Man charged with murder in shooting death

George Daniel Lingenfelser
George Daniel Lingenfelser

Wyandotte County District Attorney Jerome A. Gorman this afternoon charged George Daniel Lingenfelser, 28, Bonner Springs, Kansas, with first-degree murder in connection with the Dec. 7 shooting death of Janet Billings.

The murder occurred in a parking lot of a retail establishment in the 6900 block of State Ave. in Kansas City, Kan.

Lingenfelser is currently in the Wyandotte County Jail. Bond was set at $750,000. He is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Wyandotte Plaza, State Avenue celebrate redevelopment

Construction work continued today on a new Krispy Kreme building at Wyandotte Plaza, 78th and State Avenue. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)
Construction work continued today on a new Krispy Kreme building at Wyandotte Plaza, 78th and State Avenue. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

by Mary Rupert

A celebration of the renaissance of Wyandotte Plaza and the State Avenue Corridor was capped off today with the announcement of a new credit union building planned at the shopping center at 78th and State.

The new CommunityAmerica Credit Union building will be constructed on the site of the former Payless ShoeSource building at the center, according to company officials.

The event at Wyandotte Plaza on Tuesday, which was also the annual meeting for Business West, drew a number of Unified Government officials and business leaders. The event was coordinated by Business West and the UG.

The shopping center includes a new state-of-the-art 60,000-square-foot Price Chopper building that opened last July on the east end, and under construction currently are Marshalls and PetSmart on the west end. Dave Claflin, of RED Legacy, the developer, said that he hopes the new PetSmart and Marshalls are open by April. A new Advance Auto Parts building opened first at the center. There are also some other buildings under construction. On Tuesday, work was being done for a new Krispy Kreme restaurant at the shopping center.

At the start of the redevelopment of the 230,000-square-foot Wyandotte Plaza, the cost of the project was estimated at $28 million. A community improvement district and bond issue was approved for the development.

Claflin linked the present redevelopment to the community’s efforts to build The Legends a decade ago.

“It was really commendable to the citizens of Kansas City, Kan., and the Unified Government to start the investment out there at The Legends and Village West,” Claflin said. “This is the payoff. This investment is starting to trickle back east.”

He said he anticipated that besides the benefits to the residents, there would be benefits to the local government as revenues rise.

Mayor Mark Holland said he was excited about the development.

“For the last decade, the whole region has celebrated the activity at The Legends, and all the great things that are happening at The Legends, and they’re saying, what about the rest of the city?” Mayor Holland said.

He said there have been six new grocery stores built in the past few years in Kansas City, Kan.

“We know that when the city invests in infrastructure and streets, curbs and sidewalks, it transforms the whole community,” Holland said. “I don’t know that RED Legacy would come here if we weren’t showing the investment in our infrastructure on State Avenue.”

A $15.4 million investment, the State Avenue corridor project was under construction 2.5 years, and was being planned and designed for two years prior to that, said County Engineer Bill Heatherman.

The State Avenue corridor improvement project went from 73rd to 94th streets on State Avenue, and curbs, sidewalks and medians were improved. There are wider sidewalks along State, median improvements and some changes including new traffic lights and bus stops along State Avenue.

Built in the late 1950s and 1960s, Wyandotte Plaza has had minimal investment since that time, Claflin said.

Joe Maderak, who founded Business West, described the rural nature of the area when he arrived here in 1925. He pointed out that some vacant buildings in the State Avenue area have been sold recently, and “things are beginning to move.”

He said he’s often been asked why he stayed in Wyandotte County.

“I’ll tell you,” he said. “My roots are here. The people are here. This is my hometown.”

Adam Ehlert of the T-Bones said that the State Avenue improvements were important for Village West because residents need to be able to travel west to The Legends area, and people already at The Legends area need to be able to travel east on State.

Commissioner Jane Philbrook, the president-elect of Business West, said that bringing business eastward toward the downtown Kansas City, Kan., area is one of the goals of these projects.

Also speaking at this event were Richard Napper of EPR Properties, financial partner to Schlitterbahn, and Chuck Stites, Schlitterbahn director of development.

“I hope you all are aware of the tremendous events and progress that has taken place at our project in the past 12 months,” Napper said. It started with the Schlitterbahn’s world’s tallest water slide.

The area near 98th and Parallel Parkway, at the Schlitterbahn area, is under development for a U.S. Soccer national training facility.

“It will be unlike anything else in this country or perhaps in the world,” Napper said, a “world-class facility.”

Additionally, site work has begun even through winter at I-435 and Parallel for the 60-acre auto mall and retail site, he said. There were extreme terrain challenges, and progress is being made on the site. He said the auto mall and retail site would have a great effect on the local and state economy for the tax base, jobs and sales growth.

“There are many other projects in the pipeline,” he said. “We are very hopeful in the next three to six to 12 months in conjunction with the UG to make other incredible announcements that will have a tremendous economic impact to this community and to the state of Kansas.”

Marisa Gray, president of Business West, welcomed new tenants to Wyandotte Plaza, including MeMa’s, Krispy Kreme, Marshalls and PetSmart, and the newly relocated Price Chopper. She said Business West assists businesses with any challenges they may have.

Other tenants of Wyandotte Plaza include Lufti’s Fried Fish, MeMa’s Old-Fashioned Bakery, Simply Fashion, Sally Beauty Supply, Glam Tresses, City G.E.A.R., Radio Shack, Papa Murphy’s, Hans Jewelers, Dollar Tree, Sherwin Williams, H&R Block, Easy Home Living, Burger King and Advance America.

Gray, also director of Workforce Development at Kansas City Kansas Community College, said the college was positioned to be both proactive and reactive to the needs of the community, making sure residents are educated and prepared for the work force.

Dave Hurrelbrink of the City Planning and Zoning Board said that the application for the new CommunityAmerica Credit Union building at Wyandotte Plaza passed the Planning Commission last night, and next will go before the UG Commission for approval.

Linda Boring, of CommunityAmerica Credit Union, said plans are to open the new credit union location in the first part of August of next year.

Construction work continued today at Wyandotte Plaza at 78th and State, Kansas City, Kan. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)
Construction work continued today at Wyandotte Plaza at 78th and State, Kansas City, Kan. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

A new Marshalls and PetSmart will open next year at Wyandotte Plaza, 78th and State Avenue. (Staff photo)
A new Marshalls and PetSmart will open next year at Wyandotte Plaza, 78th and State Avenue. (Staff photo)

Mayor Mark Holland today said, “We know that when the city invests in infrastructure and streets, curbs and sidewalks, it transforms the whole community."
Mayor Mark Holland today said, “We know that when the city invests in infrastructure and streets, curbs and sidewalks, it transforms the whole community.”

Dave Claflin of RED Legacy linked the redevelopment of Wyandotte Plaza to The Legends development a decade ago. “This is the payoff. This investment is starting to trickle back east.” (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)
Dave Claflin of RED Legacy linked the redevelopment of Wyandotte Plaza to The Legends development a decade ago. “This is the payoff. This investment is starting to trickle back east.” (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

Commissioner Jane Philbrook, the president-elect of Business West, said that bringing business eastward toward the downtown Kansas City, Kan., area is one of the goals of these projects. (Staff photo)
Commissioner Jane Philbrook, the president-elect of Business West, said that bringing business eastward toward the downtown Kansas City, Kan., area is one of the goals of these projects. (Staff photo)

A good crowd turned out for the event Tuesday at Wyandotte Plaza. (Staff photo)
A good crowd turned out for the event Tuesday at Wyandotte Plaza. (Staff photo)

Joe Maderak, the founder of Business West, said the State Avenue corridor area is currently improving. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)
Joe Maderak, the founder of Business West, said the State Avenue corridor area is currently improving. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

Marisa Gray, president of Business West, welcomed new tenants to Wyandotte Plaza. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)
Marisa Gray, president of Business West, welcomed new tenants to Wyandotte Plaza. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

County Engineer Bill Heatherman said the State Avenue corridor was a $15.4 million project. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)
County Engineer Bill Heatherman said the State Avenue corridor was a $15.4 million project. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

Richard Napper, left, of EPR, and Chuck Stites, director of development of the Schlitterbahn, also spoke at the meeting. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)
Richard Napper, left, of EPR, and Chuck Stites, director of development of the Schlitterbahn, also spoke at the meeting. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

Those attending the meeting viewed signs showing current and past photos of Wyandotte Plaza and State Avenue. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)
Those attending the meeting viewed signs showing current and past photos of Wyandotte Plaza and State Avenue. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

When Wyandotte Plaza opened in the late 1950s and early 1960s, its main anchor was a Kroger store.
When Wyandotte Plaza opened in the late 1950s and early 1960s, its main anchor was a Kroger store.

The existing strip mall at Wyandotte Plaza received a new facade in the improvements. (Staff photo)
The existing strip mall at Wyandotte Plaza received a new facade in the improvements. (Staff photo)

Brownback announces cuts to close budget gap

Allotments plan includes $55M sweep from KDHE funds, cuts to all cabinet agencies

by Andy Marso, KHI News Service

Topeka — Gov. Sam Brownback announced Tuesday he will use his power of allotments to make fee sweeps and spending cuts to close a $280 million budget gap in the current fiscal year.

Brownback said in a prepared statement that the allotments come from recommendations made by Budget Director Shawn Sullivan.

“I appreciate Shawn’s hard work in identifying efficiencies and cost savings across state government,” Brownback said. “These first steps are a down payment in resolving the immediate budget issue. I look forward to presenting a full budget proposal and policy recommendations to the Legislature in January. Our job now is to address this situation through good fiscal governance while maintaining our investment in education, sustaining funding for public safety and allowing T-WORKS to be completed.”

Spending on Medicaid — the state’s largest health-related item — was not affected.

But the governor announced cuts to operating budgets for state agencies that administer programs for the disabled, poor and sick, as well as enforce environmental regulations.

He also proposed saving $5.4 million by delaying the expansion of the Meyer Building at Larned State Hospital, the state’s largest psychiatric facility.

The cuts and sweeps Brownback proposed are intended to get the state only through July 1, 2015. Another $436 million budget gap looms in the fiscal year that begins on that date, and Brownback and lawmakers will have to find a way to close that gap when the Legislature reconvenes in January.

The state has not cut spending enough to keep pace with revenue reductions caused by income tax cuts Brownback spearheaded that have wiped out reserve funds.

The bulk of the budget fix Brownback announced Tuesday — $201 million of the $280 million — comes from transfers from fee funds. The governor’s memo denoted that those transfers are “subject to legislation,” meaning the Legislature will have a say on whether to allow them.

The biggest proposed transfers come from the state highway fund ($96 million) and Kansas Department of Health and Environment fee funds ($55 million). But the governor also proposed sweeps of everything currently in the Kansas Endowment for Youth ($14.5 million) and the Children’s Initiative Fund ($500,000) — money from litigation against tobacco companies that is intended for evidence-based early childhood education programs.

“Just a few months ago, Governor Brownback vetoed a transfer of $5 million from the KEY Fund, saying that fund was established specifically for early childhood programs and should remain available for such purposes in the future,” said Christie Appelhanz, vice president for public affairs at the Topeka nonprofit Kansas Action for Children. “We’re deeply distressed by the governor’s change of heart. The current budget crisis is of his own making, and it shouldn’t be paid for by our state’s youngest and most vulnerable children.”

The Children’s Initiative Fund receives money each year from the tobacco settlement, though the amount is expected to decline soon. The Kansas Endowment for Youth was intended to provide funding for the CIF programs after the tobacco money dries up.

The governor also proposed reducing employer contributions to the state pension system by almost $41 million, a move that does not require legislative approval. The Kansas Public Employees Retirement System recently emerged from a critically underfunded status in part because the Legislature agreed to increase state contributions to improve the system’s health.

The rest of the $78.5 million in cuts outlined in the governor’s plan come largely from a 4 percent across-the-board reduction in Cabinet agency operating budgets, which is also not subject to legislative approval. The Department for Children and Families, at almost $4 million, will receive the largest cut in raw dollars.

Annie McKay, executive director for the Kansas Center for Economic Growth, a Topeka-based think tank, said the cuts come on top of reductions made a few years earlier when Kansas was in the grips of the global recession.

“The governor’s plan is the latest sign of how unprecedented and unaffordable tax cuts are eroding key investments that make up the economic foundation of our state and continue to put Kansas’ future in jeopardy,” McKay said. “We’ve been down this road before and it’s a dead end.”

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