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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, August 28, 2012




UPDATE: Dropping Water Levels Raise Nuclear Plant Cooling Questions

BURLINGTON, Kan. (AP) — Drought conditions are draining a reservoir used to cool the Wolf Creek Nuclear Power Plant, but plant officials say there are no worries about safety or the plant's ability to provide power to customers. Water levels at the John Redmond Reservoir are falling, and projections show the reservoir would be at only 5 percent of its normal capacity by November 1 if current drought conditions persist. But Wolf Creek officials say enough water exists at Coffey County Lake — the body of water that directly cools the power plant — to maintain normal operations at the plant for the foreseeable future. Drought is expected to keep its grip on Kansas through October, and the hot and dry conditions have lowered water levels at lakes and streams across the state.


Topeka Special Election to Settle Kansas House Race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka is having an unusual special election involving only a single polling place where some voters received the wrong ballots in the state's primary election. The polling site at the Light of the World Christian Center opened Tuesday, and the results there will settle a Republican primary for a Kansas House seat. But only 432 voters are eligible to participate. Some of those voters received the wrong ballots during the August 7 primaries. The church is the polling place for two precincts, one in the 52nd House District and the other in the 56th. Only the 52nd District's Republican nomination is in doubt. Physician Shanti Gandhi leads retired naval and State Department officer Dick Jones by 45 votes out of more than 4,000 cast.


Kansas Abortion Provider Seeks Return of Documents

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A lawyer for a Planned Parenthood clinic in Kansas is seeking to recover records gathered during a criminal investigation now that all charges against the abortion provider have been dropped. Pedro Irigonegaray said Tuesday that he's contacted the offices of Attorney General Derek Schmidt, Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe and Shawnee County District Judge Richard Anderson. Earlier this month, Howe dropped the last of the 107 criminal charges filed by the previous district attorney against Planned Parenthood's clinic in Overland Park. Howe consulted with Schmidt, and the attorney general's office investigated the clinic before Schmidt took office in January 2011. Anderson supervised that investigation and has maintained records from it. Irigonegaray says patient privacy will be protected most if records return to the clinic.

Corps to Ban Non-Native Firewood at Perry Lake

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is taking steps in Kansas to prevent the spread of a beetle that is killing ash trees in the Northeast and Midwest. Starting Friday, campers at Perry Lake in northeastern Kansas will be barred from bringing in firewood that did not originate in surrounding Jefferson County. The Corps is also banning all firewood from ash trees, no matter where it comes from. The goal is to protect Perry Lake's trees from the emerald ash borer beetle, which was recently detected in northwestern Missouri's Platte County. The Corps says that's the beetle's western-most confirmed presence. Visitors who bring non-native firewood to Perry Lake will be able to exchange it for native wood to use during their stay.

**for more information on this issue, revisit this KPR interview on the threat from the emerald ash borer. 

Fort Riley Unit Prepares for Afghanistan Deployment

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — More than 300 troops of the 1st Sustainment Brigade at Fort Riley are preparing for a nine-month deployment in Afghanistan. The unit departs next month for duty providing support to other soldiers already in Afghanistan, including thousands from the 1st Infantry Division. In a ceremony Monday at the northeastern Kansas post, the brigade cased its colors in preparation for moving its flag to a new location. The Manhattan Mercury reports the soldiers include Specialist Timothy Gardner, whose wife and three children were on hand for the ceremony. Lindsay Gardner says this will be her husband's third deployment. Their youngest child is eight weeks old, but the older two have handled the previous deployments well. Lindsay Gardner says they especially enjoy seeing and talking to their dad via computer.


PETA Sues Kansas Over State Fair Booth Restrictions

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal is suing Kansas over restrictions imposed on its booth at this year's Kansas State Fair. The federal lawsuit filed Monday asks the court to prohibit interference with the group's free speech rights at next month's fair in Hutchinson. It also names the Kansas State Fair Board and fair general manager Denny Stoecklein as defendants. Fair officials had demanded that PETA shield passersby from any videos or pictures depicting animal slaughter. PETA contends the state fair is a public forum and its videos on livestock slaughtering are protected speech. It also seeks attorney and court costs. PETA attorney Jeff Kerr says his group will defend the right to speak for animals. Stoecklein did not immediately return a call for comment.

Kansas Gas Service Discusses Rate Increase Request

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — State regulators heard a mixed bag of comments from Topeka residents about a $32.7 million rate increase sought by Kansas Gas Service. The increase would boost residential bills by about 9.1 percent a month. The Topeka Capital Journal reports that residents told regulators with the Kansas Corporation Commission Monday that the company should look for other ways to improve its revenues, including cutting employees' wages. Kansas Gas Service president Brad Dixon said the utility is trying to balance the needs of customers with those of the company and investors. Kansas Gas also says the rate increase corrects an imbalance that tilted higher rates toward larger commercial customers. The KCC will take more public comment in October and hold technical hearings in November. A decision is expected next year.

Ex-KU Official Wants Judge to Toss Out Sentence

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former University of Kansas assistant athletics director wants a judge to throw out his sentence in a $2 million ticket scalping conspiracy, saying his lawyer did a poor job. Rodney Jones is serving a 46-month federal prison sentence in Oklahoma. He was among seven people snared in the investigation of unlawful sales of Jayhawk season tickets by key athletics officials. Jones filed a motion Monday in federal court claiming his attorney prevented him from cooperating early with an internal university investigation. Two defendants who did cooperate received probation. Jones also claims prosecutors did not honor an agreement to recommend leniency for his substantial assistance. He argues his attorney did not provide a vigorous defense, in an effort to avoid offending the prosecutor and jeopardizing the recommendation for leniency.


Topeka Police Check Suspect's Ties to Holdups

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Topeka say the suspect in last week's holdup of a pharmacy may also be connected to nine other robberies, including one in which a pizza shop employee was sexually assaulted. The 27-year-old Topeka man was questioned after a traffic stop Monday and later arrested as the suspect in Friday's pharmacy holdup. No charges had been filed Tuesday, but police said they believe the man is also connected to the recent string of holdups at Topeka businesses. Four of those occurred on a single day in late July. Police have said the holdups were becoming increasingly violent, including the sexual assault on August 15. Police Chief Ron Miller says the suspect was released from jail in January after serving time for aggravated robbery.

Salina Council Votes on Nondiscrimination Measure September 10

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — The Salina City Council is scheduled to vote in two weeks on a petition to repeal an expanded nondiscrimination ordinance. The council in May added sexual orientation and gender identity to the city's anti-discrimination ordinance. Soon after, opponents began gathering signatures for petitions to repeal the ordinance. City Manager Jason Gage told city commissioners Monday they will be asked to vote on the petition on September 10. The Salina Journal reports the city commission has 20 days from when the petition was submitted to either repeal the new ordinance or put it to a public vote in 90 days.


Body of Boater Recovered in Kansas Lake

CAWKER CITY, Kan. (AP) — Rescue crews have recovered the body of a missing boater from a lake in north-central Kansas. The Salina Journal reports the body of 36-year-old Tim Griffiths was found around 10 am Tuesday at the west end of Waconda Lake, in Mitchell County. Griffiths, of rural Hunter, had been missing since he fell out of a boat Saturday night. Another man was found safe in the boat, and a third man was found on the lake shore Sunday morning. Griffiths was a maintenance man who also did work for Hake Hardware in Tipton.


Kansas Man Turns Himself In for ND Bank Robbery

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Authorities say a man accused of robbing a bank in western North Dakota called 911 three days later from his home in Kansas and told officers to arrest him for "making a mistake." Court papers say 53-year-old Kent Anthony Clemens held up the Gate City Bank in Williston on July 18. On July 21, he turned himself in to police in Topeka. Authorities say Clemens was sitting on his front porch when police arrived and held out his hands to be handcuffed. Clemens is being held in North Dakota. His attorney wouldn't comment Tuesday on specifics in the case. Clemens told authorities he believed he made off with about $800.

Kansas Man Gets Nearly 27 Years in 'Sexting' Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 26-year-old Wichita man will spend nearly 27 years in prison in a federal "sexting" prosecution. U.S. District Judge Monti Belot on Monday sentenced Shane McClelland as a repeat sex offender. The judge said a long sentence was necessary to deter him from further crimes and protect the public. McClelland was convicted earlier of enticing a 14-year-old girl from upstate New York to send nude photos to his cellphone. He was acquitted of a similar count involving another teen. McClelland's lawyer argued 20 percent of teens are "sexting" and said the sentence amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. He said the 14-year-old was old enough to know better. Belot said McClelland sought out young girls despite having served time on a 2004 conviction for having sex with a 13-year-old girl.

Kansas City Prepares for 10th Annual Irish Fest

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City will be looking a lot greener on Labor Day weekend. The city's popular Irish Fest turns 10 this year. Organizers say the festival drew nearly 100,000 visitors last year, with most of them coming from Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska. The event will feature Celtic music, Irish dancing and beer and whiskey tastings. The event also will have children's areas with inflatables, arts and crafts and face painting. The festivities begin Friday and continue through Sunday.


Drought Raises Concerns About Wolf Creek Nuclear Plant Operations

BURLINGTON, Kan. (AP) — The continuing drought is causing concern about operating the Wolf Creek Nuclear Power Plant. Officials say the dwindling water levels of a reservoir used to cool the plant near Burlington do not pose any safety risk. The Kansas Water Office projects the John Redmond Reservoir will be almost dry by November 1, if current weather patterns persist. Wolf Creek officials say it would be difficult to operate the plant if the drought continues for the next several months. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the water office says the reservoir was about 75 percent full on August 1. But the office projects the lake will be at only 5 percent capacity by November 1.

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


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