Friday News, May 24
Le Mars Improves Its Insurance Services Organization Rating
(Le Mars) -- The city of Le Mars ranks among the top four percent of communities both statewide and nationwide in terms of its insurance services organization rating from fire protection. Dave Schipper, fire chief for Le Mars, says it was a long term committment by everyone to achieve the high rating, dating back to action taken by the previous fire chief and the community starting in the late 1980's. He says officials surveyed Le Mars to determine the high insurance rating. Schipper says with the high rating, it could mean lower insurance premiums for residents and businesses.
Schipper says improvements with the equipment, addition of staff, fire fighter training, access and distances, and the improvements made with Le Mars water system, including the number of hydrants, the ability to pump water at necessary flows have all helped Le Mars achieve the better rating. Schipper says now Le Mars has to take the necessary steps to maintain the high insurance rating.
Blood Belonging To Missing Girl Found On Truck
DAYTON, Iowa (AP) - Law enforcement officials and volunteers are continuing to search for a 15-year-old Iowa girl who was kidnapped, even though the chances of finding her alive have diminished.
Division of Criminal Investigation agent Bill Kietzman said 10-member teams will search Friday in an expanded area of central Iowa for Kathlynn Shepard.
Police say 42-year-old Michael Klunder convinced Kathlynn and a 12-year-old friend to get into his truck while they were walking home from school. They say he took them to a hog confinement
building, where their hands were tied with zip ties. The 12-year-old broke free and ran through the woods to safety. Klunder was found dead hours later after hanging himself at another rural
Authorities announced Thursday they found Kathlynn's blood on Klunder's truck and at the hog building.
Legislature Fails To Pass Over 1000 Bills
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The 2013 Iowa Legislature approved plenty of high-profile measures, but many more bills died during the session.
Officials filed 1,105, and most didn't clear the Legislature. Among the failed efforts were proposals to increase oversight of traffic cameras, require suicide prevention training for teachers and help pay for improvements at the Iowa Speedway.
House Minority Leader Representative Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines says some lawmakers have been fighting for some measure for years to no avail.
Republican Senator Mark Chelgren of Ottumwa says it can be frustrating, but it's part of governing. He notes that if not for two parties and different ideas, "we'd have legislation that kind
of runs away."
Low Income Health Care Bill Last To Pass
(Des Moines) -- One measure that was able to pass and in doing so prevented the state lawmakers from returning to Des Moines for a special session is the health care bill for low income Iowans. For the longest time, Republicans, led by Governor Terry Branstad did not want to expand Medicaid feeling it was not sustainable and the state would not be able to afford the added expense once the federal government passed many of the responsibilities and costs on to states. Democrats, however, believed the expansion of Medicaid through the federally backed Affordable Health Care Act would be needed. Senator Bill Anderson of Pierson says he was surprised to see a compromise evolve during the last hours of the legislative session. He refers to the bill as a hybrid bill.
Although the bill passed, Anderson says he did not vote for the measure because it contained a provision that would allow tax payer money to help finance abortions.
Branstad Request Presidential Declaration For 19 Iowa Counties
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Governor Terry Branstad has requested a presidential disaster declaration to help 19 Iowa counties affected by severe weather last month.
Branstad wants to use public assistance funds to rebuild roads, bridges and other damaged infrastructure affected by heavy rains, thunderstorms and flooding between April 17th and April 30th. The money also can be used to cover emergency work and debris removal.
Branstad signed a letter Thursday that will be delivered to President Barack Obama. It requests the declaration for areas along a swath of central, eastern and southern Iowa, including Appanoose,
Cedar and Warren counties.
Officials say the 19 counties sustained an estimated $8.9 million in damage that could be eligible for public assistance funds.
Regents To Freeze Tuition
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Board of Regents is following up on its promise of freezing tuition at Iowa's public universities now that an education budget is in the books.
The board says the undergraduate tuition freeze, which will be applied for the 2013 to 2014 school year, will be the first in 30 years.
The Legislature approved the $897 million higher education budget last week. It increases the board's budget by 2.6 percent - or $12 million - which is something officials said was needed for
the freeze to happen.
The budget also gives $10 million to the University of Northern Iowa.
Interim Board President Bruce Rastetter called the budget a testament to the Legislature and "the value these institutions provide."
The Iowa Legislature adjourned its session Thursday.
Derailed Cars Removed From River
CHARLES CITY, Iowa (AP) - Iowa officials say three ethanol cars have been removed from the Little Cedar River following a train derailment east of Charles City.
The state Department of Natural Resources says the cars are being analyzed to determine how much ethanol went into the river. Officials said earlier that ethanol was leaking from at least two
The train derailment late Monday caused the cars and three locomotives to partially submerge into the river. Workers continue to try to remove the locomotives. At leave one was leaking diesel fuel earlier.
The Canadian Pacific Railroad says floating booms and absorbent pads are trying to capture as much of the fuel as possible.
Monitors installed downstream show normal oxygen levels in the river.
Officials Say Stay Away From Cedar River
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) - The Cedar Rapids Fire Department is cautioning boaters to stay off the Cedar River for part of this weekend due to high water.
Cedar Rapids prohibits boats from being in the river when the level is 13 feet or higher.
Because recent rains earlier this week are expected to cause the river to swell above 13 feet, barricades will be placed in front of boat ramps from 8 p.m. Friday until 8 a.m. Sunday.
The river is considered dangerous for boating during high water because of strong currents and rapidly moving debris.
Cedar River Flooding Means Park To Be Closed
WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) - Flooding from the Cedar River will keep a state park in northeast Iowa closed through the Memorial Day holiday weekend.
The state Department of Natural Resources says the George Wyth State Park could potentially reopen for day use activities on Monday if there is no additional rainfall in the Cedar River watershed.
But officials say the campground will likely remain closed until Wednesday. That will allow floodwater to recede and give workers time to check electrical boxes.
The DNR plans to provide status updates through the park's phone system, and people with reservations for the affected days will be offered full refunds.
Spring Produce Could Be Bountiful
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey says growers are hopeful for a bountiful crop of spring produce that could begin showing up at farmers markets soon.
Northey says a cool spring delayed the crop a bit, but the weather has improved and timely spring rain and the lack of a killing frost could produce a big harvest.
Produce such as strawberries, asparagus and rhubarb is beginning to become available, and later crops such as radishes, carrots, green beans and leafy greens should be harvested soon.
The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship's website lists the state's farmers markets as well as farm stands and many farms where people can buy produce. Go to
www.IowaAgriculture.gov , and click on Data Searches and Directories on the bottom right side of the page.