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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, February 29, 2012



Tornado Hits Harveyville, State of Emergency Declared in Wabaunsee County

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has declared a State of Disaster Emergency in Wabaunsee County, after an apparent tornado tore through the small town of Harveyville.  The town of about 250 people is located some 30 miles southwest of Topeka.  More than a dozen people were hurt -- including one who was critically injured when the storm struck around 9 o'clock last (TUE) night.  A church and numerous homes were either damaged or destroyed.  Officials estimate nearly half the town sustained damage.  Trees and power lines were knocked down.  Wabaunsee County Emergency Management said four people were trapped in a building for a time, but law enforcement officials say everyone has now been rescued from the structure.  A shelter has been established at the high school in Harveyville.  The Kansas Department of Transportation says highways K-31 and K-195 are closed in the Harveyville area until further notice.  People are advised to stay away from the town until further notice.  


In Addition to Harveyville Tornado, Violent Storms Hit other Parts of KS

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Powerful storms pounded parts of central Kansas as a tornado watch stretched across the state's midsection from Nebraska to the Oklahoma line.  The National Weather Service reported brief tornado touchdowns southwest of the Hutchinson area before 7pm yesterday (TUE), amid violent thunderstorms with high winds. Reno County emergency management reported minor wind damage to a house, with vehicles and stock trailers flipped over.  Elsewhere in central Kansas, trained spotters and law enforcement reported hail the size of golf balls and winds estimated at 70 mph Tuesday night north of Hillsboro in Marion County.  Tornado warnings were posted earlier for a handful of north-central Kansas counties, but there no reports of funnel clouds. Law enforcement reported some power lines down in Belleville, just south of the Nebraska line, shortly after 6pm

There were also several tornado sightings and reports of high winds in other parts of Kansas.   

In southeast Kansas, the Labette County Emergency Management Director says high winds from a thunderstorm blew three trailers over shortly before 10:30pm Tuesday.  Three people were injured -- one of them, seriously.  All three were taken to hospitals.  Some power lines were also blown down.  Most of the damage occurred in a three-block area, according to the National Weather Service.

In Sumner County, in south-central Kansas, at least two houses were severely damaged, a garage was destroyed, and a barn was blown into the road.

In Wilson County, a house was destroyed, and rescuers worked to pull a family from the debris.  


Deadly Storms Hit Branson and SW Missouri, Leaving One Person Dead

BRANSON, Mo. (AP) — At least one person died in southwest Missouri overnight as suspected tornadoes whipped the Midwest, causing numerous injuries and significant damage. In Dallas County, one person was killed and 13 others were hurt when a possible tornado hit a mobile home park south of Buffalo. The storms also caused damage in downtown Branson, heavily damaging the city's famous theaters.


Basehor Residents Recall Mayor and 2 Council Members

BASEHOR, KS (AP) — Residents of an eastern Kansas town voted by a wide margin to recall the mayor and two city council members.  Yesterday's (TUE) vote in Basehor to recall Mayor Terry Hill and council members Dennis Mertz and Iris Dysart centered on the firing of former City Administrator Mark Loughry.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that about 65 percent of voters approved Hill's recall, 61 percent went for Mertz's and 59 percent for Dysart's.  Residents had mounted dueling efforts to remove the three, with one committee targeting Mertz and Dysart and the other seeking to recall Hill. Mertz and Dysart supported Loughgry's fired and Hill opposed it.  The three officials will be removed from office the day election results are certified.


 KS Mail Carrier Charged With Embezzling Mail

WICHITA, KS (AP) — A 77-year-old Kansas mail carrier accused of embezzling mail says she didn't steal it.  She just didn't deliver it.  Federal prosecutors filed a criminal information Wednesday against Dixie Bontrager of Holton, charging her with one count of embezzling first-class mail periodicals, parcels and bulk mail entrusted to her. Bontrager told The Associated Press she intends to plead guilty.  Bontrager says she had been a mail carrier for 30 years until she was dismissed in 2010. Her 115-mile route included Holton and Circleville in northeast Kansas.  She tells The AP that she never gave any thought that it was stealing mail because she never opened anything. The woman says lot of it was just junk mail like advertising flyers or undeliverable mail. She says some of it dated to 2003.


 Wichita Rejects Proposed Bed Tax for Hotel

WICHITA, KS (AP) — Wichita voters resoundingly rejected a proposal to give $2.25 million in hotel guest tax money to developers of a downtown hotel.  The vote on the proposal for a 177-bed Ambassador Hotel lost Tuesday by a margin of 61 percent to 38 percent, or 16,198 to 10,107 votes.  The proposal would have allowed the hotel developers to keep 75 percent of the guest taxes collected for 15 years.  The special election was forced by a petition drive conducted by opponents, who argued the city was giving too many tax incentives to the developer.  The hotel developer, Paul Coury, says he is disappointed by the vote and will respond by making cuts to the project that he hopes customers will not notice.


 Ex-Congresswoman Meyers Undergoes Hip Surgery

OVERLAND PARK, KS (AP) — Former Congresswoman Jan Meyers is recovery from hip surgery at a northeast Kansas hospital.  Overland Park Regional Medical Center said in a news release today (WED) that Meyers had surgery after suffering a fracture in a fall at home. The former Republican lawmaker is 83.  The release says Meyers and her family wish to thank their "extended family" — the Overland Park community — for their thoughts and prayers. Meyers retired from elective politics in 1998 after serving 12 years in the U.S. House from the 3rd Congressional District, which now includes Johnson County, Kansas City, Kan., and part of Lawrence.


 White House Receives Kansas NCLB Waiver Request

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A request from the Kansas Department of Education seeking a waiver from the provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind law has been formally received in Washington.  The White House says Wednesday that Kansas was among 27 waiver applications received for the latest request period. President Barack Obama invited states to apply for greater flexibility under the law to reach goals for student achievement. Among the strategies will be using other indicators besides test scores to measure student growth and academic progress. It also would give local officials more say to develop programs to help struggling students.Eleven states, including Colorado and Oklahoma, have already received federal waivers.  Applications will be reviewed in the coming weeks and a decision will be announced later this spring.


 Brownback Names Kansas District Judge

 TOPEKA, KS (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has appointed the Kingman County counselor to fill a vacancy as judge in the 30th District.  Francis Meisenheimer was named to the bench Wednesday, filling the void left by the retirement of Judge Robert J. Schmisseur. Meisenheimer has been Kingman County counselor since 2002. He also was a municipal judge in the city of Kingman and attorney for the West Kingman County School District since 1993.Meisenheimer earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from Kansas State University and law degree from the University of Kansas. The 30th Judicial District serves Barber, Harper, Kingman, Pratt and Sumner counties in south-central Kansas.


KS Woman Sentenced in Baby's Death by Hot Hair Drier

HUTCHINSON, KS (AP) — A Kansas woman who left a hair dryer running to warm her infant daughter on a freezing night has been sentenced to three years' probation for the baby's death from hyperthermia.  KWBW-AM reports that Brigit (BRIHJ'-eht) Hippen, of Hutchinson, could go to prison if she violates terms of the community correction sentence she received yesterday (TUE) in Reno County District Court.  Hippen pleaded no contest last month to involuntary manslaughter in the February 2010 death of her 2-month-old daughter, Karina Perez. Hippen had been charged with second-degree murder.  Hippen told investigators she placed a running hair dryer near Karina's bassinet to warm the baby, then fell asleep. Doctors have said Karina's temperature was 108 when she died.  


KS House Committee to Vote on Abortion-Related Bill

TOPEKA, KS (AP) — A Kansas House committee is preparing to act on a bill aimed at preventing the state from indirectly subsidizing abortions through tax credits or deductions.  Today's (WED) agenda for the Federal and State Affairs Committee included a vote on the measure, which would make several changes in state tax laws, all designed to cut off indirect support for abortions.  For example, people who deduct medical expenses from their income taxes couldn't include abortion expenses in the calculation. A nonprofit organization that provides abortion services would have to pay the state sales tax on what it buys, unlike other nonprofits.  Also, the measure would prohibit public schools from using materials in human sexuality classes from groups that provide abortion services.


K-State Sets Up Recruiting Office in Vietnam

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University is expanding its recruiting efforts in Vietnam.  The university said in a statement that its international programs office has reached a partnership agreement with Capstone Vietnam to represent K-State in recruiting students from Vietnam. The university says Capstone Vietnam is an academic development organization.  Jim Lewis, K-State's director of international admissions and recruiting, said the Capstone partnership will give the university full-time representation in Vietnam.  Marcelo Sabates, interim associate provost for international programs, said establishing an office in Vietnam will help Kansas State improve its reach into that area of southeast Asia. Vietnam will be the third international office established by K-State. An office in China was opened in 2006 and an office in India opened in 2008.


Bank to Donate 75 Vacant Homes to Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Bank of America is donating 75 vacant houses to Kansas City and $875,000 to rehabilitate or demolish them.  The Kansas City Star reports that most of the homes will be in a struggling area of the city where foreclosures have exacerbated an already steep decline.  The deal with Bank of America had been in the works for a year. City officials hope it will be replicated by other lenders.  Mayor Sly James said in a written statement that neighborhoods cannot be reborn as long as every other house is boarded up or in disrepair. He thanked Bank of America and said the partnership "will reinvest in the heart of our city."  Twenty-five of the donated homes will be renovated. The other 50 eventually will be torn down.


Texas A&M, Mizzou Must Pay $25 Million to Leave Big 12 Conference

IRVING, Texas (AP) — Texas A&M and Missouri have agreed to pay $12.4 million each to leave the Big 12 and join the Southeastern Conference in July.  The league announced the agreements yesterday (TUE).  Texas A&M will receive unspecified benefits from the Big 12's new television contract with Fox Sports and "certain other concessions." However, Missouri waived any claims to revenue from the TV deal, which takes effect in July, and agreed to pay the Big 12 another $500,000 to cover officiating expenses for 2011-12.  The Big 12 is adding TCU and West Virginia next season. The Mountaineers and the Big East settled competing lawsuits earlier this month, with the Big East receiving $20 million from the school and the Big 12 for West Virginia to join the Big 12 next football season.


Ex-Wife of Key Figure in KU Ticket-Scalping Scandal Tries to Secure and Defend Assets

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The ex-wife of the highest-ranking official caught in a University of Kansas ticket-scalping scandal is asking a federal judge to rule in her favor in the civil lawsuit filed by the government over assets. Mary Jean Kirtland says she didn't participate in the scheme or receive any property from it. Her ex-husband was the associate athletic director in charge of development.  Ben Kirtland is currently serving time in prison for his role in the ticket-scalping scandal.




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