Wednesday News, February 20
New Veterans Affairs Director Appointed
(Le Mars) -- Plymouth County has a new Director of Veteran's Affairs. He is Wayne Thieman and he was given approval by the Plymouth County Board of Supervisors during their weekly meeting held Tuesday. Thieman is retired from working with the Floyd Valley Hospital, but he has previous experience of handling veterans issues. Early in his career, Thieman worked at the Veterans Hospital located at Knoxville, Iowa. He says he is a veteran who wants to help other veterans.
Thieman says his responsibility will be to work with veterans and identify potential benefits that they may be missing.
The new county Veterans' Affairs Director is uncertain as to how many veterans reside in Plymouth County, but he says he is comfortable with the position.
City Council Approves Budget -- Tax Levy Set At $13.50
(Le Mars) -- The Le Mars City council approved the next fiscal year's budget with a tax levy amounting to $13.50 which would generate nearly $3.5 million for the city's general fund and leaving the city with a surplus of funds of more than $75,000.
Le Mars Resident Requests To Have Chickens For Home-grown Eggs
(Le Mars) -- Should a resident of Le Mars be allowed to have chickens at their home? That question was posed to the city council during Tuesday's meeting. Jeremy White appeared before the city council to ask permission to have four hens on his property. White says he wants the chickens for home-grown eggs.
White lives at 309 7th Avenue Southwest. He says he has not yet spoken to his neighbors about his request.
The city council took no action on the request, but tabled the manner for future discussions.
Christian Needs Center Celebrates 25 Years
And that's how Steve Kolker came up with the idea that is now the Le Mars Christian Needs Center, celebrating 25 years in Le Mars with an open house tomorrow. Back in 1988, Steve found out that Mid Sioux was going to be closing their food and clothing pantry. He then banded together with different area churches and then made a connection with Plymouth County Food for Life, an organization in which farmers contributed injured but healthy livestock for processing. In November of 1988, 20 members came together for their first meeting, and The Christian Needs Center was established.
At that same time Gehlen Catholic decided they would combine their resources with the Center, and Kolker said their first donation was given by an outside service group.
He found a closet at St. John's to keep things in temporarily until he found a small 3 room space on 2nd St SW to rent. Where was the rent going to come from?
And that was the beginning of things falling into place for the Christian Needs Center. After only a few months in operation 99 families had been served with clothing and 63 families with food. The yearly expenses early on were right around $15,500. After a year in operation, it was obvious that more space would be needed and they found the space on 6th Street SW, where they still operate from today. The facility now assists an average of 45 families with food per month and 96 families per month with clothing. Today's expenses are approximately $32,500 annually.
Volunteers are always needed, as well as food donations, gently used clothes and cash donations. The Christian Needs Center is open Monday through Wednesday. Tomorrow they will be open for a special open house to celebrate 25 years and to showcase the newly remodeled garage portion of the building. Volunteer and center founder Steve Kolker says the Christian Needs Center has been successful in the community for many reasons, but first and foremost he says it's built on the right foundation: faith.
Join the center for their open house tomorrow: 9:30- 11:30am and 4-6pm.
Legislators Consider Tougher Texting While Driving Laws
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Senate lawmakers are considering a bill that toughens Iowa's restrictions against texting while driving.
A subcommittee debated the legislation Tuesday. Under the bill, distracted driving - including texting on a mobile phone - would become an offense that police could use to make a traffic stop.
The legislation did not advance Tuesday. Lawmakers expressed concern the language was too general, while a lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa said the broad definitions
could lead to racial profiling.
Iowa law forbids texting while driving as a secondary offense, so police cannot pull drivers over simply for texting and driving.
The proposed bill would expand the banned behavior beyond just texting, to include any activity that could distract drivers.
Cities Given Authority For Strip Clubs
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Members of a House subcommittee have cleared a measure that would give Iowa cities authority to regulate what happens inside strip clubs.
A three-member judiciary subcommittee advanced a bill Tuesday that would give local governments power to put restrictions on what happens inside nude dancing establishments.
The state Supreme Court ruled in a split decision last year that nude dancing is protected from regulation under state law, but the court did not say whether such restrictions are unconstitutional.
Dave Adelman of the Metropolitan Coalition says local authorities should have the ability to decide what takes place in an establishment. Rita Bettis of the ACLU says the bill violates the constitutional right to free speech and expression.
The bill now moves to the full House Judiciary Committee.
Hostess Workers Eligible For Federal Benefits
WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) - Iowa workers who lost jobs when Hostess Brands went out of business are eligible for federal income, training and job search benefits.
The maker of Twinkies and other snacks ceased operations in November, laying off dozens of workers at a Waterloo bakery and distribution center, as well as truck drivers and local retail
employees in Iowa.
U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin announced Tuesday that those employees are eligible for federal Trade Adjustment Assistance after a federal investigation found that increased imports of baked products
affected the company's sales.
The workers will be eligible for benefits similar to extended unemployment insurance, training assistance, job search and relocation allowances, and other benefits.
Harkin says the aid will help them "learn new skills, get back on their feet, and continue to support their families."
Lawmakers Work On Education Bills
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Lawmakers have approved a plan to increase funding for K-12 schools in the next two academic years, but debate over whether to approve a watered-down version of Gov.
Terry Branstad's education reform proposal is ongoing.
Iowa House members began debating the governor's plan Tuesday evening. The discussions were expected to run late into the night.
Branstad's plan aims to improve Iowa schools by boosting minimum teacher pay and offering bonuses to senior teachers who take on tasks such as mentoring. But Republicans scaled back the plan last week, including allowing school districts to opt-out of the reforms.
Under the revision, minimum teacher salary increases would be up to $32,000 for participating districts.
Branstad's spokesman says the governor is confident districts would opt in.
Upper Iowa Looking For New President
FAYETTE, Iowa (AP) - A private university in northeast Iowa has hired consultants to help find its new leader.
Officials at Upper Iowa University in Fayette are working with AGB Search of Washington, D.C., to lead a nationwide search for the new president. They say a new leader should be in place this summer.
The hire would replace Alan Walker, who resigned in early January after taking a sabbatical scheduled to end in June. He had led the university since 2004.
University officials say the search committee is composed of students, faculty, staff, alumni and trustees.
USDA And World Food Prize Set Agreement
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the World Food Prize Foundation have signed an agreement to expand opportunities for college students by enhancing the Wallace-Carver Internship program.
The agreement, signed Tuesday in Des Moines by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Kenneth Quinn, president of the World Food Prize Foundation, allows up to 120 students to apply for the internship program each year. Last year program selected 16 interns.
Students participating in World Food Prize youth programs may apply for internships with the USDA. Those chosen as interns participate in a weeklong orientation at the USDA headquarters in
Washington. Interns then will work at various USDA agencies and offices around the country.
Interns receive an individual development plan, a mentor, and training.
Fed Reserve Bank Reports Land Values On The Rise
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) - The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago says its survey showed Iowa farmland values rose 20 percent during 2012, a year in which the state struggled with drought.
The bank's survey echoes the Iowa State University's annual Iowa Land Value Survey, which is conducted in November. The ISU survey said the value of an average acre of good Iowa farmland rose almost 24 percent from October 2011 to October 2012.
The bank's survey of 212 agricultural banks across the 7th Federal Reserve District found farmland values rose even faster during the last
quarter of 2012, as possible tax increases loomed for 2013.