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Thursday News, March 28

Union Pacific To Repair Central Avenue Rail Crossing

(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 today (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 today.


Le Mars Mainstreet Receives High Marks

(Le Mars) -- The Le Mars Mainstreet organization was given high marks following an evaluation by state government officials.  Thom Guzman of the Iowa Economic Development Authority, the entity that oversees the state's 49 different Mainstreet programs, says the Le Mars Mainstreet program has been making great strides during its 18 years of existence.
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Guzman cited a few specific examples of how Le Mars Mainstreet has made progress. 

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The Director of Iowa Downtown Resource Center says Le Mars has several ambitious goals in mind, but what it lacks is a proper fund raising financial plan in order to see the goals become reality.  But Guzman had compliments for the town on its branding image saying we are the ice cream capital of the world.  Guzman says in the beginning it had no meaning since the people of Le Mars were not illustrating the point.  He says it is noticeably different today.

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Le Mars Mainstreet Coordinator Mary Reynolds explains why the evaluation visits are important to the Mainstreet program.
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Easter Egg Hunt Scheduled for Saturday At Cleveland Park

(Le Mars) -- 15,000 eggs, that's right- 15 THOUSAND! That's how many Easter treats will be hidden around Cleveland Park for the 3rd Annual BoDeans Baking Group and the Le Mars Area Chamber of Commerce Main Street Program Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday morning.
Mary Reynolds, Main Street Program Director, says the event keeps getting bigger every year.

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It takes about 40 volunteers to get all 15,000 eggs hidden, and if you'd like to be a part of it, just show up at the park around 9am Saturday morning.
Reynolds said that the actual hunting of the Easter Eggs begins at 11am, and that the Easter Bunny will be arrival prior to the hunt.

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The event is free of charge as all prizes are being provided by Le Mars area business that donated candy and prizes to fill the eggs. 
Eggs should be opened at the park, as some prize certificates need to be redeemed on-site.  Again, participation is open to 2-6 year olds, and everyone should bring their own baskets for egg pick-up at the 3rd Annual BoDeans Baking Group and the Le Mars Area Chamber of Commerce Main Street Program Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday morning. The Easter Bunny will be arriving to Cleveland Park at 10 and the hunt begins at 11.


Sioux City Man Sentenced 20 Years For Bank Robbery

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - A Sioux City man faces up to 20 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to bank robbery.
Federal prosecutors say 27-year-old Johnnie Hawkins, of Sioux City, entered his plea Wednesday in federal court in Sioux City.
Prosecutors say Hawkins brandished a stolen .40-caliber semi-automatic handgun on Nov. 10 when he robbed the Heritage Bank in Sioux City. Prosecutors say Hawkins had confronted and threatened an employee while she was opening the bank. He got away with nearly $6,000.
Hawkins' sentencing date hasn't been set.


Inmate Dies In Woodbury County Jail

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - Authorities are investigating the death of an inmate at a county jail in western Iowa.
The Woodbury County Sheriff's Office says 35-year-old Anthony Josta of Sioux City was found unconscious Tuesday night in his cell at the Woodbury County Jail. Authorities do not suspect suicide or
foul play.
Jail officials say they found Josta alone in his cell. The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation is looking into the death, which is a normal procedure.
An autopsy is scheduled Thursday at the Iowa State Medical Examiner's Office in Ankeny.
Josta had been jailed since Saturday after being arrested on a warrant for contempt of court.

Convicted Murderer May Have Sentence Commuted

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) - Supporters of an inmate serving life in prison for a 1974 murder are urging Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad to commute his sentence so he can be released, and even the victim's
family members say they've forgiven him.
The statements came Wednesday during a public hearing called by Branstad to gather input on whether he should commute the sentence of 66-year-old Rasberry Williams, which the Iowa Board of Parole has recommended.
Branstad has until early May to decide. Commuting the sentence would allow Williams to become eligible for parole after 38 years in prison for the murder of 40-year-old Lester Givhan outside a
pool hall.
Three former inmates who served with Williams credited him with helping them turn their lives around. Two of Givhan's cousins say the family has forgiven Williams.


Tax Preparer Awaits Trial

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) - An eastern Iowa tax preparer has been released from custody while he awaits trial on charges that he helped taxpayers falsely claim business income.
Keith A. Rath of Shellsburg was arrested last week by IRS agents after a grand jury indicted him on 8 counts of aiding in the preparation and presentation of a false tax return.
The indictment claims that on 8 occasions between 2008 and 2010, Rath helped clients falsely claim thousands of dollars in business income that he knew they did not earn.
Rath has pleaded not guilty to the charges and trial has been scheduled for May 20. A judge has ordered Rath not to have any contact with the taxpayers mentioned in the indictment in the


Branstad To Meet With Sixth Graders For Mansion Tour

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Gov. Terry Branstad will meet with Iowa students whose White House tour was canceled due to automatic federal budget cuts.
Branstad on Thursday is scheduled to welcome students from St. Paul's Lutheran School in Waverly to the state Capitol and the governor's mansion, Terrace Hill. Branstad will give them the tours
of the mansion and his offices.
The sixth-graders' White House visit was canceled when tours were suspended due to across-the-board government spending cuts amid partisan budget battles.
The students posted a video on Facebook asking that tours be reinstated, but they couldn't enter the White House during a trip earlier this month.
Republicans have argued money should be shifted to restore tours, but the White House says stopping the tours prevented more furloughs of Secret Service agents.


Branstad Charts Different Course On Education

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - As his Republican peers in other states search for ways to cut public school funding, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad is charting a different course. He's doubling down on
Branstad was elected in 2010 as part of a resurgent GOP. But he's made proposals many Republicans would sneer at: raising minimum teacher salaries and offering incentive pay for teachers
who take on more responsibilities - all by tapping $187 million in new school funding.
It's an approach that reflects the lives of Iowa families, who send nearly all of their children to public schools and have felt deeply connected to local districts for generations.
The governor wants to address falling test scores. And he says he's willing to invest more resources if it can be done "in an intelligent way."


Teenage Drivers Face Tougher Rules

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa's teen drivers would face tougher rules under a bill that passed the Senate.
Senators approved the legislation in a 41-8 vote Wednesday. Under the plan from Democratic Senator Tod Bowman, drivers under the age of 18 would need to hold a learner's permit for a full year
before getting a license.
Teen drivers also would not be able to transport more than one unrelated minor, unless they are with a parent, guardian or driving instructor, for the first six months they hold a license.
Parents could sign a waiver so the passenger rules would not apply to their kids.
Bowman says teen drivers are far more accident-prone than older motorists.
The bill now moves the House where lawmakers must provide approval.   



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.

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
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.




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