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Tuesday Afternoon News, March 24

Updated Information Regarding Early Morning Accident

(Le Mars) -- Two vehicles collided with each other this morning resulting in an accident that sent two people to the hospital.  35 year old Lynne Uhl of Le Mars sustained serious injuries when her car t-boned an utility truck being driven by 38 year old Donald Oranian of Omaha, Nebraska.  According to a police investigation report, a semi truck and trailer was making a right hand turn on 24th Street southwest when Oranian pulled alongside the semi.  As the semi truck was making its turn, it was shielding the oncoming vehicle driven by Uhl from Oranian's line of sight. Oranian entered the southbound traffic on Business Highway 75 when Uhl's vehicle struck him.  Uhl had to be extricated from her vehicle by the Le Mars Fire and Rescue Department.  Both drivers were transported to the Floyd Valley Hospital by the Le Mars Ambulance services.


Neunaber To Have Another Hearing Scheduled For Friday

(Le Mars) -- A court hearing will be held Friday in the case of an Akron, Iowa man charged with first degree murder in the death of his mother.  A hearing in the case of 45 year old Jonathon Neunaber will be held Friday in Plymouth County District court.  Court documents filed by Neunaber's attorney claim that the suspect did not have legal counsel when he was arrested and interviewed by authorities in Wisconsin last year.  Neunaber's attorney wants statements made and evidence taken in Wisconsin thrown out of the case.  A hearing motion to suppress will take place at 11:15 a.m. in Le Mars before Judge Steven Andreasen.


Traffic Stop Leads To Arrest

(Le Mars) -- A traffic stop on South Ridge Road Saturday afternoon has resulted in a man being charged with possession of marijuana.  32 year old Charles Gordon of Sioux City was placed under arrest for a second offense.  He was transported to the Plymouth County jail.


Rags Soaked With Linseed Oil Determined To Be Cause Of Orange City House Fire

(Orange City) -- More information is now known relating to the Orange City home that caught on fire Saturday evening.  The fire was determined to be accidental in origin.  Fire officials believe the most probable cause of the fire was the result of spontaneous combustion due to unattended linseed oil rags left in a bucket near the rear of the residence.  The fire then spread from the rags, igniting the back of the home, up toward the roof area.  The ranch style home located at 303 Kentucky Avenue Northwest sustained an estimated $150,000 in damages.


North West Rural Electric Cooperative Holds District Meeting

(Le Mars) -- Northwest Rural Electric Cooperative held its district meeting last evening at Le Mars.  CEO for the electrical cooperative, Lyle Korver, told the members the local power utility cooperative is doing well.

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Korver says additional environmental regulations placed on electrical utility companies and cooperatives have forced rates to go higher.  Korver says nearly half of the power generated for the Northwest Rural Electric Cooperative is from coal burning generation plants.

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The utility power executive says regulations and general upgrade maintenance have forced the rural electric cooperative to pass along an increase of rates to its membership.  He says they were able to maintain a rate stability for the past 26 years.

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Korver informed the membership the cooperative is expanding to include several commercial and industrial customers, as part of its commitment to economic development.  He says Northwest REC supplies power to four ethanol facilities, many large-scale livestock operations, and to other factories and production plants.

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At last evening's district meeting, the membership re-elected Shirley Benson to the board of directors. Northwest REC serves Sioux, O'Brien, Ida, and Plymouth Counties.

Lawmakers Shocked By Cost of Women's Prison

MITCHELLVILLE, Iowa (AP) - The cost of expanding and renovating the state women's prison at Mitchellville has now reached a projected $122 million.
Some lawmakers were surprised by the new price tag, which is up from the initial estimate of $68 million when the project was approved by former Gov. Chet Culver.
Democrats Sen. Robert Dvorsky, chairman of the Iowa Senate Appropriations Committee, and Sen. Matt McCoy, chairman of a state infrastructure budget subcommittee, both said Monday that they were unaware of the project's dramatic increase in cost. The lawmakers said they were informed that the prison would cost about $100 million.
Deputy Corrections Director Brad Hier said funding for the project was approved by the Iowa legislature so the cost, which includes $94.5 million for construction, should not be a surprise.

House Passes Bill To Start School After August 23rd

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Iowa House has approved a bill that would give the state control over when school districts can start their calendar year, a move that reverses course from legislation approved in the Senate and sets up conflict over what may happen next.
The House voted 71-29 Tuesday in support of a bill that would require school districts in Iowa to start classes no earlier than Aug. 23. The House bill changes legislation passed in the Senate, which would give school districts local control over when to start.
The House bill, which now heads back to the Senate, also adds language that would exempt some school districts with year-round calendars.
The Senate is expected to oppose the revamped bill, which may force lawmakers to debate the issue in a special committee.

Senate Has Doubts About DHS Director

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - An Iowa Senate committee has declined to endorse the governor's pick to lead the state Department of Human Services.
The Human Resources Committee on Tuesday advanced the nomination of DHS Director Chuck Palmer without recommendation. Members expressed concerns about communication with lawmakers over plans like closing two mental health institutions. But many praised Palmer and noted he held a challenging position.
Palmer's nomination now goes to the full Senate, where he needs approval from two-thirds of the members. Democratic Senate President Pam Jochum, from Dubuque, said she was not sure if there were enough votes for approval.
Palmer took over DHS in 2011 after Gov. Terry Branstad returned to office. He also ran the department years ago.
Branstad spokesman Jimmy Centers said the governor was optimistic Palmer would win confirmation.

Branstad Defends Use Of Blackberry For News Updates

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Gov. Terry Branstad's office is defending the use of his privately-owned BlackBerry to read news clips and his official schedules.
Branstad testified in a deposition made public last week that he doesn't use a personal or official email account or send text messages. But he raised eyebrows when he later claimed that he had an "app" on his BlackBerry that allowed him to read emails.
In a statement Wednesday, Branstad's office said the governor was referring to the inbox on his personal BlackBerry. The office said the governor uses the device to read news clips that are distributed by aides and his schedule.
The statement says Branstad doesn't use the device to conduct state business. He has sent two emails from the BlackBerry, which both appear to be "pocket replies."

Webmaster Claims Iowa Workforce It Project Thwarted

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - A webmaster claims that Iowa Workforce Development managers intentionally thwarted progress on a $795,000 plan for an electronic filing system for Iowa workers' compensation cases.
Former Workers' Compensation Commissioner Christopher Godfrey contends in a lawsuit that managers withheld support and took other steps to delay a system he'd sought to save time and money in filing, processing, mailing and storing documents. Godfrey claims the agency under then-director Teresa Wahlert was trying to make him look bad after he defied Republican Gov. Terry Branstad's requests to resign.
Godfrey's claim has gotten a boost from agency webmaster Mark French, who recently testified in a deposition that he was ordered by a supervisor to stop helping Godfrey with the project in June 2011.
State officials reject that allegation, blaming the contractor for delays.



Tuesday News, March 24

Early Morning Vehicle Accident

(Le Mars) -- The Le Mars Fire and Rescue Department along with the Le Mars Ambulance responded to a two vehicle accident this morning shortly after 6:30 a.m.   The accident happened near the Wells Enterprises corporate offices.  Two ambulances were called to the scene and Fire and Rescue officials had to use the jaws of life to extricate the victims.  A car and a utility truck collided sending at least two victims to the Floyd Valley Hospital.


County Supervisors Scheduled To Meet This Morning

(Le Mars) -- Plymouth County Board of Supervisors are scheduled to meet at the county courthouse.  The supervisors are expected to set a public hearing date on proposed issuance of indebtedness to be incurred in the next fiscal year.  The supervisors will also review a suspension of taxes for Wayne and Margaret Rassel for March of 2015. County engineer Tom Rohe will discuss with the county board two bridge contract projects, as well as discuss a general update relating to construction projects.


Western Iowa Tech President Tells How Community Colleges Are Assisting Communities

(Le Mars) -- At Monday's Lunch and Learn session, Dr. Terry Murrell, the president of Western Iowa Technical Community College informed the gathering how community colleges are evolving to better assist the needs of communities. Murrell talked about the recent involvement that Western Iowa Tech has taken to help the Le Mars Business community.

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Murrell informed the gathering that Western Iowa Tech created a job training center in Le Mars.

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Murrell says Wells Enterprises, Bo-Deans Bakery, Dean's Foods, and IML Containers were among the businesses that approached Western Iowa Tech for assistance in employee job training.

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Wall Lake Couple Charged With Distributing Marijuana And Child Endangerment

WALL LAKE, Iowa (AP) - Two Wall Lake residents are accused of distributing marijuana in a home with several children. 
     The Sac County Sheriff's Office announced Monday the arrests of 37-year-old Laura Lawler and 37-year-old Jason Ransom.
     Lawler is charged with possession with the intent to distribute marijuana and child endangerment. Ransom is charged with child endangerment. 
     Four children were removed from the home, and the Department of Human Services was contacted.
     Lawler and Ransom are being held in Sac County Jail. Bond for Lawler is set at $14,000 and bond for Ransom is set at $8,000.
     It wasn't immediately known if they have attorneys.


Legislators Pass Sledding Bill

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Lawmakers in the Iowa Senate and House have approved legislation that would protect cities from liability if people are injured while sledding in public parks.
     The bill passed 48-0 in the Iowa Senate Monday. It passed in the House last week. Current law protects cities from liability when people are injured skateboarding or biking, but it doesn't include a sledding protection. This bill would change the language to provide protection from injuries sustained during "recreational activities," which means sledding would be covered. 
     Some Iowa cities have banned sledding in public parks over concern about liability if people get hurt.
     When asked whether Branstad will sign the bill, spokesman Jimmy Centers said the governor will carefully review it before making a decision.


Legislature Questions Regents Appointees

  DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Three people appointed by Gov. Terry Branstad to join the Iowa Board of Regents say their political affiliations will not be a factor in their decisions.
     Mary Andringa, Patricia Cownie and Rachael Johnson told the Senate Education Committee on Monday that they can be independent thinkers in how they approach education issues.
     Their remarks came after Sen. Robert Dvorsky, a Coralville Democrat, criticized Branstad for placing five Republicans, one Democrat and three Independents on the board. Dvorsky says Branstad is not reflecting equal representation on the board.
     Branstad's appointments are legal. Current law doesn't allow more than five members of the same political party to serve on the board.
     Andringa and Cownie are registered Republicans; Johnson is a registered Independent. The Senate must confirm their appointments.


Wells Fargo Donates House To Charity Organization

 HAWARDEN, Iowa (AP) - Wells Fargo has donated a home to the Center for Financial Education, a nonprofit ministry that provides counseling services free of charge in northwest Iowa.
     Wells Fargo donated the house mortgage-free in October. Through its Community and Urban Stabilization Program, which was started last year, Wells Fargo has donated more than 450 properties to nonprofit and faith-based organizations.
     Center director Jan Henryson says that she and the center's board of directors are exploring the home's potential. They may convert the building into a bed and breakfast, a safe house for teenage mothers or an assisted living facility. Flipping the house for a profit or demolishing the structure and selling the lot are also options.




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