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Regional Headlines for Monday, May 28, 2012



Kansas Extends Major Economic Development Tool for 5 Years

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have extended the life of an economic development incentive considered an effective tool for the state in attracting businesses.  Lawmakers approved a bill allowing Kansas to authorize bonds for big projects backed by sales tax revenues through June 2017.  Such sales tax revenue bonds...referred to as STAR bonds...have helped Kansas compete with Missouri for jobs in the Kansas City area.  They helped finance Kansas Speedway, as well as a new stadium for the Major League Soccer team Sporting Kansas City.  But enough legislators had misgivings about the bill that it didn't clear the Legislature until shortly before lawmakers adjourned May 20. Governor Sam Brownback has until June 4 to decide whether he'll sign it, and his spokeswoman said only that he would review it carefully.

Kansas Heads into 'Uncharted Waters' with Remap Lawsuit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers will soon learn the consequences of failing to redraw the state's political boundaries. They've left redistricting to three federal judges who will settle a lawsuit involving more than three dozen lawyers and the key figures in the legislative impasse. The judges must set the new lines for congressional, state House, state Senate and State Board of Education districts. A bitter feud among majority Republicans in the Legislature prevented passage of any political maps. A two-day trial of the lawsuit, filed in early May over the unfairness of the current districts, is scheduled to begin Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kansas. The three judges are allowing 29 individuals to participate in the case, potentially call witnesses and submit redistricting proposals.


Kansas School Finance Case Nears Court Date

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A lawsuit that challenges the way the state funds education gets under way next week in Shawnee County District Court. It is the second time in the past decade that school finance has been put to litigation and the first since a 2005 Kansas Supreme Court ruling forced legislators to pump nearly $1 billion into K-12 funding. Fifty-four school districts are involved in the case. The districts are alleging that budget cuts in recent years amount to reneging on promises legislators made to comply with the court order. The state counters that extraordinary economic times forced the state to make spending cuts to keep the state solvent and that efforts were made to protect schools and academic progress. A three-judge panel will hear the case, which begins June 4th.


Body of Overland Park Soldier Returns Home

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — The remains of an Overland Park soldier who died in Afghanistan returned home on this Memorial Day. More than 100 people solemnly greeted the body of Sergeant Michael Knapp when it arrived Monday at Kansas City International Airport. Knapp and another soldier died May 18 when their unit was hit by enemy rocket fire that also killed three civilians. He earned several military honors, including the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion (Air Assault), 377th Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Fires Brigade. The 28-year-old Shawnee Mission North graduate leaves behind a wife and 9-month-old daughter. Knapp's family has set up a fund for his daughter. Donations are being accepted at any Valley View Bank. Knapp previously served in Kosovo and two deployments in Iraq.

Overbrook Dedicates Its First Veterans Memorial

OVERBROOK, Kan. (AP) — A group of volunteers has brought a veterans memorial to a small town in eastern Kansas. Jessica Frey, a member of the Overbrook Veterans Memorial Committee, said the group began organizing two years ago to honor Overbrook's veterans. Frye estimated that in the community of less than 1,000 about 10 percent have served in the military. The Topeka Capital Journal reports that the memorial was dedicated Sunday. More than 130 people attended the dedication that included a motorcycle ride in by Operation Roll Out, which delivered a flag to the Boy Scouts. The Scouts then posted the colors. The event was concluded with the dedication by Lieutenant Colonel Mike Slusser and placement of a wreath by the Girl Scouts. Overbrook is located about 35 miles southeast of Topeka.


La Crosse Residents Tackle Clean-Up Following Tornado

LA CROSSE, Kan. (AP) — Residents in La Crosse have been cleaning up this weekend from the batch of tornadoes that hit parts of Kansas late Friday. About four blocks in La Crosse sustained significant damage, and two businesses were destroyed. Officials said a third La Crosse business sustained major damage. No injuries were reported in La Crosse. One woman in nearby Russell had minor injuries. Rush County Emergency Preparedness Director James Fisher told The Hays Daily News that he attributed the overall lack of injuries to ample warning time and a slow-moving storm system. Sirens ran throughout the town for approximately 45 minutes. La Crosse resident Rodney Ruff lives near the town's car wash, which was hit. He said the area is a mess but it could have been much worse.


Commune Leader's Hearing Offers Glimpse into Alleged Murder Case 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors are preparing to present evidence to justify a murder trial for a 2003 death initially thought to be an accidental drowning. A preliminary hearing for 52-year-old Daniel U. Perez begins Tuesday. Perez is accused of the premeditated murder of Patricia Hughes. She died at a Valley Center compound where Perez and others allegedly lived off life insurance payouts from deceased members of their group. An attorney for Perez did not return a message seeking comment. Perez also faces multiple counts of lying on life insurance applications, rape, sodomy, criminal threat and making false statements on credit applications.

Increasing Numbers of KU Students Seek Petroleum Engineering Degrees

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — More University of Kansas students have been pursuing degrees in petroleum engineering thanks to a booming job market and good starting salaries. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that petroleum engineering was one of KU's smallest degree programs from 2006 to 2010. There were about 4 bachelor's degrees per year in petroleum engineering then. But this spring, the program awarded bachelor's degrees to 13 students. Russell Ostermann, associate chairman of chemical and petroleum engineering, says more than 35 freshmen enrolled in beginning courses this year. He says petroleum engineering grads can expect to earn $89,000 per year. Paul Willhite, a distinguished professor of chemical and petroleum engineering, said the high price of oil is helping spur hiring in the field, and many older petroleum engineers are ready to retire.

Sedgwick County Jail Suicide Identified

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Sedgwick County sheriff's office has identified a 35-year-old inmate who died at a hospital after attempting suicide in his jail cell. The sheriff's department said staff found Jonathan Haehn hanging in a cell Thursday morning and administered aid until medical staff arrived. Haehn was taken to a local hospital and pronounced dead about an hour later. He had been booked into the facility on May 17th on a probation violation for driving under the influence. The Wichita Eagle reports that the KBI and sheriff's detectives are investigating. The KBI examines all inmate deaths that are not classified as a natural death.

Program to Offer Mediation Option for Saline County Juveniles

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A pilot program scheduled to start in August aims to offer mediation as a way to resolve misdemeanor crimes involving juvenile offenders in Saline County. The six-month program will offer the option of mediating a resolution instead of waiting for misdemeanor matters to make their way through the courts. The Salina Journal reports that the mediation option will be available to crime victims and low-level juvenile offenders. Ann Zimmerman, of Eggers and Zimmerman Law & Mediation, said participation will be voluntary. She said she and Saline County Attorney Ellen Mitchell have been working to define the scope of the program and develop guidelines. She said so far she expects the program will be available for property crimes, some battery cases and some school issues.


Former KU Communications Director Dies 

The former head of the University Communications office at the University of Kansas has died. Lynn Bretz died yesterday (SUN) at her home after a battle with cancer. She stepped down as director of the office that handles KU's public affairs and media relations in 2011. A memorial is planned for Friday, June 1, at Plymouth Congregational Church in Lawrence.  

KS Sex Offender Registry to Drop Work Address Requirement

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The state's public offender registry will no longer include the addresses of sex offenders' employers, but that information can still be obtained from other sources. The home addresses of people convicted of sex crimes, violent crimes and serious drug offenses will remain on the offender registry, but their work addresses won't be listed as of July 1st. The change is a result of employers' concerns and a compromise approved during the latest legislative session. The Wichita Eagle reports that offenders' work addresses, however, can be found by going to the local sheriff's office and asking for the address. They also say that information can be obtained by signing up for an electronic message system that will send an e-mail saying that an offender has taken up residence or employment in your neighborhood.

KS Officials Warn Against Contact with Arkansas River

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas health officials are continuing to urge  people to avoid contact with the Arkansas River from central Wichita south to the Oklahoma state line. The state Department of Health and Environment first issued the warning Friday because of elevated levels of bacteria in the water discovered by routine sampling. On Sunday, KDHE said a leak was discovered at a pump station at Wichita's main wastewater treatment plant. Crews were working to repair the leak and determine how much untreated wastewater entered the river. The department says its warning continues for the portion of the river that starts at the bridge over the river for East Lincoln Street and that people should also keep their pets from having contact with the river. KDHE says its investigation is continuing.


Republican River Water Dispute Heads Back to Court

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The dispute between Nebraska and Kansas over use of Republican River water is headed back to court. The U.S. Supreme Court is allowing a special water master to again consider the case. The McCook Daily Gazette newspaper reports that a three-week trial has been scheduled for August in Portland, Maine. Attorney William Kayatta Junior will preside and help the high court decide the case. The high court gave Kansas permission last year to file a new petition over its allegations that Nebraska took more than its share of water in 2005 and 2006. Kansas sued Nebraska over the Republican River in 1998. The two states settled the case five years later, but Kansas contends Nebraska violated the terms of the agreement.


Wichita Sites to Offer Kids Summer Meals

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Several school cafeterias and other sites in Wichita will continue to serve meals to children during the summer. The 40 sites around the city will offer free breakfasts, lunches or afternoon snacks as part of the Summer Food Service Program, which begins May 30th. The Wichita Eagle reports that the program run by the Wichita school district is paid for by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Last summer, nearly 96,000 lunches were served at Wichita sites in June and July. That was an increase of more than 10 percent over the previous summer. The number of breakfasts increased almost 19 percent. The program is open to all children under 18, but targets kids who are eligible for free or reduced-priced lunches during the school year.


Naismith's Childhood Home for Sale 

Just how big a college basketball fan are you? You could get closer to the origins of the sport by living in the house of the man who invented the game. James Naismith's childhood home is for sale. The three-bedroom, two-bath house in Ontario, Canada is on the market for $1,195,000 Canadian dollars...that's about $1,170,000 in U.S. dollars. If you're interested, check out Naismith invented the game of basketball in 1891 and served as the first head basketball coach at the University of Kansas. 


Woman Who Survived Brain Tumor Runs for Veterans

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — A Pittsburg woman who survived a rare, malignant type of brain tumor is training to run a marathon to support military veterans. Kimberly Harris lived in St. Louis in 2005 when the tumor was discovered. After surgery, chemo, radiation and intensive care, she and her husband and two children moved to Oklahoma. The family has lived in Pittsburg since 2009, where Kimberly and her husband work at Pittsburg State University. This fall, to celebrate her 40th birthday, Harris will run the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C. She is dedicating money she raises to the Semper Fi Fund, which provides financial support for injured and critically ill members of the U.S. armed forces and their families. Harris says she wants to honor those whose illnesses are caused by war.


Fort Riley Soldier Killed in Afghanistan Remembered Through Fitness Event

KENT, Ohio (AP) — Friends and family members of an Ohio soldier killed in the line of duty have paid tribute to him by enduring a grueling course of exercises that he liked to do. Army Specialist Adam Hamilton of Kent, Ohio was killed in Afghanistan a year ago when he stepped on an explosive device. Hamilton's father tells The Akron Beacon Journal that about 250 people, including six of his son's fellow soldiers from Fort Riley attended a fitness event Sunday to remember his son. A local gym sponsored the event, called "The Hammy." The workout at Kent State University featured pushups, sit-ups and two 1,000-meter runs. The gym's owner Toby Jurging told the newspaper, "This is how we honor our friends. We sweat and push ourselves to honor them."


Assistant AG to Run for Ford County Attorney 

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — Assistant Attorney General Natalie K. Randall says she plans to run in the Republican primary election for Ford County attorney. Randall was an assistant Ford County attorney until joining Attorney General Derek Schmidt's office a year ago. Randall told The Dodge City Daily Globe she misses working in Ford County and wants to restore a full time prosecutor to the position. Randall is a member of the Republican Women's Association and the First United Methodist Church. She lives in Dodge City with her husband and daughter.


Big Well Exhibit Reopens in Greensburg 

GREENSBURG, Kan. (AP) — Greensburg is reopening the exhibit that was its biggest claim to fame before the southwest Kansas town was smashed by a tornado five years ago. And visitors who thought there'd be nothing new to see at the world's largest hand-dug well are in for a surprise. The Big Well used to consist of a visitors' area, a gift shop and a stairway into the 109-foot well. But like many other structures in Greensburg, the well's entrance was destroyed in the EF-5 tornado that struck on May 4th, 2007. KAKE-TV reports it's been rebuilt as the $3 million Big Well Museum and Visitors Center. Admission is free during the Memorial Day holiday weekend. Displays in the museum tell the story of the 124-year-old well, the tornado and the town's rebuilding.


Wichita Officer Charged with Sex Crimes

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Wichita police officer who pleaded guilty in January to sexual battery while on duty has been accused of abusing two children. The Wichita Eagle reports that 28-year-old Joseph McGill was charged Friday with aggravated indecent liberties with two children. He was being held on a $500,000 bond in the Sedgwick County Jail and has a preliminary hearing June 7th. A court document says he planned to hire an attorney. McGill was sentenced in March to three years' probation after pleading guilty to charges stemming from allegations that he inappropriately touched residents on two occasions while working as a police officer. He worked for the police department for three years but resigned after the earlier charges were filed.

Garden City to Host New Outdoor Music Venue

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — A group of Garden City residents have been working to turn a family farm into a concert venue for southwest Kansas. The group, called Ad Astra Out West, has been preparing Hillside Ranch for their upcoming show "Hillside Sunday Sessions," which is scheduled for June 3rd. The event will feature music from nine bands around southwest Kansas. The Garden City Telegram reports that the new outdoor venue will have two stages, one electric and one acoustic. Family members will also be providing food and refreshments. Entry is $10, but children younger than 10 will be given free admission.

Craft Beers Gain Popularity at Baseball Parks

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — It used to be that baseball fans would head for the concourse to grab a beer between innings, a cold one as much a part of America's pastime as hotdogs and Cracker Jack. Now they file up the aisles in search of Belgian-style pale ale. Overall beer consumption declined 1.3 percent last year, while the craft brewing industry grew 13 percent by volume and 15 percent by dollars. That's a big reason why many stadiums offer upward of 60 varieties, everything from Budweiser and Coors Light to Henry Weinhards IPA. Julia Herz of the Brewers Association calls it a "cultural shift." Many people are willing to pay a premium for a local or craft brew, and that includes visitors at ballparks like Kauffman Stadium.

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