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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.

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Siervers anticipates even more people will seek assistance after the April 1st utility moratorium deadline passes.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Since the merger of the cooperatives, North West REC, has been able to return more than $20 million back to its member customers.

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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.

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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.
     ---



 

   

Tuesday Afternoon News, March 25

(Updated) -- House Fire Near Hinton Displaces Family Of Four

(Hinton) -- A house fire occurred early this morning at 29254 County Road K-22. west of Hinton.  The Hinton, Merrill, and the Le Mars Fire Departments all responded to the two-story house structure fire.  Hinton Fire Chief Chad Beck says the fire was detected at about 3:35 a.m.

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Beck says the fire appears to have started in the garage area and quickly moved to the attic of the house.

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Beck says the home is a total loss.

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The Hinton Fire Chief  says the American Red Cross has been notified and has contacted the family to offer assistance.  Four people were at the home at the time the fire was detected, and as Chief Beck says, fortunately, all were able to escape the burning inferno.  

 

School Board Approves Contract For New Playground And Infrastructure Finance Plan 

(Le Mars) -- The Le Mars Community Board of Education approved the bid and contract to construct playground equipment at all three Le Mars Community elementary schools.  The School Board made its decision last evening during their regular meeting.  National Playground of Carlisle, Iowa submitted a winning bid of $364,596 to dismantle existing playground equipment, perform needed landscape to the school grounds, and construct the new playground equipment.  In its bid, National Playground indicated they would use some local subcontractors for the project.  The Le Mars Community School Board also approved the 2014-2015 Infrastructure Finance Plan totalling $1,775,000. Included in the plan is the purchase of two new school buses, remodeling of the concession stand at the football stadium, new energy efficient windows for Franklin elementary school, sealant for the stadium, new lighting for the Little theatre, high school lockers, carpeting and flooring, a replacement of the Franklin elementary boiler burner, and the replacement of steps and retaining wall at the Education Service Center.

 

Senator Says Session Will Not End Until Branstad Answers Questions About Juvenile Home

  DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - An Iowa Senate Democrat says this year's session will continue until Gov. Terry Branstad provides information about the Iowa Juvenile Home, which he closed in January.
     Sen. Steve Sodders of State Center says Tuesday lawmakers sought information from Branstad more than two months ago about how the state cares for troubled girls and the administration's plans for treating delinquent juveniles.
     Sodders says there's been no response.
     The Democratic-led Senate passed a bill re-establishing a state-owned facility for girls, but it has since been declared dead.
     In response to a lawsuit filed by Sodders and other lawmakers, a judge also ruled Branstad can't unilaterally close the home.
     Branstad closed the home in Toledo following allegations children were improperly treated.
     Sodders says the legislative session won't end until an agreement is reached.

 

Borlaug Statue Dedicated At Nation's Capitol

WASHINGTON (AP) - The scientist credited with agriculture's so-called "Green Revolution" has a permanent home in the U.S. Capitol.  
     Lawmakers unveiled a statue of Norman Borlaug on Tuesday in a ceremony on what would have been his 100th birthday. Borlaug died in 2009.
     The Iowa native and University of Minnesota graduate is credited with saving as many as 1 billion people from hunger by creating a type of wheat that was disease-resistant and high-yielding. His work won him the 1970 Nobel Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.
     Borlaug's statue will serve as one of two for Iowa in the Capitol and will replace one of James Harlan, a former senator friend of Abraham Lincoln. It had been in place for more than 100 years.

 

FEMA Offers Settlement To Des Moines For Flood Lawsuit 

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Des Moines Waterworks board is scheduled to consider a settlement offer of more than $2 million from the federal government to resolve a lawsuit over flood repair funding approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and later withdrawn.
     The utility filed the lawsuit last year after FEMA withdrew $7.6 million in approved disaster funding to help repair damage along the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers caused by the 2008 flood.
     FEMA approved money in 2010 but rescinded it in 2011 after the waterworks agency had already spent $2 million. FEMA concluded after a review that improvements on natural river banks do not meet funding requirements.  
     Waterworks CEO Bill Stowe says he recommends approval of the $2.17 million settlement offer.
     The board is to meet Tuesday afternoon to consider it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

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