Monday, November 24, 2014
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Friday Afternoon News, November 7

Gehlen Conducts Fall Service Day

(Le Mars) -- More than 150 Gehlen Catholic high school students have put down the pencil, and instead picked up a rake.  Today, is the fall service day when Gehlen students leave the classroom and devote the day for community service by offering to rake leaves, wash windows, and perform other outdoor autumn chores. Gehlen school officials say it is a time for Gehlen students to give back to the community.  Traditionally, the students assist the elderly who are no longer able to perform the household duties.  


Plymouth County Fairboard To Hold Annual Meeting 

(Le Mars) -- The annual meeting of the Plymouth County 4-H and Agricultural Society, also known as the Plymouth County Fairboard, will be held Thursday, November 13, 2014 7:30 p.m. at the Plymouth County Extension and Outreach Office in the lower level of the Le Mars Convention Center in Le Mars.

The following director terms expire at the annual meeting: John Ahlers, Brad Collins, Brad Harvey, Bob Kabisch, Candice Farrer, Matt Reuter, Gregg Roepke, Loren Schnepf and Gail Schoenrock. 

Items on the annual meeting agenda include the election of Fair Board members, a recap of the 2014 fair, award presentation, suggestions for the 2015 fair, and other business. 

Membership to the Plymouth County 4-H and Agricultural Society is open to any county resident that pays a $5.00 one-time membership fee by 4:30 p.m. the day of the meeting to the Plymouth County Extension and Outreach Office.  


Judge Upholds Commission's Actions On Casino

 SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - An Iowa judge has upheld actions of the state's gaming commission over its decision to issue a casino license last year to a new developer in Sioux City.
     Polk County District Court Judge Eliza Ovrom's ruling Friday upholds actions by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission that led to a Hard Rock-themed casino and hotel.
     Belle of Sioux City, operators of the former Argosy Sioux City riverboat casino, had sued to force the commission to reinstate its license and rescind the new one to the Hard Rock developer.
     Ovrom dismissed claims the commission's actions were unreasonable and violated state law, among other arguments.
     Belle of Sioux City is a subsidiary of Penn National Gaming. A message left for Penn was not immediately returned Friday.


ACLU Suing State Over Felon Voting Rights

 IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging Iowa's tough policies that bar felons from voting.
     A lawsuit filed Friday seeks to restore voting rights to thousands of former offenders before the 2016 presidential election. It also seeks to end confusion over the rules for ex-felons that followed a 2011 policy change by Gov. Terry Branstad.
     Iowa is one of three states where felons cannot vote after completing their sentences until their rights are restored by the governor.
     ACLU attorney Rita Bettis says the widespread denial of voting rights based on felony convictions "is the single biggest denial of civil rights in Iowa." She says it disenfranchises thousands of people and wants a court to limit the number of felony offenses that trigger the loss of voting rights.


Man Was Stabbed While Visiting House Of Murder

 VILLISCA, Iowa (AP) - Authorities say a man staying overnight at a southern Iowa house where several brutal murders took place in 1912 has been hospitalized following a self-inflicted stab wound.
     The Montgomery County Sheriff's Office says Robert Laursen Jr., of Rhinelander, Wisconsin, was found early Friday inside the Villisca Axe Murder House with a stab wound. Investigators determined it was self-inflicted.
     Laursen was eventually airlifted to an Omaha hospital.  A hospital spokeswoman declined to provide details on his condition.
     The Villisca Axe Murder House is the location of eight unsolved murders in 1912. The house and affiliated museum are popular with tourists who believe the structure is haunted. Owner Martha Linn says Laursen was part of a family group of paranormal investigators staying overnight.


Nurse To Surrender License

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - An ex-nurse at a Des Moines veteran's hospital has agreed to surrender his license after admitting to turning off equipment that would have alerted staff to a patient's low blood-oxygen level. 
     65-year-old Michael Deal died last March at the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital after oxygen levels in his blood dropped. 
     Nurse Bernard Nesbit was fired following the incident and had sought unemployment benefits, which were later denied. He said he turned off the alarms because they went off even if patients weren't in distress. 
     Iowa Board of Nursing records show Nesbit agreed to give up his state license for at least a year to settle an ethics charge. Nesbit has declined to comment.


Teen Found Not Guilty Of Murder By Reason Of Insanity

   LOGAN, Iowa (AP) - An Iowa teenager who claimed he killed his 5-year-old foster brother because he thought the child was a goblin has been found not guilty by reason of insanity.
     Harrison County District Court Judge Kathleen Kilnoski issued her ruling Friday in the bench trial of Cody Metzker-Madsen, who was charged with first-degree murder in the August 2013 death of Dominic Elkins. 
     Authorities say Metzker-Madsen killed Dominic while the two played outside of their home in western Iowa. Metzker-Madsen was 17 when the boy's body was found at the bottom of a ravine.  
     Metzker-Madsen told the judge during the trial that he believed he was in a fantasy world and thought he was killing a goblin instead of Dominic.


Branstad Open To Idea Of Raising Gas Tax For Roads

  DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Gov. Terry Branstad says providing more funding to fix Iowa's crumbling roads is a top priority and that he is keeping an open mind to all options, including raising the state's fuel tax. 
     Branstad said in an interview Thursday that he wants to get input from lawmakers in advance of the next legislative session, with hopes of reaching bipartisan consensus. Branstad did not back any specific plan. The Legislature has failed to find compromise on this issue in recent years. 
     The Republican governor, who just won re-election to a sixth non-consecutive term, said the timing was good to start this conversation because gas prices have "dropped significantly." But Branstad stressed he would like to find a new funding approach that is "not just the old gas tax."






Friday News, November 7

Interstate 29 To Close For Weekend While Overpass Is Demolished

 SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - Iowa officials are warning drivers of a detour while they demolish an overpass on Interstate 29 that has been repeatedly struck by vehicles hauling tall loads. 
     The Iowa Department of Transportation will close the interstate in both directions starting at 8 p.m. on Friday at the Port Neal interchange to destroy the bridge near Salix. They hope that replacing older bridges will taller ones will reduce frequent crashes.
     Transportation planner Dakin Schultz says that traffic will be detoured onto new interchange ramps. Officials plan to reopen the interstate at 6 a.m. on Monday.
     A tractor-trailer struck the bottom of the overpass with a sand silo it was carrying last month. The driver was taken to an area hospital and released.


Last Remants Of Argosy Casino Floated Down the River

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - The final remnants of Sioux City's floating casino have been towed away. 
     A tugboat on Thursday hauled off a barge containing offices, signage and other elements left behind by the Argosy Casino. It is headed to a large shipyard in Wood River, Illinois, operated by a marine business that bought the casino after it closed in July.
     A former casino riverboat is docked at the same shipyard. The replica of a 1920s paddlewheel boat left Sioux City on Oct. 7 and arrived in Illinois on Oct. 20 after a journey hampered by temporary delays. 
     Owner Mike Marko says he will try to sell the boat and barge structures.


Grassley Hopeful More Work Will Get Done In Congress

(New Hartford) -- Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley is optimistic with the newly elected Republican controlled Senate along with the Republican controlled House of Representatives, that legislation will be moved through Congress, and as he says "move the ball down the court" with few roadblocks.  However, Grassley is not certain whether President Obama will want to work with the new Congress, or if he will simply veto many of the introduced bills.

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Grassley offers examples of how Nevada Senator and Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid refused to allow any controversial legislation to be introduced in the U-S Senate.

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Ernst Receives Phone Call From President Obama

  DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa's new Senator-elect Joni Ernst got a congratulatory phone call from President Barack Obama this week.
     A White House official said Thursday that Ernst was among the election winners Obama called Wednesday. The Republican from Red Oak beat Democrat Bruce Braley for the Senate seat long held by Democrat Tom Harkin.
     Ernst spokeswoman Caitlin Conant declined to comment on the conversation.
     Throughout the campaign Ernst was critical of Obama and his administration and sought to tie Braley to the unpopular president.


Branstad To Vacation In Italy

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Gov. Terry Branstad is heading off to Italy for a post-election vacation with his wife.
     Branstad said Thursday that he'll take an 11-day trip starting Friday that will include Rome and Florence. He'll be back to work in the state Capitol on Nov. 19. 
     The incumbent Republican governor cruised to victory Tuesday over Democratic challenger Jack Hatch. Branstad, who was elected to a sixth non-consecutive term, raised millions, drew big name surrogates and touted his recent policy achievements, including a property tax cut.
     When he returns from vacation, Branstad will prepare for the next legislative session, which starts in January.


Iowa Finance Authority Offers Grants To Communities To Help With Homeless

(Des Moines) -- The Iowa Finance Authority Board of Directors recently awarded $824,655 in grants to twenty-five organizations to assist homeless and domestic violence shelters with costs associated with providing essential services and emergency shelter operations. The funding is made available through the Shelter Assistance Fund program.

“The grants will have a direct impact on thousands of Iowans in need of assistance and will provide many positive ripple effects to communities all throughout Iowa,” according to Iowa Finance Authority Executive Director Dave Jamison.  He says, “The Iowa Finance Authority is proud to partner with these organizations to support their vital work in serving some of Iowa’s most vulnerable citizens in 79 Iowa counties.”

Shelter Assistance Fund applications are accepted on an annual basis and are judged through a competitive process. The Iowa Finance Authority received 28 eligible applications for the 2015 round requesting more than $1.2 million in funding. The program is funded with proceeds from the Real Estate Transfer Tax.

The Family Crisis Centers of Northwest Iowa, located in Sioux Center, will receive $47,500.  In Sioux City, four agencies are slated to receive funding.  They include: The Salvation Army of Siouxland with $27,446; Shesler Hall with $12,000; The Council on Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence will receive $42,075; and the Community Action Agency of Siouxland will receive $34,121.

The Iowa Council on Homelessness reports that 18,810 Iowans experienced homelessness in 2013 and a total of 11,811 were served by a shelter.


Shenandoah School Superintendent Fired For Fraud

SHENANDOAH, Iowa (AP) - A western Iowa schools superintendent has been fired following allegations he committed fraud and policy violations. 
     Members of the Shenandoah school board unanimously voted to immediately remove Jeff Hiser this week after a nearly two-hour closed session. Hiser didn't attend the meeting and had been on leave since last month. 
     A school board member says Hiser submitted fraudulent reimbursements for expenses, violated district policies regarding leave requests and obstructed the board's investigation.
     He has had been superintendent since 2011 after a career in public service that included serving as mayor. 
     Hiser couldn't be reached for comment on Thursday.


Pharmacy Owner Pleads Guilty To Distribution Of Painkillers

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A Des Moines pharmacy owner accused of illegally selling tens of thousands of addictive painkillers has pleaded guilty to charges as part of a deal with prosecutors.
    Mark Graziano said Thursday in court that his popular pharmacy was a major source of narcotic pills for drug dealers. He pleaded guilty to two federal felony counts of drug conspiracy and tax evasion.
     The plea deal drops 16 charges and recommends a few years in a minimum-security prison camp.
     Graziano's pharmacy was raided in 2012 amid allegations that he and another man, Michael Enloe, illegally sold about 700,000 hydrocodone pills. For years, Graziano denied any wrongdoing. Enloe pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of conspiracy to distribute drugs.
     Graziano and Enloe will be sentenced in February.












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