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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, November 19, 2013


BCBS of Kansas to Continue Disputed Health Plans for 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The largest health insurance company in Kansas will offer another year of coverage under plans that it had expected to cancel because of the federal health care overhaul. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas announced Tuesday that it would notify about 10,000 policy holders that they can continue with their old, individual coverage. The company had sent the policyholders cancellation notices, leaving them to find new health plans. The change came after President Barack Obama announced he would allow companies to continue existing plans for at least another year even if the coverage didn't meet mandates in the 2010 health care law. Blue Cross spokeswoman Mary Beth Chambers said the company believes its policyholders would prefer to keep their old plans.

Report: Nearly 1 in 4 KS Kids Living in Poverty

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new report by a children's advocacy group shows that nearly one in four Kansas children are living below the poverty line as the effects of the Great Recession linger. The data released Tuesday by Kansas Action for Children finds the state's childhood poverty rate at 23.15 percent, up more than 5 percent from 2008. Group president and CEO Shannon Cotsoradis says many parents are finding it difficult to land work and continue to be dependent on public assistance to provide food, shelter and pay other bills. She says eligibility requirements for public assistance programs have meant fewer Kansas residents qualify for benefits and put more children at risk of not being healthy or safe. The KAC's Kids Count report looks at 20 indicators of child well-being.

Kansas Counties Opt for Concealed Carry Due to Cost Concerns

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Some local Kansas governments will follow a new state law allowing concealed carry of guns at public buildings because they don't want to spend the money for added security measures required to keep the ban in place. The Kansas Legislature passed legislation prohibiting many state and local government agencies from banning concealed guns on their premises unless they provide security measures. Counties and cities could get a six-month exemption from imposing the measure, but the extension expires December 31. The Hutchinson News reports that buildings can continue to be exempt if they have security measures. But Melissa Wangemann, with the Kansas Association of Counties, says some counties can't afford to install and staff screening equipment. Those counties plan to allow concealed guns.


Ellis County to Seek Gun Law Exemption

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — The Ellis County Commission has approved a resolution for the county to seek a four-year exemption to the state's new concealed carry law. The Kansas Legislature passed a law earlier this year prohibiting many state and local government agencies from banning concealed guns on their premises unless they provide security measures. Like several other counties, Ellis County had a six-month exemption from imposing the measure, but that expires December 31. The Hays Daily News reports the Ellis County Commission approved a resolution Monday to seek the four-year exemption. The county also will arrange for a representative of Homeland Security to meet with county staff to discuss security. The current plan calls for the courthouse and Law Enforcement Center to be secure, with two security guards at one entry point.


KU Students Don Empty Gun Holsters in Protest

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — More than a dozen University of Kansas students wore empty gun holsters to class to protest the university's decision to delay implementation of full conceal-and-carry rights on campus. Kendon Brawner, a student from Lawrence, told The Topeka Capital-Journal that the protest Tuesday was intended to spread a message that participants feel gun-free zones aren't effective in deterring violence by people intent on using firearms illegally. Under Kansas law, colleges and universities can allow someone with a concealed-gun permit full access to campus buildings, or the schools can request an exemption for up to four years. The university received an exemption but has to open campus buildings by 2017 to people with conceal-and-carry permits. The university can keep the ban in place if it installs security systems at public building entrances.


Kansas to Study Missouri River Aqueduct Project 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas water officials are preparing to update a study to determine the feasibility of building a 360-mile aqueduct to tap the Missouri River to support agriculture in western parts of the state. Tracy Streeter, director of the Kansas Water Office, told legislators on Tuesday that the study would begin next year. How much the aqueduct would cost is to be determined. A study in 1982 pegged the price at $3.6 billion to construct either an open-air canal or enclosed pipeline. Reservoirs would be constructed to siphon water from the Missouri before it is pumped west, ending in another large reservoir near Utica in western Kansas between Great Bend and Scott City. The project was one of several options that were considered in a study authorized under federal law in 1976.


SandRidge Plans to Drill 100 Kansas Wells in 2014

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A top executive for SandRidge Energy says the company plans to spend $350 million next year to drill another 100 horizontal wells and build associated infrastructure in the Mississippian Lime formation in Kansas. David Lawler, executive vice president and chief operating officer for the Oklahoma-based firm, says that plan should make people understand the company's interest in the Kansas formation. His comments, made last week, are in sharp contrast to the recent announcement from oil giant Shell Oil that it was pulling up stakes and selling its Kansas assets. The Shell move was the latest in a string of major oil exploration companies that have given up on the Kansas side of the Mississippian Lime formation. SandRidge has more than 1 million acres of mineral leases in Kansas.


Topeka Police Chase Suspect for 1 Hour

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka police went on an hour-long car chase before the suspect ran into a construction site and was taken into custody. WIBW reports that the chase started late Monday when police tried to stop the car, but the driver wouldn't pull over. The car went through nearly every part of Topeka and lost officers at one point. Police found the vehicle again a short while later and resumed the chase. Speeds reached as high as 110 mph on Interstate 70, and 90 mph through Topeka. Officers also spiked the car's tires until it was running only on flats and rims. The chase ended early Tuesday when the car ran into the construction site and came to rest in a hole in the road. The 25-year-old driver was taken into custody.

Judge: Topeka Bar Disturbed the Peace

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka bar owner has been found guilty of disturbing the peace, and the judge says more citations could be coming if bars amp up their music late at night. Topeka Municipal Court Administrative Judge Vic Miller on Monday ordered Christine Lopez, co-owner of the Brass Rail Tavern, to pay a $100 fine and court costs for disturbing the peace. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Topeka's ordinance prohibits amplified noise that can be heard from 50 feet away from 11 pm to 7 am. City attorney Chad Sublet says Miller stated that if anyone with outside amplified karaoke late at night in a residential neighborhood that causes neighbors to complain will probably get a citation. The bar owners say they may seek an extension to play music until midnight.


Bel Aire Gets Grants for Rail Siding Project

BEL AIRE, Kan. (AP) — The city of Bel Aire has received nearly $1 million in grants and a low-interest loan to install a rail siding at an industrial park. Bel Aire says it received $566,000 in grants from the Kansas Department of Transportation and a $421,000, 2 percent interest KDOT loan for the siding project at the Sunflower Commerce Park. Bel Aire, located just outside Wichita, will provide $316,000 toward the project, which is expected to cost $1.3 million. Bel Aire officials say they have been working with Buzzi Unicem to buy a 12-acre lot at the industrial park, and the funding for the project should allow the land purchase to close. Buzzi Unicem plans to build a $6 million facility that will use about 800 rail cars annually on the siding.


Company Donates Office Building to Truman Medical


KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City development company has donated an office building valued at $3.3 million to the Truman Medical Center Charitable Foundation. Truman will use the eight-story building north of the Missouri River for its non-patient operations, such as a calling center and billing support. ZDG Investments, composed of principals from Zimmer Companies and J.E. Dunn Construction, announced the transfer of ownership Tuesday. They said the donation was made to support Truman's medical mission. Truman spokesman Shane Kovac told The Kansas City Star that it will be mid-2014 before Truman employees moved to the new location. ZDG Investments had owned the Tiffany Springs Parkway building since 1993.


KS Fossils Removed from NY Auction Following Objections

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — A California museum has withdrawn the 12 fossils it had listed for sale in an auction this week, including seven from the Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays. The San Diego Natural History Museum says on its website that seven large vertebrate fossils collected and sold to the museum by Charles Sternberg in the 1920s were among those removed from Tuesday's auction. News that the Kansas artifacts were being auctioned off rankled some who didn't think they should be sold to private collectors. The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology issued a statement critical of the San Diego museum's decision to sell the fossils. The Kansas fossils were collected by Sternberg, patriarch of the fossil-collecting family that included Levi, Charles M. and George, the former director of Sternberg Museum.

KCK Government Planning to Buy T-Bones Ballpark

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The Unified Government of Kansas City, Kansas and Wyandotte County is considering buying the ballpark that is home to the T-Bones baseball club. If that happens, the independent minor-league baseball team would agree to stay in Wyandotte County for 20 years. Unified Government officials said Monday they are would use STAR bonds to buy CommunityAmerica Ballpark from Ehlert Development, which also owns the team. The Unified Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing next month on the proposed deal. The government officials say the deal was justified because of the team's economic benefit for the county. The Kansas City Star reports that more than 265,000 people attended T-Bones games this year, and the team generates more than $5.5 million a year for the economy.

Man Gets Probation in Bribery Scheme Involving Wichita Cop

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man was sentenced to two years of probation for helping a former police officer try to bribe a witness. Forty-year-old Patrick Melendrez was sentenced Monday for conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He admitted that he helped former police officer Joletta Vallejo in the bribery scheme to help Vallejo keep her job. Prosecutors say Vallejo didn't properly report alleged crimes against two people. During a police department investigation, Vallejo and Melendrez tried to bribe a witness to recant his statements to the department's professional standards bureau. Instead, the witness cooperated with an undercover investigation into the bribery attempt. Vallejo is scheduled to be sentenced December 2.


Crop Report: Wind, Hard Freeze Spur Kansas Harvest

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The latest government crop update says Kansas farmers were able to get most of their remaining crops harvested last week amid a few windy days and a hard freeze. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that a few areas of slow-drying sorghum and double-crop soybeans remain to be cut. Its latest report shows 94 percent of the state's corn has been cut, while harvest of sorghum is at 88 percent and soybeans at 91 percent. Cattlemen in western Kansas have been able to take advantage of good stands of wheat to run their herds on wheat pasture. About 96 percent of the wheat has emerged. NASS rates the wheat crop as 7 percent excellent, 58 percent good, 32 percent fair, and 3 percent poor to very poor.

Director of MO Program for Disabled Indicted on Embezzlement Charges

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal grand jury has indicted the director of a program for disabled people in a northwest Missouri town for allegedly embezzling more than $385,000 from the organization. Federal prosecutors announced on Monday that 50-year-old Terri Arlene Marr of Warrensburg is charged in a 22-count indictment. Marr was the director of Progressive Alternative Living, Inc. from 1991 through 2013. The organization operates a home in Higginsville for disabled people and is reimbursed by Medicaid. Marr was responsible for keeping financial records for the organization. Prosecutors allege that Marr used the organization's bank account to pay off her personal credit cards and issued payroll checks to an unindicted co-conspirator, who is not identified in the indictment. It was not immediately clear if Marr has an attorney.

KS Agency Urging Black Families to Compile Oral Histories

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas African American Affairs Commission is urging black families to compile oral histories through interviews this year after Thanksgiving. The commission is calling the project "A New Black Friday." The title is a play on the nickname for the Friday after Thanksgiving, typically the busiest holiday shopping day of the year. The commission is encouraging people to speak with grandparents, great-grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, or any other elders about their memories. It even has posted a brochure with potential topics for interviews on its website at . The commission is asking people to write short essays about their interviews and submit them by January 1. Commission Executive Director Mildred Edwards said compiling the histories will add to the knowledge about the state's heritage.


New Displays Installed at Alabama Airport Following Death of KS Boy


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — New flight information display boards are now being installed at the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport. reported Tuesday that 12 new display boards have been installed at the airport and nine additional boards will be installed when Concourse C is completed. That area is expected to be finished by next summer. The airport previously had display information screens that were mounted to the floor when the renovated terminal opened in March. Just over a week after the terminal opened, one of the display boards fell over and killed 10-year-old Luke Bresette of Overland Park, Kan. The boy's mother and two of his siblings were also injured. In June, the family filed a lawsuit against a group of contractors who designed and installed the display boards.



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