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Friday Afternoon News, March 29

Le Mars and Wells Enterprises Sign Agreement On Waste Water Treatment Facility

(Le Mars) -- The city of Le Mars recently signed an agreement with Wells Enterprises and
anticipates a similar agreement with Dean Foods with regards to the construction of the new waste water treatment facility.  City Administrator, Scott Langel explains.
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Langel says the agreements with the two industrial businesses essentially will have Wells Enterprises and Dean Foods help pay for the waste water treatment facility.
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You may wonder if the city plans to form a similar agreement with BoDeans Baking Company, another of Le Mars' large employers.

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Union Pacific To Replace Rail Crossings

(Le Mars) -- Its been a long wait, but the city of Le Mars is finally having some railroad crossings being repaired and replaced.  Union Pacific railroad officials were in Le Mars on Thursday making repairs to the Central Avenue crossing.  City Administrator Scott Langel says it was by coincidence that those repairs corresponded to other planned railroad crossing replacements.

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City officials recently met with Union Pacific rail officials to discuss other crossings that needed to be replaced.  The question, according to Langel, was which entity would pay for the repairs?
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The Le Mars city official says motorists will appreciate the rail crossings once work is completed.
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Band Director Arrested For Theft

(Sioux City) -- The band director at Sioux City North High School has been placed on leave by the school district after his arrest on a theft charge.  39 year old Kevin Massey has been charged with felony first degree theft.  He was arrested Wednesday and has been released on bond from the Woodbury County jail.  Investigators says several band instruments were allegedly stolen from the school and put up for sale on an internet website.  School district spokesperson Alison Benson confirms that Massey has been placed on leave.  She says the school district is cooperating fully with Sioux City Police regarding the investigation, but declined to further comment.  Benson could not say if Massey was on paid or unpaid leave.  Massey's next court hearing is scheduled for April 14th.

 

USDA Issues Plantings Intention Report

(Le Mars) -- The U-S Department of Agriculture issued its plantings intention report on Thursday, and according to the report, the nation's farmers intend to grow the most corn since 1936.  Nationally, the figure indicates corn growers will plant 97.3 million acres to corn.  Here in Iowa, not much change is expected as Iowa farmers intend to plant corn on 14.2 million acres.  Joel DeJong, Iowa State University extension crop specialist says the planting intention report is an early indicator, but often times the actual number changes.
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There is wide speculation that last summer's drought may continue through this summer, and DeJong says people are concerned about the available water supplies, not only to produce a crop, but for general usuage.
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DeJong says there are some farmers trying to locate drought resistant seed, but he believes those hybrids and varieties are perhaps already committed.

 

Ottumwa Hospital To Lay-off 30 Employees

OTTUMWA, Iowa (AP) - The head of an Ottumwa hospital says the organization is firing 30 people in an effort to find "the right number of people to do the job."
Ottumwa Regional Health Center chief operating officer Phil Dionne tells the Ottumwa Courier (http://bit.ly/107j3YD ) that the 30 people losing their jobs are from a variety of hospital
departments.
Dionne notes that the people being fired represent a small percentage of the 785 people employed at the hospital.
Dionne says the decision came after a long look at staffing.
He says there is no chance the hospital will close, noting it's "very strong as an organization and continuing to grow."
The hospital began working Thursday with employees losing their jobs to provide help finding other employment.
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Friday News, March 29

Sioux City Couple Sentenced To Prison For Distributing Meth

(Sioux City) -- A Sioux City couple who conspired to distribute methamphetamine were sentenced on Wednesday and Thursday of this week.
Mavis Juarez, 56, and William Sun, 50, both from Sioux City, Iowa, received the prison terms after November 26, 2012, guilty pleas to one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and one count of distributing methamphetamine.
At the guilty pleas, Juarez and Sun each admitted their involvement in a conspiracy from 2011 through April 2012 that distributed more than 50 grams of actual (pure) methamphetamine in Sioux City, Iowa, area.  Each also admitted to distributing more than 15 grams of actual (pure) methamphetamine over the course of four separate transactions.  These distributions occurred within 1000 feet of Dale Street Park in Sioux City.  Juarez was sentenced to 90 months’ imprisonment and Sun was sentenced to 120 months’ imprisonment.

 

Branstad Halts State Employees To Contribute To Health Care Insurance

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Gov. Terry Branstad's administration has agreed to stop allowing workers in state employee unions to voluntarily contribute to their health insurance costs.
Branstad halted the option in exchange for unions dropping a complaint about the voluntary plan filed with the Public Employment Relations Board.
Branstad has argued the option was a good way to reduce health care costs, but the unions claimed it was illegal to allow a benefit change outside the normal process for contract negotiations.
Only 13 state union employees have attempted to contribute to their health care costs. The agreement is expected to cost the state about $26,300.
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Democratic Senators Want To Extend Tax Credits For Historic Building Restoration

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Democrats in the state Senate want to increase funding to a program that offers tax credits for the restoration of historic buildings.
Lawmakers on Thursday say the plan would help create jobs and housing in communities with older buildings. Democratic Senator Bill Dotzler of Waterloo says historic preservation credits help
create downtown housing opportunities.
The program offers property owners or developers tax credits for 25 percent of rehabilitation costs for a qualifying historic building. Several types of properties are eligible, including those on the National Register of Historic Places. Currently the state approves up to $45 million in credits in a fiscal year. Under the Democratic plan, that number would gradually rise to $60 million.
A spokesman for Republican Governor Terry Branstad did not take a position on the proposal.

 

Exira School District Looks To Consolidate

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A June consolidation vote has been scheduled for a tiny school district in western Iowa that hasn't operated in the black since 2006-07.
The Exira district has received nearly $600,000 in extra state aid since the 2007-08 school year. The district in Audubon County has about 220 students.
The neighboring Elk Horn-Kimballton district also will vote in June on consolidating more operations with Exira. The districts share grade instruction. Exira sends students in first through third grades and ninth through 12th grades to Elk Horn-Kimballton schools. Elk Horn-Kimballton buses students in fourth through eighth grades to Exira.
Exira's district accreditation is in jeopardy. A state review last year cited 40 instances of noncompliance with state standards.
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16 Year Old Girl Issues Bomb Threat To School

PELLA, Iowa (AP) - A 16-year-old girl has been charged with threatening to set off a bomb or incendiary device at a south-central Iowa high school.
Pella Police Lt. Shane Cox says the girl's Facebook post talked about planting the device and targeting a certain staff member at Pella Community High School.
Police took the threats seriously and have charged the girl with threat of arson, a felony.
No device has been reported found.
Principal Eric Nelson says the school has to take the threats seriously. But he also says the threats were not considered viable.
The girl is being held at the Central Iowa Juvenile Detention Facility in Eldora.
The Associated Press generally doesn't name juveniles accused of crimes.


Waterloo Man To Remain In Prison After Appeal Turned Down

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) - A Waterloo man convicted of killing his girlfriend in front of their children will remain in prison after the Iowa Court of Appeals rejected his argument that his attorney didn't properly explain his plea deal.
The court on Wednesday upheld the second-degree murder conviction of 32-year-old Dewayne Craft.
He argued his plea wasn't proper because his attorney led him to believe future legislators would lower mandatory minimum sentences.
The court ruled Craft understood the mandatory minimum rules.
Under those rules, second-degree murder is punishable by up to 50 years in prison, and defendants must serve at least 70 percent of the sentence before being eligible for parole.
Authorities say Craft beat and strangled 26-year-old Shayla Todd in front of their sons in 2007.

 

Vilsack To Announce Agreement With DuPont-Pioneer

JOHNSTON, Iowa (AP) - U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is in Iowa to announce a new agreement with DuPont that the USDA says will promote renewable energy and conservation.
Vilsack will tour a DuPont crop sciences laboratory Friday before announcing an agreement with the company that the Agriculture Department says will "strengthen conservation
practices, while promoting the sustainable production of renewable feedstocks for biobased energy."
DuPont is building a $200 million ethanol plant in Nevada. It's designed to break down cornstalks and other crop residue to produce ethanol.
The cellulosic ethanol plant is scheduled to begin production in 2014 and will be the nation's largest plant of its kind, making 30 million gallons annually.
DuPont is working with 500 farmers to collect more than 375,000 tons of corn waste annually to feed the plant.

 

Farmland Values Continue To Rise

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A survey report says Iowa farmland prices continued their boom in the past year and have more than doubled since 2008.
The survey by the Realtors Land Institute says prices have risen nearly 18 percent since March 2012, to nearly $8,700 an acre. The institute figure was a little more than $4,200 in 2008.
The March figure of nearly $8,700 compares with the Iowa State University farmland price survey through November that showed an average of nearly $8,300 an acre.
Kyle Hansen, of Hertz Farm Management, says the growth is being fed by high corn and soybean prices and the strong worldwide demand for grains.
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