From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
Published 1:45 AM EDT Jul 9, 2019
Florence: The University of North Alabama is opening a new center to help students, including those from the LGBTQ community. The Mitchell/West Center for Social Inclusion will open this fall on the campus in Florence. An announcement from the university says the center will address multiple challenges including suicide prevention, food insecurity and LGBTQ issues. It will also serve as a link to The Point Foundation, which grants scholarships for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students. The center is being funded with donations by Elliott Mitchell and Clark West, who also funded a scholarship for the first Point scholarship recipient to attend North Alabama. The school is the only Southern institution with a student who received a scholarship through the program this year.
Anchorage: Residents of two northwest Alaska villages say large numbers of dead mussels and krill have washed up on their shores. The Anchorage Daily News reports the discoveries are contributing to fears of record-warm waters causing ecosystem changes, including unusual wildlife deaths. Scientists say they are working to pinpoint what has caused a string of unusual mortality events this season and whether the deaths are related. An official in the village of Teller estimates there were 2 million dead mussels in a channel on the Seward Peninsula in late June. A high school teacher says he found “millions” of dead krill stretching for several miles along beaches near Shishmaref. In addition to mussels and the shrimp-like krill, seabirds, seals and whales have also died along Alaska’s shores recently.
Flagstaff: Before Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin knew they’d be the first to walk on the moon, they took crash courses in geology in northern Arizona. They hiked the Grand Canyon and visited a nearby impact crater to learn about layers of rocks and taking samples. Astronauts on later Apollo missions studied volcanic cinder fields east of Flagstaff where hundreds of craters were blown from the landscape intentionally to replicate the lunar surface and tested rovers. Today, astronaut candidates still train in and around Flagstaff. The city is joining others nationwide in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing July 20, 1969, with tours, exhibits, talks, and moon-themed food and art. Apollo 17 astronaut Charlie Duke will be the keynote speaker at a Flagstaff science festival in September.
Little Rock: The state Game and Fish Commission has launched a three-year study to track aquatic turtles in the Mississippi River Delta. Researchers have been trapping, marking and releasing nearly 100 turtles a day since May. They notch the turtles’ shells so they can be identified if caught again. Brett DeGregorio, who heads the Fish and Wildlife Cooperative Research unit of the U.S. Geological Survey, tells the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that the count will provide the commission with data so it can determine if restrictions on turtle harvesting are needed in Arkansas. Commercial harvesting is allowed in the Delta. DeGregorio says regulation ensures the turtle population is in good condition. The study is funded by a $107,963 grant from the commission. The University of Arkansas is contributing $97,243 to the study.
Chester: A fungus that causes a deadly disease in bats has been detected in the state for the first time. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wildlife refuge specialist Catherine Hibbard said Friday that samples collected this spring from bats on private land in this Northern California town tested positive for the fungus. The fungus causes white-nose syndrome, which can lead to dehydration or other conditions that kill bats. Hibbard says there is no sign the disease is currently affecting bat populations in California. She says the fungus was first detected in New York in 2006 and has spread incrementally. Bats that have contracted the disease have now been confirmed in 33 states and seven Canadian provinces. Another five states, including California, have bats that have tested positive for the fungus.
Aspen: Avalanche debris in the state’s high country could provide fresh breeding grounds for the forest-destroying bark beetle, but a U.S. Forest Service supervisor says there’s little the agency can do to mitigate the threat. Heavy snowpack unleashed a series of avalanches during the winter that downed spruce and aspen trees in numerous areas – a collective event that White National Forest supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams says may occur once every 300 years. “I understand from entomologists that blown-down spruce trees are the perfect breeding ground for spruce beetles,” Fitzwilliams told The Aspen Times. “It’s definitely a concern, but there’s not much we can do about it.” Spruce trees and spruce beetles are the major concern in the White, Rio Grande and Gunnison national forests, he said. The beetle previously had caused large spruce losses in the latter forests.
Hartford: Ambulance personnel across the state want to become a political force at the state Capitol by forming a new association. They’re upset that a new law providing post-traumatic stress disorder benefits to certain first responders does not include thousands of paramedics and emergency medical technicians. Robert Glaspy, a paramedic from Milford, says there are roughly 20,000 paid and volunteer emergency medical responders in Connecticut, and they need to be aware of what’s happening in Hartford, especially when bills like the PTSD legislation are debated. The new law extends up to 52 weeks of workers’ compensation benefits for PTSD only to police and firefighters for certain on-the-job events, such as witnessing the death of child. It stems from an agreement reached between the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities and police and firefighter unions.
Wilmington: The average amount of debt for students graduating from Delaware colleges has increased at a rate higher than any other state over the past decade. Between 2008 and 2016, the average college debt burden for graduates in the state has grown from $20,511 to $36,276, a 77% increase, according to data compiled by the Institute for College Access and Success. The average amount of debt held by Delaware graduates is $36,276, the fifth-highest in the country, according to the institute. Delaware also saw a large increase in the proportion of students with college debt over the same period, jumping from 44% to 62%. And the state has an above-average number of out-of-state students, according to the Institute for College Access and Success. These students pay higher tuition, resulting in more student debt. Compounding the issue, Delaware has the sixth-highest average out-of-state tuition, according to the College Board.
District of Columbia
Washington: The International Ink Library at the U.S. Secret Service contains more than 15,000 samples dating back more than 85 years. The collection is the result of one man, Antonio Cantu, a renowned investigator and former chief chemist at the Secret Service who started picking up samples decades ago. Cantu died unexpectedly last year, and the Secret Service recently dedicated the lab in his honor. The lab is one of several under the Secret Service’s questioned documents branch, including handwriting analysis and document authentication and ID, and handles as many as 500 cases a year. Together, they work on Secret Service investigations and help law enforcement agencies around the nation and worldwide with their own investigations.
Orlando: Walt Disney World is reviving an animation class that teaches people how to draw their favorite characters. The drawing class was shut down four years ago, but the Orlando Sentinel reports it will be coming back starting this week. The classes are called the Animation Experience at Conservation Station and will be held at Animal Kingdom to honor “The Lion King” reboot, released later this month. Eight animation artists will teach visitors how to draw characters from the movie, such as Simba and Pumbaa. The animation class was shut down in 2015 to make way for the Star Wars Launch Bay. Disney hasn’t told the artists how long this program is scheduled to last.
Atlanta: State records show the number of families in the state receiving welfare benefits has dropped by more than two-thirds in the past 14 years. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the numbers have decreased as Georgia has applied constant pressure to drive down the rolls. The number of households receiving aid from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program has consistently dropped. It even happened during the Great Recession. State officials say the decreasing rolls are a sign that the program is working. The newspaper reports that the trend in Georgia mirrors what has happened nationally.
Lihue: A local group is counting vehicles approaching a state park with the intention of regulating visitor traffic. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports Kuhio Highway Regulation intends to monitor the number of rental cars on the highway. The Kauai residents formed the group due to frustration with state and county efforts to reduce harmful effects of visitor traffic around Haena State Park. The group says not enough tourists have been informed of the need for advance reservations to enter. Kuhio Highway reopened to the public in June, more than a year after devastating floods struck. The group says 400 rental cars headed to the park July 4, while only about 100 of those had park parking passes. Kauai Police Department officials were unavailable to comment Saturday.
Post Falls: The former executive of a senior center who admitted to embezzling thousands of dollars has been sentenced to a month in jail. The Coeur d’Alene Press reports 49-year-old Alison McArthur pleaded guilty Friday to a misdemeanor charged over stolen funds that prosecutors said were used for a car repair, personal telephone bills and a trip to Disneyland. McArthur, who was executive director of the Post Falls Senior Center for six years before being fired in 2017, said she made a mistake and wanted to rebuild her life. First District Judge Cynthia K.C. Meyer ordered jail time and $3,500 for restitution. McArthur said the senior center’s board chairman allowed her to use the organization’s credit card, but it was not authorized by the entire board, as required.
Chicago: A new study that challenges stereotypes about homeless people estimates that in 2017, about 18,000 of Chicago’s homeless had graduated college, and more than 13,000 were employed. The report, released last week by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, examined census data from that year. The Chicago Tribune reports that data shows about 86,000 people experienced homelessness in Chicago at some point that year. Supporters say Chicago’s homeless population is considerably higher than the annual point-in-time tally the city conducts because the count doesn’t include people who are “doubled up,” or residing in other people’s homes. The latest point-in-time tally, from January 2018, revealed more than 5,000 people living in shelters or in places not suitable for human occupancy. The coalition indicates 4 out of 5 homeless people are “doubled up.”
Hope: Plans are moving forward on a new, permanent home for the Indiana Rural Letter Carriers Association Museum. The (Columbus) Republic reports the building slated to house the museum is in the town of Hope, about 40 miles southeast of Indianapolis. For several years, the museum was housed in a small, wood-frame building on the town square to commemorate Hope’s longest continuous rural mail delivery service in the state, which dates to October 1896. That building was demolished in 2015, and the Yellow Trail Museum became caretaker of its artifacts. The Yellow Trail Museum acquired the new building, a former photography studio, and efforts are underway to raise money for improvements.
Dubuque: For more than 3,000 years, the tri-state area was dominated by oak savannas. The grand prairies of grasses, wildflowers, bushes and small flowering trees were dotted intermittently by great, sprawling oaks. European colonizers quickly molded that landscape into the mosaic of agricultural, prairie, urban and closed-canopied forest that dominates today. But the City of Dubuque has joined a regional movement toward the restoration of the historic oak savanna, hoping to glean the benefits the unique landscape provides. Dubuque has targeted swaths of Eagle Point Park and the Four Mounds site, which encompasses more than 220 acres, for these restorations. Both are in the design phase, the Telegraph Herald reports. The return to the historic landscape should better mitigate soil erosion and runoff than the manicured lawns and closed-canopy woods at both sites now.
Lenexa: A suburban Kansas City man has accomplished his goal of completing marathons in all 50 states before the age of 50. The Kansas City Star reports that the final stop on Austin Braithwait’s quest was a June 22 race in Duluth, Minnesota. It almost didn’t happen. The Lenexa man was 26 when he ran his first marathon, during an ice storm. The experience was so miserable that he waited another eight years before running another. But eventually he was hooked, fitting in races around his work travel schedule at UMB Bank. On a couple of trips, he squeezed in back-to-back races, running in Mississippi on a Saturday and Alabama on a Sunday. On another trip he ran in Pennsylvania and New Jersey during a single weekend.
Carrollton: The runoff that resulted from last week’s Jim Beam warehouse fire reached the Ohio River early Monday morning, but those living along the Kentucky River aren’t finished dealing with the aftermath. Dead fish continue to fill the Kentucky River, which flows into the Ohio River near Carrollton. The worst is nearly over. State officials said the runoff would affect some fish at the point where the two waterways meet once it reached the Ohio River but would likely dissipate quickly after it reaches the much larger body of water separating Kentucky and Indiana. The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet said in a statement Sunday, though, that those along the Kentucky River would likely continue to see and smell dead fish as the plume of alcohol makes its way north through the region.
Baton Rouge: Rescue shelters in the state are facing new restrictions on how and when they can give animals to facilities that use them for research. A law recently signed by Gov. John Bel Edwards will ban shelters from taking in stray or unwanted animals solely to euthanize them for research facilities and will prohibit shelters from selling animals for research or experimentation. Any shelters that give living animals to research facilities will only be allowed to do so if they tried to find other placement for the animals first, if precautions are taken to minimize pain and only under limited research circumstances. The new law, sponsored by Houma Republican Rep. Jerome “Zee” Zeringue, takes effect Aug. 1. Violators can face fines up to $1,000 for each violation.
Auburn: Workers are going to be putting aluminum sulfate in Lake Auburn this week to fight algae. The Auburn Water District and Lewiston Water Division agreed to apply an algaecide to the lake last September. The aluminum sulfate will be applied to three-quarters of the lake starting Wednesday. The treatments follow an algae bloom last summer that was caused by phosphorus from stormwater runoff and higher-than-average temperatures. The public water supply remained safe to drink, but there were complaints about the taste and odor of the water. Auburn Water & Sewer Superintendent Sid Hazelton said the treatment will buy time to implement additional watershed protection efforts.
Salisbury: State wildlife officials say they’ve euthanized nearly 400 geese in an effort to curb the excessive population. U.S. Department of Agriculture spokesman Kevin Sullivan says his team “humanely euthanized” the Canada geese last week at the request of city officials. Sullivan says the goose overpopulation has inundated the city, leaving messy droppings, over-grazing plants, damaging the habitat and polluting the water. He says the geese were captured, and a waterfowl processor humanely euthanized them with carbon dioxide gas before providing the meat to food shelters. Sullivan says he believes this is the first time the city has turned to killing the geese in almost 15 years of population monitoring. In the past, officials used a slower method of poking holes in eggs.
Boston: The city is literally digging its Chinatown. Mayor Marty Walsh says city archaeologist Joe Bagley has launched the first historical excavations in the neighborhood. Bagley says he expects the dig to turn up artifacts that will shed new light on immigrants not only from China but also from Syria, Ireland and England who sought a new life in Boston from 1840 to 1980. Work began Monday at a vacant lot near the ornate gate to the colorful neighborhood. It’s expected to continue until early autumn. Walsh says the dig makes sense because Boston is a city of immigrants, “and this is an important piece of Boston’s history.” Over the years, Boston has unearthed hundreds of archaeological sites.
Lansing: A McLaren Greater Lansing executive says the hospital has rethought its requirement that patients reschedule medical procedures until they can pay a portion of estimated out-of-pocket costs. One patient was forced to postpone his cardiac catheterization two days before the scheduled procedure in May. It took Al Herring two weeks to raise the required $1,105, during which time he was at heightened risk of suffering a heart attack. Herring says the delay could have killed him. Chief financial officer Dale Thompson says the hospital has tweaked its point-of-sale policy since the Lansing State journal informed him of Herring’s plight. Thompson says patients may go ahead with their procedures after merely acknowledging anticipated costs, rather than having to wait longer while they raise 50% of the amount.
Avon: Several cities are seeking more time to reduce the amount of chloride, or salt, in their wastewater. About 100 Minnesota cities discharge too much chloride from their wastewater plants, and 15 plants need to reduce their chloride discharge levels in order to meet current state limits. But about six cities want more time. One of those cities is Avon. State regulators say Avon’s wastewater treatment plant is releasing too much chloride into nearby Spunk Creek, which empties into the Mississippi River. Minnesota Public Radio News reports that Avon is the first city to ask for a variance to chloride limits under the federal Clean Water Act. They city is seeking an additional 15 years to come up with a solution to the chloride pollution, which is likely caused by home water softeners.
Hattiesburg: Work is underway on a memorial to honor a voting rights activist killed when the Ku Klux Klan firebombed his home. WDAM-TV reports that a statue of Vernon Dahmer, who died in 1966, will be the centerpiece of a new plaza at the Forrest County Courthouse to honor him and other local civil rights leaders. The television station says the bronze Dahmer sculpture was recently cast. Landscaping work at the plaza and the construction of a base for the statue are to begin soon. Forrest County Board of Supervisors president David Hogan says a short wall that will double as a bench will feature a Dahmer quote: “If You Don’t Vote, You Don’t Count.” A total of $120,000 in public and private funds has been contributed for the project.
Kansas City: The American Civil Liberties Union is asking an appellate court panel to let it begin collecting signatures that would put a new state law banning abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy to a public vote. The Missouri branch’s acting executive director, Tony Rothert, told a three-judge panel of the state’s Court of Appeals on Monday that it had been premature for GOP Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft to reject petitions by it and prominent Republican donor David Humphreys to put the law on the 2020 ballot. Rothert wants to begin the process of collecting the more than 100,000 required signatures by July 18. He says the petition-gathering process needs to be completed before most of the new law, including the eight-week abortion ban, takes effect Aug. 28.
Helena: State officials say they confiscated more than 800 bottles and cans of alcohol in a raid just days after the Yellowstone Club signed a deal to settle charges of serving booze at unlicensed bars at the private ski resort for the ultra-rich. A Department of Revenue notice says officials took the alcohol June 25 from a terminal that serves Yellowstone Club members and others who fly into Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport on private jets. Agency spokesman Sanjay Talwani said Monday that state officials believe the alcohol belongs to a company owned by two club executives. The company was part of the $370,000 settlement agreement signed six days earlier that allowed Yellowstone Club bars to continue serving alcohol at the resort.
Omaha: The city says it will use a new device called a “barnacle” to immobilize vehicles with unpaid parking tickets. The Omaha World-Herald reports the city was slated Monday to begin using the device, which is a panel that attaches to a vehicle’s windshield, blocking a driver’s view. The barnacles will be attached to vehicles with three or more past-due parking tickets or with more than $108 in parking fines. Motorists can release the device themselves with a code they’ll get by calling a number on the barnacle to pay the fines. Motorists must then take the barnacle to a drop-off location within 24 hours. Also starting Monday are new parking violation fees. Most parking violations bring a $16 fine. But blocking a fire hydrant will cost $32, and driving with expired license plates will cost $100.
Reno: A new 3-mile-long bicycle and pedestrian trail hugging the northeast shore of Lake Tahoe is providing new access to hidden beaches and a bird’s-eye view of the cobalt waters never available before. The Tahoe East Shore Trail that opened Friday includes an 810-foot-long bridge overhanging the lakeshore between Incline Village and a state park at Sand Harbor. The $40.5 million highway project is designed to improve safety on a dangerous, congested stretch of State Highway 28 while providing hikers and bikers better access to the lake. It’s also designed to prevent runoff from the road that reduces lake clarity. The 10-foot-wide paved trail includes 17 designated vista points and 11 designated shoreline access points. It also has eight bear-proof trash stations, three dog waste bag stations, five bathrooms and more than 30 bike racks.
Concord: Groups representing municipalities and businesses are trying to put the brakes on the state’s efforts to impose some of the nation’s toughest drinking water standards for a class of toxic chemicals that have caused widespread contamination in the state. Last month, the Department of Environmental Services filed a proposal to set maximum levels for several compounds known as per- and polyfluoroalykyl substances, collectively called PFAS. New Hampshire is proposing a maximum of 12 parts per trillion for one of the contaminants called PFOA and 15 parts per trillion for another called PFOS. Opponents say they lack the resources to comply with the standards and argue they shouldn’t be held responsible for addressing the problem because they are not the source of the contaminants. A legislative committee is expected to take up the proposed standards this month.
Manasquan: After Superstorm Sandy whacked the state, most shore towns had to build or rebuild protective sand dunes. But three areas got a pass. That could change soon. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it will study whether dunes need to be built in places where they don’t exist now. Nearly seven years after Sandy, Manasquan and Belmar do not have dunes protecting their coast. And a privately owned part of Point Pleasant Beach, owned by Jenkinson’s Boardwalk, negotiated a deal with state and federal officials to build its own steel retaining wall under the sand in return for not having a dune. The Army Corps will begin a study in October, carrying out a request the state Department of Environmental Protection made in 2015.
Roswell: Police are searching for whoever cut locks and fencing on zoo exhibits, allowing four animals, including a bobcat, to escape before they were quickly found nearby. Roswell police say they discovered the vandalism after a visitor noticed cut fencing at the red-tailed hawk exhibit Sunday. The zoo was evacuated as staff discovered that other vandalized enclosures had freed a raccoon, two raccoon-like coatimundis and a bobcat. Officials say the animals were all found within 20 minutes in non-public zookeeper areas. Spring River Park and Zoo staffers believe only the raccoon might have ventured into a visitor area. Authorities say they’re glad the animals stayed in their “comfort zones,” but the vandalism could have put people and animals in danger.
Walkill: Going a step beyond eating and buying locally, some Hudson Valley residents support local electricity. They purchase production credits produced by a hydro site along the Wallkill River. Green-minded customers support a local renewable resource, while operators have a way to keep their turbines spinning. Hydro proponents hope arrangements like these can help keep these older energy sites competitive in the 21st century. Natural Power Group sells power under New York’s “community-distributed generation” program. The policy allows electricity customers to collectively invest in renewable projects, mostly solar, in their utility service territory. The hydroelectricity still flows into the grid. But customers reserve a percentage of the power generated by a hydro project. Officials in nearby Woodstock say their hydro purchases help keep the town government meet its carbon-neutral goals.
Concord: A sheriff’s office says one of its K-9s that ran from its handler when some fireworks went off nearby has been found safe. The Cabarrus County Sheriff’s Office says Igor was outside with his handler and without a leash Thursday. Chief Deputy James Bailey said at the time that some fireworks went off near the handler’s home, and Igor ran away despite the handler’s verbal commands. The sheriff’s office said on its Facebook page that a person going to work in Concord found the dog Monday morning about a mile away from where he ran off. According to the sheriff’s office, Igor appeared to be in good shape and was being examined by a veterinarian.
Bismarck: Hunters killed more pheasants in the state last fall than they did the previous year, although the numbers are tempered by the fact that drought and declining habitat continue to affect the odds of a successful outing. The Bismarck Tribune reports that about 58,200 hunters killed 327,000 roosters in 2018. That was up just 6% from the dismal 2017 hunt, when the harvest was the smallest in 16 years at just 309,400 pheasants. Recent numbers have also been lower than normal in neighboring South Dakota and Minnesota. Neither year approached the state Game and Fish Department’s benchmark for success, which is 500,000 pheasants. Wildlife officials attribute the numbers to less grassland due to farmers putting idled Conservation Reserve Program land back into crop production, along with drought conditions.
Cleveland: A toy company known for its yo-yos is marking 90 years in operation and plans to celebrate with a yo-yoing contest and other events in the city next month. Cleveland.com reports Middlefield-based Duncan Toys also wants to try to break a Guinness world record for most players simultaneously yo-yoing. The company is inviting the public to join in the attempt Aug. 9 at Cleveland’s downtown Public Square, where attendees also will have a chance to meet impressive yo-yoers and Duncan employees. The four-day yo-yoing contest occurs that weekend, too. Expert yo-yo enthusiasts from around the world are expected to participate in the four-day competition, which begins Aug. 7 at a Cleveland hotel.
Tulsa: Gov. Kevin Stitt and three Tulsa-area mayors want the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expedite its study of the region’s levee system following severe flooding along the Arkansas River this spring. Stitt, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum, Bixby Mayor Brian Guthrie and Jenks Mayor Robert Lee sent a letter to Corps officials Friday requesting a study of the 75-year-old Tulsa-West Tulsa Levee System be completed by the end of the year. The Corps is required to complete a study of the nation’s levees by September 2020, but the letter says Oklahomans can’t wait that long. While Tulsa-area levees held back water for weeks, the letter says a breach would have caused catastrophic flooding over a wide area. The letter says the Corps rated the region’s levees “unacceptable” in 2008.
Salem: The state Department of Transportation has expanded its road usage charge program, OReGO. The voluntary program charges motorists based on how many miles they cruise along Oregon’s roads and highways instead of through fuel taxes. It’s intended to equalize what participants pay the state based on their actual road usage, not through fuel consumption, which can vary based on the vehicle’s efficiency. Owners of any vehicle can enroll in OReGO if it gets 20 miles a gallon or better. That’s the “break-even point” where fuel taxes cost the same as OReGO. But the biggest changes are for any vehicle getting more than 40 miles per gallon and electric vehicles. Those drivers will have to choose between paying higher registration fees in 2020 or enrolling in OReGO.
Pittsburgh: The iconic Fallingwater home built over a western Pennsylvania waterfall by Frank Lloyd Wright has been designated a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. UNESCO announced on its site that during a Sunday World Heritage Committee meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan, the organization added Fallingwater and seven other U.S. buildings designed by Wright in the first half of the 20th century to its World Heritage List. Wright designed Fallingwater in 1935 for Pittsburgh department store magnate Edgar Kaufmann Sr. and his family, placing the home on top of Bear Run, a mountain stream. It now receives about 180,000 visitors per year. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports Fallingwater director Justin Gunther called the designation “a tremendous honor, one reserved for the world’s most treasured places.”
Providence: The governor has signed legislation to allow domestic violence protective orders to include pets. Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo signed the legislation introduced by Senate President Dominick Ruggerio and Rep. William O’Brien, both North Providence Democrats. Ruggerio said in a statement that there’s a strong correlation between domestic abuse and animal abuse, and the new law, which takes effect immediately, ensures pets are protected. It expands the Family Court’s jurisdiction to allow it to enter protective orders to provide for the safety and welfare of household pets in domestic abuse situations. Many other states, including neighboring Massachusetts and Connecticut, already have laws that include pets in domestic violence protection orders.
Fort Mill: An alumni group is helping pay students’ lunch debt. Fort Mill School District spokesman Joe Burke says as of June 18, the most recent information available, students had about $12,000 in combined student lunch debt. The Herald reports the Fort Mill Ol’ School Crowd is gathering donations to cover that balance. Each school has an Angel Fund, in which community members can donate to ease students’ negative lunch balances. Jean Deese, an alumna who helped start the debt relief effort, says people have been donating to that fund for about two years now. She says students with balances are given an alternative lunch that makes the kids feel different and can lead to bullying. Deese says they’ve raised more than $5,000 since starting the effort.
Rapid City: The state’s Unified Judicial System is piloting a program that will eventually allow the public access to court records from any computer. The public can now view public court records on computers at state courthouses during work hours from Monday to Friday. This means that some people face long drives to access records. The new website, set to go live late 2019 or early 2020, will charge people 10 cents per page viewed from any computer. People will be able to look up cases by entering names, date of birth or county, and date range of the alleged offense. Complete criminal backgrounds cost $20. Greg Sattizahn, administrator of the Unified Judicial System, tells the Rapid City Journal the fees will help cover enhanced technology within the UJS.
Memphis: Hattiloo Theatre, the only black repertory theater in the Mid-South, has won a grant to produce a new play about the removal of the city’s Confederate statues in 2017. The theater, which is adjacent to Overton Square in Midtown Memphis, was awarded a grant of $18,725 to develop “Take ’Em Down 901,” a one-act play about the grassroots movement that pushed for the uprooting of statues of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, President Jefferson Davis and Capt. J. Mathes from two downtown parks. The play is one of 42 original, live-performance projects selected to receive part of the $1.3 million in funding available this year from the New York-based MAP Fund.
Dayton: A fence that for decades divided two historic Houston-area cemeteries into plots for white people on one side and black people on the other has been taken down. The Houston Chronicle reports that a white, 85-year-old maintenance volunteer, Henry Buxton, in April dismantled the chain-link fence that divided the Linney Cemetery from the Acie Cemetery in Dayton. The change comes after a new president took over the Linney Cemetery, where white people are buried. He saw the division as inappropriate and inefficient. Lynda Young, who ran Acie Cemetery where black people are buried before the merger, says seeing the fence come down feels like freedom. She says the community can now move forward.
Salt Lake City: Thousands of families in the state rely on free summer meal programs to feed their children once school food becomes unavailable. But despite high demand, there’s a shortage of the programs statewide. The Salt Lake Tribune recently reported that state data shows most counties have fewer than 10 summer meal sites, and the programs don’t exist in several counties with high child food-insecurity rates. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says nonprofits and government agencies can apply to open a site and get federal reimbursement for meals they serve. Some advocates say that approach can exclude cash-strapped school districts and other groups from operating programs. They cited Utah’s sparse population and transportation as other barriers to expanding meal programs but hope speaking out encourages school districts to better address food insecurity.
North Bennington: A small library has been recognized by a national group for overcoming adversity and creating lasting, innovative service programs. The Bennington Banner reports the John C. McCullough Free Library in North Bennington is one of five runners-up in a new national award from the American Library Association’s Penguin Random House Library Award for Innovation Through Adversity program. Library director Jennie Rozycki nominated the library for the inaugural program with an essay. In April, she learned the library won a runner-up award of $1,000 worth of materials. She says the McCullough library has made tremendous strides in increasing programs for all ages on a “shoestring” budget. She says the library would use the funds that come with the award to replace some of their classic editions, “which have been well-loved.”
Harrisonburg: More than 100 employees at James Madison University have received a pay increase after the school adopted a minimum wage of $12 an hour. The school announced last week that it was adopting a living wage for all full-time employees and set the minimum wage at $12 an hour after determining that a living wage in Rockingham County is $11.38 an hour. In all, 109 employees who were earning less than $25,000 a year received the pay increase. The raises will cost the university about $75,000 a year. James Madison, like all public universities in Virginia, froze tuition rates for the upcoming school year in exchange for additional state funding.
Seattle: Researchers have confirmed a new calf born to a pod of endangered orcas in the Pacific Northwest is female. Scientists believe the whale was born in late May. They have designated her J56. She is the second calf born in the past five months to southern resident killer whales that frequent Puget Sound and other waters around Washington state and British Columbia. In January, researchers identified another orca calf in the L pod, L124 or Lucky. That calf was last seen back in March and appeared to be in good health. The births are welcome news for a southern resident population that dropped to more than a 30-year low last year. Declining prey, pollution and boat noise all threaten the whales.
Morgantown: Researchers at West Virginia University are testing an idea to help save freshwater resources by combining wastewater from power plants with wastewater from fracking. The Dominion Post reports the power industry is the biggest water user in the state. Nationally, it is the second biggest, behind agriculture. Thermoelectric plants use water in heat exchangers. As it evaporates, natural salts concentrate to the point where they could foul the cooling system. Meanwhile, water from fracking contains other substances that could harm the cooling towers, like magnesium and strontium. But when the two are mixed together, the chemicals combine in a way to precipitate out of the water. This produces clean water to recirculate. The project, still in its early stages, is funded by a $400,000 Department of Energy grant.
Milwaukee: The era of electric scooters in the Badger State has arrived. During a ceremony Monday at the Milwaukee Public Market, Gov. Tony Evers touted the importance of different modes of transportation and stressed that local governments would have the power to regulate scooters. The legislation now bearing his signature allows local governments to regulate electric scooters. The law’s signing came days after Bird and the city finished hashing out the terms of a settlement agreement in a lawsuit filed last summer – and on the eve of a Milwaukee Common Council vote on a measure allowing dockless mobility systems, including scooters, only if companies participate in a city pilot study that sets rules for their use. The city stood ready to start accepting applications to the program as soon as the state law changed.
Cheyenne: The Capitol will reopen to the public Wednesday after a four-year, $300 million renovation project. The Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports the building suffered from crumbling concrete, disintegrating plumbing and aging electrical wiring hanging loose inside walls. The project included construction of a new utility plant for the Capitol complex, rebuilding parts of an adjacent office building, and renting temporary space for the Legislature and other officials. Renovation workers discovered historic features that had been covered up by earlier remodeling, included murals, dishes, bricked-up windows and opera posters on ceilings. Gov. Mark Gordon says the renovation was a good investment. He says it’s appropriate that the Capitol is reopening in 2019, the 150th anniversary of when Wyoming became the first state to recognize women’s right to vote.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports