KS Governor Says Rural Housing May Be Issue in 2014
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback says creating a new rural housing program may be on Kansas legislators' agenda next year because communities see it as important to attracting new workers. Brownback said during a meeting of economic advisers Wednesday that as he's traveled across the state, he has advised rural lawmakers to get together to deal with housing issues. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the meeting of the economic advisers focused on rural housing needs. The group heard multiple cases of rural communities having housing shortages. Cohen-Esrey Real Estate Service CEO Lee Harris called the state's $2.3 million low-income housing program "paltry." He suggested that the state use some of the taxes paid by insurance companies on the value of premiums for tax breaks for rural housing developers.
Kansas Senate Leader Has Plan to Toughen 'Hard 50'
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce says he'll push next year to strengthen the state's "Hard 50" sentencing law for convicted murderers. The proposal outlined Thursday by the Hutchinson Republican comes only months after a special legislative session to fix a flaw in the law. It allows people convicted of premeditated, first-degree murder to be sentenced to at least 50 years in prison. Legislators had to fix the law because it had said judges decided whether the circumstances of a crime warranted the "Hard 50" sentence rather than at least 25 years in prison. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court said juries must decide such issues. Bruce said he wants the "Hard 50" to be the presumed sentence, with judges deciding whether to reduce it in some cases.
Governor Joins Rabbi in Statehouse Hanukkah Festival
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas rabbi urged people to "put aside the darkness" and bring light to the world, starting with the eight candles on a menorah lit during a Hanukkah festival at the Statehouse. Rabbi Zalman Tiechtel was referring to the recent quadruple homicide in Topeka and other tragic events that have occurred around the world. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Kansas Governor Sam Brownback joined Tiechtel and dozens of others Wednesday at the celebration, saying Jewish people are not going to struggle in his state because of their beliefs. Lieutenant Colonel Moran Omer of the Israel Defense Forces, who is attending command classes at Leavenworth, was at the celebration with his young son, with whom he lit one of the candles. Cedar Crest hosted the event the past two years.
Accident Kills Man at Quarry Near Junction City
JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Manhattan man died after he was hit by rocks during blasting at a quarry near Junction City. The Geary County sheriff's office says 63-year-old Stephen Hetzler died Wednesday at the Bayer Rock Quarry six miles west of Junction City. KJCK reports that the investigation found Hetzler was standing too close to a detonation area while using explosives to blow up rocks. He was hit by one large limestone rock and possibly several smaller rocks. A preliminary investigation found the death was a work-related accident but Geary County, state and federal officials continue to investigate.
Fort Riley Reinforcing Reveille, Retreat Tradition
FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — Leaders at Fort Riley are putting a new emphasis on observing the old traditions of reveille and retreat on the northeast Kansas Army post. Bugles are sounded with the music twice a day — reveille at 6:30 am to signal the official start of the duty day, and retreat at 5 pm to signal the day's end. Fort Riley commander Major General Paul Funk and 1st Infantry Division Command Sergeant Major Michael Grinston decided recently to increase emphasis on traditional military customs. The decision has implications for soldiers and civilians on the post. When the bugles are heard, uniformed military personnel are expected to face the flag and salute. Civilians are encouraged to stand and place their hands over their hearts.
DA: Officers Justified in Standoff Shooting
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Sedgwick County district attorney says law enforcement officers were justified in a fatal shooting that ended a 32-hour standoff at an apartment complex. District Attorney Marc Bennett said Wednesday no officers will be charged in the death of 24-year-old Jared Woosypiti. Woosypiti holed up at the Southlake Village Apartments in south Wichita for 32 hours last July before dying in a gunfight. Bennett said Woosypiti fired at officers twice before they shot him. The fatal shooting came only after officers used several other tactics to end the standoff, including tear gas and water cannons. Bennett says during the standoff, Woosypiti said he wouldn't go back to prison and threatened to set off explosives.
KS Atty Gen to Seek 'Hard 50' for Kansas Murder Suspect
COLBY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says he'll seek the "Hard 50" prison sentence for a man accused of fatally stabbing a former girlfriend and setting her house on fire. Schmidt's office is handling the prosecution of 25-year-old William Andrew Shank in Thomas County District Court. The Garden City man is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated arson and burglary in the February 9 death of 27-year-old Teri Morris in Colby. Schmidt filed a motion Thursday indicating that if Shank is convicted, he'll request a sentence of at least 50 years in prison without parole. Shank faces trial in March 2014. Shank has pleaded not guilty to killing Morris, an emergency medical technician with whom he was contesting custody of their 8-month-old daughter. A coroner said Morris had been stabbed 27 times.
Baker University Names New President
BALDWIN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Baker University has named a top administrator from Gallaudet University as its next president. The private university in northeast Kansas announced the appointment of Lynne Murray on Thursday. She will succeed Pat Long, who's retiring next year. Murray is currently Gallaudet's vice president of development and alumni and international relations. The Washington, D.C., school is the nation's leading university for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. The Lawrence Journal-World reports Murray was among 71 applicants who visited the Baldwin City campus last month. Presidential search committee chairman Hoot Gibson said Murray stood out for her success in fundraising and university advancement at Gallaudet and Georgetown University, where she also worked. The Maryland native holds a master's degree in marketing from Johns Hopkins University and a doctorate in special education administration from Gallaudet.
KC Man Charged in Stolen FedEx Truck Chase
OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas City, Missouri man accused of fleeing from police in a stolen FedEx delivery truck faces charges in Kansas and Missouri. Nineteen-year-old Caleb Ownby said he understood the charge when he made his first appearance Thursday in Johnson County,Kansas District Court on a felony theft charge. He also was charged in Jackson County, Missouri Circuit Court with fleeing, tampering with a motor vehicle and driving without a license. Online court records said Ownby planned to hire an attorney for the Kansas case. No attorney was listed in the Missouri case. Ownby was arrested early Wednesday evening in Prairie Village, Kansas after police used a tire-puncturing device to flatten some of the vehicle's tires. The pursuit began in southeast Kansas City and wound through residential neighborhoods and along highways.
Commission OKs Razing of Old Salina Hospital
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — The buildings that once housed St. John's Hospital in Salina will be coming down. Salina's Heritage Commission on Wednesday approved plans to demolish the buildings, saying restoring them would be too costly. Salina Regional Health Center owns the buildings on the St. John's campus, which has been vacant since 2010. Jack Hinnenkamp, of Salina Regional Health Center, said it would cost between $1 million and $2 million to demolish the seven-building campus. He said redeveloping the buildings would cost more but didn't provide any estimates. The Salina Journal reports that St. John's was started in 1914 by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia and operated by the Wichita-based Sisters of St. Joseph until 1995.
Man Found Dead 4 Days After KCK Accident
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Police in Kansas City, Kansas have identified a bicycle rider who was found dead more than four days after an apparent hit-and-run accident. But no progress was reported Thursday in finding the vehicle that struck 40-year-old Santiago Zamora-Zamora, who lived in the city. Officers responding to a call about a body Tuesday afternoon found Zamora-Zamora in an industrial area just off U.S. 69. Police said Zamora-Zamora had been riding or pushing a red bicycle when he was hit sometime between 6 am and 8 am on November 29. His name was withheld while investigators confirmed his identity and notified relatives. Authorities are asking the public to report any information about the incident.
Bannister Federal Complex in KC to Be Demolished
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A massive federal complex that has operated in south Kansas City since World War II will be demolished. CenterPoint Properties is working with the National Nuclear Security Administration to redevelop Bannister Federal Complex. The company says it will spend an estimated $175 million to demolish all the buildings and clean up the property. The Kansas City Star reports that CenterPoint currently has no final plans to redevelop the land around the 5.1 million-square-foot complex. The nuclear security agency will transfer the property to CenterPoint after Honeywell Federal Manufacturing & Technologies and the federal General Services Administration move out in late 2015. The complex opened in 1943 to supply warplane engines and later supplied nuclear weapons parts.
Kansas City Air Show to Return in 2015
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Organizers of the Kansas City Air Show say the event will return to the skies in a little more than a year. The Mid-America Youth Aviation Association said in a news release that the event is planned for Aug. 22 and 23, 2015, at the Wheeler Downtown Airport. It will feature a performance from the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels aerobatics team. This year's Kansas City show was called off after the Navy canceled the rest of the Blue Angels season because of automatic federal budget reductions. Because of the cuts, the U.S. Army Golden Knights and military static aircraft also weren't able to perform at the show. Air show director Ed Noyallis says the group is pleased to once again bring a "world-class air show" to the city.
Lee's Summit Roofing Company Plans 300 New Jobs
LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. (AP) — A western Missouri company that repairs roofs, gutters and siding damaged by storms nationwide is planning to add 300 jobs to its Kansas City area workforce. Aspen Contracting, of Lee's Summit, said Wednesday the additions will nearly triple its local employment. Company spokesman Chris Moreno says the new jobs will be in sales, production and project management. Aspen sends its employees across the company after major storms, and Moreno says it's also planning to increase staffing in other states. President Pat Nussbeck says Aspen is filling a void created by the downsizing or closing of other companies in the industry. Aspen was founded in 2006. Last year, it was rated fourth in Roofing Contractor Magazine's Top 100 list.