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Monday News, December 24

Hinton House Fire


(Hinton) -- Both the Hinton and the Merrill Fire Departments responded to a house fire Saturday morning.  That fire, located at 32278 Indigo Road is believed to have started from a wood burning stove.  Fire crews arrived at the scene at about 6:45 a.m. and were on the scene of that house fire for nearly six hours. Hinton Fire Chief Chad Beck describes the scene upon arrival.
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Beck says the house was totally destroyed.  There were no injuries as a result of that fire.  Later in the day, the Hinton Fire Department had to return to the same address as embers had rekindled.  Officials were on the scene a second time for about an hour.

 

Hog Confinement Fire

ROCK VALLEY, Iowa (AP) - Authorities say several hundred pigs have been killed by a fire at a feeding operation in northwest Iowa.
The fire was reported around 9:50 p.m. on Saturday at a confinement facility four miles southeast of Rock Valley. Firefighters reported the hog confinement building was fully engulfed in flames when they arrived. About 650 30-pound pigs were killed.
The cause of the fire is being investigated.
Authorities also are investigating the deaths of an estimated 475 hogs at a confinement facility five miles south of Rock Valley.  The Sioux County Sheriff's Office says someone entered the building
and tampered with the climate control system between 3 p.m. Tuesday and 1 p.m. Wednesday.
The hogs weighed about 280 pounds each.
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Council Bluffs Fire Leaves 90 Year Old Man In Hospital

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) - A 90-year-old man is in intensive care after an early-morning fire at his Council Bluffs home.
KETV-TV in Omaha reports (http://bit.ly/UnF1FN ) that the fire began around 2:30 a.m. Sunday. Investigators say a smoke detector saved the lives of the elderly man and his daughter.
Fire crews found the man in his bedroom. The fire had not spread to that part of the house, but the man suffered critical third-degree burns and smoke inhalation.
Investigators say the man's daughter, also living in the home, told firefighters that she tried to reach her father but couldn't because the staircase was on fire. She called 911 and crawled out a
basement window.


Tax Assessment Appeals Costs Schools and Cities

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) - Cities and school districts in Black Hawk County may face local tax revenue shortages because so many businesses are winning appeals of their property tax assessments.
The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reports that some government entities may even have to refund portions of some taxes paid before the higher assessments could be successfully appealed.
Appeals have been filed on 380 parcels after a countywide reappraisal boosted many 2011 values.
So far, 119 property owners have won or settled those appeals for a combined $25.7 million reduction in value. The county has won 50 cases to sustain the assessments.
If tax collections don't meet budgeted expectations, the cities, school districts and other tax-supported agencies will have to cut spending or tap their cash reserves.

 

Towing Companies Busy After Snow Storm

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Towing companies are starting to remove cars and trucks that were abandoned after last week's blizzard swept through Iowa.
KCCI-TV in Des Moines reports that towing companies were busy this weekend. Towing bans imposed on Interstates 35 and 80 were lifted on Saturday, which allows crews to retrieve vehicles that
went off the road.
Tom Kirkvold, a spokesman for Hannifen Company, says his company has fielded hundreds of calls for service.
Kirkvold says the storm is one of the worst he's seen in years. He says last week's heavy snow seems to have caught many drivers off-guard.
Officials say car and truck owners are required to have their vehicles towed within 24 hours after a towing ban is lifted.

 

Iowa's Concealed Weapon Permits Rise

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) - The number of Iowans with permits to carry concealed weapons increased dramatically in 2012, the second year of relaxed laws that govern how they're issued.
The Gazette in Cedar Rapids reports that sheriffs in Iowa's 99 counties issued more than 37,000 permits in the first 11 months of the year.
Nearly 103,000 were issued in 2011, the first year after Iowa went from a "may issue" to a "shall issue" state.
State data show that 1.3 percent of Iowans had permits at the end of 2010, before the law changed. The percentage increased to 3.3 percent at the end of last year, and stood at 4.6 percent
through the first 11 months of this year.


U of I Not Complying With Open Records Law

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - A seemingly mundane issue has put University of Iowa President Sally Mason on the defensive: the interpretation of Iowa's public records law.
The university has routinely refused to release records related to employee and student controversies by citing exemptions in the law. The practice appears to have recently backfired, bringing
criticism from Gov. Terry Branstad about a lack of transparency and forcing Mason to address speculation that she could be facing pressure to resign.
Mason says she cannot release personnel records of students or employees without violating the law. She says she'll stick with her legal interpretation to protect privacy.
Bill Monroe, Branstad's government transparency adviser, says he's concerned about the legal advice Mason is receiving. He and others argue the law gives agencies the discretion to release
records.

 

 

 



 

 

   

Saturday News, December 22

Former Wrestling Coach Has Sexual Exploitation Charges Dropped

(Le Mars) -- Sexual exploitation charges in Plymouth County have been dropped against a former Akron-Westfield wrestling coach.  Chad Utesch was charged with one felony count and five misdemeanor counts of sexual exploitation by a school employee.  Utesch was an assistant wrestling coach at Akron-Westfield and was charged with committing the offenses with a female student between February and December of 2011.  In his decision to approve the defense motion to dismiss the charges, Judge Jeff Neary ruled that since Utesch's coaching certificate had expired in January of 2010, he did not meet the definition of a school employee, and could not be charged as such.

 

Akron Fire Department Battles Barn Fire

(Akron) -- Akron's Fire Department responded to a barn fire Friday morning.  Fire officials were on the scene of that barn fire for nearly two and a half hours located at 30795 Dove Avenue.  The call came in shortly after 10:00 a.m.  There is no report as to how much damage was sustained, or the cause of that fire.

 

Hinton and Merrill Fire Departments Respond To Early Morning Structure Fire

(Hinton) -- Both the Hinton and Merrill Fire Departments were called to a structure house and garage fire Saturday morning at about 6:45 a.m.  That fire is located at 32278 Indigo Road. Hinton Fire Chief Chad Beck describes the scene.

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Fire officials were still at the scene at the time of this posting. Beck says the house is a total loss.

 

Auditions For "Arsenic and Old Lace" Announced

(Le Mars) -- Auditions for the next Le Mars Community Play are scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on January 7th and 8th.  This time around the Postal Playhouse will feature the comedy, "Arsenic and Old Lace".  The story features two elderly sisters who are famous in their Brooklyn neighborhood for their numerous acts of charity.  Unfortunately, however, their charity includes poisoning lonely old men who come to their home looking for lodging.  The two women are assisted in their crimes by their mentally challenged nephew who believes he is Teddy Roosevelt.  A second nephew is a theater critic who discovers the murders and a third nephew appears after having just escaped from a mental institution.  The play will be directed by Margaret Britton and scripts can be checked out prior to the auditions.

 

Gehlen Students Speak About Holiday Bowl Trip

(Le Mars) -- As we mentioned yesterday, Gehlen Catholic High School and Junior High Band are preparing to perform at San Diego next week for the Holiday Bowl festivities.  The students will leave Le Mars on Christmas evening for a 32 hour long direct bus ride to the west coast.  This is not the first time Gehlen Catholic has been invited to perform at Bowl game activities.  In recent years, Gehlen traveled to Orlando, Florida to perform at the Champ's Florida Citrus Bowl and at the Alamo Bowl held at San Antonio, Texas.
Shelby Puhl (Pool) is a senior at Gehlen and plays the trombone.  This trip will mark her third time to perform at a bowl game and she says she is looking forward to the parade.
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Puhl says the parade route isn't that long, and she says she is anxious to see the helium-filled balloons.
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Another Gehlen senior, Ashley Kellen, is experienced with bowl performances.  Like Shelby Puhl, this will mark Ashley's third time.  Kellen says she has never visited California and is looking forward to the experience.
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No doubt the Gehlen band students will face a hectic schedule once they leave Le Mars, but they will have time to relax and Kellen explains what sight seeing opportunities she wants to see.
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Two other Gehlen seniors will also be making the trip to San Diego are Kellen Nilles and foreign exchange student Luis Moreno.  For Nilles, in addition to playing the clarinet, she also serves as the drum majorette.  She talks about the challenges of keeping the band in step and on beat.
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Luis Moreno plays the piano and keyboards but during the marching parades, he will take up the sticks and play the snare drum set.  He talks about what he is most anxious to see on the trip.
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And there is one other thing that Moreno hopes to see while in California.
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You can watch the Gehlen Catholic Band march in the Holiday Bowl Parade which will be seen on Friday morning at 8:00 a.m. local time on USA network, and the Gehlen Band will also perform during the halftime festivities of the Holiday Bowl which can be seen on ESPN, Thursday evening at about 8:30 p.m. local time.

Des Moines School District Against Armed Guards In Schools

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa's largest public school district is questioning the National Rifle Association's call for armed police in every school across the country.
Des Moines Public Schools spokesman Phil Roeder says the proposal Friday doesn't offer details about funding or staffing concerns. He also says it's going to be state and federal policy
makers that will make any changes.
The Iowa State Education Association also has expressed some opinion on the issue, which stems after a school shooting in Connecticut last week killed 20 children and six educators. The group says they adamantly oppose educators bringing weapons to school. They also say they support efforts to increase mental health awareness.

 

Pregnant Woman Was Fatal Victim In I-35 Multiple Car Crash

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa authorities say one of the victims of a 25-car pileup caused by a major snow storm was pregnant with twins.
The Iowa State Patrol says Colby Duckett Bostick of Clear Lake was killed in the massive wreck Thursday morning on Interstate Highway 35 in northern Iowa.
Iowa State Patrol spokesman Sergeant Scott Bright says the 27-year-old Bostick was struck by a vehicle after she got out of her car to check on another child.
The newspaper reports Bostick announced her pregnancy in November.
Officials also say 43-year-old Sheila Blood of Arkansas was killed. Seven others were injured.
Authorities say poor visibility caused the chain reaction of crashes when drivers were unable to see vehicles that had slowed or stopped.

 

Iowa's Population Growing At A Fast Rate

DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) - Iowa is growing more quickly as the current decade begins than it did during the first couple years of the previous decade.
The Quad-City Times reports that U.S. Census Bureau figures show Iowa's population grew by 10,089 people between July 1, 2011, and July 1, 2012.
In the two years between 2000 and 2002, the population grew by 5,167 people.
Iowa's growth was largely driving by births outnumbering deaths and more people moving to the state from other countries.
Even as the population increased, more people moved from Iowa to other states than moved from other states to Iowa.
As of July 1, Iowa's population was 3,074,186.
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Business Litigation Court Created

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A court that specializes in handling complex business litigation will be created under a three-year pilot program meant to improve the efficiency of the Iowa judicial
system.
The Iowa Supreme Court issued an order Friday establishing the Iowa Business Specialty Court, which will handle disputes in cases involving intellectual property rights, business contracts,
commercial property and more.
The supreme court will select three judges to join the court based on their prior experience handling such cases. They will be tasked with adopting case management practices that help resolve
high-stakes business cases quickly and fairly.
Participation will be voluntary, and all parties must agree to opt in. Only cases in which damages totaling $200,000 or more are alleged, or those seeking injunctive or declaratory relief will be
eligible for the docket.


Dentist's Firing Of Assistant Is Upheld In Supreme Court

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - The Iowa Supreme Court says a dentist did not commit gender discrimination when he fired an attractive female assistant he viewed as a threat to his marriage.
The court ruled Friday that a boss can fire an employee he considers an "irresistible attraction," even if the employee has done nothing wrong.
The decision is the first in Iowa, but in line with rulings elsewhere.
Justices rejected a discrimination lawsuit filed by Melissa Nelson, who was fired by Fort Dodge dentist James Knight in 2010.
Nelson had worked in Knight's office for 10 years. She and Knight eventually started texting outside work about personal matters. Knight's wife, who also worked at the office, found out and demanded Nelson's firing.
Knight's lawyer says the court's decision is "in favor of family values."


Supreme Court Allows For New Trial For Muscatine Man

MUSCATINE, Iowa (AP) - The Iowa Supreme Court has granted a Muscatine man a new trial on charges of sexually abusing a child.
The high court decided Friday that Robert Howard will get a new trial because a detective gave the 22-year-old an improper promise of leniency for his confession.
Howard confessed in 2010 to sexually abusing his girlfriend's 17-month-old son. A jury later found him guilty of second-degree sexual abuse and child endangerment. An appeals court later affirmed the conviction and 25-year prison sentence.
A district court denied Howard's motion to have the confession suppressed during his trial. The court's ruling now says the detective's actions made the confession inadmissible.

 

 

 

 

 

   

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