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Thursday Afternoon News, Feb. 28

Union Pacific Train Derails Near Sheldon

(Ritter) -- Clean up is underway in O'Brien County after several cars of an Union Pacific train derailed early Thursday morning.  Union Pacific spokesperson Raquel Espinoza says the accident happened three miles north of Sheldon.

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Espinoza says Highway 60 is not affected, but some county roads are blocked by the derailment.

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The cause of the derailment remains under investigation.


Pheasants Forever Schedules Annual Banquet

(Le Mars) -- This Saturday, the Plymouth County chapter of Pheasants Forever will hold its 28th annual banquet at the Le Mars Convention Center.  Chapter President Bob Puetz says the event usually attracts up to 550 people, and in addition to raising money for pheasant habitat, the evening's festivities prove to be a lot of fun for everyone.
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Puetz says, again this year, the Pheasants Forever chapter will raffle several shotguns and recreational outdoor retreats.
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The Pheasants Forever chapter president says in addition to creating sufficient habitat and to increase the population of pheasants and other wildlife, an additional mission is to introduce youngsters to the outdoors.

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The Plymouth County chapter sponsors several events through out the year directed towards youth and typically more than 100 youth participate.  The Plymouth County Pheasants Forever chapter ranks as one of the more active chapters in the nation, at one time having the most sponsors of any chapter in the nation.  The Pheasants Forever organization recently ranked Plymouth County as being the 25th best pheasant hunting spot in the nation.  The Pheasants Forever banquet will start with 5:00 social hour and dinner at 6:30 p.m.

State Senate Democrats Announce Plan To Reduce Property Taxes

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A plan from Senate Democrats to reduce commercial property taxes is moving forward, though Republican lawmakers and Gov. Terry Branstad have questioned the proposal.
The Senate Ways and Means Committee on Thursday approved a bill that would gradually reduce commercial property taxes by providing credits. Sen. Matt McCoy, of Des Moines, calls it a "Main Street
tax cut."
Under the plan, commercial property owners would gradually get a tax credit equivalent to a roughly 40 percent tax cut on their first $324,000 in assessed property value. Democrats say their plan
would help small businesses more than Branstad's plan.
The Democrats' plan would cost $250 million, and credits wouldn't be funded in weak budget years.
Branstad's $350 million plan gradually cuts taxable property assessments by 20 percent for all businesses.

Democrats Want To Help Community Colleges

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Citing the high number of Iowa residents without a high school diploma, Democratic senators want to provide additional funding to community colleges for adult education and
job training.
Sen. Brian Schoenjahn, of Arlington, noted Thursday the legislation would provide $25 million to community colleges to help people get high school equivalency diplomas, technical training and
job placement assistance. He says that about 300,000 working age adults in Iowa do not have high school diplomas.
The bill has been approved by the Senate education committee with support from Democrats and Republicans. It will now go on to the Senate for full approval.
Schoenjahn says Gov. Terry Branstad had also indicated support for the ideas in the bill.
Branstad spokesman Tim Albrecht says the governor hasn't taken a position on the proposal.


Public Defender Considered For Court of Appeals Position

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - A coalition of progressive groups is calling on U.S. senators to confirm a federal public defender from Cedar Rapids as a member of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday considered President Barack Obama's nomination of Jane Kelly to the court, which hears cases from Iowa and several other states. Kelly has been an
assistant federal public defender since 1994, and she recently represented white-collar criminal Russ Wasendorf Sr.
Kelly's nomination to the federal bench has been endorsed by Iowa's two senators, Democrat Tom Harkin and Republican Chuck Grassley.
The Iowa Fair Courts Coalition on Wednesday called Kelly highly qualified and asked the Senate to schedule a floor vote on her nomination.
The coalition includes the state's largest gay rights group and pro-labor groups.


Budget Cuts May Hurt Meat Industry

COLUMBUS JUNCTION, Iowa (AP) - Federal budget reductions set to take effect Friday could fall like a meat ax on the small Iowa town of Columbus Junction, where a Tyson Foods hog processing plant dominates the economy.
The White House is warning that 6,300 meat and poultry plants could be forced to temporarily suspend production because the cuts may require U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors to be
furloughed for 15 days.
The impact would hit meatpacking towns such as Columbus Junction, which has long been driven by the business of turning Iowa's nation-leading hog population into food.
Grocery store owner Griceli Amigon says 95 percent of her customers work at Tyson, and they'd have no money to spend during a furlough.
Mayor Daniel Wilson says he believes the warning is "political posturing" that won't happen






Thursday News, February 28

Remsen Fire Department Responds To Oven Fire

(Remsen) -- The Remsen Fire Department responded to a late night alarm. Shortly after 1:30 a.m. this morning, the Remsen Fire Department was called to 512 Madison Street for what turned out to be an oven fire.  No report as to how much damage was sustained as a result of that oven fire.


Local Banks Help Le Mars Fire and Rescue Acquire A Defibrillator

(Le Mars) -- The Le Mars Fire and Rescue Department recently upgraded some equipment with the help of three participating local area banks.   The fire and rescue department was able to purchase a new defibrillator.  Three local banks: American Bank, Primebank, and the Kingsley State Bank all stepped forward and donated funds to the fire and rescue department, in order to purchase the defibrillator. The Le Mars Fire and Rescue Department appreciates the support exhibited by the banks and all citizens with their donations throughout the year.


Freking Chosen As Chamber Vice President

(Le Mars) -- Life-long Le Mars resident Allie Freking has taken over as the new Vice-President of the Le Mars Main Street Program.  Beginning in mid-February Freking filled the shoes of Jenni Smit, previous vice-president, in the volunteer position. Allie says the vice-presidential role puts her on the executive board for the chamber.  She'll oversee promotions, design, business improvement and primarily events, working alongside Main Street Manager Mary Reynolds.

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Freking will help with fundraising throughout the year also, including the fall dinner theater fundraiser and the holiday dollars promotion.  Allie said that volunteering in the capacity as the Le Mars Area Chamber of Commerce Main Street Program Vice President was a natural step for her.

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She adds that new promotions and ideas are in the works, but they'll have to be a surprise! Allie Freking is a 2003 graduate of Le Mars Community and is employed as the program director at the Le Mars YMCA.


Trial Set For Argosy Casino

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Trial has been scheduled next year for Penn National Gaming Co.'s lawsuit against the co-holder of its gambling license for the Argosy floating casino in Sioux City.
The trial is scheduled to begin April 14, 2014, on the lawsuit filed in September last year.
Penn National's Iowa subsidiary, Belle of Sioux City, says Missouri River Historical Development violated terms of their operating agreement. Penn National and the nonprofit historical development group jointly hold the gambling license.
The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission is expected to announce April 18 its choice from four proposals to replace the Argosy with a land-based casino.


Sioux City West High School Official Resigns Due To OWI

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - A Sioux City high school administrator has resigned following his arrest on suspicion of drunken driving.
A trial is scheduled to begin April 9 for 47-year-old Dale Veatch. He's pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor charges of drunken driving and lacking registration for his vehicle.
An Iowa state trooper stopped Veatch for a broken headlight on Jan. 20. A court affidavit says Veatch failed field sobriety tests and recorded a blood alcohol content of nearly twice the legal
limit in a breath test.
Veatch has been school activities director at West High School. District spokeswoman Alison Benson says Veatch's resignation is effective June 30.


Iowa High School Graduation Rates Rise

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The state Department of Education says Iowa's graduation rate increased to more than 89 percent, the highest in the nation.
The department reported Wednesday that 89.26 percent of Iowa's class of 2012 graduated, up nearly 1 percentage point from 2011.
Iowa's four-year graduation rate ranks first nationally.
Graduation rates increased in 172 of Iowa's 318 school districts that had high schools.
Of the 10 largest districts, eight saw graduation rates rise.  The biggest jump among those districts was in Des Moines, where the rate climbed 3.47 percentage point to 79.15 percent.
Iowa Department of Education Director Jason Glass noted the strong numbers but added that the state needs to ensure graduating students are adequately prepared.
State lawmakers are considering reforms aimed at improving Iowa's public school system.


Latham Says He Won't Run For Senate Seat

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Republican Congressman Tom Latham of Iowa is saying he will not run for the U.S. Senate seat left open by retiring Democrat Tom Harkin in 2014.
Latham, a 10-term Republican from Clive, says in a statement Wednesday that he could not "in good conscience launch a two-year statewide campaign that will detract from the commitment" to the
new district he was elected to in November.
Attention now turns to U.S. Representative Steve King of Kiron. King, a conservative from northwest Iowa, has also said he is weighing a Senate bid, but was not expected to challenge Latham in a primary.
Democratic Representative Bruce Braley, a four-term House member from Waterloo, is the only announced Democrat for the seat.


Lawmakers Consider Photo ID For Voting

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Lawmakers in the state House are set to consider a bill that would require voters to show photo identification at Iowa polling places.
The state government committee is scheduled to consider the legislation at a Thursday meeting. The measure is backed by Secretary of State Matt Schultz, who has filed identical bills in
the House and Senate.
Schultz, a Republican, has made voter ID one of his key issues. GOP lawmakers largely support him, saying identification is needed to prevent fraud. Democrats say there is little fraud and claim
Republicans want to discourage voting by minorities and the elderly, who tend to favor Democrats.
Opponents of the legislation say a photo ID requirement would disenfranchise voters who don't have required documents. They also say the rules could slow vote-counting.


Democrats Want To Expand Medicaid --Branstad Says No

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A Democratic effort to expand Medicaid in Iowa is moving forward, but Republican Governor Terry Branstad remains firm in his opposition.
Democrats in the Senate Human Resources Committee on Wednesday approved a proposal to expand the state's Medicaid program. Under the plan, the Medicaid eligibility limit would be raised to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $15,400 annually for an individual.
Branstad has opposed such an expansion and instead wants to seek a federal waiver to continue IowaCare, a program that provides limited benefits to 70,000 low income adults using state and
federal funds. That program is set to expire by the end of the year.
If Medicaid is expanded, as many as 150,000 people could be added to Iowa's rolls, including those on IowaCare.



Fort Dodge City Council Votes Down Pay Raise

FORT DODGE, Iowa (AP) - City Council members in Fort Dodge have rejected a proposed $1,300 a year raise.
Six of the seven council members at the Monday meeting voted against what would have amounted to a 27 percent raise. One councilor was absent.
The city's Salary Advisory Review Board recommended the increase from $4,800 to $6,100 beginning Jan. 1, 2014.
Council member Andy Fritz says he voted no because he knew what the salary was when he opted to run for office. Fritz says, ''I don't do this job for the money."
Jim Koll, who was on the salary advisory board, says Fort Dodge council members haven't had a raise since 2002.






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