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Thursday Afternoon News, January 22

Le Mars Updates Its Emergency Disaster Plan

(Le Mars) -- The Le Mars City Council heard from Plymouth County Emergency Management Director, Gary Junge during their last council meeting.  Junge appeared before the city council to review the five-year emergency disaster plan which is required by both the state and federal governments.  The disaster plan is basically a course of action that will be followed, should Le Mars ever suffer from a major disaster such as flooding, a tornado, or hazzard materials spill.

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Junge informed the council that each Plymouth County community is required to submit a similar disaster preparness plan, as well as the entire county.  He says SIMPCO, a local agency that assists local governments with grant applications, and other common community issues was a great assistance.

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Le Mars Hopes To Streamline City Operations

(Le Mars) -- The city of Le Mars hopes to streamline its departments and possibly outsource some of its services.  City Administrator Scott Langel says the goal is to have the city save money.

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Langel says part of the re-organization process will examine when people retire, if the position needs to be filled.

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The city administrator says the city will look at the efficiencies of full-time versus part-time employees, as well as over-time pay.

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Langel was asked if he believes outsourcing jobs to the private sector would indeed save the city tax dollars?  He says it depends, and he uses snow removal as an example.

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Langel admits there may be a cut of city jobs and positions as a result of the streamlining.  However, he says at this point in time he is not certain how many jobs may be lost, or the amount of tax dollars will be saved. 

 

Long Lines Telephone And Cable Sold To an Indiana Company

 SERGEANT BLUFF, Iowa (AP) - Communications services provider Long Lines has been sold to South Bend, Indiana-based Schurz Communications.
     Schurz plans to operate Long Lines as a stand-alone division and retain its staff. Terms of the deal announced Tuesday were not disclosed. The transaction is expected to close by April 1.
     Family owned Long Lines traces its roots to 1941, when Art Long purchased phone exchanges in Sergeant Bluff, Salix and Sloan. Today the company provides phone, cable TV and broadband Internet service to Sioux City and other northwest Iowa communities.
     Long Lines' Chuck Long says offering "the best cable TV and broadband services today requires the investment and resources of a large media enterprise."
     Schurz's holdings include cable systems, TV and radio stations and newspapers.

 

 

Mason City City Council Uneasy At How Budget Is Being Handled Behind Closed Doors

 MASON CITY, Iowa (AP) - Some Mason City City Council members say they're uncomfortable with a new practice in which they meet behind closed doors for budget discussions.
     Mayor Eric Bookmeyer implemented the approach this year. It requires that the council split into two subcommittees to work privately without public access.
     Budget discussions previously involved the entire council and were open to the public.
     Councilman Scott Tornquist says he doesn't like the process because it gives the public more reason to accuse the council of keeping residents in the dark when making decisions. He says it also leaves half the council out of significant recommendations being made.
     Bookmeyer says he's fine with subcommittee meetings being held behind closed doors and that the process is legal.
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ATM Thefts Becoming More Common In Iowa

  CLIVE, Iowa (AP) - Security experts say ATM thefts are becoming more common in Iowa because weapons and interaction with others aren't necessary during the crime.
     Officials say people see ATMs as attractive targets because stealing one is like robbing a bank without having to point a gun at anyone. 
     In an ATM theft attempt Tuesday in Clive, a man used a stolen truck to ram two ATMs. In a robbery in Des Moines, a man dragged the machine out of the lobby of the Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center.
     Conley Security Group owner Tom Conley says surveillance cameras must be monitored to prevent further ATM theft. He also said the machines should be remodeled so that the interior is anchored to the floor.
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Trial Date Set For Teacher Charged With Sexual Abuse

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) - A March trial date has been set for a 29-year-old Council Bluffs math teacher accused of having a sexual relationship with one of his students.
     Jeff Daugherty is charged with sex abuse, sexual exploitation of a minor, sexual exploitation by a school employee and lascivious conduct with a minor. He's out on bond and is on administrative leave from his job at Thomas Jefferson High School. 
     A police report says the 15-year-old girl's mother discovered the relationship when she saw a late-night text message Daugherty had sent her daughter. He was arrested on Jan. 8. Online court records say his trial is scheduled to begin March 24.

 

Former Des Moines Police Chief Says Body Cameras Should Be Used

 DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A former Des Moines police chief says he thinks the next person in the job should advocate for the use of body cameras and speak more with residents. 
     Bill Moulder was Des Moines' police chief between 1984 and 2003, and he now runs a police management consulting firm. 
     He says in a post-Ferguson climate, the police chief should support the use of body cameras.
     Police departments around the country have purchased the devices following the August fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer. 
     Judy Bradshaw retired in October after seven years as Des Moines' police chief. Four finalists for the job will be in the city next week to interview with city officials.
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Branstad Urges Presidential Candidates To Support Renewable Fuels

  DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Gov. Terry Branstad has announced a coalition aimed at convincing presidential candidates visiting Iowa to support the use of renewable fuels like ethanol.
      The Republican governor said Thursday the multimillion-dollar effort will educate Iowa voters and 2016 presidential hopefuls about the Renewable Fuel Standard. The 2007 federal law requires oil companies to blend renewables into gasoline as part of an effort to reduce dependence on imported oil.
     The effort, which will be privately funded, will be spent on advertising, field organizing, social media outreach and other tasks.
     In 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed reducing the amount of biofuels required to be blended into gasoline. 
     Iowa leads the U.S. in ethanol production. 
     The bipartisan group will be led in part by Branstad's son, Eric, and Democratic campaign strategist Derek Eadon. 



    

   

Thursday News, January 22

Le Mars New Housing Drops Slightly 

(Le Mars) -- New housing for Le Mars has remained fairly steady during the last few years, that according to City Code Enforcement officer, Jason Vacera. Vacera appeared before the Le Mars City Council on Tuesday to deliver the code enforcement and building annual report.  He says Le Mars saw 21 new homes being built in 2014, which compares to the 23 new homes that were constructed in 2013. Construction value of the 21 homes amounts to $5,420,600.  Commercial construction was higher in 2014 than in 2013 with four new buildings compared to just two in 2013.  Vacera reports there were a total of 356 nuisance notices issued in 2014, up from 171 reported in the previous year.  The city had 64 nuisance abatements which more than doubled from the 31 reported in 2013, 49 were a result of mowing infractions, and 15 for snow removal.  The city performed 105 building inspections and had 27 urban revitalization tax exemptions.

 

Reservations For Chamber Banquet Due By Monday

(Le Mars) -- The Le Mars Chamber of Commerce wants to remind you to make your reservations for the annual dinner and awards program.  The annual dinner will take place on Saturday, January 31st at the uper level of the Le Mars Convention Center beginning with social hour at 6:00 p.m. with the dinner to follow at 7:00 p.m.  The evening will have hilarious skits, musical entertainment, and the presentation and recognition of community awards.  Reservations need to be made by Monday, January 26th.  Tickets are $45 each. 

 

Sioux City Police Apprehend Wanted Subject

(Sioux City) -- Sioux City police officers were wanting to locate a wanted party, proceeded to the 1800 block of West 6th Street on Wednesday.  Upon arriving, officers made contact with individuals at the residence to determine if the suspect was present.  While speaking to occupants, a male subject fled out the rear of the residence where he encountered officers.  He then went back into the residence, and announced to officers that he was suicidal and wanted officers to leave.  Crisis negotiators at the scene negotiated with the subject who was barricaded on the second floor.  Officers made multiple attempts to get the subject to volunatry surrender with no success.  Officers then fired a sponge round through and upstairs window as a distraction and moved to take the subject into custody.  Officers located the subject in a second floor room and took him into custody without incident.  The 30 year old male was not injured during his contact with officers, but he had ingested an unknown substance.  He was transported by ambulance to a local hospital for treatment.  Criminal charges against the individual are pending.

 

Governor Branstad Addresses State's Mental Health Issues

(Des Moines) -- Governor Terry Branstad says the state will look to other facilities to provide care if his proposal to close the state-run Mental Health Institutes in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant moves forward. The governor's budget sent to legislators does not include any money to keep the institutions open past June 30. 

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 The governor says they want to use facilities that have the proper staffing to help patients.

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 The idea is not favored by everyone, including Representative Dave Heaton, a Republican from Mount Pleasant. Heaton is chairman of the subcommittee that writes the budget for the Iowa Department of Human Services, the agency in charge of the Mental Health Institutes, and he’s arranged for the agency’s director to go to Mount Pleasant Saturday (January 24th) to explain the proposed closure to the community. Five years ago a consulting firm hired by then-Governor Chet Culver recommended that the Mental Health Institutes in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant close, but Heaton and others worked to keep the institutions open. The Mental Health Institutes are routinely the treatment option of last resort for acute care of mentally ill patients. The governor’s budget indicates the state will save 15-and-a-half million dollars by closing the two facilities. The M-H-I at Clarinda opened in 1888 while the Mount Pleasant facility opened the year the Civil War broke out, in 1861.

 

Iowa Department Of Education Tells Schools To Justify Early Starts 

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Iowa Department of Education says school districts seeking permission to start classes earlier in the summer must prove that academic achievement is at risk. 
     The department sent the new guidelines to school districts. The guidelines say districts must show students would be affected in a "negative and significant manner" if classes start during the week of Sept. 1. Districts must provide research backing up the claim.
     Last month, department Director Brad Buck told districts the state would stop granting automatic waivers to school districts seeking to start classes earlier in the summer. 
     State law requires districts to start school no earlier than the calendar week including Sept. 1 but in the past, most have obtained waivers allowing them to begin classes earlier.
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Legislators Disagree Over Education Funding Levels

(Des Moines) -- Republicans and school groups are staking out widely different positions over how much state aid should be forwarded to Iowa's public school districts. Governor Terry Branstad and many of his fellow Republicans favor a one-and-a-quarter percent increase for the next academic year, while all the state's major school groups are seeking a six percent hike. Representative Cecil Dolecheck (DOHL-uh-check), a Republican from Mount Ayr, scoffs at that.

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A bill that would provide the one-and-a-quarter percent increase in general state aid to schools cleared the House Education Committee with just the votes of Republicans. Dolecheck says that level of spending is more than what many House Republicans really wanted. Margaret Buckton lobbies for the Urban Education Network AND the Rural School Association of Iowa. She says state funding for schools has lagged behind actual costs for several years.

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Brad Hudson of the Iowa State Education Association says the one-and-a-quarter percent hike that Republicans propose won't even cover teacher salaries, which are expected to go up an average of three percent.

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But Republicans like Representative Ron Jorgenson of Sioux City say the increase in general state aid to schools that Republicans propose is in line with state budget reality.


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Jorgensen, who is chairman of the House Education Committee, is a former school board member. Senate Democrats have been critical of the level of state aid for schools Republicans propose, but they have yet to offer their own target level for school spending.


   

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