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Regional Headlines for Thursday, September 26, 2013



Girl Dies in Hutchinson House Fire

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have identified the person killed in a Hutchinson house fire as an 11-year-old girl. The Hutchinson News reports the blaze early Thursday also sent the girl's mother to a Wichita hospital, where she was listed in critical condition. Two other people in the house escaped without injury. The girl's name was not immediately released. Investigators are looking for the cause of the fire. It's listed on the Hutchinson Police Department's log as arson, but Reno County District Attorney Keith Schroeder says that's typical of fire investigations involving a death. The state Fire Marshal's office and agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will help with the investigation.


Restaurant Manager Charged in Immigration Case 

OTTAWA, Kan. (AP) — The manager of an eastern Kansas restaurant has been charged with harboring immigrant workers who were unlawfully in the United States. Alex Sanchez Jr., manager of El Mezcal Mexican Restaurant in Otttawa, is named in a nine-count federal indictment returned Wednesday. The charges allege Sanchez paid immigrant workers in cash, failed to maintain employment records for them and encouraged them to live in the U.S. for his own financial gain. He's also accused of providing housing for the immigrant workers in Ottawa. The indictment accuses Sanchez of continuing to employ people he knew were in the country illegally despite being fined and ordered in 2011 to cease the alleged violations. No phone number for Sanchez could be found, and the restaurant's phone is disconnected. The government is seeking forfeiture judgment.


KS Regulators Consider Westar Rate Settlement 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Attorneys for Westar Energy and its electric customers are urging Kansas regulators to approve a plan letting the utility raise rates for residential customers by $3 a month. The Kansas Corporation Commission had a hearing Thursday on a settlement involving Westar Energy and representatives of its customers. The deal would let Westar boost overall rates by about $31 million annually, or less than 2 percent. Attorneys said the settlement is reasonable. The company had proposed a slightly higher overall increase, mostly to pay for environmental upgrades at its La Cygne (luh-SEEN') power plant in eastern Kansas. But it also wanted to shift about $50 million in charges to residential customers and small businesses from larger businesses and public schools. Under the settlement, it would drop that idea.


Report: KS Economy Growing Slower Than Nation 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita State University research center says the Kansas economy is growing at a slower rate than the nation's economy overall. The Center for Economic Development and Business Research forecast in a report released Thursday that next year's nonfarm employment growth will be 1.4 percent, a gain of 19,000 jobs. It says the number of jobs in Kansas has grown 1 percent so far this year and has not kept up with the growth in the state's labor force. The Kansas unemployment rate rose to 5.9 percent in August. The largest growth forecast for 2014 is expected to be in the service sectors. Education and health services are expected to add 4,254 jobs. No Kansas industry is expected to reduce employment, but government jobs will lag behind overall job growth


KS Governor Uses Float Trip to Push Tourism 

WAMEGO, Kan. (AP) — Gov. Sam Brownback is hoping that construction of new boat ramps along the Kansas River will draw more people to the waterway and increase its recreational use. Brownback led more than 100 people in canoes and kayaks Thursday on a roughly eight-mile float trip. The paddlers set out at midmorning from Wamego (wah-MEE'-goh) and finished about four hours later at Belvue, where a new boat ramp was dedicated. Pausing on a sandbar, Brownback said Kansans who know the state will be the best salesmen for encouraging more people to use the Kansas River for recreation. The river stretches 173 miles from Junction City to the Missouri border. Last year, the U.S. Interior Department designated it a National Water Trail, one of about a dozen around the country.

Lawrence Considering Creating Food Hub

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence and Douglas County officials are stepping up efforts to create a "food hub" that would handle fruits, vegetables and grains grown in a 16-county region. Douglas County officials have received a $68,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Kansas Health Foundation to study the feasibility of the project. County Commissioners on Wednesday also agreed to hire a company to examine the potential number of farmers, crops and consumers the regional hub could support. The Lawrence Journal-World reports three local officials also traveled to Memphis, Tenn., last week to participate in a workshop designed to bring together communities that could make locally grown food a major part of their economies.


No One Badly Injured in Fire at Creekstone Plant

ARKANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Most employees at the Creekstone Farms packing plant in Arkansas City have a day off after a fire at the plant. Only management, shipping and maintenance employees will work at the plant Thursday. Fire Chief Bobby Wolfe says the fire Wednesday afternoon began on a conveyor belt but it's not known what started the blaze. A firefighter was treated and released at a hospital after being exposed to ammonia fumes. No one else was injured. Creekstone Farms processes beef at the plant about 45 miles southeast of Wichita.


Royals Loss Means End to Playoff Chances

SEATTLE (AP) — Hisashi Iwakuma pitched eight scoreless innings and Mike Zunino homered twice to lead the Seattle Mariners to a 6-0 win against Kansas City, ending the Royals' playoff hopes Wednesday night. The Royals entered Wednesday four games behind Cleveland for the second wild-card berth with five games to play. All three teams ahead of Kansas City in the wild-card hunt — Tampa Bay, Cleveland and Texas — won on Wednesday, and the Royals needed a victory to keep their slim hopes alive. Iwakuma made sure they didn't get one. Ervin Santana matched Iwakuma and kept the Mariners scoreless for the first four innings before Seattle broke through. Santana went six innings, allowing four runs and five hits with two strikeouts and four walks.


KS Woman Gets Eight Years for Embezzlement

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas woman is going to prison for embezzling more than $1 million at a hospital where she worked. The Johnson County prosecutor's office says 52-year-old Cheryl McAnally, of Lenexa, was sentenced Wednesday to eight years behind bars. Judge James Franklin also ordered her to pay restitution of more than $1 million. McAnally worked at Overland Park Regional Medical Center as the administrator of its medical staff dues fund. She was charged in November 2011 on seven counts and pleaded guilty in July of this year to five felonies. District Attorney Steve Howe says the Secret Service took part in the investigation.


KS Governor to Lead River Float Trip

WAMEGO, Kan. (AP) — Gov. Sam Brownback and several state officials and outdoor enthusiasts are floating down a stretch of the Kansas River. The canoe and kayak float trip began Thursday morning in the northeast Kansas town of Wamego (wah-MEE'-goh). It's scheduled to end about 10 miles downstream at Belvue. The event is part of the administration's efforts to tout the recreational and economic value of the 173-mile river. The Kansas River was designated in July 2012 as a National Water Trail by the U.S. Department of Interior, one of about a dozen nationwide. Brownback has been active as governor in events that encourage outdoor recreation throughout Kansas.


Great-Grandsons of Baum to Attend KS Oz Festival

WAMEGO, Kan. (AP) — Descendants of the man who penned "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" are headed to northeast Kansas this week to take part in a celebration of the enduring novel. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Roger and Robert Baum, great-grandsons of L. Frank Baum, will be in Wamego on Saturday and Sunday for the city's ninth annual OZtoberFest event. Robert Baum and his wife, Clare, will appear in a historical costumed act as L. Frank Baum and his wife, Maud, at the Oz Museum's Little Theater. Roger Baum, who has written more than a dozen Oz books, will be signing copies at the event. Other Oz novelists, collectors, documentarians and historians also are planning to attend the festival.


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