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Senate votes for audit of controversial confidential setlements with fired state workers

News

April 3rd, 2014 by Ric Hanson

Two Republicans joined the 26 Democrats in the Iowa Senate to ask the state auditor to examine confidential settlements with fired state workers who were paid extra money to keep their firings secret. Senator Rob Hogg, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, questioned why the other 22 Republicans in the senate would resist the idea. “I would have hired an independent auditor to do it, but we’re trusting the state auditor who’s a Republican and not only a Republican, but a Republican who was appointed by Governor Branstad,” Hogg said.

Republicans argued the audit should cover not only Branstad’s current administration, but any deals struck when Democrats Chet Culver and Tom Vilsack were governor. Senator Jack Whitver, a Republican from Ankeny, points to revelations that eight confidential settlements were struck during Culver’s four years as governor.  “This issue has been going on for several years,” Whitver said. “The reason we want to go back is figure out when this happened, why it happened and try to get to the bottom of it.”

Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs accused Republicans of trying to divert attention from the core question. “Did the governor, did the executive branch in fact dump state employees for political reasons?” Gronstal says. “Maybe previous governors did, but this legislative body can’t change that.” The money for the state audit was included in a budget bill that passed the Senate last night.

Republicans in the House, meanwhile, are crafting a bill that would put the governor’s recent executive order — which bars confidential settlements — in state law. Democrats oppose the bill because they say it would change the state’s collective bargaining law that governs negotiations between state managers and the unions that represent state workers. The top three managers in the Department of Administrative Services are scheduled to testify before the Legislature’s Oversight Committee today (Thursday), starting at 11 o’clock.

(Radio Iowa)

Iowa News Headlines: Thu., April 3rd 2014

News

April 3rd, 2014 by Ric Hanson

Here is the latest Iowa news from The Associated Press…
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Lawmakers in the Iowa House say they want to further establish government transparency and openness in the light of secret settlement agreements between state agencies and fired employees. While debating a budget bill for agriculture and natural resources yesterday, the House adopted an amendment to prevent money appropriated in the bill from being used for payments in such settlement agreements.

AMES, Iowa (AP) – Four Iowa Republicans running for U.S. Senate have debated higher education costs, health care and the federal debt at a forum at Iowa State University. Radio host Sam Clovis, state Senator Joni Ernst, businessman Scott Schaben and former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker met for the debate yesterday evening.

CORDOVA, Ill. (AP) – Operators of the Quad Cities Generating Station in western Illinois declared an “alert” after smoke was observed in a plant electrical system. An Exelon Generation spokesman says Quad Cities Unit 2 was removed from service on Monday to replace a valve on the control rod drive system. The unit was in the startup process yesterday when smoke was detected. The unit is stable and shut down.

GRIMES, Iowa (AP) – Officials say there’s an ongoing discharge of wastewater going into a creek in central Iowa. The state Department of Natural Resources says the discharge developed while officials with the city of Grimes were replacing a pump at a lift station Wednesday afternoon.

Greene County residents arrested in Audubon County on drug charges

News

April 2nd, 2014 by Ric Hanson

Two Greene County residents were arrested Tuesday night on drug charges, in Audubon County. The Sheriff’s Office reports 32-year old Jason Lee Montgomery, of Jefferson, and 29-year old Amanda Fay Lawrence, of Scranton, were taken into custody at around 11:45-p..m.

Montgomery faces charges that include: Possession of Marijuana/3rd offense; Possession of Methamphetamine; Intent to Deliver/Marijuana, and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. Lawrence was charged with: Possession of Meth/2nd offense; Possession of Marijuana with the Intent to Deliver, and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia.

The charges against the pair stem from a traffic stop in the 3400 block of Highway 71 in Audubon County. Both subjects were brought to the Audubon County Jail, where Montgomery remains held on bond. Lawrence posted bond, and was released.

Atlantic man arrested by Cass County deputies

News

April 2nd, 2014 by Ric Hanson

The Cass County Sheriff’s Office reports the arrest on Monday of a man wanted on two warrants. 53-year old Jimmy Joe Misner, of Atlantic, was arrested on warrants for Failure to Appear for Child Support Hearings. Misner was taken to the Cass County Jail where he was being held on $4000 bond.

3 arrests reported in Mills County

News

April 2nd, 2014 by Ric Hanson

The Mills County Sheriff’s Office reports the arrest on Tuesday of three persons on unrelated charges.

27-year old Bret Wade Sheppard was arrested in Malvern at around 10:35-p.m. Tuesday, on a warrant for Harassment in the 1st degree. Sheppard was being held in the Mills County Jail on $2,000 bond.

66-year old Shirley Lynn Meredith, of Council Bluffs, was arrested at the Mills County Sheriff’s Office at around 8-a.m. Tuesday, on a warrant for Dependent Adult Abuse. Her bond was set at $1,000.

And, 27-year old Shawn Patrick Nosekable was arrested at around 12:40-a.m.  Tuesday, for having no SR-22 Insurance. He was taken into custody near 270th Street and Highway 34 and held in the Mills County Jail on $1,000 bond.

 

Iowa’s biggest city ranks #5 in US for finding jobs, Omaha is #2

News

April 2nd, 2014 by Ric Hanson

Iowa’s largest city rates number-five in a new national list of best metropolitan areas to find a job. Allen Jones, spokesman for the employment website ZipRecruiter, says they ranked Des Moines and 49 other cities based on the volume of job postings.  “We have the unique ability to have access to a lot of data through small businesses posting jobs,” Jones says. “The way we looked at this, we said, where is unemployment really low and where is there a surplus of jobs based on the activity we see on ZipRecruiter. We took a more non-traditional approach to trying to figure out an index of what looked promising.”

The report shows Des Moines is the center of recession-proof industries like insurance and health care. Just to the west on Interstate 80 lies Omaha, which ranked number-two on the list. “The reason Des Moines came in at #5 is, as it compares to Omaha, the median home price is actually a bit lower,” Jones says. “Omaha comes in at $125,000 while Des Moines is at $106,000, but the unemployment rate is a little higher, 4.4%, while Omaha is a 3.9%, so it kicked it down a couple of notches.”

The website says Salt Lake City is the best place for job hunting. Others in the top five include Madison, Wisconsin, at third and Minneapolis/St. Paul in fourth place. Jones says there are some cities on the list you wouldn’t expect to see there.  “What you’ll see on our list of Top 10 or Top 50 cities for jobs is not the normal cities you’d see,” Jones says. “You see Des Moines, Iowa, and think, ‘Des Moines, really?’ but based on the volume of new jobs there, the unemployment rate, the cost of living and the median salaries, we see opportunity and we think it’s important to expose all of those things.”

ZipRecruiter’s rating is a bonus for Des Moines. The city made the Forbes list of Best Places for Business and Careers in 2010 and 2013, while NBC recently ranked Des Moines as the wealthiest city in America.

(Radio Iowa)

Two legislators win “Uncommon Public Service” Award

News

April 2nd, 2014 by Ric Hanson

Two state legislators — one from western Iowa and one from eastern Iowa — are being honored with this year’s Herbert Hoover Uncommon Public Service Award. Nancy Boettger of Harlan is the award winner in the state senate.  “Wow. I’m overwhelmed,” Boettger said. “When I saw my family here this morning I never dreamed that that was this. Sarah just said: ‘We wanted to be all here, together, at one time while you were still here.'”

Boettger has served in the Senate since 1995, but she is not seeking reelection in November.  “Thanks so very much by this honor. I’m really overwhelmed and kind of speechless here, but when I get a chance — I’ll get another chance to talk to the senate now before I retire. Then you’ll hear some things from me,” Boettger said, with a laugh. “It’s your momma speaking.” Senate President Pam Jochum a Democrat from Dubuque, paid tribute to Boettger.  “As Senator Boettger retires from the senate this year, one of her nominators said, and I quote: ‘She will be remembered by her peers on both sides of the aisle as honorable, hard-working, generous and a sincere public servant,'” Jochum said.

Each year a member of the Senate and a member of the House receive the Hoover Award. This year’s House winner is Representative Steven Olson of DeWitt, a farmer who was first elected in 2002. Prior to his legislative service, Olson served two terms on the Calmus School Board. Herbert Hoover, the man for whom the award is named, is an Iowa native who saved the lives of well over a billion people in 57 countries when he ran post-war relief efforts in Europe.

(Radio Iowa)

Council Bluffs students getting tech experience

News

April 2nd, 2014 by Ric Hanson

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) – Council Bluffs students are getting hands-on experience working at a data center operated by the school district. The Daily Nonpareil reports the Council Bluffs Community School District unveiled the data center Tuesday night at Abraham Lincoln High School.  Students who are enrolled in the district’s Emerging Technologies Academy monitor and make repairs when needed to servers at the data center, which is used to store medical research data.

Google and Echo Group, a Council Bluffs electrical supplier, gave financial and technical support as part of the estimated $670,000 project. It took about six months to build the data center. Chris Russell, an operations manager at Google’s data center in Council Bluffs, says the new facility will expose students to real work experiences and get them interested in technology careers.

Neb. nuke plant at full power after brief outage

News

April 2nd, 2014 by Ric Hanson

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – Utility officials say a Nebraska nuclear plant is operating at full power again after a brief outage last month.  The Omaha Public Power District said Tuesday that Fort Calhoun resumed generating electricity on March 19 – two days after a problem on the non-nuclear side of the plant during maintenance triggered the shutdown.   It reached full power on March 21st.

This is the second time Fort Calhoun went offline briefly since it restarted in December after a prolonged outage. Fort Calhoun, which sits about 20 miles north of Omaha, had been off line from April 2011 until December. It initially shut down for routine maintenance, but significant flooding in 2011, a small fire and a series of safety violations forced it to remain closed for more than two years.

Harlan CC hears Blue Zone update

News

April 2nd, 2014 by Ric Hanson

The Harlan City Council, Tuesday, received an update on the Blue Zone initiative. During a regular board meeting, Margie Schenck, Chairperson for the Blue Zones Project, said the project is moving forward, as personal pledges are nearing the 820 minimum with 796 totals recorded as of the end of February.

The Blue Zone initiative was started two years ago when Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield started the process to select communities in Iowa as Blue Zones. The city of Harlan was chosen as a demonstration site on the second round of the selection process in October 2012. Schenck says several entities in the city are working towards becoming certified for Blue Zones.

“There are six different areas but each represent work in different areas. One is schools as both elementary schools are working towards certification. We have two groceries stores, Hy-Vee and Fareway working towards certification. We are working with three restaurants and hoping for a fourth. At the beginning of the process, they (Wellmark) identified twenty different worksites they thought would be a good match for certification for Blue Zones. We are actively working with twelve.”

She also mentioned Myrtue Medical Center in Harlan has been certified. Schenck said this project is something she believes will benefit the city of Harlan long term. “We want to look at our community five years from now, ten years from now. Even fifty years from now to see that the efforts we made now have allowed Harlan to become a community where people can thrive.”

The deadline for the city of Harlan to be certified as a whole is July 31st. If you would like more information on the Blue Zones initiative contact Margie Schenck at 712-755-3547 or log on to www.bluezones.com.

And, during his report to the Council, Harlan Mayor Gene Gettys noted the “Today in America” video has been finalized and a schedule will be released soon on when you can watch the 5 minute segment on national television.

(Joel McCall/KNOD)