The Hays Daily News from Hays, Kansas on June 20, 2006 · Page 3
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The Hays Daily News from Hays, Kansas · Page 3

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006
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TUESDAY, JUNE 20,2006 REGION AND STATE THE HAYS DAILY NEWS A3 Merchants face restrictions on gift cards next year KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Starting next year, Kansas will join a growing number of stdtes where consumer complaints have prompted new regulations on merchants who sell gift cards. A new law approved this year and taking effect Jan. 1 will require merchants to honor gift cards for at least five years. It will prohibit them from charging "inactivity" fees — imposed when a recipient doesn't use the card — for at least a year after a card is purchased. More than half the states have enacted such restrictions in the past three years following a rise in the popularity of gift cards. Retailers expect such cards to account for nearly $62 billion in sales nationally this year. Similar legislation was introduced this year in the Missouri General Assembly but died without a committee hearing. KANSAS' NEW GIFT CARD LAW Under a Kansas law takttig effect Jan. 1, 2007: fl Merchant will be required to hortdrtha gift cards they sell tor at least five years. V • Businesses Issuing gffl cards wtil not be . able to charge Inactivity" fees for at least a year after the card Is Issued. • Merchants still won't be required to redeem cards for cash. • Cards or certificates can expire sooner* than five years, If they're given to consumers free or purchased at a cost below their face value, GO long as the expiration date la printed' oh front. Source: Enrolled HB 2658. Jack Gillis, director of public affairs for the Consumer Federation of America, said many consumers are shocked to find out that a gift card is not worth its original value because of inactivity fees. "They've been screaming bloody mur- der to their legislators," he told The Kansas City Star. One upset consumer was Ed Wise of Overland Park. Five years ago, he purchased a $100 gift certificate for his wife at a Johnson County health club. Thirteen months later, she called the club to arrange for a massage and was told the certificate had expired after 12 months — and was worth nothing. "That just ticked me off," Wise said. He contacted Rep. David Huff, R-Lenexa, who began a three-year effort to enact restrictions. Joseph Lewczak, a New York lawyer who advises companies on laws pertaining to gift cards, said the Kansas law is less restrictive than those of some states, but more restrictive than those that require only a printed notification on the card of any expiration date and inactivity fee. "Kansas is probably in the middle of the pack," he said. Kansas law doesn't apply to cards or certificates given free to consumers or if the consumer buys a card at below its face value, so long as an expiration date appears on the front. Also, no merchant can be required to redeem a card for cash. In Missouri, Sen. Maida Coleman, D- St. Louis, wants to go even further than the Kansas law. Under her unsuccessful bill, retailers would have been required to pay the value of the card in cash once the consumer has used at least half the card's value to buy merchandise. Gillis said gift-card sellers count on people losing or not using their cards or on them spending a different amount at the store. "They know that with that $50 card you're going to buy maybe $55 worth of merchandise or you buy a $45 item and you never use the remaining $5," Gillis said. "Either way they win." Retailers support some regulation efforts, said Kurt Helwig, president of the Network Branded Prepaid Card Association. But the industry opposes bans on expiration dates because retailers and banks have to track and eventually account for the cards they sell, he said. Helwig said many in the industry were looking for some standardization and general rules that promoted more self-regulation. "Some of this legislation is actually good and industry-driven," he said. "It's a relatively new environment. It's raising people's attention." Meanwhile, Gillis urged shoppers to examine the terms of a card before buying one. He said most consumers don't realize that many cards have expiration dates or that nonuse fees can be charged. Budget talks stalled Ellis County Commission still needs information on employee salaries By KAREN MIKOLS HAYS DAILY NEWS A lack of uniformity amongst county employee salary requests stalled budget discussions Monday morning at the Ellis County Commission meeting. "Some have salary increases and some do not," Ellis County Commissioner Vernon Berens said. Commission Chairman Christopher Channell said he is meeting with the salary committee Wednesday. "At that point, hopefully the I committee will make some rec- I ommendations on where we want i to go," Channell said. ' commissioners said it is difficult • to make adjustments to the budget. Ellis County Clerk Alberta : Klaus said it sounds like proper; ty valuations will be comparable ; to last year. Preliminary budget : numbers show about a 3 percent 1 increase over last year's budget. Ellis County EMS Director 1 Kerry McCue reiterated his concerns about fuel prices. "I added $9,100 to my budget ; for fuel," McCue said. "Last year i we didn't hit high gas prices until this time. This morning, diesel was $2.96 per gallon, which is ridiculous." McCue suggested adding a line in the county budget for fuel, in case prices increase sharply. The budget will be discussed next during the July 3 meeting. In other action, the commission: • Unanimouslyapproved posting a speed limit sign on the north side of Walker and installing other stop signs and traffic control devices throughout the county. • Unanimously approved a KDHE grant for local environmental protection. The county contributes $1,513. • Unanimously approved increasing poll worker wages. Currently, workers are paid $5.15/hour. The rates were increased to $6/hour for poll workers and $7/hour for the supervi- ,sor. • Discussed sharing the cost of a CIS coordinator with the ; city. Information Technology Director Mike Leiker said the position should fall under the city's umbrella, but the county should pay for half of the cost. Leiker ^ estimated the start-up cost for ;this change will be $28,000. ' • Discussed a chip seal request from the city. Channell said he will meet with Hays Mayor Wayne Billinger today and it will ! be discussed. : Reporter Karen Mlkols can be ! reached at (785) 628-1081, ext. 143, or by e-mail at I kmlkols9dallyn»W9.n»t. ; The Hays Dally News staff •takes care with Its reporting 1 and : writing. But if we make a mis- I take, we want to know about it so 'we can let readers know the cor- irect information. We encourage 'readers who find an error to contact us at (785) 628-1081. Ask for ; Patrick Lowry, executive editor, ;or Mike Corn, managing editor, jor e-mail the editors at :irtQwry®d#Uynew8.net or ijncorn@4ailynew6.net. Views of harvest { V t A*t*« ' *™J V . c!3t'jo.ta gid lv . ni9ae stli oJ •nJfl * * ' •:'^^!^-T'^^ • • > < *." v s >, f. v > ' tf. TOP: Marvin King, right, and Pete Waldschmidt watch as ^P^combjnes dpp their loads of wheat onto a truck • Monday atteKnoon Iri a field In northern Ellis County. LEFT:'"' Two combines appear to cross paths as they cut in a field of wheat Monday in northern Ellis County. STEVEN HAUSLER Hays Dally News Grants will help parishioners restore church's interior By STACIE R. SANDALL HAYS DAILY NEWS DAMAR — With $190,000 in its pocket, St. Joseph Catholic Church in Damar will be able to do wonders to the inside of the building. The church was given $90,000 from the Kansas State Historical Society through the Heritage Trust Fund. An amount of $100,000 was promised by the Dane G. Hansen Foundation, Logan, on the condition that the church was awarded the state grant, said Pastoral Associate Donna Benoit. St. Joseph Catholic Church has not received formal notification of the Hansen award yet. Benoit said the church will use the funds to repair two broken stained glass windows and six scagolia pillars in need of serious repair. "The material has cracked Damar over time," Benoit said of the pillars. "Some pieces have fallen off and others have just cracked." Members of the church will meet with the historical society Thursday to discuss the plan of action. Benoit said the church will have to hire an architect, who will look over the church and provide recommendations. Next, bids will be taken from companies that can do the specific type of work that needs to be done. Since the pillars are scagolia pillars, or false marble, Benoit said finding a company that can repair them might be difficult and it will be expensive. "There's no way we could do (the repairs) on our own," said Benoit. The church contacted the company that did the original work and it was able to provide some recommendations, as well. "We want to restore the church, not remodel it," said Father Don McCarthy. "It's a beautiful building. We're real excited about it." The $190,000 will not cover the entire cost of the project, which should amount to about $250,000. Parish funds will have to be used, and Benoit said there has been talk about issuing state historical tax credits. Rooks County Economic Development Director Roger Hrabe said expenses over the amount of the Heritage Trust Fund Grant are eligible for tax credits. If an entity donates funds, otherwise called buying tax credits, it can deduct the amount from its tax liability. Hrabe helped Damar resident Steve Hanson write the grant, and will help administrate it. "It's a beautiful building," Hrabe said. "It's certainly worthy of the money they're going to be putting into it." Reporter Stacle R. Sandall can be reached at (785) 628-1081, ext. 136, or by e-mail at saandall&dallynews.net. Children affected by substance abuse have fun place to go D.R.EAM. camp at Cedar Bluff teaches self-esteem, life skills By PHYLLIS J. ZORN HAYS DAILY NEWS Enrollment is still open for the first session of an area camp for children from addicted families. Designed for children ages 9 to 12, D.R.E.A.M. camp is located at Cedar Bluff Reservoir, its home since 1995 by a lease agreement with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. The first camp session was held in 1990. This year's camp dates are July 9 to 13 and July 31 to Aug. 3. The camp promotes self-esteem, decision-making, cpping skills and communication '. skills. Besides that, it offers fun activities with campfires, swimming, games and cook-outs. Going to camp is a chance to learn about chemical addiction, pick up coping skills and work on self-esteem issues in an atmosphere of companionship and support. Co-director Sheryl Butler said the camp Is for children who live with anyone affected by substance abuse, "For the most part, people think of parents or stepparents, but it can also be siblings," Butler said. "One of the things we try to get out Is that if there's an older sibling who is using, that has the same dynamic as when it's a parent." It's also for children who live with people who have stopped using, Butler added. Often the thought is that once the family member stops using, every- thing gets better for the child. That's not necessarily so, Butler said. "It doesn't have to be an actively using home; it can be a home that's recovering," she said. Butler said the camp has several new staff members this year. "We just trained six regular staff and three junior staff," Butler said. Junior staff members are those who have a helping role with running the camp. Butler said a few more staff members are still being sought. "We're always running low on male staff members," Butler said. "Ideally, if I could have a couple more, it'd be great." The fees for camp are based on family income, but scholarships are available, Butler said. "We have quite a bit of schol- arship money available for kids who want to go to camp," Butler said, "Some of it is location-specific, but most of it is based on general need." The closing of a camp adjacent to D.R.E.A.M. camp will mean a slight change for campers. Instead of using the pool at the adjacent camp, the campers will take a road trip to the pool. "Our swimming probably will be done either at Hays or at WaKeeney," Butler said. Usually, the campers take in two swimming sessions, Butler said. For more information, or to enroll a child for D.R.E.A.M. camp, call (785) 628-6655 or (800) 420-9282. Reporter Phyllis Zom can be reached at (785) 628-1081, ext. 137, or by e-mail at Briefs Assistant commissioner to sub for Praeger in forums A change of schedule for Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger will mean a speaker change at this week's insurance information forums in Hays and Colby Insure U curriculum, an insurance education course developed by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, will be presented at 3:30 p.m. Thursday in the conference room of the Thomas County Office Center. It will also be presented in Hays at 9:30 a.m. Friday at First Presbyterian Church, 2900 Hall. Assistant Commissioner Bob Tomlinson will present the forums. The forums will present insurance information relevant to empty nesters and seniors. Wheat stubble, lightning fires keep crews busy SMITH CENTER — Two fires in two days have kept firefighters hopping in Smith County. The Smith County Sheriff's Office reported a fire call at about 7:50 p.m. Monday from David Sasse that wheat stubble was on fire. The field is 1 mile south of Smith Center, south of County Road 170 and east of U.S. Highway 281. The fire threatened houses in the area, and the long term care unit at Smith County Memorial Hospital was evacuated as a precautionary measure. Fire departments from Smith Center, Lebanon, Gaylord, Athol and Kensington were dispatched. The blaze burned between 50 and 60 acres and did some tree damage. It did not reach the uncut wheat. The fire was out by about 9 p.m. Another fire, caused by lightning, brought out the Gaylord and Kensington units just after 9 a.m. today I mile north of Kansas Highway 9 at Cedar. Lightning had struck a tree, which caused a fire near a stubble field. The fire was out in 15 minutes.

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