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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, June 25, 2013





Army to Cut 4th Brigade at Fort Riley

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Army says it will eliminate one infantry brigade at Fort Riley as the military reduces its overall number of soldiers by September 2017. Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno said Tuesday the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Infantry Division will be inactivated. The move is part of the Army's plans to reduce its overall strength by 80,000 soldiers to 490,000. The cuts were already planned by the military before federal budget reductions were put in place in March. Fort Riley is home to nearly 18,000 soldiers and three brigades of the 1st Infantry Division, as well as a combat aviation brigade. Odierno says there will also be a reduction of civilian employees but an exact number has not been determined. Other affected bases are located in Texas, Kentucky, Colorado, North Carolina, New York, Kansas and Washington. The Army is being reduced in size from a high of about 570,000 during the Iraq war to 490,000.


Internal Borrowing for Kansas Budget Declines

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas expects to rely less heavily on internal borrowing to pay its bills on time during the fiscal year starting in July. Governor Sam Brownback and legislative leaders on Tuesday unanimously approved $300 million in loans to the state's general fund from other accounts. By law, the loan must be paid by the end of June 2014. The general fund is the state's main bank account. It is used to finance general government programs and provide aid to public school districts. Because revenues don't flow in consistently, the state has resorted annually to internal borrowing to temporarily meet its cash needs. But the state shifted $400 million into the general fund during the current budget year and $600 million during the previous fiscal year.

Home Sales in Kansas in May Best Since 2007

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A realtors association says home sales in May were the highest in Kansas for that month since 2007. The Kansas Association of Realtors says sales increased 14.2 percent in May, to 3,727 units sold compared with 3,265 in May 2012. Nationwide sales rose 12.9 percent in May. The association's president, Steve McCullough, says another 3,418 sales were pending at the end of May, up 3.4 percent from May 2012 and 16.1 percent from May 2011. McCullough says if current sales rates continue, it would take about four months to run through the 15,112 houses listed for sale across the state. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the median sales price statewide was $156,000, up from $144,850 in May 2012.

Kansas Gambling Revenues Likely to Top $150M for 2013

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas gambling revenues raised through lottery ticket sales and three state-owned casinos are expected to top $150 million for the fiscal year ending June 30. The Kansas Lottery said Monday that the portion of revenues from scratch-off and multi-state lottery tickets was $74.5 million, topping the 2012 mark by $2.5 million. Revenues from state-owned casino operations in Dodge City, Kansas City and Mulvane are expected to top $79 million by the end of the fiscal year, which runs from July 1 to June 30. The state uses gambling revenues to fund economic development activities, correctional institution building funds, reduce state debt and local property taxes, state employee pensions and expansion of university engineering programs.


State of Kansas to Pay $100K to Settle Former KNI Patient's Lawsuit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Top Kansas officials have approved a $100,000 settlement in a lawsuit on behalf of a former state hospital patient who was assaulted and contracted a sexually transmitted disease. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Governor Sam Brownback and legislative leaders agreed Tuesday that the state will pay the former patient $96,000. An additional $4,000 would go to the Disability Rights Center of Kansas, which represented the disabled woman. The woman's guardian sued in Shawnee County in 2009 after the woman left the Kansas Neurological Institute in Topeka. The lawsuit said she'd been repeatedly assaulted. The state had argued there was no evidence of negligence on its part. Brownback and the lawmakers also approved a $13,000 settlement in a lawsuit from an ex-state senator who was denied a gambling license.


Kansas Leaders Settle Ex-Senator's Lawsuit for $13K

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas will pay a former state senator $13,000 to settle his lawsuit over a decision by gambling regulators to block his involvement in a dog-racing track in his hometown. Governor Sam Brownback and legislative leaders approved the settlement Tuesday with former Senator Jim Barone, a Democrat from Frontenac. The state Racing and Gaming Commission rejected a background report on Barone in October 2007, refusing to discuss the reasons. As a result, Barone couldn't serve on the board of a nonprofit group supervising the now-closed Camptown Greyhound Park in Frontenac. Last year, a Shawnee County District Court judge ruled that the commission had no grounds to reject the report and had painted Barone in a false light. Brownback and legislative leaders didn't discuss the settlement publicly before approving it.


Feds Push Ahead with Plum Island Sale

MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) — A federal agency is moving ahead with plans to sell Plum Island and the animal research lab that has operated there since the 1950s. The General Services Administration issued its final Environmental Impact Statement for the sale of the island on Tuesday. The report says the "preferred alternative" is for the federal government to proceed with the sale of the 843-acre island. The study is required before any sale can proceed. Plum Island is about 100 miles east of New York City. Homeland Security officials are planning to build a new lab, the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, near Manhattan, Kansas. Environmentalists want Plum Island saved as a nature preserve. The town of Southold is considering a zoning plan that would bar future commercial development. No estimates on what the island could sell for have been released.


Judge Sets Hearing in Lawsuit over Kansas Abortion Restrictions

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge in Kansas will hear arguments this week on Planned Parenthood's request to stop parts of the state's new abortion restrictions from taking effect in July. Chief Judge Kathryn Vratil has scheduled a hearing Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan. Planned Parenthood wants Vratil to issue a temporary order against enforcement of parts of the new law. The group's Overland Park clinic and the clinic's medical director filed suit last week over a section detailing the information that patients must receive before abortions — including a statement that abortion ends the life of a separate human being. The lawsuit argues those requirements violate free-speech rights. Backers of the law believe it protects patients.

Report: One-Third of 2013 Voter Registration Applications on Hold

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Records from the Kansas secretary of state's office indicate one-third of all voter registration applications submitted this year are in a state of "suspense" because the applicant failed to provide proof of citizenship. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that 310 of the 370 applications in suspense in Douglas County came from the state's Division of Vehicles, where people getting their driver's licenses often register to vote. More than 11,000 applications submitted since Jan. 1 are in suspense, while 20,780 voters have been added to the rolls during that period. A $40 million upgrade to the Division of Vehicles computer system was supposed to store electronic copies of birth certificates and other proof-of-citizenship documents and send them to election officials, but Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew says that hasn't happened.


UPDATE: Company Bids $700K for Historic Home Near Kansas Statehouse

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 100-year-old home near the Kansas Statehouse may become offices for a company that converts historic properties into affordable housing. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported Tuesday that Pioneer Group President Ross Freeman had the winning bid of $700,000 for the Hiram Price Dillon home. The Department of Administration auctioned off the home after receiving what it considered insufficient bids in February, including one from Pioneer. The department still must consider the bid, and Governor Sam Brownback and legislative leaders must approve the purchase. The 12,000-square-foot home is on the National Register of Historic Places. It's known for its Italian Renaissance-style architecture. The state has owned the house since 1998, when a church traded the property for a parking lot. The house has been largely vacant in recent years.

Former KU Football Player, 2 Others Bound Over for Trial

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Former University of Kansas football player Chris Martin and two other men have pleaded not guilty in a robbery case stemming from a home invasion in Lawrence. Martin, Jeremiah Letrell Edwards and Joshua Edwards pleaded Monday and were ordered to return to court in July to set a trial date. The three men were arrested in May after a Lawrence man reported he had been held at gunpoint in his home and robbed of money and marijuana on May 13. Martin, a four-star defensive end, never played a game for KU. Coach Charlie Weis dismissed Martin from the team in June, saying he had not followed rules he was asked to follow while the criminal case was pending in court. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Martin is in plea negotiations with prosecutors.


Operation Rescue Says Headquarters Vandalized

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Operation Rescue says an unidentified man threw a large rock through the window of the group's headquarters in Wichita. The anti-abortion group said in a news release Tuesday that its staff found the damage when they arrived at the office on Monday morning. It says the vandalism caused hundreds of dollars in damage. It says the incident is the latest vandalism to the building since the group purchased the former abortion clinic and turned it into their headquarters in 2006. The rock left shattered glass all over the desk and computer of its president, Troy Newman. New security cameras captured images of what appears to be a man who was attempting to conceal his appearance with a hat and baggy coat.

Salina Will Exempt Public Buildings from Concealed-Carry Gun Law

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Salina residents will not be allowed to carry concealed weapons into the city's public buildings for at least six months. The city commission voted unanimously Monday to exempt until Jan. 1 more than 30 public buildings from a new law that allows concealed weapons. A law that takes effect July 1 allows people with concealed-carry permits to take weapons into public buildings unless the buildings have adequate security. The law gives cities and counties the right to exempt their buildings for six months. City Manager Jason Gage says it would cost the city thousands of dollars to install electronic scanners and a security guard at the buildings. The Salina Journal reports that the Saline County-Salina Building Authority also passed the exemption last week for the City-County Building.

Natural Gas Lab Approaches KCC About Supporting Surcharge

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A nonprofit group from Illinois is asking the Kansas Corporation Commission to support its efforts to seek a surcharge on natural gas utilities. The Gas Technology Institute, based in Des Plaines, Illinois, says the surcharge would raise money to support safety and research. A representative from the institute told the KCC last week that the proposed surcharge would be about 90 cents per customer per year, and raise an estimated $845,000. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the institute argues customers would benefit from research on how to make appliances and homes more efficient and pipelines safer. A spokeswoman for Kansas Gas Service says that group has not asked the KCC for permission to add a research and development surcharge, but it might do so in the future.

Trial in National Guard Member's Death Delayed

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The trial for a former Fort Riley soldier charged with killing a member of the Kansas National Guard has been delayed until August. Jury selection for the first-degree murder trial of 26-year-old Daniel Parker was scheduled to begin Monday in Riley County District Court. KMAN reports that the trial has been continued until August 19. Authorities indicated Monday one of Parker's attorneys, Ron Evans, suffered a medical emergency on Monday. Parker is charged with killing 21-year-old Frederick Beverly outside a Manhattan motorcycle group's clubhouse on New Year's Day in 2012. Prosecutors say Parker fired from a passing car at the clubhouse after having a disagreement earlier in the night with a member of the club.


Ex-Insurance Agent Accused of Stealing $2 Million

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors have charged a former Kansas insurance agent with stealing nearly $2 million from policyholders. The U.S. Attorney's office says a 51-count indictment unsealed Tuesday alleges 41-year-old Jason Matthew Pennington, of Bel Aire, defrauded customers and lied to beneficiaries to cover up the thefts. He's charged with wire fraud, attempted wire fraud, money laundering, attempted bank fraud and making false statements to a financial institution. His 65-year-old father, James L. Pennington, of Wichita, is charged with four counts of filing false tax returns. Neither had an attorney listed in court records, and their home phones were disconnected. Among the alleged victims was Marlene Brown, a Wichita teacher and philanthropist who died in 2009. Jason Matthew Pennington was a State Farm Insurance agent from June 2000 until June 2010.


Kansas Wheat Yields Appear Dismal in West, Bountiful Elsewhere

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas winter wheat harvest is finally spreading across the state after an unusually late start. Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service estimates at least 8 percent of the wheat in the state has been harvested. The trade group Kansas Wheat said harvest activity has moved as far north as Hays and as far west as Scott City. In central Kansas, Randy Fritzemeier began cutting the thick stands of winter wheat at his Stafford farm last Friday. He says he's getting 50 to 60 bushels an acre. Most years he brings in 40 bushels an acre. But in drought-stricken southwest Kansas, farmer Gary Millershaski has already abandoned 360 acres. He says he will be lucky to get 15 to 20 bushels an acre on what remains.


Missouri Woman Sentenced in Kansas for Sex Trafficking

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A western Missouri woman has been sentenced to slightly more than three years in prison for sex trafficking in Kansas. The U.S. Attorney's office says 21-year-old Danyelle Putman, of Independence, was sentenced Tuesday in federal court in Kansas City, Kansas. Putman and a co-defendant, Tony A. Rogers, of Kansas City, Missouri, both pleaded guilty in December to transporting a person over state lines to engage in prostitution. Rogers and Putman were arrested in August 2012 by police conducting a prostitution sting in the Johnson County town of Prairie Village. An investigator called a number on a website and arranged with Putman for a woman to meet in Prairie Village for sex. Putman and Rogers were arrested after dropping off a 17-year-old girl who police described at the time as a runaway.


Body Found in Missouri River Was Kansas Man

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A medical examiner has identified a body found over the weekend in the Missouri River near Kansas City as 20-year-old Cody M. Siwek of Overland Park. The body was recovered Saturday morning in Clay County, Missouri after it was spotted by a fisherman. Missouri State Highway Patrol spokesman Sergeant Bill Lowe says preliminary examinations indicate Siwek drowned, but an investigation is continuing.

1 Dead, 3 Hurt in Kansas City Shooting

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police say one person was killed and three were injured in a shooting at an apartment complex. Witnesses told police people in separate cars were shooting at each other at the complex Monday night. One man was found dead at the scene. Two female victims went to a McDonald's a few blocks away and were taken to hospitals. Police spokesman Darin Snapp says they are expected to survive. Snapp says a second man later arrived at a hospital with critical wounds, apparently from the same shooting. No further information was released.

Ex-Cadet Enters Plea in Military School Assault Case

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A former cadet leader accused of assaulting a younger student at a Kansas military school has struck a deal with prosecutors for a 45-day jail sentence. The Salina Journal reports that 18-year-old David J. Burke, of McLean, Virginia, entered an Alford plea Monday to a reduced charge of aggravated battery. Such a plea means he does not admit the act, but acknowledges prosecutors could likely prove it. Burke was a student at St. John's Military School in Salina. The judge on Monday revoked his bond so that Burke could begin serving the proposed jail time, although his sentencing won't take place until early August. Burke's lawyer says the agreement avoided trial on more serious charges of sexual battery. Prosecutor Christina Trocheck says the younger student agreed to the deal.

Squirrel Causes Wichita Power Outage

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — One small rodent is getting the blame for a massive power outage in southern and eastern sections of Wichita. KAKE-TV reports that nearly 10,000 customers of Westar Energy were affected by the outage Monday afternoon. Authorities say a squirrel crawled into equipment at a substation, causing a transformer to blow out. A fire then broke out at the substation. Firefighters were quickly able to bring it under control. Power was restored to the Westar customers in about one hour.

Wichita School District Will Build New High School

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — After months of debate, the Wichita school board decided to build a new Southeast High School, rather than renovate the current building. The board voted Monday night to proceed with construction of a $54 million high school about six miles from the current building. It isn't expected to open until 2016. The project will be funded with money from a 2008 bond issue, which was originally targeted to renovating the old school and building a new one. But board members said a reduction of nearly $60 million in state aid since that bond issue passed made it difficult to operate two schools. The old school will be used for administration offices. And the district will negotiate to bring some programs from Wichita Area Technical College to the old building.

Report: Warm Kansas Weather Speeds Planting

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The government's weekly snapshot of Kansas crops indicates warmer weather and steady winds have helped dry out soggy wheat fields. Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service also reported Monday that producers are nearly done planting sorghum and soybeans. First cutting of alfalfa is almost complete. The agency said 47 percent of the state's wheat crop was now ripe. It rated 45 percent of the crop in poor to very poor condition. About 27 percent was in fair shape with just 24 in good and 4 in excellent condition. Corn condition was rated 8 percent poor to very poor, 34 percent fair, 51 percent good and 7 percent excellent. Sorghum planting was 89 percent finished, with soybean planting not far behind at 88 percent.


Sprint Nextel Shareholders Approve Softbank Deal

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Sprint Nextel's shareholders on Tuesday approved SoftBank's acquisition of the bulk of the wireless carrier company. Softbank had been competing with Dish Network Corp. since April to acquire Sprint. Sprint opted for Softbank's $21.6 billion offer for 78 percent of the company, versus Dish's $25.5 billion bid for all of Sprint. CEO Dan Hesse said it was a historic day for the company and said the deal should enhance Sprint's long-term value and competitive position by creating a company with greater financial flexibility. Softbank, based in Japan, is giving Sprint stockholders the choice of $7.65 for each share held or one share of New Sprint common stock.


KU Athletics Agrees to ESPN3 Deal for Live Events

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas athletics department has agreed to a seven-year deal with ESPN to carry at least 70 live events on the ESPN3 platform, including regular-season football and men's and women's basketball games. The agreement announced Tuesday comes on the heels of one with Time Warner Cable to air 50 KU games annually, including two exhibition and four non-conference men's basketball games exclusively on Metro Sports in the Kansas City market and across the state. ESPN3 will deliver those same games nationally, while carrying at least 20 more games to the approximately 85 million homes nationwide that receive the service. Among other events shown by ESPN3 will be Late Night in the Phog, the spring football game, the Kansas Relays and multiple volleyball, baseball, softball and women's soccer games.


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