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Annual reports on rural bridge repair, replacement progress

News

March 29th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

The Iowa legislature has voted to require the state’s 99 county engineers to file annual reports explaining how state gas tax money is being used to repair or replace rural bridges. The move comes a year after the gas tax was raised a dime a gallon. Representative Mary Wolfe, a Democrat from Clinton, says it’s a good way to ensure accountability for the extra tax money.

“That is supposed to be used for fixing deficient bridges and other infrastructure repairs, so this will just, perhaps, give us all an opportunity to make sure that’s what’s happening,” Wolfe says. Representative Josh Byrnes, a Republican from Osage, was among the chief advocates for raising the gas tax to address problems with the state’s crumbling roads and bridges.

“We promised the people of Iowa that we’d be transparent,” Byrnes says. “…That’s exactly what this bill does.” County engineers will submit their reports to the Iowa Department of Transportation. Democratic Senator Matt McCoy of Des Moines says the D-O-T will compile the information and present it to legislators. “We’ll have a better understand of just what the state of our bridges are,” McCoy says.

The Road Information Program currently rates 22 percent of Iowa’s rural bridges as structurally deficient. Only two other states have a higher percentage of deficient bridges. The reports from county engineers about progress on addressing problem bridges would be required in each of the next three years if the governor signs the bill into law.

(Radio Iowa)

Iowa Fraud Fighters program coming to West Des Moines, Bettendorf, Sioux City

News

March 29th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

A program designed to help Iowans combat investment and insurance fraud is coming to three of the state’s largest metro areas. Iowa Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart is touting the Fraud Fighters program (www.iowafraudfighters.gov), noting that his office fields around 1,700 fraud inquiries and complaints each year.

“Last year, we had about $6.4 million reported in fraud complaints,” Gerhart said. There are probably many more people being swindled in Iowa, as Gerhart estimates only one-quarter of all fraud cases are actually reported. Many Iowans fall victim to investment scammers and some have lost their entire life savings, according to Gerhart. “When oil and gas are doing really well, we hear a lot of oil and gasoline (scams). When precious metals and gold are going up in value, we hear a lot of scams around that. During tax season, we hear about tax scams. And during open enrollment for health care, we hear about that kind of thing,” Gerhart said.

The Iowa Insurance Division has hosted 15 of the Iowa Fraud Fighter programs around the state, but the biggest one — in terms of attendance — is scheduled for tonight (Tuesday) in West Des Moines. Registration for tonight’s event closed last Friday. “But, we are doing another event in Bettendorf (on April 18) and we have another event in Sioux City (on May 24),” Gerhart said. “So, we have other opportunities across the state as well.”

All of the Iowa Fraud Fighters programs are free of charge, but do require reservations. Gerhart says the effort is funded partly from fines and settlements collected from scammers.

(Radio Iowa)

Oh baby! Mom delivers on I-80 off-ramp in Cass County

News

March 29th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

(Update! 11:18-a.m.)

A child scheduled to be born at Mercy Hospital in Council Bluffs couldn’t wait to see the world, and was instead delivered on an westbound Interstate off-ramp, near Marne, in Cass County. Cass County Chief Deputy Sheriff John Westering told KJAN News the baby made its appearance a little after 7-a.m. today [Tuesday] at Exit 51 off of I-80. The healthy, 8-pound 11-ounce baby girl was born to Chris and Erica Bengel, who named their daughter Brinley Nicole. The couple have lived in Atlantic for most of their lives.

Chris and Erica Bengel. (Photo from the Around Atlantic Facebook page)

Chris and Erica Bengel. (Photo from the Around Atlantic Facebook page)

Westering says by the time law enforcement arrived on the scene, the baby was already out and being taken care by the mother and father. Emergency responders provided the mother and baby with blankets before they were transported to the hospital in Atlantic.

Westering said Chris was understandably a bit jittery afterward, but both new parents handled the situation well.

While emergency personnel on the way to the scene, the Cass County Communications Center provided updates from the couple with regard to the baby’s progress. Cass County 911 Coordinator Rob Koppert gives a special shout out to the 911 dispatchers at Shelby County 911 in Harlan.

Koppert says the original 911 call was routed to Shelby County instead of Cass County (which frequently happens in that coverage area) and Shelby County dispatchers were able to provide delivery instructions to the family and relay updated information to Cass County 911 for the responders.

An Iowa State Patrol Trooper in the area was first on the scene, followed by an Iowa DOT employee, Cass County Sheriff’s Deputies, other emergency personnel, and an ambulance.

Gov. Branstad orders flags at half-staff to honor fallen Des Moines Police Officers

News

March 29th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

(DES MOINES) – Gov. Terry Branstad today (Tuesday) ordered all flags in Iowa be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset on Wednesday, March 30th, 2016 and sunrise to sunset on Friday, April 1st, to honor Des Moines Police Officers Susan Farrell and Carlos Puente-Morales, who were killed in the line of duty in the early morning hours of March 26th.  Officer Farrell will be laid to rest on Wednesday, March 30 and Officer Puente-Morales, Friday, April 1st.

The governor’s directive applies to all U.S. and state flags under the control of the state.  Flags will be at half-staff on the state Capitol building and on flag displays in the Capitol complex, and upon all public buildings, grounds, and facilities throughout the state.half staff flag Ia capital

Individuals, businesses, schools, municipalities, counties and other government subdivisions are encouraged to fly the flag at half-staff for the same length of time as a sign of respect.

Central IA man arrested on Union County warrant

News

March 29th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

The Union County Sheriff’s Office reports a central Iowa man was arrested Monday night on a Union County warrant for Probation Violation. 31-year old Mitchell Kenneth Venteicher, of Boone, was taken into custody at the Union County Law Enforcement Center.  Venteicher was being held in the Union County Jail on $5,000.00 bond.

And, a resident of Arispee reported Monday evening, that while his semi was parked in Lorimor, someone stole a tire, chain and padlock.  The loss was estimated at $635.

Fossilized coral reefs found during University of Iowa work

News

March 29th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – Construction crews have unearthed fossilized coral reefs and animals at the University of Iowa. Cedar Rapids television station KGAN reports that the fossils recently were found during work on the Seaman’s Center Annex on the university campus in Iowa City.

Experts say the marine fossils reflect life and nature of what was a shallow sea 385 million years ago that became what now is Iowa. Geologist Ryan Clark says “there’s probably half a dozen or more different animals fossilized in this particular rock.”  Some of the fossil samples will be used for research at the university’s Paleontology Depository.

Fredericksen Mem. Fund brings Zach McCool to Atlantic for pitching clinic

News

March 29th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

The Trevor Frederickson Memorial Fund recently brought back Zach McCool to the Atlantic area over spring break.  Trevor’s mom/spokesperson Melanie Petty says while Zach was here, he held a pitching clinic for pitchers in the 4th through 7th grade.  Trevor was a left handed pitcher and played first base from little league through high school.  Petty says the fund is pleased to have helped with the pitching clinic again this year.

Plans are in full swing for the 8th Annual TFred Memorial Golf Tournament which will be held on Saturday, August 13th.  This is the only fundraiser to raise money to give back to the community in Trevor’s honor.  Follow the event through the media and on Facebook for updates throughout the year on what they are doing and how you can help.

Grant Petty is shown presenting the check to Zach along with two of the sessions participants.

Grant Petty is shown presenting the check to Zach along with two of the sessions participants.

2016- Coca-Cola Days in Atlantic: “The Right Choice”

News

March 29th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

(Chamber issued correction for date of the event)

Coca-Cola Days, presented by Atlantic Bottling Company, will be held September 23rd and 24th in Downtown Atlantic. The event is the second biggest collector’s show in the United States and includes a tailgate barbeque open to the public, a Show Swap & Sell, “Discover Atlantic Raffle” and many more activities for all ages. This year’s feature theme is “Coca-Cola- The Right Choice.”EDITED 2 - coca cola days revised full chest

Coca Cola days’ committee chair, Dolly Bergmann says “The theme is created by a volunteer committee each year.” “Coca-Cola – The Right Choice,” was chosen according to Bergmann, because they wanted to tie into the election season. T-Shirts for the 2016 Coca-Cola Days Celebration will feature the theme, “Coca-Cola – The Right Choice”

The event will feature Bottles and Cans on Parade this year, a continuation of last year’s Bottles on Parade. Participating businesses will receive a 4-foot tall plastic Coca-Cola bottle or can to decorate highlighting their business, recognizing civic organizations or highlighting local artists in the community. The bottles will be displayed 2 weeks prior and 2 weeks after Coca-Cola Days and be voted on by the community. The winners will take home AtlantiCash. EDITED - coca cola days revised sleeve

The event will encourage Atlantic Residents and Coca-Cola Collectors to stop into businesses to vote on their favorite bottle.  The activity has three confirmed sponsors, including: Atlantic Coca-Cola Center & Museum, Cappel’s Ace Hardware and China Buffett. Sponsorships are still available for Chamber members interested in supporting the Coca-Cola Days event in 2016.“

For more information on Coca-Cola Days or a full list of activities, please visit www.cocacoladays.com, call the Atlantic Area Chamber of Commerce at 712-243-3017 or email chamber@atlanticiowa.com.

Biochemical state tax credit gains legislative approval, headed to governor

Ag/Outdoor, News

March 29th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

State tax credits will soon be available to Iowa companies that make new products from what’s left over after ethanol and biodiesel are made from “biomass” like corn and soybeans. Governor Terry Branstad supports the concept and the Iowa House gave it final legislative approval Monday afternoon.  Representative Mary Ann Hanusa, a Republican from Council Bluffs, says “This bill incentivizes new start-up companies in Iowa and other ventures to take the biomass feedstocks currently produced in Iowa and manufacture these new building block chemicals.”

Bill backers envision companies developing new products from the starches, sugars and oils that are the left-overs of biofuel production. “The federal Department of Energy has identified approximately 30 chemicals which provide that greatest market potential,” Hanusa says. The bill is “made to order” for Iowa, according to Hanusa, because the state leads the country in biofuel production.

“This bill will create new opportunities for research and development and has the potential for creating new businesses and new product lines,” Hanusa says. “…This legislation will open new horizons in industry, economic development and education across Iowa.” Companies that develop new products from biofuel production left-overs will apply to the Iowa Economic Development Authority for the tax credits.

The bill calls for a 10 million dollar cap on these tax credits each year. The 10 million will come from the Economic Development Authority’s already existing 170 million dollar account for a series of refundable state tax credits.

(Radio Iowa)

Nearly 47 percent of disabled Iowans were employed in 2014

News

March 29th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

Nearly half of all disabled Iowa adults are working. Only two other states have a higher percentage of their disabled citizens in the workforce. Heather Link is the human resources manager at Owner Revolution in Atlantic and Adair. She says companies like hers in rural Iowa are finding it more difficult to find employees with “a good work ethic.”

“What we have found with employing people with disabilities…is they tend to have a much higher work ethic because they want to be there,” Link says. “They have better listening skills. They’re more trainable due to their desire to succeed and, overall, they are more content with their work.” Her company has used federal and state grants to help make workplace accommodations for disabled employees.

“It’s really a great opportunity for businesses to take advantage of the underutilized, but awesome workforce there is in people with disabilities,” Link says. Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds says with nearly “full employment” in Iowa, it’s important to help physically or mentally disabled youth transition into the workforce.

“We believe that every Iowan can learn and every Iowan can work and every Iowan can have, most importantly, a rewarding career,” Reynolds says. Nearly 47 percent of adult Iowans who have a disability were employed in 2014. Officials estimate about 12-and-a-half percent of all Americans have some sort of disability, but only a third of them had a job.

(Radio Iowa)