Boaz: The north Alabama city of Boaz used to be a regional destination for outlet shoppers before many of its retail stores closed. Now the town is converting one of those old outlet centers into a recreation center. Officials gathered Thursday in the parking lot of a former outlet store to break ground on a nearly $13 million recreation center. The facility will include two gymnasiums, an indoor pool with eight lanes, a resort-style outdoor pool, an indoor walking track and more. Construction is expected to be complete by late 2020 or early 2021. Boaz was a regional leader in outlet shopping in the 1980s, with buses full of shoppers descending on more than 130 stores in the city of about 9,600 people.
Anchorage: City officials have organized the rollout of a single-use plastic bag ban in an effort to reduce litter and waste. The Anchorage Daily News reports the ban took effect Sunday. Officials say the Anchorage Assembly approved the ordinance in August 2018 banning commercial businesses including restaurants from legally handing out disposable plastic bags. City officials say the original rollout date was scheduled for March 1, but it was delayed because business owners had large stockpiles of plastic bags to use. Officials say businesses can offer a paper bag but must charge the customer from a minimum of 10 cents to a maximum of 50 cents. Officials say an exception includes bags used for produce, meat or bulk items at grocery stores.
Tucson: Testing of zero-emission electric shuttles has begun at Sabino Canyon, a population outdoor recreation site on the outskirts of Tucson. Coronado National Forest officials believe the new 62-passenger electric shuttles will go into use this fall, replacing 21-passenger, gas-powered vehicles being used on an interim basis. The Arizona Daily Star reports the first electric shuttle was tested Sept. 3. The shuttle is being used to train drivers along the routes through Sabino and Bear canyons, about 6 miles of travel. Sabino Canyon attracts 1 million visitors annually. Coronado National Forest officials say four other open-air shuttles are being tested by California-based Trams International before providing services to about 100,000 annual riders.
Bentonville: A longtime advocate for civil and children’s rights has been hired to head the nonprofit established by the family of Walmart’s founder. The Walton Family Foundation on Monday announced that Caryl M. Stern will become its executive director in January 2020. Stern has more than 30 years of experience working for nonprofits, most recently serving for 12 years as president and CEO of UNICEF USA. She is also the former chief operating officer and senior associate national director of the Anti-Defamation League. The Bentonville-based Walton Family Foundation last year awarded more than $595 million in grants for educational, environmental and other causes. Stern replaces Kyle Peterson, who announced in January that he would be stepping down.
Sacramento: Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday asked President Donald Trump to approve more housing vouchers as Trump’s administration weighs in on the most populous state’s massive homelessness problem. Members of the administration visited Los Angeles last week to view its sprawling homeless encampments after Trump told his staff to develop policy options to address the national crisis of people living on the streets. The Democratic governor and officials representing California cities and counties sent the Republican president a letter asserting that “shelter solves sleep, but only housing solves homelessness.” Their letter asks Trump to provide 50,000 more housing vouchers through two existing programs and to increase the value of the vouchers to account for high rents.
Boulder: A report says the state has one of the nation’s worst backlogs of unprocessed U.S. naturalization applications, which one of the report authors says is blocking voting rights. The Daily Camera reports the Colorado State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights released the report saying 9,325 applications are waiting to be processed. The report says the backlog has resulted in wait times averaging 10 months and stretching up to three years, far longer than the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services mandate to process applications within 120 days. A University of Colorado Boulder law professor who supervised the report says the government is illegally blocking legal permanent residents from accessing benefits and employment opportunities.
Hartford: Data from the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness shows nearly 50% of people in homeless shelters in the state over the past three years were also incarcerated at some point. Since 2016, of more than 17,000 people entering shelters across the state, over 8,000 of them previously were incarcerated. The data shows former inmates still face challenges when reentering society related to employment or housing, even in a state that has prioritized criminal justice reform. The Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness checked data reported to the coalition by shelters against names of inmates kept by the Department of Correction. Marc Pelka, the top criminal justice aide to Gov. Ned Lamont, says the data reveals a surprising amount of overlap between shelters and the correction system.
Wilmington: More than 40,000 Delmarva Power customers in the state are about to get a refund. The company will start issuing the one-time refunds tied to overbilling this week, according to the Delaware Division of the Public Advocate, a government entity that helps utility customers. Customers who qualify will soon see the refund in their monthly bill, says Public Advocate Drew Slater. It probably won’t be much – the average refund for residential customers is about $15, according to a Tuesday news release from the division. Commercial and industrial customers could get a bigger refund, Slater says. The refunds are due to a New Castle County resident who called the division in August with a question about her utility bill, according to the release.
District of Columbia
Washington: About 140 U.S. flags bearing an extra star are flying along Pennsylvania Avenue as the district prepares for its first House hearing on U.S. statehood in a quarter-century. The bill set to be discussed Thursday has more than 200 cosponsors and the support of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed to smother a companion bill in the Senate. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser led a caravan toward to the U.S. Capitol on Monday to symbolize the city’s fight for congressional voting rights. The Washington Post reports that mayoral spokeswoman LaToya Foster says the event and flags cost about $31,200, which came out of the $1 million that local lawmakers set aside to fight for statehood and the representation that comes with it.
Orlando: A foundation has purchased land to build a museum about the 2016 massacre that killed 49 people at a gay nightclub. The onePulse Foundation said Monday that it has acquired a 1.75-acre parcel about a third of a mile from the now-closed Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Foundation officials say funding from Orange County helped cover the cost of the parcel, on which they closed last week for $3.5 million. According to plans, the parcel will be used to construct a museum, and the actual nightclub site will become a memorial. A group of survivors and family members of those killed in the mass shooting have formed an organization to oppose the building of a private museum to honor the victims.
Savannah: Conservation groups say they “remain skeptical” that machines injecting oxygen into the city’s harbor will offset threats to fish caused by deepening the busy shipping channel. However, the Southern Environmental Law Center says the groups won’t return to court to fight the $973 million expansion of the waterway to the Port of Savannah. The Army Corps of Engineers said in August a test run of the machines exceeded expectations in boosting dissolved oxygen to help fish breathe in the Savannah River. The test was required by a 2013 legal settlement. Law center attorney Chris DeScherer said in a letter Friday to the Corps that while the tests show oxygen increased in the harbor, “we remain skeptical that the System will effectively work in perpetuity.”
Honolulu: Officials say the state has amassed a backlog of property title certificates stretching back six years. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports about 180,000 property title certificates are caught up in processing within the Department of Land and Natural Resources. Officials say Minnesota-based West Central Indexing has received a $1.3 million contract to install a records management system with technology to improve the bureau’s work. They say the new system announced in August is expected to be ready in October 2020. The land and natural resources department says the Bureau of Conveyances is also restructuring staff, digitizing documents and planning to upgrade its main database.
Boise: Federal authorities want to store the partially melted core from one of the nation’s worst nuclear power accidents in the state for another 20 years. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Monday that it’s considering a request from the U.S. Energy Department to renew a license to store the radioactive debris from the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, the core of which partially melted in 1979 south of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The commission says continuing to store the debris at the Energy Department’s 890-square-mile site in eastern Idaho that includes the Idaho National Laboratory will have no significant impact. The license would be good through 2039, four years past an agreement the Energy Department has with the state to remove the high-level radioactive waste.
Chicago: City officials say crews will install hundreds of yards of barriers along Lake Michigan to guard against flood damage from storms in the fall and winter. Mayor Lori Lightfoot says high lake levels have been an ongoing issue historically, and the barriers will help mitigate vulnerable locations. Crews started work in recent days and will continue through the rest of September. They plan to set up barriers at eight lakefront locations, including near popular beaches. The Chicago Park District is one of the agencies working on the project. City officials plan to monitor the situation through cameras installed along the lakefront.
Gary: A utility wants to demolish a 133-foot-tall water tower that’s been part of the skyline in northwestern Indiana since 1909. The (Northwest Indiana) Times reports Indiana-American Water is in the process of building a new water in downtown Gary and has proposed demolishing the historic municipal water tower that Chicago engineer John W. Alvord designed for the city. The distinctive white tower can be seen from miles around, but it’s no longer used for its original purpose. Indiana-American Water spokesman Joe Loughmiller says the 110-year-old steel storage tank “is beyond its useful life and can no longer be used.” He says the structure has been maintained, but inspections have found “significant … deficiencies” that could jeopardize safety if it’s not demolished.
Des Moines: The Blank Park Zoo’s newest seal pup needs a name, and the public is invited to have its say. The zoo has announced its finalists for the name of the female seal pup born Aug. 20: Rose, Desi, Lucy and Penny. The public can vote online until noon Thursday, the zoo says. The winner will be announced next Tuesday. The seal pup is doing great, zookeepers report. She is growing quickly, is very vocal and is already making friends with the zoo’s sea lions, Addy and Zoey. Visitors will be able to see the pup swim in the outdoor pool in just a few weeks, the zoo says. The pup is a harbor seal, a species distinguishable by grey spotted coats unique to each animal. Harbor seals are native to North America along the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines, the zoo says.
Lawrence: The University of Kansas plans to close its Center for STEM Learning and a program designed to attract math and science teachers. Program director Steven Case says the center and the UKanTeach program will close at the end of the academic year because of budget cuts at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The Lawrence Journal-World reports students in the UKanTeach program complete a science, technology, engineering or math bachelor program while also receiving a teaching license in math or some science programs. An email to students in the program said officials in the liberal arts and education departments are collaborating on a new program to continue the UKanTeach approach.
Harrodsburg: Apple has deepened its ties with a plant in the state by awarding $250 million to support continued work to develop glass for iPhones and other devices. That builds on the $200 million Corning Inc. received from Apple’s Advanced Manufacturing Fund in 2017. Apple says the investments support research and development that will be crucial for next-generation devices. Scratch-resistant glass for every generation of iPhone has been made at Corning’s plant in Harrodsburg. It also supplies glass for iPads and Apple Watches. Corning employs about 400 people at its technology development and manufacturing operations in Harrodsburg. The company says the new Apple award won’t result in an immediate increase in jobs there but enables “future opportunities that may lead to growth.”
New Orleans: New Orleans’ Storyland will reopen Sept. 28, with an $800,000 renovation nearly complete. It’s the first makeover in 35 years for the 60-year-old playground in City Park that has been closed since July. A news release Monday announced the reopening date. The redo includes three new exhibits and updates to others. Officials say a fourth new exhibit will be added later. The playground’s accordion-playing alligator now leads a musical grouping with xylophones and flower-shaped drums for kids to play. Another new exhibit is Humpty Dumpty’s playhouse, with giant Legos. The third is the fable of the tortoise and the hare, including a tortoise shell big enough for even grown-ups to crawl into. Admission to Storyland will go up from $4 to $5.
Augusta: The state’s marijuana policy office is seeking to curb confusion about the new track-and-trace system, which is required by law. The Maine Office of Marijuana Policy conducted a demonstration Monday of a cloud-based software product that will use barcode-based tags and labels to track the growth and distribution of marijuana products in the state. Individual tags and labels will cost 25 cents. The Portland Press Herald reports some marijuana industry members were concerned that would mean hundreds of tags would be required for the life of one plant, which can be processed into many products. The office clarified that individual products available for sale would not require individual labels.
Annapolis: State officials say regulations for the upcoming oyster season aim to reduce the harvest by 26%. The Department of Natural Resources released the final harvest limits Monday. The department eased up some on limits it proposed last week, after watermen criticized the proposal. Those regulations would have reduced the harvest by an estimated 30%. The proposal outlined last week would have delayed the season until Oct. 15, but it will now begin Oct. 1. However, there will be no commercial harvesting on Wednesdays. This season is the first since the release of the state’s first oyster stock assessment. It estimated market-sized oysters dropped from 600 million in 1999 to about 300 million in the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay in 2018.
Methuen: A funeral director has been writing obituaries and inviting strangers to burials for late veterans. Aaron Mizen, director for the Kenneth H. Pollard Funeral Home in Methuen, says he has stepped up for these strangers because they had no one else to do it. The Eagle Tribune reports Mizen wrote the obituary for 84-year-old U.S. Navy veteran Eileen Robichaud after she died Sept. 6. He also extended an invite to Methuen residents to join him at her burial this week at Elmwood Cemetery. Mizen, who is a 20-year military veteran himself, says Robichaud has no family left to honor her. The Methuen resident extended a similar invitation six months ago to honor 95-year-old Albert Corn, who was an Army sergeant and a recipient of the Purple Heart.
Dearborn: A suburban Detroit history attraction has acquired a major collection of photographs, menus, clothing and other items related to American diners. The Henry Ford announced the acquisition Tuesday of the collection assembled by Richard J.S. Gutman, an expert who has been helping tell the story of the eateries. The collection also includes drawings, manufacturers’ catalogs, postcards, tables, stools, tableware and more from diners across the U.S. The addition bolsters The Henry Ford’s collection of materials related to U.S. roadside architecture and design. Gutman was involved in the move and restoration of Lamy’s Diner, located inside the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation at The Henry Ford, and the reconstruction of the Owl Night Lunch Wagon, in The Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village attraction.
Duluth: Some residents along the north shoreline of Lake Superior say the proliferation of stacks of rocks, or cairns, despoils nature’s beauty and creates monuments to the human ego. Locals say the cairns began appearing more often about five years ago, possibly because of the growth in popularity of Instagram and other social media sites, Minnesota Public Radio News reports. Photographer Travis Novitsky, who grew up and still lives on the Grand Portage Reservation, says he wasn’t bothered by cairns at first but now sees them all along the lakefront. Peter Juhl, who’s been balancing rocks for decades, says it’s a meditative process for him, and he considers his stacks to be ephemeral works of art. He says he encourages others to try it but also to disassemble their stacks after taking a photo to be considerate to future visitors.
Oxford: The bell of justice may be tolling for one north Mississippi man. Lafayette County Sheriff’s Major Alan Wilburn tells The Oxford Eagle that Michael Lippert, 33, was arrested Monday on grand larceny charges, accused of stealing a historic church bell. It’s unclear if Lippert has a lawyer or has seen a judge. The bell, which stands outside the Sand Springs Presbyterian Church in rural Lafayette County, was reported stolen over the weekend. Deputies on Monday posted a picture of the recovered bell, which sits on the ground mounted to a masonry stand. Wilburn didn’t say how Lippert would have managed to remove the bell or why he might have wanted to take it. The church, established in 1854, is on the National Register of Historic Places.
St. Louis: A company based in the city’s suburbs is offering free test-preparation classes for high school students in the wake of the college-admissions scandal. Clayton, Missouri-based Varsity Tutors said Monday that the online classes seek to help prepare students for the ACT or SAT exams. It says the program seeks to make access to higher educational more attainable for all students. The program is open to students across the county and offers 25 hours of live instruction plus practice exams. Gov. Mike Parson is supporting the initiative, and St. Louis Public Schools will stream the classes live in classrooms. Parson, a Republican, says the program will be provided at no cost to more than 267,000 high school students across Missouri.
Kalispell: State wildlife officials are urging residents to pick the low-hanging fruit from their backyard trees to avoid attracting hungry bears. The Flathead Beacon reports Fish, Wildlife and Parks created a Facebook page to help people in the Flathead Valley connect with someone to pick fruit from their yards. Bears eat ravenously to prepare for hibernation just as fruit begins to ripen. Wildlife officials say picking the low-hanging fruit can help avoid bear-human encounters. The Flathead Valley program coordinates volunteers to help gather the fruit, which can be donated to food banks, pressed into cider or used for baking. The agency says garbage, birdfeeders, pet and livestock food, and gardens also attract bears.
Bellevue: This Omaha suburb is planning to scrap bicycle lanes along one of its main thoroughfares in favor of more lanes for cars. The Omaha World-Herald reports Bellevue plans to spend $20,000 this fall to remove the 6-year-old bicycle lanes and restore Fort Crook Road to six lanes of traffic. In 2013, the city spent $50,000 and the Nebraska Department of Transportation contributed $250,000 for the project that converted two lanes for cars into bicycle lanes. Bellevue City Administrator Jim Ristow says the bike lanes didn’t get much use, and they tended to confuse drivers, especially if they were new to the city.
Las Vegas: As more electric vehicles hit the streets, additional places to charge them are popping up around the city. The Las Vegas Sun reports that casinos, Clark County, shopping centers and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, now offer charging stations. Las Vegas city planners are exploring ways to make it more electric-vehicle-friendly. In July, Tesla and Caesars Entertainment partnered to open a solar-powered facility dubbed a supercharging station near the High Roller observation wheel on the Las Vegas Strip. The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles reports nearly 7,000 registered electric vehicles, up from 1,200 in 2015.
Concord: The U.S. Supreme Court has asked the state to respond to an appeal of three women who were arrested for going topless at a beach. Heidi Lilley, Kia Sinclair and Ginger Pierro were arrested in Laconia in 2016. They are part of Free the Nipple, a campaign advocating for the rights of women to go topless, and have asked the high court to hear their case. New Hampshire Public Radio reports the justices haven’t accepted the appeal yet, and the state initially waived its right to reply. But now, the court has directed it to file a response by Oct. 15. The state Supreme Court upheld the women’s convictions earlier this year, ruling that Laconia did not violate the Constitution’s equal protection clause with its ordinance barring women from showing their nipples in public.
Asbury Park: The Sea.Hear.Now music, art and surfing fest is set for Saturday and Sunday on the North Beach and Bradley Park, and organizers say it’ll be bigger than ever. The main stage will be set up to offer a bigger expanse of beach for fans. There will now be 35,000 per day, up from the 21,000 at last year’s debut festival. The Lumineers; Rainbow Kitten Surprise; Joan Jett and the Blackhearts; Bad Religion; Work in Progress, featuring “Stranger Things” star Gaten Matarazzo; and more start things off Saturday, while the Dave Matthews Band, Dropkick Murphys, Dispatch, the B-52s, Steel Pulse and more take over Sunday. Artwork by the musicians will be shown in a pop-up gallery. There’s a surfing component, too. Pros will ride and compete in “Expression Sessions,” as well as at least one musician – Jake Clemons from the E Street Band.
Albuquerque: The state’s largest electric utility is recalculating costs and benefits associated with the planned closure of a coal-fired power plant in northwest New Mexico. Public Service Company of New Mexico is filing corrected paperwork with state regulators this week after finding a modeling error in the different scenarios for replacing capacity that will be lost with the closure of the San Juan Generating Station in 2022. The utility has proposed four options that include various mixes of natural gas, nuclear, renewable resources and battery storage. New modeling shows monthly savings for the average customer would be less – $6.87 instead of $7.11 – if regulators go with the utility’s preferred option. The cost of that plan is about $4.6 billion.
New York: A condominium tower near Central Park will be the world’s tallest predominantly residential building when it opens next year but will be competing with other ultra-luxury buildings for billionaire buyers. Extell Development Co. President Gary Barnett said Tuesday that the $3 billion, 1,550-foot Central Park Tower is entering an “oversupplied” market. He said Extell and its partners will have to be “flexible” in selling the building’s multimillion-dollar apartments. Barnett spoke at a “topping out” ceremony Tuesday to celebrate the fact that the tower has reached its full height. Apartments now listed on Central Park Tower’s website range from $6.9 million for a 33rd floor two-bedroom to $63 million for a 112th-floor five-bedroom. Nordstrom department store will occupy the first seven floors.
Raleigh: A budget veto has slowed state government for months, so lawmakers have sent Gov. Roy Cooper more stand-alone legislation containing popular provisions from that spending plan. Cooper now has four spending bills on his desk that address school and prison safety, disaster relief and testing sexual assault evidence kits. All received unanimous support. The school and rape kit bills got final legislative approval with House votes late Monday. Republican legislators have described these “mini-budgets” as a way to unlock spending for initiatives stuck since Cooper vetoed the two-year budget in June. The Democratic governor signed four other state employee pay bills in August. More bills may be unnecessary if the Senate soon overrides the budget veto.
Bismarck: State regulators say drillers set a record for oil production in July. The Department of Mineral Resources says the state produced an average of 1.44 million barrels of oil daily in July. That was up from the previous record of 1.42 million barrels a day in set in June. North Dakota also produced a record 2.94 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day in July, up from 2.88 billion cubic feet in June. Statewide, though, companies flared 23% of all gas produced in July, or nearly double the 12% target. There were a record 15,943 wells producing in July. The July tallies are the latest figures available. There were 62 drill rigs operating Monday, up five from the July average.
Dayton: The factory where the Wright brothers built many of their planes has been added to the official list of the nation’s historic places worthy of preservation. The Dayton Daily News reports the Wright Co. Factory in Dayton was added this month to the National Register of Historic Places, overseen by the National Park Service. Kendell Thompson, superintendent of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, says the listing is important to help preserve the airplane factory’s buildings and could help groups like the National Aviation Heritage Area or other partners compete for grant funding to redevelop the site. Wilbur and Orville Wright formed the Wright Co. in 1909. The company produced about 120 airplanes in 13 models.
Tulsa: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has proposed a $160 million plan to shore up levees around the city that have been weakened by periodic flooding. The Corps released a feasibility study Monday that recommends altering existing levees and rebuilding pump stations to protect lives and property served by the 75-year-old Tulsa-West Tulsa Levee System. The Corps is required to complete a study of the nation’s levees by September 2020, but city and state officials wanted the study expedited after hundreds of homes and business were inundated during historic flooding along the Arkansas River. Engineers say floods have made Tulsa’s levees less effective. State officials say while they held back water for weeks during the spring, a breach would have caused catastrophic flooding over a wide area.
Salem: Willamette University is prepared to give thousands of dollars per semester per eligible student as part of a new financial aid partnership with the state. The Oregon College Savings Plan and Willamette University will double students’ college savings with a dollar-for-dollar match. Under the Willamette Savings Match program, Oregon residents admitted to the school’s College of Liberal Arts can apply to receive a match of their Oregon College Savings Plan account for up to $5,000 per semester for eight semesters, allowing for a potential savings of $40,000. Willamette University, a private school in downtown Salem, serves about 1,600 undergraduate students. Nearly 100% of its students receive some form of financial aid. Annual tuition alone totals $51,750. Willamette is the first school to take part in the Oregon Scholars program.
Harrisburg: The Wolf administration is moving to limit the number of people at rallies in the Capitol Rotunda and reserving room for others to walk through when it’s crowded. Pennlive.com reports the General Services Department is capping at 450 the number of people on the floor, balconies and marble stairs. A walkway has been designated to provide a corridor for people to get through the crowds. Agency spokesman Troy Thompson says the changes are designed to ensure rallies can go on in a safe manner and to allow other business to proceed. The Capitol’s central space is a popular place for news conferences and gatherings of people hoping to influence public policy. Some boisterous gatherings have numbered in the hundreds.
Providence: The state is offering $5 million to help communities acquire or improve outdoor recreational facilities. The Department of Environmental Management says outdoor recreation matching grants are available to help local municipalities and Native American tribes acquire, develop or renovate these facilities. Gov. Gina Raimondo says modernizing recreational facilities and creating greenspace in cities helps attract people to live and start businesses in Rhode Island. The environmental management department says more than 500 grants have been awarded and about $73 million has been invested in all 39 Rhode Island communities since the community recreation grant program began in 1988. The application deadline for the 2020 grant round is Dec. 11. Grant instructions are online.
James Island: About $490,800 has been earmarked to restore a hotel that was one of the few places black people could relax by the shore during the civil rights era. News outlets report the National Park Service on Monday announced the African American Civil Rights grant to help restore the Pine Tree Hotel on Mosquito Beach. Historic Charleston Foundation President and CEO Winslow Hastie says he’s thrilled the project got the total amount of funds requested. He says Mosquito Beach is one of five “black beaches” in the county but the only one that remains virtually intact. He says the grant will allow the foundation to make the hotel into an educational and entrepreneurial site for the black community. The hotel closed as segregation began to fade and has survived several hurricanes.
Rapid City: Landowners have been awarded more than $700,000 in a lawsuit accusing a federal agency of burning their properties in April 2013, when a prescribed fire blazed out of control. The U.S. Forest Service had aimed to eliminate grass, weeds and dead vegetation from about 200 acres of federally owned land on the Dakota Prairie Grasslands. The Rapid City Journal reports the prescribed burn blew beyond the intended area and destroyed more than 7,000 acres of private land. Affected landowners filed lawsuits in 2015, alleging the government failed to execute the fire properly. The latest settlement, approved in August, awards $45,000 to Duane and Dawn Harris and Albert Keller. A conference to decide remaining cases is scheduled for Nov. 15.
Memphis: Officials say a sensor attached to the American Queen steamboat will give scientists and cities a better understanding of nutrient levels and water quality along the entire length of the Mississippi River. U.S. Geological Survey officials, a group of Mississippi River city mayors and the operators of the American Queen gathered Monday for a news conference on the steam-driven vessel in Memphis. Good water quality is vital for cities that get their drinking water from the heavily traveled river. Mississippi River water is also used for industrial purposes and by tourists who enjoy recreational activities along the waterway. Although 3,700 water quality sensors are already in fixed locations, officials say the American Queen’s device will help build a larger picture of water quality.
Seguin: A water agency will relent to pressure from property owners and not drain four lakes in the state, but all recreational activity will be temporarily banned out of concern that aging dams on the lakes could fail. A court agreement was reached Monday between the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority and landowners who were angered when the authority announced in August its plans to “dewater” the lakes east of San Antonio. Boating, fishing and other activities will be prohibited beginning Thursday. A panel will be formed that within two months is supposed to recommend whether portions of Gonzales, McQueeney, Meadow and Placid lakes can be reopened. Spill gates at two other dams overseen by the authority – at Lake Dunlap and at Lake Wood – previously failed.
Salt Lake City: State legislators have passed a measure to make it easier for businesses to prepare to sell higher-strength beer ahead of the Nov. 1 effective date. The bill lawmakers approved during Monday’s special session gives retailers a one-week grace period to purchase and store 4% beer before it can be sold to customers as the cap is lifted from 3.2% beer. Republican Rep. Steve Waldrip said the measure helps smaller retailers and stores in rural areas make the transition. Republican Gov. Gary Herbert signed off on a law in March raising the alcohol limit for beer by weight available to grocery and convenience stores, as well as on tap in bars. Some local craft brewers are against the law, calling it an incremental increase that would favor big breweries.
Montpelier: Police say the lockdown of some government buildings in the capital last month was prompted by two people who likely saw an umbrella and not a gun. The report of a suspicious person carrying a long gun entering the Department of Taxes building led to the Aug. 30 lockdown for at least four hours, but no intruder or weapon was found. Montpelier police posted on Facebook on Friday that the investigation is complete and “led to the conclusion that the suspicious person was most likely the individual with the umbrella.” Vermont Secretary of Administration Susanne Young says that “this incident serves as an important test” of state government’s building response plans and employee preparedness.
Richmond: Gov. Ralph Northam has issued an executive order setting a goal for the state to produce 100% of its electricity from carbon-free sources by 2050. The order announced Tuesday says the goal will help address climate change, which “poses potentially devastating risk to Virginia.” The order sets an intermediate goal of reaching 30% renewable energy by 2030. It also says the commonwealth’s agencies and executive branch institutions will aim to procure at least 30% of their electricity from renewable resources by 2022. The GOP-controlled Legislature has thwarted Northam’s attempts to limit carbon emissions from power plants. Control of both the House and Senate are up for grabs in November’s elections. Environmental groups largely applauded the move from Northam.
Olympic National Park: The park is seeing an increase in search-and-rescue operations this year. KOMO-TV reports the park typically averages about 50 to 60 incidents per year. But park rangers say several incidents over the Labor Day holiday weekend brought the total for this year to 71. Olympic National Park Acting Chief Ranger Kristin Kirschner says it’s enough to want to get the message out to visitors to be prepared when they’re visiting. She wants every hiker to take precautions, especially with rapidly changing weather conditions as the transition from summer to fall begins. Generally, the search-and-rescue incidents have required crews to carry someone out of the backcountry or call in a helicopter from one of several partner agencies.
Charleston: An attorney for the state Division of Highways has asked for permission to deny paid time off for employees who plan to attend an upcoming grievance hearing. The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports a mediation hearing at the Public Employees Grievance Board office in Charleston is scheduled for Oct. 18. More than 400 employees accuse the division of failing to address pay, hiring and retention problems as mandated by a 2017 law. Division attorney Rebecca McDonald says in a Sept. 12 letter to the grievance board that employees plan to stage a protest, and the division shouldn’t have to follow a law that orders the agency to grant time off. Union field organizer Gordon Simmons says union members only plan to cheer on employees as they walk into the upcoming hearing.
Milwaukee: Vaccinations are as important for zoo animals as for humans, and the residents of Milwaukee County Zoo have been getting up to date. the red panda cub looked unfazed when a veterinarian armed with a syringe approached her recently. Some of the animals take their shots stoically, and others whine and cry, zookeepers say. In the Big Cat Country, treats are given to patients after vaccinations. Stella the jaguar demands premium treats – she “requires filet mignon, and the others get T-bones,” supervisor Katie Kuhn says. A majority of the mammals at the zoo are vaccinated against rabies. Much of the hoofed stock – caribou, giraffes, cows, kudu – get tetanus shots, too. Red pandas, ferrets and snow leopards are vaccinated against distemper; the rest of the cats get a multi-vaccine for several types of respiratory viruses. Birds get a West Nile virus shot. Horses and zebras get vaccines for western and eastern equine encephalitis as well as respiratory viruses.
Laramie: The University of Wyoming’s new $105 million engineering education building opened for classes this fall. The Laramie Boomerang reports hundreds of people attended the ceremonial ribbon-cutting of the Engineering Education and Research Building, which university and state officials see as helping make the college one of the nation’s top engineering schools. Former Gov. Dave Freudenthal, who sat on the task force that oversaw the new building’s construction, spoke at the Friday groundbreaking and urged UW not to become complacent in its ambitions for the engineering school. Engineering college dean Michael Pishko says UW now needs to invest in engineering professors, noting that the college could use about 20 new engineering faculty in the next few years.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: News from around our 50 states