Home News Tuesday News, February 15th

Tuesday News, February 15th


Le Mars Community Board Of Education Approves Middle School Restroom Renovation Project

(Le Mars) — During last evening’s Le Mars Community Board of Education meeting, the local school board approved a renovation construction project that would improve the Middle School restroom facilities, and the Middle School entrance vestibule.  The school board accepted the lowest bid from L and L Builders of Sioux City.  The low bid for the restroom renovation was set at $172, 200, and the entrance vestibule was listed at $214,000.  School superintendent, Dr. Steven Webner informed the school board that the project was held over from last year due to COVID, and not knowing where the funds would come from.  Webner also advised the school board that he feared the cost of the project would continue to climb.  The school superintendent told the school board the construction project would be financed through the state’s sales S.A.V.E. tax program.  Webner also told the school board that Le Mars Community has available nearly $4.5 million dollars on hand, and that the school district can afford the project.   Construction is set to start in June following the dismissal of classes.  In other action from last night’s school board meeting, the school board approved the upgrade of installing indoor/outdoor security camera system.  Thompson electric submitted the low bid at $105,095.32.  The high school portion bid was listed at $54,166.37 and the Middle School bid was submitted at $50,928.95.  Webner says the camera system would only be in the hallways, and not in any classrooms.  He says the upgrade is needed for school security.  The financing of the project would also come from the state sales S.A.V.E. tax.

Le Mars Community Board of Education.  From left to right: Jane Arnold, Angela Catton, Jill Feuerhelm, Lorraine DeJong, Makenzie Lang, Aaron Tolzine, and Kyle Platte.




Le Mars Community Education Association Submits Contract Requests

(Le Mars) — Prior to the start of last evening’s school board meeting, the Le Mars Community Education Association presented to the school board its initial proposal for salaries through the collective bargaining unit.  Tracie Wingert is serving as the chief negotiator for the teachers association.  Before presenting the request, Wingert commented to the school board and thanked them for their service, especially during the time of COVID.  Wingert delivered the following commentary.

“The Le Mars Community Education Association would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge, for the second year in a row, how difficult this year has been for teachers. The stressors of Covid still remain, such as extended student absences and making sure everything accessible in the classroom is also accessible online. This year has brought the additional stressor of serious staff shortages: there are not enough substitutes available to cover teaching positions when needed. As a result, our teaching staff has been stretched to its limit. Teachers find themselves covering classes for each other by giving up preparation times or combining classes, with no additional compensation. To those teachers who have been doing this, we realize that thanking you falls short of truly compensating you, but we want to publicly acknowledge your willingness to step in to help out both colleagues and students. We also want to publicly acknowledge and thank the administrators who have given their time to cover classrooms as well; this does not go unnoticed or unappreciated by the teaching staff.”

The Education Association is asking for at least 200 minutes each week of preparation time before classes begin.  The Education Association is also requesting It is desirable for each employee to have an uninterrupted preparation period each day. The practice of using a regular employee as a substitute, thereby depriving him/her of his/her preparation period, is undesirable and shall be discouraged. In those cases where regular substitutes are not available, regular employees who volunteer may be used as substitutes during their preparation time. In the absence of volunteers, an employee may be assigned to serve as a substitute. Volunteers and assigned employees shall be paid at the rate of $25.00 per period.  The education association is also asking for at least eight days of paid leave during the contract year.  The education association is also requesting an increase of base pay of 4.04 percent, or an increase of $1,600 per year to make the base pay at $41,215.

The Le Mars Community Board of Education will present their initial counter offer next week.




Plymouth County Supervisors To Meet With Energy Officials

(Le Mars) — Plymouth County Board of Supervisors have a short agenda for today’s meeting to be held at the County Courthouse Board Room.  The county governing board is expected to appoint Bill Rosacker as a city landowner to the Compensation Commission.  The Plymouth County Supervisors are expected to approve the Secondary Roads employee collective bargaining unit contract for Fiscal Year 2022-2023.  County Engineer, Tom Rohe will appear before the county supervisors to address county construction projects.  Harry Finch with Invenergy and Jared Noack from MidAmerican Energy are scheduled to appear before the county board of supervisors to discuss the road use agreement and decommissioning of the agreement.




City Council Expected To Approve Convention and Visitors Bureau Funding Requests

(Le Mars) — Le Mars city council will gather at noon today at the city council chambers for their meeting.  The agenda includes a public hearing on the maximum property tax dollars.  The city council will vote on only two scheduled action items that include funding recommendations by the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, and approving the Transportation Alternative Plan.  The city council will hear annual reports as presented by the Le Mars Public Library, and the Le Mars Police Department.  The city council will also hear from Finance Director Jacob Widman as he discusses the city’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year that will begin on July 1st.




Primebank Contributes Credit Card Funds To Gehlen Catholic

(Le Mars) — On Valentine’s Day, Primebank of Le Mars Primebank presented Gehlen Catholic with a check for the 2021 funds raised through the Primebank Gehlen Catholic Visa® credit card program.

Josh, Kovarna, and Gehlen Catholic graduates, Jordan Sitzmann and Kelli Langel, presented the check for $3,056.02 to Amy Jungers, Development Director at Gehlen Catholic and a group of Gehlen Catholic students.

Each year since the beginning of the program in 2000, Primebank has donated a percentage of total purchases made using the Gehlen Catholic Visa credit card to the school. With this year’s gift, Primebank has now donated $65,206.69.

Amy Jungers, Development Director for Gehlen Catholic commented, “For over 20 years, Primebank has made it a priority to support Gehlen Catholic School specifically through the Primebank Gehlen Catholic Visa credit card. This program they offer makes it quick and easy for parents, friends, alumni, and community members to support our school on a daily basis. We are appreciative of their continuous effort to improve our schools and community.”

Proceeds from the card are used to benefit Gehlen Catholic students through local scholarships to ensure students can receive a high-quality, Catholic education.

“Since 2000, Primebank has been pleased to offer the Primebank Gehlen Catholic Visa credit card program,” said Primebank President – Le Mars, Josh Kovarna. “Primebank is proud to have provided over 20 years of ongoing support to Gehlen Catholic.” Kovarna continued, “I hope that friends of Gehlen Catholic will participate in this program because it provides funding for the school when cardholders simply make normal, every-day purchases with their Gehlen Visa credit card.”

Also, the Primebank Gehlen Catholic Visa credit card is part of UChoose Rewards® which provides card holders with great reward opportunities ranging from merchandise to travel and more.

To receive information regarding the Primebank Gehlen Catholic Visa credit card program, contact Primebank, 546-4175 or Amy Jungers in the Gehlen Catholic Development Office at 546-4181 x237.




Bill to Ban Transgender Girls from Athletics Advances

(Des Moines, IA) — A bill that would limit participation in Iowa girls’ sports to athletes who have female marked on their birth certificate has cleared the House Education Committee. Representative Skyler Wheeler, a Republican from Orange City, says the State of Iowa has a very strong interest to step up and defend girls’ sports and ensure that they have a level playing field. Representative Mary Mascher (MASH-er), a Democrat from Iowa City, says the legislature’s job is to protect transgender girls and make sure they’re treated fairly. Mascher and six other Democrats on the committee voted against the bill while all 14 Republicans voted for it — and it is now eligible for debate in the full House.




GOP Senators Want 2.5% Spending Hike for K-12 Students

(Des Moines, IA) — Republicans in the Iowa Senate have agreed on a two-and-a-half percent increase in state spending that’s divided among public school districts on a per-pupil basis. Governor Kim Reynolds recommended the same amount and it’s expected she’ll approve the bill soon. Democrats like Senator Jackie Smith of Sioux City say it’s far short of what’s needed. House Republicans approved the same spending level last week. Another House G-O-P proposal would send schools an additional 19 million dollars to deal with staff shortages, but Senate Republicans have not yet voted on that plan.




Bill to Allow Commutation Requests from Some Prisoners More Often

(Des Moines, IA) — A House panel has advanced a bipartisan bill to change Iowa’s process for considering commutation requests from Iowans serving life prison sentences without parole. Current law allows people sentenced to life without parole to apply once a decade for a commutation. The bill would change that to every five years for those who have served at least 35 years. Prisons must now get unanimous support from the board of parole and approval from the governor. The bill would change that to majority support and establish criteria that the board and governor must consider in making that decision.




Iowa League of Women Voters Wants Election Law Changes Repealed

(Des Moines, IA) — The League of Women Voters of Iowa, along with other groups, have collected five-thousand signatures on petitions asking the Republican-led legislature to repeal recent election law changes. The coalition wants to restore a longer period of early voting and get rid of restrictions that limit who may help older Iowans cast an absentee ballot. The group cites data from low turn-out elections held in 2021 that indicate hundreds of Iowans who tried to vote early couldn’t get an absentee ballot in time, and they warn thousands more will face those obstacles this year and in 2024. Republican Governor Kim Reynolds has said the election law changes made a year ago give Iowans even greater confidence as they cast their ballots. During debate last year, Republican Senator Jim Carlin said the changes were made because many in the G-O-P believe the 2020 election was stolen from President Trump.




Iowa Board Of Educational Examiners Backs Emergency Rule On Substitute Teaching

(Des Moines, IA)  —  The Iowa Board of Educational Examiners is proposing an emergency rule to let paraeducators continue to serve as substitute teachers.  They have been allowed to sub in multiple classrooms under the governor’s public health emergency proclamation but it expires Tuesday at midnight.  Senate Democratic Leader Zach Wahls says many Iowa schools are already facing a shortage and the end of the proclamation will make things much worse.  Previously, paraeducators had been working under the direct supervision of a licensed teacher.  During the pandemic, they have been allowed to teach alone.  A legislative committee is expected to approve the emergency directive Tuesday.




Providers, Users Of Iowa’s Medical Marijuana Program Increasing

(Des Moines, IA)  —  The program bureau chief for Iowa’s medical marijuana program says the number of providers and users was up sharply in 2021.  Owen Parker says the 16-hundred providers represent an increase of 21 percent.  That was driven by a change in the law that expanded who could prescribe medical cannabis.  Sales last year topped six-point-two million dollars.  Parker says that’s a 76 percent increase from 2020.  The average transaction price stayed steady at about 150 dollars.




Iowa Woman Arrested In New Jersey For Carrying Gun In Handbag At Airport

(Newark, NJ)  —  An Iowa woman has been arrested by T-S-A agents in New Jersey for carrying a loaded gun in her handbag at Newark Liberty International Airport.  The Cedar Rapids woman’s name hasn’t been released.  K-C-C-I  T-V reports the weapon was discovered as she passed through the security checkpoint X-ray monitor.  Port Authority Police confiscated the handgun and arrested the woman on weapons charges.




Accused Wrong-Way Driver Preliminary Hearing Set For Friday

(Waverly, IA)  —  An accused wrong-way driver from Waterloo has a preliminary hearing set for Friday in Bremer County.  K-C-R-G T-V reports 37-year-old Willie Walker is charged with homicide by vehicle, operating under the influence, and serious injury by vehicle.  Investigators say Walker’s vehicle crossed the median on Highway 218 on May 27th, 2021, and hit an oncoming vehicle.  One person was killed.  Walker’s blood alcohol content was measured at point-131, well above the legal limit.




Livestock Producers Concerned About Possible Nuisance Law Suits

(Le Mars) — Livestock producers wanting to expand their operations and facilities should be concerned with various environmental rules and regulations, that according to a Des Moines lawyer that specializes in rural environmental law.  Eldon McAfee is with the Brick-Gentry law firm, but also is a consultant with the state’s livestock and poultry organizations.  McAfee was a speaker during the recent Iowa Pork Congress held in Des Moines.  McAfee was asked if there are as many nuisance law suits filed now as there were perhaps 20 years ago when Iowa’s livestock industries saw a change in the manner of operations, and many got larger.

McAfee says just because there haven’t been any nuisance lawsuits filed within the last year, doesn’t mean livestock producers should rest on their laurels.  McAfee says livestock producers need to constantly be aware of how their livestock operations affect others.

A concern among livestock producers is when people from the public, trespass on a livestock operation with the goal of secretly videotaping the operations and facilities. McAfee says the legislature has tried to pass bills that address the specific situation. However, many times those bills have been challenged in Iowa courts.

McAfee says Idaho is the only state that has had its ruling upheld on the employment segment.  He says if a person lied on their employment application, the livestock producer was within his rights to dismiss an employee who had ulterior motives.  McAfee says a case involving the mentioned scenario was recently dismissed at the Wright County, Iowa District Court.

Many people were perhaps surprised by the Wright County District judge decision to dismiss the case, and wondered what was the reason for the case dismissal.

The attorney believes the issue may again appear before the Iowa legislature, and he thinks lawmakers will try to refine the language to make the bill stronger and not as likely to be subject to court challenges.