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2017 Atlantic Parent-Teacher Conference dates changed


December 14th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

Citing athletic events and other scheduling conflicts, the Atlantic School Board Wednesday evening approved a recommendation by administrators and Superintendent Dr. Michael Amstein, to move the date of the 2017 parent teacher conferences from the week of Feb. 13-to the 17th, to February 28th and March 2nd. There will be no school, on March 3rd.

In his report to the Board Wednesday night, Amstein said that last week, Superintendents with the Green Hills AEA (Area Education Agency) met with a handful of State legislators from southwest Iowa, and the legislators conveyed message of “Don’t be expecting much in the way of State Aid,” in 2017. One alluded to the possibility of a one- or two-percent increase. Amstein said “If that’s the case, that will be eight straight years.”

Nine years ago, he said there was a 10-percent across-the-board cut, which Amstein said the District never got back. He urged the Board to contact those legislators and express their concerns over the continued lack of funding. Amstein said the legislative track record of minimal funding increases “Is going to have an impact on school districts. It just comes down to numbers. The bottom line is that a District the size of Atlantic can weather that storm, but smaller school districts…they will not be able to weather that storm.

And, in an update on the search for a new superintendent, Board President Ali Bruckner said since the online application form went live last Thursday, they’ve had 20 applications submitted for review. On Feb. 13th, a meeting will be held with all of the interview groups (10 students, 10 teachers and 10 community members), who will narrow down their list of questions for the candidates selected to be interviewed.

Afterward, that same day, the School Board will hold a work session to review the applicant videos and narrow down the selection. The Board will conduct 1st round interviews Feb. 20th and 22nd, the groups will interview candidates Feb. 27th & 28th, and if needed, March 1st. The person selected will succeed Mike Amstein, who is retiring at the end of the current school year.

Atlantic School Board hears comments about potential technical trades bldg


December 14th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

(Updated 8-a.m. 12/15 with decision that followed a closed session)

Members of the Atlantic Community School District’s Board of Education, Wednesday evening, heard from local developer Don Sonntag, with regard to the potential for the old YMCA building near 14th and Olive to be used as a Technical/Trades facility. If the Board should eventually choose to accept the building as a gift from the current owners, the District would have to pick up the cost of repair and remodeling the structure to accommodate large machinery used in manufacturing and other industries.

Don Sonntag

Sonntag said of the 21 companies in this area he’s contacted about a potential trades program, nearly all were in support of the idea. Sonntag said there are companies who are willing to donate specialized machinery and other equipment, and even four employers who are willing to pay $10,000 each to help defray program costs.

He said employers are experiencing a shortage of qualified laborers in the technical and trades industries, and it’s his goal to see a trade program going in Atlantic to help bridge the gap, something that hasn’t been done in years. Once the program is up and running he said, other school districts could be invited to participate.

The areas of potential training include: Electrical; HVAC; Factory Machine Operation; Welding; Mechanics; Carpentry; Truck Training & Operation; Blue Print instruction and Mechanical. Sonntag said also, he wanted to dispel some rumors about his and businessman Bob Camblin’s reasons for wanting the school to have the old YMCA building. He said neither man has any interest, ownership or any connection,” to the building. He said also “We would not receive any commission or anything else for helping ’em do it [giving the building away]. The owners he said, are still considering demolition of the structure if it can’t be transferred to the District.

It’s been estimated the cost to repair, renovate and remodel the building would be around $500,000. It needs a new roof, a recommended geothermal system to replace the old and inadequate HVAC system, and mold removal, on top of a large door cut into the south wall to allow for the addition of equipment and machines. Sonntag said the bottom line is that the right instructors and right program have to be in place to make a technical/trades program work.

He was asked by Board Member Dr. Keith Swanson, why such a program shouldn’t be left to the community colleges. Sonntag said “When the community colleges were set up, Atlantic and this area were pretty much put on the ‘back burner’ by our community college (meaning Iowa Western Community College. He said Mahle for instance, is sending its employees to Clarinda for training, and “We’ve gotta do a better job than the other guy, or we’re gonna find ourselves going down hill.”

Swanson said it was the expense of the trades/technical programs that caused them to evaporate from the scene in the first place, and they are expensive to run. Superintendent Mike Amstein told KJAN News Thursday, that the Board decided during a closed session at the end of regular business, to look at all the options available to them, for expanding career tech programs, and to begin looking at all facilities to meet the growing needs of the program.

Council Bluffs Man Sentenced for Illegally Possessing Firearm


December 14th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

U-S Attorney Kevin E. VanderSchel has announced that on Tuesday, December 13th, 23-year old Jonathan S. Featherstone, a resident of Council Bluffs, was sentenced by Chief United States District Court Judge John A. Jarvey, to 33 months (Nearly 3-years) in prison followed by three years of supervised release for Possession of a Firearm by a Prohibited Person.

Featherstone entered a guilty plea on July 14th, 2016, to the charge of Felon in Possession of a Firearm as a result of his possession of a Walter P38 9mm pistol.  Featherstone was contacted on February 17th, 2016, by Council Bluffs Police Department officers following a traffic stop, where it was discovered Featherstone had a loaded 9mm pistol in his backpack. Featherstone had been convicted of a prior felony offense in July of 2015.

The investigation was conducted by the Council Bluffs Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The case was prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa.

Minnesota man sentenced for shooting at Iowa deputies


December 14th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

DENISON, Iowa (AP) — A Minnesota man has been sentenced to five years in prison for shooting at Iowa sheriff’s deputies during a standoff. The Sioux City Journal says 46-year-old James Champion, of Mankato, Minnesota, was sentenced last week in Crawford County District Court. Champion pleaded guilty in November to a count of assault on a peace officer with intent to inflict serious injury. In exchange for his plea, more serious charges were dropped.

Crawford County sheriff’s deputies say Champion pointed a rifle at them and threatened to shoot after authorities went to check on him on March 9. Champion later opened a door and fired the rifle once. Lt. Corey Utech returned fire, hitting Champion twice in the torso.

Champion recovered from his injuries. An investigation found Utech’s actions were justified.

Trial begins for Ohio man charged in Iowa woman’s slaying


December 14th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

GLENWOOD, Iowa (AP) — An Ohio man is on trial for fatally shooting an 18-year-old woman in western Iowa. Prosecutors charged 27-year-old Mark Troutman, of Sylvania, Ohio, with first-degree murder in the slaying of Kathryn Weber. She was found bleeding outside her Glenwood workplace on Sept. 17 and soon died at the scene.

Troutman was arrested at a Glenwood motel that night. Authorities described Troutman as Weber’s former boyfriend. The Daily Nonpareil reports defense attorney Eric Nelson said Tuesday that Troutman intended to commit suicide in front of Weber, and hadn’t planned to harm her.

Prosecutors say they believe Troutman planned to shoot Weber because he was distraught over their breakup.

UPDATE: Griswold Special Council meeting cancelled


December 14th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

Griswold City Attorney David Wiederstein reports the City of Griswold Council meeting that was to occur this evening (Wednesday) evening, is cancelled.  Two representatives of the City Council and the Mayor will instead meet with the agreed upon mediator this evening to begin the mediation process with former members of the Rescue Department.

These initial steps of mediation will be conducted privately, but not in violation of open meetings laws.  Any agreement reached in mediation is subject to open deliberation and approval or disapproval of the Council as a whole.

Cass County still negotiating with Ethanol plant officials

Ag/Outdoor, News

December 14th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

(Update 12:10-p.m.: Resolution of Intent approved)

The Cass County Board of Supervisors today approved a Resolution of Intent to enter into an agreement with Elite Octane, LLC, with regard to the proposed ethanol plant for the northern side of Atlantic. The action follows a public hearing held in the courtroom at the Cass County Courthouse, during which mostly favorable support was heard.

During the hearing Board Chair Gaylord Schelling said from the County’s perspective the process of working with lawyers and ethanol plant officials, was a “Learning curve.”

(He said both sides had to come to terms on an agreement they could live with. Initially, Elite Octane wanted money up front, but the Board couldn’t agree with that. A TIF District was set up, with the tax amounting to about $900,000, depending on the levy. The agreement would mean Elite with rebate 50% back to the County to pay off the TIF.)

The TIF (Tax Increment Financing) is there to help the County pay off the infrastructure the plant needs (Gray water supply, a paved road from Echo to Olive Street. The funds are also to be used for Attorney’s fees to set up the agreement. Other facets of the agreement would include a guarantee to the County of payment in the event of a catastrophe.

Cass County Auditor Dale Sunderman explained the TIF will only work if there is a minimum assessment, which the Development Agreement would stipulate is $32-million dollars.

The property is currently assessed at approximately $1.5-million, which means a guaranteed assessment of $33.5-million. The agreement is 50-50, which means it would guarantee $900,000 per year in taxes would be paid by the company to the County for the infrastructure improvements and debt service, regardless of whether the plant fails or succeeds. The investors would be on the hook to pay those funds.

Developer Don Sonntag said in addition to the promised jobs and tax benefit to the County, Atlantic Community Development, LLC has purchased 14 acres of land from CADCO on the south side of the highway near the plant, for manufacturing space and valuable added-commodities. An announcement on more specifics will come in the next week or so. Cass County Supervisor Mark Wedemeyer said they have spoken with other counties with an ethanol plant, and the deal Cass County was working out with Elite Octane, was incomparable, because of the scope of the agreement.

The County can also hope to recoup some of the infrastructure costs at the onset, through a RISE (Revitalize Iowa’s Sound Economy) grant.

Here is the Resolution of Intent:

RESOLUTION NO. 2016-040  Resolution expressing intent to provide economic development support to the Elite Octane, LLC ethanol plant development project

WHEREAS, Elite Octane, LLC (the “Company”) has undertaken the development of  an ethanol plant (the “Project”) on certain real property (the “Property”) described on Exhibit A hereto and proposed to be situated in the Amaizing Energy Urban Renewal Area (the “Urban Renewal Area”) in Cass County, Iowa (the “County”); and

WHEREAS, the Company has requested that the County provide financial support to help to defray the costs of the Project, through a series of incremental property tax payments (the “Payments”) to be derived from the Property for a period of fifteen (15) years; and

WHEREAS, the Company has requested that the County undertake the planning, design and construction of certain road and grey water sewer system improvements (the “Public Improvements Project”) necessary for the development of the Project; and

WHEREAS, the County intends to support the Company in the undertaking of the Project by entering into a development agreement (the “Development Agreement”) and making provision for the funding of the Payments; and

WHEREAS, the Board of Supervisors will need to undertake the statutory processes for (1) approving the support to the Company and including the entirety of the Property under the plan for the Urban Renewal Area, (2) authorizing the Development Agreement and the Payments; (3) undertaking the contract bid letting process set forth in Chapter 26 of the Code of Iowa for the award of construction contracts for the Public Improvements Project; and (4) authorizing the issuance of General Obligation Bonds (the “Bonds”) in order to pay the costs of constructing the Public Improvements Project; and

WHEREAS, the County now desires to convey its intent to pursue these actions to the Company in order to facilitate progress on the development of the Property through the adoption of this Resolution;

NOW, THEREFORE, Be It Resolved by the Board of Supervisors of Cass County, Iowa, as follows:

Section 1. The County hereby expresses its intent to support the Project in the future.  The County will in good faith negotiate the Development Agreement with respect to the development of the Property and the undertaking of the Project, such proposed agreement to minimally include the following terms:

  1. A) The Company will commit to constructing the Project on the Property; and
  2. B) The Company will agree to maintain ownership of the Property and operate the ethanol plant thereon during the term of the Development Agreement; and
  3. C) The Company will commit to timely payment of all property taxes as they come due with respect to the Property; and
  4. D) The Company will enter into a minimum assessment agreement pursuant to Section 403.6 of the Code of Iowa establishing a minimum increased assessed valuation for the Property of $32,000,000 resulting from the Property; and
  5. E) The Development Agreement will establish a minimum amount of annual incremental property tax revenues to be received by the County for the payment of debt service on the Bonds.  To the extent that the incremental property tax revenues derived from the Property are not sufficient for the County to pay the debt service requirements on the Bonds, the Company will agree to make payments in lieu of property taxes (the “PILOTS”) to the County to make up for any shortfalls in this annual minimum.  The Developer will provide a subordinate mortgage in the Property and/or such other reasonable assets as security on the PILOTS; and
  6. F) The County will agree to fund the Payments over a period of fifteen (15) years of incremental property tax collections.  The Payments will be funded with incremental property tax revenues to be derived from the Property, and each payment will be in an amount which represents 50% of the incremental property tax revenues available to the County on the first $32,000,000 of incremental value with respect to the Property during the six months immediately preceding each Payment date.  In addition, in the event that the assessed valuation of the Project exceeds $32,000,000, the County will agree to fund Payments to the Company in an amount which represents 100% of the incremental property tax revenues available to the County with respect the portion of taxable incremental value in excess of $32,000,000; and
  7. G) The County will cause the planning, design and construction of the Public Improvements Project, and the County will undertake the contract bid letting process set forth in Chapter 26 of the Code of Iowa for the award of construction contracts for the Public Improvements Project.  Further the County will issue the Bonds in order to pay the costs of the Public Improvements Project.

Section 2. The County hereby agrees to use its best efforts to complete the statutory requirements of Chapter 403 of the Code of Iowa in order to amend its urban renewal plan and to authorize the Development Agreement.  Both the County and the Company acknowledge that the County’s commitment in this Section is merely a present statement of intent and that the Board of Supervisors must exercise their ordinary political discretion in the completion of the statutory processes referenced herein.  The County will not be held liable in the event that the Board of Supervisors, through the exercise of their ordinary political discretion, determines to not approve any of the actions outlined herein.

Section 3. Nothing in this Resolution shall prevent the parties from negotiating additional terms, not set forth herein, for inclusion in the Development Agreement.

Section 4. All resolutions and orders or parts thereof in conflict with the provisions of this resolution, to the extent of such conflict, are hereby repealed.

West Central Community Action updates Cass Co. Supervisors


December 14th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

The Cass County Board of Supervisors, today (Wednesday), heard an annual report and request for funding, from West Central Community Action, which serves 10 area Counties, including Cass. WCCA Executive Director Joel Dirks, from Harlan, requested the same amount of funding as last year ($4,000). The funds are used to provide local match support required by some Federal programs, money for programs that provide financial assistance for their clients and assisting in the support of WCCA’s efforts to maintain safe and affordable office space for their local Outreach Centers. It does not pay for program delivery or administrative costs.

Dirks said in his report, West Central provided a little more than $1.6-million in services to the County last year.

He said 58-percent of their clients have a household income below 100% of the poverty guideline or higher ($24, 300 for a family of four).

Single family households comprise 47% of the families that apply for services in Cass County. 23% are two-person households, while those with 3 or more family members are under 12%. Dirks said 68% of their clients receive food assistance. 62% of their clients rent their home, while 37% own or are buying their homes.

WCCA provided more than $1.3-million in direct client program services in Cass County last year. Among the services WCCA provides is Head Start programs (In Anita and near Atlantic), Child Care Resource and Referral, family development, home weatherization, LiHeap (energy assistance), and the WIC program.

The Supervisors took his request for funding under advisement as part of the budget process that expected to begin next month.

Avoca man arrested for violating a No Contact Order


December 14th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

The Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Office reports the arrest of an Avoca man Tuesday night. 38-year old Duke Lou Bruce Petterson was arrested at his residence for Contempt of Court/Violating a No Contact Order, associated with a previous incident. Petterson was booked into the Pott. County Jail and held on a $1,500 bond.

(Podcast) KJAN 8-a.m. News, 12/14/2016

News, Podcasts

December 14th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

More area and State news from KJAN News Director Ric Hanson.