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Charges unlikely in the death of a Shelby Firefighter

News

December 15th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

Pottawattamie County Attorney Matt Wilber says while an investigation is still underway in connection with a single-vehicle accident that claimed the life of a Shelby Firefighter on I-80 in September, it does not appear the driver of the vehicle will face any charges. The Iowa State Patrol is beginning to wrap up its investigation into the crash, during which firefighter Michael Collins died, as he was directing traffic around an accident on Interstate 80, near Shelby. Wilber told the Omaha World-Herald, that unless the report on the investigation shows that the driver of the car, 43-year old David L. Thies, of Ames, Iowa, did something reckless, which authorities do not expect, the only thing he’ll likely get, is a traffic ticket.

The 41-year old Collins, was killed September 18th, as he was standing in the left lane of I-80 directing traffic. The Iowa State Patrol says a Honda Accord driven by Thies, went around slowed traffic and struck Collins. Matt Wilber said he is awaiting the results of the State Patrol’s more detailed technical investigation, to be completed in the next few weeks, before determining if any charges will be filed.

Collins’ family hopes something turns up. They think something needs to be done. One of his brothers, 36-year old Al Fenderson, told the paper “To me, that’s just not something you just write somebody a ticket for, especially when you take somebody’s life. There needs to be some sort of punishment besides the ticket.”

But according to Pott County Attorney Matt Wilber, an overtly reckless act — such as drunken driving or drag racing — is necessary in order to file a charge like motor vehicle homicide. Neither of those instances can be proven in this case, he says. The accident that claimed Collins’ life marked the second time Thies had been involved in a fatal crash.

In 1988, he was riding a motorcycle near Axtell, Neb., when it crashed in an incident authorities said involved alcohol. Thies’ passenger, 20-year old Gina Pearson, of Kearney, was killed. Thies served 17 months for motor vehicle homicide, according to Nebraska Department of Correctional Services records.

Wilber said he was aware of the incident but said it has no bearing on the Collins investigation.

ISU survey shows Iowa farmland at record value

Ag/Outdoor, News

December 14th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The value of Iowa farmland is up 32.5 percent from last year to a record of over $6,700 an acre. An annual survey by Iowa State University also shows the percentage increase breaks a 38-year-old record of 31 percent set in 1973. The survey released today (Wednesday) shows the average price rose from $5,064 an acre to $6,708 an acre from November 2010 to last month. Before this year the previous high average, adjusted for inflation, had been $5,770 per acre in 1979,

ISU economist Mike Duffy, who conducts the survey, says farmland values have surged along with the surge in commodity prices and farm incomes. O’Brien County in northwest Iowa has the highest average value at $9,513 an acre, up 33 percent.

Friends of Atlantic Animal Shelter disbands

News

December 14th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

An Atlantic organization dedicated to supporting the Atlantic Animal Shelter has announced it is disbanding, and will no longer accept funding. Former members of “The Friends of the Atlantic Animal Shelter” say they will no longer exist as an auxiliary to the shelter. The group thanks its past supporters and suggests persons donate funds for the shelter to the City of Atlantic.

The funds should be earmarked for use at the Animal Shelter only. Any donations received by the Friends staff will be forwarded to the City fund.

(update 11:57-a.m. 12-15-11) Woman reportedly badly burned 3 animals die in vehicle fire

News

December 14th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

In an update to a story we reported on Wednesday, the Iowa State Patrol says a Nevada woman suffered burns to her hands when the vehicle she was driving caught fire as it was traveling east on Interstate 80 in Cass County. Sgt. Martin McCreedy with the State Patrol’s District 3 office in Council Bluffs, told KJAN News the driver of a 2001 Subaru 4-door wagon, Lori Barrington was transporting several animals in her vehicle, when the flames broke out at around 11:40-a.m., Wednesday.

The Cass County Communications Center received calls about the vehicle being on-fire, with the driver apparrently unaware of what was happening. Barrington did eventually notice the flames. She pulled-over near the Wiota exit (64-mile marker), and was trying to get the animals out, when she was burned. Sgt. McCreedy says some of the animals also suffered burns. The animals were transported to the Audubon-Manning Veterinary Clinic Audubon.

Dr. Kate Hoffman, DVM at the Vet Center, says two cats and a bird died in the fire. A second cat suffered suffered some burns but was in stable condition. Another cat, and a dog were in shock, but reported to be in good condition. Barrington was transported to the Cass County Memorial Hospital in Atlantic. A report on her condition is not available.

When authorities arrived on the scene, the vehicle was fully engulfed in flames, and was a total loss. The Iowa DOT said eastbound I-80 was blocked while the vehicle was on-fire, while the left-hand lane of I-80 westbound was blocked by emergency equipment. The road was re-opened to traffic about an hour after emergency personnel arrived on the scene.

New state coalition suggested to control Missouri River

News

December 14th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

A political figure from Nebraska suggests teaming up with Iowa and other states in the Missouri River basin to create a new panel that would control the waterway. Record flooding of the river this summer caused tens of millions of dollars damage, much of it in western Iowa. Former Governor and Senator Bob Kerrey suggests the states take back the power from the federal government, but it would likely take an act of Congress. “We need a federal law that gives those basin states authority over quality and quantity of that stream flow and have to debate it,” Kerrey says. “The representatives of the commission would have to debate what they’re going to do.”

Kerrey says another Nebraska U-S Senator, Hugh Butler, proposed creating a commission of the ten Missouri River basin states back in the 1950s. “It doesn’t produce an environment where there aren’t conflicts but it allows them to be resolved,” he says. According to Kerrey, the panel proposal would give the states the opportunity to protect residents while fully developing the river’s economic potential. Kerrey says this year re-emphasized that too often we take the Missouri River too lightly and we can’t — or shouldn’t — try to tame it.  “This is the longest river in America and it’s impossible, and I’d go further, it’s not desirable to me,” Kerrey says. “If you say to me, ‘I could engineer out all the variability of this river,’ that is not desirable to me. If you engineer all the variability out and it basically becomes an engineering project, not a river.” 

Kerrey sees protecting wildlife habitats along the Missouri River not just as an environmental issue, but an economic one. Discussion about restoring habitat along the Missouri often centers on only protecting endangered species, but he insists protecting habitat could be a financial benefit. “I’m 100% confident what would add economic value is a consequence of increased hunting, increased fishing, increased recreational efforts,” Kerrey says. “It’s also a great educational opportunity. The more modern and more developed we get, the more cut off we get from species other than our own and domesticated animals.” Kerrey won the Medal of Honor for his actions while serving with the Navy SEALS in Vietnam. He was governor of Nebraska in the mid-1980s and a U-S senator for that state from 1989 to 2001. He also ran for president as a Democrat in 1992. 

(Radio Iowa)

Could BHU at CCMH become a Regional Health Center?

News

December 14th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

In an effort this morning to persuade the Cass County Memorial Hospital’s Board of Trustees to hold on to the Behavioral Health Unit (BHU), a suggestion was made by CADCO spokesman Hal Gronewold, to have the hospital apply to the Department of Human Services, to become one of a handful of regional mental health centers in the State. Gronewold said Atlantic has a lot to offer, as far as infrastructure, local and in-patient/outpatient services. By applying to the DHS, he says it’s possible the center could be located in Atlantic. Dr. John Bigelow, with the Southwest Iowa Mental Health System, clarified, by saying any regional center would primarily be for outpatient services, which is different than what the BHU currently offers. 

The new way of delivering mental health and disability services across Iowa has been studied for months, and the five-year plan will come before the legislature for review in the upcoming session. It calls for spending 47-million dollars for a complete system redesign. The idea is to move from separate systems in each of Iowa’s 99 counties to a regional system. Rik Shannon, with the Iowa Development Disabilities Council, says the idea has some people with disabilities concerned about convenience, in terms of accessing the services they need.  He says “Without having a clear idea what that regional system may look like, many people with disabilities worry about losing, for instance, the local points of access that currently exist.”

Supporters of a regional system say it would be more efficient in delivering services and more cost-effective. And Shannon points out that now, not all types of services are available in each county. He says “If we have crisis intervention services that are currently unavailable in a lot of areas of the state, then if we can get that early intervention to people, we could avoid more costly interventions that might occur later.

Under the current county system, he adds, there is a wide variance in quality and availability of services, because funding comes from local property taxes. If a redesigned system is passed by the Legislature, it would take about five years to put into place.

(Shannon’s comments are courtesy the Iowa News Service)

Bluff’s Social Worker’s license suspended

News

December 14th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

The Iowa Board of Social Work has suspended the license of a Council Bluffs social worker. The Board suspended the license of Joseph B. Kenney, until he provides documentation of his completion of 15 hours of continuing education. In addition, Kenney was ordered to pay a $500 civil penalty and complete an additional three-hour ethics course. The civil penalty was assessed for Kenney’s failure to complete required continuing education or provide documentation of completion, and for his false representation on his license renewal application that he had completed. 

The IBSW says if the conditions listed by the board to reinstate Kenney’s license are not met by Dec. 31st, 2012, his license will be revoked.

8AM Newscast 12-14-2011

News, Podcasts

December 14th, 2011 by Chris Parks

w/ Jim Field

Play

Behavioral Health Unit at CCMH to remain open, but will be downsized

News

December 14th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

(Updated 11:30-a.m. w/additional details and comments)

The Cass County Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees voted this (Wednesday) morning, to proceed with construction documents and bid letting to remodel the current Special Care Unit (SCU) to house a four-bed inpatient Behavioral Health Unit (BHU).  If the bids are within budget projections, remodeling would begin in late 2012 after the Special Care Unit relocates to the new hospital addition scheduled to open in August 2012.  The current BHU is located in an older part of the hospital scheduled for demolition during the final stage of the current construction and remodeling project. The motion to keep the facility open came from Board member John Molgaard, and was seconded by Leann Pellett.  He said he wanted to have a contract with the architects for the ICU to provide documents and bid letting to accommodate the BHU. The final drawings and bidding documents will have to be ready three-weeks prior to the bid-letting, on April 12th. The cost for the engineering changes and documents would not exceed $24,000. 

According to CCMH, the hospital’s Trustees have been examining the financial feasibility of maintaining an inpatient BHU, due to the poor reimbursement and consistent losses incurred for the service.  Losses include actual shortages in payment due to contractual adjustments with private insurances, and Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement below cost since BHU is not considered a core service for a Critical Access Hospital.  The cost of the remodeling the SCU will likely run about $300,000, the funds for which are available according to Molgaard.  He says there are always funds for expansion, that will not require additional taxes or monies from the public. 

If the costs of remodeling exceed that estimate however, plans for the BHU would have to be re-evaluated. The Cass County Board of Supervisors were on-hand for this morning’s meeting. After the Trustee’s decision was made, Supervisors Chair Duane McFadden said he was pleased the BHU is still alive, for now.  He says at least now it’ll have some direct costs associated with the plan, and the Board will remain steadfast in its support of keeping the BHU open. Prior to discussion and a vote on the matter, Hal Gronewold, spoke on behalf of the Cass Atlantic Development Corporation (CADCO). Gronewold said if the facility were to close, many jobs would be lost. If it were to remain open, the hospital could become a regional leader in Mental Health Care, since many other, similar facilities have closed or are planning to close. 

CCMH says with an average census of 3.5 patients per day, the propose four-bed unit is expected to meet most, if not all, of the inpatient needs.  By decreasing the size and overhead of the BHU, officials say the total effect on the CCMH bottom line is expected to be approximately $250,000 in losses per year.  CCMH Trustees President Steve Sisler said in a Press Release that “It is always difficult to balance our desire to provide a broad spectrum of healthcare for the people of southwest Iowa with the ever challenging financial realities we face.” He said “While we never like to plan for a loss, the board feels this is an important service for our community, and is willing to try to make it work on this smaller scale.”

7AM Newscast 12-14-2011

News, Podcasts

December 14th, 2011 by Chris Parks

w/ Ric Hanson

Play