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Regional Headlines for Monday, August 27, 2012



UPDATE: Kansas Leaders Approve New Bonds for Capitol Visitor Center

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and legislative leaders have authorized an additional $5.4 million in bonds as part of a larger plan to finish the renovation of the Statehouse. The bonds approved Monday will be used to finance work on a new visitor center. The plan from Brownback's administration also will tap $7 million in Kansas Department of Transportation funds to repair the Statehouse's construction-scarred grounds. The additional funding will push the total cost of the Statehouse renovation to $332 million. State officials now expect all of the work, including the visitor center, to be finished by the end of 2013. Brownback said he hasn't been a big fan of the renovation because of its cost. But he said it's time to finish the project.

Analysis: "Public Shame" Used as Weapon with Kansas Meetings Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas prosecutor's investigation into private dinners Governor Sam Brownback hosted for legislators demonstrates that a public shaming often is the only consequence faced by officials who violate the state's Open Meetings Act. The law's enforcement depends upon prosecutors who have an appetite for going to court or individuals and groups who have the money to pursue their own lawsuits. An individual like Brownback can schedule gatherings but then face no legal repercussions over violations that occur at them. Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor concluded last week that legislators violated the law during seven private dinners with Brownback in January at Cedar Crest, the governor's residence. He scolded lawmakers publicly. But Taylor is not pursuing further action, saying he could prove only "technical" violations.


State of Kansas Has Yet to Make Final Payment for New Software

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan says the state is withholding part of the payment to the company responsible for the new motor vehicle registration system while problems are being resolved. Glitches have forced residents throughout Kansas to wait in long lines to renew their tags since the $40 million system went online in May. Jordan told the Topeka Capital-Journal on Monday that the final 10 percent of a $25 million contract with the 3M Company is being withheld. There's no timetable for making the payment. However, the Department of Revenue is delaying the next phase of its computer modernization that involves driver's licenses. That contract is also being handled by 3M.


Kansas DA Nears Decision over Statehouse Incident

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A prosecutor is close to deciding whether to file charges over illegal homemade fireworks found in a pickup parked near the Kansas Statehouse in February. A spokeswoman says Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor expects to make a decision in the coming week. The pickup's owner was detained but released from custody the same day after officers saw the fireworks in the vehicle in a parking lot south of the Capitol. The Capitol Police initially described the materials as improvised explosive devices, or homemade bombs. The owner was detained in a tunnel connecting the Statehouse to a nearby government office building. Authorities have not identified the man, except to say he lived in Topeka at the time of the incident.

Inmate Escapes Leavenworth Federal Prison

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — Law enforcement officers are looking for a man who escaped from the minimum security unit at the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth. Prison officials say 49-year-old Joel Rodriguez was missing from his assigned quarters Sunday afternoon. The prison's statement gave no information on how he might have escaped. Rodriguez was sentenced this year to 98 months in prison for selling drugs. He began serving his sentence on March 28. He is considered non-violent.


Kansas Grass Fire Burned More Than 1,300 Acres

FREDONIA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have released preliminary damage estimates of last week's grass fire that burned more than 1,300 acres in Wilson County. Emergency Management officials said Monday that the fire affected 12 landowners. One home was totally destroyed, along with several outbuildings. Firefighters were able to save five other homes in the path of Thursday's fire. The fire also destroyed 28 electrical poles, about 315 bales of hay valued at $30,000 and killed one calf. About 8.25 miles of fencing with a replacement value of $123,000 also burned. The cause of the fire may never be determined, but authorities believe it may have been started by a discarded cigarette.


Getaway Driver in Kansas Holdup Sentenced  

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas woman who drove the getaway car following a January holdup in Wichita has been sentenced to 29 months in federal prison. The U.S. Attorney's office says 23-year-old Brittany Holt, of Topeka, was sentenced Monday for aiding and abetting armed robbery. In her guilty plea, Holt admitted driving David Johnson to a Subway sandwich shop in Wichita where Johnson showed a replica of a handgun and demanded money. Holt then led officers from several agencies on a half-hour chase at speeds up to 100 mph. She and Johnson were stopped in Butler County. Johnson was sentenced in June to 14 years in prison after pleading guilty to numerous counts. He also admitted committing similar robberies in Topeka and Lawrence.


Kansas Astronaut Remembers Neil Armstrong

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A former astronaut and native of Kansas says Neil Armstrong was the model of what an astronaut should be. Armstrong, the first man to step on the moon, died Saturday at the age of 82. Salina native Steve Hawley says Armstrong inspired a generation of scientists and astronauts. Hawley flew on five U.S. Space Shuttle flights and is now is director of engineering physics at the University of Kansas. The Salina Journal reports Armstrong had left the space program before Hawley joined NASA. But Hawley worked with Armstrong on a commission in 1986 that investigated the crash of the space shuttle Challenger. Hawley also met Armstrong during the 1991 dedication of the Astronaut Memorial at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Court: Age Discrimination Unproven in Boeing Sale

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal appeals court has ruled that former employees failed to demonstrate a pattern of age discrimination by The Boeing Company and Spirit AeroSystems. Ninety former Boeing workers claimed they lost their jobs because of their age when the Chicago-based aerospace manufacturer sold its commercial aircraft operations in Kansas and Oklahoma to Onex Corporation in 2005. Onex formed Wichita-based Spirit AeroSystems to handle those former Boeing operations. In its Monday ruling, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district judge's 2010 ruling that there is too little evidence to put the case before a jury. The appeals court found that the hiring practices did not unfairly hurt older workers and that they failed to show the companies intended to interfere with their pension benefits.


Mid-Kansas Electric Plans New Power Plant

ULYSSES, Kan. (AP) _ Mid-Kansas Electric Company says it plans to build a natural gas power plant in Grant County. The Hays-based company announced in a statement Monday that the 110-megawatt plant is expected to cost $130 million. It will be built about 13 miles east of Ulysses. Construction is expected to be finished by April 2014.  The Hays Daily News reports that Mid-Kansas was created by six electric cooperatives to buy the electric assets of Aquila. The cooperatives also own Sunflower Electric. The company's statement said Grant County was chosen as the site for the plant because it is close to transmission lines and a competitive supply of natural gas.


Couple Donates $800K to KU Law School

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas Law School is receiving an $800,000 donation aimed partly at helping Kansas residents attend the school. Officials announced the gift from David and Debbi Elkouri on Monday. The Elkouris live in Wichita and Houston. Of the total, $500,000 will establish the Elkouri Family Scholarship Fund through KU Endowment. The other $300,000 will support scholarships for Kansas law students. One law student from Kansas will receive a $16,000 scholarship each year. David Elkouri says the university is losing qualified Kansas applicants to other law schools, many of them out of state. David Elkouri earned his bachelor's and law degrees at Kansas. All three of the couple's children are KU graduates, and one went on to earn a law degree at the university.


Kansas Man Pleads No Contest to Quadruple Murders

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas City, Kansas man is expected to spend the rest of his life in prison after pleading no contest to killing four people three years ago. The Kansas City Star reports 40-year-old Adrian Burks entered the pleas Monday in Wyandotte County District Court. Burks was accused in the June 2009 shooting deaths of 66-year-old James Warren, 21-year-old Amanda Remmers, 41-year-old Peggy Castleberry and her 3-year-old daughter, Juanita Castleberry-Bess. All were shot multiple times at Warren's home, where he had been allowing the other three victims to stay. Burks was arrested the day after the shootings following a high-speed chase. Burks agreed the court should give him at least two consecutive "hard 50" sentences, meaning he would not be eligible for parole for 100 years.

Kansas Girl Drowns at Lake of the Ozarks

SUNRISE BEACH, Mo. (AP) — A young Kansas girl drowned while on a family vacation at the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. The Missouri State Highway Patrol's water division says the body of 6-year old Grace Shaw was found floating in the lake Sunday morning. She was from Stillwell, Kansas. The patrol says the child wandered away from the family before she drowned. Her body was found near a dock at the lake's Chimney Point Cove.

Recent Rain Replenishes Parched Kansas Wetlands

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — More than 5 inches of rain fell over the weekend, bringing the parched Quivira National Wildlife Refuge back to life. Barry Jones, a specialist at the refuge in Stafford County, says the basins there held no water until the rains began on Thursday and fell through Sunday. Jones says more than 8,000 ducks swooped into the refuge while the rains filled nearly every basin. Rattlesnake Creek, which feeds the wetlands, was flowing again after not flowing for months. The Wichita Eagle reports the rain provides hope that the birds will arrive for their annual fall migration, which also draws thousands of tourists to the refuge. The state's other national wildlife refuge, Cheyenne Bottoms in Barton County, received about 1½ inches of rain during the weekend.

Wichita Water Rates Could See Significant Increase in Coming Years

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita residents could see a more than 50 percent increase in their water and sewer rates over the next decade. The city's water utilities advisory committee says next year's projected increase for commercial and residential customers would average 5.8 percent for water and sewer combined. The Wichita Eagle reports that the proposed increases come after a decade when rates climbed annually and usually exceeded inflation. The projected increases stem in part from having to pay for costly projects aimed at securing future water sources and fixing the city's water infrastructure. City Manager Robert Layton, however, emphasizes that the new projections are only for planning purposes. He says rate increases require approval from the City Council, and residents will have the chance to questions their plans.

Man Missing in Waconda Lake

GLEN ELDER, Kan. (AP) — Crews have been searching a north-central Kansas lake for a missing boater. KAKE-TV reports that the man fell out of the boat Saturday on Waconda Lake in Mitchell County. Authorities say another man who was in the boat was rescued early Sunday morning. The two men were boating on the lake late Saturday night when their boat capsized. The Mitchell County Sheriff's department says the search was continuing Sunday evening for the missing man.

Teen Crashes After Leavenworth County Car Chase

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A 16-year-old driver who led police on a car chase in northeast Kansas crashed into a family's car, injuring himself and three other people. KCTV reports the police chase started in Leavenworth County on Saturday morning when officers began pursuing the teen's van. Police have not said why the teen was being pursued. Leavenworth Police Chief Pat Kitchens said officers ended the chase, but the driver of the van continued to drive erratically. The teen's van then hit a van carrying a Leavenworth family. The Kansas Highway Patrol says the teen was ejected from his vehicle and was hospitalized in Kansas City. Two adults and a child in the van were also injured, while two other children in the van were not injured.

Authorities Investigating Frontenac Bar Fight

FRONTENAC, Kan. (AP) — Southeast Kansas officials are investigating a bar fight that involved an off-duty police chief. The Crawford County Sheriff's Department says in a release that the fight occurred late Friday at a bar in Frontenac and initially involved two men. The department says that Randy Flora, Frontenac police chief, who was off duty at the time, became involved in the fight and allegedly hit one of the two men. Sheriff's deputies had interviewed 14 people Saturday as part of the investigation into the incident.

Wamego School District Experiencing Student Surge

WAMEGO, Kan. (AP) — An unexpected influx of new students has forced a northeast Kansas school district to call an emergency meeting to hire a new teacher. The Manhattan Mercury reports Wamego schools anticipated about 50 new students when classes started earlier this month, but instead had nearly double that amount. The 96 new students represent a 6 percent increase over last year's total of 1,423. Superintendent Denise O'Dea says similar growth next year could push some of the district's buildings over capacity. The senior class jumped from 90 students to 127, while kindergarten grew by 20 students, prompting the district to hire an additional kindergarten teacher. O'Dea says she thought the increase was because of expansion of the local Caterpillar plant, but the company hasn't started hiring for its new positions.

Federal Officials Seek Seizure of Douglas County Property

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors are seeking a court order to take three parcels of Douglas County property from two Lawrence residents facing drug charges. The Lawrence Journal-World reports federal prosecutors for Kansas maintain the properties were bought with proceeds from drug sales and were used to hide drug proceeds. The properties are owned by 33-year-old Chad Bauman, and 36-year-old Carey Willming, who are among 35 defendants recently indicted in connection with an alleged drug ring that operated in Johnson and Douglas counties from 2005 until this June. Prosecutors are seeking a $16.9 million judgment in the case. Bauman and Willming have pleaded not guilty, as have the other co-defendants. An attorney for Willming objects to the government's request for the property, saying Willming hasn't been convicted of a crime.

Suburban KC Quintuplets Start Kindergarten

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A set of suburban Kansas City quintuplets are already attracting attention in their kindergarten class. As the three sisters and two brothers arrived this month at Black Bob Elementary in Olathe, one of their classmates murmured, "You guys have a lot of children." When the quintuplets arrived almost six years ago, their big sister wasn't even 2. Sleepless nights and hectic days followed for parents Kate and David Brooks. The Kansas City Star reported that the first day of kindergarten had been listed on the family calendar for months, complete with a happy face and exclamation marks. Still, Kate Brooks wiped away a few tears as she said goodbye. Then she headed home and settled into a rocking chair. What greeted her was unfamiliar: Picked up toys and quiet.

Salina Area Group Plans $5M Building Project

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Salina area social services group is planning to build a new $5 million facility. The Salina Journal reports that St. Francis Community Services is planning to replace the main building on its campus west of Salina. Groundbreaking on the new facility is scheduled for the fall of 2013. St. Francis officials say the current facility is no longer sufficient and would be too expensive to rehab. St. Francis Community Services is a private group that works doing outreach with children and families

Library Patrons Across Kansas Can Now Check Out Cake Pans

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — Patrons of the Great Bend Public Library can check out a cake pan along with their books. The library has had a few cake pans in its collection for years, but the practice has picked up since employees began moving nearly 100 cake pans from a back room to the front of the library. Great Bend is not alone. Libraries across Kansas, particularly in rural areas, have a long tradition of checking out cake pans. The Hutchinson News reports that library officials say the practice picked up during the recent recession, as people look for ways to save money. The Sabetha library has a collection of 168 cake pans, while the Coffey County Library in eastern Kansas has 389 cake pans among its six branches.


Wichita Man Faces Sentencing in 'Sexting' Case 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 26-year-old Wichita man is facing decades in prison in a federal "sexting" prosecution. U.S. District Judge Monti Belot will decide Monday whether to sentence Shane McClelland to the minimum 25 years or give him a life sentence as a repeat sex offender. Jurors convicted McClelland in June of enticing a teenage girl to send nude photos to his cellphone. He was acquitted of a similar count involving another teen. Prosecutors say chat logs on the computer of a 14-year-old New York girl show McClelland pressured her to send nude photos. The girl identified McClelland at trial from webcam chats and pictures he had sent her. The government is seeking a harsh sentence given his 2004 conviction for aggravated indecent liberties in a case involving sexual contact with a 13-year-old girl.


Kansas Leaders to Decide on Bonds for Capitol Visitor Center

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and legislative leaders are considering whether to grant permission for the state to issue bonds to help finance a visitor center at the Statehouse. The proposal on their agenda Monday is part of a larger plan to help finish a Statehouse renovation that has lasted 12 years and cost $320 million. State budget director Steve Anderson outlined the proposal last week. It also calls for tapping $7 million in transportation funds for work on the Statehouse grounds. Anderson said in a memo that an additional $5 million in savings from other parts of the renovation could be dedicated to the visitor center and grounds, for a total of $17.4 million.

 **this story has been updated. Please see above. 


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