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December wraps up among the wetter, warmer Decembers on record for Iowa

News, Weather

January 3rd, 2013 by Ric Hanson

Iowa’s weather went from one extreme to the other in December, as a very warm start was followed by a harsh blizzard. After so many months of drought, state climatologist Harry Hillaker says that big storm dumped almost 14 inches of snow on parts of central Iowa, moisture that was much-needed.  “Overall, December was a wetter-than-normal month, preliminarily ranking 35th wettest in 140 years of records,” Hillaker says. “Southeastern Iowa, much of that precipitation came in the form of rain. Elsewhere in the state, it was about equally divided between rain and snowfall.” Hillaker says December kicked off being quite warm but the temperature dropped like a rock.

“The month got off to a very mild start and then the more seasonal temperatures arrived during the last week and a half or so of December,” Hillaker says. “Overall, we averaged almost five-degrees warmer than normal and it was the 38th warmest December in 140 years of records.” As for the month ahead, January is shaping up to be quite cold but Hillaker predicts a slow warming trend in the first few weeks along with drier-than-normal conditions.

In Atlantic, the average High for the month of December was 38-degrees, which was three-degrees warmer than normal. The average low was 16, which was just one-degree warmer than normal. Precipitation (both rainfall & melted snowfall) amounted to 1.55-inches.  Actual snowfall for the month was 9.1-inches.

(Information from Radio Iowa & KJAN records)

Iowa Medical Helicopter Crash – Updated 2:40-a.m.


January 3rd, 2013 by Ric Hanson

Three people are dead after a medical helicopter crashed in northern Iowa, while flying from Mason City to Emmetsburg.  Cerro Gordo County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Matt Klunder said the helicopter was affiliated with Mercy Medical Center and that a pilot and two nurses were killed. Witnesses say the chopper burst into flames, when it went down.

The Heli-pad at Mercy Medical Center- North Iowa in Mason City sits empty following a fatal crash Wednesday night. (Photo courtesy Bob Fisher, KGLO/Mason City)

The crash occurred about 9 p.m. Wednesday near Ventura. Officials with Mercy Medical Center North issued the following statement to the local media early Thursday morning:

“Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa is devastated to confirm that its medical helicopter, Mercy Air Med, went down en route to Emmetsburg at about 9:00 pm Wednesday. The three people on board — a nurse, Shelly (Shell) Lair-Langenbau; a paramedic, Russell (Russ) Piehl; and a pilot with Med-Trans, the helicopter service, did not survive the incident. There was not a patient on board.”

“I know their colleagues in healthcare are grieving the loss with their loved ones,” said Dan Varnum, President/CEO of Mercy-North Iowa. “The entire organization and I send prayers to all who knew them. They were committed and dedicated to serving the people of Northern Iowa and Southern Minnesota.”

“They were each selfless healthcare professionals devoted to the delivery of emergency medical care. While they fulfilled significant duties, they played a greater role as our neighbors and friends.”

The cause of the incident is unknown. Mercy-North Iowa is working closely with law enforcement officials and the FAA who are investigating the accident. Members of Mercy-North Iowa’s Spiritual Care Department and counselors were available Wednesday and will continue to be available to provide support.

The helicopter was operated by a Lewisville, TX-based service company, Med-Trans Air Medical transport.

(Information from the Associated Press and KGLO Radio in Mason City)

Officials: Tax collections in Iowa are up


January 3rd, 2013 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Tax collections in Iowa are up compared to the same halfway point a year ago. Net state receipts totaled more than $3.1 billion from July through December. That’s about $264 million, or about 9 percent, higher than the first six months of the previous fiscal year. The Legislative Services Agency says the percentage growth rate will likely dip in January because of processing days in the calendar.

The Iowa Revenue Estimating Conference projected last month that the state treasury would end the current fiscal year with nearly $6.4 billion. That would be about a 3.3 percent increase over the last fiscal year.

Medical helicopter crashes in north-central Iowa


January 3rd, 2013 by Ric Hanson

MASON CITY, Iowa (AP) — Three people are dead after a medical helicopter flying out of Mason City, Iowa, crashed into a field, authorities say. Cerro Gordo County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Matt Klunder said the helicopter was affiliated with Mercy Medical Center and that a pilot and two nurses were killed. Klunder said the crash occurred about 9 p.m. Wednesday near Ventura, Iowa. The identities of the victims were not released, and the cause of the crash was under investigation.

Walnut City Council to meet Thursday evening


January 2nd, 2013 by Ric Hanson

The City Council in Walnut will hold its first meeting of the year, Thursday evening. During the 5-p.m. session, the Council will discuss a possible Streetscape enhancement project, and the possible purchase of a Fire Department “Quick Attack” unit.

In other, Walnut Fire Department-related business, the Council will consider the possible adoption of a resolution extending for two-additional years, the agreement for Fire Protection Services between the City of Walnut, Layton Township, Lincoln Township, and Monroe Township. They’ll also review the Fire And Ambulance budgets.

Speaking of budgets, the Walnut City Council, Thursday, will hold its budget discussion, which includes a review of the library budget. They’ll also receive and possibly act on a recommendation for the replacement of a Zoning Commissioner, Committee Appointments, and other administrative matters.

In addition, the Council will discuss and possibly hold the first reading of an ordinance amending the City’s Code of Ordinances, by adding a section regarding the prohibiting of Compression, or “Jake” Brakes. That may be followed by the possible waving of the second- and third-readings of the ordinance.  The Walnut City Council meeting gets underway at 5-p.m. Thursday, in their chambers at City Hall.

Iowa to issue IDs meeting new federal standards


January 2nd, 2013 by Ric Hanson

AMES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa transportation officials say state-issued identification cards that meet new federal security standards will be available soon. The state Department of Transportation announced Wednesday that the agency will begin issuing driver’s licenses and nonoperator’s identification cards on Jan. 15 that comply with the REAL ID Act. The card verifies a person’s identification and legal presence in the United States.

The 2005 law requires identification cards to meet standards to enter federal buildings or board commercial flights. The federal compliance date varies according to a person’s birthday, and some screening is set to begin at the end of 2014. States faced a Jan. 15 deadline to meet the law’s compliance requirements. Travelers in noncompliant states will use passports for domestic flights.

Cass County Supervisors elect officers and handle administrative tasks


January 2nd, 2013 by Ric Hanson

The Cass County Board of Supervisors met Wednesday morning in Atlantic, and took care of administrative matters heading into the new year. According to Auditor Dale Sunderman, the Board elected Mark Wedemeyer as Chairman for 2013, while Frank Waters was elected Vice-Chair for the current year. Oaths of Office were administered to Sunderman, Sheriff Darby McLaren, and the Supervisors, all of whom were re-elected to serve during the November 2012 General Election.

Karen Oathoudt and Sheri Karns were once again appointed Deputy Auditors. Sheriff’s Deputies, including Bill Ayers, Ben Bartholomew, Ryan Johnson, Corey Larsen, Josh McLaren and Kyle Quist were all approved for re-appointment to their posts, as well Chief Deputy Sheriff John Westering, and Sheriff’s assistants, Billie Taylor McLaren and Joni Knudsen. Stephanie Witzman was re-appointed as Civil Process Server.

In other business, County Recorder’s Administrative Assistant Mary Ward’s employment status was changed from part-time to full-time, retroactive to January 1st, 2013, and wage adjustments were granted by the Supervisors, for Mental Health/General Assistance Assistant Director Debbie Schuler, and Vickie Adams, VA/MH/GA Assistant.  The Board also elected to continue to hold their regular sessions on Wednesday, at 9-a.m., unless otherwise specified in the previous minutes of their meetings.

Many other committee and commission appointments were made during Wednesday’s meeting, including those for township trustees and clerks. And, the  Board voted to authorize county officials to destroy records in their possession, which have been on-file for 10-or more years, and are not required to be kept as permanent records, under the Code of Iowa. The Cass County Board of Supervisors’ next meeting is at 9-a.m. Wednesday, January 9th. During the session, they will hold the first of two public hearings, on an amendment to the Zoning Ordinance for change in the zoning district or districts permitted Principal uses.

OWI & 1 drug arrests New Year’s Day in Mills County


January 2nd, 2013 by Ric Hanson

Sheriff’s Officials in Mills County say three people were arrested for Operating a motor vehicle While Intoxicated, New Year’s Day, and one person was arrested for possessing drugs. Facing a charge of OWI/1st offense, is 19-year old Bradley Thomas Groepper and 33-year old Oscar Fernando Lopez, both of Council Bluffs, and 21-year old Clarise Mae Bristow, of Glenwood. All three were arrested following separate traffic  stops between midnight and 6-a.m., Tuesday. Bond for all three was set at $1,000 each.

Also arrested Tuesday morning in Mills County, was 18-year old Trevor Michael Brock, of Manilla. Brock was charged with Possession of Drug Paraphernalia following a traffic stop on Interstate 29. His bond was set at $300. 40-year old Jason Shawn Allan, of Council Bluffs, was arrested Tuesday morning for Failure to Appear on a Driving While License Revoked charge. His bond was set at $5,000. 41-year old Jesse Eugene Sump, of Council Bluffs, was arrested Tuesday night, for Driving While Barred. Bond was set at $2,000. Officials said also, Tanner Douglas Kinkade, of Manning, was cited Tuesday for Possessing Drug Paraphernalia.

And, Monday morning, 30-year old Jesse Ray Salmons-Rice, of Malvern, was arrested in Mills County for Failure to Appear/Contempt of Court. His cash bond was set at $1,000. Also arrested Monday, was 20-year old Jessica Kay Scott, of Malvern, for Possession of an Unlawful Prescription. Her bond was also set at $1,000.

Congress extends wind, biofuels tax credits

Ag/Outdoor, News

January 2nd, 2013 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – The bill Congress approved Tuesday night providing tax relief for most taxpayers also helps wind energy and ethanol producers by extending tax credits designed to encourage continued development.  States like Texas, the nation’s leading wind energy producer, and Iowa, the leading ethanol maker, should benefit from the incentives. Many of the credits had expired in 2012.

The bill extends to the end of the year a production tax credit for wind energy on any facility under construction before the end of 2013.  The bill also extends a $1.01-per-gallon tax credit for cellulosic ethanol made from corn plants, grasses, algae, and sources other than corn kernels. The bill allows ethanol makers to depreciate equipment for new plants placed in service in 2013 and extends biodiesel production tax incentives for two years.

New Shelby County Supervisors take office Wednesday


January 2nd, 2013 by Ric Hanson

Two new members of the Shelby County Board of Supervisors were sworn into office this (Wednesday) morning. Prior to the start of the Boards’ regular meeting, Charlie Parkhurst and Steve Kenkel, along with Auditor Marsha Carter and Shelby County Sheriff Mark Hervey, were officially sworn-in. Parkhurst and Kenkel were elected to the Board last November. They replace Supervisors James Burmeister and Delbert Hull.

In other business, the Shelby County Supervisors re-elected Roger Schmitz as the Board Chair, while Kenkel was nominated as vice-chair. Auditor Marsha Carter informed the board that she, along with Schmitz, recently attended the Ordinance Committee meeting to discuss the Hotel/Motel Tax. Carter said during that meeting, she volunteered to become the fiscal agent for the tax money. However, the Supervisors did not make an actual motion regarding the Hotel/Motel Tax Ordinance. They are likely to bring that to their next meeting next Tuesday.

Shelby County Treasurer Carolyn Blum was in attendance at the Supervisors meeting to give an update on their recent audit from Gronewold and Associates. Blum said following Gronewold’s audit, there were a few discrepancies and she wanted to clarify a few things. Blum said the errors stemmed from advance taxes not being subtracted from the audit.

She said after presenting all the reports, the Gronewold associate was satisfied that they were in balance. Since the audit, Gronewold and Associates sent an e-mail to County officials saying it was their error, and that the Shelby County Treasurer’s Office records were correct.

The Shelby County Supervisors meeting finished with a report from Shelby County Engineer Dan Ahart.

(Joel McCall/KNOD)