Headlines for Monday, January 5, 2015
Food Safety Violations Found in Kansas Prisons
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Department of Corrections acknowledges that its inspectors consistently found dirty kitchens and other food safety violations at several state prisons. The department does its own inspections, although it follows Kansas Department of Agriculture food safety guidelines. The inspections were conducted between January 2013 and July 2014 at seven of the state's 10 prisons. Inspections weren't provided for the Topeka, Lansing and Larned juvenile correctional facilities. Corrections spokesman Jeremy Barclay says the department can take administrative action if a food service provider isn't meeting the terms of the contract. But he said Aramark, which provides food services at most prisons, has shown it will take whatever steps are needed to fix the problems.
Kansas Storm Damage Totals Down in 2014
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The amount of storm damage reported in Kansas in 2014 was the lowest amount in 16 years. The Kansas Insurance Commissioner's office says insurance companies received $112.4 million in storm damage last year. It was the state's lowest estimate since storm losses totaled about $104 million in 1998 and it was the third consecutive year storm damage totals had declined. The National Weather Service reported 40 tornadoes in Kansas in 2014, the lowest total since 31 were recorded in 1989. The record storm damage total was just over $1 billion in 2011.
Seismic Monitoring Stations Installed in South Kansas
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ Four temporary seismic monitoring stations have been installed in south-central Kansas and three more will be ready by the end of the month. Kansas Geological Survey officials say the stations are designed to monitor increased earthquake activity in Harper, Sumner and Barber counties. They are part of a temporary monitoring network funded by the state in mid-November. The funding came after Governor Sam Brownback appointed a task force to study earthquake activity. The U.S. Geological Survey documented 124 earthquakes in Kansas in 2014. That was an increase from 32 earthquakes in 2013 and none in 2012.
Missouri Lawmaker Wants Higher Interstate Speed Limit
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A state lawmaker wants to increase the speed limit on Missouri's rural interstates and freeways from 70 mph. State Representative Mike Kelley of Lamar filed legislation recently to boost the speed limit on those roads to 75 mph. Kansas increased speed limits from 70 mph on some roads in 2011. The Kansas City Star reports traffic-related fatalities and injuries in Kansas are up on roads with newly increased 75 mph speed limits. But transportation officials say it's too early to blame that on the speed limit. Numbers from the Kansas Transportation Department show a 54 percent increase in highways deaths on those roads since the speed limit was raised. Injuries are up about 13 percent compared with the two years before the new speed limit went into effect.
Kansas Universities Try to Boost Graduation Rates
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Three universities in eastern Kansas are using new ways to improve retention and graduation rates. The University of Kansas, Ottawa University and Haskell Indian Nations University are using student data to identify at-risk students and intervene early in their college careers. The students are offered special tutoring, academic advising and mentorship. Those programs are not new but the universities are using online administrative systems to easier identify the students. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the effort is part a national push to improve retention and graduation rates, particularly for first-generation, low-income or minority students. Teresa Kelley, director of the Adawe LifePlan Center at Ottawa University, says it's important to reach struggling students before they are overwhelmed and quit college.
Catholic Group Urges Tougher Regulation of Payday Loan Industry
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A group representing Catholic bishops in Kansas wants lawmakers to approve tougher state regulators for payday lenders. The Wichita Eagle reports that Kansas Catholic Conference executive director Michael Schuttloffel says the short-term, high-interest rate loans take advantage of people's desperation. He says many borrowers get stuck in a cycle of taking out more loans to pay back the first. He called them "bad for society." The Consumer Federation of America says the annual finance rates can be as high as 390 percent in Kansas. Kansas Community Financial Services Association lobbyist Whitney Damron says the small loans can be lifesaving. He says it's misleading to judge a one-month loan by a 12-month rate.
Wichita Man Shot, Killed by Police
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Authorities are investigating after Wichita police fatally shot a 23-year-old man who is accused of threatening to kill people. Police said in a news release that the shooting happened Saturday night after two officers responded to a report that a drunken man armed with a knife was attempting to get inside a home. Two officers found 23-year-old John Paul Quintero and his 44-year-old father inside a sport utility vehicle parked outside and ordered them to get out. The release said Quintero refused to follow orders to show his hands. Police said one officer used a stun gun, but it had no effect on Quintero. Police said that when Quintero reached toward his waistband, the second officer shot Quintero twice in his midsection. Quintero died early Sunday at a Wichita hospital.
2 Hutchinson Firefighters Recovering from Injuries
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - Two Hutchinson firefighters injured while fighting a house fire have been released from the hospital. The firefighters were in the front room of the home Friday night when the floor collapsed. Fire Chief Kim Forbes said the situation "could have been a lot worse." The firefighters were taken to a Hutchinson hospital, where one was treated for neck pain and the other was seen for a hand injury. Officials said the fire appears to have started under the floor near a double box fireplace while the owners were gone. The fire was put out in less than 20 minutes. A release from the department said the damage was estimated at $40,000.
Topeka Children's Center Greets 75K Visitors
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A children's center in Topeka has attracted more than a quarter million visitors since opening in 2011, including nearly 75,000 last year. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that people from 42 states came through the doors of the Kansas Children's Center this past year. The final event of 2014 was a mid-day countdown to the New Year on Wednesday. The center features interactive, hands-on educational activities and displays for children. In 2015, it will offer new programs including a program for home schooled students that will focus on science, technology, engineering and math.
Horses Rescued from Barn Fire in Kansas
AUGUSTA, Kan. (AP) _ Between 14 and 18 horses were rescued after a barn caught fire late Sunday in southern Kansas. Augusta public safety Chief Tyler Brewer says the fire was reported about 11 p.m. Sunday at the Palmer Ranch in Augusta. Brewer says crews from five departments helped fight the fire until about 2 a.m. Monday. They were able to rescue all the horses before the barn collapsed. No injuries were reported. Part of Highway 54 was closed while crews fought the fire but the road has reopened. Fire investigators will be back at the scene Monday to investigate the cause of the blaze.
Baby in Critical Condition After Shooting in KCK
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) _ An 8-month-old boy is in critical condition after a drive-by shooting in Kansas City, Kansas. Police say in a news release that the shooting occurred late Sunday at a home just south of Kansas 5. The baby's mother was also shot but her injuries were not serious. The shooter allegedly drove by the home and fired several shots into the home. Police have not released any information on a possible suspect.
2 Western Missouri Cities Consider Solar Farms
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Two Missouri cities are looking to increase their use of solar energy farms instead of relying on oil and coal. The Kansas City Star reports Sugar Creek and Independence are considering adopting large-scale renewable energy facilities. Sugar Creek says it has an agreement with a solar-energy business to install a solar farm if enough consumers sign up. And developers last month submitted proposals to build a solar energy farm Independence. Industry figures released in December rank Missouri 10th nationally for solar power use. Missouri energy companies have already opened solar farms across the state, including one in Springfield, Butler and another near St. Louis.
Kansas Beats UNLV 76-61
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Frank Mason had 18 points and seven assists, Wayne Selden added 16 points and No. 13 Kansas pulled away late to beat UNLV 76-61 on Sunday in the Jayhawks' non-conference finale. Perry Ellis also had 16 points, Kelly Oubre had 12 points and 10 rebounds and Cliff Alexander scored 10 off the bench to help the Jayhawks (11-2) win their 15th straight game at Allen Fieldhouse. Christian Wood had 12 points and eight boards for UNLV (9-5), which has never beaten Kansas in five tries.
Royals Sign Pitcher Madson to Minor League Deal
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Royals have signed veteran right-hander Ryan Madson to a minor league contract that includes an invitation to spring training. The 34-year-old Madson hasn't pitched in the big leagues since 2011. He signed a one-year deal with Cincinnati for the following season, but he was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery in spring training. Madson attempted a comeback with the Angels last season but made only one appearance for Class-A Inland Empire before hurting his elbow again. Madson is 47-30 with a 3.59 ERA and 52 saves in 491 big league appearances.