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Thursday News, November 14

Gas Odor At Wal-mart

(Le Mars) -- A suspicious odor of gas prompted the Le Mars Fire and Rescue Department to respond to the Wal-Mart shopping center on Wednesday afternoon.  The call was sounded at about 4:00 p.m.  Fire officials found the problem was a propane tank that was leaking.  Fire officials were on the scene for about a half an hour. 

Annual Meeting For Plymouth County Fair Scheduled For Tonight

(Le Mars) -- The Plymouth County 4-H Agricultural Society, better known as the Plymouth County Fair will hold its annual meeting at the lower level of the Le Mars Convention Center this evening.  The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m.    Items on the annual meeting agenda include the election of Fair Board members, a recap of the 2013 fair, award presentation, suggestions for the 2014 fair, and other businesses.  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 Office.   This meeting is open to the public.

School Bus Accident

 ALTA, Iowa (AP) - A school bus and pickup truck crashed in northwest Iowa.
     The crash happened around 1 p.m. on Wednesday at a rural intersection northwest of Alta. The Buena Vista County sheriff says the driver of the Aurelia Community School bus, 64-year-old Sharon Reinert of Cherokee, failed to yield the right of way to the truck.
     Nine children were aboard the bus, but no one was injured. Neither vehicle could drive away from the accident.  The driver of the pick up truck was Matthew Lacey of Danbury.
     Authorities say charges are pending against the bus driver.

Few Iowans Have Signed Up For National Healthcare

 DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - New data from the Obama administration shows that just 136 Iowa residents have successfully enrolled in health insurance plans using the troubled federal website.
      Information released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says that in Iowa, about 5,500 insurance applications have been completed on the website, for insurance to cover nearly 11,000 people. But only 136 were able to fully complete the process and sign up for private insurance.
     The applications were made on the website between Oct. 1 and Nov. 2.
     From those applications, about 2,100 individuals have been deemed eligible for financial assistance to pay for insurance and 4,500 will be eligible for low-income health programs like Medicaid.
     An estimated 300,000 Iowa residents lack health insurance.

Facebook Data Center To Use Wind Energy 

ALTOONA, Iowa (AP) - Facebook says its new data center in Altoona will operate completely on electricity generated by wind when it starts up in 2015.
     California-based Facebook is building a $300 million data center in Altoona, a project that is expected to expand to an investment of nearly $1 billion when completed.
     The company says in a statement Wednesday power will come from a new wind project in Wellsburg it helped develop as it was finalizing plans for the data center. One of the reasons the company says it chose Altoona was the potential to run the new center on wind energy.
     Last week MidAmerican Energy announced it had purchased the Wellsburg wind project which will generate 138 megawatts of power, more Facebook needs for the new data center.


Vision Iowa Board Awards Projects

 DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The state Vision Iowa Board has awarded $1.1 million toward the renovation of a plaza in downtown Des Moines.
      The board awarded the money Wednesday to the Cowles Commons Renovation, a $9.7 million project to replace a 35-year-old space previously known as Nollen Plaza.
     Demolition of the site began in October and completion of the project is expected in late 2014.
     The new community space will include gardens, an interactive fountain and new public art.
     Des Moines Performing Arts is leading the renovation.

 MANCHESTER, Iowa (AP) - A plan to build a whitewater park on the Maquoketa River in downtown Manchester is a major step closer to reality.
     The Vision Iowa Board on Wednesday approved a $300,000 grant for the $1.7 million project, which is expected to be a tourism draw in northeast Iowa when it opens in 2015.
     The whitewater course is expected to span 900 feet and be used by rafters, kayakers, tubers and others.
     The project involves removing the top of the Marion Street dam, building five other drop points, restoring and beautifying the shoreline and developing locations for spectators.
     A combination of other funding sources from the city, state and private donors have been secured for the project.


Des Moines Police Investigating Burns On 2 Year Old Boy

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Police are investigating the case of a 2-year-old boy who was severely burned while in the care of his father's girlfriend.
     Des Moines television station KCCI says ( ) police aren't sure how Tavion Moore was burned, but authorities say there is little chance his burns were an accident.
     Tavion was treated in Iowa City for second- and third-degree burns on his hands after the incident in a Des Moines home on Sunday. Doctors say the burns are consistent with scalding water or oil. They were so severe that skin was falling off the toddler's hand.
     The 19-year-old girlfriend told authorities that Tavion was burned in an accident involving a dishwasher.
      Des Moines Sgt. Steve Woody says it's unlikely that the toddler burned himself, and the injuries show evidence of abuse.


Man Involved With Police Standoff Now In Custody

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) - Authorities say a man involved in a police standoff in Council Bluffs is now in custody.
     Lt. Mark Galvan of the Council Bluffs Police Department tells Omaha television station KETV that Lucas Walk was taken out of a residence Wednesday following a standoff that lasted about an hour. He was taken to a hospital after a K-9 dog bit him.
     Police say they were serving an arrest warrant to Walk when the incident began. Authorities say they thought Walk may be armed, but no weapons have been found.
     Nearby homes were briefly evacuated. Additional information is not available.


Judge Denies Teacher Unemployment Benefits 

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A judge has denied unemployment benefits to a former eastern Iowa science teacher who was caught having sex with a colleague in a classroom closet.
      The Des Moines Register reports ( ) that Robert L. Brown, of West Branch, was denied benefits due to willful workplace misconduct. Brown was forced to resign from his job with the Columbus Community School District in November 2012.
     Brown filed for unemployment benefits, saying the encounters took place on his personal time during lunch and after classes.
      His attorney, Gerald Hammond, told an administrative judge that Brown never neglected his teaching duties or ignored his contractual obligations to the district.
      Brown was videotaped after surveillance cameras were placed around the school, in response to rumors about Brown and a female staff member.






Wednesday Afternoon News, November 13

Iowa Lawmakers Set Earlier Legislative Deadlines

(Des Moines) -- Top Iowa lawmakers have decided to move up some key deadlines in the 2014 legislative calendar, signaling a desire for a shorter session next year.  The legislative timetable was recently adjusted to reflect earlier procedural deadlines for proposed bills.  For example, that means bills must now receive committee-level approval in the House or Senate by Feb. 21, instead of Feb. 28 as originally planned.  If not approved by that date, most bills are considered dead for the session.  Republican House Speaker, Kraig Paulsen, of Hiawatha, says he expected a "focused" session.  Paulsen says the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-majority Senate agreed to the schedule changes.  Paulsen didn't give a goal for adjournment but says he wouldn't be surprised to conclude before the 100-day timeframe during which members get daily expense payments.


Wellmark To Be Reviewed

(Des Moines) -- A consultant has been hired to see whether the state's dominant health insurer has the right amount of customer's money tucked away in reserve.  Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart's office has hired Risk and Regulatory Consulting to check the reserve held by Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield.  Gerhart says state regulation changes justify the review.  He also says the fact he's ordered the review doesn't suggest there is anything wrong with Wellmark's holding of $1.3 billion in reserve.  State Senators Jack Hatch and Matt McCoy have said the reserves is too high and some of the money should go back to customers.  The company says the reserve level is necessary to ensure that Wellmark can pay medical bills for policyholders.


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