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Regional Headlines for Friday, November 23, 2012



Kobach Touts Success of Kansas Photo ID Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach says fewer than expected registered voters cast provisional ballots in the November 6 general election in response to the new state photo identification law. The law requires voters to show a valid photo identification in order to receive a ballot and cast their vote. This was the first general election to require such proof of identity since the law was enacted in 2011. Kobach says only 717 provisional ballots were cast because of photo ID issues out of the more than 1.11 million votes cast. That equates to about 0.6 percent of all ballots cast. The Republican says voters are becoming more familiar with the law and its requirements, and the relatively few problems with photo identification are evidence of that.


Douglas County to Consider Sand Pit Permit

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Douglas County commissioners are expected to consider a request next week for a permit for a new sand pit mining operation. The application is from William Penny, owner of Penny's Concrete, which has a dredging operation next to the site on the Kansas River, and Van LLC, co-owners of the property. They're expected to ask the commission Wednesday to approve the permit for a new 434-acre sand pit mining operation near Eudora. Staff members from the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Department are recommending approval of the permit with conditions. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the proposal has generated concern among nearby property owners and the city of Eudora over possible flooding issues, the loss of farmland, water quality threats and the pit's impact on local traffic.


Kansas Co-op Fire Causes Damage to Nearby Buildings

ST. MARYS, Kan. (AP) — An early morning fire that destroyed a northeast Kansas grain cooperative also damaged several downtown buildings and warped Union Pacific railroad tracks nearby. KMAN reports the fire at the co-op in St. Marys started around 2 am Friday. Pottawatomie County fire supervisor Bruce Brazzle says the blaze appears suspicious because the co-op was in the process of being demolished and there was no power to the building. Brazzle says several businesses along Main Street sustained melted windows and roof damage that could cost millions of dollars to fix, but no estimates were immediately available.


Honor Flight Money Goes Missing: KS Woman Charged with Theft

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — As many as 100 World War II veterans have missed their chance to travel to Washington to see their war's memorial after about $110,000 disappeared from a Kansas nonprofit that organized free trips for them. Fifty-seven-year-old LaVeta Miller, of Great Bend, is charged with two counts of theft by deception. Her attorney declined to comment. Miller previously led Central Prairie Honor Flight, which raised nearly $1.2 million from 2008 to 2012. But it ran out of money this year, and leaders now say it's about $40,000 in debt. Another group has taken over as the lead Honor Flight provider in Kansas, but its flights have been smaller. Officials say the matter is urgent because more than 600 World War II veterans die each day.


Kansas Students Assist at Funerals as Pallbearers

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka high school has started a group that encourages its students to serve as pallbearers at funerals where they're needed. The St. Joseph of Arimathea Society was started in fall 2011 at Hayden High School after Deacon Dan Ondracek, of Most Pure Heart of Mary Catholic Church, read an article about a similar group at an all-boys high school in Cleveland. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Ondracek approached a longtime Topeka funeral director who told him that when a person dies and doesn't have pallbearers, the Knights of Columbus or American Legion sends people out. But some men in those organizations are getting too old to lift a casket. Most of the members of the group at Hayden are seniors, but juniors and sophomores also participate.


Missouri Suspect Commits Suicide Foillowing Traffic Stop

GRAIN VALLEY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City area police say a man suspected of shooting a woman in Grain Valley has committed suicide after an encounter with California police. Grain Valley Sergeant Jeff Palecek said in a release that detectives had been searching for Alan D. Lovelace Jr. since the woman was shot and critically injured Tuesday. Lovelace hadn't been charged in that shooting. Palecek says detectives on Friday tracked Lovelace to San Diego through a cellphone he had recently obtained. San Diego police Lieutenant Andra Brown says officers there found Lovelace in the victim's stolen minivan and tried to pull him over, but Lovelace didn't immediately comply with the order to stop. She said when Lovelace did stop, officers approached his vehicle and found him dead with an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound.


County Grapples with Lost Data in Computer Crash

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — Buchanan County, Missouri's law enforcement center is used to dealing with crashes, but one last week has nothing to do with vehicles and could cost the county tens of thousands of dollars. County Commissioner Ron Hook says it could cost more than $50,000 to pay for overtime to re-enter law enforcement data lost when a computer hard drive crashed and corrupted software programs. Sheriff Mike Strong says the hard drive started failing two months ago and affected a number of backup systems. The St. Joseph News-Press reports that officers have gone back to using paper records. Lost data includes arrest and booking records, summons information and other records. The county will have to find a way to pay the overtime to re-enter the information, which isn't included in the current budget.


Missouri Farmers Sell Corn Stalks for Cattle Feed

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Prolonged drought is prompting some Midwestern farmers to sell discarded corn stalks to feed hay-deprived cattle. The Columbia Missourian newspaper reports that area corn farmers are collecting stalks that usually are left in fields. The leftover stalks are known as corn stover. A market summary compiled by the Missouri Department of Agriculture shows that corn stover is selling in Missouri for $60 to $100 per ton, or $35 to $45 per large round bale. The state agency didn't track corn stover sales prices until this year, and nor does the National Agricultural Statistics Service, whose director says corn stover isn't typically considered a farm commodity. The Missourian reports that farmers' interest in harvesting corn stalks is prompting agricultural equipment manufacturers to build round balers specifically designed to handle corn stalks.


Kansas Governor Appoints New District Judge

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has appointed a Kansas City, Kansas attorney to a seat on the state trial court in Wyandotte County. Delia Maria York replaces District Judge John J. McNally, who resigned in September. York was appointed Wednesday and will serve the remainder of McNally's term, which expires in January 2015. York has practiced law for nearly 20 years. She is currently assistant counsel for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas. She joined that office in 1998, after working as an assistant district attorney in the county.

Wichita Police Target Shopping Areas with Reminder

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police and public works departments are placing portable signs in high-volume shopping areas in a move to reduce holiday thefts. The flashing message boards are similar to those used in construction zones. The messages remind shoppers to lock their vehicles and hide valuables. This is the sixth year that the city has placed such signs near busy shopping areas. They operate 24 hours a day and will remain in place throughout December.


Driver Strikes, Kills Woman Walking Her Dog

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A husband and wife were walking their dog along a gravel road in Sedgwick County when a truck hit the woman and the dog, killing them both. Sergeant Jeff Ohmart of the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Department says the 28-year-old driver was headed south Wednesday night when he saw a man and woman walking south in the middle of the road. The driver told authorities he tried to swerve to miss them. The Wichita Eagle reports that the 52-year-old woman and the animal were killed instantly. The woman's husband and the driver were unhurt. Their identities have not been released. Ohmart says there's no indication the driver was speeding or impaired.

Wichita Store Clerk Fatally Shoots Robbery Suspect

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — One teenager is dead and two others are in custody following an attempted holdup at a Wichita convenience store. KWCH-TV reports that a 16-year-old boy was shot and killed by a clerk shortly after 7 pm Thursday at KC Gas & Groceries on North Broadway. Police say two or three teens entered the store and tried to rob the clerk at gunpoint. The clerk fired several times, hitting the 16-year-old. The boy died at a hospital. His name had not been released Friday. Two 19-year-olds fled but were later arrested. The same store had also been robbed last weekend. In that incident, the clerk had just closed up for the night when two armed men ordered him back inside and emptied the cash registers before running off.

Sedgwick County Commission Plans Legislative Agenda

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Sedgwick County commissioners plan to vote next month on their legislative platform. Commissioners this week hashed out a draft of the platform, which outlines the county's priorities. The Wichita Eagle reports that one of those priorities is getting money for Judge Riddel Boys Ranch. The county wants the state to pay the actual operating costs for running the facility for juvenile offenders. The ranch offers a temporary home for boys and young men where they can also take classes and learn job skills. The ranch also provides the juveniles with therapy and intensive supervision. In a move to keep the facility open, the county has reduced its capacity, cut staff and moved to 12-hour shifts. The county commission's formal vote on the platform is scheduled for December 12th.

Topeka Man Faces Capital Murder Charge

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 21-year-old Topeka man faces a new capital murder charge in the death of an 18-year-old Topeka woman. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Shawnee County Prosecutor Chad Taylor on Wednesday filed an amended criminal complaint against Dustin Leftwich, who's accused of using a vehicle to kill Brenna Morgart in May. Leftwich has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping and murdering charges. The amended complaint includes the count of capital murder and the additional charge of rape. Leftwich had previously been charged with premeditated first-degree murder. If Leftwich is convicted of capital murder, a jury would decide whether to recommend the death penalty. If the jury recommends the death penalty, the judge would make the final decision on whether to sentence Leftwich to death or to life in prison without parole.

Century-Old KCK Home Destroyed by Fire

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Thanksgiving Day fire has destroyed a century-old home in Kansas City, Kansas. No injuries were reported. The fire was reported Thursday morning and a family of four escaped the blaze before fire crews arrived. Investigators say they think the blaze may have started in an attached building and then spread through the rest of the structure. Officials estimated the fire caused $125,000 damages to the contents and structure. The homeowner told fire investigators that the residence had been in their family for more than 100 years.

Flint Hills Discovery Center Director Resigns

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The Flint Hills Discovery Center is losing its director. Bob Workman, director of the center, is leaving the post with the city of Manhattan, to become director of the Ulrich Museum of Art at Wichita State University. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Manhattan city manager Ron Fehr announced the move Wednesday. Workman will stay on at the Flint Hills Discovery Center through mid-January and will help with the search for his replacement. During its first six months of operation, the Flint Hills Discovery Center has exceeded its 2012 attendance and revenue goals. As of October 31st, nearly 47,000 people have paid admission to the center, and another 7,100 have attended special events and programs.

Black Friday Takes On New Meaning for Kansas Humane Society

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — For a 12-year-old Wichita girl, Black Friday is taking on a whole new meaning. Madison Bell volunteers at the Kansas Humane Society and says too many black dogs are staying in shelters longer because adopters often end up preferring lighter-colored animals. Bell wants to change that. The Wichita Eagle reports that on Friday, Bell will help host the Black Dog Adoption Drive to help darker pups find homes. During the nine-hour event, the Humane Society will waive adoption fees for all black animals. Society spokeswoman Jennifer Campbell says a bias exists against black dogs, often because their facial expressions are harder to see and to photograph.

Westar and City of Lawrence to Collaborate on Energy Use Reduction Project

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence city leaders are teaming with Westar Energy and others to cut the amount of power being used downtown. Westar, the largest electric utility in Kansas, will be helping government and business leaders develop a pilot program that will attempt to make downtown properties more energy efficient. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the goal is to get about a dozen businesses to participate in the Green Business Leaders Program. Westar will provide free energy audits to the businesses to see where money can be saved by making improvements to heating, cooling, lighting and other practices. Businesses will be expected to take one action identified by the audit. Businesses will also receive a window decal identifying them as Green Business Leaders.

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