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Wednesday Afternoon News, March 27

Gehlen Catholic Mourns Death of Teacher

(Le Mars) -- Gehlen Catholic schools are mourning the death of a physical education teacher. Steve Shea passed away on Tuesday evening from heart complications.  Shea also had suffered from melanoma for the past several years.  Shea joined the Gehlen faculty in 1983, and last year, Shea was bestowed the Bishop's Excellence in Education Award for his faith-filled teachings.  Gehlen Catholic has set up a crisis team of counselors to visit with students and faculty.

 

Supervisors Establish Cellular Phone Policy

(Le Mars) -- Plymouth County Supervisors established a cellular phone policy and
reimbursement plan for those county employees who on occasion need to use their personal cell phone for county business.  The policy was adopted on a 4-1 vote during Tuesday meeting. Department heads and elected officials can use their discretion as to whether an employee should be compensated, but the county governing board approved a rate of $30 per month for county employees that utilize a non-data phone, and a rate of $60 per month will be offered to county employees that use a smart phone.  Supervisor Jack Guenther voted against the provision, but added he is not opposed to the idea.  Guenther believes the county should compensate county employees at a higher rate.


Le Mars Mainstreet Being Evaluated

(Le Mars) -- The Le Mars Mainstreet program as part of the Area Chamber of Commerce is to be evaluated today.  State officials are in town visiting with various business and community leaders inquiring about the different programs organized by the Le Mars Mainstreet.  Mary Reynolds, coordinator of the Mainstreet program, explains why the annual evaluation is needed.
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Reynolds says the state officials will offer their comments to city leaders today at 1:30 p.m.


Deputy Makes Arrest Following Wanted Individual Provides False Name

(Le Mars) -- While on duty in Merrill on Tuesday, a Plymouth County deputy sheriff thought he recognized a person that was wanted by Plymouth County.  After questioning, a name and date of birth was given that the deputy thought was false.  After further investigation, it was found that the persons real name was Benjamin Alvar Chul Humbert, age 29.  Humbert was in fact wanted by Plymouth County for Theft in the 2nd degree, a class D Felony, and Forgery, also a class D Felony.  Bond on the two charges was $5,000.00.  Humbert of Le Mars was arrested on the warrants.  He was also charged by the deputy with Providing False Information to a Police Officer, a simple misdemeanor for providing a false name.
While trying to determine the identity of Humbert, the deputy also questioned the occupant of the residence in Merrill.  Thomas Joseph Edward Evanoski, age 32, had also provided a false name for Humbert in an attempt to hide his identity.  Evanoski was also arrested and charged with Providing False Information to a Police Officer.


Sioux County Make Arrest After Burglary


(Orange City) -- Sioux County authorities investigated a burglary that had taken place on Saturday at an Alton residence.  As a result of the investigation, deputies arrested Charles Aulenbach, age 38, of Granville, Iowa.  Aulenbach was charged with criminal mischief, trespassing, and theft.  Additionally, 53 year old Timothy Schmidt of Granville was also cited for trespassing and criminal mischief.


Woodbury County Sheriff Considers Suing Board of Supervisors Over Policy

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - The Woodbury County sheriff is considering suing the county board of supervisors over a disputed policy that prevents off-duty deputies working community events
from wearing their uniforms and driving county cars.
Woodbury County Sheriff Dave Drew wants to reverse a policy adopted in 2010 by the board that prohibits county employees from using county equipment for things like private security at community events. The board said at the time it was a liability issue.
Opponents argued people are more likely to respect uniformed officers.
Drew, who was elected in November, says elected officials should have leeway to set their own policies. He told the board Tuesday that he would allow some time for them to work out a compromise
before filing a lawsuit.
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House Approves Cross Bow Hunting For Deer

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Iowa House has approved a measure that would allow expanded crossbow hunting of deer.
Lawmakers unanimously passed the bill Wednesday and it now moves to the Senate.
The measure would let residents hunt deer using a crossbow during the late hunting season, from Dec. 17 to Jan. 10. They would not be required to purchase a separate crossbow hunting license.
Under current law, only muzzleloader and archery hunters can hunt deer during that season. But a physically disabled person incapable of shooting a bow and arrow can get a special crossbow
license to hunt deer and turkey.
Department of Natural Resources spokesman Kevin Baskins says if the legislation passes he doesn't expect an increase in crossbow hunters to significantly reduce the state's deer population.

 

New Voting Rules Take Effect

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A new rule backed by Secretary of State Matt Schultz is taking effect that allows election officials to remove people from voter registration lists if their citizenship is
questioned.
Schultz, a Republican, says the change is needed to reduce voter fraud, which he's made his key issue since taking office in 2011.
The rule effective Wednesday allows Schultz's office to compare voter registration records against federal immigration lists.  Anyone registered to vote flagged as a noncitizen is notified by mail that they may be unlawfully registered and should provide citizenship proof.
Opponents have unsuccessfully fought enactment of the rule. They say it intimidates immigrants who are citizens and may discourage them from voting.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa says it will continue to fight the rule in court.

 

Appeals Court Orders New Trial For Inmate

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - An appeals court has ordered a new trial for an Iowa inmate convicted of assaulting a prison guard in 2009.
The Iowa Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that Earl Griffin's trial in Johnson County may have been unfair because he was required to wear leg chains in the courtroom.
The court says a judge failed to show why Griffin presented a security risk that would justify the need for using restraints during trial. Courts have said that shackling a defendant in front
of jurors should be avoided because it signals the defendant is dangerous and may prevent him from freely participating in his defense.
Griffin acknowledged he assaulted a correctional officer at the prison in Oakdale. He claimed a necessity defense, saying he needed to appear tough among other inmates.



 

 

   

Wednesday News, March 27

Plymouth County To Sell Surplus Property

(Le Mars) -- Plymouth County Supervisors have scheduled Saturday, April 20th as the date to hold a public auction in an effort to sell some county-owned surplus property.  The Supervisors declared the property as surplus during their regular weekly meeting held Tuesday.  Several computers, office furniture, various tools, printers, gun cases, and even some jewelry will be sold.  That auction will be held at the Plymouth County Courthouse parking lot.

 

Le Mars Mainstreet Program To Be Evaluated

(Le Mars) -- The Le Mars Mainstreet program as part of the Area Chamber of Commerce is to be evaluated today.  State officials will be in town visiting with various business and community leaders inquiring about the different programs organized by the Le Mars Mainstreet.  The purpose of the evaluation is to offer the city of Le Mars some suggestions as to how to be more effective and efficient.


Union Pacific To Repair Rails On Central Avenue

(Le Mars) -- Le Mars city officials have announced the Union Pacific Railroad will be repairing two broken or flawed rails on the Central Avenue crossing.  The repairs are scheduled to occur on Thursday.  The southbound lane will be closed with only the northbound lane open.  Central Avenue's southbound lane will be closed starting at 9:00 a.m. and work is expected to be completed the same day.

 

School Board Sets Budget

(Le Mars) -- The Le Mars Community Board of Education approved its budget for the next school year during Monday evening's board meeting.  Dr. Todd Wendt, superintendent of schools for the Le Mars Community District says since the state legislature hasn't yet approved a final state educational funding bill, it leaves the local school board with their hands tied.
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Since the school board was essentially forced to go with a zero percent allowable growth rate for its budget and there will be less money to utilize, does that mean there will be cuts in programs and staff?

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State law requires school districts to have their budgets set by April 15th.  The proposed budget will be published in the local newspaper yet this week, and a public hearing has been scheduled for April 8th, allowing for public comment on the budget.  Once the state legislature is able to approve the state educational funding, and if the rate of funding is higher than earlier proposed, are local school districts allowed to modify their budgets?
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Wendt says a portion of the expenses are being off-set as a result of an anticipated higher enrollment at the school district.

 

Iowa Gaming and Racing Commission Visits Sioux City Casino Sites

(Sioux City) --  The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commissioners have around three weeks to digest all the information gathered at Tuesday's hearings on a new Woodbury County land based casino.  The commission will vote on awarding a contract to one of the four proposals on April 18th.
Commission chair Jeff Lamberti says touring the four proposed locations was an informative experience.

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The commissioners were greeted like rock stars at the Hard Rock Casino event in the Battery Building.  Over 500 people let loose with a loud cheer when the I-R-G-C members walked into the building.

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Lamberti says the commissioners now face a very tough decision in awarding the casino bid.

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That meeting will take place April 18th at Council Bluffs.

 

State Senate Approves Education Reform Bill

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Democratic-majority Senate has approved a beefed-up version of Gov. Terry Branstad's education policy plan.
The 26-23 party-line vote happened Tuesday. Branstad's proposal would hike minimum teacher salaries and provide incentive pay for teachers who take on additional leadership roles, like mentoring.
The Senate version maintains the salary minimums and would require districts to choose from several options for a leadership incentive pay program. It also has some new programs, including one
that would provide additional funding to disadvantaged schools.
Several weeks ago Republican-controlled House approved a scaled back version of Branstad's proposal. In their plan, the salary minimums and incentive pay would be optional for districts.
Lawmakers now must try to reach a compromise deal on new education spending.

 

Branstad Sends Letter To Senate Asking Support For Regent Nominees

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Gov. Terry Branstad is struggling to get senators to endorse all of his nominees to the Board of Regents.
He sent a letter to all 50 senators Tuesday, saying his picks have "unique skill sets."
The Senate Education Committee voted to forward two of Branstad's three nominations to the full Senate without recommendation. Current Board President Craig Lang was not endorsed. Neither was Grimes businessman Robert Cramer. The board did recommend confirming Webster City physician Subhash Sahai to the nine-member board that oversees the state's public
universities.
The nominations require a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate.
Lang's tenure has troubled Democrats. Lawmakers questioned Cramer about his socially conservative views.
Branstad praises Lang's record, citing a planned tuition freeze. Branstad also says Cramer's construction knowledge is valuable.

 

Truck Company Fined For Not Paying Employees For Overtime

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Labor Department says a Des Moines trucking company failed to properly pay some employees for overtime.
The department's Wage and Hour Division says Contract Transport Inc. did not pay some drivers for delay time during trips and instead paid them based on a predetermined number of hours. Some
delays were caused by weather, construction or other factors.
The company has agreed to pay 201 drivers more than $160,000 in back wages and fringe benefits. Some of the drivers work at Contract Transport's headquarters in Des Moines, and some work from the company's Kansas City, Mo., facility.
The company also has agreed to train both office staff and drivers about properly documenting their hours.
Contract Transport has a contract to haul mail for the U.S. Postal Service.


Branstad To Hold Hearing On Convicted Murderer

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - Iowa's Gov. Terry Branstad is holding a rare public hearing to gather input on whether he should free an inmate who has been widely credited with turning his life around
while in prison for murder.
Sixty-six-year-old Rasberry Williams is serving a life sentence for the 1974 fatal shooting of a neighbor. His bid to have his sentence commuted to a set number of years so he can become
eligible for parole has won the backing of prison wardens, the prosecutor who convicted him and the judge who oversaw his trial.
But the only opinion that matters is Branstad's, who called for Wednesday's hearing to allow the public to sound off on the parole board's 4-0 recommendation that Williams' sentence be adjusted.
Branstad has until May 4 to make a decision.

 

Study Shows Health Care Costs To Rise

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A study by the Society of Actuaries estimates that the new federal health care law will raise medical claims costs in Iowa by an average of 9.7 percent per person in the
individual health insurance market.
Medical claims costs are the main driver of health insurance premiums. The study estimates that President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act will raise claims costs nationally by an average of 32 percent per person in the individual health insurance market by 2017. That's partly due to sicker people joining the pool.
The study finds wide disparities among states.
The estimates assume every state will expand its Medicaid program. Gov. Terry Branstad has opposed expanding Medicaid in Iowa.
The report did not make similar estimates for employer plans, the mainstay for workers and their families.

 

Cities Win Lawsuit Against Environmental Protection Agency

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Cities in Iowa have won a legal victory in a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency over wastewater treatment rules.
In a ruling that documents say could save cities across the U.S. $150 billion, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down two EPA rules.
The decision filed Monday affects the way cities mix water to dilute the bacteria levels near recreational areas and how cities treat wastewater during heavy rains.
A three-member panel of the court says unanimously in nullifying the two rules that the EPA exceeded its legal authority and didn't follow proper rulemaking.
The cities lost their first challenge to EPA rules in 2010 but refiled it in 2011.
Among the cities that would have been affected are Council Bluffs, Davenport, Des Moines, Ottumwa, and Waterloo.

 

 

   

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