Friday Afternoon News, December 19
Storm Lake Wind Farm Sold
STORM LAKE, Iowa (AP) - A Duluth, Minnesota-based energy firm says it has bought a 108-megawatt wind farm near Storm Lake.
Allete Inc.'s clean energy division paid NRG Energy Inc. $15 million for the Storm Lake wind farm, which consists of 144 turbines.
The just-purchased wind farm is adjacent to another 78-megatt, 104 turbine wind farm that Allete Clean Energy bought in January.
Allete President Eric Norberg says the wind farm bought this week "creates immediate efficiencies with our first Storm Lake purchase, and it complements our expanding wind fleet."
The adjoining Storm Lake wind farms will share an operations and maintenance facility. Norberg says both are operating under power sales agreements that extend another five years.
Land Values Survey Shows Decline
AMES, Iowa (AP) - The average price of Iowa farmland fell nearly 9 percent in the past year but still remains far above prices seen a decade ago.
A report from the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at Iowa State University shows prices fell 8.9 percent to an average of $7,943 an acre. Despite the drop, the average price is more than double prices seen a decade ago.
Michael Duffy, a retired Iowa State professor who conducted the survey, says the farmland value decline is due to commodity prices and farm income "settling back to more expected levels."
It was the second time since 1999 that the survey showed farmland prices had declined.
Eastern Iowa's Scott County had the highest average farmland price.
School Superintendent Faces Ethics Charges
TREYNOR, Iowa (AP) - A school superintendent in western Iowa could face disciplinary action after education leaders say he didn't appropriately respond to allegations that a district employee sexually assaulted a student.
The Iowa Board of Educational Examiners says Treynor Community Schools Superintendent Kevin Elwood faces two counts of unethical practice. A hearing on the charges is scheduled to start Jan. 5.
Among the charges, the board says Elwood failed to make a "reasonable effort" to protect students after a custodian hired in 2013 was accused of sexually assaulting a student. The custodian no longer works for the district.
Elwood's attorney, Drew Bracken, says there's no evidence to the claims against his client.
An administrative law judge will preside over the upcoming hearing. The board will then make a final decision.
GLENWOOD, Iowa (AP) - A Libertarian candidate running for the Iowa Senate seat vacated by U.S. Senator-elect Joni Ernst faces a misdemeanor sexual assault charge in eastern Nebraska.
The Omaha World-Herald reports that 69-year-old Donald Brantz has also been charged with assault, disturbing the peace and interfering with a public service company in Sarpy County.
Prosecutors say Brantz is accused of inappropriately touching a woman on Oct. 10 and threatening to choke her. Authorities say he hung up a phone the woman used to call 911.
Brantz has pleaded not guilty. His attorney, Chad Primmer of Council Bluffs, did not immediately return a message Friday.
Brantz is a former Mills County Board member. He faces Republican Mark Costello, of Imogene, and Democrat Steven Adams, of Red Oak, in the Dec. 30 election.
Supreme Court Rules Internet Providers Must Pay Telephone Tax
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - The Iowa Supreme Court says companies that provide phone service through the Internet must be taxed the same as traditional telephone service providers.
The court ruled 6-0 Friday that Voice over Internet Protocol providers operate "telephone lines" even if their service is provided through a broadband network. Therefore, justices say those companies are subject to annual property tax assessments based on the amount of cable and wire they use to provide the service.
The ruling rejected a challenge from Cable One, Inc., an Arizona-based company that provides cable, internet and VoIP service in the Sioux City area. Cable One challenged two years of Iowa Department of Revenue assessments totaling $1.4 million, arguing they didn't apply because the company doesn't operate a telephone line.