate who had consensual sex with Kendall and claimed to have been raped. His lawyers say other alleged victims came forward with abuse stories in hopes of receiving a share of millions of dollars in compensation that might be at stake. The inmates have filed claims seeking more than $20 million. The judge also Friday refused to lower Kendall's $500,000 bond and set an October 21 trial date.


Gov't Reaffirms It Will Sell Former Lab Island 

NEW YORK (AP) — The federal government is reaffirming plans to sell Plum Island, though environmental regulators and some lawmakers say there's not enough information about the effects of selling the animal disease research site off Long Island. The General Services Administration and Department of Homeland Security issued what's called a "record of decision" on Thursday. The document marks one of the final steps before a sale. Congress voted in 2009 to close the laboratory. It opened in 1954. Sale proceeds would go toward moving the research to Kansas State University. A GSA environmental study in June suggested homes might be built on the island. Environmental groups want it to become a nature preserve. Some members of Congress want to stop the sale. The island is 100 miles east of New York City.


Kansas City Gets $20M Grant for Streetcar Project 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded Kansas City a $20 million grant to help build its streetcar route through about two miles of downtown Kansas City. U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill said in a news release Friday announcing the grant that the streetcar project will "encourage housing, construction, and business development in the city." And she said that will mean for jobs for the region. The project has an estimated cost of about $100 million. And voters previously approved a 1-cent sales tax increase and property tax increases to help pay for the streetcars, which will run from the River Market area to Union Station. Supporters hope it will be the first leg of a more extensive public rail system. Plans call for streetcars to start running in 2015.


2nd Suspect Arrested in Salina Homicide

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A second suspect has been arrested in the death of a 27-year-old Salina woman. The Salina Journal reports officers arrested 33-year-old Dane Deweese of Abilene on Wednesday. He's charged with first-degree murder in the death of Kristin Tyler. Tyler, a mother of four, was missing for two weeks before her body was found May 9th in a ravine off Interstate 135 in rural Saline County. Salina police Lieutenant Scott Siemsen says police also expect more arrests in connection with the case. Joel Heil was charged earlier with first-degree murder in Tyler's death and is expected to appear in court Friday for scheduling. He's being held on $1 million bond.

Toddler Dies in Fire in Southwest Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are blaming an overloaded extension cord for a fire that killed a young boy in southwest Wichita. Fire Captain Stuart Bevis says the 18-month-old boy was sleeping on a living room sofa when the fire started just before midnight Wednesday. A 25-year-old woman was sleeping in a back bedroom with her 2-year-old and 8-month-old daughters. They escaped and were taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation. The boy who died was the woman's nephew. Investigators say a window air conditioner's cord had been spliced to plug it into a power strip. A 25-foot extension cord was used to plug the power strip into the wall outlet. The extension cord was mostly coiled up and part of it was also pinched under the couch.


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