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Wednesday Afternoon News, March 18

House Passes Measure That Changes Arbitration For Teachers

   DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Republican-controlled Iowa House has approved a bill that would change the arbitration process for teachers and other school employees in the state.
     Under the proposal, which passed in a 56-41 vote Wednesday, an arbitrator would have more flexibility in determining final contract terms. Debate over the bill started Tuesday and concluded just after noon Wednesday, after an overnight break.
     Currently, if a district cannot reach a labor agreement with teachers or school employees, an arbitrator chooses between two final offers on items like raises. The bill would allow the arbitrator to set a number in the middle.
     Republicans say the change would help districts manage their budgets, while Democrats say it would worsen teacher compensation and educational attainment.
     The bill is not expected to advance in the Democratic-majority Senate.

 

Two People Hospitalized From Being Sprayed By Ammonia

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) - Two DuPont employees have been transported to the hospital after a hose sprayed them with liquid ammonia at a Cedar Rapids plant.
     The Cedar Rapids Fire Department says rescue crews responded around 7:30 a.m. Wednesday to a report that two men, ages 36 and 45, had been exposed to ammonia at DuPont. They were taken to the hospital Wednesday morning following the splash, and officials say their injuries are not severe.
     Fire officials say the employees were unloading a tanker when a hose came loose and squirted them both with liquid ammonia. They say the men's personal protective equipment prevented further exposure and more serious injuries.
     The leak has since been contained and cleaned up. The names of the men have not yet been released.

 

Des Moines Police Arrest Man Believed To Be Responsible For Cigarette Thefts

 DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Police say they have arrested a man in connection with a string of cigarette thefts throughout Des Moines.
     47-year-old Randal Jon Caswell, of Des Moines, was arrested early Wednesday morning. He is charged with eight counts of third-degree theft, one count of ongoing criminal conduct and violation of parole.
     Authorities say Caswell stole cigarettes from several area convenience stores and gas stations beginning Feb. 25. He was arrested following a report that he had taken cigarettes from a Casey's General Store, where a witness took down his license plate number. Police say officers then were able to track Caswell down.
     Caswell remained in Polk County Jail Wednesday on no bond.

 

Remembering The Bertrand

 MISSOURI VALLEY, Iowa (AP) - The DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa will host events to commemorate a Civil War-era steamboat that sank in the Missouri River.
     The refuge group plans to host a weekend of events March 27-29 to highlight the history of the Bertrand that sank on April 1, 1865.
     Visitors will be able to see thousands of artifacts that were rescued from the Bertrand after private salvagers discovered the wreckage in what is now the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge.
     The Bertrand was making its way to Montana territory with passengers and mining equipment on board when it struck a snag in the shallow river 25 miles north of Omaha. The steamboat's passengers abandoned ship and waded to shore as the boat sank into the mud.  All survived, but the cargo was lost.

 

Board Approves Shooting Range

  GRAF, Iowa (AP) - Officials have voted to advance a proposed law enforcement shooting range in eastern Iowa.
     The Dubuque County Zoning Board voted 4-2 Tuesday, granting the Dubuque County Drug Task Force permission to use nearly 68 acres of county-owned land southwest of Graf for a law enforcement shooting and training facility. The application now goes to the Dubuque County Zoning Board of Adjustment for final approval.
     The approved proposal sets a condition that the facility cannot be used as a shooting range by any entity other than Dubuque County.
     Board member Richard Kaufman, who voted against the plan, says his concerns about safety influenced his vote. But Dubuque County Sheriff's Sgt. Gary Pape says the location is the safest option that's also affordable.

 

Police Arrest McDonald's Manager For Theft

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - Police say they have arrested the manager of an Iowa City McDonald's who is accused of making fake returns to steal money from the restaurant.
     The Iowa City Police Department says 22-year-old Cordero L. Graham was arrested on charges of second-degree theft.
     Police say Graham processed 121 fraudulent returns from Nov. 16 until Jan. 22 and kept the money from the transactions. According to a police complaint, Graham says he took $1,401.13 from McDonald's.
     Graham was released March 12 from the Johnson County Jail. Graham was referred to the public defender's office but has not yet been assigned to an attorney to request comment on his behalf.
     ---

 

Audit Questions Health Department's Computer Purchases 

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A state audit of the four boards operating below the Iowa Department of Public Health has questioned computer equipment purchases made over a three-year period.
     Auditor Mary Mosiman issued a report Wednesday detailing the investigation that questions money the Iowa Board of Pharmacy spent on electronic equipment from July 2001 through August 2014.
     The review was conducted after concerns were raised about how employees are reimbursed.
     The report says the pharmacy board spent $42,553 to repay employees for technology-related charges, including $19,666 for 24 iPads. Mosiman reported that the board didn't follow appropriate purchase protocol and questioned the need for some of the equipment.
     Pharmacy board director Lloyd Jessen says he's retiring at the end of March, but the decision is unrelated to the audit.


 

 

 

 

   

Wednesday News, March 18

Plymouth County Now Under A Burn Ban

(Le Mars) -- As a result of the extreme dry conditions, and since many of the small county fire departments were busy on Monday fighting grass fires, the state fire marshal received a request to declare a burn ban for Plymouth County.  Le Mars Fire Chief Dave Schipper serves as as the president of the county fire department association. He says the burn ban is effective as of 8:00 a.m.

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Schipper says the ground is so muddy,it has made it difficult to reach the fire in order to extinguish it.

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Schipper says it has been even more difficult to extinguish grass fires due to the windy conditions.  He says a fire will generate additional winds, making it even that much more difficult to fight.

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The Le Mars Fire Chief says the burn ban will remain in effect until such time conditions improve with a good measurable rain.  Violators of the burn ban may face fines.

 

Gehlen Sends 32 People On Honduras Mission

(Le Mars) -- 32 people packed their bags and loaded up on school bus Tuesday afternoon with Honduras as their destination.  Its all part of the Gehlen Catholic's Mission Honduras program.  This is the 15th year for the Honduras mission. Organizer Carolyn Bickford has participated on ten Mission Honduras trips. She reviews what the group of students and adult chaperones will be doing once they arrive in the poverty stricken Central American nation.

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One of the students participating on the Honduras mission trip is Gehlen senior Josie Schipper.  Schipper says she is excited to visit the third world nation and tells of her expectations.

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The future Augustana College student explains why she wanted to participate on the mission trip.

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Schipper says she is looking forward to constructing homes.

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Dennis Schmidt of Alton is an adult chaperone on the journey.  Schmidt is a contractor by trade and believes his regular job will prove to be beneficial for the mission.

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Schmidt says it was his daughter's persuasion that convinced him to travel to Honduras.

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This is Schmidt's first time to visit Honduras and he says he feels fortunate.

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The Gehlen Honduras Mission is scheduled to last ten days, and the group's return to Le Mars will be March 27th.

 

Chamber Agri-Business Luncheon Scheduled For Today 

(Le Mars) -- The Le Mars Chamber of Commerce Agriculture Committee is hosting the 21st annual Agri-business luncheon today at the Le Mars Convention Center.  The event begins with a Chamber coffee at 9:30 a.m. being hosted by the Plymouth County Farm Bureau.  At 10:30 a representative from C-F Industries will speak about the multi-billion dollar fertilizer expansion project at Port Neal, near Sargeant Bluff.  The meal is being catered by Timmy's Catering, and will be served starting at 11:30 a.m. The key-note speaker will be David Kruse, president of the Commstock Investments and commentator on commodity markets and agricultural issues.  Kruse, is heard on many farm-based radio stations, and appears in several farm publications. He offers an insight to his noon address.

 (sot) Kruse1

 

Des Moines Water Works Files Lawsuit Against Three Iowa Counties

   DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Des Moines Water Works lawsuit against three counties over high nitrate levels in rivers is symbolic of intensifying efforts by environmental groups to treat agriculture like other industries long held accountable for environmental pollution.
     The Water Works board filed its anticipated lawsuit Monday against three counties which oversee drainage systems that remove water from farm fields. The water utility says drainage water often carries nitrates that must be removed to keep drinking water safe. 
     County supervisors in Buena Vista, Calhoun and Sac are named because they manage 10 drainage districts which the lawsuit says should be required to obtain federal water pollution discharge permits.
     An attorney for the counties says they plan to defend the action vigorously.
     Similar courtroom battles are being fought in California, North Carolina, and Washington.

 

Northey Opposes Des Moines Water Works  Lawsuit 

(Des Moines) -- Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey is concerned the lawsuit involving the Des Moines Water Works against three Iowa Counties for high nitrate levels may set a bad precedent.  Northey says he understands the challenges before the Des Moines Water Works in wanting high quality water, but he believes they are going about it the wrong way.

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Northey says lawsuits could take several years to complete, and still not achieve the objective of reducing nitrates in water supplies.

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The state agriculture official believes the best manner to achieve the goal of reducing nitrates is with education and farmer voluntary methods.  Northey says the money spent on legal fees would be better spent on education, and "hands-on" methods.

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Northey says if the Des Moines Water Works is successful with its lawsuit, then every county could eventually face similar lawsuits.  He says downstream municipalities would sue cities that are upstream over water quality issues.

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Northey says the issue may come down to who owns the water, and should entities be able to dictate to upstream districts specific terms for water quality.

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The Ag official doesn't believe the Des Moines Water Works will be successful with its lawsuit    

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Senate Passes Bill To Restrict Texting While Driving 

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Senate has passed a bill that would allow law enforcement officials to more easily regulate Iowa's ban on texting while driving. 
     The Senate voted 44-6 Tuesday to make texting while driving a primary offense instead of a secondary one. It now heads to the House for consideration.
     Iowa law prohibits a person from reading, writing and sending messages on an electronic device while driving. The bill would remove a stipulation that a law enforcement official must stop a person for a different offense to enforce it.
     Sen. Tod Bowman, a Democrat from Maquoketa, says distracted driving kills people.
     Most lawmakers voted for the bill, which has Gov. Terry Branstad's support. But some Republicans questioned whether the legislation was needed.

 

Auditor Finds Suspicious Spending By The Woodbine Fire Department

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - An investigation by the state auditor of a western Iowa town's volunteer fire department has identified more than $100,000 in improper spending over a three-year period.
     Auditor Mary Mosiman issued the report Tuesday on the investigation of the Woodbine Volunteer Fire Department that found $106,268.62 of unsupported and improper spending from Jan. 1, 2009 through March 31, 2014.
     The former Woodbine city administrator requested the investigation after the city revealed concerns about the use of fuel credit cards following an internal review.
     According to the report, the department wrongfully spent more than $11,000 on alcohol and over $1,000 in personal fuel purchases. It identifies just more than $92,000 in unsupported disbursements.
     Mosiman also noted that the department didn't maintain documents to reflect many of its expenditures.
 

 

 

   

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