Thursday, January 29, 2015
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Wednesday afternoon news, January 28

Sioux City Man And Woman Arrested For Drug Possession

(Le Mars) -- Plymouth County authorities have arrested two people from Sioux City on various drug related charges as a result of a traffic stop conducted Monday evening.  The arrest was made at the intersection of South Ridge Road and West Loop road.  32 year old Maria Newbern was placed under arrest for possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, a second offense for Operating A Vehicle While Intoxicated, and driving while license was suspended.  41 year old Heath Ridsdal, also of Sioux City, was a passenger in the car and was arrested for possession of a controlled substance.


KLEM Expo Approaching

(Le Mars) -- Only a few days remain until the KLEM Expo scheduled for Friday, February 6 and Saturday, February 7.  Both floors of the Le Mars Convention Center will be filled with exhibitors.  This year's KLEM Expo will feature financial institutions, insurance companies, home furnishings, home improvement, health and wellness clubs, and so much more.  Enjoy a free Catalanos pizza party on Friday evening, and for Saturday, children can create crafts with the assistance of the Le Mars Arts Center, as well as participate in the Coloring Contest.  Free Blue Bunny ice cream treats will be distributed for both days. The hours of the KLEM Expo are from 4:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. for Friday, February 6th, and from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. Saturday, February 7th. Don't forget to register for a free trip to Las Vegas!  That's the KLEM Expo.  


Interstate 29 May See Another Sioux City Interchange 

 SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - The Woodbury County Board has taken a step down what could be a 10-year journey for another Interstate 29 interchange.
     The board committed nearly $181,000 for its share of a study that will cost $600,000. Local officials have been asking the Iowa Transportation Department since 2012 for an exit between mile markers 138 and 140 to help boost economic development. They cite traffic near Southbridge Business Park, which is being built south of Sioux Gateway Airport.
     Department rules require a justification report before interchanges can be built. The interchange cost was estimated at $20 million in 2013.
     County consultant Terry Lutz told the board that even if state approves the project, it would take eight to 10 years before it opens to motorists.


Flu Hospitalizations Are Declining

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa health officials say the number of flu hospitalizations has decreased by more than two-thirds since late December.
     An Iowa Department of Public Health report shows just 50 flu hospitalizations were recorded in the week ending Jan. 17, down from 182 admitted in the week ending Jan. 3. The drop in cases comes when Gov. Terry Branstad's hospitalization due to the illness focused attention on the flu.
     Health Department medical director Dr. Patricia Quinlisk says there are likely more cases last week than the report indicates because a major hospital couldn't send its figures. Still, she says it's clear fewer people are becoming severely ill from the flu.
     Despite the drop, Quinlisk says flu season is not over yet, and the epidemic could rekindle.


Legislators Hope To Introduce Gasoline Tax Bill By Next Week

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Lawmakers say they hope to introduce a bill to increase Iowa's fuel tax as early as next week.
     Sen. Tod Bowman, a Democrat from Maquoketa, and Rep. Joshua Byrnes, a Republican from Osage, said Wednesday they are working on legislation that would increase the tax, potentially by 10 cents a gallon. That would provide $215 million annually for the state's network of bridges and roads, many of which are in disrepair.
     Iowa's fuel tax is currently 22 cents a gallon, including fees. It hasn't been raised since 1989. The lawmakers said they are working on ways to maintain the funding in future years.
     Gov. Terry Branstad has said he wants to increase funding for roads this year, though he has not endorsed a specific plan.


Volunteer Fire Department Is Fired By City Officials

SHELBY, Iowa (AP) - The City Council in western Iowa's Shelby has dismissed the town's volunteer firefighters.
     The council decided on Monday to dismiss all but one member of the 12-person department. The town of about 640 people will be relying on departments in Minden and Avoca to respond to any emergencies. 
     Fire Chief Eric Wendt, who wasn't among those ousted, says the council has said the department's fundraising proceeds should be under council control, something the volunteers don't want.
     City attorney Clint Fichter says all department revenue, including money from fundraising, are public funds, subject to the same rules as tax money.


Lawsuit Against Scouts Is Partially Dismissed

 DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - An attorney says a sex abuse lawsuit against the Scouts and a former scoutmaster has been partially dismissed. 
     The lawsuit was filed in January 2013 by an unnamed man who says he was sexually abused in 1977 or 1978 when he belonged to a West Des Moines troop. The lawsuit named former scoutmaster Kenneth Newell, who now lives in Cedar Rapids.
     Guy Cook, who represented the Boy Scouts, said Wednesday that the dismissal filed by the plaintiff states that the scouting organization is not liable for the plaintiff's costs. Cook says the organization denies any liability or wrongdoing. He also says the lawsuit continues against Newell.
    Newell has not been criminally charged. Court records don't list the name of his attorney.


Judge Blocks Farm Groups Lawsuit Against EPA

 MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A federal judge has rejected a lawsuit by two major farm groups that sought to block the release of data on large livestock farms in Minnesota and Iowa.
     The American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Pork Producers Council filed the lawsuit in in Minneapolis in 2013 after some activist groups requested the Environmental Protection Agency data under the Freedom of Information Act.  The data includes physical addresses and other operational details about the farms. The farm groups said releasing the data would violate farmers' privacy.
     But U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery dismissed the lawsuit Tuesday. She ruled that Farm Bureau and the Pork Producers lacked legal standing. And she pointed out that the data the two groups sought to keep private is easily available from other public sources anyway.





Wednesday News, January 28

Floyd Valley Hospital Receives Certification As A Trauma Center

(Le Mars) -- Floyd Valley Hospital has successfully completed the categorization and re-verification process to be re-certified as a Level IV community trauma care facility.  Hospitals must re-apply every three years to participate in Iowa’s trauma system, and based on availability of resources.  Community Trauma   Care Facilities are often located in rural areas and have resources to provide initial stabilization for all trauma patients while preparing the patient for transfer when appropriate.
Leading the Floyd Valley Hospital categorization and re-verification process was Dr. Sheila Holcomb, Emergency Department Medical Director; Dr. Dariush Ghaffari, Trauma Medical Director and Mary Jo Clark, RN, BSN Trauma Coordinator. 


Supervisors Set February 24th As Date For Budget Hearing

(Le Mars) -- Plymouth County Board of Supervisors have set the date of February 24th at 10:00 a.m. as the date for a public hearing regarding the county fiscal year budget.  In other action from Tuesday's meeting, the county supervisors approved the action to remove a stop sign located at the 220th Street and Pioneer Avenue.  County engineer Tom Rohe reported to the supervisors the stop sign was initially installed due to several trees that had blocked the line of sight.  However, Rohe says those trees now have been cleared.  He says the stop sign was for only one direction.  The supervisors have also set the date of February 17th at 10:15 a.m. for a public hearing to vacate a portion of Otter Avenue.  County road crews had recently removed a bridge and replaced it with a culvert, and in doing so, they altered the road away from a creek.  The county supervisors are looking to close the old stretch of roadway. The supervisors approved the semi annual settlement of funds report, and they approved the county weed commission annual report.


Climatologist Says 2015 Should Be Good Weather Year For Crops

(Le Mars) -- An Iowa State University Extension Climatologist believes 2015 should be a decent year for farmers and their crops.  Elwynn Taylor spoke before nearly 200 farmers in Le Mars on Tuesday.  He says subsoil moisture levels have for the most part, been replenished across the cornbelt, giving farmers some optimism for having another good yield, despite what appears to be a dry winter.

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Taylor says the nation is ending one weather cycle and is starting another.  He says so far, we are having a moderate el nino' weather pattern which could mean above average crop yield for 2015.

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The Extension Climatologist says farmers may see a cycle that could be more volatile.

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Ethanol Industry Is Hurting Due To Low Oil Prices

(Le Mars) -- Corn prices are low, as are gasoline prices, so how is the ethanol industry doing?  An Iowa State University agricultural economist says the ethanol industry is facing a good news - bad news scenerio with profit margins becoming very slim.

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Chad Hart spoke at a Crop Advantage seminar in Le Mars on Tuesday.  He says ethanol is able to compete when oil prices are high, but times like today, the ethanol industry still needs support from subsidies.
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 Hart says there isn't much optimism for improvement in the grain prices for this next marketing year.

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The grain marketing specialist says if there is a possibility for hope in the grain markets, it could be with exports.

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Transportation Department Testing Solution For Icy Roads 

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Iowa Transportation Department is testing a new system that could help motorists drive more safely on icy roadways.
     The testing is underway on an 11-mile stretch of Interstate 35 north of Des Moines. 
     During and after storms, some drivers go too fast, some too slow. The system being tested comes up with a limit that, if observed, would smooth out traffic flow and make travel safer.
     The system includes sensors that use lasers to detect the ice, snow or slush on the pavement. Engineer Willy Sorenson says the system uses the data to determine what he calls an "advised" lower speed limit. That safer speed limit is sent to four digital speed limit signs along the roadway.


Coralville Apartment Fire

 CORALVILLE, Iowa (AP) - Authorities say three people, including a baby, are safe after they escaped from a second-story window during an apartment fire.
     Coralville Fire Chief Dave Stannard says it's not yet clear what caused the Tuesday night blaze. 
     Officials say firefighters and multiple ambulances were called to the building around 9:30 p.m. after receiving a report of smoke and fire.
     Police say the three people didn't appear to have any injuries.


Universities May Adopt Uniform Admission Policies

   DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa's three public universities may soon have a more uniform admissions policy for students from the growing number of high schools that do not provide class rankings.
     The Iowa Board of Regents will consider a new formula next week that would affect students from roughly 40 public and private high schools that don't rank students.
     Students from those schools would be automatically admitted if they score above a 245 on a mathematical formula, which is based on ACT scores, grade point average and number of core courses completed. Students who fall below that number would be subject to individual reviews.
     The change addresses inconsistencies in how students without class rankings have been scored for admissions by the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa.


Democrats Work On Wage Theft Bill

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Democrats in the Senate say a bill aimed at curtailing wage theft in Iowa would require businesses to be more direct with workers about employment terms.
     Sen. Bill Dotzler, a Democrat from Waterloo, is co-sponsor of a bill that would require employers to share a written record of employment terms with an employee at the start of a job. The measure would also define penalty terms and expand protection for whistleblowers.
     Dotzler and Democratic Sen. Tony Bisignano, of Des Moines, spoke at a press conference Tuesday.
     Sen. Rick Bertrand, a Republican from Sioux City, says the measure would overregulate many honest businesses. He says he plans to introduce a bill this session that would give Iowa Workforce Development more funds to investigate wage theft cases.


Unemployment Rate Falls In Iowa 

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa has seen an increase in nonfarm jobs and a decrease in its unemployment rate in the past year.
     Data released Tuesday shows Iowa gained 16,400 nonfarm jobs in 2014. The state's jobless rate dropped to 4.1 percent in December, down from 4.3 percent in November and 4.2 percent in December 2013.
     According to a news release, Iowa nonfarm employment increased to 1.56 million jobs, gaining 2,100 jobs from November to December alone. Education and health services, government and construction saw the largest growth in the past year.
     U.S. Department of Labor statistics show Iowa is among 46 states and the District of Columbia to lower unemployment rates in 2014.
     Beth Townsend, Iowa Workforce Development interim director, says the state's economy "ended on a high note."


University Of Iowa Employees May Qualify For Retirement Benefits

 IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - Some University of Iowa employees may be eligible for additional benefits in exchange for retiring early.
     A plan released Tuesday says employees who are 57 and have 10 years experience will be eligible to apply for an early retirement program starting Feb. 6.
     Those who are accepted would receive payments of unused vacation and sick leave, and five years of health and dental benefits. The university would make contributions to employees' retirement plans for five years, also covering the employees' share for the first three.
     University Health Care employees would not be eligible for the program, which the Iowa Board of Regents is expected to consider approving next week.
     UI President Sally Mason has said the program is designed to save money and soften the impact of restructuring on employees.




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