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Headlines for Monday, July 4, 2022

 

All Kansas Counties Placed on Drought Watch as Heat Wave Creeps Across State

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - All 105 Kansas counties have been placed under at least a drought watch as a record heat wave makes its way across the state. Governor Laura Kelly signed an executive order which declared updated drought emergencies for all Kansas counties. The Kansas Water Office said the declaration puts all 105 counties in the Sunflower State either on a watch, warning or emergency status. “A significant portion of the state of Kansas has experienced drought or abnormally dry conditions for the past several months,” said Kelly. “Unfortunately, these conditions are forecast to persist or get worse, so I strongly encourage Kansans to be mindful of drought conditions while we work to minimize the threat of fires across the state.”  While most of the state has seen high precipitation throughout the month of June, the Office said a record-breaking heat wave has made its way across the area. It said most of eastern Kansas is currently drought-free, however, the forecasted hot and dry conditions will likely rapidly lead to intense drought conditions over the next few weeks. According to the Kansas Water Office, the order will remain in effect until it is rescinded by another Executive Order which ends or revises the drought stage status of affected counties.

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Kansas Supreme Court Issues Setback to Big Box Retailers in Property Tax Case 

UNDATED (KNS) – The Kansas Supreme Court has issued a blow to big box retailers trying to lower their property taxes. The court's ruling on Friday reversed the Kansas Board of Tax Appeals' finding that Johnson County overtaxed Walmart properties by tens of millions of dollars. The Kansas News Service reports Walmart argued to the board that big box store properties should be valued as if they were vacant buildings, not operating businesses. But the state’s highest court said the board wrongly ruled in the company's favor, and did not fully consider evidence from Johnson County on how to value Walmart’s property. The court sent the case back to the board to reconsider, and the board could rule in Walmart’s favor again. Cities and counties in Kansas have concerns that if Walmart wins the case, it would allow other large retailers to push for lower property tax evaluations and payments. 

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Unified Government Will Pay $12.5 Million to Wrongfully Imprisoned KCK Man

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KCUR) - The Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, unanimously approved a $12.5 million settlement Thursday night with Lamonte McIntyre, who was wrongfully imprisoned for more than 24 years for a double slaying he didn't commit. KCUR Radio reports the 45-year-old McIntyre had sought $93 million and his mother, Rose, had asked for $30 million in their civil lawsuit against the UG and various Kansas City, Kansas, police officers, including former Detective Roger Golubski, who allegedly framed the then-17-year-old McIntyre for the double homicide in 1994. The Wyandotte County Commission voted 9-0 to settle the case and to issue bonds to fund the payout. Commissioner Gayle Townsend said she reluctantly and “sadly” voted to approve it. “This would not mean the Unified Government is admitting to any wrongdoing. It brings final resolution,” Townsend said. “It’s an expensive choice."  (Read more)

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More than 1,000 Gather for KC Pro-Choice March 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR/KMBC) - More than 1,000 protestors marched through the streets of Kansas City Saturday.  KMBC reports that the March for Reproductive Rights went about one mile, starting at the Power and Light District and ending near Crown Center.  The march took place one month before Kansas voters will have the opportunity to vote on a constitutional amendment on abortion.  With last week's U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, abortion is now illegal in Missouri except in case of "medical emergency."

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Kansas Tax Receipts Higher than Expected in June

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - Higher than expected June tax collections helped Kansas close out the fiscal year with total tax revenues of $9.8 billion.  Governor Laura Kelly announced Friday that June tax receipts were more than $918 million.  That's $20 million or 2.2% higher than expected, and more than seven percent higher than a year ago.  In addition, corporate income tax collections were up dramatically: 48% over the estimate and 33% over June 2021.  Kansas Secretary of Revenue Mark Burghart said that the higher-than-expected corporate estimated payments are a sign that businesses anticipate greater profits in 2022.

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Most KU Employees to Get Pay Raise

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - Most University of Kansas employees will receive a  5% pay raise for the 2022-23 school year.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that KU leaders announced that "most KU faculty and staff" will see the pay increase in their August 21st paycheck.  The pay increase is an across-the-board raise, rather than the traditional merit-based increases.  The pay increase does not apply to KU affiliate organizations, like Kansas Athletics and the Kansas Union.

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Wichita Police Promote Officer Who Killed Man in "Swatting" Incident

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Wichita Police Department has promoted an officer who killed an unarmed man in a “swatting” incident. The Wichita Eagle reported Sunday that Justin Rapp was promoted to detective on June 25. Interim Chief Lem Moore said Rapp qualified for promotion based on written and oral examinations. He added that the killing didn’t disqualify Rapp for promotion since he wasn’t disciplined. Rapp shot 28-year-old Andrew Finch while responding to a fake call of a hostage situation at Finch’s address. Rapp initially told detectives that he thought Finch had a gun but testified later that he didn’t see a weapon and shot him based on his hand motions.

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Two Dead in Sedgwick County Shootings

DERBY, Kan. (AP) - Two people are dead and the third is wounded in a shooting near Wichita.  The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office says deputies responded to a call reporting a shooting Saturday morning, where they found a man and a woman dead from apparent gunshot wounds.  Another man found at the scene was taken to a hospital with serious injuries.  Names of the victims have not been released.  Authorities have not disclosed any other information about the shooting.  The area was closed off for several hours as the shooting was investigated.

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KC Sees Uptick in COVID-19 Cases

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KPR) - The Kansas City metro area is seeing a bump in the number of reported COVID-19 cases.  The Kansas City Star reports that the average number of new cases this week was 2,859.  That's up from 2,550 from the previous week, and the first time since February that the number of cases has surpassed 400 per day.  The actual number is expected to be far higher because of home testing.

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Kansas Will Pay $1.25 Million After Child in Foster Care Was Sexually Assaulted

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - A Kansas foster child was sexually assaulted while left unattended in 2018. The Kansas News Service reports that now, the state and its private contractor are settling the case.  A court settlement Thursday will require the Kansas foster care system to pay $1.25 million after a child sleeping in a contractor’s office was sexually assaulted. The child, referred to as D.D. in court documents, spent a month sleeping in the office of foster care contractor KVC Kansas before the assault. The child, who was 13 years old at the time, was removed from home as the state investigated allegations of child abuse. An 18-year-old with a history of sexual abusing others, referred to M.H. in court documents, was put at the same office, attorneys said in court documents. KVC was understaffed and didn’t have enough people to watch all the children at once, and the sexual assault happened while D.D. was left unattended. A separate lawsuit settlement in 2020 was supposed to end the practice of putting children in offices, but it hasn’t stopped. (Read more.)

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McPherson Daycare Provider Arrested for DUI, Leaving Small Children Unattended

MCPHERSON, Kan. (Salina Journal) - The state suspended the license of a McPherson daycare provider under an emergency order on Thursday, a day after the woman was arrested for drunk driving and leaving several small children unattended who wandered from the daycare into the neighborhood.  According to the Salina Journal, the license of 47-year-old Tracy S. Barr, doing business as Golden Explorers, was immediately suspended.  According to a post by the McPherson Police Department on social media, officers responded to the 100 block of South Park Street shortly before 11 am in response to several young children and a dog being found unsupervised in a backyard near a pool. When officers arrived, they found four children between the ages of 2 and 5 in the area. Officers determined the children had left a daycare about a half-block west of where they were found. They'd walked to the area along Kansas Avenue, which is also designated as U.S. Highway 56. A short time later, officers found the daycare provider and another child in the 700 block of East Kansas Avenue, near the facility. The woman, later identified as Barr, was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving and aggravated child endangerment. The children were taken into protective custody and later released to their parents. Court records also show Barr had a prior arrest in 2019 for misdemeanor DUI, which was dismissed in 2020 after she completed a diversion.

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Lawsuits Filed Days After Deadly Missouri Amtrak Crash

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Lawsuits are being filed after last week’s Amtrak train collision and derailment in rural northwest Missouri that left four people dead and injured up to 150 others. The Kansas City Star reports that Amtrak and BNSF Railway Company filed a federal lawsuit against the concrete contracting company that owns the dump truck hit by the passenger train last Monday afternoon (June 27th). That lawsuit blames MS Contracting, of Brookfield, Missouri, for the crash, saying the train was "clearly visible." The truck driver, 54-year-old Billy Barton II, died in the collision, along with three passengers on the train that was traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago. Also, Barton's widow filed a wrongful-death lawsuit in state court against Chariton County and a BNSF official.

(-Related-)

Olathe Couple Among First to File Lawsuit After Amtrak Train Derailment

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KMBC) — An Olathe couple has decided to sue Amtrak after last week's derailment. Passenger cars derailed after Amtrak's Southwest Chief struck a dump truck at a railroad crossing. Four people died, including the dump truck driver, and 150 others were taken to hospitals with various injuries in the June 27th crash. They have gone through something that's going to impact them for the rest of their life," said attorney Kristofer Riddle, of the Clifford Law Offices in Chicago. Riddle said that he's been contacted by an Olathe couple and other people affected by the crash. He said plans to file a series of lawsuits against Amtrak.  KMBC TV reports that Mike Spencer owns farmland right next to the railroad. After working the last few years to get the crossing upgraded with lights and a gate, Spencer says he was told it was going to happen last fall but it never did. "This is something that I had predicted was going to happen. I mean, it was just inevitable, the writing was on the wall. I just can't believe it was so neglected," Spencer said. One challenge facing passengers thinking about suing is when they bought their tickets, they agreed to give up their right to take any issues to court. Instead, Amtrak could force those people to arbitration. It would mean somebody hired by Amtrak would decide the merits of any case against the railroad. (Read more)

(Earlier reporting...)

Victims of Missouri Amtrak Crash and Derailment Identified

UNDATED (KPR) - The Missouri State Highway Patrol has identified victims involved in the fatal Amtrak train crash and derailment near Mendon, Missouri. Authorities say two women from De Soto, Kansas, and a man from Kansas City, Missouri, were killed. The victim from Kansas City died from his injuries at the hospital. The two women died at the scene of the crash. The driver of the dump truck hit by Amtrak's Southwest Chief was also pronounced dead at the scene. The victims are:

•    56-year-old Kim Holsapple, De Soto, Kansas, Amtrak passenger
•    57-year-old Rochelle Cook, De Soto, Kansas, Amtrak passenger
•    82-year-old Binh Pham, Kansas City, Missouri, Amtrak passenger
•    53-year-old Billy Barton II, Brookfield, Missouri, truck driver

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Kansas Sued for Delta-8 Raids, Seeking Legislative, Monetary Relief 

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - A lawsuit has been filed against the State of Kansas by the owner of a company that was raided during the 4/20 delta-8 raids in Topeka. WIBW TV reports that the lawsuit seeks legislative and monetary relief. Court records indicate that Murray Dines, owner of Terpene Distribution in Lawrence, has sued the state of Kansas over its delta-8 laws. Specifically, the suit challenges the application of the definition of hemp or industrial hemp and efforts to prosecute Kansans for the possession or sale of hemp derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids and more that are legal under federal law. The suit alleges that what is legal under federal law should also be legal under state law. Records also indicate the lawsuit challenges law enforcement’s authority to conduct raids and seize property under these laws following a string of raids and seizures on April 20. (Read more.)

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Workers at 5th Kansas City-Area Starbucks File to Become Unionized

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KSHB)  — Workers at a fifth Starbucks location in the Kansas City area are seeking to unionize. KSHB TV reports that workers plan to file for a National Labor Relations Board election.  Located at 23rd and Lee's Summit, this is the second store in Independence, Missouri, to join the Starbucks Workers United movement. Workers at the 23rd and Lee’s Summit location sent an email to Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz citing reduced hours paired with inflation as partial reasoning for unionization.  Supporters of the decision to unionize are hopeful this move will gain attention and inspire even more area Starbucks to unionize. (Read more.)

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Court Permits Hays and Russell to Move Forward with Water Pipeline Plan

HAYS, Kan. (KNS) - Two northwest Kansas towns are one step closer to securing the water they need for their long-term survival. A plan for Hays and Russell to build a 70-mile water pipeline from a ranch three counties away has passed a major hurdle. Without the pipeline, officials in the two cities say, they face the possibility of running out of water over the next century. A district court has ruled, after decades of legal wrangling, that the plan can move forward. It’s a preview of what other western Kansas towns might have to do to survive as drought and aquifer depletion put municipal water sources at risk. Attorney John T. Bird led the Hays legal team. He says the impact of this decision on the future of life in northwest Kansas can’t be overstated. “It is one of the most important decisions by a court about water in the state of Kansas in the last 50 years” Bird says. City leaders promoting the project say securing a long-term water source is a matter of survival for Hays, which is the largest town and commercial center for northwest Kansas. Attorneys say it could take 3-5 years to get the remaining legal approvals and complete the pipeline.

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Invasive Asian Carp “Rebranded” to Entice Diners

URBANA Ill. (Harvest Public Media) - The fish species known as Asian carp has a new name. The rebrand is an effort to get more people to eat the invasive species.  Copi is the new name of the fish that has invaded Midwestern waterways and threatened native fish species since first being identified in the 1990’s. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is hoping the new name, along with a marketing campaign, will take more fish out of the water and onto our dinner plates. The department’s Joe Parkos says he supports the rebrand, but that it’s just a start. “We need to remove as many of these fish as possible, so you can consider this one tool in the toolbox,” Parkos says. As for what he’ll call the species going forward, Parkos says he’ll stick with its scientific name: “The Hypophthalmichthys molitrix.”  (Read more.)

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Blood Drive Begins Tuesday at National WW I Museum in Kansas City 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KPR) - Blood donations have decreased dramatically since the start of the pandemic but blood drives are popping up across Kansas and Missouri to restock supplies.  One such blood drive gets underway Tuesday at the National World War I Museum in Kansas City. Blood was stored for future transfusions for the first time during World War I. In recognition of that blood event, the museum is partnering with the Community Blood Center for a similar event. Museum officials are hoping Americans will step up, just like soldiers did 100 years ago.  Organizers say donating blood is both a civic and patriotic duty.  Appointments are requested to donate blood at the museum Tuesday, but walk-ins will also be accepted. Details about giving blood and making an appointment are available online at savealifenow.org.

(-Related-)

Kansas City Royals Partner with Community Blood Center to Collect Blood Donations

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KPR) – The Kansas City Royals and Community Blood Center (CBC) are teaming up for a blood drive through July 9. Organizers say all donors at CBC donor centers will receive their choice of Royals tickets or a t-shirt. As the 4th of July holiday approaches, the blood supply continues to be impacted by low donor turn-out and local inventory currently stands at a 2-to-3-day level, well below the ideal inventory of 5-7 days.  For more than 20 years, the Royals and CBC have partnered for Royals Weeks, a two-week long blood donation celebration. The annual celebration began as a way to address the community’s critical need for blood around the 4th of July holiday and continues amidst an on-going 2-year blood shortage that continues to impact the region’s healthcare system. Organizers say donating blood typically takes one hour and a single donation can save multiple lives. Community members are encouraged to make an appointment online to donate during Royals Weeks by visiting www.savealifenow.org/centers or by calling (877) 468-6844.  Founded in 1958, Community Blood Center (CBC) provides over 90% of the blood used by hospitals throughout the Greater Kansas City metropolitan area, as well as eastern Kansas and western Missouri.

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9 Charged in Kansas Poaching Case

PRATT, Kan. (KSNT) — Following a three-year poaching investigation, the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) has charged nine people. KSNT TV reports, that game wardens with the KDWP were responsible for conducting an investigation spanning multiple counties in Northwest Kansas in connection with numerous poached animals. The KDWP managed both physical and electronic search warrants during the investigation, along with several interviews, which lead to the discovery of many poached animals. These consisted of 25 deer, one antelope, eight turkeys and other wildlife that had been taken illegally. Many of the deer were shown to have been shot out of season and with firearms by the guilty parties involved who were in possession of archery permits only. Many of the deer were also taken without a permit. Of the 13 deer scored, the game wardens identified an average antler size of 173 inches.

A total of 140 charges were filed for nine individuals for violations that occurred between 2015 and 2019. Three of those charged received more than four charges. This includes the following individuals:

  • Tayton Weeter: 58 charges relating to the illegal taking of wildlife. Tayton pled guilty to 22 charges and was ordered to pay $45,000 in fines and restitution. Tayton also received a 10-year hunting revocation.
  • Tracy Weeter: 46 charges relating to the illegal taking of wildlife. Tracy pled guilty to 12 charges and was ordered to pay $750 in fines and $1,688 in court costs. Tracy also received a two-year hunting revocation.
  • Sean Winter: 18 charges relating to the illegal taking of wildlife. Winter pled guilty to six charges and was ordered to pay $5,800 in fines and restitution. Winter also received a 12-month hunting revocation and forfeited a firearm.

This investigation took place in Cheyenne, Sherman, Wallace and Logan counties. Investigators say public tips played a large part in the investigation.

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Value Them Both Signs Stolen, Vandalized Across Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Signs showing support for the controversial Value Them Both amendment in Kansas are being stolen and vandalized. People have been expressing their anger against the Value Them Both movement in Kansas this year with the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court.  The court's ruling puts the decision of laws regulating abortion back into the hands of each individual state, including Kansas. Citizens of the Sunflower State will have the option of voting ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ on the Value Them Both amendment on August 2. KSNT TV reports that this has led some to vandalize or steal signs showing support for Value Them Both, often by writing ‘No’ on the signs with spray paint.  Both churches and individuals have been targeted by these incidents. Mackenzie Haddix, with the Value Them Both movement, told KSNT TV that these reports have come from across the state. She listed Baxter Springs, Wichita, Overland Park and Garden City as some of the places where the signs have been stolen and vandalized. KSNT TV also found a sign that had been spray-painted at the Most Pure Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Topeka. Melinda Lavon, a member of the Vote No organization in Kansas, also told KSNT TV that signs advocating for a negative vote towards Value Them Both have also been stolen and vandalized. She said that this has mostly been seen in places like Pittsburg and Kansas City.

The Kansas Supreme Court made the abortion procedure a constitutional right in 2019. This decision is still in place today and gives women the right to make their own decisions regarding their bodies in Kansas. It also means abortions are still legal even though Roe v. Wade has been overturned. The Kansas Legislature cannot currently make laws related to abortion. The Value Them Both amendment will need a majority of Kansans to approve of it in August in order to pass the discussion to the Legislature. If it is voted for positively, then the Legislature will have the authority to make abortion laws. The last day to register to vote in Kansas is July 12.

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Kansas Public Radio Is Hiring a New Membership Director

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - Kansas Public Radio is hiring a new Membership Director The position is open due to an internal promotion.  Former Membership Director Joanna Fewins has become the station's new Development Director.  Learn more about this position and how to apply.  Unnamed sources tell KPR News that the University of Kansas-based radio station, on the air since 1952, is a "great place to work, with good benefits and mildly interesting employees."

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22-Year Kansas Fishing Record Broken
 
SHERMAN COUNTY, Kan. (KSNT) – A Kansas woman has set a new state fishing record with her catch at a local farm pond in Sherman County. KSNT TV reports that Tami Sanderson has entered the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Park’s records after catching a yellow perch in a farm pond. The perch weighed in at 1.46 pounds and was 13.66 inches in length. She caught the fish using a rod and reel with a minnow as bait on February 20, 2022. The previous state record was set in 2000 with a perch caught in Coffey County that was 1.06 pounds and 14 inches long. (See Sanderson’s catch on the KDWP’s website, along with other state fishing records.)

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These area headlines are curated by KPR news staffers, including J. Schafer, Laura Lorson, Kaye McIntyre, and Tom Parkinson. Our headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays, 11 am weekends. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members. Become one today. And follow KPR News on Twitter.

 

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