Wednesday Afternoon News, March 18
House Passes Measure That Changes Arbitration For Teachers
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Republican-controlled Iowa House has approved a bill that would change the arbitration process for teachers and other school employees in the state.
Under the proposal, which passed in a 56-41 vote Wednesday, an arbitrator would have more flexibility in determining final contract terms. Debate over the bill started Tuesday and concluded just after noon Wednesday, after an overnight break.
Currently, if a district cannot reach a labor agreement with teachers or school employees, an arbitrator chooses between two final offers on items like raises. The bill would allow the arbitrator to set a number in the middle.
Republicans say the change would help districts manage their budgets, while Democrats say it would worsen teacher compensation and educational attainment.
The bill is not expected to advance in the Democratic-majority Senate.
Two People Hospitalized From Being Sprayed By Ammonia
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) - Two DuPont employees have been transported to the hospital after a hose sprayed them with liquid ammonia at a Cedar Rapids plant.
The Cedar Rapids Fire Department says rescue crews responded around 7:30 a.m. Wednesday to a report that two men, ages 36 and 45, had been exposed to ammonia at DuPont. They were taken to the hospital Wednesday morning following the splash, and officials say their injuries are not severe.
Fire officials say the employees were unloading a tanker when a hose came loose and squirted them both with liquid ammonia. They say the men's personal protective equipment prevented further exposure and more serious injuries.
The leak has since been contained and cleaned up. The names of the men have not yet been released.
Des Moines Police Arrest Man Believed To Be Responsible For Cigarette Thefts
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Police say they have arrested a man in connection with a string of cigarette thefts throughout Des Moines.
47-year-old Randal Jon Caswell, of Des Moines, was arrested early Wednesday morning. He is charged with eight counts of third-degree theft, one count of ongoing criminal conduct and violation of parole.
Authorities say Caswell stole cigarettes from several area convenience stores and gas stations beginning Feb. 25. He was arrested following a report that he had taken cigarettes from a Casey's General Store, where a witness took down his license plate number. Police say officers then were able to track Caswell down.
Caswell remained in Polk County Jail Wednesday on no bond.
Remembering The Bertrand
MISSOURI VALLEY, Iowa (AP) - The DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa will host events to commemorate a Civil War-era steamboat that sank in the Missouri River.
The refuge group plans to host a weekend of events March 27-29 to highlight the history of the Bertrand that sank on April 1, 1865.
Visitors will be able to see thousands of artifacts that were rescued from the Bertrand after private salvagers discovered the wreckage in what is now the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge.
The Bertrand was making its way to Montana territory with passengers and mining equipment on board when it struck a snag in the shallow river 25 miles north of Omaha. The steamboat's passengers abandoned ship and waded to shore as the boat sank into the mud. All survived, but the cargo was lost.
Board Approves Shooting Range
GRAF, Iowa (AP) - Officials have voted to advance a proposed law enforcement shooting range in eastern Iowa.
The Dubuque County Zoning Board voted 4-2 Tuesday, granting the Dubuque County Drug Task Force permission to use nearly 68 acres of county-owned land southwest of Graf for a law enforcement shooting and training facility. The application now goes to the Dubuque County Zoning Board of Adjustment for final approval.
The approved proposal sets a condition that the facility cannot be used as a shooting range by any entity other than Dubuque County.
Board member Richard Kaufman, who voted against the plan, says his concerns about safety influenced his vote. But Dubuque County Sheriff's Sgt. Gary Pape says the location is the safest option that's also affordable.
Police Arrest McDonald's Manager For Theft
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - Police say they have arrested the manager of an Iowa City McDonald's who is accused of making fake returns to steal money from the restaurant.
The Iowa City Police Department says 22-year-old Cordero L. Graham was arrested on charges of second-degree theft.
Police say Graham processed 121 fraudulent returns from Nov. 16 until Jan. 22 and kept the money from the transactions. According to a police complaint, Graham says he took $1,401.13 from McDonald's.
Graham was released March 12 from the Johnson County Jail. Graham was referred to the public defender's office but has not yet been assigned to an attorney to request comment on his behalf.
Audit Questions Health Department's Computer Purchases
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 says he's retiring at the end of March, but the decision is unrelated to the audit.