Wednesday News, March 18
Plymouth County Now Under A Burn Ban
(Le Mars) -- As a result of the extreme dry conditions, and since many of the small county fire departments were busy on Monday fighting grass fires, the state fire marshal received a request to declare a burn ban for Plymouth County. Le Mars Fire Chief Dave Schipper serves as as the president of the county fire department association. He says the burn ban is effective as of 8:00 a.m.
Schipper says the ground is so muddy,it has made it difficult to reach the fire in order to extinguish it.
Schipper says it has been even more difficult to extinguish grass fires due to the windy conditions. He says a fire will generate additional winds, making it even that much more difficult to fight.
The Le Mars Fire Chief says the burn ban will remain in effect until such time conditions improve with a good measurable rain. Violators of the burn ban may face fines.
Gehlen Sends 32 People On Honduras Mission
(Le Mars) -- 32 people packed their bags and loaded up on school bus Tuesday afternoon with Honduras as their destination. Its all part of the Gehlen Catholic's Mission Honduras program. This is the 15th year for the Honduras mission. Organizer Carolyn Bickford has participated on ten Mission Honduras trips. She reviews what the group of students and adult chaperones will be doing once they arrive in the poverty stricken Central American nation.
One of the students participating on the Honduras mission trip is Gehlen senior Josie Schipper. Schipper says she is excited to visit the third world nation and tells of her expectations.
The future Augustana College student explains why she wanted to participate on the mission trip.
Schipper says she is looking forward to constructing homes.
Dennis Schmidt of Alton is an adult chaperone on the journey. Schmidt is a contractor by trade and believes his regular job will prove to be beneficial for the mission.
Schmidt says it was his daughter's persuasion that convinced him to travel to Honduras.
This is Schmidt's first time to visit Honduras and he says he feels fortunate.
The Gehlen Honduras Mission is scheduled to last ten days, and the group's return to Le Mars will be March 27th.
Chamber Agri-Business Luncheon Scheduled For Today
(Le Mars) -- The Le Mars Chamber of Commerce Agriculture Committee is hosting the 21st annual Agri-business luncheon today at the Le Mars Convention Center. The event begins with a Chamber coffee at 9:30 a.m. being hosted by the Plymouth County Farm Bureau. At 10:30 a representative from C-F Industries will speak about the multi-billion dollar fertilizer expansion project at Port Neal, near Sargeant Bluff. The meal is being catered by Timmy's Catering, and will be served starting at 11:30 a.m. The key-note speaker will be David Kruse, president of the Commstock Investments and commentator on commodity markets and agricultural issues. Kruse, is heard on many farm-based radio stations, and appears in several farm publications. He offers an insight to his noon address.
Des Moines Water Works Files Lawsuit Against Three Iowa Counties
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Des Moines Water Works lawsuit against three counties over high nitrate levels in rivers is symbolic of intensifying efforts by environmental groups to treat agriculture like other industries long held accountable for environmental pollution.
The Water Works board filed its anticipated lawsuit Monday against three counties which oversee drainage systems that remove water from farm fields. The water utility says drainage water often carries nitrates that must be removed to keep drinking water safe.
County supervisors in Buena Vista, Calhoun and Sac are named because they manage 10 drainage districts which the lawsuit says should be required to obtain federal water pollution discharge permits.
An attorney for the counties says they plan to defend the action vigorously.
Similar courtroom battles are being fought in California, North Carolina, and Washington.
Northey Opposes Des Moines Water Works Lawsuit
(Des Moines) -- Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey is concerned the lawsuit involving the Des Moines Water Works against three Iowa Counties for high nitrate levels may set a bad precedent. Northey says he understands the challenges before the Des Moines Water Works in wanting high quality water, but he believes they are going about it the wrong way.
Northey says lawsuits could take several years to complete, and still not achieve the objective of reducing nitrates in water supplies.
The state agriculture official believes the best manner to achieve the goal of reducing nitrates is with education and farmer voluntary methods. Northey says the money spent on legal fees would be better spent on education, and "hands-on" methods.
Northey says if the Des Moines Water Works is successful with its lawsuit, then every county could eventually face similar lawsuits. He says downstream municipalities would sue cities that are upstream over water quality issues.
Northey says the issue may come down to who owns the water, and should entities be able to dictate to upstream districts specific terms for water quality.
The Ag official doesn't believe the Des Moines Water Works will be successful with its lawsuit
Senate Passes Bill To Restrict Texting While Driving
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Senate has passed a bill that would allow law enforcement officials to more easily regulate Iowa's ban on texting while driving.
The Senate voted 44-6 Tuesday to make texting while driving a primary offense instead of a secondary one. It now heads to the House for consideration.
Iowa law prohibits a person from reading, writing and sending messages on an electronic device while driving. The bill would remove a stipulation that a law enforcement official must stop a person for a different offense to enforce it.
Sen. Tod Bowman, a Democrat from Maquoketa, says distracted driving kills people.
Most lawmakers voted for the bill, which has Gov. Terry Branstad's support. But some Republicans questioned whether the legislation was needed.
Auditor Finds Suspicious Spending By The Woodbine Fire Department
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - An investigation by the state auditor of a western Iowa town's volunteer fire department has identified more than $100,000 in improper spending over a three-year period.
Auditor Mary Mosiman issued the report Tuesday on the investigation of the Woodbine Volunteer Fire Department that found $106,268.62 of unsupported and improper spending from Jan. 1, 2009 through March 31, 2014.
The former Woodbine city administrator requested the investigation after the city revealed concerns about the use of fuel credit cards following an internal review.
According to the report, the department wrongfully spent more than $11,000 on alcohol and over $1,000 in personal fuel purchases. It identifies just more than $92,000 in unsupported disbursements.
Mosiman also noted that the department didn't maintain documents to reflect many of its expenditures.