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Tuesday Afternoon News, Feb. 26

Two Le Mars Real Estate Companies Decide To Merge

(Le Mars) -- Two local real estate companies have announced plans to merge their businesses. Property Pros, under the direction of Lisa Wagner and Jim Gergeni and Linda Mayrose Real Estate all of Le Mars will now combine to work under the name of Property Pros.  Mayrose and her agents will be joining the Property Pros group to expand the company's market presence and vision to provide extensive professional real estate services.  Mayrose says about the merger that it is the "best of the best", adding that she will be able to concentrate on the part of real estate she loves, the listing and selling and giving extra special care to clients.  Property Pros will move to the Linda Mayrose Real Estate building at 41 Central Avenue Northwest to accommodate the increased agent roster.


Waterloo School Board Approves Teacher Early Retirement Plan

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) - Across the state, the Waterloo Community Schools board has approved an early retirement incentive that's already been offered to 115 teachers.
The board voted final approval on Monday.
The incentive is aimed at helping cut the budget for the next school year.
If 65 to 80 teachers were to retire, the district could save up to $1.6 million. Officials estimate a savings of $20,000 per teacher as experienced teachers are replaced with less experienced
Teachers must be at least 55 and have 13 years of service in the district to qualify for the incentive. They would receive an annual supplemental benefit of $10,000 for three years after retiring at
the end of the current contract year.

School Districts Concerned Over Affordable Healthcare Act

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Hundreds of Iowa school districts are figuring out what the Affordable Health Care Act will mean to their part-time employees.
The law taking effect in 2014 will force nearly all of Iowa's 348 school districts to extend health insurance benefits to part-timers who work more than 30 hours a week or reduce hours so
those employees wouldn't qualify for benefits. Districts also could opt to be fined for not providing required benefits.
Most school districts employ a number of part-time employees, such as teacher aides, cooks and bus drivers.
Galen Howsare, of the Iowa Association of School Boards, says officials are seeking more information, "but all districts will be affected in some way."


Spending Cuts May Hurt Iowa National Guard

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Gov. Terry Branstad says he's concerned about how automatic federal budget cuts could impact military spending in Iowa.
During an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press, Branstad noted that defense will take a hit in the state if Congress doesn't act on a deficit reduction agreement by Friday. Without action in
Washington, $85 billion in cuts are set to take effect nationally from March through September. That could mean lost funding for the state national guard, as well as other military functions in the
state such as recruiters, engineers and support staff.
Branstad says, "I'm worried about national defense. It takes the biggest hit."
A spokeswoman for the Department of Defense said the automatic cuts mean that about 1,500 civilian military employees in the state could also be furloughed.

Branstad Doesn't Want To Expand Medicaid

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Gov. Terry Branstad says he feels positive about a meeting with federal officials where he delivered the message that he does not plan to expand Medicaid in Iowa.
During a Tuesday press conference, Branstad called his Friday meeting in Washington with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius "cordial." He says he does not want to expand
Medicaid, but pressed Sebelius for a federal waiver to continue IowaCare, a health care program that provides limited benefits to 70,000 low income adults in the state. That program is set to
expire later this year.
Branstad says Iowa will soon provide a full proposal for extending IowaCare.
Critics of Branstad's plan say expanding Medicaid would provide more services to a larger number of people. But Branstad calls an expansion unaffordable.

Computer Hacker May Have Compromised Social Security Accounts

MASON CITY, Iowa (AP) - Officials say a hacker may have gotten Social Security numbers and other personal information on county employees by accessing an Internet-based tool used for the Cerro
Gordo County bank account.
County Treasurer Pat Wright told the Mason City Globe Gazette ( ) on Monday that security safeguards prevented the hacker from stealing any money from the account.
Wright says the hacker gained access to the county's account with Shazam, an Internet-based tool used to create automatic payments and withdrawals.
Officials say 230 of the county's 250 employees have direct deposit of their paychecks through Shazam.
Wright has sent a letter to county employees and about 100 entities that do business with the county, telling them their bank account numbers, bank routing numbers and Social Security numbers
may have been compromised.





Tuesday News, February 26

Le Mars Middle School Teaches Character

(Le Mars) -- At last evening's Le Mars Community School Board meeting, Middle School Principal Steve Shanks along with Middle School staff presented a report regarding the "Character Counts" education program.  Shanks says once a month the district focuses on various topics that help define character.
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Shanks says the "Character Counts" program utilizes film clips from popular movies to help emphasize the importance of character.  The Middle School principal says the program is part of what is known as the "study back" program when students use the last 30 minutes of the day to return to their home rooms and utilize the time to review lessons from the day.  Shanks says the students seem to enjoy the unique educational program.  He says students are encouraged to speak up and openly discuss the topic relating to character.
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Shanks offers an example of how the students were taught the lesson of respect by using a film clip from the movie "Babe".

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And do the students "practice" the different characteristics that make up character?

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Le Mars School District Sets Goals For Proficiency

(Le Mars) -- Each of the Le Mars Community School District principals spelled out the goals of the district in terms of percentage of students achieving proficiency in reading, math, and science.  In each case, the goal of the district is to lower the non-proficiency rating by at least ten percent.


Supervisors To Hear From Sohl

(Le Mars) -- The Plymouth County Board of Supervisors will hear from retiring County Conservation Executive Director, Dennis Sohl. Sohl will be seeking approval from the county governing board for a letter of request for Loess Hills Alliance grant funds, as well as approval for land acquisitions by the Plymouth County Pheasants Forever grant to be transferred to Land Acquisition Trust Fund.  It is also expected that Sohl will present a donation to the county from the Plymouth County Conservation Foundation for the Center for Outdoor Learning project.

Legislature Considers Raising Gas Tax

(Des Moines) -- The Iowa Legislature is considering whether or not to introduce a bill that would increase fuel tax.  The state's share of fuel tax is 22 cents, and it hasn't seen a raise since 1989.  State Senator Bill Anderson of Pierson says there were more state law makers in favor of a fuel tax increase at the start of the general session when the average price of gasoline was hovering around three dollars a gallon, as opposed to today when gasoline costs have gone up more than seventy cents a gallon.

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Anderson,a republican, advocates using a portion of the state's surplus funds for road and bridge repairs.

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Durham To Answer Lawmakers Questions

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority could face tough questioning from legislators about $200 million in tax breaks given to an Egyptian company that
plans to build a fertilizer plant in southeast Iowa.
Director Debi Durham will appear Tuesday before the Senate Way and Means Committee, where Democratic lawmakers are expected to question her about the state's dealings with Cairo-based Orascom Construction Industries. The company plans to invest $1.4 billion to build the plant near Burlington.
Committee chairman Sen. Joe Bolkcom has criticized incentives approved for Orascom, saying the state engaged in "amateur hour" negotiations with the company.
Durham has acknowledged that during those negotiations, the state failed to uncover that a federal lawsuit alleges an Orascom subsidiary improperly won $332 million in U.S.-financed
construction contracts in Egypt.


Rockwell-Collins Gets Contract For Airbus A350 Plane

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) - Cedar Rapids based military contractor and private airlines parts manufacturer Rockwell Collins says it will build the rudder and brake pedal assembly for the new Airbus
A350 passenger jets.
Rockwell Collins also has contracts for communications, information management, landing and navigation systems for the new wide-body jets. The company says its total contract for the newly
designed commercial jet is valued at about $2.5 billion.
More than 600 A350 jets have been ordered by airlines throughout the world.
The jet, made of composite alloys and carbon fiber, is lighter in weight to save fuel. It is designed to carry from 270 to 350 passengers and is expected to be delivered for service next year.


Prep Chefs Win Competition

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) - A team of prep chefs from Waterloo East High School has won the culinary competition at the Iowa ProStart Invitational restaurant competition.
Monday's competition at The Hotel at Kirkwood Center in Cedar Rapids included a competition in management, which was won by the Davenport Community School District team.
The two teams will compete at the National ProStart Invitational in April in Baltimore, Md.
The teams of no more than four students had to develop and price
menu items and then cook them.








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