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Regional Headlines for Friday, November 29, 2013


KS Governor Proclaims 'Small Business Saturday'

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is proclaiming Saturday as "Small Business Saturday," urging consumers to shop at small, community retailers as the holiday shopping season begins in earnest. The proclamation says that small businesses are "the backbone" of communities and major contributors to the Kansas economy. Dan Murray, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, says shopping locally supports friends and neighbors and creates jobs. "Small Business Saturday" is a 4-year-old national campaign to get shoppers to support local retailers on the first Saturday after Thanksgiving.


KS AG Evaluating Evidence in SE Kansas Slayings

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An upcoming court appearance is scheduled for a 22-year-old man suspected of killing a southeast Kansas woman and her three children. The office of Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said in a release Friday that David Cornell Bennett Jr., of Cherryvale, makes a first appearance Monday in Labette County court. Bennett was captured Tuesday and is being held in the Labette County Jail on $5 million in the deaths of 29-year-old Cami Umbarger, and her three children, ages 9, 6 and 4. Bennett has not been charged in the case. Schmidt's office says prosecutors will make a decision "as soon as possible" about charges in the case. It's unclear if Bennett has an attorney. The Labette County Jail has declined to make him available for comment.


Feds Amend Charges Against KS Wastewater Manager

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors have trimmed their case against a former northwest Kansas wastewater manager accused of violating the Clean Water Act. A criminal information filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court charges Charles L. Blair with a single count of negligently causing a violation of a permit issued to the city of Hays. Blair was originally charged in a four-count indictment with making false statements about nitrogen levels in discharges from the city's wastewater treatment plant. Blair, who retired last year, has denied the charges but is scheduled to be in court Monday for a change-of-plea hearing.

KS Agency Releases Report on Party Bus Death

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol says a party bus driver insists she properly latched a door from which a Kansas woman fell to her death. But The Kansas City Star reports that troopers found the side door wouldn't have opened on its own with "minimal pressure" if it had been properly latched. The patrol made its 51-page investigative report into the death of 26-year-old Jamie Frecks public this week. Frecks was attending a bachelorette party in May when she fell out the side of a wheelchair van-turned-party bus. The new mother then was struck by an undetermined number of vehicles. The Wyandotte County prosecutor says there is insufficient evidence to pursue criminal charges. But several lawsuits have been filed against the driver and the bus company owners.


Winning Ticket in $2.1M Drawing Sold in Northeast Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The holidays just got brighter for someone who bought a state lottery ticket in northeast Kansas. The lottery says one person hit the $2.1 million Super Kansas Cash jackpot in Wednesday night's drawing. The winning numbers were 5-8-11-23-25 plus Cashball 15. Officials haven't said precisely where the ticket was sold, and whether the buyer was from Kansas or a neighboring state. That information won't be known until after the Kansas Lottery reopens Monday following the long Thanksgiving weekend.


Wichita Reviewing Water Conservation Plans

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita officials are reviewing water conservation plans in the wake of recent rains that have filled the city's once-dwindling reservoir. Cheney Reservoir, which provides much of the city's water, is nearly full and forecasts call for more precipitation this winter. The Wichita Eagle reports that the city announced in February that Cheney Reservoir would run dry in 2015 if the drought continued. The city then launched conservation efforts, including education and rebates. Council member Janet Miller said at a recent meeting that water conservation should be an ongoing priority, not just when there are shortages like the three-year drought that ended in August. But city officials say they received a lot of complaints from citizens after officials earlier proposed fines up to $1,000 for chronic big water users.

Track Funding Clouds Kansas Amtrak Future

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Amtrak officials say a rail line is in need of additional funding in order to keep passenger service moving through southwest Kansas at a profitable speed. But the Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Amtrak needs to have the track maintained at a proper level so trains can move quickly and keep passenger service on time. The track is owned by BNSF Railway and is used by Amtrak for about four passenger trains a day, including two runs by the Southwest Chief from Chicago to Los Angeles. BNSF is willing to maintain the tracks to allow freight trains to travel at 30 mph, but not the 79-mph that Amtrak wants to maintain for passenger trains. Amtrak has approached Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico about funding the $100 million for repairs.

Topeka Tree of Honor Came from Suburban Yard

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A decorated blue spruce that will light up downtown Topeka during the holiday season stood for years next to a suburban home. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Bob Zwiesler thought little of the tree when he moved into his home a dozen years ago. But when the tree reached a height of 24 feet, he grew fearful it would damage his house or its foundation. Before taking a chain saw to it, Zwiesler learned about a program that selects one tree from the Topeka area each holiday season for display outside the Westar Energy building. Last week, crews from Westar cut the tree down. Westar volunteers will decorate it in time for a lighting ceremony Saturday during the Miracle on Kansas Avenue celebration.

Squirrel Blamed for Kansas Outages

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A utility company says a squirrel is to blame for a power outage that affected more than 3,000 customers in eastern Kansas on Thanksgiving. Westar Energy said a squirrel apparently got inside a substation and caused fuses to blow. The Kansas City Star reports that Westar apologized to customers for the incident Thursday morning. Westar said crews had the power back on to most customers by 12:30 pm.

Community College Chief: Remedial Classes Crucial

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A community college president tells Kansas education officials that remedial courses are critical for the progress of thousands of Kansans. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Neosho County Community College president Brian Inbody told the Kansas Board of Regents remedial courses often provide students a path to higher education and out of poverty. Last year Kansas lawmakers passed a law banning state funding for remedial courses at four-year colleges, saying students who need that kind of help might be better served by community colleges. Math is the most common remedial course taken by first-year students. In the 2010-2011 academic year, which is the most recent for which statistics are available, 38 percent of first-year community college students and 17 percent of first-year four-year college students took remedial courses.

KC Group Gets Bid Packet for 2016 GOP Convention

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association spokeswoman says there could be a "significant announcement" next week about efforts to bring the 2016 Republican National Convention to the city. The Kansas City Star reports that the association received its bid package from the Republican National Committee on Wednesday. The package asks for specific details of the city's offer to host the convention. CVA spokeswoman Julie Sally said the committee coordinating Kansas City's bid has not had a chance to thoroughly review the GOP's request for proposal. Several other cities, including Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Cleveland and Detroit also have expressed interest in hosting the 2016 event. The GOP plans to pick its convention city sometime next year.


Leavenworth Firefighters Train in Old Hotel

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — Firefighters, police and sheriff's officers in Leavenworth are making good use of an old hotel that the city plans to demolish. The Leavenworth Times reports that the city Fire Department used the former Nights Inn building twice this week for search-and-rescue training, with more exercises planned for the future. The hotel has been vacant since it went out of business, but the rooms still have furniture that firefighters must navigate as they practice looking for victims in rooms and hallways filled with theatrical smoke. The city recently bought the downtown property for about $590,000 and plans to demolish the hotel. But for now, Assistant Fire Chief Mike Lingenfelser says it's providing an opportunity his department doesn't get very often. Police and the Leavenworth County Sheriff's Department are also training in the hotel.


2 Killed in KC Crash

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Two people have been killed in a rollover crash in Kansas City. The Kansas City Star reports that authorities closed the northbound lanes of U.S. 71 while the they investigated the accident, which occurred early Friday. The names of the two people killed in the crash haven't been released. A third person in the vehicle was also injured.

Colorado Man Killed in Hays Crash

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — A Colorado man has died in western Kansas when the car he was driving hit an embankment after a brief police chase. The Kansas Highway Patrol says 34-year-old Gerad F. Madrid of Colorado Springs died in the crash early Thursday. The Salina Journal reports that police were seeking Madrid briefly after he was seen driving without headlights and going the wrong way on a one-way street. Officers say the car also nearly struck a patrol car. The officers pursued the car with their lights and sirens on. Madrid was pronounced dead at the scene after the car he was in ran a stop sign and ran into a canal. Hays police say they later learned the car also had been stolen.

USDA Awards More Than $300K for MO Projects

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Programs that help Missouri's wine producers and urban gardeners are among those sharing $300,000 in federal funding. State officials say the money comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. The largest grant — nearly $60,000 — will help Missouri State University research ways to make the Norton grape more resistant to fungal disease. The University of Missouri's Grape and Wine Institute is receiving nearly $34,000 to help wine grape growers make good decisions about harvest and management. Nearly $30,000 is going to the Kansas City Community Gardens. Money also will be used to research methods to improve production of nuts, berries, vegetables and flowers throughout the state.

Child Welfare Delays Put MO Cases in Peril

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Hundreds of pending child welfare investigations are at risk of being thrown out because they weren't completed fast enough. The Kansas City Star reports that Missouri law requires child welfare workers to complete abuse and neglect investigations within 30 days after the initial hotline call unless there's "good cause" for a delay. The law also requires that those accused be notified of the conclusion within 90 days of the hotline call. Two accused women, one from West Plains and another from the Kansas City area, sued to clear their names. Lower courts sided with the women, finding the 90-day deadline wasn't met. Now, the Missouri Supreme Court is preparing to hear arguments in the cases. Child welfare advocates say the litigation has created uncertainty.


Gas Pipeline Ruptures, Explodes in MO

HUGHESVILLE, Mo. (AP) — A natural gas pipeline has ruptured in a rural area in western Missouri causing an explosion and fire. No injuries were reported. The Pettis County Sheriff's Department says the pipeline, owned by Panhandle Eastern Pipeline Company, ruptured late Thursday outside Hughesville, about 75 miles east of Kansas City. Pettis County Sheriff's Deputy Brian Egbert says the rupture and explosion set fire to several hog barns, farm outbuildings, equipment and hay bales. The sheriff's department says fewer than a dozen residents within three miles of the explosion were evacuated but were allowed back into their homes before dawn. Egbert says crews were working Friday to repair the line. A spokeswoman for Panhandle Eastern Pipeline says the company has rerouted gas from the area so deliveries won't be affected.



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