The Plymouth County Board of Supervisors reviewed their budget and revenue estimates for fiscal year 2023-24. The board reviewed property valuations in the General Services and Rural Services accounts. Requested tax dollars in the General Services account is some 6.9 million dollars, up 1 percent from the current budget, and 4.75 million dollars in the Rural Services account, up 2.19 percent. This does not represent total revenues for the county. Under expenses, the board is considering 10.2 million dollars in total spending, up 8.67 percent, or 830-thousand dollars from the current budget. A public hearing on Plymouth County’s proposed budget isw March 21.
The Board of Supervisors has been informed of improvements by the city of Le Mars in their Highway 75 Bypass Urban Renewal Plan. Several projects, worth some 15.1 million dollars, are to take place in the next several years within that district. These projects include storm sewer and water works improvement; rail and street extension; and airport improvements, to take place between 2023 and 2025. These improvements require a consultation with the city, the county Supervisors, and the Le Mars Community School District. That consultation is scheduled for March 6. A public hearing on the amendment will take place before the city council on March 21.
FLOYD VALLEY HEALTHCARE HIRE
Floyd Valley Healthcare has announced the hire of a new patient advocate. Jo Will has 28 years of experience in social work. She has served in several area medical facilities, and was also a professor of social work. She has also been certified in the areas of substance ab user and preventing compassion fatigue.
Will joins Floyd Valley Healthcare Staff in January.
STUDENT LOAN BILLS
The U-S Supreme Court is hearing arguments today (Tuesday) over President Biden’s plan to forgive student loans, a plan Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley calls “reckless” and which would cost the federal government nearly one-trillion dollars. Grassley, a Republican, says the student loan system is deeply flawed and students and families need help in making better informed decisions about borrowing for college.
Grassley is introducing three bipartisan bills with Senator Tina Smith, a Democrat from Minnesota, which he says would offer more counseling, resources and clarity to the student loan process. Grassley says Biden’s plan would erase ten- to 20-thousand dollars in debt for each student who qualifies, and millions may qualify.
Grassley says the trio of bills would ensure that students get the full picture when choosing a college and taking out a loan. From the initial college search, to the acceptance of financial aid, to counseling once in college, Grassley says the bills would help students avoid sticker shock, find the best college for their budget and avoid taking out ill-advised, oversized loans. He says a societal change is forcing a shift in how we think about college.
Grassley says much of the student debt conversation is focused on repayment of that debt, while he says we need to fix the process on the front-end before students get in over their heads. One of the bills is a companion bill to one filed by US Representative Randy Feenstra in the House.
A new hotel is planned for Sioux Center. Local investors are planning a 76-unit hotel for a site next to the Ridge Golf Course and Terrace View Events Center. Construction will begin in April on the four-story Fairfield by Marriot hotel. With the new ASB Sports Complex and other facilities, there is more demand for hotel space. The City council of Sioux Center has approved a 5-year, sliding scale tax rebate program to aid with the development of the new hotel.
The University of Northern Iowa is renovating a portion of its technology center to accomodate its new nursing program. U-N-I’s Michael Hager says the majority of the work is on classrooms in the third floor where they are building simulation labs that he says are an integral component to the curriculum. The budget for the first phase of the Innovative Teaching and Technology Center for Nursing is five million dollars and he says an unusually large percentage of that budget is dealing with the furniture and equipment — because of the cost lab equipment is a higher compared to most academic programs. U-N-I hopes to help with the shortage of nurses in the state with the new nursing program anticipated to start in Fall 2024. The Board of Regents gave approval for U-N-I to move ahead at its meeting last week.
PLYMOUTH COUNTY ARRESTS
Plymouth County authorities arrested two Sioux City residents Monday on felony drug impairment charges. The Plymouth County Sheriff’s Office stopped a vehicle in Le Mars. After a drug investigation, the driver, 46-year-old Ronald Lee Lewison, and a passenger, 25-year-old Michelle Diane Georgesen, both of Sioux City, were arrested. After an evaluation at the county jail, Lewison was charged with four drug counts, including 3rd offense PCS methamphetamine. Georgesen was charged with 3 drug offenses, including PCS methamphetamine. Le Mars Police assisted in the investigation.
Sioux County authorities are investigating a theft that took place at a rural construction site. The Sheriff’s Office says the burglary took place at the site three miles east of Hudson, SD, along county road B30. A variety of De Walt construction tools were stolen. A reward is offered by the business for information leading to the recovery of the tools and the arrest of the suspect or suspects. The Sioux County Sheriffs Office says anyone with information about the theft can contact the sheriffs office or use the anonymous Nixle Tip program..
STUDENT LOAN INFO
US Representative Randy Feenstra introduced a bill which will help college students understand the full impact of taking out student loans. The bill would require students be informed of payments and interest before they accept a loan. Such disclosures are not required under current student loans. Iowa’s US Senators, Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley, have introduced a companion bill in the Senate.
PIPELINE BILL SHELVED
Republican senators had planned to advance a bill that would set some new rules for building carbon pipelines, but after hearing opposition the bill has been permanently shelved. Republican Senator Mike Klimish of Spillville says he came into Monday’s subcommittee hearing with a plan, but after supporters AND opponents of carbon capture pipelines testified, that plan went out the window. Cynthia Hansen is a landowner from Shelby County who does not want a carbon pipeline on her property. Hansen cried as she asked legislators to bar the pipeline companies from getting eminent domain authority to seize land from unwilling property owners. Sometime this week a House committee is expected to consider a bill to establish some new rules for the three proposed carbon capture pipelines, so it’s possible senators may eventually revisit the issue.
QUAD CITIES COMPUTERS
Thanks to a road trip, the Quad Cities played a small but important role in the invention of modern computers. Shawn Beattie, educational technology manager at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, says John Atanasoff was teaching at Iowa State University in 1937 and trying to develop a better, faster computing machine. Frustrated, he took off driving one day, ended up in a Rock Island bar, and wrote down key ideas for a new machine on a cocktail napkin. Beattie says Atanasoff worked for three years and built the first computer to use electronic logic with binary and memory refreshes, all concepts that are still found in I-phones and modern computers.
The Master Gardener Program through Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is reporting significant growth in 2022. Alicia Herzog, the program’s coordinator, says more than 440 people were trained statewide last year, which is an increase of 41-percent from the year before. The program was offered twice last year, in the summer and fall, instead of just once, which accounts for the jump in numbers. The program is also reporting more than 100-thousand volunteer hours logged last year by nearly 18-hundred volunteers. Herzog says Master Gardeners in Iowa provided more than two-point-two million dollars in services during 2022. It’s much more than just growing flowers and vegetables. She calls Master Gardeners “educational stewards” for their communities, as they offer seminars, consult with community groups and help educate and inform the public about access to healthy food.