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Saturday News, January 5

Chamber Announces Date Of Annual Banquet

(Le Mars) -- Le Mars Chamber of Commerce officials have announced the date for the annual Chamber banquet.  This year the banquet will be held on Saturday, January 26 at the Upper Level of the Le Mars Convention Center.  Social hour will begin at 6:00 p.m. with the dinner scheduled to begin at 7:00 p.m.  Crimson and Black show choir and the Gehlen Choir will perform. During the banquet, awards and recognitions of the Business of the Year, the Citizen of the Year, Volunteer of the Year, and the Boss of the Quarter and Employee of the Month will be presented.  Tickets are $40 per person and reservations can be made by calling the Le Mars Chamber office at 546-8821.


Le Mars Community and Gehlen Catholic Students Selected For Honor Band

(Le Mars) -- Several band students from the Le Mars Community School and Gehlen Catholic School have been selected to perform in the 59th annual Northwest Iowa Honor Band Festival.  The students will perform this evening with about 160 other students from 40 schools across northwest Iowa at the Epley Auditorium at Morningside College campus.  Representing Gehlen Catholic is sophomore, Michaela Bretey, and Representing Le Mars Community are: Cody Hatfield, Justina Schimek, Emily Ahlers  Flute;  Ben Meis Oboe; Yashila Permeswaran, Bassoon; Anna Tonsfeldt, Clarinet; Drew Weiner Alto Saxophone; Spenser Harms, Alexis Looyenga Horn; Zack Kooistra, Miranda Ritts Trumpet; Karter Ewing, Tom Toel Trombone; Peter Meis, Marty Balmer Euphonium; Jacob Pierce, Tuba; Rebecca Luksan, Aimee Luksan, David Barker, Dominic Loutsch on Percussion.  The students will rehearse during the day and hold a concert this evening at 7:00 p.m.  The students were selected from auditions held in November.  The festival will feature two bands of equal size and instrumentation.  The bands will rehearse throughout the day preparing the music selected by the guest conductors.  Conducting this year’s festival will be Dr. Myron Welch of the University of Iowa & Dr. Tim McGarvey of Northwestern College.


Dental Assistant Asks Supreme Court To Re-consider Decision

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - A dental assistant fired because her boss thought she was too attractive wants the Iowa Supreme Court to reconsider its decision rejecting her discrimination lawsuit.
Melissa Nelson's attorney asked the all-male court Friday to withdraw its Dec. 21 ruling, which she called a "significant blow to gender equality."
The court ruled that Nelson's firing by Fort Dodge dentist James Knight might've been unfair but wasn't illegal. The court ruled that firings of employees who are an "irresistible attraction" to
bosses do not violate the Iowa Civil Rights Act because they're motivated by emotion, not gender.
Nelson's filing says the court erred because her gender played a role in her termination.
Knight said he fired Nelson because he'd grown too close to her and worried he'd try to start an affair.


Trial Set For Man Accused Of Killing 5 Year Old

CHARLES CITY, Iowa (AP) - An Oct. 28 trial date has been scheduled for a man charged in the death of 5-year-old Evelyn Miller.
The trial date was set this week for 33-year-old Casey Frederiksen.  He's charged with first-degree murder and first-degree sexual abuse in the Floyd girl's death in July 2005.
Her body was found in the Cedar River, several days after she went missing.
Frederiksen was serving time in federal prison on child pornography charges when he was charged last September. Frederiksen was the live-in boyfriend of Miller's mother.
A judge will rule later on whether to move the trial to another county because of extensive publicity in Floyd County.

Frederiksen remains in the Bremer County Jail.


Dead Woman Identified As Accused Kidnapper's Mother

EARLY, Iowa (AP) - A man arrested in western Iowa on charges of assault and kidnapping had been released from prison just two days earlier.
Sac County Sheriff Ken McClure said his office received a call about 8 a.m. Thursday after someone encountered a 21-year-old Storm Lake woman who claimed she had been kidnapped. After talking with the woman, officers searched the area and found 21-year-old Kirk Riley Levin hiding in a barn.
Levin is in the Sac County Jail on charges of assault and kidnapping.
While investigating the kidnapping, officers found a woman's body at the rural Early farmhouse where Levin lived and are investigating how she died. McClure says her death is suspicious.
The Iowa Department of Corrections says Levin was released from prison on Tuesday after serving a sentence or burglary.  Authorities have identified the dead woman found at Levin's farm.  She is 45 year old Marilyn Schmitt.  Officials have not indicated how Schmitt died, but they do say the death is "suspicious". Schmitt is the mother of Levin and had been living at the same address of Levin.


School Bus Safety Study Released

(Des Moines) -- A school bus safety study commissioned by the legislature following the death of northern Iowa girl and a new school bus safety law was released Friday. Steve Gent, the director of the D-O-T's Traffic Safety Office, says the study is encouraging overall.
"One of the things that came out of the study is that school buses are one of the safest vehicles out on the roadway today, so parents should feel good about the safety of their kids riding school buses," Gent says. "So that's really important to know, and it's just an important thing." More specifically, the study examined the use of cameras on school bus stop signs. Gent says 20 districts use the cameras.

"When a school district has the cameras on the bus, it will actually take pictures of a vehicle going around a stopped bus. Those cameras have been found to be effective as long as the school district shares that information, lets people know they are doing it, and certainly when it helps with the conviction," Gent says He says convictions are much easier to get when there is a picture available. The study looked at requiring buses to only stop on the side of the road where a student's home is located. Gent says many districts already try to do that and the study suggest that district continue trying to do that without recommending a requirement for same side stops. Another safety suggestion could help raise awareness without as much cost.

"One of the low-cost safety measures that the study found is adding a second stop sign more near the rear end of the bus. And that really helps for people coming up behind the bus, that stop sign is right there and more visible than the one that is up by the driver," Gent says. The new "Kaydn's Law" on bus safety was named after seven-year-old Kadyn Halverson of Kensett who was killed on May 10th of 2011 as she attempted to get on a school bus. The law increases the minimum fine for people who pass a stopped school bus to 250-dollars. But Gent says the study found an issue with the new fine.

"The study found that there's a pretty high number of judges who actually have imposed lower fines than that 250-dollar fine, and so it's something that certainly the courts need look at and just need to understand and know that there was a law change," according to Gent. The study also mentioned making school bus safety a priority in driver education classes. Gent says overall driver awareness is important.

"People just need to respect school buses, you don't know where the children are coming out --if they are coming across the street or on the right hand side of the bus --- you really don't know, so people just need to be really careful," Gent says.
The full study is available at:



Friday Afternoon News, January 4

Wellness Challenge Being Organized For Plymouth County

(Le Mars) -- This time each year, many people set new year's resolutions for themselves, perhaps to lose weight, get more exercise, or to start eating healthy.  Living Healthy Iowa is challenging all Iowans to focus on getting healthy for the new year.  Iowa ranks 20th in the nation as the healthiest state, and unfortunately Plymouth County ranks low among the 99 Iowa counties as for being the healthiest county.  Todd Lancaster, the executive director of the Le Mars YMCA, and also one of the local coordinators to the Living Healthy Iowa program says there is an effort being organized to get Plymouth County residents to start thinking about wellness and being healthy.  Lancaster says people are urged to participate in the ten-week wellness challenge.
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Lancaster says diabetes and obesity are on the rise for people across the state and the nation.  He says to extend your life expectancy is another reason to look at joining the ten-week wellness challenge.
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Recently, an organizational meeting took place attracting more than 30 community leaders. 
The wellness challenge begins on January 28, and Lancaster says Plymouth County organizers have a goal of having at least 2500 people participate.
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The YMCA official says it doesn't take much to get healthy.  He says people can take some small simple steps to modify their lifestyle in order to become a healthier person.

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The Le Mars YMCA, Floyd Valley Hospital, and the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach of Plymouth County are organizing the ten-week wellness challenge.  Lancaster urges everyone to participate, form a team, and to encourage your family, friends, and co-workers to join the program.  For more information, you can contact the Le Mars YMCA, Floyd Valley Hospital, or the Plymouth County Extension office.  Registration is $20 with a five dollar coupon that can be used at area Hy-Vee supermarkets.


Investigation Continues On Medical Helicopter Crash

MASON CITY, Iowa (AP) - Federal investigators are still looking for the cause of a medical helicopter crash in northern Iowa that killed three people.
Pilot Gene Grell, nurse Shelly Lair-Langenbau and paramedic Russell Piehl died when the helicopter crashed north of Ventura Wednesday night. They were on the way to Emmetsburg to pick up a
Lair-Langenbau and Piehl worked for Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa in Mason City.
The CEO of the medical transport company that owned the helicopter says the pilot didn't make any emergency call. The helicopter had a satellite tracking system that monitored its
position and other information instead of the traditional onboard black box.
Weather was overcast with 10-to-15 mile per hour winds at the time of the crash.

Leath Loosens Research Restrictions on Harkin Institute

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - Iowa State University President Steven Leath is loosening restrictions that he imposed on the Harkin Institute of Public Policy's ability to research agriculture.
Leath issued a memo Wednesday withdrawing a November order that allowed the institute to conduct agriculture research only if it related to Sen. Tom Harkin's papers and had approval from the
Center for Agricultural and Rural Development.
The restrictions were opposed by Harkin and the institute's advisory board. Critics called them a restriction on academic freedom, while Leath said they were meant to avoid duplication and
protect CARD's prominent reputation.
Leath's new memo seeks to reach a compromise. It says public policy research conducted by the institute focusing on subjects found elsewhere on campus "is expected to be planned, conducted
and published in a cooperative, collaborative manner."

State Responds To Pollution Run-off Concerns

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The state has responded to requests and added two weeks to the public comment period on a plan to cut pollution running down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico.
Friday was the scheduled end of the 45-day comment period. Comments now will
be taken until Jan 18.
Under the plan that was released in November, wastewater treatment and industrial plants would be asked to make costly upgrades to cut pollution while farmers would do so voluntarily.
It took two years of study and private meetings to formulate the plan. It comes in response to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's order in 2008 for 12 states along the Mississippi River to
develop strategies to prevent nitrates and phosphorous from reaching the gulf.






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