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Tuesday Afternoon News, March 3

Plymouth Energy Asks Supervisors For Support On Repealing Tax

(Le Mars) -- Representatives of the Plymouth Energy ethanol company appeared before the county supervisors to ask for their support to help reduce taxes relating to the purchase of natural gas.  Eamonn Byrne, the Chief Executive Officer for Plymouth Energy informed the county supervisors that natural gas is the second largest expense, following corn, for the Merrill facility.  He says $7 million dollars is spent annually for natural gas.  Byrne informed the supervisors that 21 ethanol and biodiesel plants in Iowa are subject to the tax and wanting to eliminate the Iowa Bypass Replacement Tax.  He says the tax is an "unfair tax" and explains the difference between the three types of natural gas replacement taxpayers.

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Byrne says the tax rate is too excessive.

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Byrne says Plymouth Energy contributes to the county's economic development with the number of people employed directly or indirectly to the local ethanol plant.

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The supervisors agreed to write a letter of support for the local ethanol plant, and advised the ethanol representatives that the letters should be addressed to Governor Terry Branstad and many other legislative leaders.


Cherokee Man Agrees To Plea Deal

 CHEROKEE, Iowa (AP) - A 36-year-old man who'd held officers at bay in a Cherokee County home has taken a plea deal.
      Joshua Allender pleaded guilty on Monday to intimidation with a dangerous weapon and assault on a peace officer. He'd been charged with attempted murder, assault and a weapons crime. 
     The plea agreement calls for a 10-year sentence. Allender's sentencing is scheduled for April 13.
     The charges stem from an incident Oct. 30 in Cherokee County, when officers responded to a call about a suicidal person. The officers say Allender refused to leave the home and fired a gun from an upstairs window. 
     More than six hours later officers fired tear gas into the home, and Allender soon was in custody.


Legislators Continue To Debate Over Education Spending Bill

     DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Lawmakers from the Democratic-majority Senate and Republican-controlled House remain at odds over education funding.
     A joint committee met Tuesday to try to hammer out a deal for a funding level for K-12 education for the upcoming academic year. But the committee did not immediately reach a resolution.
     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.
     Republican House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, of Hiawatha, says he'll consider more funding if Democrats would agree to modify arbitration rules for teachers. This committee cannot directly negotiate on that, but a bill proposing some changes received approval from a House subcommittee Tuesday. Democrats are unlikely to consider any change to union rules.

Legislators Debate Time-Off Caucus Bill

 DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A bill that would require employers to give time off to non-essential workers so they could attend Iowa's presidential caucuses has received preliminary approval in the Iowa Senate.
     A Senate subcommittee backed the bill Tuesday.  Under the proposal, employers would be required to provide unpaid leave to workers who want to attend their precinct caucus. There are exemptions for jobs that impact public health or safety or if employers could show they would experience economic distress. 
     It will move on to the full committee for review later this week in the Democratic-majority Senate.
     Iowa Democratic Party Executive Director Ben Foecke spoke in favor of the bill, saying it would provide greater access to the state's leadoff presidential caucuses. No Iowa Republican Party officials attended the hearing.


Judge Ponders Whether To Fine A Man For Frauding Veterans

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A judge is considering whether to sentence a Nebraska businessman to prison for fraudulently landing $23.4 million in federal contracts intended for disabled veterans.
     The U.S. Attorney's Office in Des Moines will ask for a two-year prison term during Tuesday's sentencing for Ram Hingorani. 
     Hingorani's attorney is expected to ask U.S. District Judge Stephanie Rose for probation.
     His companies won 45 contracts to perform construction work for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Des Moines and Omaha and at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. They were awarded under a program to encourage contracts for veterans who were injured during their service.
     Hingorani is not a veteran. But in order to qualify, he falsely claimed that an associate who was service-disabled was in charge of a company Hingorani controlled.


Kindergarten Teacher Faces Sexual Abuse Charges

 FOREST CITY, Iowa (AP) - A north Iowa kindergarten teacher is facing a criminal charge following accusations he inappropriately touched a child under the age of 14.  
     Winnebago County Attorney Adam Sauer says the suspected incident didn't happen at the elementary school of the North Iowa Community School District, where 61-year-old Allen James Twait of Forest City is employed.
     The district's superintendent says Twait has been placed on administrative leave.
     Twait is charged with one count of lascivious acts with a child. He was arrested Saturday and was released from the Winnebago County Jail after posting a $10,000 cash bond. 
     It wasn't immediately clear if Twait has an attorney. A phone listing for Twait could not be found on Tuesday morning.






Tuesday News, March 3

Fire Reported At Prime Apartments Assisted Living Center

(Le Mars) -- The Le Mars Fire and Rescue Department responded to an oven that had caught on fire at the Prime Apartments Assisted Living Center located at 108 1st Avenue NW.  The fire was detected at about 5:30 p.m.  Monday evening. The fire was isolated to the apartment number 304 on the third level and on the north side of the structure.  Fire Chief Dave Schipper describes the scene upon arrival.

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Schipper says one woman was transported by ambulance to the Floyd Valley Hospital for observation.  Other residents were observed by the Le Mars Ambulance crew and were allowed to remain at the assisted living apartments.  Schipper says a plastic bowl left inside the oven started the fire.

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Fire fighters were on the scene for about an hour and ten minutes.

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Both the Le Mars Ambulance and the Le Mars Police Department assisted at the scene.


Supervisors To Hear Tax Credit Request From Plymouth Energy

(Le Mars) -- The Plymouth County Board of Supervisors will hear a report from Rick Hansen of Plymouth Energy as he discusses a proposal for support on a tax credit.  The supervisors are expected to take action on the issue.  The supervisors will hear a construction update from County Engineer Tom Rohe.  Rohe will present a resolution to embargo Marble Avenue.


City Council To Hold Budget Hearing Today

(Le Mars) -- The Le Mars City Council have a short agenda for their meeting scheduled today at the city council chambers beginning at noon.  A budget hearing for the fiscal year 2015-2016 budget is scheduled for today.  Otherwise, the city council does not have any action items on their agenda, only consent items consisting of approving the minutes from the previous meeting, payment of bills, the city energy advisory team, and the urban revitalization tax exemption requests.


Le Mars Historic Preservation Commission Plans Home Tour 

(Le Mars) -- The Le Mars Historic Preservation Commission is pleased to announce the homes that will be on the 2015 Tour of Homes.   Each year the commission features four homes showcasing a diverse mix of architectural styles during National Historic Preservation month.   You’ll be able to tour these private homes and view the preserved character.
The four Le Mars homes that will be on the tour are:   Paul and Denise Gengler - 701 Central Ave SW, Ryan and Tiffany Wright - 500 Central Ave SE, Dave and Patty Hill - 427 Central Ave SW and Bob and Marge Dull - 531 1st Ave SE.   
Le Mars Historic Preservation Commission President Linda Mayrose says  “We are delighted to have these four historic homes on the tour. “The architectural styles provide an excellent overview of Le Mars’ architectural history." 
The Tour of Homes will be held on Saturday, May 9 from 10:00am to 4:00pm.   The tour will begin in the Museum’s Old Central gym lobby.  Tickets for the tour are $10.00 each.   Tickets may be purchased prior to the event by calling  Linda Mayrose 712-548-6889 or purchased the day of the event at the museum.  Tours will proceed rain or shine.  
Every year the Le Mars Historic Preservation Tour of Homes alternates donating the profits between the Plymouth County Museum and the Le Mars Arts Center.   In 2015, the Museum will receive the proceeds from this event.


Neunaber Trial Delayed

(Le Mars) -- The murder trial for Jonathon Neunaber of Akron was to have started on March 31st.  However, the attorney for Neunaber has asked Judge Andreasen for an extension claiming he needs additional time to compile information and evidence. The request came this past Friday during a pre-trial update. Neunaber is charged with first degree murder for the death of his mother Ester Neunaber.  Both Ester, and husband Donald Neunaer, bodies were found dead at their rural Akron farmstead last July.  The court has not yet scheduled a new trial date.  



Legislators Work On Bullying Bill

 DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Legislation aimed at expanding guidelines for Iowa educators who respond to school bullying has advanced in the House.
     An education committee voted 19-4 Monday in favor of the bill. The full House can now debate it.
     The measure would clarify the ability of educators to monitor bullying off school grounds. It would also expand parental notification language and the definition of cyberbullying.
     After several changes to the bill Monday, it now better mirrors Senate legislation. Rep. Quentin Stanerson, a Center Point Republican, says a $200,000 appropriation for teacher training and a student mentoring program would remain in the bill.
     That's different than the Senate. Sen. Robert Hogg, a Cedar Rapids Democrat, says removing the appropriation helps the legislation's chances. He says he wants to secure funding through another legislative process.


Senate Panel Passes Bill To Halt The Closings Of Mental Health Institutes

 DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A Senate panel has approved a bill that could halt the upcoming closings of state mental health centers in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant.
     A three-member human resources subcommittee approved the bill unanimously Monday. It now heads to a full committee for consideration.
     The bill would require the state Department of Human Services to keep the facilities open until it develops a "suitable and appropriate" long-term care and treatment plan for its patients. The Legislature would approve the plan.
     Gov. Terry Branstad's budget proposal removes funding for the facilities. State officials say patients will be able to receive treatment elsewhere. Critics say the closings, scheduled later this year, have not been well organized.
     Democratic Sen. Rich Taylor, the bill's sponsor, says he has bipartisan support in both chambers.


Branstad Wants To Offer Raises To Staff

  DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Gov. Terry Branstad is defending plans to give raises to some staffers in his office, arguing the budgeted money will be below previous administration costs.
     Branstad's budget proposal seeks nearly $2.4 million for his office in the fiscal years that end in 2016 and 2017. That's an increase from nearly $2.2 million this current fiscal year.
     Chief of Staff Matt Hinch says the money will be used for "modest" increases in salaries and other costs. He says there has not been such a financial request in years.
     Branstad said Monday that former Gov. Chet Culver spent more money for such matters. Records show he spent about $3.4 million in the fiscal year that ended in 2009 and nearly $2.7 million in the fiscal year that ended in 2010.





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