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Regional Headlines for Monday, December 16, 2013


Kansas Congressman Questions Claims on NBAF Funding Status

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Congressman Tim Huelskamp is challenging a statement by a fellow Kansan in the U.S. House that funding for a new bioscience lab is secure under a new budget agreement. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Huelskamp is questioning comments last week by fellow Republican Lynn Jenkins about why she voted for the bipartisan measure. Huelskamp says the bill does nothing to secure money for construction of the $1.25 billion National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan. Huelskamp voted against the budget deal. Jenkins issued a statement when the bill passed the House suggesting the money was moving forward in the process. A Jenkins spokeswoman told The Capital-Journal the statement was meant to convey that any funding for NBAF would be at stake if the budget deal stalled.


Earthquake Reported in South Central Kansas

CALDWELL, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. Geological Survey says a magnitude 3.8 earthquake has hit south-central Kansas. The USGS said the earthquake was reported shortly after 9 am Monday about 11 miles northwest of Caldwell, which is about 60 miles south of Wichita, near the Oklahoma border. The USGS initially reported the quake to be magnitude 4.2, but later revised that to a magnitude 3.8. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries. The earthquake had a depth of 3.1 miles. The USGS website says the earthquake was felt as far north as El Dorado, which is northeast of Wichita.


Brownback to Seek Expansion of All-Day Kindergarten

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback is preparing to propose the state pick up the additional cost of providing all-day kindergarten in Kansas public schools. The Republican governor says in an interview Monday that his plan would be to increase state support over five years at a cost of $16 million a year. Currently the state pays for half-day kindergarten but allows districts to have all-day classes using other funding sources, including funds appropriated for at-risk students. Brownback says he has had talks with school districts and state education officials about the proposal, which he says has broad support. The State Board of Education has made all-day kindergarten one of its budget requests for the past several years.


Proposed Oneok Split Could Mean 3-Year Natural Gas Rate Freeze

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A plan by Oklahoma gas company Oneok Icorporated to spin off its utility operations would mean a freeze until 2017 in base rates and small rebates for Kansas Gas Service customers. Those provisions are part of a settlement between Oneok, the Kansas Corporation Commission and the Citizens' Utility Ratepayer Board. The Wichita Eagle reports that the settlement means there will be no opposition to the company split when the plan goes before the KCC. The proposed plan calls for breaking Oneok into two companies. A new company, One Gas, would take over Oneok's natural gas distribution systems in Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma. The remainder of Oneok would keep the original name and operate its businesses in gathering, transport and processing natural gas. Kansas Gas Service has 630,000 customers.

Cabinet Turnover High as Brownback Enters Year 3

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has seen an unusually high number of departures among his top leadership. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that almost half of Brownback's 11 permanent Cabinet secretary appointments will turn over in the first three years of his tenure. The percentage outpaces that of predecessors Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, and Bill Graves, a Republican. Many other high-level appointed posts that pay around $100,000 a year also have been vacated. Those positions include Securities Commissioner Aaron Jack, information technology chief Jim Mann and Kansas Corporation Commission chairman Mark Sievers. Brownback spokeswoman Sara Belfry said the turnover isn't unusual compared to past governors, including Joan Finney. And Washburn University political science professor Bob Beatty said he saw little linking the departures.

KS Justices Have 4 'Hard 50' Cases to Decide

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Justices of the Kansas Supreme Court now have four cases related to the state's "Hard 50" prison sentence to digest in the coming months, with about a dozen others still in the legal pipeline. While each case has its specific set of circumstances, the justices honed in on other issues about the convictions and sentences, rather than whether changes made to the state's "Hard 50" law this fall can be applied retroactively like legislators want. The four cases involve defendants who have been sentenced to life in prison with eligibility for parole after 50 years. The justices gave no indication how quickly they would rule on the cases. Their decisions could still leave the question of retroactivity unresolved if the facts of the convictions are upheld.

Prosecutor Won't File Charges Against KS Sheriff

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — A special prosecutor has announced that no criminal charges will be filed against the Hamilton County sheriff. The Garden City Telegram reports that Sheriff Richard Garza voluntarily placed himself on administrative leave following his arrest in September. Scott City Attorney John Shirley said in an initial report that the incident stemmed from a "family matter" where no physical violence occurred. Shirley was appointed special prosecutor at the request of the Hamilton County attorney. The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office says Garza's return to duty was effective Friday.

Wind Energy Company NextEra Eyeing Douglas County

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Florida-based developer is exploring the possibility of building a wind farm in Douglas County. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that NextEra Energy Resources is looking for sites to place meteorological towers to measure the wind in the area. Company spokesman Steve Stengel says the measurements will determine if a Douglas County project would be economically feasible. He says the company also wants to find out if there are enough landowners willing to sell easements on their land for wind turbines to make a project possible. NextEra currently has wind energy developments in more sparsely populated western Kansas. But he said the company is always looking for new potential sites, and one of the factors it considers is the cost of transmitting wind-generated power to population centers.

Lawmaker: Fines for Irrigation Over-Pumping Should Be Higher

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A state lawmaker says it may be time for Kansas to consider stricter penalties for irrigators who pump beyond their allotted amount of water. Representative Joe Seiwert told the Special Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources he's received several letters from irrigators who are trying to follow state water conservation rules and are angry about neighbors who flout those rules. Seiwert says it may be time for tougher enforcement and higher penalties, similar to efforts decades ago to make drunken driving a more serious crime. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Representative Sharon Schwartz urges caution, saying not everyone who over pumps does it intentionally. Jackie McClaskey, acting secretary of the state Department of Agriculture, says the department is looking into new penalties for water conservation violations.

13 Reports of Counterfeit Money in Hutchinson

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Hutchinson police are investigating more than 13 cases of people using counterfeit money in the city since December 5. The Hutchinson News reports that seven of the cases were reported during the weekend. Most of the reports have come from fast-food restaurants. But one woman reported a man on Saturday bought her 2001 Chevrolet S-10 using counterfeit money. Additional details of that case were not immediately available. Hutchinson police says businesses and individuals should inspect cash before accepting it, particularly residents who are estate sales or selling items through social media.

Line Falls on Hay, Causing Fire and Power Disruption

CLEARWATER, Kan. (AP) — Power has been restored to parts of three south-central Kansas counties where the lights went out when a power line fell on a row of hay bales, causing a brief fire. More than 5,000 people were without power Sunday in Harper, Kingman and Sumner counties. KWCH-TV reports that officials with Wheatland Electric said about 4 am Monday that all power had been restored. A spokesman for Wheatland Electric says the line belongs to Westar Energy but supplies power to the company for the three counties. The outage started about 1 pm Sunday when a crossarm on a transmission line near Clearwater failed, causing a conductor to fall.

Private Firm to Open New Fort Riley Hotel

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — Army and developers are preparing to open the doors of a new hotel at Fort Riley, part of a military program to improve on-post lodging for soldiers and families. The hotel is a Candlewood Suites with 100 guest rooms that was constructed through the Army, Lend Lease US Public Partnerships and InterContinental Hotel Group. Construction of the hotel began in July 2012. A ribbon cutting will be held Tuesday at the northeast Kansas post, which is home of the Army's 1st Infantry Division and nearly 18,000 soldiers and their families. Developers say that Lend Lease has provided nearly 1,300 hotel rooms at military installations throughout the United States. The goal is to develop or renovate more than 11,600 hotel rooms at installations nationwide.


Pittsburg State Student Killed in Head-On Crash

RIVERTON, Kan. (AP) — The victim in a fatal head-on collision in southeast Kansas has been identified as a Pittsburg State University student. A report from the Kansas Highway Patrol says 30-year-old James Lee Potocnik was killed shortly before 1 am Sunday. The patrol says Potocnik was northbound on a highway north of Riverton when his SUV crossed the center line and struck a southbound tractor-trailer. In a statement Monday, Pittsburg State officials said Potocnik was a junior majoring in electronics engineering. He was a native of the southeast Kansas town of Frontenac.


UN Contracts with KS Company for Typhoon Aid

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The United Nations has contracted with a Wichita company that turns shipping containers into medical clinics to send an OB-GYN hospital to the Philippines to help with the aftermath of the November 8th typhoon. The Wichita Eagle reports that Clinic in a Can will provide the hospital. It will include a C-section and delivery suite, sterilization room, bathroom, two patient recovery rooms, a storage room and an office. All will have air conditioning. The United Nations Population Fund says about 900 women affected by Typhoon Haiyan are giving birth each day. About 15 percent of them are having possible life-threatening complications. Clinic in a Can spokesman Daniel White says the project's total aid package is worth nearly $1 million and includes the clinics, shipping, medical equipment and other donations.

KS Students' Movie Project Gets Star Treatment

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A class of Wichita fourth-graders has gotten the red-carpet treatment. The Wichita Eagle reports the Colvin Elementary School students pulled up Saturday morning at the Palace Theater in limousines to watch the movie they wrote, edited, produced and filmed. Teacher Brianna Falvey says the extra attention was a "huge motivational tool for them." For the project, the mostly native Spanish speaking students were split into groups. They selected a genre and wrote their scripts. The groups chose to work on a newscast, horror, science fiction and action segments and a music video. Falvey says the district has been encouraging teachers to come up with creative ways to incorporate literacy into activities. Several businesses chipped in money to make the event possible, including the theater and limo company.

Support Pours in for KC Police Officer, Family

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Investigators are trying to determine what caused a fire that destroyed a Kansas City police officer's home and left 11 people homeless. In the meantime, other police and emergency responders are trying to help officer Matt Hannah and his family recover from a fire that left them with only the pajamas on their backs. The fire broke out last Thursday. Hannah and his wife were able to get their nine children out of the house. The Kansas City Star reports that co-workers and residents brought piles of clothes to Kansas City police stations during the weekend. The Kansas City Police Foundation donated $2,500 and several groups are offering temporary housing. Hannah, a 21-year police veteran, says his family will have a great Christmas, thanks to all the support.

Venerable Cowboy Ranch in KC Auctions Supplies

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — An auction at the iconic Benjamin Ranch in south Kansas City drew people looking for a chance to buy a memory, or some bargain horsing equipment. Benjamin Ranch will be torn down January 1 to make room for a Cerner Corp. office development. That will be the end of a ranch that started as a dairy farm more than 125 years ago. The Kansas City Star reports that the ranch offered a rodeo arena, horse race practice track and opera stage. It offered July 4th rodeos, horseback riding and hayrides, and many of the buildings were booked for weddings and corporate picnics. Sunday's auction drew people bidding on everything from wooden nickels to art work of Warpaint, the Kansas City Chiefs' mascot, and draft horse equipment.

Demand Increases for Children's Court Advocates

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A group of volunteers that help abused and neglected children going through the Jackson County Court system will aid 1,000 children this year, the first time in its 30-year history that milestone has been reached. The volunteers for CASA — Court Appointed Special Advocates — give the children personal attention while their cases wind through the courts. The group's executive director, Martha Gershun, says the 1,000 mark is a "good news, bad news" situation. She says it means CASA has been able to help more children, but also shows that the demand is growing. The Kansas City Star reports that CASA has been able to staff more cases than ever but it still represents only about one-third of the children in the system.


KC Chiefs Headed to Playoffs; Still Have Hopes for Winning Division

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — In the span of a year, the Kansas City Chiefs went from a franchise in disarray to having the best record in the AFC and a shot at winning their division with two regular-season games left. The Chiefs punched their ticket to the playoffs with a 56-31 victory at Oakland on Sunday. Kansas City (11-3) also moved into a tie with Denver atop the AFC West, though the Broncos hold the tiebreaker by virtue of a season sweep. Still, if the Broncos stumble in one of their two remaining games — at lowly Houston and Oakland — and the Chiefs beat Indianapolis and San Diego, it would be Kansas City that's home for the playoffs. The way this season has gone, even the most remote possibility is still on the table.



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