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Friday News, March 20

Roadwork To Begin On Monday For Highway 140

(Le Mars) -- Beginning Monday, Iowa Highway 140 will be reduced to one lane of traffic between County road C-70 and Iowa Highway 3.  Roadway crews are scheduled to widen and resurface the stretch of highway between Kingsley and Remsen.  A pilot car will be in operation with single lane traffic, alternating directions.  There will be width limit of 13 feet. Road work crews will be  working on Highway 140 from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on weekdays and from 8:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. on Saturdays.  The road work is expected to continue until September 30th.


Gehlen Receives $500 Grant For Chromebooks

(Le Mars) -- Gehlen Catholic School was recently awarded a $500 grant from Catholic United Financial Sales Representative, Mr. David Schonardt.  Father Kevin Richter, president of Gehlen schools accepted the check this past Tuesday.

The grant will be used to purchase additional Chromebooks for the Technology Department.  Gehlen Catholic Technology Director, Mrs. Lori Schuch, stated in the fall of 2013, Gehlen Catholic became a Google School based upon recommendations from the Technology and Academic Subcommittees.  Google Schools utilize Google resources, SMART Boards, Chromebooks, and other technological resources.  Students work independently and together, engage with their peers in groups, participate in direction instruction from their teachers, use Chromebooks for research, writing, and posting assignments. 

Google Schools provide the technological resources to overcome the financial, academic, behavioral, social, and language barriers facing at-risk students.  It also incorporates Core Curriculum mandates including 21st Century skills as well as Differentiated Instruction techniques. 

Currently, Gehlen Catholic has 270 at-risk students in preschool to 12th grade. 


Le Mars Community Middle School To Hold Annual Carnival 

(Le Mars) -- The Le Mars Community Middle School will host its annual carnival this evening beginning at 6:30 p.m.  Steve Shanks serves as the Middle School principal.  He says both Middle School gyms will be used for the fundraising event.  Shanks says the carnival is the only fund raising event for the Middle School.

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This year marks the 38th year for the annual carnival, and Shanks says the money collected usually is between $3000 and $5000.  He talks about how the school utilized last year's revenue.

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Shanks calls the games associated with the carnival as "old school" traditional carnival games.

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The Middle School principal explains people can vote with their money to choose  which faculty or administration member will have the opportunity to pucker up for the pig.

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Shanks urges people to enter the building using "Door B" next to the flag pole on the east side of the school.

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Man Gets Hand Trapped Under Car

 HUMBOLDT, Iowa (AP) - A northern Iowa sheriff says a man hacked away at his fingers in a desperate bid to free his trapped hand from beneath a vehicle.
     Michael Bohan got a flat tire Tuesday while on his rural Humboldt mail route and planned to take care of it the next day. His brother-in-law Dave Holst spotted Bohan's vehicle Wednesday and soon saw that the vehicle had fallen off jacks and that Bohan was trapped, his left hand stuck in a wheel mechanism. 
     Rescue crews were called, and they freed Bohan.
     Humboldt County Sheriff Dean Kruger confirmed that Bohan had been using a pocketknife to cut off fingers so he could get free. Bohan says he's not sure whether any of Bohan's fingers were completely severed.


Former Texas Governor Perry Visits Iowa Again

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry is touting his record of tax cuts and job creation during a return trip to Iowa.
     The Republican appeared Thursday at an event sponsored by a county GOP organization held in suburban Des Moines. He said that wage growth has slowed over the past decade and argued that lowering taxes, limiting business regulation and improving educational attainment would help reverse that trend.
     Perry has not declared his 2016 plans, but he has already hired five Iowa staffers and has made numerous visits to the state over the past year as he considers a presidential bid.
     Perry has been trying to avoid missteps he made during the 2012 presidential race, when he finished fifth in the Iowa caucuses and quit the race two weeks later.


Senate Approves Bill That Would Change Deadline For Absentee Ballots

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A Senate panel has approved a bill that would change the deadline for when most people in Iowa would need to submit absentee ballots, though some lawmakers say they will introduce changes to the House-backed legislation.
     A State Government subcommittee approved the bill Thursday. It heads to the full committee for consideration.
     The bill would require that absentee ballots be received by a county auditor's office before polls close on Election Day. Current law requires the ballots be postmarked no later than the day before Election Day.
   Critics say the bill, which passed recently in the House, would disenfranchise voters. Supporters say the current system needs to be fixed because some post offices are failing to properly postmark.
     Some Democrats say the bill needs changes to advance in the Senate.


DHS Director Gets Grilled By Legislators Regarding Closure Of Mental Health Institutes

 DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The head of the Iowa Department of Human Services is defending the decision to close two state mental health facilities and switch the state's Medicaid program to private management.
     DHS Director Charles Palmer told the Senate Human Resources Committee on Thursday that the department was facing budget shortfalls when he recommended closing the facilities in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant. He says despite complaints about space, patients will be able to seek treatment elsewhere.
     Palmer says the plan to switch Medicaid to managed care will also improve care to patients, which include the poor and individuals with disabilities.
     The Democratic-controlled Senate must confirm Palmer's appointment for him to continue on the job.
     Some lawmakers expressed reservations about the upcoming changes. Palmer says he's committed to working with lawmakers on their concerns.


Thursday News, March 19

Fire Reported At Prime Living Apartments

(Le Mars) -- For the second time in a few weeks the Le Mars Fire and Rescue Department responded to the Prime Living Apartments located at 108 1st Avenue northwest for a reported fire.  The call was at approximately 5:40 p.m. Wednesday afternoon.  Apparently a disgarded cigarette was responsible for igniting some dry leaves and other vegetation on fire.  Smoke had entered the assisted living apartment complex and fire fighters needed to use fans to help ventilate the smoke.  There were no injuries, and fire fighters were on the scene for a few minutes.


Vehicle Going The Wrong Direction Results In Fatal Accident

(Sioux City) -- Officers of the Sioux City Police Department responded to a two vehicle head-on accident that happened Wednesday morning at about 10:30 a.m.  The accident happened on Highway 20 where it overpasses the I-29 south ramps.  Based on preliminary investigation, a 1995 Dodge truck was traveling eastbound in the westbound lanes of Highway 20 next to the center median.  It is believed the operator of the Dodge truck had entered onto the wrong lanes of Highway 20 from somewhere in South Sioux City.  A 2012 Chrysler van was traveling westbound on Highway 20 in the left lane.  The Dodge truck was being driven by an 84 year old Sioux city woman and the Chrysler van was occupied by a female driver and a child from South Sioux city.  The operator of the Dodge truck was the only occupant of that vehicle and had to be extrcated from the vehicle by the Sioux City Fire Department.  The woman driving the Dodge truck was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.  The female operator and child passenger of the Chrysler van were transported to a local hospital to be evaluated for what is believed to be non-life threatening injuries.  The names of the accident victims are not being released at this time.  The accident remains under investigation.


CF Industries Official Tallks About Plant Expansion At Agri-Business Luncheon

(Le Mars) -- Attendees of the Le Mars Chamber of Commerce Agri-business luncheon held Wednesday were informed about the expansion plans for the CF Industries fertilizer plant located at Port Neal near Sergeant Bluff.  Nick DeRoos is the General Manager for the fertilizer facility.  He says in 2005 CF Industries went public and in 2010 it acquired the former Terra Industries, and in November of 2012 CF Industries announced its expansion plans.

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DeRoos says there were many reasons why CF Industries chose the Port Neal site for its two billion dollar expansion project.  He says natural gas prices in North America are now lower, and it sits within its prime marketing region.

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The CF Industries official says several hundred people will be hired by contractors as it expands its operations.

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He says a permanent workforce for the new fertilizer plant will increase from 125 employees to nearly 250 employees.


Kruse Challenges Luncheon Attendees To Use Higher Blends Of Ethanol

(Le Mars) -- The key-note speaker at yesterday's agricultural business luncheon, David Kruse of Commstock Investments shared with the more than 250 attendees some comparisons and differences between the conditions from the 1980's ag crisis and today.  Kruse indicated although commodity prices are low again, today's conditions are not the same.  One area of noticible differences is interest rates.  Back in the early 1980's, interest rates were between 12 and 20 percent, where as today's interest rates are generally between 2 and 5 percent.  The market analyist and commentator offered a challenge to the gathering.  He says farmers can increase the value of their corn and stimulate additional demand for corn by simply using a higher blended ethanol than ten percent, especially if they drive flex-fueled vehicles.


Tulip Festival Reveals Costumes And Selects Parade Marshal

ORANGE CITY, IA. – The annual Orange City Tulip Festival Extravaganza was held on Wednesday, March 18. The event featured a luncheon and program during which the costumes for the 2015 Tulip Queen and Court were revealed, the 2015 Parade Marshal was introduced, and the commissioned artwork for the 75th annual festival was unveiled.

Members of the 2015 Tulip Court are Queen Cara Venema, daughter of Dan and Tonya Venema; Jennifer Droog, daughter of Rick and Sue Droog; Sydney Huizenga, daughter of Darren and Dawn Huizenga; Micah Vande Vegte, daughter of Gary and Amy Vande Vegte; and Emily Wielenga, daughter of Kevin and Dixie Wielenga.

Queen Cara and her Court will wear the authentic dress from mid- to late 19th century Friesland. This is the first time the Friesland costume from the era has been introduced at Tulip Festival.  The costumes include voluminous, ankle-length skirts and fitted jackets that feature a v-shaped overlay, fitting over the apron. The Court members’ skirts and jackets are made from a cotton calico fabric, and Queen Cara’s are made of an eggplant-colored satin. The white aprons and shawls worn by the royal Court are lace-edged and feature hand-embroidered, authentic Dutch motifs. Queen Cara’s apron is made of a fine black lace and her shawl is fine white lace edged in lace trim.

The hats worn by the 2015 festival royalty are made of fine white lace that was pleated, starched and sewn to a crown of similar lace. Two gold filigree decorations adorn the Court members’ hats from the year 1900, while Queen Cara’s hat from the year 1860 is embellished with two gold hatpins and four gold filigree decorations.

The Friesland dress is accessorized with gold teardrop earrings, necklaces, bracelets and velvet purses that feature hand-beaded work.

An additional highlight to the Extravaganza was the introduction of this year’s parade marshal. The Tulip Festival Steering Committee was pleased to honor Harley Kleinwolterink as the parade marshal for the 75th annual Tulip Festival.

As a trained carpenter, Kleinwolterink has served the festival for over 20 years through the construction and refurbishing of several parade entries and floats.  Kleinwolterink’s first Tulip Festival project was the construction of the scissors-sharpening cart in the mid-1980s. The cart continues to be pushed in each parade during the Dutch Heritage Walk.  Utilizing his innate craftsmanship, Kleinwolterink has led and assisted with the construction and refurbishing of several floats seen in Tulip Festival parades, belonging to both the festival and First Reformed Church. His work continues in 2015 as he is assisting with the construction of a float celebrating the 75th year of Tulip Festival.


BPI Owners Encouraged Branstad To Dismiss Godfrey

 DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Governor Terry Branstad says the founders of a beef company who were major donors to his political campaign were among those raising concerns about a state official he tried to force out of office.
     In a Nov. 26 deposition released Wednesday, Branstad says Beef Products Inc. founders Eldon and Regina Roth complained about workers' compensation decisions issued under then-Commissioner Chris Godfrey.
     The Roths were the second largest donors to Branstad's 2010 campaign, giving $152,000. Their company makes a lean, finely textured beef. Branstad says concerns from the Roths and other businesses prompted him to seek Godfrey's resignation and later to cut his pay. Godfrey alleges he was targeted because he's gay, which Branstad denies.
     Brandstad's attorney said Wednesday "no one person or business influenced the governor."


Senate Approves Bill To Encourage Time Off From Work To Participate In Caucus

 DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A bill that would allow non-essential workers to take unpaid time off to participate in Iowa's presidential caucuses has received approval in the Senate.
     The Senate voted 26-24 Wednesday along party lines. It now heads to the House, where it is unlikely to advance.
     The legislation would allow a person in Iowa to take up to four hours off to attend the caucuses. The bill would not apply to workers with jobs that affect public health or safety, among others.
     Sen. Robert Dvorsky, a Coralville Democrat leading the bill, says it would increase attendance in Iowa's first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses. Sen. David Johnson, a Republican from Ocheyedan, says the bill is inappropriate because the caucuses are political party events.


Senate Passes Bill To Ban Powered Alcohol

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Senate has passed a bill that would ban people in Iowa from buying powdered alcohol.
     The Senate voted 48-2 Wednesday in support of the legislation. It now heads to the House, where lawmakers are considering a similar bill.
     The legislation would prohibit a person or business with a liquor license or permit in Iowa from selling powdered alcohol, which is not currently available in the state.
     Powdered alcohol is supposed to be consumed by mixing it with water. Federal officials approved this month the sale of a powdered alcohol product called Palcohol. But critics say young people and others may abuse it. Several states have either banned powdered alcohol or are considering a ban.
     Supporters of powered alcohol say its use is misunderstood.


Auditor Questions Health Department's Spending On Computers

 DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A state audit of the four boards operating below the Iowa Department of Public Health has questioned computer equipment purchases made over a three-year period.
     Auditor Mary Mosiman issued a report Wednesday detailing the investigation that questions money the Iowa Board of Pharmacy spent on electronic equipment from July 2001 through August 2014.
     The review was conducted after concerns were raised about how employees are reimbursed.
     The report says the pharmacy board spent $42,553 to repay employees for technology-related charges, including $19,666 for 24 iPads. Mosiman reported that the board didn't follow appropriate purchase protocol and questioned the need for some of the equipment.
     Pharmacy board director Lloyd Jessen tells the Des Moines Register he's retiring at the end of March, but the decision is unrelated to the audit.





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