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Tuesday News, April 1

Le Mars Fire Department Fights Yet Another Field Fire

(Le Mars) -- Strong westerly winds flared up sparks from an old burn pile from three weeks ago and created a large-scale grass fire Monday afternoon. The fire started near the Christ Lutheran Church located on County Road C-16 and Iris Avenue, about eight miles northwest of Le Mars.  Le Mars Fire Chief Dave Schipper knew immediately that additional assistance would be needed to bring the field fire under control.

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Winds had pushed the fire towards the east and northeast, burning more than 80 acres of corn stalk stubble.  The fire had advanced towards a farm, threatening a homested, but fire officials were able to surround the fire and control it before reaching the farm. 

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Schipper says water tankers were strategically placed around the fire. Six grass pickup truck rigs were used to battle the blaze and refilling with water from one of the four tankers.  Fire officials were fortunate the winds had shifted slightly, preventing the farm from catching fire.  While on the scene, a cold weather front moved into the area, causing the air temperature to drop more than 20 degrees.

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Fire officials were able to extinguish the fire within two hours.  MidAmerican Energy also assisted with the field fire.


Supervisors To Hear L.O.S.T. Grant Applications

(Le Mars) -- Applicants for the county's Local Options Sales Tax grants will learn today if they have been awarded funding, as Mary Reynolds, chair person for the Local Option Sales Tax advisory board appears before the Plymouth County Board of Supervisors.  Reynolds is expected to announce those organizations the advisory board recommends to receive the county grants.  Plymouth County engineer Tom Rohe will review the construction plans with the county board of supervisors.  Rohe says there are no paving or resurfacing of asphalt planned for any of the county roads this year, but several bridges and culverts will be replaced.


City Council Scheduled To Meet Today

(Le Mars) -- The Le Mars City Council will meet today at noon at the city hall council chambers.  Action items on the agenda include a vote for the new city public works building project, and the first reading of the code of ordinance changes. 


Sioux City And Woodbury County Look To Consolidate Services

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — Officials for Sioux City and Woodbury County are trying to figure out if they should consolidate some services due to an unusual arrangement in place for decades.  The city and county have separate public employees performing similar tasks for things like calculating property values. Each department, located in the county courthouse, has its own budget and computer systems.

James Van Bruggen, executive director of watchdog group Taxpayers Research Council, says sharing some services could increase collaboration and save taxpayer money.  Some county officials are not convinced of the value. They say consolidation would just shift work to other employees.  The City Council will discuss whether to reappoint the city assessor in May. For now, there's no plan to conduct a major consolidation study.


Sioux City High School Student Appointed To State Board Of Education

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A Sioux City high school student has been appointed to the Iowa Board of Education.  Gov. Terry Branstad said in a news release Monday that he has appointed Hannah Rens as the non-voting student member on the board.  Rens, a sophomore at Sioux City East High School, will serve for two years. Her term begins May 1 and runs through the end of April 2016. She replaces a graduating Iowa City high school student.  Branstad's appointment is not subject to Senate confirmation. The Iowa Board of Education works with the state Department of Education.


Clerical Mistake Has Council Bluffs Teachers Without Pay Checks

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) — A Council Bluffs school district has apologized to teachers for a delay in their monthly paychecks.  The Council Bluffs Community School District sent an email Monday to teachers and substitute teachers alerting them that a payroll file for automatic deposits was not electronically submitted to the bank last week.  District spokeswoman Diane Ostrowski says the mistake was due to an error.

The district will reimburse employees who received overdraft charges because of the delay.  Employees who are customers with American National Bank received a credit for the funds to their accounts. The error did not affect employees who receive bimonthly paychecks. That includes paraprofessionals, custodians and technicians.


Senate Appropriations Committee Passes Higher Education Funding

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A bill increasing funding for educational programming and infrastructure in Iowa has won the support of a divided legislative panel.  Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 13-7 on Monday in favor of the appropriation, with all Republicans voting against it. The measure is now eligible for debate on the Senate floor.  The bill would allot $986 million to go toward Iowa's educational efforts for fiscal year 2015. It includes funds appropriated specifically to the Iowa's Department of Education and the Board of Regents, among other programs and organizations. Sen. Brian Shoenjahn, an Arlington Democrat, says the appropriation is an $87 million increase from last year's budget.

Republican Sen. Jake Chapman, of Adel, opposed the bill, saying he couldn't support growing government at a faster rate than household income growth.


Officials Speak About Younkers Building Fire

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Representatives for a company overseeing redevelopment of a historic downtown Des Moines building destroyed in a fire have made their first public statements.  Officials from the Hansen Company held a press conference Monday. They insisted the work site at the Younkers building met necessary regulations.  Tony Garcia, company vice president, said construction crews were doing "hot work" Friday that could generate sparks. But he added that the work was carefully monitored and it was completed hours before the fire started early Saturday.  Officials say the former Younkers building will have to be demolished and that several nearby buildings sustained smoke and water damage.  Investigators say there are no early indications as to what caused the blaze.


Photos and Videos Requested For Des Moines Fire

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Authorities are asking the public to turn in any photos or video of a massive fire that destroyed a century-old building in downtown Des Moines.  The Des Moines Police Department says it's looking for footage recorded just around the time the fire at the Younkers Building was first reported to officials. The initial call came in at 12:51 a.m. Saturday.Anonymous tips can be submitted. Police are collaborating with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to collect the footage.The building was in the midst of a $36 million housing project. It had been vacant since 2005.  Authorities are still investigating the cause of the fire.






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