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Thursday Afternoon News, March 26

Iowa Population Increases In Des Moines, But Declines In Rural Areas

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The latest U.S. Census estimates show the Des Moines metro area is growing quickly while most Iowa counties have declining populations.

According to data released Thursday, the Des Moines-West Des Moines metro area population reached an estimated 611,549, up 7.4 percent from the 2010 U.S. Census. The majority of Iowa counties, however, saw declines, as only 31 of 99 experienced an uptick.

The data show Dallas County had a 17 percent increase, the largest among Iowa counties. The biggest decline was in Fremont County, where population dropped 5.6 percent.

All of Iowa's nine metro areas saw growth. The Iowa City metro led the pack, up 7.7 percent since 2010.

Gary Krob, coordinator of the State Data Center, says having growth across Iowa rather than concentrated in one area is promising.




Clarinda Mental Health Patients Being Moved

CLARINDA, Iowa (AP) - Officials from Clarinda Mental Health have begun to transfer mentally ill senior citizens from the institution to private nursing homes.

A spokeswoman for the state facility confirmed Wednesday that only about a dozen patients, who are considered to be some of the toughest cases the institution handles, will be affected. The institute itself is scheduled to close July 1.

The Department of Human Services says that it is looking for safe placements for the senior citizens. Patient advocates say most of the senior citizens in the program were placed in the institution because private facilities found them too difficult to handle.

Department spokeswoman Amy McCoy said that some of the transfers have taken place, but declined to say how many of the residents have been moved.




Prison Contractor Blames Constant Changes For Increased Costs

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The contractor seeking an additional $18.1 million for work on the still-empty Fort Madison prison blames repeated changes, conflicting directives and defective designs.

The Des Moines Register reports ( ) that it reviewed documents filed by Walsh Construction, of Chicago, and responses by Shive-Hattery Architecture Engineering, of Des Moines, which also worked on the prison project. Because the prison still doesn't meet state building code, it remains empty.

Walsh project manager Brian McGinty said in an August 2014 letter to the Iowa Administrative Services Department that Shive-Hattery dismisses any notion that its design might be the problem and tries to blame Walsh and its subcontractors.

But a Shive-Hattery team leader said in a December 2014 letter that Walsh Construction had submitted some incorrect information to the state and made erroneous assumptions.




Janitor Charged For Bringing Gun To School Grounds

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A 39-year-old Des Moines school janitor has been charged with carrying a weapon while working on school grounds.

The Des Moines district says it has fired John Keith, who was arrested Monday. Officers say they found a loaded handgun in Keith's vehicle. A police report says Keith showed the gun to another employee on March 9 and talked about his conceal carry permit.

A police spokesman, Sgt. Jason Halifax, says even people who have legal permits to carry aren't authorized to have guns with them or in their vehicles while on school grounds.

Online court records don't list the name of an attorney for Keith who could be contacted to comment on the case.






Thursday News, March 26

Burn Ban Lifted

(Le Mars) -- Tuesday's half inch of rain has added much needed moisture to the ground, allowing the Plymouth County Fire Department Association the opportunity to consider lifting the burn ban.  According to Dave Schipper, Le Mars Fire Chief and president of the Plymouth County Fire Department Association, the county wide burn ban will be lifted effective Thursday morning, March 26th as of 8:00 a.m.  Schipper says conditions will be monitored closely, and if there is a long duration between rains, a burn ban may again be initiated.


Weather Official Says Know The Difference Between Weather Myths And Weather Facts

(Sioux Falls) -- A meteorologist with the National Weather Services says during this National Severe Weather Awareness Week, it is not only appropriate to recognize potential storms, and to act accordingly when severe weather strikes, but to dispel the many myths associated with severe weather.  According to Todd Heitkamp, lightening, will and does, strike twice in the same spot.

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Other myths involve opening windows and seeking shelter in the southwest corner of a home in case of a tornado.

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Heitkamp says he has heard the myth that a tornado will never cross a body of water.  Again, the meteorologist says that is false.

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If traveling and a tornado should hit, Heitkamp says stay away from under highway overpasses.

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Heitkamp says knowing the difference between weather myths and weather facts may help save your life.




Sioux City Reaches Settlement With Former City Manager Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

(Sioux City) -- A settlement has been reached in the sexual harassment and civil rights lawsuit filed against form city manager Paul Eckert by a city employee.  A statement from city attorney Nicole Jensen says Sioux City will pay $300,000 to Brittany Scott and her attorney to resolve all of her claims in the federal lawsuit.  Scott had sued Eckert in July of 2013 claiming the former city manager began sexually harassing her in the fall of 2000, after she was divorced.  She claimed Eckert created a hostile work environment and retaliated against her in reduced pay and benefits when she rejected his alleged advances.  Scott also claimed she was denied promotions and given undesirable assignments.  Eckert resigned two weeks after the lawsuit was filed to become the city manager of Mount Shasta, California. Last December, Judge Mark Bennett dismissed several of Scott's claims of retaliation against Eckert. The case was scheduled to go to trial next week.  The city attorney statement says the city is pleased the settlement will bring the lawsuit to a conclusion.



Leusink Named Chamber "Employee Of The Month"

(Le Mars) -- The Le Mars Chamber of Commerce acknowledged it "Employee of the Month" this past Friday.  April Leusink, physical therapy assistant with LeMars Physical Therapy, has been a valued employee with us since the start of the practice 8 years ago.  April brings enthusiasm and energy to the clinic that brightens our clients and our staff’s day.  Going through rehabilitation following surgery or an injury is not always an easy task, but April is able to use her talent in motivating that individual to work hard and overcome the obstacles needed to recover.

She is a performance camp leader in our clinic boot camps and our speed/agility Velocity camps as a personal trainer, pushing the clients to reach his/her goals to fitness with a tough love mentality.  She offers words of encouragement to "Suck it up buttercup!" as her motto to never give up, give your best and push yourself to be the person you want to be.  Words and actions she also lives her life by.

We are blessed to have April as a teammate, colleague and friend.  She fully shares her passion to help others, supports our local athletics, involves herself in her church and community, all values LeMars Physical Therapy embodies.  Our congratulations to April Leusink for being named the Chamber "Employee of the Month."



Medical Groups Show Support For Bill To Privatize Medicaid

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Representatives for several medical groups have expressed support for a bill making its way through the Iowa House that would give lawmakers more oversight as the Medicaid program transitions into private managed care.

Lobbyists spoke to a House Human Resources subcommittee Wednesday. The panel plans to discuss the bill further before it can advance to a full committee. The Senate passed the bill unanimously this month.

The legislation would create a commission that provides transition guidelines and offers rules for private managed care contracts.

The switch to private managed care was announced this year by the state Department of Human Services. Some lawmakers have criticized the timeline for the rollout.

A DHS lobbyist says officials are studying the bill, though agency Director Charles Palmer has expressed general support for it.





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