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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, October 10, 2012



KS Governor Not Ruling Out Sales Tax Plan Next Year

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback hasn't ruled out proposing that the state help balance its budget by keeping its current sales tax in place longer rather than letting it drop next year as planned. Brownback said Wednesday that the state could see a temporary dip in revenues because of massive income tax cuts enacted earlier this year. Supporters of the cuts believe they'll spur economic growth, but Brownback acknowledged there will be a lag. Brownback said he'll wait to see how the budget situation is shaping up before making decisions about pursuing a sales tax change. The 6.3 percent sales tax is set to drop to 5.7 percent in July 2013. The drop was scheduled in 2010, when the state boosted the tax to balance the budget.


Contest for Top Post in Kansas Senate Narrows

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A veteran Wichita legislator has formally launched an effort to become the Kansas Senate's next president, and one potential rival is backing her. The Wichita Eagle reports that Senator Susan Wagle announced her plans to seek the chamber's top leadership post during a Tuesday fundraiser at the Flint Hills National Golf Club in Andover. Governor Sam Brownback and U.S. Senator Jerry Moran attended. Her bid also received a boost when fellow state Senator Les Donovan, also from Wichita, announced that he's dropped plans to run for the position and will seek to become Senate vice president. Republican senators and senators-elect will meet in December to pick new leaders. The top job will be open because current Senate President Steve Morris of Hugoton lost his August 7 GOP primary.


New Arts Commission Criticized for Not Using Funds

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Some state lawmakers are criticizing the new Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission for not disbursing funds to local arts groups. Legislators authorized $700,000 for the commission, to replace arts funding that had been vetoed earlier by Governor Sam Brownback. Peter Jasso, director of the commission, told lawmakers Wednesday that only $30,000 has been spent so far, on administrative costs and membership in the National Association of State Arts Agencies. He said the rest of the money won't be distributed to local arts groups until a strategic plan for arts funding is completed by the end of the year. Some lawmakers said that decision has left local arts groups who depend on funding in a difficult situation. But others agreed a plan was needed before funds are distributed.


Secretary Explains Ending Kansas Main Street Program

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Commerce Secretary Pat George says that ending the Kansas Main Street program doesn't mean rural communities will lose support from the state agency. George tells a legislative budget committee on Wednesday that the program was eliminated through a restructuring of the agency announced this summer. He said a loss of federal funds for programs necessitated changes. Main Street had 25 participants that received state support for recruiting and retaining jobs. George says 95 percent of the funding came from local sources and that many of those efforts will continue at the local level. He says the state will still support the communities in some fashion as they continue the program on their own. George said 18 jobs were eliminated in the Department of Commerce as part of the restructuring.


KASB Forms School Efficiency Task Force

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two days after a school efficiency task force picked by Governor Sam Brownback met, another group created by the Kansas Association of School Boards is emerging. Brownback's group was appointed in September with the goal of identifying ways to get more education dollars into the classroom. The group includes numerous certified public accountants and the governor's budget director. Democrats and school advocates criticized Brownback for not including educators on his task force. The school board association announced Wednesday that it was forming a group that would include superintendents and other school leaders. That group will gather information and respond to issues raised by the governor's task force. The KASB group will meet October 19 and November 2, while the governor's task force is scheduled to meet November 9.


Kansas Church Started by Ex-Megachurch Pastor Folds

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — The suburban Kansas City church that a pastor started after losing his megachurch to foreclosure has folded. The Kansas City Star reports that the Reverend Jerry Johnston's New Day Church Kansas City held its last service September 30. The church met in Olathe schools after last year's closure of the First Family Church in Overland Park. The megachurch once was reportedly among the fasting-growing in the country. But members began leaving in 2007 because of financial accountability concerns. Last year, the church was foreclosed upon after its lender alleged it owed more than $14 million in mortgage payments and other costs. Johnston doesn't appear to be leaving the ministry. In recent months, he's been a guest on the religious television program "100 Huntley Street."


Topeka Zoo Still Deciding the Fate of Aging Elephants

The Topeka Zoo is still trying to decide what -- if anything -- it should do with its two aging elephants, Tembo and Sunda. For the past 15 years, the USDA has cited the zoo for various incidents, including problems with its elephant program. The zoo has also faced criticism from animal rights groups who say the elephants would be better-off spending their retirement years at an elephant sanctuary in Tennessee. An article in today's (WED) Topeka Capital-Journal reports that more than 40 people showed up yesterday (TUE) for a public hearing on the topic. While the crowd appeared to be evenly split, the Capital-Journal reports that most of those who spoke up at the meeting wanted the elephants to stay at the Topeka Zoo. By the end of this month, Zoo Director Brendan Wiley is expected to make a recommendation to the city council on the fate of the animals.


Belfonte Recalls Some Ice Cream Containing Peanut Butter

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Belfonte Ice Cream is recalling two types of ice cream that contain peanut butter because of the potential of salmonella contamination. The Kansas City-based company announced Tuesday that it was voluntarily recalling 56-ounce containers of Home Run Sundae and Mama's Choice Reverse Peanut Butter Pie. The ice cream was sold between April 2010 and October 2012 in retail and convenience stores in Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. The company says the recall was prompted by Sunland Inc.'s recall of everything made in its New Mexico plant after a peanut butter sold at Trader Joe's groceries was linked to a salmonella outbreak. Belfonte says Sunland notified its peanut butter blend supplier that their products could be contaminated with salmonella. Belfonte has received no reports of illnesses caused by its ice cream.

the recalled products are:

—Belfonte 56oz Rectangular Carton, Home Run Sundae, UPC code 83057-91023

—Belfonte 56oz Rounded Square Container, Mama's Choice Reverse Peanut Butter Pie, 83057-17033


Public Comment Sought on Woodbine Contamination

WOODBINE, Kan. (AP) — State officials are seeking public comment on plans for addressing nitrate-contaminated groundwater in east-central Kansas. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says in a release that its draft plans for the Woodbine Public Water Supply are open for public comment until October 19. The plan can be reviewed at the Herington Public Library, the KDHE office in Topeka and online. High nitrate levels were detected in 1992 in four Woodbine area wells. Those levels have since decreased but remain well above the national standard. Woodbine residents have since been connected to Herington's water supply. The remedial plan for Woodbine includes groundwater monitoring and limiting exposure to the contaminated groundwater.


Kansas Adds 3 Names to Walk of Honor

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Three more names of distinguished Kansas residents have been enshrined on the grounds of the Statehouse as part of the growing Kansas Walk of Honor. On Wednesday, bronze plaques honoring aviator Amelia Earhart, Vice President Charles Curtis and microchip inventor Jack Kilby joined U.S. Senator Bob Dole on the sidewalks near the Capitol Building in Topeka. The plaques were unveiled by Governor Sam Brownback and the Kansas Historical Society. Earhart was born in Atchison and became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Curtis was the first and only Native American and only Kansan to serve as vice president, joining the ticket of President Herbert Hoover. Kilby was a Nobel Prize winning engineer who invented the microchip and changed technology for generations. 


Atty General, KBI Announce Changes to Offender Registry

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Changes made to the state's criminal offender registry will allow Kansans to receive email notifications if an offender registers a home, work or school address near them. Attorney General Derek Schmidt and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation also said Tuesday that the new system will have expanded search capabilities and maps showing offenders' registered locations. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports people will be able to search by the offender's name, location, reporting compliance and type of offense. Searchers also can see if a phone number, online identity or email address is associated with a registered offender. The changes also will allow law enforcement officials to improve information-sharing across jurisdictions within Kansas and with other states. The improvements are funded through federal grants.

FBI Captures Man Suspected in Kansas Bank Robbery

GYPSUM, Kan. (AP) — A bank robbery suspect has been captured in central Kansas after a chase that ended with him exchanging gunfire with a trooper. The Kansas Highway Patrol says the chase started Tuesday night in Saline County. After the suspect crashed his vehicle near the town of Gypsum, he and the trooper pursuing him fired their weapons. The suspect then fled on foot. He was caught later in the evening after a search that involved aircraft, police dogs and multiple law enforcement agencies. Authorities suspect that earlier Tuesday, the man walked into the First Bank of Chase, showed a weapon and demanded money. Chase is a town of 500 people, located west of Lyons on U.S. Highway 56.


8th Person Pleads in SE Kansas Medicaid Fraud Case 

OSWEGO, Kan. (AP) — An eighth person has pleaded guilty in a Medicaid fraud scheme involving home health care billings in southeast Kansas. Thirty-eight-year-old Shannon Menzer of Cherryvale pleaded guilty Tuesday in Labette County District Court to making a false Medicaid claim, conspiracy to make a false Medicaid claim and two counts of providing false information. Under her plea agreement, Menzer is required to repay more than $18,000 to the state's Medicaid program. She will be sentenced December 3. The Wichita Eagle reports that the defendants have been ordered to repay nearly $90,000 to the state Medicaid program. Prosecutors say the investigation involved home health care billings by several employees and independent care providers who used the Southeast Kansas Independent Living Center as their payroll agent. Charges are pending against three other people.

KCK Mayor Named 2012 Kansas Mayor of the Year

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas City, Kansas mayor Joe Reardon has been honored by his peers as 2012 Kansas Mayor of the Year. Reardon received the award from the Kansas Mayors Association this week at the League of Kansas Municipalities annual conference in Topeka. Among the accomplishments credited to Reardon is the opening of the Hollywood Casino, construction of a Cerner development at Village West and the city's selection as the first site for Google Fiber after a nationwide search by the company. Reardon comes from a long line of public servants. His father, Jack, served three terms as mayor of Kansas City, Kansas, and his uncle, Bill Reardon, served 30 years in the Kansas Legislature.

Kansas Utility Says 2 New Wind Farms Now Operating

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The largest electric utility in Kansas says new wind farms in central and southwest parts of the state are now producing power for its customers. Westar Energy has agreements with the developers of the wind farms to buy up to 369 megawatts of electricity from them. That more than doubles the electricity the Topeka-based utility can generate from renewable resources to 670 megawatts. The 201-megawatt Post Rock Wind Farm in Ellsworth and Lincoln counties began production September 28. It was developed by St. Louis-based Wind Capital Group. The Ironwood Wind Power Project farm in Ford and Hodgeman counties can produce up to 168 megawatts of electricity for Westar. It began production August 31. It was developed by Duke Energy Generation Services of Charlotte, North Carolina. Westar has nearly 700,000 customers in Kansas.

Report: Kansas Winter Wheat Planting 65 Percent Complete

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service says growers have seeded 65 percent of the 2013 winter wheat crop in the state. The weekly crop snapshot released Tuesday says that progress is ahead of both last year and the average for this time of year. About a quarter of the winter wheat has now emerged. Meanwhile, the fall harvest continues to make progress in Kansas. The corn harvest is 82 percent complete, two weeks ahead of last year. Most of the corn that remains to be cut is in western Kansas. Soybean harvest has reached the 23 percent mark, while the harvest of sorghum is 19 percent complete. The agency rated 63 percent of the soybeans in poor to very poor condition, and 67 percent of the sorghum also fell into that category.


Kansas Woman Pleads Guilty to Federal Fraud Charge

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 53-year-old Leavenworth woman has pleaded guilty to federal bank fraud charges. The U.S. Attorney's office for western Missouri says in a release Wednesday that Paula A. Cathey pleaded guilty to 15 counts of bank fraud. She is accused of embezzling more than $561,000 from her Kansas City employer, Mega Industries Corporation, a highway and general contractor construction company. Cathey worked as controller for the company from 1997 through March 2011. In her plea, she admitted that she embezzled the money by depositing company checks in her personal bank account. The prosecutor's office said Cathey used the money for gambling. A sentencing date hasn't been set. Cathey faces up to 30 years in prison, restitution and a $1 million fine when sentenced.


Auction for Historic Kansas Ranch Ends with No Buy

ULYSSES, Kan. (AP) — A western Kansas ranch that contains historically significant chalk formations is up for sale, after the final bid from an auction came in too low. The owners of the Pyramid Ranch in southwest Gove County are asking for $15 million for the 12,900-acre ranch and the mineral rights that come with it. The ranch contains Monument Rocks, a National Natural Landmark, as well as other historic and culturally important artifacts. The Hays Daily News reports the ranch owners thought an $8.5 million bid from an online auction was too low. Realtor Mark Faulkner of Ulysses, who is handling the sale, says the ranch owners and the high bidder are still negotiating. But with the auction officially over, the ranch was put up for sale.


KC Attorney's Posting of $1M Bond Raises Questions

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Questions are being raised after a Kansas City attorney charged with using a forged document to deny her father medical treatment posted a $1 million cash bond. Susan Elizabeth Van Note has pleaded not guilty to forgery and first-degree murder. Her father, 67-year-old William B. Van Note, and his companion, 59-year-old Sharon Dickson, were shot at their lake home in Sunrise Beach in October 2010. Dickson died at the scene, while the elder Van Note was hospitalized. Authorities allege a forged durable power of attorney was used to persuade doctors to remove his life support. Charges haven't been filed in Dickson's death. The Kansas City Star reports that Van Note previously filed for bankruptcy, and the trustee in the case wants to know where the bond money came from.


Butler Community College President to Retire

BUTLER, Kan. (AP) — The woman who has led Butler Community College for 17 years is retiring at year's end. The Wichita Eagle reports that Jackie Vietti is Butler's fourth president and the first woman to lead the school. Her retirement is effective December 31. Vietti told nearly 500 Butler faculty and staff of her retirement plans Tuesday afternoon. Amid the recession, she helped the school absorb an influx of students even as state funding shrunk. She described the school as her family and said the decision was "really difficult." Butler's Board of Trustees has appointed the college's vice president of academics, Karla Fisher, to serve as interim president following Vietti's retirement. The school plans to select a national search firm by December and begin seeking Vietti's successor early next year.


Agencies: Prairie Chicken Population Dwindling  

PORTALES, N.M. (AP) — Wildlife officials say the lesser prairie chicken is not endangered but is in need of a better managed habitat. The Portales News-Tribune in New Mexico reports that the findings come after a survey recently completed by federal and local wildlife agencies. The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies' Grassland Initiative says a population count of around 37,000 prairie chickens means is that wildlife officials have not only discovered that the prairie chicken is not endangered, but officials now have vast opportunities to learn more about the bird's habitat. WAFWA spokesman Bill Van Van Pelt says the chicken's range of living includes New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Kansas. Ranchers, farmers and wind farms operators have expressed concerns about listing the lesser prairie chicken as endangered since that could regulate land use.

2 Women File Federal Suit Against NE Kansas DA

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two former employees are suing Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor alleging they were wrongfully fired for raising issues about race and gender discrimination. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported Tuesday that Krystal Boxum-Debolt of Lawrence and Lisa Moore of Rio Rancho, New Mexico, filed the case earlier this month in federal court in Topeka. Moore was living in Kansas when the alleged wrongdoings took place. The two women allege they were fired by Taylor in August 2010 for questioning the lack of an area to pump breast milk and nurse. The suit also claims they weren't paid overtime and alleges race discrimination by a supervisor toward Hispanics. Shawnee County Commission is also named in the lawsuit. Attorney General Derek Schmidt was served with the lawsuit, but isn't named as a defendant.

Judge Orders Prosecutor to Testify in Discrimination Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal magistrate says a prosecutor must testify in an employment discrimination lawsuit brought by a former Kansas City, Kansas police officer. U.S. Magistrate Judge James O'Hara on Tuesday rejected the government's decision to prohibit Assistant U.S. Attorney Terra Morehead from testifying. The judge did limit the scope of the deposition. Former officer Max Seifert sued the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and others. He claimed he was forced to retire in 2005 in retaliation for investigating Drug Enforcement Administration agents involved in a 2003 incident that left a man with permanent brain damage. Morehead is not a party to the lawsuit. Seifert wants to question her over statements she allegedly made claiming Seifert was not a credible witness. The U.S. attorney's office declined comment.

Oklahoma Church Leaders to Oppose Death Penalty

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The daughter of a slain Kansas Highway Patrol trooper will join church leaders from across the state as part of an anti-death penalty initiative in Oklahoma. Neely Goen and members of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches will release a theological statement in opposition to the death penalty during the event Wednesday at the Oklahoma State Capitol. Goen is an ordained minister from Wellston, Oklahoma whose father, Kansas Highway Patrol trooper Conroy O'Brien, was gunned down on a Kansas turnpike east of Wichita in 1978. Goen is now an advocate for the abolishment of the death penalty. Oklahoma has executed four inmates so far in 2012, and Attorney General Scott Pruitt has asked the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to set execution dates for two other death row prisoners.

FEMA to Keep Temporary Housing in Joplin

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — Some families who lost their homes in the Joplin tornado have been given a seven-month extension to stay in government housing, but it will no longer be free. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has granted a request to keep its temporary housing units in Joplin until June 9, 2013. The trailers had been scheduled to be removed on November 9, when the eligibility for free housing expires. Candy Newman is the branch chief for individual assistance at FEMA's regional office in Kansas City. She says there once were 586 households living in FEMA housing after the May 2011 tornado. That's down to 157, and the agency expects around 120 to remain after November. Families will be charged rent beginning in December but could seek reductions based on their household incomes.

Weis Taking Gamblers' Approach with Jayhawk Strategy

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Charlie Weis has demonstrated a gambler's mentality through his first five games as head coach of the University of Kansas football team, showing a willingness to push his chips all-in if it means snatching a victory. That was never as evident as last Saturday at Kansas State. The Jayhawks pulled off an audacious faked field goal and faked punt in the first half and were within a touchdown at halftime, the score no doubt causing murmurs across the country. The sixth-ranked Wildcats finally got on track in the second half, scoring four touchdowns in the third quarter to put the game away. But the fact that KU had played the brawny Wildcats to a virtual stalemate through 30 minutes was a testament to Weis's go-for-broke mentality.


KC Chiefs Coach: Fans Are Passionate but Frustrated 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Romeo Crennel said Wednesday that he shares the frustration of fans in Kansas City over the Chiefs' 1-4 start while also calling them "some of the best fans in the NFL." The Chiefs coach served as a spokesman for an organization whose fanbase has been the subject of national scrutiny this week. On Sunday, offensive lineman Eric Winston laid into fans he believes were cheering after quarterback Matt Cassel was injured. Cassel sustained a concussion in the 9-6 loss to Baltimore. Crennel said he believes most Chiefs fans "felt bad" that Cassel had been hurt. He also said that Brady Quinn is preparing to start Sunday at Tampa Bay.



Quinn Preparing to Start for KC Chiefs on Sunday 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Brady Quinn is preparing to start his first NFL game since the 2009 season when the Kansas City Chiefs visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. The Chiefs are expected to be without quarterback Matt Cassel, who sustained a concussion in the fourth quarter of last Sunday's 9-6 loss to Baltimore. Quinn finished out the game. Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel said Wednesday that Cassel has not been cleared to play by medical staff and that Quinn, whom he coached with the Cleveland Browns, would be taking snaps with the first team in practice. Ricky Stanzi would serve as the backup. Quinn is a former first-round draft pick out of Notre Dame who has started just 12 games over the past four-plus seasons due to injuries and ineffectiveness.


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