Friday News, November 7
Interstate 29 To Close For Weekend While Overpass Is Demolished
SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - Iowa officials are warning drivers of a detour while they demolish an overpass on Interstate 29 that has been repeatedly struck by vehicles hauling tall loads.
The Iowa Department of Transportation will close the interstate in both directions starting at 8 p.m. on Friday at the Port Neal interchange to destroy the bridge near Salix. They hope that replacing older bridges will taller ones will reduce frequent crashes.
Transportation planner Dakin Schultz says that traffic will be detoured onto new interchange ramps. Officials plan to reopen the interstate at 6 a.m. on Monday.
A tractor-trailer struck the bottom of the overpass with a sand silo it was carrying last month. The driver was taken to an area hospital and released.
Last Remants Of Argosy Casino Floated Down the River
SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - The final remnants of Sioux City's floating casino have been towed away.
A tugboat on Thursday hauled off a barge containing offices, signage and other elements left behind by the Argosy Casino. It is headed to a large shipyard in Wood River, Illinois, operated by a marine business that bought the casino after it closed in July.
A former casino riverboat is docked at the same shipyard. The replica of a 1920s paddlewheel boat left Sioux City on Oct. 7 and arrived in Illinois on Oct. 20 after a journey hampered by temporary delays.
Owner Mike Marko says he will try to sell the boat and barge structures.
Grassley Hopeful More Work Will Get Done In Congress
(New Hartford) -- Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley is optimistic with the newly elected Republican controlled Senate along with the Republican controlled House of Representatives, that legislation will be moved through Congress, and as he says "move the ball down the court" with few roadblocks. However, Grassley is not certain whether President Obama will want to work with the new Congress, or if he will simply veto many of the introduced bills.
Grassley offers examples of how Nevada Senator and Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid refused to allow any controversial legislation to be introduced in the U-S Senate.
Ernst Receives Phone Call From President Obama
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa's new Senator-elect Joni Ernst got a congratulatory phone call from President Barack Obama this week.
A White House official said Thursday that Ernst was among the election winners Obama called Wednesday. The Republican from Red Oak beat Democrat Bruce Braley for the Senate seat long held by Democrat Tom Harkin.
Ernst spokeswoman Caitlin Conant declined to comment on the conversation.
Throughout the campaign Ernst was critical of Obama and his administration and sought to tie Braley to the unpopular president.
Branstad To Vacation In Italy
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Gov. Terry Branstad is heading off to Italy for a post-election vacation with his wife.
Branstad said Thursday that he'll take an 11-day trip starting Friday that will include Rome and Florence. He'll be back to work in the state Capitol on Nov. 19.
The incumbent Republican governor cruised to victory Tuesday over Democratic challenger Jack Hatch. Branstad, who was elected to a sixth non-consecutive term, raised millions, drew big name surrogates and touted his recent policy achievements, including a property tax cut.
When he returns from vacation, Branstad will prepare for the next legislative session, which starts in January.
Iowa Finance Authority Offers Grants To Communities To Help With Homeless
(Des Moines) -- The Iowa Finance Authority Board of Directors recently awarded $824,655 in grants to twenty-five organizations to assist homeless and domestic violence shelters with costs associated with providing essential services and emergency shelter operations. The funding is made available through the Shelter Assistance Fund program.
“The grants will have a direct impact on thousands of Iowans in need of assistance and will provide many positive ripple effects to communities all throughout Iowa,” according to Iowa Finance Authority Executive Director Dave Jamison. He says, “The Iowa Finance Authority is proud to partner with these organizations to support their vital work in serving some of Iowa’s most vulnerable citizens in 79 Iowa counties.”
Shelter Assistance Fund applications are accepted on an annual basis and are judged through a competitive process. The Iowa Finance Authority received 28 eligible applications for the 2015 round requesting more than $1.2 million in funding. The program is funded with proceeds from the Real Estate Transfer Tax.
The Family Crisis Centers of Northwest Iowa, located in Sioux Center, will receive $47,500. In Sioux City, four agencies are slated to receive funding. They include: The Salvation Army of Siouxland with $27,446; Shesler Hall with $12,000; The Council on Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence will receive $42,075; and the Community Action Agency of Siouxland will receive $34,121.
The Iowa Council on Homelessness reports that 18,810 Iowans experienced homelessness in 2013 and a total of 11,811 were served by a shelter.
Shenandoah School Superintendent Fired For Fraud
SHENANDOAH, Iowa (AP) - A western Iowa schools superintendent has been fired following allegations he committed fraud and policy violations.
Members of the Shenandoah school board unanimously voted to immediately remove Jeff Hiser this week after a nearly two-hour closed session. Hiser didn't attend the meeting and had been on leave since last month.
A school board member says Hiser submitted fraudulent reimbursements for expenses, violated district policies regarding leave requests and obstructed the board's investigation.
He has had been superintendent since 2011 after a career in public service that included serving as mayor.
Hiser couldn't be reached for comment on Thursday.
Pharmacy Owner Pleads Guilty To Distribution Of Painkillers
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A Des Moines pharmacy owner accused of illegally selling tens of thousands of addictive painkillers has pleaded guilty to charges as part of a deal with prosecutors.
Mark Graziano said Thursday in court that his popular pharmacy was a major source of narcotic pills for drug dealers. He pleaded guilty to two federal felony counts of drug conspiracy and tax evasion.
The plea deal drops 16 charges and recommends a few years in a minimum-security prison camp.
Graziano's pharmacy was raided in 2012 amid allegations that he and another man, Michael Enloe, illegally sold about 700,000 hydrocodone pills. For years, Graziano denied any wrongdoing. Enloe pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of conspiracy to distribute drugs.
Graziano and Enloe will be sentenced in February.