Wednesday News, March 11
Car And Tractor Collide On Highway 75
(Le Mars) -- A car, and a tractor pulling a grain wagon collided last evening at about 8:15 p.m. The accident happened on Highway 75 about four miles north of Le Mars. Responding to the accident were the Le Mars Fire and Rescue Department and the Le Mars Ambulance Service. No word yet on the identities of the victims, but two people were transported to the Floyd Valley Hospital. Traffic was backed up for nearly a half hour while rescue crews worked on the accident.
Merrill And Hinton Fire Departments Respond To Grass Fire
(Merrill) -- The Merrill and Hinton Fire Departments responded to a grass field fire shortly after 2:00 p.m. Tuesday afternoon. The fire was located in a remote area of Plymouth County at 21682 250th Street. According to Captain Eric Weber of the Merrill Fire Department, the fire was the result of a controlled burn that got out of control.
Weber says the fire was fueled by the dry grass on top, even though the field underneath is wet.
Weber says an area of between five and ten acres were burnt as a result of the grass fire. Both the Merrill and Hinton Fire Departments were on the scene for approximately an hour.
Real Estate And Mobile Home Taxes Are Now Due
(Le Mars) -- Plymouth County Treasurer, Shelly Sitzmann, reminds property owners that the second-half real estate and mobile home taxes are due now and can be paid in the office, online, or through the mail. Taxes are delinquent Wednesday, April 1, 2015. Mail must be postmarked on or before March 31 to avoid delinquent interest. Send your payment before the last day, as mailing your payment on March 31 does not guarantee a March 31 postmark. Delinquent interest of 1.5% per month rounded to the nearest dollar attaches to all unpaid taxes on April 1, 2015, and an additional 1.5% penalty on the first of each succeeding month thereafter. There is a minimum $1.00 penalty on all taxes.
Commstock Report Commentator David Kruse To Speak At Agri-Business Luncheon
(Le Mars) -- Next Wednesday, March 18th, is the Le Mars Chamber of Commerce Agri-Business Luncheon to be held at the upper level of the Le Mars Convention Center. 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. Kruse offers an insight to his address next week.
Kruse says there isn't a lot of hope to seeing an improvement on crop prices, and he says livestock profit margins are also running thin.
The commodity market analyist says the strength in the U-S dollar may mean a cutback to the export markets. Kruse also closely follows the political scene and how it oftens affects agriculture.
Tickets for the Agri-business luncheon are selling at $10 and can be obtained at the Le Mars Chamber of Commerce office.
Des Moines Water Works To Sue Sac, Buena Vista, And Calhoun Counties
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Des Moines Water Works board has voted to sue three northern Iowa counties in an effort to hold them responsible for the high nitrate levels in rivers the utility uses for source water.
The board voted Tuesday afternoon to sue Calhoun, Buena Vista and Sac counties in U.S. District Court in Des Moines.
The counties oversee 10 agriculture drainage districts north of Des Moines. The lawsuit will allege the drainage systems are no different than city wastewater treatment plants in that they discharge pollutants and should be subject to heightened regulatory oversight.
Nineteen citizens spoke in support at the meeting. Several farm groups say in a statement the lawsuit undermines the relationship between the water utility and farmers upstream but they'll continue to work on water quality.
Farm Groups Respond To Des Moines Water Works Lawsuit
(Des Moines) -- The announcement by Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) to pursue legal action against drainage districts in three Iowa counties reveals a startling disconnect from the scope and complexity of nonpoint water issues. It risks slowing the momentum of the nationally recognized Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy implemented with bipartisan legislative support in 2013. Nitrate levels in Iowa rivers are complex, fluctuating with weather and soil fertility but not significantly affected by fertilizer application rates or management. Our weather and nutrient-rich soils, which are ideal for growing plants, dominantly influence what happens in Iowa’s waters. Merely enacting regulation will do nothing to improve water quality. We will remain focused on empowering farmers and land owners to select and use scientifically proven practices that can have a real impact on water quality, which benefits all Iowans.
Today's decision undermines the strong relationship that once existed between Iowa’s largest water utility and farmers upstream. However, the DMWW litigation will not distract us from collaborative efforts that bring continual improvements in water quality.
Legislator Chastises Branstad For Closing Mental Health Institutes
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - An Iowa lawmaker has reiterated his criticism of the planned closing of two state mental health facilities.
Rep. David Heaton, a Republican from Mount Pleasant, spoke on the House floor Tuesday about the facilities in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant. He received a standing ovation from many lawmakers.
Gov. Terry Branstad's budget proposal removes funding for two of the four state mental health facilities in Iowa. Branstad calls the facilities outdated and says patients could receive more efficient treatment elsewhere.
Heaton says the closings would force patients to travel long distances for treatment. He says medical professionals have told him there is no space available in local hospitals for additional patients.
Heaton says Branstad and the state Department of Human Services should offer more solutions as the session moves forward.
Senate Says Let Schools Decide When To Start
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa school districts could decide when to start the academic year under a bill that has won approval in the Iowa Senate.
The Senate voted 32-17 in favor of the legislation Tuesday. School start dates became a key issue for the Legislature after state education officials said they would stop issuing automatic waivers that allowed districts to start early.
Supporters say providing districts with control is best for students, while opponents argue early starts can hurt tourism.
The bill will now move to the House, where lawmakers in the House Education committee have approved a bill that would require classes to start on or after Aug. 23, with a stipulation that school districts cannot seek a waiver to begin sooner. Senators said they hoped to soon resolve the issue.
Senate Approves Plan To Expand Pre-school To 4 Year Olds
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A Senate panel has approved a bill that would expand preschool for 4-year-olds in Iowa, though its chances of advancing this session are unclear.
Members of an appropriations subcommittee approved the bill Tuesday, after an education committee advanced it last month. It now heads to a full appropriations committee.
The bill would provide extra funding for school districts that expand preschool programs. The bipartisan Legislative Services Agency says the bill would cost $20 million in the fiscal year that ends in 2017.
Democratic Sen. Herman Quirmbach, the bill's sponsor, says he hasn't reviewed the LSA's fiscal analysis. He says preschool funding should be a priority, despite Democrats and Republicans fighting publicly over education spending.
Similar legislation failed to advance last session.
Jurors Find Frederiksen Guilty Of Killing 5 Year Old Girl
WEBSTER CITY, Iowa (AP) - Jurors have convicted a man of first-degree murder and sexual assault in the killing of his former girlfriend's 5-year-old daughter.
After about five hours of deliberation Tuesday, jurors found 35-year-old Casey Frederiksen guilty of sexually abusing and stabbing to death Evelyn Miller while babysitting her in July 2005. The girl's body was found in the Cedar River five days after she was reported missing.
Frederiksen was arrested in 2012.
Jurors received the case shortly after noon following closing arguments from the prosecution and defense. Prosecutors say Frederiksen could be linked to the death based on statements he made to investigators and relatives, but defense attorneys maintained that another suspect was responsible for the girl's death.
A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for May 11.
Supreme Court To Review Telemedicine Abortions
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Iowa Supreme Court is set to consider the future of telemedicine abortions in Iowa.
The high court is scheduled Wednesday to hear arguments by the Iowa affiliate of Planned Parenthood and the Iowa Board of Medicine. A decision is not expected for several months.
Iowa allows physicians to use webcams or teleconferencing to dispense abortion-inducing drugs to patients in remote locations. Minnesota is the only other state that allows the practice.
The board voted in 2013 to require physicians to be present during medication abortions, effectively banning telemedicine abortions. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland filed a lawsuit, which ultimately reached the Iowa Supreme Court. For now, telemedicine abortions are still performed in Iowa.
Planned Parenthood says banning telemedicine abortions is unconstitutional. The board disagrees.