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Monday News, December 16

Compensation Board Approves 3.5% Salary Increase For County Elected Officials

(Le Mars) -- The Plymouth County Compensation Board voted to offer county elected officials a three and a half percent pay raise, and a two-and-a-half percent increase for the Plymouth County Board of Supervisors. The county compensation board consists of seven members of the community.  They met Friday afternoon to hear the salary requests of the county's elected officials.  The compensation board approved the recommended increase for the County Auditor, Attorney, Recorder, Treasurer, and Sheriff on a 5 to 2 vote.   Compensation Board member Jeremy Bunkers of Remsen voted for the recommended pay scale, however, he admitted having reservations.  Bunkers says the Board of Supervisors, who have the final word relating to county employee salaries, have not followed the County Compensation's Board's recommendations for the last several years, having approved a smaller rate of pay increase than what was initially proposed.  Supervisor Don Kass spoke on behalf of the supervisors and told the compensation board that they don't need to increase the supervisor pay, but instead to use the money and offer higher salary increases to the other elected officials.  Sheriff Mike van Otterloo told the compensation board he wished that he could accept a two percent raise, if it would mean his deputies and other employees under his supervision could receive a five percent increase. Each of the compensation board members complimented the elected officials and said Plymouth County is fortunate to have such good elected officials and county employees.


Salvation Army Kettle Stolen From Restaurant

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - A Salvation Army official says a woman stole a countertop Red Kettle from a restaurant in Sioux City.
     Maj. Von Vandiver, the commanding officer of The Salvation Army of Siouxland, says a surveillance video shows a woman walked into Perkins Restaurant & Bakery about 2 a.m. Tuesday and took the kettle.
     Vandiver estimates the donation can contained between $25 and $75. It's one of 18 kettles placed in area businesses.
     Restaurant employees reported the theft to police, but Vandiver doubts the charity will recover the money. He's hopeful other donations will make up for the loss.


Woodbury County Supervisor Arrested For Domestic Assault

 SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - A Woodbury County supervisor and jail official is on paid administrative leave after he was arrested this weekend on suspicion of domestic assault.
     David Tripp is accused of firing a revolver into the air during an argument with his wife at their home on Saturday.
     No one was injured. The 43-year-old Tripp was charged with aggravated assault, a misdemeanor.
     Woodbury County Sheriff Dave Drew says he's greatly concerned, and a decision on Tripp's future could come before the criminal investigation is completed.
     County Board Chairman Larry Clausen says he's not sure what consequences Tripp could face in his role as a supervisor. Tripp was elected in 2010.


Monona County Auditor Resigns

  ONAWA, Iowa (AP) - The Monona County auditor is resigning after efforts by officials to remove her from office following her arrest on drug charges.
     On Friday, Auditor Brooke Kuhlmann submitted her letter of resignation.
     At the request of county commissioners, Monona County Attorney Michael Jensen filed a motion last month to remove Kuhlmann from office. The motion noted Kuhlmann hasn't been coming to work since she was charged last July with buying methamphetamine from an undercover state trooper.
     Kuhlmann has pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of possession of a controlled substance. Her trial is scheduled for Feb. 18.
     Kuhlmann was elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2012.


Economists Say EPA'S Ruling May Slow Down Ag Economy

(Des Moines) -- Two Midwestern economists say the E-P-A's proposed reduction in ethanol production in 2014 will contribute to a "slow down" in what's been a booming ag economy, but it won't drive the farm economy into negative territory. Iowa State University economist David Swenson says there won't be "much of an impact" on the production of ethanol.

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 That overseas demand should prop up corn prices, according to Swenson. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss agrees that the ethanol industry will "weather" this storm over a reduced "Renewable Fuels Standard" for ethanol production in 2014.

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Anything connected to agriculture is slowing down, according to Goss, from farm equipment sales to ag land prices, but he expects ethanol plants to survive. 

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 Goss and Swenson made their comments during a weekend appearance on Iowa Public Television's "Iowa Press" program.


Police Looking For Carjacking Suspect

  COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) - Police are looking for a man who is accused of carjacking a couple in Council Bluffs and then hitting the woman as he drove away.
     Police say the couple left their vehicle running outside a Bucky's convenience store in shortly before 1:30 a.m. Sunday. The couple told police that a man climbed into their car and started to drive off.
     Authorities say the woman ran outside to stop the suspect, and he ran into her. The woman was taken to the hospital with lower leg injuries, but is expected to recover.
     Police in Omaha found the car on fire about an hour later. Authorities are still investigating.


National Healthcare Rules Start January 1st

 DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Between the troubled federal insurance enrollment website and uncertainty over Medicaid expansion, the months leading to the new program's start in Iowa have been bumpy. But even as those issues have largely been resolved, questions remain about if Iowa will be ready when the program begins.
     Starting January 1st, many of the health law's provisions take effect, including insurance coverage for those who signed up for private plans on the federal enrollment website. The state's modified Medicaid expansion will also begin that day.
     Iowa Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart notes that people wanting coverage to start right away must remember the deadline to sign up for private plans is December 23rd.
      Cliff Gold, of CoOportunity Health, which offers insurance plans for Iowa on the exchange, says enrollments are soaring this month.


MidAmerican To Announce Wind Energy Development

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Officials at MidAmerican Energy Co. and the state of Iowa are set to make a major announcement regarding a new wind energy development.
      Gov. Terry Branstad is expected to discuss the project at his morning news conference Monday and release further details with company officials at a 1 p.m. news conference to be held at the Siemens Energy wind blade factory near Fort Madison.
     In August MidAmerican Energy received approval from the Iowa Utilities Board for a $1.9 billion project to install hundreds of wind turbines by the end of 2015.
     More than 448 turbines are to be installed in Grundy, Madison, Marshall, O'Brien, and Webster counties.
      MidAmerican, Iowa's largest energy company began building wind turbines in 2004, and it currently has more than 1,200 wind turbines in Iowa.







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