Friday, March 27, 2015
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Friday Afternoon News, February 27

Junge Retires From Emergency Management Services Director

(Le Mars) -- After serving on the job for the past 13 years, Plymouth County Emergency Management Services Director, Gary Junge has announced his retirement. This Saturday marks the last offical day for Junge.  He says looking back upon his career, he will remember how Plymouth County was able to obtain grants in order to purchase needed equipment for possible emergency situations by working together.

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Junge says each Plymouth County community has benefitted from the grants obtained in order to be better prepared for possible emergencies.

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The outgoing County Emergency Disaster Management Director says he will remember the various floods that hit Plymouth County during the past few years.

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Junge says he will also remember the many storms and tornadoes that have hit Plymouth County.

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Junge says he will remain in Le Mars, and will stand ready, if he can ever offer assistance for potential future emergencies. Plymouth County Sheriff Mike Van Otterloo (Plymouth County Emergency Management Commission Chair) presented Junge with a certificate of appreciation for his 13 years as Emergency Management Director for Plymouth County.   Several surrounding county Emergency Management Directors, Firefighters, Deputies, Police Officers, County Supervisors, etc. were on hand for the presentation.    


Plymouth County Authorities Investigate Roll Over Accident 

(Le Mars) -- Plymouth County authorities have released information regarding a roll-over vehicle accident that occured on Highway 75 near county road C-38.  The accident happened last Friday evening.  The vehicle was traveling northbound on Highway 75 in the right lane.  While traveling around a curve near Kern Drive the driver,16 year old Erica Taylor of Orange City, lost control and began to exit the road to the east.  Taylor then attempted to make a correction at which point the vehicle rolled an unknown amount of times into the ditch on the east side of the highway.  The vehicle rolled over railroad tracks and came to a rest on its top in a farm field.  In addition to Taylor, two other passengers were in the car.  17 year old Jessica Phillips was transported to Floyd Valley Hospital with non-life threatening injuries, and Ashleigh Kaptein indicated she had minor injuries, but was not taken to the hospital.  


Le Mars Community Theater Gets Ready For Next Performances 

(Le Mars) -- The Le Mars Community Theater is in the middle of rehearsals for its next production entitled: "Skin Deep".  The story involves a large, lovable, lonely-heart, named Maureen Mulligan, as she gives romance one last shot on a blind date with sweet awkward Joseph Spinelli.  She has learned to pepper her speech with jokes to hide insecurities about her weight and appearance, while he's almost dangerously forthright, saying everything that comes to his mind.  They both know they're perfect for each other, and in time they come to admit it.  They were set up on the date by Maureen's sister Sheila and her husband Squire, who are having problems of their own. Sheila undergoes a non-stop series of cosmetic surgeries to hang onto the attractive and much desired Squire, who may not have long ago held designs on Maureen, who introduced him to Sheila.  With Maureen particularly vulnerable to both hurting and being hurt, the time is ripe for all these unspoken issues to bubble to the surface.  Reservations begin on March 11th.  The Postal Playhouse is open to accept reservations between Monday through Friday at 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.  The telephone number is 546-5788, or you can go online at  Performance dates are scheduled for March 20th through 22nd and again from March 26-29th.  Evening performances start at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinee's begin at 2:00 p.m.


Iowa Supreme Court Says "No" To Tax Breaks For Filmmaker

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - The Iowa Supreme Court is upholding the state's refusal to award tax credits claimed by the makers of a documentary tied to the "Field of Dreams" movie.
     The court on Friday upheld the dismissal of a breach of contract claim filed by investors who bankrolled "Ghost Player: Relive the Magic."
     The dispute stems from an Iowa film tax credit program that was the nation's most generous but abandoned in 2010 amid scandal. Documentary maker Joe Scherrman says he believed he was owed about $400,000 under a state contract signed in 2009, but the state offered $59,000 after disputing some expenses.
     His film tells the story of the Ghost Players, who play baseball and perform comedy at the Field of Dreams site in Dyersville and have traveled the world performing.


Iowa Supreme Court Dismisses Lawsuit By Chiropractors

 DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Iowa Supreme Court is dismissing a lawsuit brought by chiropractors who claimed the state's dominant health insurer was engaging in illegal price-fixing.
     The lawsuit challenged Wellmark's practice of making its negotiated reimbursement rates for medical providers available to self-insured employers and out-of-state insurers in the Blue Cross Blue Shield network. It contended those deals violated Iowa antitrust law by restricting competition.
     Chiropractors have long challenged Wellmark's reimbursement rates as inadequate.
     The high court ruled 5-0 that Wellmark's deals do not amount to price-fixing agreements with competitors.
     Instead, the court says the arrangements are a way for employers to purchase health insurance services and for out-of-state insurers to use an existing provider network. The court says, in both cases, the deals are using purchasing power to achieve market efficiencies.


Ames Mosque Receives Threats

     AMES, Iowa (AP) - Authorities say they're investigating a letter left at an Ames mosque that contained anti-Muslim messages and threats.
     Ames Police spokesman Jason Tuttle says officers responded around 4 p.m. Thursday to a report that the note had been left on the door of Darul Arqum Islamic Center. Tuttle said Friday that authorities have since begun working with leaders at the mosque to implement a safety plan and provide extra patrol in the area.
     Scrawled on the envelope was an anti-Muslim slur. Inside were three short notes, including a vague threat to the Muslim population.
     Tuttle says there doesn't appear to be any immediate threat to the mosque, but that the comments in the letter are "concerning" to the department.
     Investigation into who left the letter is ongoing.

Des Moines May Have Pianos Placed In Parks

 DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Spontaneous music that's either harmonious or harsh could soon be filling the Des Moines air with a nonprofit planning to place eight pianos on city sidewalks and parks.
     The nonprofit City Sounds worked closely with the Des Moines Music Coalition to place and maintain two pianos downtown from July through October last year.
     This year, the nonprofit wants to start the public piano season a couple months earlier, with it beginning in May. It's proposing different locations, such as Gray's Lake Park, which still need approval by city officials.
     Councilwoman Chris Hensley says she was pleased with the success of the public pianos last year. The program launched last year with performances by local musicians on the instruments.





Friday News, February 27

School Funding Still Being Debated In State Legislature

(Le Mars) -- State Representative Chuck Soderberg and State Senator Bill Anderson are scheduled to meet with local school officials on Saturday morning, and no doubt the topic of school funding will be discussed.  At odds over education funding, Iowa lawmakers have established a negotiating committee to attempt to reach compromise.
     A joint conference committee with lawmakers from both chambers met Thursday. The Republican-majority House and Democratic-controlled Senate must determine a funding level for K through 12 education for the upcoming academic year.
     House Republicans have advanced a plan that would provide about $100 million in additional funding, while Senate Democrats want to give schools over $200 million in additional funding. Both proposals include money dedicated to teacher leadership training.
     Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, a Council Bluffs Democrat, calls education a priority because it's a "ticket to a better life."
     But Representative Chuck Soderberg, a Republican from Le Mars who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, says the House proposal is what the state can afford.

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School officials say the 1.25 percent increase is simply not enough, and they would like to see the Senate version of 4 percent, or $200 million be approved.  However, Soderberg says if that happens, many other programs will need to be cut.

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Soderberg blames the delay for the school funding decision on the Senate Democrats.


Iowa Exported $15.1 Billion In Merchandise And Food

    DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The U.S. Department of Commerce says Iowa companies exported a record $15.1 billion worth of merchandise last year which contributed to the nation's record export level exceeding $2.3 trillion.
     In the report released Thursday the government says machinery led Iowa exports totaling about $3.6 billion in value. That was followed by food and related products and agricultural products.
     Canada was the leading destination for Iowa products followed by Mexico, Japan and China.
     More than 3,300 companies - by far most of them with fewer than 500 employees - exported goods in the most recent report.
     Coinciding with the release of the data, the White House issued a statement citing it as a reason Congress should act on new trade agreements now in negotiations to expand trade with additional countries.


CoOportunity To Be Liquidated This Weekend

 DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - An insurance cooperative created to provide health care in Iowa and Nebraska will be formally liquidated this weekend.
     Iowa Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart said Thursday that a Polk County judge has agreed to approve the liquidation plan, which will be finalized on Saturday night.
     CoOportunity is a federally funded nonprofit established to provide health care in Iowa and Nebraska. Gerhart took the cooperative over after he determined the nonprofit's claims would exceed its available cash.
     About 24,000 people still have CoOportunity plans in Iowa and Nebraska, with about 5,500 who bought coverage on the insurance exchange created as part of the Affordable Care Act.
     Gerhart said that people who received plans through the exchange must enroll in new coverage by midnight Saturday to maintain any federal tax subsidies.


Hackers Invade Anthem Health Insurance Company

  DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A state insurance official says nearly 173,000 Iowans may have been affected by the recent data breach at health insurer Anthem Incorporated.
     Iowa Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart said Thursday that 172,727 policyholders in Iowa may have had their personal information compromised. The cyberattack into a database of more than 80 million people was discovered earlier this month. The health insurance provider says hackers gained access to names, birthdates, email addresses, Social Security numbers and other information of people who are currently covered or previously had coverage.
     Gerhart says Anthem will contact each person affected by the breach and inform them of available identity theft services and other protections. He says the Iowa Insurance Division continues to work with Anthem to monitor the situation.





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