Headlines for Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Man in Kansas Voter Fraud Case Says Charge Surprised Him
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — One of the three people Kansas's secretary of state has accused of voter fraud says he lives part time in two states and thought he could legally cast votes in both of them. The Wichita Eagle reports 64-year-old Lincoln Wilson is charged in a felony complaint Kris Kobach filed on Friday in Sherman County on the Colorado border. Kobach says Wilson perjured himself on voting forms and voted in 2010, 2012 and 2014 without being lawfully registered. Wilson acknowledged voting in both states but says he thought he was restricted to voting in only one county in each. Kobach also filed criminal charges against a Johnson County couple who are accused of voting in both Kansas and Arkansas in 2010. All three of the defendants are Republicans.
Topeka to Pay $10K for Sewage Release
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka officials say the city will pay a $10,000 fine for the accidental release of 3 million gallons of raw sewage into the Kansas River earlier this year. The $10,000 fine is part of a consent agreement reached between the city and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The city says the money will come from the city's wastewater fund. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the agreement also requires Topeka to implement an emergency notification plan. That plan would involve warning residents of Lawrence, Olathe and Johnson County Water District No. 1 within 24 hours of finding a hazardous sewage release. Doug Gerber, deputy city manager, says the April 17 spill was caused by an internal power failure, which has since been addressed "multiple times over."
Cargill to Upgrade Wichita Plant
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Cargill has announced plans to spend about $50 million on upgrades at its Wichita soybean processing plant. The Wichita Eagle reports the company's planned upgrade project is expected to be completed in 2017. The company also expects to increase production by 30 percent. Cargill has operated the plant since the 1960s and also recently completed a $10 million product line expansion its oil dressing refinery plant, which processes most of the soybean oil produced on the site.
Kansas Pharmaceutical Plant Settles Discrimination Complaint
MCPHERSON, Kan. (AP) — A federal agreement requires a Kansas pharmaceutical plant accused of gender discrimination to pay about $400,000 in back wages and hire more women. The U.S. Department of Labor says the Hospira plant in McPherson was accused of hiring a smaller percentage of women than men for pharmacy attendant positions in 2012. The Hutchinson News reports that Hospira doesn't admit any liability in the settlement and says it believes plant hiring practices have been fair. The Labor Department says Hospira received applications for pharmacy attendant positions from 160 women, of whom 15 were hired. The company also received 199 applicants from men, of whom 45 were hired. Hospira will hire 11 more women and pay $400,000 in back wages and interest to women denied jobs.
Kansas Continues to Cancel Incomplete Voter Registrations
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas has seen its number of incomplete voter registrations decline by nearly 6,700 in less than two weeks as counties follow a directive from Secretary of State Kris Kobach to cull their records. Kobach's office said Tuesday that the state had about 31,000 incomplete registrations as of Tuesday, compared to about 37,700 when the secretary of state's directive took effect on October 2. Most of the incomplete registrations are for people who've failed to comply with a 2013 law requiring new voters to provide proof of their U.S. citizenship when registering. Kobach imposed a new rule requiring county election officials to cancel registrations that are incomplete for more than 90 days.
Federal Inspectors Investigate Fatal Kansas City Fire
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Federal inspectors are in Kansas City to help investigate a building fire that killed two firefighters. Fire Chief Paul Berardi says 43-year-old Larry Leggio was a 17-year veteran while 39-year-old John Mesh had worked there for 13 years. Berardi says a wall collapsed and trapped the four firefighters who had been battling a massive fire that engulfed a building on the city's northeast side. The Kansas City Star reports that two firefighters injured in the collapse have been released from the hospital. The fire department is investigating with help from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. ATF spokesman John Ham says experts will come to Kansas City from across the country to help determine how and where the fire started. The investigation will involve sorting through the rubble, where crews were still pouring water on hot spots Wednesday. Building owner Bo Tran says the building included 16 apartment units, payday loan and tax businesses, a nail salon and a bar.
Kansas Utility to Retire Old Generating Units
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The largest electric utility in Kansas says it will retire small generating units in three communities by the end of the year and is citing new federal environmental regulations as one reason. Westar Energy announced Tuesday that it will shut down one coal-fired unit each in Lawrence and Tecumseh as well as a gas-fired plant in Hutchinson. The Topeka-based company said it will shift about 40 workers into open positions and reduce its overall workforce. Westar said new federal rules aimed at reducing carbon emissions would have required upgrading the plants. The utility said it would be more cost-effective to increase its use of renewable resources such as wind.
Sedgwick County Asks State to Block Food Assistance for Illegal Immigrants
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ One of the state's largest counties has asked Kansas health officials to block people living in the country illegally from receiving benefits under the federal nutrition program Woman, Infants and Children. The Wichita Eagle reports three of the five Sedgwick County commissioners supported a letter chairman Richard Ranzau sent to the secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment last week seeking the change. The WIC program issues vouchers to low-income families for foods like milk, eggs, cereal, cheese, and baby formula. Ranzau wrote that the majority of commissioners are ``very concerned" that the WIC program provides benefits to persons who are not citizens. Two commissioners opposed asking the state to change its rules, saying the 3-2 consensus doesn't reflect the feelings of the majority of county residents.
"Parks and Recreation" Star Surprises Lawrence Crew
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department employees got a surprise visit from a television "Parks and Recreation" star. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the Lawrence parks employees gathered Tuesday to celebrate their recent recognition from a national parks group. Actor Jim O'Heir, one of the stars of NBC's 'Parks and Recreation," showed up to present the department with its Gold Medal Award finalist plaque from the National Recreation and Park Association. Lawrence Parks and Recreation was one of four 2015 finalists for the award, which recognizes excellence in parks and recreation management. The department ultimately lost to St. George Leisure Services in St. George, Utah. O'Heir, who starred as Garry on NBC's "Parks and Recreation" for several seasons, has been performing in the Kansas City area in a local production.
K-State Changes Name of Its Salina Campus
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University has received permission to change the name of its Salina campus to emphasize its concentration on technical education and hands-on learning. The Kansas Board of Regents agreed Wednesday to allow Kansas State University Salina to become the Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus. The university said in a news release that the switch takes effect immediately. Offerings at the five-decade old campus include an aviation program. Kansas State president Kirk Schulz said in a written statement that the polytechnic identity aligns with the "teaching and research mission" of the university. The name-change request was reviewed by councils made up of academic vice presidents and CEOs of state universities.
New Mental Health Triage Center Planned in Kansas City
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A new assessment and triage center is expected to open in eastern Kansas City next year to alleviate a shortage of treatment spaces for those suffering from mental illness and substance abuse. Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster announced Wednesday that the center will be funded largely by proceeds from the sale of two Kansas City-area hospitals by St. Louis-based Ascension Health in February. As part of the sale, Ascension, a non-profit organization, agreed to set aside $20 million for charity care. Koster said negotiations between several parties led to an agreement that the $20 million will be spread over 10 years to fund the center. It is expected to open July 1, with 16 beds to stabilize, assess and triage people with behavioral health problems.
1 Dead in Fire at Newton Apartment Building
NEWTON, Kan. (AP) — A fire broke out at a Newton apartment building, killing one person. The Hutchinson News reports that the fire broke out at the seven-story building Tuesday night. When fire crews arrived they found flames coming from a sixth-floor window and evacuated residents from the top three floors. Newton Fire Chief Mark Willis says several residents with disabilities had to be carried out of the building, which had more than 100 residents. He says the fire was contained to the apartment where it started, but there was smoke and water damage on other floors. The cause is under investigation. Willis says the victim's name and age are being withheld while relatives are notified.
Lawrence Man Pleads in Human Trafficking Case
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A 51-year-old Lawrence man has been convicted on charges accusing him of attempted human trafficking at a massage parlor. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Chen Li reached a plea deal and pleaded no contest Tuesday to attempted human trafficking and promoting the sale of sexual relations. He was originally charged with aggravated human trafficking and promoting the sale of sexual relations. He was scheduled for a jury trial October 26. Assistant Douglas County District Attorney Mark Simpson says women were recruited to work at the massage parlor under the guise of a legitimate job and were then coerced into having sex with customers. In 2013, Li and a co-defendant pleaded no contest to promoting prostitution after a police raid on two massage businesses in Bonner Springs.
Man Pleads Guilty in Fatal Shooting of Topeka Woman
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A man has pleaded guilty to fatally shooting a 49-year-old woman in Topeka. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that 30-year-old Jermaine Thomas Brown pleaded guilty Tuesday to intentional second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in the death of Terri Sims. Prosecutors say Sims was opening the front door of her house on September 12, 2012, when someone opened fire, striking her nine times. Prosecutors say they don't believe Sims was the intended target, and that Brown ordered two men to go to the home to shoot the boyfriend of Sims' daughter. Brown's sentencing hearing is scheduled for December 3. He faces up to 25 years in prison.
Kansas Doctor, Wife Appeal Sentences in Overdose Deaths
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas doctor and his wife are appealing decades-long prison sentences for running a clinic linked to 68 overdose deaths. Their attorneys filed notice Tuesday of their decision to challenge the sentences to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Stephen Schneider was resentenced last month again to 30 years, while his wife, Linda, was again given 33 years. Their resentencing came in the wake of a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the victim's drug use had to be the actual cause of death, not merely a contributing factor. But the ruling ultimately did nothing to change the length of their prison sentences. The Haysville couple was convicted in 2010 of conspiracy to commit health care fraud resulting in those deaths, unlawfully prescribing drugs, health care fraud and money laundering.
Garden City Man Sentenced in Child Porn Case
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A Garden City man has been sentenced to nine years in federal prison for distributing child pornography. According to U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom, 33-year-old Alfredo Franco Jr. was sentenced Tuesday. He had pleaded guilty to one count of distributing child pornography. Prosecutors say Franco downloaded and shared child pornography over the Internet from June 2012 to November 2013. Grissom says that during the execution of a search warrant at Franco's home, investigators found images with creation dates that spanned a year's time on his computer.
Kansas Winter Wheat Planting, Corn Harvest on Schedule
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The latest government snapshot shows Kansas farmers have now planted 69 percent of their 2016 winter wheat crop. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Tuesday that about 34 percent of the wheat has already emerged. Harvest of fall crops also is making progress in the state. An estimated 76 percent of the corn has been harvested, well ahead of the 68 percent average for this time of year. About 37 percent of the sorghum and 31 percent of the soybeans also have been cut. Sunflower harvest has now begun in Kansas with 5 percent harvested. Fourth cutting of alfalfa is 90 percent finished.
Man Drives Van Carrying Ammunition over Missouri Field Fire
LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — A man thought driving a van loaded with ammunition over a garbage fire in western Missouri would be a good way to extinguish the blaze. He was wrong. Clay County (Missouri) Sheriff's spokesman Jon Bazzano told The Kansas City Star that a deputy saw a van burning in a field outside Liberty on Tuesday and heard live ammunition going off. The deputy also found the vehicle owner nearby watching the fire. The owner had been burning garbage when the fire got out of control. He tried to put the fire out by driving the van over the flames, but the van tires ignited, sending him scurrying because his vehicle was loaded with firearms ammunition and a tank of gas. Firefighters controlled the fire. The man wasn't immediately cited for any violations.
Jet Aborts Takeoff When Car Makes Wrong Turn onto Runway
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Federal officials say a plane carrying 78 people was forced to abort a takeoff at Los Angeles International Airport when a car made a wrong turn onto a runway. The Federal Aviation Administration says the incident shortly before noon Tuesday involved a Compass Airlines twin-engine jet bound for Kansas City. The Los Angeles Times reportsan alarm sounded in the control tower when a worker driving an airport vehicle mistakenly turned onto the runway from a taxiway. After air traffic control canceled the takeoff, the pilot applied the brakes and pulled off the runway after traveling a few thousand feet. No injuries were reported. The newspaper says the jet and car were apparently several thousand feet apart when the airliner came to a stop.
Royals Pay Tribute to 2 Firefighters Killed in KC Blaze
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ The Kansas City Royals honored two firefighters who were killed while fighting a massive blaze that engulfed an apartment building. Two other firefighters were injured when the building collapsed in Kansas City, Missouri, on Monday night, shortly after fire crews evacuated its residents and rescued two people from the second story. The two injured were hospitalized in stable condition. Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer, whose father Mike is a retired Miami firefighter, wore a Kansas City Fire Department shirt during batting practice on Tuesday. So did third baseman Mike Moustakas, while pitcher Jeremy Guthrie wore a hat honoring the department. The Royals forced Game 5 in their AL Division Series against the Houston Astros with a dramatic late-inning comeback. The decisive game is set for tonight (WED) in Kansas City.
Vikings' Peterson, Chiefs' Charles Relate on ACL Injuries
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Minnesota Vikings star Adrian Peterson offered encouragement to Jamaal Charles on Wednesday, three days after his Kansas City Chiefs counterpart sustained a torn ACL in his right knee against Chicago. It was Charles who, after tearing his left ACL four years ago, reached out to Peterson later in the season. Minnesota's running back had just torn the same ligament in his knee that December. Both players returned from their injuries the following season. Peterson said he can't imagine having to go through the painful hours of rehabilitation for a second torn ACL, which Charles is facing. But he also said that his fellow Texan has the "God-given ability" to come back from such a devastating injury. The Chiefs visit the Vikings on Sunday.