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