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Thursday Afternoon News, April 17

State Gaming Commission Denies Argosy's License Renewal

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) - The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission has rejected a Sioux City riverboat casino's challenge to renew its gaming license, and has set July 1 as the deadline for the gambling boat to shut down.
     Penn National Gaming, the parent company of the Argosy riverboat casino, had challenged the commission's decision last year to reject a one-year license renewal. The commission said it had issue with the Argosy's dissolving partnership with a nonprofit group. Iowa's casino gambling laws require casino operators to partner with licensed nonprofit groups that hold the license. Argosy's operating agreement with its long-standing nonprofit, Missouri River Historical Development, expired in July 2012.
     Following the commission's decision Thursday, Penn National officials released a statement saying they were "beyond dismayed" by the decision.


Chamber, Mainstreet, And LIBC Submit Quarterly Reports

(Le Mars) -- The Le Mars Chamber of Commerce, Le Mars Main Street Organization, the Le Mars Business Initiative Corporation, have submitted their quarterly reports to city officials.  Mainstreet cordinator Mary Reynolds reports the Le Mars Mainstreet organization has been coordinating the Alley Art Public Art project, continuing to work on the historic tax credit application for the Le Mars Beauty College.  The Mainstreet organization is continuing to work on developing second floor housing in downtown Le Mars.  The Chamber continues to recruit new businesses as members of the Le Mars Chamber of Commerce.  Hosting Chamber coffees and After 5 events, coordinate the newcomers welcome basket program, and have started work on a new Le Mars Chamber Visitor's Guide.  The Le Mars Business Initiative Corporation reports they have begun participation in "comprehensive development strategies for the region.  The LBIC also indicated they hosted Iowa Economic Development Authority Director Debi Durham for a day visit to Le Mars.  Durham was given a tour to the industrial park region that included IML Iowa, SmithCo, and Gus Pech.  The LBIC discussed future expansion of rail service, and the grant of authority to establish foreign trade zones with Le Mars as being a "magnet site".  The LBIC also worked with four small business entities offering assistance that included building information, business plans and demographic information.


Convention and Visitors Bureau Gives Annual Report

(Le Mars) -- During the recent Le Mars City Council meeting, Jessica Brownmiller submitted the annual Convention and Visitor's Bureau annual report.  She indicated some of the highlights from this past year include the Girl Scouts "Cow to Wow" conference which had attracted nearly 100 people to Le Mars.  Brownmiller also informed the city council about Le Mars hosting the WHO radio Iowa Tractor Tour which had 557 participants and served 802 meals.
Brownmiller also reported the Hotel/motel sales tax grant had received 15 applications requesting $55,594 and awarded $35,000.


Public Health Department Says No To Sioux Center Birthing Center

(Sioux Center) -- This week the Iowa Department of Public Health denied the request made by Promise Community Health Clinic of Sioux Center for a birthing center that would have been operated by a mid-wife.  The vote was 4 to 1 against the clinic from establishing a birthing center.  Nancy Dykstra serves as the executive director for the Sioux Center clinic.  She says the Public Health's Department decision was disappointing.

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Dykstra says the Promise Community Health Clinic already provides pre-natal care for expecting mothers.  She says there is a need in northwest Iowa for the mid-wife services.

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Dykstra says the clinic contracted with the Sioux Center Community Hospital to provide a hospital mid-wife employee to provide services to the under priviledged at the Promise health clinic.  Dykstra says business grew, but the hospital did not want to share employees anymore.

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The health clinic executive director says a second mid-wife was added to the clinic's staff.  She says as the popularity of the clinic was increasing, so was the tension between the local hospital and the clinic.

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Many local community hospitals went on record with the state's public health department opposing the clinic's request for a birthing center. 


17 Year Old Declared "Mentally Competent" To Stand Trial For Murder

 LOGAN, Iowa (AP) - Two psychiatric experts say an 18-year-old suspect is competent to stand trial on a charge that he killed his 5-year-old foster brother in western Iowa's Harrison County.
     The two University of Iowa experts testified Wednesday that Cody Metzker-Madsen was extremely immature but said his "brain works very well." 
     Metzker-Madsen has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge in the slaying of Dominic Elkins on Aug. 31 last year. Authorities say the little boy died of head injuries and drowning. His body was found at the bottom of a rural ravine north of Logan. 
     Metzker-Madsen was 17 at the time.
     The final decision rests with Judge Kathleen Kilnoski, who did not say Wednesday when she would rule on the defendant's competence for a murder trial.


Law Enforcement Academy Official To Resign

 IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - The assistant director of the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy will retire after facing months of criticism for making inappropriate sexual and threatening remarks to female cadets and colleagues.
     A letter released Thursday to The Associated Press shows 71-year-old Michael Quinn will retire June 30.
     The move comes after Senate Democrats held him up as an example of personnel mismanagement by Republican Gov. Terry Branstad's administration.
     Quinn was the subject of reports by the AP last year showing that he was allowed to keep his job despite a state investigation that found he violated anti-discrimination and violence-free workplace policies.
     The investigation found that he made remarks to cadets and employees about his testicles and his sex life and told one subordinate that he would "slit your throat" if she acted up.


Group To Study If VEISHEA Celebration Should Continue In Future

 AMES, Iowa (AP) - A task force has been formed to determine if an annual celebration at Iowa State University should continue in the future following a large crowd disturbance near campus.
     University President Steven Leath announced the 20-member group Thursday. Tom Hill, senior vice president for student affairs, will lead it.
     The group includes student leaders and staff, as well as the mayor of Ames and the police chief.
     Plans for the task force were announced shortly after a crowd disturbance this month near campus. People gathered during the multi-day Veishea celebration are accused of overturning cars and toppling light poles. One student was injured.
     The disturbance led to Veishea's suspension this school year. The group will study the celebration's history and offer recommendations to Leath before the end of June.








Thursday News, April 17

Le Mars School Finalist For Helmet To Hope Grant

(Le Mars) -- The Le Mars Community School Foundation has a chance of winning $25,000 through the Helmet of Hope campaign as sponsored by Wells Blue Bunny Ice Cream, and NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson foundation.  Le Mars Community School Foundation is one of ten finalists for the grant.  The Blue Bunny Helmet to Hope program, which began in 2008, allows fans and consumers across the country the chance to nominate not-for-profit (501c) organizations that support K-12 public education.  Starting today, Thursday, April 17th and continuing through next Thursday, April 24th, people have the opportunity to cast their vote at to determine the five grant winners.  In addition to the $25,000 grant, each of the five winners will receive a Blue Bunny ice cream party and special recognition on Johnson's race helmet during the Sprint Cup Series race on July 27th at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  To date, the Blue Bunny Helmet of Hope has contributed more than $560,000 to 71 different charities.  The Le Mars Community School Foundation asks people to get online and cast your vote for the Le Mars Community School Foundation.


Benton Selected As "Teacher Of The Year"

(Le Mars) -- On Tuesday, the Le Mars Community School and the Le Mars Community School Foundation awarded middle school instrumental music teacher Mary Benton, the Decades of Excelllence, Crystal Bell "Teacher of the Year" award.  Benton says she is humbled by the recognition.  She explains her teaching philosophy.

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With so much emphasis placed on a student's core cirriculm, Benton says it's also important to include the fine arts as part of the entire education for students.

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While accepting the honor for "Teacher of the Year", Benton says she always looks forward to coming to school, and it is because of the students.

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The band instructor was certainly taken by surprise at the announcement, but she is quick to share the credit with her fellow teachers.

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Official recognition will be conducted during the annual banquet of the Le Mars Community School Foundation scheduled for April 30th at the Le Mars Convention Center. 


Boy Threatens School In Van Horne

 VAN HORNE, Iowa (AP) - A 17-year-old boy is accused of writing a threatening note on a bathroom wall at a high school in east-central Iowa.
     The Benton Community School District on Tuesday sent an email to parents, telling them about the note at Benton Community High School in Van Horne and the resulting increase in security. 
     The note said the writer was going to blow up the school on Thursday but only after shooting as many people as possible before committing suicide.
     The boy was taken into custody and charged with two misdemeanor counts of harassment. The Associated Press generally doesn't use the names of juveniles accused of crimes.


Lawmakers Work On Education Budget

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Lawmakers from the Iowa Senate and House have agreed to meet to hammer out details on an education budget, as the chambers have not agreed on public university spending increases, among other provisions.
     The Senate rejected a plan from the House on Wednesday that would give the University of Iowa less of an increase than that given to Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa, and the House then adhered to it. Lawmakers will now meet to discuss the budget and settle differences between both parties and chambers.
     Democrats say giving less money to UI could result in a tuition increase, but Republicans told the Des Moines Register the school has enough cash reserve to avoid raising tuition.
     The bill as a whole appropriates funds for educational programs.


Insurance Division Investigates Two Rivers Company

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Iowa Insurance Division is investigating an insurance agency that's accused of overbilling thousands of government employees for health care coverage.
     The division is focused on Two Rivers Insurance Co. The agency had been acting as an independent agent selling insurance for Wellmark and other companies.
     Wellmark spokesman Traci McBee says Wellmark ended its relationship with Two Rivers on April 9 because Two Rivers had "marked up some of its customers' health insurance premiums without Wellmark's knowledge."
     Todd Ackerman of Two Rivers said the company "categorically disagrees" with Wellmark's conclusion. He acknowledged Wellmark's allegations "revolve around the way we were compensated, and we believe we were transparent."


Branstad Says Insurance Benefits Extended 

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Governor Terry Branstad says Iowa has agreed to a federal recommendation that will allow thousands of residents to hang onto health insurance policies that don't meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. 
     Branstad and Iowa Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart announced Wednesday that the state would grant the extension of plans through 2016.
     The action will let about 330,000 Iowans retain their health insurance policies. Most buy their own insurance or are covered by small employers.
     Without the move, some of those policies could be cancelled.
     Branstad says in a statement that the decision gives Iowans the flexibility to maintain current coverage or shop for new plans available to them.
     Eighteen other states have allowed plan extensions as permitted by federal regulations.


DAS Official Say Federal Money May Have Been Used To Pay Settlements

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - An official of the Iowa Department of Administrative Services says federal money could have been used to pay money to former state employees to keep quiet about settlement agreements.
     Lon Anderson, Chief Deputy Director of the DAS, appeared before the Government Oversight Committee to answer questions about the Legislature's deepening investigation into the agreements.
     Democrats allege money may have been misappropriated to pay laid off workers for silence.
     Anderson says in some cases money would have come from fees other government agencies pay DAS for services and it's impossible to know where that money came from.
     Senator Matt McCoy says if federal money was used it could jeopardize Iowa's ability to seek federal money or the keep money it has already been given.


Fugitive For 40 Years Finally Caught

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) - Authorities say a man being held in Waterloo is a fugitive of more than 40 years from North Carolina.
     The  the man was arrested after the Iowa Transportation Department's facial recognition system flagged his driver's license photo. Authorities say they found information in his residence that identified him as 68-year-old Ronald Dwaine Carnes.
     Records say Carnes was convicted of robbery in the Winston-Salem, N.C., area in November 1970 and sentenced to 20 years. He escaped a correctional center in Huntersville, N.C., in August 1973.
     The Black Hawk County Sheriff's Office says Carnes was charged Monday with committing fraudulent practices, possession of weapons by a felon and possession of a fictitious license. Records do not list an attorney.
     North Carolina officials say they're working to extradite Carnes.


Council Bluffs Has Four Finalists For Police Chief Position

 COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) - Four men are vying to become the next police chief in Council Bluffs.
     Mayor Matt Walsh will choose the next chief, who will replace Ralph O'Donnell, who retired in March.
     Walsh tells the Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil he wants to hire a chief who will have the respect of his officers, a good understanding of crime fighting and strength as a communicator.
     The four people competing for the position are Fremont, Nebraska, Police Chief Jeffrey Elliott; John Farmer, former police chief in Forrest City, Arkansas, and a former Omaha police lieutenant; and Terry LeMaster and Scott Milner, both captains with the Council Bluffs police.






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