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Monday Afternoon News, February 2

Plymouth County Democrats Elect New Officers

(Le Mars) -- Plymouth County Democrats recently elected new officers for a two-year term.  Serving as the chairman for the county Democrats will be Matthew Vonnahme of Hinton, Mark Sturgeon of Le Mars will be the vice chair, as well as the publicity director and interim treasurer.  Kay Luckett will be the secretary for the county democratic party, and Dennis Wolf of Le Mars will be the treasurer.


Branstad Seeks Tougher Laws For Domestic Abuse

  DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Gov. Terry Branstad is hoping to reduce domestic abuse in Iowa through proposed legislation that would toughen penalties and oversight.
     Branstad said Monday he supports a bill that would increase prison time for people repeatedly convicted of domestic abuse assault. It would also increase oversight of domestic abuse offenders by permitting the use of electronic monitoring in some cases.
     The bill has been drafted and will now be reviewed by lawmakers in the Legislature. Branstad said he hopes the bill will "end domestic violence in our state." 
     Sheila Lynch said that tougher laws would have helped protect her daughter, TereseAnn Lynch, who was killed by her estranged husband in 2009. Randall Moore was convicted of murder, kidnapping and sexual abuse and was sentenced to three life sentences.


Drake University Surpasses $200 Million Fundraising Goal

 DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Drake University says it has surpassed a $200 million fundraising goal nearly six months ahead of its planned target date. The Des Moines-based privately held university says it has commitments from more than 22,000 donors. Contributions include more than 60 gifts of $1 million or more.
     The university says $46 million will support scholarship programs and $36 million will enhance teaching and learning through endowed faculty positions and faculty development funds. More than $45 million will support new construction and renovation projects on campus. More than $110 million in gifts have been designated to the University's endowment fund.
     The drive was launched in October 2010 and had a goal of reaching $200 million by June 30.
     Drake has more than 3,300 undergraduate and 1,700 graduate students.


Council Bluffs Fire Department To Restore Historic Bell

 COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) - The Council Bluffs Fire Department is working to restore a bell that once rang throughout the city for more than 100 years.
     Fire Chief Justin James says the fire station bell, forged in 1876, once tolled for fire calls and firefighter funerals at several Council Bluffs stations. The bell had been relocated to a city storage facility for three years during station construction, and the department now wants it back in action.
     James tells the Council Bluffs Nonpareil ( ) plans include erecting a tower outside the department's new headquarters station. He says the tower would feature pictures and plaques depicting the history of the department.
     The department estimates the project will cost between $80,000 and $120,000. James says donations and grants will likely fund its construction.


Centerville Fire Fighter Dies

  CENTERVILLE, Iowa (AP) - Authorities have released the name of a firefighter who died at home after battling a blaze at a 300,000-square-foot building in south-central Iowa.
     A city of Centerville news release identified him as Assistant Fire Chief Mike "Coop" Cooper. Cooper had been released from the fire scene at Cowan Enterprises in Centerville on Friday night and had gone home, where he died on Saturday.
     Cooper started with the Centerville Fire Department on July 12, 1977. 
     The owner of the building says everything inside it was destroyed, including campers, pickups, boats and trailers.


Trial Set For Coach Who Is Accused Of Having Sex With 14 Year Old

  COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) - A nonjury trial is scheduled to begin Thursday for a western Iowa youth softball coach accused of having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old friend of his daughter.
    48-year-old John Osborn, of Council Bluffs, has pleaded not guilty to four counts of sex abuse on a minor. 
     Council Bluffs police say the girl and Osborn began to exchange text messages in June and had phone conversations about sex. Court documents say the girl reported that she and Osborn engaged in sexual acts in July when the girl stayed at Osborn's house for a sleepover with his daughter.
     Police say Osborn has denied willingly touching the teen and told investigators that he had refused her advances.


State To Pay Familly After Tree Falls On Campground

  DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - An Iowa judge has approved a $390,000 state payment to a couple and their child who were seriously injured when a large tree fell on their tent at a state park.
     The payment will settle a lawsuit alleging the Iowa Department of Natural Resources was negligent in failing to remove the diseased, 98-foot cottonwood tree at Lake Manawa State Park in  Council Bluffs.
     Heavy winds caused the tree to fall on a tent where 23-year-old Alecia Nichols, 25-year-old Timothy Hiers, Jr., and 3-year-old Timothy Hiers III were sleeping in May 2012.
     Nichols suffered a skull fracture and brain hemorrhage, a crushed pelvis and several fractured vertebrae. She lost hearing in one ear and has undergone multiple surgeries. Her boyfriend and child suffered lacerated spleens and other injuries.











Monday News, February 2

Fire Department Responds To Hay And Cornstalk Fire

(Le Mars) -- The Le Mars Fire Department responded to a hay and cornstalk bale fire Saturday evening.  At about 7:00 p.m. fire officials were called to the far northwest corner of coverage at 29704 100th Street, past Struble, approximately 12 miles from Le Mars.  Fire Chief Dave Schipper says the fire department had to battle both the fire and the snow storm. 

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Schipper believes ashes from a nearby burn pile may be responsible for the blaze.

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Schipper says approximately 30 tons of hay and cornstalks were lost as a result of the fire.

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Fire officials were on the scene for approximately three hours. While fighting the hay and cornstalk fire, Le Mars Fire officials were called to a second alarm.  A residence in Le Mars had reported the microwave had caught on fire.

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Fire Department Issues January Monthly Report

(Le Mars) -- Speaking about the Le Mars Fire and Rescue Department, they issued its monthly report for January.  The fire department responded to a total of 30 calls, 11 which were fire calls, one rescue, 11 investigations, three mutual aid calls to Merrill, Akron, and Orange City.  The fire department also had four requests for services.  Fire Chief Dave Schipper says the fire department twice in January had to respond to two separate calls that were at the same time.

Bixenman Honored As "Citizen Of The Year"

(Le Mars) -- The Le Mars Chamber of Commerce held its annual awards night on Saturday evening at the Le Mars Convention Center.  Insurance agent Rob Bixenman was honored with the "Citizen of the Year" award.  Bixemann thanked the community for allowing him to grow a business in Le Mars.  Bixenman told the crowd that several generations of his family have stayed in Le Mars and built several businesses, none of which followed the previous generation.

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Bixenman thanked the town of Le Mars for offering him the opportunity to raise a family and grow a business.

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Bike Central was honored as the Le Mars "Business of the Year".  Bike Central, in its initial year four years of business has developed loyal customers from miles away, and has welcomed participants in their sanctioned events from surrounding states.  At a time when people are becoming more health conscious, and outdoor activities are recognized as a large part of quality of life opportunities; Bike Central has timed it perfectly.  It has become a draw to the downtown as well as a draw to the community.

Jack Guenthner was given the award for the United Way Volunteer of the Year.  Angie Erdmann was presented the Main Street "Volunteer of the Year" award.

The Employees of the Month and Bosses of the Quarter were honored during the evening's festivities.  Employees of the Month included: Mindy Scheitler and Jackie Sitzmann of Gehlen Catholic Schools.  Sue Brandenburg of KLEM radio, Gene Ruisch of ICON Ag and Turf, Julie Holck of Le Mars Insurance Company and Val Owens of Hospice of Siouxland.  Brenda Gengler of Northwest Iowa Credit Union and Martha Toben of the Good Samaritan Society were also recognized.  Also honored as "Employees of the Year" included Amy Lempares from The Toy Depot and Jack Guenthner from Northwest Bank.

Bosses of the Quarter included Deb Bonnstetter from Floyd Valley Hospital, Sherri Bauman from Cellular Connection, and Joe Sitzmann of Mr. P's Pizza and Sports Grill.


Soderberg And Anderson Hear About School Funding Problems

(Le Mars) -- State Representative Chuck Soderberg and State Senator Bill Anderson hosted a legislative forum this morning at Remsen. A handful of people were in attendance, but the majority of the discussion focused on school funding. School officials representing the Remsen-UNion school district informed the lawmakers that the 1.25 percent increase for school funding that was passed by the House of Representatives this week, simply was not enough to be able to sustain all educational programs and staff.  Representative Soderberg explained to the gathering the amount passed, coinsides with the allocation of money available and with Governor Branstad's education budget proposal.  Soderberg told the group that education accounts for 55 percent of the entire state's budget.  The school officials spoke with great passion about the dilemnas they are facing, not only the Remsen-Union school district, but many of the state's smaller school districts.  The school officials asked the question, "how can small school districts raise additional revenue?"  The Remsen-Union officials indicated the school district is often caught between what is needed for the survival of the school, and following state regulations.  According to the school officials, a total of 22 students from the Remsen-Union school district have chosen to attend school through open enrollment at Le Mars Community.  They say that means a loss of more than $60,000 from the school districts financial account.  Under the plan that passed the House of Representatives, Remsen-Union will receive $24,826, however, the anticipated raise for teacher salaries and benefits would  exceed $45,782.  If the Senate proposed plan of allocating up 6 percent in the supplemental school aid were to pass, and adopted into law, it would mean Remsen-Union would receive $82,824.  But, both Soderberg and Anderson say it is highly unlikely the state legislature will approve the Senate proposed plan, because it would mean the state would be in the red again.  Representative Soderberg says the legislature adopted budget principals which prevents the state from spending any additional money beyond the amount collected.


College Athletes Pledge To Refrain From Domestic Violence

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - A group of athletes from Dakota Wesleyan University is challenging all the other male athletes in the Great Plains Athletic Conference to take a public stand against domestic violence.
     The Sioux City Journal reports the pledge idea began with a small group of students and a social justice class Luke Bamberg took.
     Bamberg and four classmates decided to ask Dakota Wesleyan athletes to take the pledge. But the idea took off once Great Plains Athletic Conference Commissioner Corey Westra heard about it.
     So now the group is challenging the more than 2,500 male athletes at the conference's 11 universities in South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa.
     Bamberg acknowledges that signing a pledge may not make a huge difference, but he says it's better than doing nothing.


Iowans To Face Increased Premiums For Medicaid

    DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - As Iowa's modified Medicaid expansion hits the one-year anniversary mark, some enrollees will be asked to pay small monthly premiums because they haven't completed a physical exam and health questionnaire.
     For Governor Terry Branstad, those health requirements were key provisions for expanding Medicaid in Iowa using funding from President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. Iowa received federal approval to make modifications to the traditional Medicaid terms, including setting health requirements and charging contributions.
     Branstad spokesman Jimmy Centers says the governor "continues to believe that a critical component of improving the health and wellness of Iowa is having citizens take ownership of their health."
     Lydia Mitts, a policy analyst with health care advocacy group Families USA, says such incentives might not work and could hurt people who need health coverage.







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