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Wednesday Afternoon News, March 4

Fire Department Investigates Odor At Mobile Home

(Le Mars) -- The Le Mars Fire and Rescue Department was called to Armel Acres mobile home park in Le Mars at about 7:15 a.m.this morning to investigate a strange odor.  Fire fighters found two issues of concern at the home at 1 Cherry Street.  Inside the home, an overhead light fixture had gotten too hot creating an odor, plus fire fighters detected a small gas leak outside the home. Mid-American Energy officials were notified of the gas leak.  Fire officials were able to quickly resolve the light fixture concern and were on scene for less than 20 minutes.


Archie's Waeside Awarded National Honor

(Le Mars) -- A local steakhouse has been nationally recgonized for its good food and longevity.  In May, Archie's Waeside will be honored with the James Beard Foundation "American Classic" award.  Owner, Bob Rand, says it is quite the honor for a Le Mars restaurant to be one of five recognized nationally.

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Rand says Archie's is being honored, in part, for its long-term comittment in the restauarant business.

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Rand explains how Archie's was selected for the national food honor.

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The steakhouse owner claims it is the comittment of the people, both the employees and the guests, that makes the local eatery so special.

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On Friday, March 13th, a film production crew will be shooting video for the award presentation, and Rand wishes to invite the folks from Le Mars to dine at Archie's that evening.

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Bergquist Presented School District's " Employee Of The Month"

(Le Mars) -- A middle school secretary has been honored by the Le Mars Community School District as this month's "Employee of the Month".  Amy Bergquist has been employed with the school district for 16 years.  She was presented the award Wednesday morning.  The nomination says Amy Bergquist does everything for the middle school.  She understands that the kids come first and she is very positive and helpful towards all students.  Amy has a positive attitude and works incredibly hard.  She is a great problem solver, whether it is a Powerschool state reporting problem, or a snag dealing with the middle school carnival.  Amy stays calm and and finds a solution.  She is a professional and knowledgeable and she does an amazing job.  Our congratulations go to Amy Bergquist for being named as the Le Mars Community School District's "Employee of the Month."


Ice Cream Days Receives Funding From Hotel-Motel Tax

(Le Mars) -- Ice Cream Days won't occur for another three months, but it is the benefactor of funds collected through the Hotel-Motel tax.  The week-long local festival will receive $7000 to help with parade entries, entertainment and various other activities for the 2015 Ice Cream Days scheduled for June 17 through 20th.  Sue Butcher is with the Le Mars Chamber of Commerce and serves on the Ice Cream Days committee.  She says the Ice Cream Days committee is excited to receive the special tax funds.  "Ice Cream Days increases tourism by bringing out-of-town visitors and former residents into Le Mars as family activities are planned around the occasion".  She says "numerous local people also take part in the wide variety of entertainment offered during the four days."  Butcher says it is an opportunity to showcase several areas of our community".  Ice Cream Days was one of 11 applicants receiving funding this year.  Funding recommendations of the Convention and Visitors Bureau Advisory Board were approved by the Le Mars City Council.


Lawsuit Filed Against Bishop Heelan Is Dismissed

 SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - A religious discrimination lawsuit filed against Sioux City's Bishop Heelan Catholic school system has been dismissed.
     The  ruling filed last week, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jon Scoles said David Newbrough couldn't proceed on his claim that the system fired him because he wasn't Roman Catholic.  Newbrough was the system's chief financial officer.
     The lawsuit also said he was relieved of his duties as a volunteer basketball scorekeeper at Heelan High School in retaliation for filing a claim with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.
     The judge says the system's actions were protected under a federal law exemption that lets religious organizations discriminate on religious grounds in their employment practices.


Humboldt Votes To Continue Tax Levy

HUMBOLDT, Iowa (AP) - Residents of the northern Iowa city of Humboldt have voted to keep paying a nearly 30-year-old law enforcement levy after an examination found no proof the issue had ever been put to a vote.
    Residents approved the levy Tuesday by a vote of 146 to 70.
    The issue arose in September when the Iowa Department of Management sought details about the levy. Humboldt looked through paperwork and couldn't find any documentation voters had approved the levy. City Administrator Aaron Burnett says the levy appeared to first show up on the 1986 budget, when it was list as an "other" revenue source.
     Official approval of the levy means residents will continue paying the fee, which this year is $1.13 per $1,000 of taxable property value.


House Panel Approves Bill Requiring Doctors To Show Ultrasound Image Before Abortion

  DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A House panel has approved a bill that would require a physician to offer an ultrasound image to a woman seeking an abortion in Iowa.
     Members of a human resources subcommittee approved the bill Wednesday. It heads to a full committee for consideration, where it will need to advance by Friday to beat a procedural deadline in the Legislature.
     The bill would require a physician to perform an ultrasound on a woman and give her an opportunity to view an image of the fetus. The woman would be given the option of hearing a description of the ultrasound image and the potential heartbeat of the fetus. Physicians could face jail time and fines if they didn't comply.
     It's unlikely the bill will advance in the Democratic-controlled Senate.


Yankton Motel Fire Still Unsolved One Year Later

 YANKTON, S.D. (AP) - Federal authorities say they're still seeking tips from the public a year after an arson fire destroyed a Yankton motel.
     The March 4, 2014, blaze destroyed the center of the Colonial Inn Motel and caused heavy smoke damage throughout. The loss was estimated at about half a million dollars.
     After the fire, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives released a photo of a suspect and posted a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.
     ATF spokesman Robert Schmidt tells the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan ( ) that some tips have come in but authorities are still looking for more help from the public.
     Motel owner Dennis Berkland says he has no plans to rebuild.


Man Says He Is No Hero After Saving Neighbor's Life From Fire

 NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa (AP) - A man who helped his neighbor escape flames that destroyed a mobile home in eastern Iowa says he's no hero.
     Jerry McBride Jr. says he merely answered a call of duty in aiding 71-year-old Fred Steven.
     Steven says he awoke from a nap Monday afternoon to find that tubes from his oxygen tank were on fire inside his North Liberty home. Oxygen tanks began exploding by the time he reached a doorway. 
     McBride says he found Steven just outside the home, with his coat aflame. McBride says he used his body to shield Steven from the flaming home, pulled off Steven's coat and then helped him get away from the intense heat and other danger.
     Neither man was injured. Fire officials are investigating the fire cause.


University Of Iowa Power Plant

  IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - University of Iowa officials are ready to begin planning a steam production plant on the west side of the school's campus.
     Officials have asked the Iowa state Board of Regents for permission to begin planning the $75 million production plant that will be adjacent to the school's new backup power facility.
     University interim senior vice president Rod Lehnertz says that construction will likely take two years, and that the facility should be operational in four years. 
     The plant would be fueled by natural gas, but the building site allows the use of biofuel sources that would transport to the facility by rail.
     Officials estimate that the proposed facility initially will be capable of delivering 150,000 pounds per hour of steam, and could be expanded up to 300,000 pounds per hour.



Wednesday News, March 4

Plymouth Energy Wants To Remove Natural Gas By-Pass Tax

(Le Mars) -- Representatives of the Plymouth Energy ethanol company appeared before the county supervisors on Tuesday to ask for their support to help reduce taxes relating to the purchase of natural gas.  Eamonn Byrne, the Chief Executive Officer for Plymouth Energy informed the county supervisors that natural gas is the second largest expense, following corn, for the Merrill facility.  He says $7 million dollars is spent annually for natural gas.  Byrne informed the supervisors that 21 ethanol and biodiesel plants in Iowa are subject to the tax and wanting to eliminate the Iowa Bypass Natural Gas Replacement Tax.  He says the tax is an "unfair tax" and explains the difference between the three types of natural gas replacement taxpayers.
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Byrne says the tax rate is too excessive.

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Byrne says Plymouth Energy contributes to the county's economic development with the number of people employed directly or indirectly to the local ethanol plant.

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The supervisors agreed to write a letter of support for the local ethanol plant, and advised the ethanol representatives that the letters should be addressed to Governor Terry Branstad and many other legislative leaders.  In other action, the supervisors approved a measure to place a weight limit of 6 tons per axle on Marble Avenue through the spring months. 


City Council Approves Budget

(Le Mars) -- In city council action from yesterday's meeting, the city council approved the budget for the fiscal year 2015-2016.  Other discussion focused on city street improvements including the intersection at Plymouth Street and Central Avenue, and business highway 75.


Legislators Work On Texting Bill

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A Senate committee has approved a bill that would expand language on a texting while driving ban but without a provision to prohibit people from using hand-held devices like cellphones.
     A transportation committee approved the bill Tuesday. It is now available for the full Senate for debate.
     The committee also agreed to defer a vote on a bill that would have increased the speed limit on some Iowa highways from 70 mph to 75 mph. A procedural deadline this Friday means the bill will likely not advance this session.
     Sen. Tod Bowman, a Maquoketa Democrat and committee chairman, says he removed the hand-held ban from the texting bill because he wanted to make sure the legislation had enough bipartisan support.


Lawmakers Work On Bill Allowing Youinger Children To Use Guns

 DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Younger children could use guns with their parents' approval under a bill approved by a House panel.
     A judiciary subcommittee unanimously approved the bill Tuesday. It now heads to a full committee.
     Rep. Matt Windschitl, a Missouri Valley Republican, sponsored the bill, which also includes a provision blocking public access to the names of people with permits to carry and purchase weapons.
     The bill also would allow purchases of suppressors to silence firearm.
     People now must be at least 14 to use a pistol or revolver. Windschitl says the limit should be removed, leaving the choice to parents.
     Most discussion at the hearing was about the public access questions. Windschitl says the change would protect residents' privacy. The Iowa Newspaper Association says the public has a right to such records.


Democratic Senators Wanting To Expand Medical Marijuana

(Des Moines) --  Several members of the Iowa Senate on Tuesday released an Iowa proposal for medical cannabis reform.  If it becomes law, the legislation would allow Iowans who suffer from specific chronic diseases and are under the care of a doctor to purchase medical cannabis products produced in Iowa from licensed dispensaries.

Democratic Senator Bill Dotzler of Waterloo says, “Last year, large bipartisan majorities in Iowa Legislature approved Iowa’s first medical cannabis program, Unfortunately, that legislation has so far not helped a single Iowa family.  Dotzler says Iowans deserve to have full access to the same medicines already available to the majority of all Americans.  Twenty-three other states have shown this can be done in a responsible, medically sound way.”   

Senate Study Bill 1243 expands the conditions eligible for medicines made from cannabis to eight.  They include cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, AIDS/HIV, glaucoma, Hepatitis C, Crohn’s Disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, and post-traumatic stress disorder.  

Once an Iowa doctor certifies that an Iowan suffers from one of these diseases, that person would become eligible to purchase medical cannabis products from dispensaries licensed by the state of Iowa.


Ankeny Mother With Rare Set Of Twins Must Remain In Hospital

ANKENY, Iowa (AP) - An Iowa mother pregnant with a rare set of twins must spend six more weeks at the hospital before the babies are born.
     Amanda Kuhl, of Ankeny, has already spent two weeks at Mercy Medical Center as she awaits her pregnancy's 32-week mark. At that point, a Caesarean section will be performed to deliver her monoamniotic twins who are sharing the amniotic sac and placenta, but have separate umbilical cords.
     Dr. Michael Cardwell, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist, says such pregnancies happen in one out of every 35,000 cases. He says this type of pregnancy requires constant monitoring of the mother and the babies, particularly because the twins have a shared blood supply.
     Kuhl says despite the stressful situation, she enjoys listening to her daughters' heartbeats every day.


Iowa DOT Pays For Dog Causing Accident

  DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Officials with the Iowa Department of Transportation say they're still unsure why the agency's first drug-sniffing dog jumped out of a truck window in October and fled into traffic.
     Earlier this week, the Iowa Appeal Board approved a $1,323 payout for damages to the owners of the vehicle that struck and killed the 2-year-old Belgian Malinois named Sara. The Oct. 8 incident was ruled an accident.
     David Lorenzen, chief of the department's motor vehicle enforcement division, says Sara had been added to the department about a year before her death following a rigorous selection process. He says she was trained not to jump and may have done so out of fear.
     The department has since replaced Sara with another Belgian Malinois named Storm.


Grinnell College Ask Federal Investigators To Look At Sexual Abuse Cases

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - Facing scrutiny over its practices for responding to sexual assault, a liberal arts college in Iowa has taken the unusual step of asking federal investigators to review whether three cases were handled appropriately.
     Grinnell College President Raynard Kington asked the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights to determine whether the college complied with Title IX, the federal law that bars sex discrimination in education.
     The office praised the request Tuesday as a sign of progress toward addressing campus sexual violence, while a student group called it a public relations move to get ahead of a complaint that had already been filed.
     While Kington's motives will be debated, American Association of University Women vice president Lisa Maatz says the request is novel and intriguing.






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