Friday News, December 19
Rural Merrill Home Catches On Fire
(Merrill) -- A smoke detector saved the lives of a rural Merrill couple and their infant baby when fire was reported at a one story home located at 24997 Jade Avenue, or about two miles southwest of Merrill. Merrill Fire Chief Jacob Conley says the family living in the home were awaken by a smoke detector that sounded at about 1:30 a.m. Friday morning. The family reported fire and smoke was emitting from the roof of their home. Merrill, Hinton, and the Le Mars Fire Departments all responded to that house fire. Conley describes the scene upon arrival.
Fire fighters were on the scene for about two hours. Conley says the home suffered only minimal damage.
No injuries were reported. Conley says fire officials were able to contain the fire fairly quickly.
Sioux City Home Catches On Fire
SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - A Sioux City family and their pets have escaped an early morning house fire unharmed.
The fire was reported before 5 a.m. Thursday. Deputy Fire Marshal Frank Fulton says crews arrived to find flames and heavy smoke coming from the house.
Three occupants were able to escape. Fulton says they suffered minor smoke inhalation, but did not know if the people received medical treatment. Three dogs and two cats also were safely removed from the house.
Fulton says the house was severely damaged.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
(Le Mars) -- The Le Mars Youth for Christ center known as "The Asylum" will soon be moving from its downtown site to a new location. Jim Rahn (Run), who oversees the operations at the teen center says by February 1st they hope to be in the former Le Mars Daycare Center at 3rd Avenue Southeast and 10th Street Southeast. Rahn says the Asylum was interested in relocating for many reasons.
Rahn says the new location will be nearly double the space.
Rahn says the Asylum has about 375 students that actively utilize the facilities. He notes the new location may be attractive to students since it is next to the Le Mars YMCA Community Wellness Center. Rahn says the organization is trying to raise additional funds to make the move complete.
In addition to moving to a different location, Rahn says the youth center will also be changing its name.
Plymouth County Conservation Board Eligible For Grants
(Le Mars) -- Plymouth County Conservation Board was recently notified it is eligible for a grant to help with the new River's Bend Lake located near Akron. Nick Beeck serves as the executive director for the Conservation Board, and explains how the grant money will be utilized.
Beeck says before the County Conservation Board can obtain the funding, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources still needs to agree to the plan. However, Beeck is confident the local conservation board will be given approval. He says of the $9,600 requested, the state DNR would finance 90 percent of the costs, and the Plymouth County Conservation Board would need to finance the remaining 10 percent. The grant proposal was scored at a recent district conference.
The rennovation of the lake is scheduled for March or April, depending upon when the lake is free of ice. Beeck says within a month after the application, the Conservation Board will be able to re-stock the new lake with desired game fish.
Beeck says River's Bend used to be a gravel pit. He says the county made a land swap deal with the Higman Sand and Gravel Company. The Conservation Board is on year two of a three year plan to upgrade the facilities to include a boat ramp, camping area, restrooms, and a shelter house.
New Survey Says Iowa Should Invest In Business
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A new report says Iowa should invest more in business development, education and infrastructure to boost the state's economy.
State officials released the report from the nonprofit Battelle Memorial Institute Thursday. It was commissioned last year by an economic advisory board co-chaired by Gov. Terry Branstad.
Overall, the report said the state has seen job growth and wages increases. Still, there is room for improvement. As of 2013, Iowa ranked 23rd nationally for per capita income.
Recommendations in the report included simplifying the state tax code and providing more funding to programs that offer support to businesses. It suggests increasing educational opportunities to develop more skilled workers.
The report also cites Iowa's infrastructure needs, stressing the need for more funding for roads and better broadband infrastructure across the state.
Sioux City Man Pleads Guilty To Improper Asbestos Removal
SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - A Sioux City developer accused of improperly removing asbestos from a former YMCA building has pleaded guilty.
Records show 54-year-old Larry Wolf of Dakota City, Nebraska entered his plea Wednesday in federal court in Sioux City on one count of violating the work practice standards of the Clean Air Act.
Wolf was accused of improperly removing asbestos from an old YMCA building between July 2009 and March 2011. He admitted during his plea hearing to knowing about the asbestos ahead of removing material from the building.
Prosecutors say Wolf also removed asbestos-containing material wrappings from metals inside the building then sold the metals.
It's unclear when Wolf will be sentenced. He remains free on bond.
Man Convicted Of Murder Wants New Trial
DAKOTA CITY, Neb. (AP) - A 23-year-old Iowa man convicted of killing a northeast Nebraska woman has requested a new trial.
The attorney for Raymond Gonzales Jr. filed the motion on Wednesday. The attorney says problems with the trial include jury misconduct and a verdict not supported by sufficient evidence.
A jury on Dec. 9 found Gonzalez guilty of first-degree murder and use of a firearm to commit a felony. Authorities say he shot 28-year-old Bonnie Baker 16 times in December 2013 at a party in her South Sioux City home.
Witnesses say Gonzales became upset after people at the party teased him.
A district judge has ordered a hearing on the motion for Feb. 5, the same day Gonzales is scheduled to be sentenced.
AGP To Expand Sergeant Bluff Facilities
SERGEANT BLUFF, Iowa (AP) - An Omaha, Nebraska, soybean processing company plans to build a $90 million vegetable oil refinery in western Iowa.
Ag Processing Inc. plans to build the refinery at its complex near Sergeant Bluff, creating at least 20 new jobs. The information comes from documents by Ag Processing seeking nearly $1 million in Iowa loans and tax breaks released by the state Wednesday.
The company's complex in Woodbury County currently includes a soybean processing plant, biodiesel plant and grain storage facilities.
The vegetable oil refinery proposed for the same 85-acre site would be designed for 30 rail tank cars per day. Estimated project costs include $2.5 million for site preparation, $14.5 million for construction and $71.5 million for new machinery and equipment.
Stolen ATM Machine Is Recovered
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - An automatic teller machine stolen from the Iowa Events Center in September has been found at the Des Moines International Airport.
Police say an airport employee told police he found an ATM when he was checking the airport grounds shortly before 2 p.m. Wednesday.
The Des Moines Register reports (http://dmreg.co/1CaT9FT ) that police checked the machine's serial number and found it had been reported stolen from the Iowa Events Center on Sept. 11.
Surveillance video showed a man entering the Iowa Events Center by pushing a potted plant through a glass window, then prying the ATM from the wall.
The man then broke a different glass door to escape. Police found tire tracks in the grass and mud near that door.
Police have not made any arrests.