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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Group Says Farm Bill Eases Rules for Controversial Coal-Fired Power Plant

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. House-approved farm bill contains a provision that environmentalists say would ease rules for building a coal-burning power plant in southwest Kansas. Environmentalists have won federal court decisions requiring an environmental review before Hays-based Sunflower Electric Power Corporation can build a $2.8 billion, 895-megawatt plant near Holcomb. Bill Griffith, energy chair of the Kansas chapter of the Sierra Club, told The Lawrence Journal-World that a section of the House's farm bill would essentially negate that requirement. Griffith says he isn't sure how the provision got into the the farm bill. Sunflower Electric spokeswoman Cindy Hertel says she had no knowledge of the provision. The House-approved farm bill moved to the Senate, which has a separate farm bill. A conference committee is expected to consider differences between the versions.


Kansas Lawmaker Seeks Fall Hearing on Court Nominee

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate Judiciary Committee's chairman says he hopes to have a hearing this fall on Governor Sam Brownback's next nominee to the state Court of Appeals. Chairman Jeff King said Wednesday he's hoping to have a full-day meeting in October or November. He says senators will take the job of vetting the nominee seriously. Brownback will fill a new seat on the Court of Appeals under a new system in which the governor appoints the judge, subject to Senate confirmation. Previously, a nominating commission screened applicants and named three finalists. Legislators had no role after the governor's appointment. Under a law taking effect this month, the Senate will have 20 days after the Legislature reconvenes in January to act. Brownback must nominate a judge by August 29.


Kansas Judge Rules Offender Registry Extension 'Punitive'

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has ordered the Kansas Bureau of Investigation to remove a man's name from the state's offender registry for sex, drug and violent crimes. Shawnee County Judge Larry Hendricks ruled Tuesday that a state law passed two years ago extending the amount of time offenders must remain on the registry is punitive. He says the registration period is excessive and the notification system ostracizes offenders. The man pleaded guilty in 2003 to taking indecent liberties with a child in Johnson County. He was then required to remain on the registry for 10 years, until this year. But the 2011 law extended the registering requirement to 25 years for that crime, and the plaintiff was told it applied retroactively and that he'd have to remain on the list until 2028.

Search for Missing Osage County Man Continues

LYNDON, Kan. (AP) — Osage County authorities say they have had few leads in the search for a Lyndon man who hasn't been seen since Sunday night. Sheriff Laurie Dunn says 67-year-old Raleigh Heskett was last seen at a Lebo gas station. He was wearing a black ball cap with the word "Convoy" and driving a brown 2002 GMC full-sized van with light swirl designs and a Kansas tag 417 DCF. Heskett is 6-foot, 200 pounds, with a gray beard and mustache. Dunn says Heskett has a severe cut on his right forearm although it's not clear how he was injured. He also panther and cobra tattoos on his left arm.


UPDATE: Body Found in Kansas River Identified

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in Douglas County have identified a body found in the Kansas River in Lawrence. 6News Lawrence reports that the Douglas County Sheriff's Office has identified the victim as 49-year-old Dwight Sexton who was from the Lawrence area. Foul play is not suspected. Officials say a boater discovered the body Wednesday in the river northwest of the University of Kansas Boat House. An autopsy is scheduled for Thursday.


Lawrence City Commission Approves Rock Chalk Project

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence city commissioners have given final approval to a proposal to build recreation center in northwest Lawrence. The proposed $25 million recreation center will include gyms, an indoor turf field and other amenities as part of the Rock Chalk Park project. The city is spending $22.5 million on the project, which is part of a partnership between the city, a University of Kansas Endowment entity and a private developer. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that a revised development agreement requires the commission to meet monthly to review infrastructure costs and clarifies that some fees for the project are exempt from a 2.5 percent management fee charged by the private developer. The recreation center will be next to a larger project that will include privately owned athletic facilities for the University of Kansas.

Topeka Bicyclist Dies After Crash

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka police have released the identity of a 61-year-old bicyclist killed in a crash with a motorcycle. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that police said yesterday that Ralph Lowe was pronounced dead July 10 as a result of injuries he sustained on July 7 when his bicycle was struck by a motorcycle. Lowe's identity and condition weren't released until Tuesday. Dawn Brumbaugh, an area resident who witnessed the accident, said she saw the bicyclist pull out onto the road directly in front of the motorcycle.


Shawnee County Deputies Seize 110 Pounds of Marijuana

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Shawnee County sheriff's deputies arrested five men after seizing 110 pounds of marijuana during a recent traffic stop. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that deputies on Monday stopped a group of men traveling in a car with an Arizona license plate and found 110 pounds of marijuana in the vehicle. Officers arrested the five men and booked them into the Shawnee County Jail in connection with possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and no Kansas drug tax stamp. Formal charges are pending against the men, who are from Maryland, Arizona and Delaware.


Hostess Says Snack Cake Demand Hits New Highs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Hostess Brands says demand for Twinkies and CupCakes is at a record high since the snack cakes returned to shelves less than three days ago. The treats disappeared from shelves almost eight months ago when the predecessor company that made them shut down its plants and said that it was going out of business. The cakes are back under new ownership. The Twinkies are a bit smaller than before, but that hasn't shrunk their popularity. Hostess says sales of its products are seven times greater than historic levels. Orders are three to six times greater than its production capacity, even though it is running bakeries at maximum levels. Numerous retailers told Hostess this week that they had sold out of the snack cakes within hours of them being displayed.


Missouri Appeals Panel Hears KC Diluted Drugs Case

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri appeals panel has heard arguments about settlements reached between victims of a Kansas City pharmacist who diluted drugs and two drug companies. Pharmacist Robert Courtney pleaded guilty in 2002 to diluting drugs and is serving a 30-year prison sentence. Drug makers Eli Lilly and Bristol-Myers Squibb denied allegations against them but settled more than $70 million in claims a decade ago. Some victims' families want to reopen their cases against the drug companies. But a Jackson County (Missouri) circuit judge denied that request, prompting the appeals hearing Wednesday. Lawyers for victims' families told the Missouri Western District Court of Appeals the settlements were improper and should be reopened. The Kansas City Star reports that a lawyer for the pharmaceutical companies said the settlements were fair and should be honored.


Shawnee Man Cited After Killing Cat

LAKE WAUKOMIS, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas man faces a municipal court date after he drowned a caged cat in a lake north of Kansas City. A neighbor and two children saw the man drown the cat. He told police he didn't realize the neighbors were watching. Police say the man, whose name was not released, drowned the cat Sunday afternoon in Missouri's Lake Waukomis because it had bitten and scratched his fiancee and another person. He held the cat under water for about five minutes before it died. The man, from Shawnee, is scheduled to appear in municipal court Aug. 20 on a charge of violating the city's animal-abuse ordinance. Police investigator Pete Edlund told The Kansas City Star that a problem animal should be taken to a veterinarian or an animal shelter.

Tenants Get First Look at Post-Standoff Damage

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Some Wichita apartment dwellers are getting their first look at the damage caused last week when their neighbor became engaged in a 32-hour standoff with police before being killed in a shootout. Justin Zoucha lives under the two units of the complex where police fired tear gas and a water cannon last Thursday in an attempt to get Jared Woosypiti to come out. The Wichita Eagle reports that mold has grown on the walls of Zoucha's living room and the smell is almost unbearable. Zoucha says almost all of his belongings were ruined, but he doesn't have renter's insurance and isn't sure the city will pitch in to help. The standoff began July 10, shortly after Woosypiti fired multiple rounds inside a Wichita Kmart while trying to rob the pharmacy.


State of KS Officials Extends Bid Deadline for Clinton Lake Resort

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials are extending the deadline for developers to submit bids for the proposed construction of a resort at Clinton Lake near Lawrence. The Department of Administration said Tuesday that proposals will be accepted through July 26 for the project. A consultant prepared a study for the Kansas Department of Commerce for a 175-room resort that would include a conference center and other amenities. The study did not specify a site but suggested a location near an existing marina on the northeast side of the lake, which is operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The study noted that a sports complex being built by the University of Kansas and the city of Lawrence could bring more visitors to the area.

Garden City Banker Charged with Embezzlement

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors say a former branch manager of Landmark National Bank in Garden City has been charged with embezzling more than $99,999 from the bank. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said in a news release Tuesday that 52-year-old Sheri L. Green was charged with one count of misapplication of bank funds. The indictment alleges she stole the money from the bank between August and December of last year. If convicted, Green faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000. It was not immediately clear if Green has an attorney.

Workers Restoring Second-Oldest U.S. Military Cemetery

BAXTER SPRINGS, Kan. (AP) — Workers are toiling under the hot southeast Kansas summer sun to restore the nation's second-oldest military cemetery. The work at the Baxter Springs National Cemetery No. 2 Soldier's Lot will include resetting and aligning all 217 headstones, which weigh about 100 pounds each. After the Civil War, the federal government designated the soldiers' lot on ground donated by the city. It is under the jurisdiction of National Cemetery No. 1 in Fort Scott. The Joplin Globe reports that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' National Cemetery Administration contracts with groups to ensure that gravestones are properly set and aligned at national cemeteries. Gateway Outdoor Solutions in St. Louis is leading the effort.

KC Skywalk Disaster Memorial Effort Receives Donation

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City law firm is donating $20,000 toward a planned memorial to the 1981 Hyatt skywalk disaster. Wednesday is the 32nd anniversary of the July 17, 1981, disaster in which skywalks at the Hyatt Regency Hotel collapsed, killing 114 people and injuring more than 200. The Kansas City Star reports that the law firm of Shamberg, Johnson & Bergman is donating $20,000 to a group that's been working to build the skywalk memorial. Attorneys John Shamberg and Lynn Johnson were part of a plaintiff's committee in a lawsuit after the disaster, and Johnson was appointed as counsel for a class action on behalf of victims of the disaster. The memorial is planned on a nearby site. Organizers say they still need to raise about $195,000 toward the needed $335,000.

Reward Offered for Info on KC Homicide

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Family and friends have added to the reward being offered for information about a recent Kansas City homicide. Kansas City police said in a release Tuesday that the reward for information about the June 30 shooting death of Dave Ruth has been increased to about $2,000. Ruth was shot to death during an apparent residential burglary when thieves stole firearms, a pick-up truck and other valuables. Police say Ruth's family and friends have added $1,000.00 to the existing $1,000 reward for anonymous information that's submitted to the TIPS Hotline and results in an arrest.

Kansas City Streetcar Plan on Track with Bids

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City officials have chosen a contractor to build a proposed streetcar project while awaiting a state appeals court ruling over the legality of taxes to pay for it. City officials on Tuesday chose a joint venture between St. Joseph-based Herzog Contracting Corp. and California-based rail contractor Stacy and Witbeck Incorporated to be general manager/contractor for the streetcar line in downtown Kansas City. The Kansas City Star reports that the city council still must approve the choice. Also on Tuesday, lawyers argued before a Missouri Court of Appeals panel over whether new downtown taxes to help pay for the $100 million streetcar project are constitutional. Two downtown property owners want to challenge the taxes in court, while the city contends it's too late to file the challenge.


Bus Driver Stabbed in KCMO

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City, Missouri police are seeking the public's help in identifying two men suspected of stabbing a bus driver. Police spokesman Darin Snapp said in a release Wednesday that the 52-year-old driver was assaulted by two men on a bus Saturday night. Snapp says the bus driver was punched and stabbed several times after trying to get the suspects off the bus for cursing and refusing to pay. The driver was treated at a hospital for stab wounds and has since returned home, where he's recovering. Police are asking anyone with information about the assailants to call the TIPS Hotline at 816.474.8477.


Missouri Regulators Approve Laclede Gas Purchase of MGE

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Utility regulators have approved a deal combining Missouri's two largest natural gas companies. The Missouri Public Service Commission on Wednesday approved an agreement that allows Laclede Gas Company to purchase Missouri Gas Energy. Laclede Gas serves about 630,000 customers in the St. Louis area and parts of eastern Missouri. Missouri Gas Energy serves more than 500,000 customers in the Kansas City area and parts of western Missouri. St. Louis-based Laclede Gas announced last December that it would pay about $1 billion to buy Missouri Gas Energy and New England Gas Company The deal approved by Missouri regulators bars Laclede Gas from seeking a general rate increase in its current service area until October 2015. But it could seek an immediate rate increase for the Missouri Gas Energy territory.



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