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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, January 9, 2013



Payless Plans Layoffs at Topeka Headquarters

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Payless ShoeSource says it will lay off 45 people from its headquarters in Topeka. The company also announced Tuesday that it would not fill another 97 open positions throughout Payless's global operations. Payless said in a news release that the restructuring was necessary to focus the organization's resources since Collective Brands closed in October. In 2007, Payless formed Collective Brands, which was sold in 2012 after struggling financially. Payless was founded in Topeka in 1956. Doug Kinsinger of the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce said the chamber regrets the lost jobs, but the changes would stabilize the company's finances. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Payless is offering severance and outplacement services for the laid off employees.


2 Kansas Bases Make Short List for Main Air Force Tanker Refueling Base

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Air Force has selected both McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita and Forbes Airfield in Topeka as finalists for basing air refueling tankers. U.S. Senators Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts said Wednesday that both installations are finalists for the main operating base. McConnell is also a finalist to house the formal training unit. Starting in 2017, the base chosen as the main operating base will support 36 active-duty KC-46A tankers. The two Republican senators say the decision shows the Air Force recognizes the critical role Kansas plays in national security and global air mobility.


UPDATE:  Kansas Senate Planning Big Changes in Rules

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republicans in the Kansas Senate are proposing major changes in the chamber's rules, and one measure would give the Senate's top leader more influence over shaping legislation. Senate Vice President Jeff King outlined the measures drafted by a GOP leadership panel during an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press. They'll be presented to the Senate when lawmakers open their annual session Monday. One change would transfer the leadership panel's power to make committee assignments to the Senate president. Committees do much of the drafting of legislation. Some Republicans argue the current system is unwieldy. Another proposal would establish a panel to settle disputes over the rules during debates. Currently, the person presiding over a debate settles disagreements. Republicans outnumber Democrats in the chamber 32-8.

Boeing to Begin Marketing Wichita Plant This Month

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Boeing officials say they will begin actively marketing the company's Wichita defense industry-oriented facilities by the end of January. The company announced last year that it was closing the Wichita plant and moving work to Oklahoma, Texas and the Pacific Northwest. Boeing owns 97 buildings on 413 acres, with properties ranging from large hangars to tool sheds. Company spokeswoman Kathleen Spicer says Boeing is working with national real estate firm CBRE Group of Los Angeles to arrange the sale of the property. The Wichita Eagle reports that Boeing has done some site preparation work, including separating utilities and some environmental remediation. Spicer wouldn't say how much interest the company has received. Boeing closed its Wichita commercial aviation business in 2005 and has concentrated on military programs since then.


KCK Mayor Joe Reardon Won't Seek 3rd Term

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The mayor and CEO of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas has decided against running for a third term this spring. Forty-four-year-old Joe Reardon made the announcement Wednesday, saying he made the decision over the holidays. Reardon says he wants to spend more time with his family as his two sons grow up. Reardon won his first four-year term in 2005. He comes from a well-known political family. His father, Jack Reardon, served three terms as mayor of Kansas City, Kansas, and his uncle, Bill Reardon, served 30 years in the Kansas Legislature. Reardon was honored by his peers in 2012 as Kansas Mayor of the Year. The mayoral primary is February 26, with the general election set for April 2.


Incorrect Food Order Sparks McDonald's Shooting

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Three people were in custody after a shooting at a Wichita McDonald's restaurant drive-thru prompted by an incorrect fast-food order. Police say the incident began at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday when a man became upset that his order was wrong. He drove around the restaurant and tried to cut in front of another car in the drive-thru, but the car already in line didn't budge. Police say a woman in the man's car threw a crowbar at the other vehicle, and the driver of her car fired a shotgun at the other vehicle before leaving the scene. Police found the car at a Wichita residence and detained three people after a several-hour standoff. Wichita police spokesman Lieutenant Doug Nolte says it's unclear what charges would be filed, and nobody was injured.


Lawrence Sports Complex Project Moves Forward

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas hopes to have a new sports complex ready for use in time for the Kansas Relays in 2014. Lawrence city commissioners on Tuesday approved rezoning requests and a special use permit that will allow the university and its private partners to move ahead with plans for what will be called Rock Chalk Park. It would include a track and field stadium, soccer field, softball stadium and other amenities on about 90 acres. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the commission's vote does not commit the city to build a $25 million recreation center in the park. Commissioners won't vote on that part of the project until mid-February. Jim Marchiony, associate athletic director at the Kansas, says the university hopes construction could begin in February or March.


Electric Rates to Rise for KCP&L Customers

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Monthly bills will be rising for hundreds of thousands of electricity customers in western Missouri. The Missouri Public Service Commission said Wednesday that it approved a $64 million rate increase for Kansas City Power & Light Co. and an additional $49 million rate hike for KCP&L Greater Missouri Operations Company. Monthly bills will rise by an estimated $8.91 for a residential customer of KCP&L who uses 1,150 kilowatt hours of electricity in the summer months and 760 kilowatt hours in the winter. Customers using similar amounts of electricity should see increases of about $5.70 a month in the Greater Missouri Operation Company's MPS service area and $12.91 a month in its L&P service area. The companies serve a combined 584,000 customers in Kansas City, St. Joseph and western Missouri.


Kansans Press for Relaxing Federal School Lunch Rules

OSAGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas high school student's extra-credit assignment in a government class was meant as an exercise in expressing her views on a hot topic. But U.S. Senator Pat Roberts says the letter he received from Lindsey Heward complaining about new federal rules for school lunches helped sway opinions in Washington. Heward is a senior at Osage City High School. She wrote to Roberts criticizing the effects of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's rules on calorie counts in school lunches. The letter was among a raft of criticism that Roberts says forced the agency to relax the guidelines. While limiting calories is one way to fight obesity, Heward and Roberts say there are better ways than leaving students hungry.

Governor Creates Humanitarian Commission

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has established a special panel to highlight and promote charitable work by Kansans throughout the state, the nation and the world. Brownback announced creation of the Kansas Humanitarian Commission on Tuesday. The panel will be chaired by Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer and Ashleigh Black, who will choose the other seven members. Colyer is a plastic surgeon and has volunteered to aid victims of violence in several war zones around the world. Black is the associate director of the Center for Global Health at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The commission will develop a nominating process for the Kansas Governor's Humanitarian of the Year awards, which will be presented each fall.

Voluntary Recall Issued for Certain ShurFine Ice Cream Products

DENVER (AP) — Southwest Ice Cream Specialties of McKinney, Texas, is voluntarily recalling some of its Dulce de Leche ice cream containers because they may contain praline pecan ice cream, which has wheat, soy and pecans that could cause problems for people allergic to those ingredients. Colorado health officials say the recall affects ShurFine Brand Creamery Select (Premium Ice Cream) Dulce de Leche in 1.75-quart containers with a "Best By" date of November 8, 2014; the UPC code 015400224840; and the plant code 48-43202-F. It was packed with a ShurFine Praline Pecan lid but bears the Dulce de Leche labeling on the carton. There were no reports of illnesses as of Tuesday afternoon. The product was distributed by stores in Colorado, Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas.


"Black Friday" Theft from Topeka Walmart Still Unsolved, One Year Later 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka police are still trying to find a man who walked into a Walmart more than a year ago and walked out with more than $250,000. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the brazen theft occurred about 3 am on November 26, 2011, when the store was busy with Black Friday shoppers. The stocky white man with a shaved head simply walked into the manager's office and walked out with the money. He didn't threaten or confront anyone. Topeka police Lieutenant Joe Perry said Tuesday he could not discuss specifics of the investigation. Police did say the man overcame security procedures to get behind certain doors to access the cash and receipts. Walmart has offered $5,000 for information on the case, and Crime Stoppers offered $2,000.


Special Master Recommends Far Lower Payment for Kansas in Interstate Water Dispute  

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A special master appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court has recommended that Nebraska pay Kansas only $5 million in damages in their dispute over the Republican River Basin. That's far less than the $80 million demanded by Kansas. The draft report released Wednesday was the newest twist in an ongoing water-sharing dispute between the states. Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning says lawyers in his office believe the $5 million recommendation is still too high, but they're pleased that the larger demand was rejected. The special master also recommended that Kansas's request for future water restrictions for Nebraska be denied. The report is subject to additional changes. Lawyers for both states will have the chance to comment on the recommendations on January 24.

SE Kansas Man Accused of Trying to Stop Train

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in southeastern Kansas are investigating a case of a man allegedly trying to stop a freight train as it rolled through Pittsburg. The Morning Sun reports that the 27-year-old suspect was booked into the Cherokee County Jail after Friday afternoon's incident. It wasn't clear Tuesday if he had been charged. Pittsburg police say callers reported a motorist with a bandanna obscuring his face driving erratically and trying to stop a northbound freight train at a city crossing. The train kept going, but halted at another crossing a few blocks away after the man parked his van on the tracks. Witnesses reported the man pointed some type of weapon at the train. Officers then chased the van through rural Crawford and Cherokee counties, where the man was finally stopped.


Officials to Ride Deteriorating Amtrak Route

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Government and railroad officials will take a special train ride this week along the deteriorating track that Amtrak's Southwest Chief uses in western Kansas. An Amtrak engine will pull BNSF Railway cars from Topeka to La Junta, Colorado on Thursday to highlight the condition of the tracks. The Hutchinson News reports that vice presidents for Amtrak and BNSF, Kansas transportation leaders, and officials from cities along the route will be on board. Representatives from Colorado and New Mexico also have been invited. Amtrak has to slow its trains in western Kansas because of conditions on the tracks, which are owned by BNSF. Amtrak and the railroad have asked the three states to pay a total of $100 million in the next decade to improve the tracks.


KC Mom Convicted of Selling Meth in Kids' Presence

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — A 35-year-old Kansas City woman has been found guilty of selling methamphetamine to an undercover officer while her children were at home. KSHB-TV reports a Clay County (Missouri) jury took only 40 minutes Tuesday to convict Lori Owsley of two counts of delivery of methamphetamines. Jurors recommended a 22-year prison sentence. An undercover officer says he bought 2 grams of meth from Owsley at her home in June 2011 while several children were present, including her son and daughter. The detective also said that at one point during the drug deal, Owsley had four teenagers serve as lookouts. Her next court appearance is scheduled for February 14.

Woman Dies in North Kansas City Fire

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Officials say a woman died after a fire in her home in northern Kansas City. Three pets also died in the fire on Tuesday evening. Battalion Chief James Garrett says a man driving by saw smoke or fire and tried to get into the home, but was overcome by smoke. Fire crews found the woman in the back bedroom. She was pronounced dead at a hospital. Garrett says the home had no working smoke detectors. The investigation into the fire is continuing.

UPDATE: Man Who Escaped SD Jail Sentenced on Earlier Charge

HURON, S.D. (AP) — A 45-year-old man who escaped from the Beadle County (South Dakota) Jail by using a makeshift weapon to hold a guard hostage is returning to prison. KOKK radio reports that Charles Beeney was sentenced on Wednesday to two years in the South Dakota Penitentiary on an aggravated eluding charge from December. In that case, he was accused of stealing fuel from a Jerauld County (South Dakota) farm and leading authorities on a chase that ended with him crashing a pickup near Alpena, South Dakota. Beeney, who is originally from Lansing, Kansas, escaped from the Beadle County Jail Tuesday but was captured that night in Sioux Falls. He has a criminal history in Kansas and North Dakota, including a jail escape in North Dakota seven years ago. Beeney was loaded into a Jerauld County Sheriff's SUV Wednesday afternoon and transported to Sioux Falls.


Man Arrested in Kansas Sought for Questioning in Tulsa Killings

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Police investigating the shooting deaths of four women in a Tulsa apartment want to question a man arrested in Kansas on an outstanding domestic assault warrant. Tulsa police spokeswoman Jill Roberson says the 33-year-old man was arrested Tuesday night during a traffic stop in Independence, Kansas. She said police were looking to return the man to Tulsa and she was unaware Wednesday if homicide detectives had had a chance to speak with him. Roberson says the man is not a suspect in Monday's shooting deaths of 23-year-old twin sisters Rebeika Powell and Kayetie Melchor, 33-year-old Misty Nunley, and 55-year-old Julie Jackson. But Roberson says the man was known to frequent the area and that his name surfaced as part of the investigation into the killings.

Man Injured in Pedicab Accident Improving

PHOENIX (AP) _ The father of a Kansas man injured in an alleged drunken crash in Arizona says his son is improving, but remains weak after his spine was separated from his skull. Joel Tysver tells Fox 10 News in Phoenix that his 21-year-old son, Michael, is no longer on a breathing tube and is alert and talking. Michael D. Tysver and a friend, 21-year-old Cody A. Clark, both of Great Bend, Kansas, were in Arizona for Thursday night's Fiesta Bowl in Glendale. They were riding in a pedicab early Friday when a driver suspected of being drunk crashed his car into the pedicab, ejecting Tysver and Clark. Clark sustained a cervical spine fracture. Scottsdale police said 27-year-old Joseph Paul Spano, of Phoenix, was arrested on suspicion of multiple charges including drunken driving.

Wichita Drug Suspect Holes Up in Strangers' Home

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita woman says her family will add more locks to their home after a frightening encounter with a drug suspect. Police say officers were chasing a car early Tuesday when the driver bailed out, ran through a neighborhood, jumped a fence and entered an unlocked home. Vanessa Wadsworth told KWCH-TV that her mother and brother were awakened around 3:30 am when the stranger ran inside. Wadsworth says her brother heard heavy breathing and someone heading for the basement. Police pulled up and followed a trail of blood that Wadsworth says led them to the suspect hiding under a futon. Officers said the 25-year-old man was in possession of methamphetamine and weighing scales when they took him into custody.

Kansas Capital Murder Defendant to Enter Plea

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka man charged with rape and capital murder in the death of an 18-year-old jogger is preparing to enter a plea in the case. Twenty-one-year-old Dustin Leftwich previously pleaded not guilty to killing Brenna Morgart last May and dumping her body several miles from where she was hit by a vehicle. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that prosecutors and a defense lawyer told a Shawnee County judge on Tuesday that Leftwich will enter a plea Thursday. He had been scheduled for a motions hearing that day. Morgart was killed May 25, five days after she graduated with honors from Seaman High School. Leftwich was initially accused of committing premeditated first-degree murder by hitting Morgart with his vehicle. Prosecutors amended the charges in November to include rape and capital murder.

Wichita Clinic Being Renovated to Meet Kansas Requirements

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The former Wichita clinic of slain abortion provider George Tiller is being remodeled to meet new Kansas regulations. The work is taking place amid growing opposition by anti-abortion activists as the building's new owners — a group called Trust Women — prepare to open it for the first time since Tiller's 2009 murder. Trust Women attorney Robert Eye said Tuesday that contractors are modifying the clinic to make sure hallways and interior spaces are big enough to comply with the requirements of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. He says once the work is completed and the building is inspected and licensed, the new clinic would open for services. Meanwhile, anti-abortion activists are mounting a petition drive to the city council and planning commission in opposition to its opening.

Wichita Pedestrian Dies After Being Hit by Car

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police say an elderly man died after he was hit by a car in downtown Wichita. The man, believed to be 80 years old, was not using a crosswalk when he was hit Tuesday evening by a car going about 30 mph. Police say the driver said he didn't see the victim crossing the street. The man's name has not been released.

Quarterback Situation Already Under Scrutiny for Reid in KC

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs haven't hired a general manager to make crucial personnel decisions. Andy Reid hasn't hired a single assistant coach. That hardly seemed to matter. The pressing concern, at least for those who attended Reid's introductory news conference Monday, was what the longtime Philadelphia Eagles coach plans to do at quarterback. The Chiefs' biggest area of need coincides with what is regarded by most fans and analysts as the most important position on the field...and one of the biggest reasons the Chiefs went 2-14 last season. It's why Reid was hired to replace Romeo Crennel and the Chiefs were looking for a new general manager. Reid plans to start by analyzing the quarterbacks on last season's roster — Matt Cassel, Brady Quinn and Ricky Stanzi —though that analysis is likely to be discouraging.



Escapee from SD Jail Taken into Custody

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A man who escaped from the Huron jail early Tuesday has been found in in Sioux Falls. Sioux Falls police Sergeant  David Osterquist says Charles Beeney was taken into custody at about 6:40 pm Tuesday. Beeney's escape from jail prompted Huron schools to go on lockdown status as a precaution. The 45-year-old Beeney is originally from Lansing, Kan. He was arrested last December on an aggravated eluding charge after leading law officers from five counties and the South Dakota Highway Patrol on a chase through Jerauld County. The chase ended when he crashed the pickup truck he had stolen in North Dakota. Beeney in 2006 was sentenced to five years in the North Dakota State Penitentiary for stealing a pickup and escaping from the Richland County Jail.

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

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