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AM News Brief: Settlement For Powell’s Parents, Female Football Player Testifies & Drones Vs. Firefighters

Photo of flames and smoke burning on a hill behind houses.
Utah Fire Info
The Battle Creek 2 Fire started the evening of Sept. 12, 2020, at the mouth of Pleasant Grove Canyon.

Wednesday morning, September 16, 2020

State

Lawmakers Question No-Bid Pandemic Contracts

Utah state lawmakers questioned whether emergency, no-bid contracts the state entered into at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic were the best use of taxpayer dollars during a legislative hearing Tuesday. They also asked state officials if some of those contracts are still necessary. A legislative audit found that the Utah Department of Health should have been consulted earlier on the contract negotiations. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

Drones Hamper Firefighting Efforts

Over the past week, there have been five unauthorized aircrafts flown near active wildfires, according to Kait Webb, a spokesperson for the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands. Authorities often issue temporary flight restrictions over fires for personal planes, and drones are always illegal. Webb said aerial firefighting has to stop when objects or planes intrude the area. People caught operating unmanned aircrafts in no-fly zones can be charged with a felony and face fines of up to $15,000. — Lexi Peery, St. George

Follow KUER’s coverage of Utah’s 2020 Fire Season.

Gubernatorial Candidates Support On-Line Voting For Persons With Disabilities

Utah’s Republican and Democratic gubernatorial candidates both support online voting for people with disabilities throughout the state. Utah County currently allows them to vote online. During an interview with the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University, Democratic gubernatorial candidate and University of Utah Law Professor Chris Peterson said that accommodation should be expanded statewide, with appropriate security measures. Utah’s Republican candidate for governor, current Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, said during his interview with the center that it would be a focus of his administration while noting the process might not be fast. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

Northern Utah

Some Power Outages Continue

More than 2,200 homes and businesses remain without power as of 11:45 a.m. Wednesday morning. Ten days ago, strong winds whipped Utah and pulled down at least 2,000 trees across the Salt Lake valley alone. Tens of thousands were in the dark when trees hit power lines, poles fell and breakers were damaged. Rocky Mountain Power officials said crews are making steady progress and are working to restore all power. — Diane Maggipinto

Female High School Football Player Testifies About Discrimination

A Utah teenager who was the only girl on her school's football team said she often faced discriminatory treatment by her coach and teammates. Sixteen-year-old Laura Goetz says she felt excluded and degraded during the two years she played football at West Jordan High School. She testified Tuesday as part of a lawsuit that aims to give girls the chance to play football on female-only high school teams. Goetz said she was forced to change in the boys' locker room at away games, and she said one coach regularly called her "princess." — Associated Press

Region/Nation

Damages Reduced In Susan Powell Son’s Wrongful Death Suit

A judge in Washington state has reduced the damages in a wrongful death case brought by the parents of Susan Cox Powell on behalf of her sons. Judith and Charles Cox had said the state didn't do enough to keep their 7- and 5-year-old grandsons safe from their father, who killed the boys in 2012. Jurors found the state Department of Social and Health Services negligent and awarded $98.5 million to the Cox family for the pain and suffering of Charlie and Braden Powell. Pierce County Superior Court Judge Stanley Rumbaugh on Tuesday reduced that by two-thirds Tuesday, to about $32.8 million. — Associated Press

Zinke Envisioned Ranching Approach To Yellowstone Bison Management

Former Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke pushed Yellowstone National Park to manage its bison like cattle back in 2018 according to newly released documents from the park service. The documents were part of a lawsuit from the conservation group, Buffalo Field Campaign. Darrell Geist is with the non-profit organization. He said the Yellowstone herd is the last continuously wild bison population in the United States that’s still on its native range, and that treating bison like ranch cattle would hurt the unique herd. The Department of Interior did not respond to a request for comment. — Maggie Mullen, Mountain West News Bureau