Headlines for Wednesday, August 12, 2015
Kansas Officials Defend Pension Bonds After Rating Agency Report
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials are defending the state's decision to sell $1 billion in bonds in an effort to boost the financial health of its public pension system after a rating agency's report suggested the move won't help much. Kansas was selling the bonds Wednesday after legislators authorized them earlier this year. The Kansas Public Employees Retirement System expects to earn more from investing the bond proceeds than the state will pay to investors over 30 years. The move is designed to help the pension system close a $9.5 billion gap between revenues and benefits owed retirees before 2034. Moody's Investors Service said in a report Tuesday that issuing the bonds will do little to solve the problem and presents some risk. But KPERS Executive Director Alan Conroy said there's little risk.
Kansas Public Pension System Says Funding Gap Has Shrunk
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The public pension system for Kansas teachers and government workers says its long-term financial health improved last year. The Kansas Public Employees Retirement System is citing a recent report showing a 3 percent decrease in the gap between its anticipated revenues and the cost of benefits promised to retirees over the next 18 years. The figure was projected at $9.47 billion for the end of 2014. The year-end figure for 2013 was $9.77 billion. The difference was $298 million. The state committed in 2012 to increasing its contributions to KPERS over time, and it also changed benefit plans for new employees. The new estimate doesn't reflect the state's decision to issue $1 billion in bonds for the pension system to bolster its short-term financial health.
Brownback Urges Schools to Move More Money into Classroom
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is urging districts to move more of the money they get from the state into the classroom and hold down administrative costs of running the school. The governor made the comment to reporters Tuesday. His advice comes as school districts across the state grapple with funding cuts. Brownback says Kansas law requires districts to spend two-thirds of their funding in the classroom, but only a handful of districts actually get that done. But Mark Farr, the president of the state's largest teacher's union, says teachers need the support of a whole school to be successful in a classroom. Farr says if the governor really wanted to help schools, he provide would adequate state funding.
Kansas Board of Education Revises Restraint Rules
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Board of Education has given initial approval to new rules on student restraint that establish procedures for parents who believe emergency safety interventions have been used improperly on their children. The board gave initial approval Tuesday to the changes on seclusion and restraint on students in emergency situations. The Wichita Eagle reports that the regulations now go to the Attorney General's Office and the Department of Administration. The changes come after the Legislature passed a bill last session known as the "Freedom from Unsafe Restraint and Seclusion Act." The new regulations set up a procedure for parents to seek an investigation if they think emergency safety interventions have been improperly used. Parents can also request an administrative review to determine if a school district has violated a law.
Lawrence Mayor Resigns 2 Days After Tax Problems Revealed
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Jeremy Farmer has resigned as mayor of Lawrence, two days after he resigned from his job as executive director at a food pantry. Farmer resigned his seat on the City Commission Wednesday, effective immediately. He had resigned Monday from Just Food, a nonprofit food pantry, after it was revealed that he had not paid about $50,000 in federal payroll taxes. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the remaining four city commissioners will meet Friday to accept the resignation and begin the search for a replacement. The Lawrence mayor has no administrative duties but chairs commission meetings and signs certain documents that require a mayor's signature. Just Food officials say there's no indication money was misappropriated from the nonprofit group. Farmer says it was an oversight that the taxes weren't paid.
Lawrence Man, 19, Struck and Killed on K-10 in Johnson County
OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have identified a 19-year-old man struck and killed by a vehicle on a highway in Johnson County. The Kansas Highway Patrol says Hunter Cade Robinson of Lawrence died when he was struck Tuesday on Kansas 10. The patrol says Robinson stepped into the highway's westbound lanes for an unknown reason and was struck by a car. The patrol says the driver of the car was uninjured.
Hearing Delayed for Fort Riley Bomb Plot Defendant
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A hearing has been pushed back for a 21-year-old Topeka man charged with plotting to plant a bomb at an Army post in Kansas to help the Islamic State group. On Wednesday, a federal judge granted John T. Booker Jr.'s request for a delay. A hearing to have the status of Booker's case reviewed was moved from August 19 to September 21. Booker's attorney asked to have the hearing postponed because of unspecified scheduling conflicts. The request also said Booker needed more time to confer with his attorneys. According to court documents, Booker was arrested in April while trying to arm what he thought was a 1,000-pound bomb inside a van near Fort Riley, about an hour west of Topeka.
Police: Naked Boy, 17, Tried to Get Into Car in Wichita
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 17-year-old boy has been arrested after an Eisenhower National Airport police officer spotted him on the roof of a car without any clothes on. According to Wichita police Lieutenant James Espinoza, the boy was spotted by the officer around 9:50 pm Monday. According to Espinoza, the boy was trying to get in through the driver's door. Authorities say a 25-year-old woman and her 5-year-old daughter were inside the car at the time. Espinoza says the woman knows the suspect. The 17-year-old is being held in a juvenile detention facility on suspicion of aggravated robbery, child endangerment and resisting arrest. An investigation is ongoing.
Report: July Sees Increase in Farm Tractor Retail Sales
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new industry report shows retail sales of farm tractors up nearly 19 percent this past July when compared to the same month a year ago. The Association of Equipment Manufacturers said Tuesday that 21,906 farm tractors were sold nationwide last month. That brings the total so far this year to 127,215 sales. That is an increase of 1.4 percent for the past seven months when compared to the same period last year. But sales of combines fell more than 34 percent with just 511 of them sold last month. The industry group reports that combine sales during the first seven months of this fell to 2,850. That is more than a 40 percent drop when compared to the same period a year ago.
Kansas City Streetcars Facing Possible Delay
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City's new $100-million streetcar system faces potential delays that could mean it won't be ready in time for next March's Big 12 men's basketball tournament. Mayor Sly James has said it's crucial that the new two-mile downtown streetcar system can carry passengers in time for the March 2016 tournament, which is expected to draw to draw thousands of visitors to downtown Kansas City. The streetcar track work is completed, and the electrical wiring is expected to be ready by the end of September. But City Manager Troy Schulte told The Kansas City Star on Tuesday that the four streetcars, which together cost about $18 million, may not be finished until the end of the year, and that may not be enough time to start the service in March.
Kansas City Diocese Apologizes to Victims of Clergy Abuse
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph has apologized to victims of priest sexual abuse and invited them to a series of prayer services. The Kansas City Star reports that the diocese sent letters last week from Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann to dozens of plaintiffs in sexual abuse lawsuits that resulted in multimillion-dollar settlements in 2008 and 2014. The letter also informed the victims of a series of prayer services, which begin Wednesday. Some victims and advocates say the moves are inadequate. Kansas City lawyer Rebecca Randles represented dozens of plaintiffs in lawsuits alleging priest sexual abuse. She says some of her clients see the apology and services as a breakthrough, but others are more cynical and want the church to ensure the safety of children.
Wichita Man Gets 5 Years in Prison for Firearms Violation
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man convicted for shooting at police has been sentenced to five years and three months in federal prison for a firearms violation. According to U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom, 33-year-old Aaron M. Belcher was sentenced Monday. He had pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful possession of ammunition. Prosecutors say Belcher fled from Wichita police when they tried to pull him over in a stolen Corvette on October 29, 2012. Police say ammunition was found in the vehicle after he was apprehended. Grissom says Belcher will serve his sentence consecutively to the 140-month prison term he received after pleading guilty to attempted murder for shooting at police in January 2013. Officers say Belcher fired shots at Wichita police, who were chasing him from a burglary scene.
Former Kansas City Woman Sentenced for $450,000 Tax Fraud
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A former Kansas City woman has been sentenced to seven years in federal prison for a scheme to receive more than $454,000 in illegal tax refunds. The U.S. Prosecutors office for the Western District of Missouri said Chiquita Tyler, also known as Chiquita Robinson, was sentenced Tuesday. She pleaded guilty earlier to making a false claim to a federal agency and identity theft. Tyler lives in Wylie, Texas. The court also ordered Tyler to pay about $340,000 in restitution. Tyler admitted she prepared income tax returns for about 70 people using false or stolen identity information between 2010 and 2011. The refunds were deposited on a prepaid debit card mailed to Tyler. She faced a possible sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison without parole.
Topeka Bookkeeper Accused of Stealing More Than $100K
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 60-year-old former bookkeeper faces charges accusing her of stealing more than $100,000 from a Topeka company. Marcia Kay Collins is charged with theft of more than $100,000 and criminal use of a financial card in which losses were at least $1,000 but less than $25,000. Shawnee County District Court records show she also faces two misdemeanors involving the misuse of a credit card. Evidence presented at a preliminary hearing estimates the loss to Smith Audio Visual at more than $300,000. Collins was released on bond from the Shawnee County Jail and is scheduled to be arraigned October 8. A trial date hasn't been scheduled. Her lawyer, Rachel Pickering, declined comment Tuesday.
Judge Dismisses Indictment in Identity Theft Case
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has dismissed the indictment against the wife of a Mexican man accused of changing an identity theft victim's name on a birth certificate to his own. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren on Wednesday granted the government's request to drop charges against 83-year-old Antonia Vargas-Ortega for her alleged role in a scheme to obtain government benefits. Her 82-year-old husband, Ramon Perez-Rivera, pleaded guilty last week to charges including possession of unlawfully obtained document and illegal re-entry. His sentencing is October 21. Prosecutors allege that Perez-Rivera convinced a California court to unwittingly change the legal name of the U.S. citizen whose identity he had assumed to his own real name. Armed with that court order, he also changed the victim's California birth record to his own name.
Wichita State Student Charged in Death of Newborn
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 19-year-old Wichita State student faces first-degree murder charges in the death of an infant. The Wichita Eagle reports that Marissa Carol Fields of Olathe was charged Monday in Johnson County court with first-degree murder and aggravated abandonment of a child in connection with the child's death in December. Court documents show Fields is accused of neglecting and abandoning the child at an Olathe home. Her lawyer, Carl Cornwell, declined comment on the case Wednesday, but said Fields has been released on bond. Joe Kleinsasser, director of news and media relations at Wichita State, says Fields has been a student at Wichita State since the fall of 2014 and was enrolled for the fall 2015 semester. She's scheduled to appear in Johnson County court on August 20.
Kansas Regulators Plan Hearings on Westar Rate Agreement
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas utility regulators plan hearings later this month on a proposed agreement to allow the state's largest electric company to raise its annual rates by $78 million. The agreement involves Westar Energy, a state consumer advocacy agency and other parties in Westar's rate case before the Kansas Corporation Commission. The KCC plans to handle procedural issues during a meeting today (WED) at its Topeka offices. It plans to open hearings on the agreement to the public August 17 and has set aside up to five days. Westar initially sought a $152 million rate increase and said the revenues largely would cover the costs of upgrading power plants. The company says that under the agreement most households would see their monthly bills rise between $5 to $7. Westar has nearly 700,000 Kansas customers.
Kansas Regulators Disagree on KCP&L Rate Increase
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas regulators can't yet agree on how much to allow Kansas City Power & Light Company to increase its annual rates. The utility's charges for customers with electric heating systems emerged as a key issue Tuesday during a public discussion by the Kansas Corporation Commission. The KCC has until September 10 to issue a written decision on KCP&L's request to raise $67 million more annually from its 247,000 customers in northeast Kansas. The utility estimates its request would boost customers' rates by 12.5 percent — or $11.67 a month for an average residential customer.
KDHE Returns Landfill Application to City of Galena
COLUMBUS, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has returned the city of Galena's application for a landfill permit because it doesn't meet state requirements. The KDHE told Galena Mayor Dale Oglesby that the city's landfill application can't be processed because it lacks the signatures needed from county government officials. The Galena City Council approved plans for a landfill in 2014 but rescinded them after widespread opposition. Oglesby then presented the application to county commissioners in April but county officials told Oglesby the landfill proposal did not meet the county's trash plan, which states no more dumps should be created.
Hundreds Attend Service for Kansas Batboy
LIBERAL, Kan. (AP) _ Family, friends and teammates of a 9-year-old Kansas boy who died when he was accidentally hit by a bat honored him Tuesday as an inspiration whose big smile will always be remembered. A funeral for Kaiser Carlile was held at the Seward County Community Center gymnasium. Kaiser was injured August 1 by a player's practice swing during a National Baseball Congress World Series game in Wichita. He died the next day. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Liberal Bee Jays players were among several hundred people who attended the funeral. His parents thanked people from Liberal and across the nation who have overwhelmed them with support and prayers since the boy's death.
Missouri Trucker Sentenced for Sex Trafficking of Minor
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 56-year-old northwest Missouri man has been sentenced to nearly 21 years in federal prison for transporting a minor across state lines for prostitution. U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson says Tony Eugene Wardlow of St. Joseph was sentenced in federal court on Wednesday after being found guilty in December. The commercial truck driver and registered sex offender also pleaded guilty in February 2014 to a charge of interstate transportation for prostitution. Prosecutors say Wardlow paid the minor victim for sex numerous times while she worked as a prostitute in Kansas City. He also took her out of town in his truck on several occasions, including a trip to Texas in September 2011. Wardlow became a registered offender after being convicted in 1997 in Nodaway County of several sex crimes involving minors.
Black & Veatch Plans Celebration of 100th Anniversary
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) - Black & Veatch, a global engineering, consulting and construction company based in Overland Park, is planning a celebration of its 100th anniversary tonight (WED). The company says that more than 6,000 people are expected at a celebration at the company's headquarters. It will be one of several celebrations planned at company offices across 16 time zones. The company began in 1915 in Kansas City, Missouri, with 12 employees. It now has more than 10,000 employees across the world. Wednesday's celebration in Kansas will include presentations from Black & Veatch CEO Steve Edwards and state and local officials.
Report: Kansas Corn Crop Forecast to Be Larger Than Year Ago
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The government's first corn production forecast of the season anticipates a good 2015 harvest in Kansas. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Wednesday that it projects the state's corn production to come in at 570 million bushels. If realized, that is 1 percent above last year's production. Their upbeat forecast comes despite 1 percent fewer anticipated harvested acres than a year ago. The agency estimates 3.75 million acres will be harvested, but higher yields will more than make up for the fewer acres. Corn yields are forecast at 152 bushels per acre, up 3 bushels from a year ago. Sorghum production in Kansas is anticipated to be up 15 percent to 229 million bushels. This year's soybean crop is forecast to come in at 133 million bushels, down 7 percent.
Ventura Pitches Six Scoreless Innings as Royals Beat Tigers, 6-1
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Lorenzo Cain went 4 for 4 with a home run and Yordano Ventura pitched six scoreless innings as the Kansas City Royals defeated the Detroit Tigers 6-1 Tuesday night. Cain, who raised his average to .316, led off the sixth inning with his 12th homer of the season. Also in the sixth, Mike Moustakas snapped an 0-for-18 drought with a home run to right field with Kendrys Morales also scoring. Ventura (7-7), who is 3-1 since the All-Star break, limited the Tigers to two hits and struck out eight, tying his season high. The Royals will attempt to sweep the series versus the Tigers tonight at Kauffman Stadium.
Chiefs' Charles Laments 'Rough' Offensive Line Last Season
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles sounded off on the ineffectiveness of his offensive line last season following Wednesday's practice at Missouri Western State University. Rarely one to speak out, the Pro Bowler acknowledged the hodge-podge of players the Chiefs had block for him was a big reason why he was less productive last season. It was also a big reason why he was banged up almost the entire way. Kansas City lost starting guard Jeff Allen to a season-ending injury in Week 1, then had to make do with fill-ins Mike McGlynn and Jeff Linkenbach the rest of the way. Not only is Allen back in the mix, but the Chiefs traded for Pro Bowl offensive guard Ben Grubbs in the offseason — much to the delight of Charles.