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Friday Afternoon News, May 17

Local Gasoline Prices Jump Up 50 Cents per Gallon

(Le Mars) -- Don't look now, but gasoline prices are near or at four dollars a gallon, jumping up fifty cents per gallon within the last few days.  Local prices are at $3.94 for ethanol unleaded and $4.04 a gallon for regular unleaded.  Gail Weinhoulzer is the Public Affairs Director with the Triple A motor club for Minnesota and Iowa.  She says the spike in gasoline prices can be contributed to several factors.  The first reason is oil companies are required to make a switch over from winter blended fuels to summer blended fuels.  But perhaps more significant to the Midwest is that two refineries located near Chicago have shut down for general maintenance.

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The AAA official says the spike in gasoline prices is primarily limited to the Midwest.  Weinhoulzer says it will be sometime after Memorial Day when both refineries are back on line, but she says don't look for the price of gasoline to drop.

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Will the sudden spike in gasoline prices change people's minds about traveling for the Memorial Day Holiday weekend?

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Weinhoulzer does expect to see a continued modest price increase for gasoline within the next few days and possibly weeks.  However, barring any disaster such as a hurricane in the gulf region, or a war in the Mideast, she doesn't see gasoline prices passing the next level of $5 a gallon.

 

Westmar Endowment Scholarships Announced

(Des Moines) -- The Iowa College Foundation announced that it has awarded Westmar Endowment Scholarships totaling $36,000 to 33 students who will be attending an Iowa private college or university in academic year 2013-2014.  The Westmar Endowment Scholarship Program is administered by the Iowa College Foundation in cooperation with the Westmar University Alumni and Friends Association.
Westmar Presidential Scholarships of $5,000 each were awarded to Shannon Vander Berg of Sioux Center who will be a freshman at Dordt College; and to Emily Vondrak of Siouxcity who will be a freshman at Briar Cliff University.  In addition, 21 students received $1,000 awards each and ten students received $500 each.  The Westmar Endowment Scholarship Program is one of the largest scholarship programs ever offered in Northwest Iowa.  First consideration for awards was given to students who are current residents of Northwest Iowa and have a Westmar family-relation connection such as alumni, former staff and former faculty of Westmar as well as their children and grandchildren.  Other considerations were given to students who are residents of Le Mars and students living outside of the northwest Iowa area but have family-relation connections with the former Westmar College.  The Westmar Scholarships are also awarded on the basis of a student's academic merit, commitment to community service, and leadership qualities.  The scholarships are for one year only, but may be renewed.  Applicants at any college grade level are eligible, but must plan to attend one of ICF's member colleges as a full-time student.

 

American Bank Honors Beef Industry

(Le Mars) -- May is Beef Month and the American Bank of Le Mars was honoring the local cattle and beef industries by offering free hamburgers to their customers and to the general public.  American Bank turned their parking lot into a picnic area and served more than 300 people  a fresh grilled hamburger.  Next Friday, American Bank of Remsen will offer its customers a free hamburger picnic.

 

Woman Found Guilty Of Involuntary Manslaughter  Of Son

ONAWA, Iowa (AP) - A western Iowa woman has been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of her 15-month-old son.
District Judge Jeffrey Neary said in a ruling Friday that the actions of 25-year-old Ashley Cameron, of Onawa, did not rise to the level of murder. She also was convicted of child endangerment causing the
death of a child.
Cameron faced a first-degree murder charge in the death of Markis Dahms. She testified that she held Markis under a running faucet after he had vomited. She later found him face down in the
water.
Neary says in the 19-page ruling that Cameron was negligent but never intended to cause Markis' death. Her attorney suggested that the boy may have had a seizure.
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Iowa's Unemployment Drops

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa Workforce Development says the state's unemployment rate dropped to 4.7 percent in April, the lowest rate since December 2008.
The department reported Friday that the figure is two-tenths of a point below the March rate of 4.9 percent. The rate is half a point under the April 2012 rate of 5.2 percent.
The number of unemployed people dropped to 77,800 in April, compared with 80,500 in March. Nonfarm employment remained unchanged over the month but is down 11,900 people from April 2012.

 

Legislators Try To Wrap Up General Session

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa legislators are back in the Capitol as they try to wrap up the 2013 legislative session, but it seems likely their work will continue next week.
Republican House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, of Hiawatha, says he expects to return next week to continue budget and policy work.
Paulsen says he hopes to "wrap it up quickly" next week.
Lawmakers reported for duty Friday, a day they usually take off.
On Thursday, legislators struck a tentative deal to cut commercial property taxes and make other tax reductions. But by midday Friday the legislation had not come up for a vote.
Lawmakers still have to find an agreement on education policy and decide how to handle health care for low-income Iowans.

 

Webster City Fire

WEBSTER CITY, Iowa (AP) - Worker demolishing a former Electrolux plant apparently sparked a fire that sent billows of black smoke into the sky above Webster City.
The fire began about 5:30 p.m. Thursday while a crew was cleaning litter and rubble inside the former Electrolux main plant building.
Webster City Fire Chief Mike Lund says workers were using large machines to push material as they cleaned up the site. Lund says as material was pushed across the concrete, it could have created a
spark.
The cardboard and foam insulation that burned caused the thick smoke that rose over the site.
Because the fire primarily burned waste material, the blaze didn't result in any a monetary loss.
The Electrolux plant closed in 2011.
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Friday News, May 17

Le Mars Rotary To Host Bike Safety Fair

(Le Mars) -- The Le Mars Rotary Club along with Bike Central and the Le Mars Police Department are sponsoring a community-wide bicycle safety fair scheduled for May 22nd at the O'Toole Park in Le Mars. The event will be from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. The Bicycle safety fair will include free bicycle safety information and safety demonstrations for cyclists of all ages.  Free bicycle safety inspections will also be provided.  Although everyone with a bicycle is encouraged to attend, special emphasis will be directed toward elementary-age children to help them have a safe summer of bicycling.  Free safety reflectors will be given to all attendees, as well as ice cream novelties and treats courtesy of Well's Blue Bunny.

 

Investigators Look At Why 45 Sioux City School Children Got Ill

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - Officials are investigating what may have caused 45 students at a Sioux City elementary school to get sick with a gastrointestinal illness.
Sioux City school district spokeswoman Alison Benson says the students from Bryant Elementary either called in sick Thursday or were sent home early. Three staff members also called in sick.
Symptoms included vomiting and diarrhea.
Siouxland District Health is investigating what may have caused the illness. Deputy Director Tyler Brock says officials will look at lunch menus and reports of sick employees missing work.

 

Legislature Close To Finishing General Session

(Des Moines) -- The Iowa Legislature hopes to end their session within the next few days.  Several budget-related bills have been passed by both chambers in the recent days, and state representative Chuck Soderberg of Le Mars says business is starting to wind down.

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Soderberg says the legislature was able to compromise on the state's general budget

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The local representative says one item that probably will not be resolved is the debate on the Iowa's Health care plan.  The House of Representatives want to adopt Governor Branstad's proposal while Senate Democrats want to see an expansion of Medicaid. Soderberg believes the legislators will come back in a special session to handle the controversial issue.

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Legislators Reach An Agreement On Property Tax Relief

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa legislative leaders have reached a deal to reduce commercial property taxes in the state - a longtime priority of Republican Governor Terry Branstad.
A draft agreement of the plan was provided Thursday by Senate Democrats. The tentative plan will gradually reduce taxable assessments of commercial properties by 10 percent and provide
property tax credits geared at smaller businesses.
The plan still needs to win legislative approval.
Branstad spokesman Tim Albrecht says in an email Thursday that the process was "extremely close" and that the governor's office is reviewing the plan.
Just when the 2013 session will conclude is not clear. Lawmakers are still trying to work out a deal on education policy.  Discussions continue about whether to delay talks about proposals
to expand Medicaid or approve an alternate health plan.

 

Lawmakers Approve Public Universities Budget

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa lawmakers have reached a spending compromise for Iowa's public universities and other education programs.
The state House and Senate approved the $897 million higher education budget Thursday evening. It's a compromise including enough money to freeze in-state tuition at the state universities.
Members of the Board of Regents previously promised to freeze in-state tuition if the Legislature approved the necessary budget increase. The budget plan would increase their budget by 2.6
percent.
The final budget is $66 million less than the original Senate proposal and about $3 million more than a House version.
It also includes spending for the education department, blind school, College Aid Commission, Vocational Rehabilitation and Iowa Public Television.
It will next move to the governor for his signature.


Agriculture and Natural Resources Budget Is Approved By Legislators

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa lawmakers have approved a $40 million compromise budget for the state departments of natural resources and agriculture.
The Senate and House both approved the spending Thursday. The total budget for the next fiscal year is about $5 million more than the current year.
It includes a $2.4 million increase for the state Department of Agriculture to study Iowa's water quality and encourage farmers to implement water quality practices.
Other budget items include spending for the Iowa State University's Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. The plan also creates a new Iowa Nutrient Research Center at Iowa State to study
nutrient management practices in the state.
The plan now moves to the governor's office.

 

Farmers Given Liability Protection For Hosting Educational Tours

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa lawmakers have approved a bill that provides farmers with additional liability protection for educational tours.
The state House and Senate passed the legislation Thursday night. A February ruling from the Iowa Supreme Court said that educational tours for the public are not shielded from personal injury lawsuits under a law meant to promote recreation on private lands.
This legislation revises state law so that educational activities would be included under recreational use protections.  Supporters say this will give farmers confidence to continue offering tours. It will next move to the governor's office.
The court ruled that owners of a dairy farm in northeast Iowa could be sued by a woman who was injured when she fell through a hole in a hayloft while chaperoning a field trip.

 

State Senate Wants To Preserve Ethanol Tax Credit

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - An effort to maintain a tax break for ethanol blended fuel has won state Senate approval.
The Iowa Senate on Thursday backed a bill that would extend a tax break for fuel that includes ethanol and gasoline for another year. Currently, ethanol blends are taxed at 20 cents a gallon and
pure petroleum is taxed at 22 cents a gallon. Those numbers include a 1 cent environmental fee.
Without this bill, both types of fuel would soon be taxed at 21 cents total.
The legislation has been amended, so it now moves to the House for approval.
Representative Joshua Byrnes, a Republican from Osage, filed an amendment Thursday that would gradually increase the state fuel taxby 10 cents. It's not clear the effort has enough support to pass.


Des Moines Fire Fighter Injured After Falling Through Floor

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - At least one of several Des Moines firefighters who fell through a floor while fighting an apartment building fire has been injured.
Fire officials say a building occupant also was injured by the fire, which was reported a little before 8 p.m. Thursday.
District Fire Chief Dan Burke says the severity of the injuries wasn't immediately clear.
Other apartment residents were evacuated, and no other injuries were reported.
The fire cause is being investigated.

 

Des Moines University To Honor Those Who Donated Their Bodies

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Des Moines University is honoring dozens of people who donated their bodies in the last year for medical education.
The school will host a memorial service Friday at the Olsen Medical Education Center on campus. More than 60 people from Iowa, Illinois and Missouri are scheduled to be honored.
The nondenominational service has been held for more than 40 years. Military honors will be performed for veteran donors, and family members will be given a lapel pin.
A school official says the donations help educate students about human anatomy. More than 2,600 bodies have been donated to the school since 1955.


Historic Preservation Tax Credits Bill Signed By Branstad

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Governor Terry Branstad has signed a bill that modifies qualifying rules for tax credits that go to the restoration of historic buildings.
Branstad signed the law Thursday. The program, started in 2000, offers property owners or developers tax credits for 25 percent of qualifying rehabilitation costs in eligible historic buildings.
Several types of properties are eligible, including those on the National Register of Historic Places and buildings in historic districts. Currently the state approves up to $45 million in credits in a fiscal year.
This legislation would modify the rules to qualify for the credit. Currently, a commercial project must have costs that equal half of the property's assessed value to qualify. Under this plan,
the standard would be $50,000 or 50 percent of the property's assessed value.





   

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