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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Escaped Sex Offender Recaptured in Lawrence

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A convicted sex offender who escaped in Lawrence while being driven from Virginia to Colorado is back in custody.  Police captured 22-year-old Deon Gregory Routt shortly after 3pm yesterday (TUE) after a chase near Memorial Stadium at the University of Kansas.  A private security firm was transporting Routt when the van stopped in Lawrence around 5:30pm Monday so officers could check on a prisoner. Routt to the opportunity to bolt.  Routt is a registered sex offender. He was convicted last year of sexually assaulting a child in Colorado.  Authorities were uncertain if Routt was shackled or handcuffed when he made his escape.  


Salina Food Bank Reports Low Supplies

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Officials at a Salina food bank say a marked increase in demand for services has cut into their supplies.  The Salina Journal reports the Salina Emergency Aid Food Bank normally serves 20 to 30 people a day. But the food bank has been seeing those numbers go up and recently set a one-day record when 40 people came for meals.  Executive director Kathy Jackson says there have also been days when the number of people seeking food has topped 35.  Jackson says the food bank has had to ration provisions to stretch its dwindling supplies. The organization is hoping a fundraiser scheduled for Sunday will help alleviate the shortage.


Burglary Ring with KS Connection Busted in SW Missouri

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — A burglary ring with a Kansas connection has been busted in southwest Missouri.  Three suspects are in custody after authorities say they operated a burglary ring in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. So far, investigators in Jasper County, Missouri have identified 16 victims after discovering the stolen property last weekend in a Joplin house and in a storage unit.


KU Proposes Room and Board Increase for Next Year

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas is seeking an increase of about 2.54 percent for room and board, starting next fall.  The university says the proposed rate would increase the cost of a traditional residence hall double room to $3,902 per academic year. The cost of the dining plan would be $3,540.  University officials are also proposing a $260 fee for Internet data service for each student, rather than having students pay the Internet provider.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that university housing officials say if the increases are approved, KU's housing and dining rates would remain below Big 12 and national averages.  The Kansas Board of Regents will consider the request, along with those of five other universities, at its monthly meeting in November.


Parade Turns into Vigil after Kansas Teen Dies

MULVANE, Kan. (AP) — A parade planned in a southern Kansas town turned instead into a vigil after a 15-year-old girl died before she could return home.  Residents in Mulvane decorated Main Street yesterday (TUE) to welcome home Taylor Heersche, who had battled leukemia. The town rallied for four years to support Taylor and her family.  But Taylor died at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City just hours before she was scheduled to go home.  Taylor, a sophomore at Mulvane High School, was diagnosed with the leukemia in May 2008, when she was 10 years-old.  Her mother, DeAnne Heersche, told The Wichita Eagle that the disease returned last December in a genetic mutation that couldn't be cured.  Services are Sunday at Central Community Church in Wichita, with a private burial Monday.


Kansas State Researchers Study High-Speed Rail

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State is conducting research that could help high-speed rail systems better handle winter conditions.  The university is leading a three-year study that looks at the freeze-thaw durability of concrete railroad ties. The school says the work is essential in efforts to develop safe and durable high-speed rail systems.  Assistant civil engineering professor Kyle Riding is collaborating with researchers from the university's Institute of Environmental Research, the United Arab Emirates and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  The commercial partners are the Canadian National Railroad and CXT Concrete Ties Incorporated.  The Federal Railroad Association recently awarded Riding more than $1.2 million to study the materials and fabrication process.


Four KS Inmates Treated for Medical Emergencies

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Officials at a Kansas prison are investigating a medical problem that sent two inmates to Wichita-area hospitals and two others to the prison clinic.  The Hutchinson News reports the four were taken from Hutchinson Correctional Facility's administrative segregation unit yesterday (TUE) afternoon for what were described as "unknown medical issues."  Prison spokesman Dirk Moss said in a news release that one inmate was evaluated and released from the clinic, while the other was held for observation.  A third was flown to a hospital in the Wichita area. The fourth was transported by ambulance.


Olathe's Berry Named Kansas Superintendent of the Year

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — The leader of a northeast Kansas school district has been named Kansas superintendent of the year.  The Kansas City Star reports that Olathe's Marlin Berry is the recipient of the award from the Kansas School Superintendents' Association. The award was announced this week. It also allows Berry to select a high school senior for a $1,000 scholarship.  The association says the award is based on "professionalism, communication, community involvement and leadership in meeting the needs of students."  Berry has been an administrator with Olathe Public Schools since 2007 and superintendent since 2010. He has also been superintendent of the Smoky Valley and Abilene districts.  


Dems Outspend GOP Foes in Key KS Senate Races

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — New campaign finance reports show Democrats in hotly contested Kansas Senate races outspending their Republican opponents over the past three months.  Reports filed this week with the secretary of state's office show the widest gap between Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley and GOP challenger Casey Moore. Both are from Topeka and running in the 19th Senate District.  Hensley reported spending nearly $113,000 on his re-election campaign from July 27 through October 25, compared with the roughly $12,000 spent by Moore.  Another closely watched race is in the 5th District in the Kansas City area. Democratic incumbent Kelly Kultala of Kansas City reported spending more than $56,000 over the past three months. Republican Steve Fitzgerald of Leavenworth spent about $51,000.


Democrat Spends Slightly More in KCK State Senate Race

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Democratic candidate for a Kansas Senate seat from the Kansas City area has slightly outspent the party-switching Republican incumbent over the past three months.  A finance report filed this week by Democratic challenger Pat Pettey of Kansas City shows that she spent more than $39,000 on her campaign from July 27 through October 25. She had about $43,000 to spend after raising $31,000 during the period.  Pettey is running in the 6th District against Republican Senator Chris Steineger of Kansas City. Steineger raised almost $30,000 during the period, giving him about $61,000 in his campaign fund. He spent about $35,000.  Steineger won his Senate seat as a Democrat in 1996 but switched parties after losing the Democratic primary for secretary of state in 2010.


Kansas Cold Weather Rule Takes Effect Thursday

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Thursday marks the start of the cold weather rule period in Kansas, restricting utility cutoffs for nonpayment of bills.  The rule is in effect from November 1 to March 31. It prohibits shutoffs of residential electricity or natural gas service when temperatures are expected to be at or below 35 degrees over the following 24 hours.  Utilities also must contact a customer 24 hours before a disconnection, and offer a 12-month payment plan for the customer to maintain or re-establish service.  The Kansas Corporation Commission, which regulates utilities, says residents can help control heating costs by keeping furnaces maintained, weather-stripping and caulking doors and windows and setting thermostats at reasonable levels.


KS Parties Make Last Election Push

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican and Democratic volunteers are fanning out through Kansas neighborhoods and staffing telephone banks in a final push to urge voters to cast ballots in Tuesday's elections. Many voters will do so before Election Day. Advance voting in person continues through Monday in Kansas. Officials of the two parties said Wednesday they're poring over daily updates from the secretary of state on voters who have requested advance ballots and those who have yet to return them. There are no statewide races on this year's ballot, but all 125 seats in the Kansas House and all state Senate seats are being contested. Two of the state's four U.S. House seats also have contested races.


State School Board Member has Most Expensive Race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Democratic incumbent is waging the most expensive fall campaign for Kansas' state school board as she tries to hold off a Republican with ties to a Topeka church known for picketing military funerals. But GOP challenger Jack Wu said Wednesday that he plans to spend no money in his race against Democratic incumbent Carolyn Campbell in the 4th State Board of Education District. Campbell filed a finance report this week showing her campaign spent about $12,000 from July 27 through Oct. 25. Most of the money went for cable TV spots pointing out Wu's affiliation with Westboro Baptist Church. The church has gained national attention over its funeral protests. Wu is not a member, but he attends services and has described the congregation as friends.


Feds Charge Wichita Firm for Hiring Illegal Immigrant

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors have charged a Wichita firm for knowingly hiring an illegal immigrant as manager of one of its McDonald's restaurants. A criminal information filed Wednesday in federal court charges McCalla Corp. with aiding and abetting the use of a false document. The firm operates six McDonald's restaurants. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom says a tentative plea agreement has been reached in which the company will pay $400,000 in fines and forfeitures. He says the company was charged with only one count, but that the investigation revealed numerous illegal immigrants. Roy McCalla, the firm's president, says in a statement released through his attorney that the charge is based on the actions of one employee, who no longer works for the company. McCalla says the incident does not reflect the company's policies.


Judge Orders Newspaper to Reveal Name of Commenter

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas judge has ordered a newspaper to identify an online commenter who is accused of accessing a news story during a first-degree murder trial in which he was a juror. Shawnee County District Judge Steven Ebberts last week denied a request by The Topeka Capital-Journal to quash a subpoena for the information. The case involves a commenter on using the pseudonym of "BePrepared" who accessed a news story in July about the trial of Anceo Stovall and posted a comment. A man believed to be "BePrepared" asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination at a September hearing when asked if he was a juror during the Stovall trial and posted under the identity of "BePrepared." The newspaper says it will comply with the order.


Kansas Proposes Room and Board Increase Next Year

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas is seeking an increase of about 2.54 percent for room and board, starting next fall. The university says the proposed rate would increase the cost of a traditional residence hall double room to about $3,900 per academic year. The cost of the dining plan would be more than $3,500. University officials are also proposing a $260 fee for Internet data service for each student, rather than having students pay the Internet provider. The Lawrence Journal-World reports university housing officials say if the increases are approved, Kansas' housing and dining rates would remain below Big 12 and national averages. The Kansas Board of Regents will consider the request, along with those of five other universities, at its monthly meeting in November.



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