Wednesday News, March 26
Grass Fires Continue For Area Fire Departments
(Kingsley) -- Grass fires continue to be a problem for area fire departments. Tuesday afternoon, the Kingsley Fire Department was called to offer assistance to a grass fire located in Woodbury County. The fire was located at 1437 Garner Avenue. In addition to Kingsley, the Pierson, Moville, Lawton, Bronson, and Sioux City fire departments all responded to the cornfield fire. Kingsley was on the scene of that grass fire for two hours. Meanwhile, the Akron Fire Department was also called to battle a grass field fire. The Akron Fire Department was dispatched to 16824 Weber Road at about 1:30 p.m. and remained on the scene for nearly two hours.
Severe Weather Awareness Week
(Le Mars) -- This is Iowa Severe Weather Awareness Week. A week designated to alert people of the possible dangers of thunder storms, hail storms, and tornadoes. Many communities across the state, including Le Mars, will test their early warning sirens between 10:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. this morning. Businesses, factories, health care facilities, and schools are encouraged to rehearse their evasive actions if a tornado warning was actually to be issued for Le Mars and Plymouth County.
Households Behind On Utility Payments Due To Cold Winter And High Energy Costs
(Remsen) -- A combination of higher propane and natural gas prices, along with a longer and colder winter, have caused more people to seek financial assistance. Statewide, the Iowa Utilities Board says more than 243,000 households are behind with their utility bills. Dick Sievers, the executive director with Mid-Sioux Opportunity says Plymouth County has seen about the same number of people request assistance. But he says the amount is more due to the higher energy prices.
Siervers anticipates even more people will seek assistance after the April 1st utility moratorium deadline passes.
The Mid-Sioux Opportunity official believes everyone that applies and qualifies for financial assistance may be able to receive some funding, but he wonders whether there is enough money to pay the total utility back bills.
Sievers says Mid-Sioux Opportunity serves five counties of northwest Iowa. He says Plymouth County usually accounts for 600 households that requests and receives financial assistance, and 2200 households within the five county area. Sievers says the Iowa Legislature is considering a bill to appropriate more funds for winter utility assistance.
Sievers says he fears many families will have to choose between purchasing food or paying the utility energy bill. He suggests people contact the utility companies to create a suitable payment plan.
North West REC Reports Having A Record Year
(Le Mars) -- Officials with North West Rural Electric Cooperative reported to its members having a record year in 2013. Lyle Korver, CEO of the electrical utility cooperative that serves Sioux, O'Brien, Plymouth, and Ida Counties, informed the members at last evening's annual meeting the local REC set a new record.
Since the merger of the cooperatives, North West REC, has been able to return more than $20 million back to its member customers.
The Rural Electric Cooperative official says many electrical cooperatives have found it a challenge to remain financially viable during an era when there are fewer rural customers. However, Korver says the North West REC has been fortunate to expand its customer base by looking at economic development opportunities.
Warrior Entertainment Wants To Intervene With Sioux City Casino Lawsuit
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Multiple parties in a legal fight over casino gambling in Sioux City are objecting to a group's bid to join a lawsuit.
Warrior Entertainment LLC recently filed requests to intervene in a lawsuit by Penn National Gaming Co.
Penn is challenging the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission's decision last year to award a casino license to the owners of the Hard Rock casino. Warrior Entertainment, a partnership involving Ho-Chunk Inc. and others, also lost a bid.
The commission, the Hard Rock developer and Sioux City officials all object to Warrior Entertainment's petition. The commission argued in a motion Monday that the group is trying to "piggyback" onto the lawsuit.
Ho-Chunk President and CEO Lance Morgan says the group has an interest in the proceedings.
Lawmakers Want To Change Drunk Driving Penalties
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Lawmakers in the Iowa House have advanced a bill attempting to change the state's law dealing with drunken drivers.
The House voted 89-5 Tuesday to approve the measure, which now returns to the Senate for further consideration.
Under current law, an immediate license suspension is in place for drunken driving offenders, even on the first offense. The bill would allow offenders to begin driving more quickly if they install an ignition lock device, which requires drivers to show they haven't had alcohol before their vehicle ignition will unlock.
Rep. Chip Baltimore, a Republican from Boone, says the legislation would discourage drinking while driving, make Iowa's roads safer and save lives in the long run.
Superintendent Resigns To Save Money For School District
COON RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) - A schools superintendent in west-central Iowa says he is resigning in an effort to save his district money.
Rich Stoffers, superintendent for the Coon Rapids-Bayard Community School District, says he's taken an early retirement package in order to save thousands of dollars for the district next year. He called the decision bittersweet.
Stoffers says financial challenges have been mounting for the small district, which aims to cut about $400,000 from its general fund budget for the upcoming school year.
Stoffers, who is also an elementary school principal, recommends that the district share the superintendent position with another administrator. School board president Joel Davis says he has contacted other superintendents about the option, but it's too early in the process to comment further on it.