Headlines for Thursday, October 15, 2015
Kansas May Face $42 Million Payout in Corporate Tax Dispute
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas may have to pay $42 million to a former Pizza Hut franchise operation owner over his challenge of a tax bill. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Gene Bicknell has battled the state since Kansas said he owed $42 million based on his 2006 sale of NPC International, which has hundreds of Pizza Hut franchises. The Kansas Court of Tax Appeals determined Bicknell was a Kansas resident and owed the money. Bicknell says he was living in Florida, but paid the $42 million and appealed. The Kansas Court of Appeals said recently the tax appeals court ignored state regulations, sending the case back to the tax appeals court. A $42-million state payout could affect the state's finances because the state's taken in about $42 million less in revenue than expected.
Kansas Governor Works on Program to Provide Mentors for Poor
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback says his administration is working on developing a new program to provide volunteer mentors to poor Kansas residents receiving social services from the state. Brownback said Thursday that the discussions he's having with Department for Children and Families officials are inspired by successes seen with programs that provide mentors for adult prison inmates and juvenile offenders. The Republican governor had a Statehouse news conference to promote the mentoring programs and urge more Kansans to volunteer. His news conference was the last of four events across the state this week with retiring Corrections Secretary Ray Roberts to promote programs aimed at helping ex-offenders succeed after they're released from custody. Brownback said he has no timetable for unveiling details of a new mentoring program for the poor.
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 reports64-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 agreement also requires Topeka to implement an emergency notification plan. That plan would involve warning residents of Lawrence, Olathe and other cities downstream 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.
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. 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 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.
University of Kansas Creates Sexual Violence Prevention Center
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ The University of Kansas is opening an office that will seek to prevent sexual violence on campus. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the new KU Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center will coordinate the university's sexual assault prevention and education programming. The university announced the new office Wednesday. The center is expected to cost about $200,000, which includes salaries and benefits for four employees. The center will be in addition to the university's Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access, which investigates reports of sexual violence and other discrimination on campus, and recommends disciplinary action.
Southern Kansas Records 22 Earthquakes in Past Week
HARPER, Kan. (AP) _ Southern Kansas experienced nearly two dozen earthquakes in the past week, including 10 separate quakes centered in a quarter-section of land five miles southeast of Harper. U.S. Geological Survey records indicate the cluster of earthquakes occurred between Friday and Sunday in Harper County, with several occurring just 10 to 20 minutes apart. The Hutchinson News reports the largest of quakes in that cluster had a magnitude of 2.5. Two other quakes within a mile of that cluster both had a magnitude of 3.1. The cluster was among 18 earthquakes recorded in Harper County in the past week. Sumner County recorded four earthquakes just east of Caldwell.
Kansas State Salina Campus Plans New Drone Flight Facility
SALINA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas State University has partnered with Westar Energy to build one of the largest enclosed flight facilities for unmanned aircraft systems in the nation. The new facility at the Kansas State Salina campus, which is changing its name to Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus, will allow students to conduct flight training and research. It will also give industries an arena for company training. Kansas State Salina was among the first universities in the nation to offer a bachelor's degree in unmanned aircraft systems and has doubled enrollment in the program every year since it began in 2011. This fall the university added a second bachelor's degree in drone design and integration. Westar is interested in using drones for infrastructure inspections.
Kansas Poised to Be a Leader in Emerging Field of Drones
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is trying to position itself as an industry leader in the emerging field of unmanned aerial system. The state is building on the framework already in place as an aviation manufacturing cluster and in its technology-driven agricultural sector. Major Kansas universities are doing cutting-edge research on drones and training the skilled workforce needed to support it. On Thursday, industry and business leaders gathered in Wichita for a UAS summit that marked the culmination of a series of workshops this year on the use of the technology. Joel Anderson, the development director at Kansas State University's office, says the industry is going to have a huge impact in Kansas. Part of that is driven by precision agriculture which uses data is used to pinpoint fertilizer and water needs within fields.
Washburn University Foundation Announces $1M Gift
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A Topeka couple has donated $1 million to Washburn University. The school says the gift comes from businessman Mike McPherson and his wife, Belinda. The money is being used to renovate Morgan Hall to create a center where students can apply for admission, meet with advisers, register for classes and learn about scholarships and financial aid. Belinda McPherson taught and coached at Washburn in the 1970s. Her husband, Mike, and his brother, Bruce, are the founders of McPherson's Constructors Inc., which manages construction projects in several states.
Cargill Plans $50 Million Expansion at Kansas Soybean Plant
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Cargill has announced plans to spend about $50 million on upgrades at its soybean processing plant in Wichita. The Wichita Eagle reports that the planned upgrade is expected to be completed in 2017. The company also expects to increase production by 30 percent at the plant. Cargill has operated the plant since the 1960s. It recently completed a $10 million product line expansion of its adjacent oil dressing refinery plant, which processes most of the soybean oil produced on the site.
Kansas 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. 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. 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.
Officials Identify Man Killed in Newton Apartment Fire
NEWTON, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have identified a 63-year-old man who died in an apartment fire in Newton. Newton police say Bruce Rempel died Tuesday night after a fire broke out in his apartment. According to Lt. Bryan Hall, police responded to a report of smoke in the apartment and were told there was a man inside. Police say they tried to rescue Rempel, but were pushed back by heavy smoke and flame when they opened his door. When fire crews arrived they found flames coming from a sixth-floor window and evacuated residents from the top three floors of the seven-story building. Two people were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation. Newton Fire Chief Mark Willis says the fire was contained to Rempel's apartment, but other apartments sustained smoke and water damage. The cause of the fire has not been determined.
Salina Woman Found Guilty in Unlicensed Animal Facility Case
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A 51-year-old woman was found guilty in the operation of an unlicensed animal boarding facility in Salina. The Salina Journal reports that Stephanie Pankratz was convicted Monday on 80 counts in connection with the facility, including 22 counts of failure to register, 19 counts of not meeting animal care requirements and three counts of owning prohibited wild, exotic, poisonous or vicious animals. Authorities say Salina Animal Shelter workers confiscated 51 animals from Pankratz's boarding facility called Playful Pets on Oct. 23, 2014. According to the shelter's animal services supervisor, Vanessa Cowie, workers found excessive feces, fleas and evidence of intestinal parasites at the facility. Cowie also said the facility was over capacity and did not have electricity. Pankratz is scheduled to be sentenced October 28.
Kansas Officials Warn Drivers to Watch for Deer
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Officials are warning drivers to watch for deer on the Kansas highways this fall. The Wichita Eagle reports the state Department of Transportation and the Kansas Highway Patrol want drivers to know that car accidents involving deer become more prevalent in the fall. The agencies said in a release that 15 percent of vehicle crashes last year were deer-related, and Sedgwick County had the most, with 422 deer-vehicle crashes in 2014. Officials say if a deer jumps in front a car, it's best to keep driving and avoid swerving, even if it means hitting the deer. KDOT also says to avoid a collision with deer in the first place, reduce speed in or around wooded areas and be watchful at dusk and dawn when deer are more active.
2 Kansas Men Die in Colorado Plane Crash
GREELEY, Colo. (AP) — The two people who died onboard a small plane that crashed in a field in Weld County, Colorado have been identified as leaders of a Kansas church. The Greeley Tribune reports the pilot has been identified as 35-year-old Jared Langston of Holyrood, Kansas and the passenger as 41-year-old Benjamin Bates, of Lyons, Kansas. Both men were pronounced dead at the scene around noon Tuesday after their Beechcraft 35 Bonanza went down near Greeley. Bates served as bishop of the Great Bend Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Langston was the Elders Quorum president and Young Men president, according to church officials. A spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board says investigators are examining the wreckage. The cause of the crash remains unknown.
Survey Again Suggests Rural Economic Slowdown in 10 States
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A third consecutive overall index drop in a monthly rural bankers survey suggests an economic slowdown is ahead for rural parts of 10 Western and Plains states. The Rural Mainstreet Index sank to 44.4 this month from 49.0 in September and 50.0 in August. The overall index is computed from various economic category scores, and survey organizers say any score below 50 suggests that factor will decline. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss oversees the survey, and he says the overall index reflects "weakness stemming from lower agriculture and energy commodity prices and from downturns in manufacturing exports." Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.
Kansas Man Sentenced for 3-Year-Old Girl's Death from Abuse
OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A suburban Kansas City man was sentenced to nearly 14 years in prison for the abuse death of a 3-year-old girl. Johnson County authorities say 40-year-old Kham Khamchanh, of Shawnee, was sentenced Thursday in the January 2009 death of Yamarawit "Yami" Sahle of Merriam. Yami was the daughter of Khamchanh's then-girlfriend. The Kansas City Star reports he admitted that he threw the girl to the floor five to 10 times. He also admitted that he had previously punched and slapped her several times. As part of the plea agreement, Khamchanh was sentenced to the maximum of 13 years and nine months.
Former Inmate Sues Jackson County over Shackles During Labor
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A former Jackson County (Missouri) inmate is suing the county for shackling her while she was pregnant and being transported halfway across the state the day she gave birth. Megon Riedel claims in the federal lawsuit filed Thursday she was 39 weeks pregnant in 2012 when Jackson County Detention Center employees put her in handcuffs and shackles and drove her to a Vandalia prison about 200 miles away. A county spokesman declined comment because the lawsuit is pending. According to the lawsuit filed with the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, Riedel was bleeding and vomiting during the trip. The lawsuit says when she arrived in Vandalia, a doctor examined her and sent her to a hospital, where she delivered a son. She's seeking unspecified damages for cruel and unusual punishment.
Man Suspected in St. Joseph Motel Hostage Incident Charged
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — A man suspected of holding a woman hostage in a St. Joseph motel for nearly 11 hours has been charged with three felonies. The St. Joseph News-Press reports that 44-year-old Roderick Deveron Ellis, of St. Joseph, was charged Thursday with kidnapping, domestic assault and armed criminal action. Police say his hostage was treated for a serious injury at the University of Kansas Medical Center. A probable cause statement says Ellis surprised the victim Wednesday and forced her at gunpoint into a room at a Motel 6. He is accused of shooting her in the arm and threatening her throughout the ordeal. Police say he also fired at police officers trying to rescue the victim. No officers were hurt. Ellis is in custody without bond. His arraignment is scheduled for Tuesday.
Cueto Shines as Royals Beat Astros 7-2 to Clinch ALDS
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City pitching ace Johnny Cueto delivered a masterpiece Wednesday night pitching eight dominant innings and leading the Royals to a 7-2 victory over the Houston Astros and back to the American League Championship Series for a second straight year. Cueto allowed only two hits before retiring the final 19 batters he faced. He struck out eight without a walk in the kind of performance the Royals expected when they traded for him in July. After reliever Wade Davis breezed through the ninth, the Royals poured onto the field to celebrate. The defending AL champions will host the Toronto Blue Jays in Game 1 of the ALCS on Friday night in Kansas City.