Headlines for Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Rumors Prompt Increased Police Presence at School
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) _ Police have increased their presence at a Kansas City, Kansas, high school. That comes after rumors that people who were angry about the shooting death of a 16-year-old last weekend might seek retaliation. The Kansas City Star reports that Turner School District assistant superintendent Jason Dandoy sent a letter home with parents saying that the school was keeping watch over students, but there was not a credible threat at this time. The school district says about one-third of the students at the school were absent yesterday. Dandoy says some families chose to pick up their children, though most were going about their school day as normal. Police say Kahlif L'ron Hampton of Kansas City, Kansas, was shot Friday night and died Sunday.
Black Hills Energy to Increase Rates
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas Corporation Commission has approved a rate increase for natural gas customers of Black Hills Energy.The Wichita Eagle reports that the KCC approved an increase that will cost the average customer about of $3 a year. The settlement gives Black Hills an overall increase of $5.23 million. But customers were already paying about $4.5 million of that through special riders on their bills. The company applied for a $5.1 million net increase in April, which would have raised the average bill by $4.17 a month, or about $50 a year. Black Hills serves about 110,000 customers in Kansas. The company said it needed the rate hike because of increased operating costs and $51 million in infrastructure and line extension costs.
Newspaper Records Request Rejected for 3rd Time
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas governor's office insists that the public doesn't have the right to know who it's considering to fill two new positions on the Saline County Commission. The Salina Journal reports Governor Sam Brownback's office on Monday rejected the newspaper's third request for the names of candidates the governor has interviewed for the posts. Voters in November expanded the governing body from three members to five. The Journal contends the public has the right to know who is being considered to fill 40 percent of its commission positions. Brownback press secretary Eileen Hawley says the governor isn't required to disclose the names of the candidates because it's a personnel matter. Journal editor and publisher M. Olaf Frandsen says the newspaper will fight for disclosure "as long as it takes."
Westar Announces Plan to Buy Wind Power
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The largest electric company in Kansas says it will purchase power from a wind farm under development to meet a state renewable-energy mandate for utilities. Westar Energy's announcement Tuesday comes with legislators preparing to debate repealing the requirement. Westar said it will purchase power from the Cedar Bluffs wind farm in Ness and Trego counties in western Kansas after the farm begins operating by the end of next year. The Topeka-based utility said the new wind farm will provide 200 megawatts of power. Westar said the plans are part of its efforts to comply with a state law requiring renewable resources to make up 20 percent of utilities' generating capacity by 2020. But some legislators want to repeal the rule after convening their annual session Jan. 12.
New Kansas House Minority Leader Appoints Staff
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ New Kansas House Minority Leader Tom Burroughs has filled three staff positions. Abbie Hodgson will be the Kansas City Democrat's chief of staff. She is a Democratic activist from Lawrence who worked in the administrations of Democratic Governors Kathleen Sebelius and Mark Parkinson. Hodgson ran this year for the House seat of outgoing Minority Leader Paul Davis, who lost the governor's race to Republican incumbent Sam Brownback. Hodgson lost the Democratic primary to Representative-elect Boog Highberger. Burroughs tapped Davis's campaign staff for two aides. Shelbie Konkel of Haysville will be communications coordinator for Burroughs after serving as Davis's deputy finance director. Jake Miller of Kansas City will be Burroughs's policy and constituent liaison after working as a regional field director for the Davis campaign.
KCC Approves Chanute Public Broadband Proposal
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The city of Chanute will be allowed to provide ultra-high speed Internet service to area homes and small businesses. The Kansas Corporation Commission on Tuesday approved the city's plans to issue bonds so it can extend a service with a download speed of 1 gigabit, at a cost of about $40 a month for city residents. That's 14 times faster and 60 percent cheaper than the fastest Internet service currently offered in Chanute. The commission's approval was the last step needed before Chanute could issue bonds, buy equipment and begin offering the service. The Wichita Eagle reports the commission's decision could have wider implications. Earlier this year, Chanute and Kansas City worked together to stop a bill before the Legislature that would have outlawed public broadband systems throughout the state.
Student Finds Handgun Magazine at Kansas School
LEAWOOD, Kan. (AP) — Police are investigating after a student found a handgun magazine containing bullets on an elementary school playground in a Kansas City suburb. A Blue Valley School District spokeswoman says the child found the .45-caliber magazine with eight bullets during recess on Tuesday. The student brought the magazine to a teacher, who alerted authorities. Officers from Leawood and the Blue Valley School District searched outside and inside the elementary school and nearby Leawood Middle School. No guns or ammunition were found during the search.
Sprint Accused of Billing for Unwanted Services
WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal regulators are accusing Sprint Corporation of illegally billing its wireless customers tens of millions of dollars in unwanted charges for text message alerts and other services. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said Wednesday it has sued the telecom company over billing for unauthorized charges, a practice known as "cramming." The agency said Sprint failed to oversee third-party companies, allowing illegal charges to be put on customers' bills. The bureau said the charges ranged from one-time fees of 99 cents to $4.99, to monthly subscriptions costing $9.99 a month. It said Sprint received up to 40 percent of the revenue from the charges. The Wall Street Journal reported that the Federal Communications Commission is expected to fine Sprint a record $105 million for the alleged violations.
KC Councilman Accused of Choking Aide Resigns
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Baptist pastor accused of choking an aide is resigning as a Kansas City councilman. The Kansas City Star reported Wednesday that Michael Brooks blamed a "media circus" in a letter announcing plans to step down effective January 2. The letter arrived just as the city attorney of Kansas City was preparing to tell City Council members that they would have to decide whether a violence allegation against Brooks merited removing him from office. Brooks has denied the choking claims. Police have turned over a case file to Jackson County (Missouri) for review. Brooks also came under scrutiny last year when he acknowledged an online relationship with a woman involving graphic text messages. His attorney said that Brooks never met the woman in person and that there was no impropriety.
Homeless Man Loses Nearly Everything in Blaze
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A homeless amputee has lost nearly everything he owned — including his prosthetic legs — after a candle he was using to stay warm started a fire in a Topeka storage facility. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the blaze, reported at 12:42 am Tuesday, caused $135,000 in damage at AAA Self Storage. A local advocate for the homeless says the man had been living in the storage units for two months. Advocate Justyn Hosman says the man lost "everything but himself and his wheelchair." Hosman says he saw a melted prosthetic leg at the fire scene. He says the unidentified man lost his legs several years ago when he was struck by a train near the Topeka Rescue Mission.
Action on Heartland Park Plans Delayed Until 2015
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The future of Heartland Park Topeka will be in limbo until at least early next year. The Topeka City Council learned Tuesday that the city staff isn't expected to recommend a prospective operator for the racing venue until January 6. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported the city had announced Monday that it received four proposals to operate the park. The city voted in August to authorize the purchase of Heartland Park, although it does not intend to run the racetrack. A subsequent petition drive gained enough signatures to put the matter up for a citywide vote. But the city filed a lawsuit and a Shawnee County judge ruled last month that the petition drive was invalid. That ruling was appealed and is awaiting further court action.
Lawrence to Seek Audit on Rock Chalk Park
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Lawrence City Commission will ask for an outside audit of public funds spent on the Rock Chalk Park sports complex. The commission also decided Tuesday to delay a $1 million payment for infrastructure for the park in northwest Lawrence. The commission had been criticized for not seeking competitive bids on about $12 million in infrastructure work at the park. The Lawrence Journal-World reports City Auditor Michael Eglinski will determine the scope of the audit and recommend auditors not connected to the city or the University of Kansas. Commissioners said they hope the audit will be finished by early February. Commissioners have said they did not require competitive bids on the project largely because KU Endowment officials objected to the bid process.
Thieves Take 9 Pieces of Art in Wichita
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita artist says he won't press charges if thieves return nine pieces of art that were stolen from a gallery. Josh Tripoli says someone stole the art right off the walls at Murillo Studios in Old Town. He said the work likely was wrapped in a tapestry and then taken out the door. KWCH-TV reports the total loss is estimated at $2,500. Tripoli says he will forgive and forget and press no charges if the work is returned. And he says he plans to start anchoring his art so it's harder to steal.
Hutchinson Considering Tax Hike for Sports Arena
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Hutchinson residents may soon be able to vote on a sales tax proposal that would help fund a $29 million expansion of the city's 62-year-old sports arena. A committee of community leaders asked the City Council on Tuesday to put the tax increase up for a public vote in April. The council didn't vote on the request but will discuss it at least one more time in January. The Hutchinson News (http://bit.ly/13ar45m ) reports the council agreed to let city staff begin drafting a ballot resolution for the group's consideration. The proposed renovations would be financed largely by a 0.35 to 0.4 percent increase in the city's sales tax for about 10 years, or until bonds are paid off. A 0.35 percent increase is expected to generate more than $3 million a year.
Hutchinson Community College Players Sign with Division 1 Schools
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee has announced the signing of junior-college running back Alvin Kamara, who has been playing at Hutchinson Community College. Kamara is rated as a five-star prospect by Scout and a four-star recruit by most other services. Kamara, who is listed at 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds, will join Tennessee as a sophomore next season. Meanwhile, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema says junior college defensive lineman Jeremiah Ledbetter has signed a national letter of intent and will join the Razorbacks in January. The 6-foot-3, 281-pound Ledbetter is originally from Orlando, Florida. He spent the last two seasons at Hutchinson Community College, where he was named a second team National Junior College Athletic Association All-American.