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Headlines for Wednesday, June 22, 2022


Kansas Oil Refinery to Pay $1.6 Million for Clean Air Violations

EL DORADO, Kan. (AP) — An oil refinery in El Dorado, where an employee died in 2017, will pay a $1.6 million fine for violating the federal clean air law. The Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday that HollyFrontier's failure to follow the law contributed to a fire that killed the employee. The EPA says the company did not comply with requirements intended to prevent the accidental release of hazardous substances. The federal agency says a heater tube ruptured at the refinery, causing the fire. The agency says a subsequent investigation found HollyFrontier did not design or maintain a safe facility or inspect and replace heater tubes.


Top Court: Kansas Constitution Allows Partisan Redistricting

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP/KNS) — The highest court in Kansas has declared that the state constitution does not prohibit partisan gerrymandering. The justices split 4-3 Tuesday in explaining their reasons for previously upholding a Republican congressional redistricting law. The state Supreme Court issued only a brief opinion last month in approving the new congressional map. The new map makes it harder for Democratic Congresswoman Sharice Davids to win reelection in her Kansas City-area district. It also moves the liberal northeast Kansas community of Lawrence into a district with more conservative western and central Kansas. The Kansas News Service reports that the court's majority said the Kansas Constitution permits legislators to consider partisan factors in redistricting. (Read more.)


Kansas Governor Allocates Federal Funds for Childcare Worker Bonus Pay

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas Governor Laura Kelly is allocating more than $50 million in federal funding for childcare worker bonuses. Childcare is a low-paying profession and Kansas workers earn some of the lowest wages in the country. Staff at licensed Kansas childcare facilities could get between a $750 to $2,500 dollar bonus. Workers who are eligible for the money will soon get a letter from the state. There is such a shortage of day care slots that some families are planning pregnancies around openings. Governor Kelly hopes this funding will retain employees and says the state is working with businesses to expand capacity. “Early childhood investment is the smartest investment a community can make in its future... One of the biggest barriers to entering the workforce or returning to the workforce post pandemic is the lack of access to quality childcare," she said.  Kansas lost hundreds of childcare facilities in the last few years, making the shortage of care options even worse.


Eastern Kansas Volunteer Firefighter Dies from Injuries Suffered in Fire

PLEASANTON, Kan. (AP) — A 35-year-old volunteer firefighter who was injured while fighting a blaze has died. Officials say Joshua Haynes, of Pleasanton, died Wednesday. He was injured on Monday while helping fight a fire at the Carpenter Chiropractor Clinic in Pleasanton. He was flown to the University of Kansas Hospital. Haynes volunteered with the Linn County rural fire department. The cause of the fire remains under investigation. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives says the preliminary investigation found no evidence of foul play.


Olathe Man Sentenced to Prison for Hit-and-Run that Killed 2

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — An Olathe man has been sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison for a 2018 hit-and-run crash that killed two people. Television station WDAF reports that 48-year-old Bradley Woodworth was sentenced Tuesday to 19.5 years in prison after pleading guilty in February to two counts of second-degree murder for the deaths of 18-year-old Matthew Bloskey, of Overland Park, and 20-year-old Samuel Siebuhr, of Kansas City, Kansas. Investigators said the October 6 crash in Overland Park began as a road rage confrontation between Woodworth and Siebuhr before their vehicles collided. Siebuhr's car spun into oncoming traffic and the path of Bloskey's vehicle. That collision caused Siebuhr's car to burst into flames, and both Siebuhr and Bloskey died. Police say Woodworth sped away.


Wichita Man Pleads Guilty in Fatal AutoZone Shooting

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and two counts of attempted robbery in the 2020 shooting death of an AutoZone store employee. Television station KAKE reports that Lamonte Lucas entered the pleas last week and will be sentenced on July 22 for the killing of 40-year-old Nick Blue inside the store. Lucas was 18 when police say he went into the store to rob it and shot Blue. Police have said three employees were also inside the business at the time, but were in other areas of the building and were not injured. Police say surveillance video showed Lucas walk into the store, up to the counter and shoot Blue in the forehead before running out.


Ex-Teacher in Wichita Pleads Guilty to Having Sex with Student

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former teacher at a private Christian school in Wichita has pleaded guilty to one count of having sexual relations with a student under 16 and faces prison time when he's sentenced later this summer. Police arrested Matthew McFarren, who had been a high school teacher and assistant soccer coach at Trinity Academy in Wichita, early last year. Police began investigating after receiving a tip that McFarren, now 43, was in a relationship with a 16-year-old student. McFarren was fired from the K-12 school soon after he was arrested in March 2021. Television station KSN reports that McFarren is set to be sentenced on August 5.


Scientists Put GPS Trackers on Flint Hills Cattle in Effort to Protect Wildlife and Vegetation

CHASE COUNTY, Kan. (KNS) - The worlds of agriculture and environmental conservation often conflict. But a new project in Kansas brings together scientists and ranchers to see if invisible GPS fencing can control cattle and keep them out of sensitive areas. Some cattle in the Flint Hills are now wearing GPS trackers designed to help ranchers control their herds and protect wildlife and the environment. The Kansas News Service traveled to the Kansas Flint Hills to learn more. (Read more.)


Officials: 2 Killed in Suburban Kansas City House Fire

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say two people have died and a third has been injured in a house fire in suburban Kansas City. The Overland Park Fire Department says crews from Overland Park and Lenexa were called to the home around 1:30 am Monday and found the home ablaze. Firefighters also learned that people were trapped inside. Firefighters immediately searched the home while working to extinguish the fire and found two people inside who had died and a third person who was injured. The injured person was rushed to a hospital and later listed in stable condition. Investigators are still probing the cause of the blaze.


Two Killed in Northern Kansas Crash

CLAY COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – Two people have been killed in a crash in northern Kansas. KSNW TV reports that the crash happened Tuesday in Clay County, just southeast of Wakefield. The Kansas Highway Patrol says a Dodge Ram was northbound on the road when the driver lost control, struck a bridge and the truck overturned. State troopers identified the driver and passenger as 70-year-old Winfer R. Abernathy and 74-year-old Margaret Abernathy, of Junction City. Troopers say both were wearing seatbelts.


Officials Find First Likely Case of Monkeypox in Missouri

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Health officials say they had identified what is likely to be the first case of monkeypox in Missouri in the Kansas City area. State and local health officials are waiting for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to confirm the results. In the meantime, officials are notifying people who may have been in contact with the infected person. The disease causes flu-like symptoms before progressing to a rash on the face and body is commonly found in parts of central and west Africa. But this year, 1,880 infections have been reported in more than 30 countries where monkeypox isn’t typically found.


Kansas Hits Lowest Unemployment Rate in Recorded State History

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - Governor Laura Kelly says she's celebrating the lowest Kansas unemployment rate in recorded state history. The rate, now at 2.3%, has been declining, even as the national unemployment rate remains flat. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Kansas currently has the sixth lowest unemployment rate in the country. The Kansas rate is more than a full percentage point lower than the national average. Kansas began keeping records of monthly unemployment rates in January 1976. Preliminary estimates from the Kansas Department of Labor revealed a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 2.3% in May.  That's down from 2.4% in April and a decrease from 3.4% this time last year.

(Additional reporting...)

Kansas Records Record Low Unemployment Rate

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - A preliminary labor report shows the unemployment rate in Kansas fell to a historic low of 2.3% in May, the lowest rate in recorded state history. The labor market report shows a slight increase to employment in Kansas. That dropped the state’s jobless rate by a tenth of one percent. Democratic Governor Laura Kelly says that slight decrease means the state reached a record low for unemployment since the state began tracking the rate in 1976. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows Kansas has the sixth lowest unemployment rate in the country. Since May 2021, Kansas has added just over 18,000 jobs to the state’s workforce.


Native American Leaders Push for Boarding School Commission

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland says the federal government has a responsibility to Native American tribes, Alaska Native villages and Native Hawaiian communities to fully support education, language and cultural practices that prior boarding school policies sought to destroy. She testified Wednesday before a U.S. Senate committee on legislation to establish a national commission on truth and healing to address ongoing trauma stemming from the legacy of Native American boarding schools in the United States. Tribal leaders and advocates from Maine to Alaska and Hawaii joined Haaland in voicing their support. They say a commission would offer a path for many to have their personal stories validated.


Former Mizzou Frat Members Charged in Hazing that Left Student Blind, Unable to Walk

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Two former members of a University of Missouri fraternity have been indicted for a hazing incident that left another student blind and unable to walk or communicate after drinking a liter of vodka in October. The Columbia Missourian reports that a Boone County grand jury on Friday indicted former Phi Gamma Delta fraternity members Ryan Delanty and Thomas Shultz, both of St. Louis County, in the hazing of 19-year-old Daniel Santulli of Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Both are charged with felony hazing and misdemeanors of supplying liquor to a minor or intoxicated person. Shultz also faces a felony for tampering with physical evidence in a felony prosecution.


Is it Pot... or Is It Not? Hemp Advocates Want Kansas to Clarify Law

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas hemp advocates want state lawmakers to clear up a legal gray area that could lead to businesses being prosecuted for selling some products derived from cannabis. The calls come after the Douglas County district attorney said her office will join other counties in prosecuting the sale of Delta 8 THC products, a chemical in marijuana that gets users high. Delta 8 THC products are legal in Kansas only if they are derived from industrial hemp and have less than three-tenths of one percent of THC. But District Attorney Suzanne Valdez recently said she will prosecute businesses for selling products containing a controlled substance. Kelly Rippel, a hemp advocate, says Kansas law enforcement can’t tell the difference between Delta 8 THC made from hemp or marijuana. They’re both just different varieties of the same plant. “This is only going to cause, and is causing currently, trust-building issues within communities and law enforcement," Ripple said. Rippel says the Kansas Legislature needs to pass new laws next year to better regulate Delta 8 THC products.


Adoptive and Foster Families Receive Lower Subsidies in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas officials say they are working to give foster parents in the state a greater incentive to permanently adopt the children they take in. The current system tends to offer less money to adoptive parents. Whether families foster a child or adopt a child from the state, they are paid to care for that child. But adoptive families are paid much less than foster families. That’s why some parents say they cannot afford to adopt. Melinda Kline works for the state and says Kansas is considering changes to monthly adoption subsidies and that could mean giving them more money, “We want families who select adoption, to be able to support and care for and meet the needs of the child that they adopt,” Kline said. Foster families say the issue is worse for higher needs children who may need thousands of dollars a month in support. Kansas says it is considering changes to its system, but did not say what they are or when they could happen. 


Kansas Public Radio Is Hiring a New Membership Director

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - Kansas Public Radio is hiring a new Membership Director. The position is open due to an internal promotion.  Former Membership Director Joanna Fewins has become the station's new Development Director.  Learn more about this position and how to apply.  Unnamed sources tell KPR News that the University of Kansas-based radio station, on the air since 1952, is a "great place to work, with good benefits and mildly interesting employees."


Toxic Algae Blooms Appear in Dozens of Kansas Lakes

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Toxic algae blooms are back and will probably hit about 30 or 40 Kansas lakes this summer. Not all algae are dangerous, but several lakes across the state are going through algae blooms now that can make people sick and can kill dogs that swim in it. The blooms can look like foam, paint or scum floating on the water, in a variety of colors. They’re fueled by fertilizer runoff. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) says people can check before heading to the lake. They can also ask park managers if algae are blooming or check the state’s website for algae reports.


Child Drowns in Pond in Western Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office confirms that a child drowned while swimming in a pond over the weekend in southwest Kansas. KWCH TV reports that the sheriff’s office received a 911 call for a possible drowning of two children at Sam’s Pond, near Syracuse. Hamilton County EMS, City of Syracuse Fire Department and Scuba Ventures, of Liberal, recovered one child. That child was then transported to a nearby hospital. The other child remained missing, but their body was later recovered from the pond.


Kansas Woman’s Body Found After Fatal ATV Crash

AUGUSTA, Kan. (KSNW) — The body of 21-year-old Carley Bullard was found Sunday after she went missing in the early hours of Saturday, June 18.  KSNW TV reports that Bullard was involved in an ATV crash south of Augusta. According to Butler County authorities, Bullard was involved in the crash around 3:25 am along the Walnut River, about 1.5 miles south of Augusta. After the crash, Bullard could not be located. Family and friends then searched the area and found her.


Five More Lawsuits Filed Against Missouri Boarding School

NEVADA, Mo. (AP) — Five additional lawsuits have been filed accusing a southwestern Missouri boarding school of abusing students. The lawsuits alleging physical and emotional abuse at Agape Boarding School were filed last week in Vernon County. All told, 19 lawsuits have been filed against the boarding school since early 2021. Agape’s doctor, David Smock, was charged in December with child sex crimes. He pleaded not guilty in March. Meanwhile, five employees were charged in September with abusing students. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has said he thinks many more workers should have been charged. The latest lawsuits were filed by former students who attended Agape at various times between 2014 and this year.


These area headlines are curated by KPR news staffers, including J. Schafer, Laura Lorson, Kaye McIntyre, and Tom Parkinson. Our headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays, 11 am weekends. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members. Become one today.

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