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Thursday Afternoon News, Feb. 14

Fertilizer Company Defrauded U-S Government of Millions of Dollars

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - State and local officials in Iowa promised an Egyptian company $200 million in tax breaks to build a fertilizer plant without knowledge of a lawsuit alleging one of the company's subsidiaries defrauded U.S. taxpayers out of millions of dollars.
The Iowa Economic Development Authority and Lee County approved the incentives for a subsidiary of Cairo-based Orascom Construction Industries, which plans to invest $1.4 billion to build the plant
in southeast Iowa.
Authority Director Debi Durham says during vetting, the agency did not uncover the lawsuit filed by the federal government against Contrack International. The lawsuit alleges Contrack was part of a
venture that improperly won $332 million in U.S.-financed construction contracts in Egypt.
Durham says she's "not sure how anyone would have found that" and doesn't consider the case significant.


State Senate Passes 4% Education Funding Bill

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The state Senate has approved legislation that would increase state funding for K-12 schools by 4 percent for the 2014-2015 school year.
The Legislature is required to set school funding more than a year in advance, prompting Thursday's Senate vote. Because lawmakers didn't approve a budget last year, the Senate last month
passed a bill increasing funding for the coming school year.
In the House, Republicans in a committee approved a scaled-backed version of Gov. Terry Branstad's education reform proposals Wednesday night. The revised plan reduces teacher raises
backed by Branstad and lets schools opt-out of minimum salary hikes or leadership bonuses.
The dueling efforts show the distance between the Democratic-majority Senate, the Republican-controlled House. A Branstad spokesman says the governor was encouraged that House
lawmakers were debating education reform.


Police Arrest Mother After Seeing Child Play With Crack Cocaine

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - Police say a 25-year-old Iowa City woman was arrested after officers saw one of the woman's children playing with a rock of crack cocaine.
Officers were dispatched to Tiffany Johnson's apartment after a child called 911 around 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Johnson was there but told officers that she'd left her three kids home alone when she went to a store. Police say that while officers were talking to Johnson, they saw one of her kids playing with the rock of crack. Police say Johnson acknowledged to officers that she sells crack and that she had some stored in her bedroom.
Johnson remained in Johnson County Jail on Thursday. Online court records don't list the name of her attorney.

Lingerie Store Called Adult Entertainment Venue

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) - The owner of a Cedar Rapids store that sells lingerie and sex toys is fighting the city over whether it's an adult entertainment establishment.
Patricia Edmonds has filed a lawsuit in Linn County District Court to reverse the city's decision to label Simply Sensual as an adult entertainment establishment under municipal code. It makes
the store too close to a church, a day care and a residential area.
The Gazette reports Edmonds' attorney says the primary items sold at the store are lingerie, and adult materials take up less than 10 percent of the floor space and are behind a wall.
Edmonds also is asking the court to allow her to operate the store until a ruling is made in the case.


Trial Delayed in Gay Marriage Forgery Case

GRUNDY CENTER, Iowa (AP) - Trial has been delayed for an Iowa court official charged with lying to help a same-sex couple from Florida obtain a marriage license.
A judge cited "ongoing plea negotiations" in delaying Brigitte Van Nice's trial from Wednesday until April 17. Prosecutor Jennifer Miller said Thursday that no plea deal has been finalized. Van Nice is charged with tampering with records, forgery and perjury.
Van Nice is accused of filing false documents claiming she had officiated the Florida couple's Valentine's Day wedding last year in Iowa. Investigators say the ceremony didn't take place and Van Nice faked the signatures of two people she claimed were witnesses.
The men thought they could get married without coming to Iowa.  They paid Van Nice $150.
Van Nice was a deputy clerk in Grundy County.


Davenport To Install Ferris Wheel At Ballpark

DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) - The Davenport City Council has approved an agreement with the owner of the Quad-Cities River Bandits for construction of a Ferris wheel outside Modern Woodmen Park on the
The Quad-City Times reports that the 90-foot-tall ride will sit beyond the left-field fence. The lease deal was approved Wednesday.
Main Street Baseball, which owns the team, will finance the ride's purchase. In his presentation to the council, Main Street managing partner David Heller said plans include a carousel along the right-field line and a zip line that will run from right to left field.
The concrete pad for the Ferris wheel could be laid in April and the wheel delivered and in operation by the middle of June.








Thursday News, February 14

Le Mars Airport Conducts Survey

(Le Mars) -- The city of Le Mars wants your opinions and comments regarding the Le Mars Airport.  Residents and businesses alike are asked to complete a survey about the airport's services.  Earl Draayer is the manager of the Le Mars airport.  He describes the questions found on the survey.

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Draayer says the airport serves an important part of the entire transportation system that supports Le Mars, and for those who may wonder if the airport is being utilized he references the airport to that of a county gravel road.

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Draayer says the majority of the air traffic at Le Mars is business related as opposed to recreational flying. Draayer says he would like to see the airport expand its runway to five thousand feet in order to remain competitive with other regional airports.  However, Draayer admits before that can happen there would need to be some changes done to the Floyd River.
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Those surveys are to be returned by February 27th.


Sioux City Man Arrested After Shooting Dogs

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - A Sioux City man accused of shooting and killing his two dogs faces weapons charges.
Jon Holloway was charged Wednesday with reckless use of a firearm and discharging a gun within city limits. Two animal abuse charges were dismissed due to a filing error, but authorities may
refile them.
The 51-year-old Holloway is accused of shooting the Labradors Tuesday with a rifle in his backyard. An affidavit says Holloway shot them after ordering them separately into their kennel.
Police say Holloway had been arguing with his sister about the dogs being aggressive.
The city's animal control officers took the dogs. Their bodies will be examined.

House Approves Additional Funding For Mental Health Services

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - House lawmakers have approved a bill giving some counties a share of $11.6 million so they continue treatment of mental health patients as the state transitions to a
regional system.
The bill now moves to the Senate.
The measure approved Wednesday would give money to 26 of 32 counties seeking extra help to last through this fiscal year.
The Department of Human Services selected 26 counties whose budgets were hurting the most. Polk County, the state's largest, and others wouldn't get funding because officials say they can
manage without help.
An amendment by Democratic Rep. Lisa Heddens, of Ames, seeking $20 million to cover all counties seeking funding was rejected.
With the lower figure, Polk County mental health administrator Lynn Ferrell says 950 people in the county could lose treatment.

State Senate To Discuss Education Funding

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - State senators are planning to debate a proposal to increase state funding to schools for the 2014-2015 academic year.
On Thursday the Senate was scheduled to vote on the plan. The Legislature is supposed to set school funding more than a year in advance. That didn't happen last year, so the Democratic-controlled
Senate has already passed a bill that would increase funding for the coming school year by 4 percent.
Democrats have been at odds with Gov. Terry Branstad over education. Branstad is encouraging legislators in the Republican-majority state House to approve his education reform plan before discussing general school funding levels for the next two school years.
Branstad's plan would boost minimum teacher pay and offer incentives to teachers who take on more tasks.

Lawyer Claims Age Discrimination For Reason Not Hired

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - A court has refused to grant a new trial to a Michigan lawyer who claims the University of Iowa law school passed him over for a teaching job because of his age.
The Iowa Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that Donald Dobkin won't get a second trial in his age discrimination claims, which a jury rejected last year.
Dobkin applied for a teaching position in 2008, citing experience leading a large immigration law firm and other qualifications. A 32-year-old was offered the position. Dobkin claimed he was passed over because he was 55.
Dobkin's appeal argued that a judge erred by not allowing jurors to see an article by former North Dakota Attorney General Nicholas Spaeth about age discrimination in law schools.
The court says the article was inadmissible hearsay.


Waterloo Teachers Asked To Take Early Retirement

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) - More than 100 teachers in Waterloo have been asked to consider early retirement.
Television station KWWL reports the Waterloo Community School District has mailed letters to 115 teachers about an incentive to retire early.
Spokeswoman Sharon Miller says the district needs to cut between $3 million and $5 million of its budget. She says eligible teachers should have received the letters by Wednesday.
Miller says the Waterloo School Board could approve the retirement incentives as early as February 25th.


Accounting Students To Help With Tax Forms

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (AP) - Accounting students at the University of Northern Iowa are helping people prepare their taxes.
The students are providing free income tax assistance through a volunteer program that began Wednesday and generally runs through April 10. International students can get assistance beginning March 11.
Sessions are Mondays and Wednesdays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. No appointment is necessary, but organizers encourage taxpayers to arrive early.
Students will be available to electronically prepare and e-file federal and Iowa tax returns.





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