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Your local and regional news for Northeastern Kansas and the surrounding communities, brought to you by the KPR news staff.

Jerry Moran Visits Reading to View Tornado Damage

Officials toured tornado-ravaged Reading (RED-ing) this (MON) morning. Kansas Senator Jerry Moran said the level of destruction left behind by Saturday's storm is profound.

A 53-year-old resident, Don Chesmore, died from injuries he suffered when his mobile home flipped-over. Reading's water tower was also damaged, so at the moment... city water is unavailable. The Kansas Department of Transportation says Kansas Highway 170 through Reading has been shut down until further notice. The governor, lieutenant governor and several cabinet members also toured Reading earlier today (MON).

Wheat State Whirlwind Tour Begins Today (MON)

More than 40 staff and faculty members from the University of Kansas will board busses today (MON) for the start of the Wheat State Whirlwind Tour. The annual excrursion will make stops in nearly 30 communities across the state. Ku spokesman Mike Krings says it's an opportunity to show off Kansas to KU employees.

The Wheat State Tour, now in is 13th year, was started by former KU Chancellor Bob Hemmenway. Participants will travel more than 14-hundred miles before returning to Lawrence.

Kansas Foundations Planning Health Reform Grants

Five Kansas foundations have established a fund that will help local groups compete for federal health reform grants. The $450,000 fund will enable non-profits, healthcare providers and even local governments to apply for the federal money. The foundations have appointed Sheldon Weisgrau (WICE-grau) to administer the fund. He says awards of up to $30,000 will be available to Kansas groups seeking a share of the billions of dollars in federal grants available through the Affordable Care Act.

Among other things, federal grants are available to improve public health and prevention services and to train more healthcare workers. Grant applications will be available on the Topeka Community Foundation's website in the next few weeks.

New Health Reform Grant Fund Established

Five Kansas foundations are forming a $450,000 fund to help non-profit service organizations, health care providers – even cities, school districts and state agencies do the preliminary work necessary to compete for millions of dollars in federal health reform grants. And as Jim McLean of the KHI News Service reports, the person who has been hired to administer the fund will also work to ensure that consumers are represented in discussions about how the reform law is implemented in Kansas.

How Fred Harvey Changed America from Leavenworth, KS

Perhaps no single person helped civilize the Wild West more than Fred Harvey. An Englishman who immigrated to America in the 1850s, Harvey started a revolutionary business: he fed train passengers along the nation's largest railroad line -- the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe. Working from his home base in Leavenworth, Harvey brought culture, fine food and great service to the frontier. Author Stephen Fried (Freed) has written a book called: "Appetite for America: Fred Harvey and the Business of Civilizing the West - One Meal at a Time." KPR's J. Schafer spoke to Fried (Freed) about Harvey... and how he changed the nation.

That's author Stephen Fried (Freed), speaking with KPR's J. Schafer. Fried's book is called "Appetite for America: Fred Harvey and the Business of Civilizing the West - One Meal at a Time." In 2010, it was named one of the Top Ten Books of the Year by the Wall Street Journal. Stephen Fried (Freed) will be talking about his book at the Kansas City Public Library tonight (THUR) at 6 o'clock. Tomorrow (FRI), Fried will be speaking and attending various events in Leavenworth, Fred Harvey's hometown. For more information on Friday's activities, contact the Leavenworth County Historical Society (913-682-7759).

KS Courts Look to Save E-Filing Program

It wasn't everything he'd hoped for, but the head of the state’s Court system says he's grateful the legislature provided enough money to keep the courts open. It looked for a time like courts might have to close periodically to help make ends meet. In the meantime, lawmakers did strip away approximately 3 million dollars the courts wanted...including 2 million dollars earmarked for the electronic or “e-filing” system. Lawton Nuss says he's already got staff working to keep that program going...

Nuss says the court has been operating with more than 80 unfilled positions for more than a year and a half. He says it's a challenge to conduct business without a full workforce.

KS Courts Get Enough From Budget to Keep Going

he Kansas Courts will be able to stay open during the fiscal year beginning July 1st. Chief Justice Lawton Nuss says he's grateful to the legislature for making sure the courts don’t close. But, he adds he’s disappointed lawmakers didn’t see fit to keep spending on the electronic, or e-filing system.

Lawmakers also stripped funding for a vacant judgeship, and removed money to cover the cost of temporary employees. Nuss says the court has been operating with more than 80 unfilled positions for several years.

Panel Hears Court Criticism in Topeka

If you have a suggestion about how to make the state court system better, a blue-ribbon commission is ready to hear it. The panel is holding a series of 19 public hearings across Kansas and is holding two meetings today (TUE) in Topeka. Ron Keefover is with the Office of Judicial Administration.

But...the panel needs to hear from the public in order to make recommendations on potential reforms. Today's (TUE) meetings will be held at the Topeka Shawnee County Public Library, at 2:30 and at 6:00 p.m. Next week, the panel will hold a hearing in Salina.
Other meetings are scheduled for Wichita, Junction City and Atchison.
The results of the public hearings will be submitted to the Kansas Supreme Court at the end of the year.

Panel Hopes to Improve KS Court System

Today (TUE), members of a panel looking to make the Kansas court system better stop in Topeka. The Blue Ribbon commission is making 19 stops around the state to listen to comments from citizens around Kansas. Ron Keefover, with the Office of Judicial Administration, ays the public's input is vital at these hearings.

The commission will hold two public hearings in Topeka today (TUE) at 2:30 and at 6 in the Public Library. The next stop is scheduled for Salina next week. The panel will also make stops in Dodge City, Wichita and Pittsburg. The results of the public hearings will be submitted to the Kansas Supreme Court at the end of the year.

KU Engineering School Gets Major Gift

University of Kansas officials have announced a major gift to the School of Engineering.

That's Stuart Bell, Dean of the KU School of Engineering, speaking at a news conference earlier today (FRI). The $32 million comes from the estate of Charles E. and Mary Jane Spahr (Spar). The couple had already donated $13 million to KU during their lifetime. Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said the gift will help meet a growing demand.

News of the donation comes a day after two bills concerning engineering passed the state legislature. One bill earmarks $10.5 million a year from lottery and casino revenue to engineering programs at KU, Kansas State and Wichita State. The other bill allows KU to build a new engineering education building. Both bills have been sent to the governor.

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