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Updated: 8 min 25 sec ago

Video: Even warmer today with isolated storms

Tue, 03/31/2015 - 6:50am

A weak front will kick up a storm or two, with highs well into the 70s.

Construction crews on track to finish Nixa storm shelters by early summer

Tue, 03/31/2015 - 6:33am

New construction going on in the Nixa area will soon mean more emergency shelter options for residents. "This will be the third of four safe rooms that we are going to be opening up either later this Spring or early summer," said Zac Rantz, Director of Communications for Nixa Public Schools.

"We have two currently at Matthews Elementary School and one at Inman Intermediate. The two currently under construction that are open to the public will be at Nixa High School and at Junior High," Rantz explained. It's something local residents are looking forward to taking advantage of during the next severe weather season. "These are probably one of the biggest things that people are appreciative of in our community," said Rantz.

"We're all very familiar with severe weather and tornadoes so these are F5 tornado rated FEMA safe rooms. To have this to be able to provide to the community is something that we're excited to give, and I think that they're excited to have. Especially people who don't have a basement or any other means of sheltering. This just gives them a sense of comfort," he added. Once completed this FEMA safe room can hold up to about 2,200 people anytime there's a tornado watch or warning. It's a huge asset to the entire city but especially on this side of town. "This is actually going to be the first FEMA safe room on the east side of town. The other ones are all on the west side so that's going to be an added benefit to this area of the community. There's a lot of houses around here so this will be something they can access very easily from the area around Nixa Junior High," Rantz explained. And now, in anticipation of the opening of the new safe rooms, the district is seeking help manning the space. "Right now we're needing about 40 additional people to help volunteer to open up two new safe rooms. It takes about 15-20 people to operate a FEMA  safe room. We have had some tornado watches last 12 hours or longer so we need people here opening up the FEMA safe room," said Rantz.

Anyone interested in volunteering or helping with the new shelters once completed should contact Rantz at zacrantz@nixaschools.net.

Citizen's Memorial Hospital adds new facilities to handle increased demand

Tue, 03/31/2015 - 4:53am

Thousands of people rely on Citizens Memorial Healthcare in Bolivar for their healthcare needs. With the number of independent community hospitals and rural healthcare clinics on the decline, CMH is seeing an increase in patients who are happy to have key services in that area. "Right now we're experiencing a tremendous growth in this market area as well as demand for services," said Steve Retherford, Director Of Plant Facilities for Citizens Memorial Hospital.

The healthcare system has been busy building so they can keep up with that demand. "We expanded the ambulatory surgical center and we added operating rooms. We also have a dedicated imaging center as well as a breast care center and we moved our surgical physicians clinic over here as well," Retherford explained. The new Douglas Medical Center is just one of several new CMH projects. Two more are being built as we speak on the South side of the hospital campus. "One is a new OBGYN clinic. It's a 14,000 square foot building and our OBGYN physicians will clinic on the top floor and our pediatric clinic will be on the lower level," said Retherford.

"The other facility is the Bolivar Technical College and that will basically give them a location on our campus. Currently they're out on Highway 32. Also we will be able to put our CMH education department in there and make that a CMH educational center on the campus," he explained. And with more facilities comes more jobs. "Some of the services were replacement services and some were actually expansion services. This week we are having a hiring fair where we are trying to place positions," said Retherford. Overall, hospital administrators say this exciting time reflects positively on the entire city and could help fuel growth in other areas as well such as housing and tourism. "I think Bolivar has always been very fortunate to have this level of medical care for the residents both in Bolivar and the surrounding areas," said Retherford.

"The hospital is a big employer of folks here and basically drives a lot of economic development for the town," he explained. CMH employs about 1,850 people. They're the largest employer in Polk County.

Springfield police officers union approves wage increases in new contract

Tue, 03/31/2015 - 12:18am

It looks like police officers in Springfield will getting raises during the next three years.  It's all part of a bargaining agreement approved by union members on Monday.  The Springfield Police Officers Association says this will help Springfield P.D. attract the best and the brightest to serve and protect the city.

The agreement was approved after two year of negotiations between the city and the officers union.

This agreement, which was approved by 99% of union members, includes:

• FY 15: A wage and benefit increase equivalent to an annualized 1.08% given to some union members effective April 1, 2015.

• FY 16: Equivalent of a 3.5% increase used for adjusting some salary steps and .827% across-the-board increase. No merit steps will be funded for union members during FY 16. Effective July 1, 2015.

• FY 17: Equivalent of a 3.5% increase used to fund merit steps. The remaining funds will be used to fund an across-the-board increase to reach the 3.5% total increase.

Mike Evans, President of the Springfield Police Officers Association, stated, "When Columbia Missouri is paying $10,000 more a year than Springfield P.D., that draws candidates to Columbia.  When the highway patrol is paying $12,000 dollars more a year, we lose candidates there.  So, this is going to help us be a shining star again in law enforcement and start bringing candidates to us."

"It's a historic moment because it is obviously our first bargaining agreement with the police union and it will be nice to get that behind us," stated mayor Bob Stephens.  "We can really concentrate on business and so forth that is what we are looking forward to."

The Springfield City Council still has to approve the contract before it can go into effect.  Council members will have a special meeting on Tuesday, where a vote is expected to be taken on the issue.

Colleague of late auditor's aide describes 'close friendship' between Spence Jackson. boss

Mon, 03/30/2015 - 11:51pm

Just one month after Missouri auditor Tom Schweich took his own life, police say Schwiech's communications director, Spence Jackson, a Springfield native, killed himself in his apartment in Jefferson City over the weekend.

"We're very aware of the political issues surrounding Mr. Schweich's death, and within a month we have the death of his spokesperson," said Jefferson City Police Capt. Doug Shoemaker during a news conference.

Police in Jefferson City said Monday that Jackson killed himself sometime Friday night or early Saturday.  Police recovered both a gun and a note at Jackson's apartment, where he lived alone.

"Obviously this impacted him far more than anyone knew," said Ken McClure, vice president of administrative services at Missouri State University.

McClure worked with Jackson in the office of Gov. Matt Blunt in 2005 - 06.  McClure was Blunt's chief of staff and Jackson was one of Blunt's spokesmen.  McClure  describes the Springfield Central High School and (Southwest) Missouri State University graduate as a passionate person whose number one priority was his job.

"When you work in a political environment like he did, you get to be close to people, and you care about what happens to them, and I think that's part of what happened with auditor Schweich's death and now, unfortunately, Spence's death," McClure said.

Those in Missouri's Republican circles who knew the star campaign strategist and communicator well are shocked but admit Jackson was the one on the front lines, speaking for Schweich's office, and, at times, even for his family, following the auditor's mysterious suicide in February.

"We've lost two people, and the best thing that can come out of a very, very bad situation is learning from it," McClure said.

Schweich had recently launched a campaign for the governor's office before his suicide.  For his part, McClure said he hopes politicians will take this as a lesson to focus on politics rather than making personal attacks. 

Car hits motorcyclist; driver, passenger run away

Mon, 03/30/2015 - 11:37pm

One man is in the hospital and two people have been arrested after a crash between a car and a motorcycle on a busy street on Monday evening.  It happened in the 3300 block of South Campbell Avenue, about three blocks south of Battlefield Road, around 6:15 p.m. 

Witnesses say a man and woman in the car tried to run away after the crash but police quickly caught and arrested them.

The motorcyclist was taken to a hospital but police hadn't released his condition by late Monday night.

Search continues for missing man from northwest Arkansas

Mon, 03/30/2015 - 11:31pm

Search crews are combing the banks of Leatherwood Creek.  They're still searching for the body of a man who was driving his white Ford Explorer on Wednesday night when flood waters swept it off the road and into Leatherwood Creek.

The Holiday Island Fire Department is working with the Tri County Rescue Team and the Carroll County Special Operations Rescue Team.  They're combing through sand and debris where Pshyney went off the road, looking all along the creek using boats and kayaks.

The Johnson County Dive Team is also searching the Table Rock Lake Reservoir.

They say the operation, which began as a search and rescue mission, has since become a recovery mission as they try to find Pshyney's body.

The Holiday Island Fire Department says they can only guess where he could be. 

"They suspect he's probably going to be right in this area where we're at, and that is a guess because you don't know what happened in that short time from the time the vehicle went into the water until now," says Kellie Trahan, public information officer for the Holiday Island Fire Department.

The Holiday Island Fire Department says it will keep looking until it recovers Pshyney's body.

Voters will decide sales tax proposal for South Barry County Ambulance District

Mon, 03/30/2015 - 11:25pm

Most people don't think about ambulances until they need one.  Come election day, voters in the South Barry County Ambulance District will decide whether to continue supporting the service through property taxes as it's been done for 40 years, or replace it with a 1/2-percent sales tax.

The responsibility would be shared by more people if it moves to a sales tax.

"It should be the sales tax," said Barry County citizen Laurie Taton. "I work here, I live here and I want them to be able to respond to me or my family or anybody coming to town here."

"At my age, when they start showing up at my door, I like to have them show at my door," said Tom Wardle, another Barry County citizen also in favor of a sales tax.

Ambulance District board members recommend the sales tax. They say the current way isn't covering operating costs. Last year it fell short by "a little over $40,000," said board chairman Ken Cieslinsk, talking about revenue versus expenses.

Cieslinski adds that revenue has fallen below costs for three out of the last five years.

A sales tax would generate considerably more revenue and some of those funds, Cielinkski says, could be used to expand, thereby cutting down response times. "Ambulance or additional facilities to be able to operate out of," said Cielinkski.

Right now the district has six ambulances at two locations.

Those in favor of the sales tax say it's more equitable. Not only will all the locals pay for it, but so will the many tourist who are drawn to the area.

And visitors do use the service.

"Those runs make up a little more than 30% of all the runs the ambulance make," Cieslinski said.

Whether they use it or not, it's a plan that doesn't sit well with some tourists.

"Well, that should be the courtesy of the state of Missouri," said Charles Middleton, who's visiting from Texas. "We pay a lot of money when we come here. We stay here, we eat here, so I think we're doing Missouri some good."

There are a number of exemptions, which can be found here along with more information, to the sales tax proposal.

Voters will decide on this issue on April 7.

Missouri House panel questions privacy in body camera bill

Mon, 03/30/2015 - 9:52pm

A Democratic proposal made in response to the fatal police shooting in Ferguson that would require mandatory body cameras for Missouri police is facing a Republican roadblock.

GOP House committee members questioned funding mechanisms and privacy protections during a hearing Monday.

But Democratic Rep. Brandon Ellington, of Kansas City, says recording police interactions would protect law enforcement and citizens.

Ellington says he was once arrested after a fight with an officer and charges were dropped only because of video from a store camera.

Body cameras have been one proposed response to the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson by a white police officer.

Ellington says he introduced the measure last year before the shooting. He said video would have answered questions about Brown's death.

Arkansas' Portis named AP 2nd-Team All-America

Mon, 03/30/2015 - 9:14pm

Two weeks after being named the SEC Player of the Year, Arkansas sophomore Bobby Portis was lauded by the Associated Press (AP) again on Monday by being named to the outlet’s All-America second team.

The All-America distinction is the third of the year for Portis, while he is the program’s first AP All-American since 2006.

Named the SEC Player of the Year by the AP and the SEC head coaches, Portis has also earned a spot on the USBWA All-America second team and Sporting News All-America third team.

“Bobby is worthy of every award he receives. He’s one of the hardest working players I’ve ever been around and the best part about him is that all his goals are team oriented,” said Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson. “Since he arrived on campus his focus has been to become a great player and everyday he truly works at it with the best yet to come.”

Portis finished his sophomore campaign as the team leader in scoring (17.5), field goal percentage (.536), rebounding (8.9), offensive rebounds (133), blocks (50) and steals (39). Along the way to leading the Razorbacks in nearly every statistical category, Portis also became the first player in the storied program’s history to accumulate 600 points and 300 rebounds.

The Little Rock native is a finalist for the Oscar Robertson Trophy, Lute Olson Award and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award.

Arkansas finished its fourth season under coach Anderson with a 27-9 record, good for the sixth-most wins in the program’s 92-year history. The Razorbacks earned an NCAA Tournament berth for the first time since 2008, advancing to the third round as the No. 5 seed in the West Region. Part of Arkansas’ 27 wins was a 13-5 record in the SEC which marked the most SEC wins since the 1993-94 national championship team.

IN A CLASS BY HIMSELF  Over his two seasons as a Razorback, Portis has put his name in the conversation with some of Arkansas’ elite players in program history. Portis is the first player in program history with 1,000 points and 500 rebounds as a sophomore. During Arkansas’ NCAA Tournament second round win over Wofford, Portis surpassed 600 points and 300 rebounds on the year, becoming the first player in program history to accomplish the feat.

BP MODE  Currently in the top 5 of the SEC in scoring (17.5/2nd), rebounding (8.9/4th), offensive rebounds (3.7/1st), defensive rebounds (5.2/5th) and field goal percentage (.536/2nd), Portis continued to etch his name in the Arkansas record books in 2014-15. • Second Razorback to be named SEC Player of the Year. • Just the third sophomore to reach the 1,000-point plateau, joining TODD DAY (1990) and SCOTTY THURMAN (1994).  • First player in program history with five straight double-doubles in SEC regular season action. • Program record nine double-doubles in SEC play. • First player in program history with 30 points and 10 rebounds in an SEC game against Vanderbilt with 32 points and 11 boards.  • First player in program history to go for 18+ points and 7+ rebounds in six straight games since CORLISS WILLIAMSON did during his sophomore season in 1994.  • Just the fifth player to record multiple 30-point games in his career against SEC opponents, joining TODD DAY (4), JANNERO PARGO (3), SCOTTY THURMAN (3) and JONATHON MODICA (2). • Had a 27-game double figure scoring streak that surpassed Todd Day’s 25-game streak from the end of 1990-91 into 1991-92.

THREE OF A KIND Portis is one of just three high-major players in the country that averaged or is averaging at least 17.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. He is joined by Duke's Jahlil Okafor and Syracuse's Rakeem Christmas.

SEC CHECKLIST  Taking on a league full of future NBA first round draft picks and some of the best big men in the country, Portis posted a double-double or 20-point game against 12 of the 13 SEC members in the regular season. Below is Portis’ checklist against SEC foes. Kentucky is the only opponent Portis didn’t do either, as he finished the Feb. 28 meeting in Lexington with 15 points and eight rebounds. Over his 36-game SEC career, Portis has a 20-point game or double-double against every league opponent.

IN-SEASON | POSTSEASON AWARDS >>> Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award Finalist (5 Players) >>> Oscar Robertson Trophy Finalist (14 Players) >>> Lute Olson Award Finalist (21 Players) >>> Associated Press SEC Player of the Year >>> SEC Player of the Year (Coaches) >>> USBWA All-District VII Player of the Year >>> Scout.com SEC Player of the Year >>> Associated Press All-America Second Team >>> USBWA All-America Second Team >>> Sporting News All-America Third Team  >>> Associated Press All-SEC First Team (Unanimous) >>> All-SEC First Team (Coaches) >>> USBWA All-District VII Team >>> NABC All-District 21 First Team >>> Scout.com All-SEC First Team >>> Wooden Award Final 15 >>> Naismith Trophy Midseason Top 30 >>> CBS Sports National Player of the Week (Jan. 12) >>> SEC Player of the Week (Jan. 12 & Feb. 16) >>> NCAA.com Player of the Week (Feb. 9) >>> Naismith Trophy Player of the Week (Feb. 10)

Busy opening day for Pineapple Whip

Mon, 03/30/2015 - 8:18pm

A sign of warm weather in the Ozarks in now back open for business. Pineapple Whip opened for it's first day and crowds lined up to get the year's first taste.

Two pineapple whip booths opened in the former Dillons parking lot near Battlefield and Kansas Expressway. That location has been closed since late January.

Warm and rainy weather ahead

Mon, 03/30/2015 - 6:31pm

Strong storms possible on Thursday

Spokesman for late state auditor left note before apparent suicide

Mon, 03/30/2015 - 6:03pm

Jefferson City police say the Missouri auditor's spokesman died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, just a month after the state auditor also killed himself.  Police say Robert "Spence" Jackson, 44, left a note before his apparent suicide.

Jefferson City Police Department spokesman Capt. Doug Shoemaker said Jackson died on Friday evening or early Saturday at his apartment.  Shoemaker declined to say what the note said.

Police found Jackson's body on Sunday evening after a request to check on him.  Shoemaker says Jackson's mother called police after not being able to reach him. Shoemaker said he has no reason to believe Jackson's suicide had anything to do with the suicide of his former boss last month.

Jackson had been the spokesman for Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich, who fatally shot himself on Feb. 26 at his home in the St. Louis suburb of Clayton.  Jackson remained as the office spokesman after Schweich's death.

Following the death of his boss, Jackson was outspoken about a whisper campaign concerning Schweich.  He even called for Missouri Republican Party Chairman John Hancock to resign.  That's because of Schweich's allegation that Hancock was behind the campaign.  Hancock denies the allegation.

Prior to joining Schweich's office in 2011, Jackson served as a spokesman for former Missouri governor Matt Blunt.  The former governor released this statement on Monday morning: "Melanie and I are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Spence Jackson who was a good friend for many years.  Spence was a gifted communicator who dedicated his talents in public affairs to public service.  Over his career he served as chief spokesman for three of Missouri's statewide offices including that of the governor when I held that post.  Spence was hard-working, well-liked and quick-witted.  He will truly be missed.  We mourn his passing and offer our prayers to his family and friends."

Jackson's Facebook page shows he graduated from Springfield Central High School and Southwest Missouri State University (now MSU).

His LinkedIn page listed this job history:

Media director, Missouri State Auditor's Office, May 2011 – present Communications director, Jordan Valley Community Health Center, Springfield, April 2010 – April 2011 Communications director, Missouri Department of Economic Development, Oct. 2006 – Jan. 2009 Communications director, Office of the Governor, 2005 – 2006 Communications director, Missourians for Matt Blunt, 2004 Field representative, U.S. Senate, March 1997 – September 1999, Kansas City, Mo., area

Five ways to make sure your wallet is prepared for severe weather

Mon, 03/30/2015 - 5:53pm

Hopefully you have a flashlight, batteries and some bottled water, but is your wallet prepared for severe weather?

The aftermath of a storm can bring heartache and destruction. "The last thing you need to be worrying about is your financial affairs," said Robert Baltzell with RLB Financial.

Help yourself by preparing now.

1. Know your insurance policy.

Does your insurance include replacement costs or actual cash value? That could be the difference of rebuilding or just taking a check. 2. Stash some emergency cash.

Don't bank on ATMs working after a disaster. " Have three or four days worth of cash because if something happens like that, there's going to be no banks open," said Baltzell. 3. Enroll in direct deposit.

Online banking helps you to be on top of your finances without traveling to the bank. 4. Organize your important papers.

Think about what you would need if you were unable to go home for several weeks. Roundup your insurance policies, credit and bank account, vehicle registration and real estate deeds. You might need this info to file a claim. 5. Have a secure storage. Put all those important documents and emergency cash in a waterproof, fireproof safe. Make sure you can take it with you in case you're evacuated.

Arkansas governor, lawmaker won't seek changes to religious freedom bill

Mon, 03/30/2015 - 5:50pm

Gov. Asa Hutchinson and a lawmaker behind a "religious freedom" bill, which critics say endorses discrimination against gays and lesbians, say they're not seeking any changes to the measure as it nears a final vote in the Arkansas Legislature.  A similar bill signed into law last week in Indiana has drawn widespread condemnation and ridicule from across the country.

Hutchinson said in a statement on Monday that he'll sign the bill that would prohibit state and local government from infringing upon someone's religious beliefs without a compelling interest as long as it's similar to measures in effect in 20 other states.

Republican Rep. Bob Ballinger said he didn't expect any changes to the bill, which could face a final vote as soon as Tuesday.  A Hutchinson spokesman said the governor wasn't actively seeking any changes.

Arkansas lawmakers approve abortion information requirements

Mon, 03/30/2015 - 5:34pm

State lawmakers gave final approval to a bill that would change the required information that a woman receives from a physician before an abortion and would create one of the longest waiting periods in the nation.

The bill approved by the Senate on a 26-4 vote would increase the amount of time between the in-person meeting and the procedure from 24 hours to 48 hours.  It would also change the law to require that the first consultation be in-person, meaning a requirement of at least two trips to a health care facility for a woman.

Supporters say the changes will require quality information be provided to women before an abortion, while opponents said the Legislature was overstepping its bounds on what should be between a woman and her doctor.

Missing girl from Montrose is safe in New Mexico, man is charged

Mon, 03/30/2015 - 5:23pm

A missing 13-year-old girl from rural Henry County is safe after law enforcement officers found her with an unrelated man near Albuquerque, N.M.   The man is in custody and is charged with child kidnapping here in Henry County.  After investigators interview her, she could be returned home as early as Monday night.

Investigators believe Raymond Vallia 3rd, 55, of Amarillo, Texas, kidnapped Hannah Kennish from her rural home in southern Henry County on Sunday morning.   They issued an Amber Alert for her about 1:40 p.m. Monday.  They told reporters about 3:50 p.m. that she was safe.

Investigators believe Hannah left willingly with Vallia between 3 and 8 a.m. Sunday after the two made plans for him to pick her up.  She did not have a cellular telephone with her or any clothes besides what she was wearing.

The FBI, which assisted a Major Case Squad of county and city police department detectives, found evidence on Hannah's tablet computer, which she used for homework, that she's had a social media relationship with Vallia for at least four months.  Henry County Chief Deputy Rob Hills said Hannah communicated with Vallia on Pinterest, Tumblr and Tick, but not on Twitter and Facebook, and says Hannah told him that she is older than she really is. 

Hills says Hannah's mother was shocked to learn about Hannah's relationship with Vallia after her daughter disappeared, as well as the multiple social media accounts that she had.  Hills said the mother had done an excellent job of trying to control Hannah's online presence (he said Hannah didn't even have a cell phone), but hadn't been able to monitor the fake identities that Hannah used online because she didn't know about those accounts.

Hills wouldn't share the exact nature of the conversations between Hannah and Vallia because her family hadn't been told about the details.

Hills said word about the kidnapping spread quickly across the country after the Amber Alert was issued.  He credited notices from the news media as well as social media with helping to get the word out.  Police found Vallia during a traffic stop.  Hills said he isn't aware of any criminal history that Vallia has.

Hills said investigators started running leads on Sunday night to track down Vallia after examining Hannah's electronic devices.  He said Vallia has had various addresses in the southwestern United States but he didn't know of any connection to Missouri. 

Hills said the Amber Alert wasn't issued until Monday afternoon because investigators weren't sure of their information and the danger that Hannah might be in.  Officers were preparing for a ground search around Montrose as the investigation proceeded.

Hannah's mother discovered her missing around 10 a.m. Sunday.  The rear door of the home near Montrose was open.

Montrose is about 90 miles northwest of Springfield in southern Henry County.

If Vallia is convicted of child kidnapping, he could receive a 30-year (life) prison sentence.  The amount of time it takes for him to be returned to Clinton could depend on whether he waives his right to extradition.

Arkansas legislator drops proposal to ban California wine

Mon, 03/30/2015 - 5:17pm

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas lawmaker who wanted to outlaw California wine in retaliation for the West Coast state's egg regulations says he has pulled the bill and that it's effectively dead.

The bill was drafted by Republican Rep. Dan Douglas of Bentonville in protest to a voter-approved California law banning the sale of eggs from chickens kept in cages too small for the animals to turn around. It would prohibit the important of wine from any state that places a "substantial burden" on the Arkansas agriculture industry, as determined by Secretary of the Arkansas Agriculture Department.

Douglas told the Associated Press Monday he wouldn't present the bill before the Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee because it has already delivered an anti-regulation message to California lawmakers.

Arkansas House votes to require drug screening before receiving state benefits

Mon, 03/30/2015 - 3:52pm

Some Arkansans who apply for job-training benefits and other family aid would be forced to take a drug test under a bill backed by the House. 

Representatives voted 69-14 on Monday to support the creation of a two-year pilot program. The Department of Workforce Services would be required to question applicants and to refer people deemed as suspicious for drug testing.

The change would apply to about 12,000 people in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. 

The bill now heads to the Senate.  A spokesman for Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the governor will review the bill once it has been passed.

Proponents say the change will help funding go to those who need it.  Opponents have said similar laws in other states haven't produced results and waste taxpayer money.