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Iowa woman’s trial for toddler’s death to begin


April 23rd, 2013 by Ric Hanson

ONAWA, Iowa (AP) – A murder trial is set to begin for a western Iowa woman accused of drowning her 15-month-old son.  Ashley Cameron, of Onawa, is scheduled to have her trial start today (Tuesday) in Monona County District Court. She is charged with first-degree murder and child endangerment in the 2012 death of Markis Dahms.

The Sioux City Journal reports the 25-year-old Cameron waived her right to have a jury hear her case. The trial is expected to be completed this week.  Police say Cameron held Markis under a running faucet in a bathtub until he drowned. The results of an autopsy led to Cameron’s arrest. She pleaded not guilty last year.

(12-p.m News)

Facebook receives an official Iowa “Welcome”


April 23rd, 2013 by Ric Hanson

(DES MOINES) – Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds today joined Altoona’s Mayor Skip Conkling in officially welcoming Facebook to Iowa.  The social networking company, which helps more than 1 billion people around the world connect and share with each other, announced that it will build a new, state-of-the-art data center in Altoona. Facebook will invest a minimum of $299.5 million in the project, which is expected to create hundreds of construction jobs and dozens of full-time operations jobs. The company evaluated several other sites before choosing the Iowa location.

The first phase of the project will result in a 476,000-square foot data center that will be among the most advanced and energy efficient of its kind. The data center will feature an innovative outdoor-air cooling system and the latest in Open Compute Project server designs, and it will be built to LEED Gold standards.

Earlier today the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) board approved $18 million in tax benefits through the High Quality Jobs program to Facebook to create at least 31 new jobs at a qualifying wage of $23.12 per hour. The project will have a minimum capital investment of $299.5 million. Local incentives from the city of Altoona were also approved today.

The 194-acre site selected in Altoona could accommodate up to two additional data center buildings that may be constructed in future phases of the project.

Three projects win grants to explore energy efficiency in farming

Ag/Outdoor, News

April 23rd, 2013 by Ric Hanson

Three farm demonstration projects have won grants to work on ways to make farm activities more energy efficient. Carol Yates of the University of Northern Iowa is working with the farmers through what’s called the Iowa Farm Energy Working Group. “The Farm Energy Working Group is a statewide organization of people interested in helping farmers on small to mid-sized operations find new ways to reduce their energy use and try to change from fossil fuel use to other ways of making energy on the farm,” Yates says. “And if those ways can come from resources on the farm, that’s even better.”

Yates works at the U-N-I Center for Energy and Environmental Education and says the alternative energy can come from all types of sources, including solar panels and windmills. One of the projects involves a farmer near Coralville adapting an electric sickle mower to be used with his electric tractor. “Some other farmers who are in western Iowa are going to install some L-E-D lights in their new energy-efficient dairy processing building. And those are the new very efficient lights that use about 75 to 80-percent less energy,” Yates explains. Tom and Janna Feldman will install those lights at “Doe’s and Diva’s Dairy” in Honey Creek. The third demonstration project also involves dairy farming.

“A dairy foundation near Calmar is going to install two robotic milking systems for some of the cows that it has there,” Yates says. “And this will be used as a demonstration to educate farmers on the best practices in dairy operations. And they are going to collect data usage to show — we hope — that these robotic milkers reduce the use of energy and water.” The end goal is to come up with ways to reduce energy use on the farm that can be shared. “These are farm-scale kinds of ideas, and we are very interested in sharing the results with other farmers,” Yates says. She says they share the information in a variety of ways from reports on the data, to presentations by the farmers, to field trips, with the idea that the demonstrations will show ways other farmers can incorporate what they’ve learned in their operations.

The projects are funded through the Leopold Center at Iowa State University. The Iowa Farm Energy Working Group includes farmers and representatives from agriculture, policy, higher education, utilities and farm organizations. For more information on the group, visit: www.uni.edu/ceee/farm-energy-working-group.

(Radio Iowa)

Facebook plans $300M data center, Google expands


April 23rd, 2013 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Iowa economic development officials are approving tax credits for Facebook to build a $300 million data center in Altoona and increasing incentives for Google that allows it to expand in Council Bluffs.  Both projects are before an Iowa Economic Development Authority board meeting Tuesday.

The board’s due diligence committee has approved $18 million in tax credits for the Facebook project to be built near Interstate 80 in Altoona, a Des Moines suburb. The full board is considering the project, which will create 31 jobs.   Kearney, Neb., also sought the project.

Google has a $600 million data center in Council Bluffs and is building another. It’s increased the cost to $700 million from the original $300 million. The state is increasing tax credits offered to $16.8 million from under $10 million.

Adair County Supervisors to receive MMP update


April 23rd, 2013 by Ric Hanson

The Adair County Board of Supervisors will meet 9-a.m. Wednesday, at the courthouse in Greenfield. During their session, the Board will receive a Manure Management Plan (MMP) update, along with a FY 2012 Landfill Financial report, and responses pertaining to an Iowa Municipal Workers’ Compensation Association site inspection.

The Board in Adair County will also receive a report from the Veterans Affairs Director, with regard to laptop, phone and V-A Office lease matters, and discuss with County Conservation Director Kevin Blazek, a “Safe Room.”

Cass Co. Supervisors to receive report on courthouse space study


April 23rd, 2013 by Ric Hanson

The Cass County Board of Supervisors are expected to receive a report during their meeting Wednesday morning, in Atlantic, with regard to a “Courthouse space” needs study and HVAC (Heating, Ventilation & Cooling) analysis. The study, which was approved by the Board in December, was conducted by Carlson, West, and Povandra Architects, cost a total of $4,300.

Finding more space in the courthouse or on the grounds of the facility is a process that began in the Fall of 2011, after it became clear the Cass County 9-1-1/Communications Center has outgrown its current location, and because new technology will take up more space and require the use of additional personnel to operate it. The board concluded the HVAC study should be done to determine whether it would be more cost effective and feasible to install a Geo-thermal system, or reconfigure the current system, depending on the location of the 9-1-1 Center.

In other business, the  Supervisors will recess to conduct the second of three public hearings and a vote on amendments to the County General Assistance Program. The first hearing and vote on the matter took place last week. he amendments generally serve to clean-up the language in the current General Assistance Program policy, and eliminates any typographical errors.

The Board will also receive a quarterly report from Cass County Veterans Affairs Director Mitch Holmes, and on Public Safety Communications from Shaun Shouse. They’re also expected to act on approving a VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) request for proposal (RFP).  The Board of Supervisors meeting begins at 9-a.m., Wednesday.

Malvern man arrested on assault warrant in Mills County


April 23rd, 2013 by Ric Hanson

The Mills County Sheriff’s Office reports the arrest last week of a Malvern man. 34-year old Joseph Lee Mosier was arrested on a Pottawattamie County warrant charging him with assault. Mosier was taken into custody at around 1-a.m. Friday during a traffic stop near 315th and Highway 34. His bond was set at $2,000.


Harlan School District hires new Superintendent/Board Secretary & other staff


April 23rd, 2013 by Ric Hanson

The Harlan Community School District’s Board of Education, Monday, approved the hiring of a new superintendent secretary and board secretary to replace Terry Cox, who announced her retirement last week. The board agreed Kelli Klaassen from the Shelby County Campus of Iowa Western Community College was the best qualified candidate for the position.

Superintendent Justin Wagner says was a big decision for the district. He said “This was a huge hire for us in my opinion. Trying to replace Terry Cox will be difficult as she touches a lot of things and does a super job. We went through the process and talked with Kelli. Right now, she runs IWCC in Harlan, has grown the program and works well with people. She really fits the bill well. We are really excited to get someone in the community on board.”

Klaassen has been with Iowa Western Community College for more than six-years, with the last three in Harlan. She will begin her journey with the Harlan Community School District on June 3rd. The Board also approved the hiring of Jenna Hucka, former Harlan Community graduate, for primary special education teacher,  and Chris Brown for technical support. In other business, the Harlan Community School Board approved a 4.29 percent wage/benefit increase for the superintendent, administrators and non-certified employees. The increase was the same as the increase to teacher salaries.

And the Board approved a 28-E agreement with the City of Harlan, which Wagner said was for Vision Iowa dollars, destined for Merrill Field.

(Joel McCall/KNOD)

Atlantic School District finances are solid, but some areas need to be watched


April 23rd, 2013 by Ric Hanson

The Atlantic Community School District’s finances are solid, but some areas need to be watched closely. That was the word Monday night from Gary Sinclair, Senior Financial Adviser for PMA Financial Network.

Gary Sinclair

Sinclair presented financial information from the IASB (Iowa Association of School Boards), and a lite Financial Planning Program (FPP) from PMA. He said a summary of the district’s financial data takes a “Big picture” look at how money was spent, where it came from, enrollment trends, cash and unspent balance trends. Enrollment, he said, is one of seven “Key indicators,” of a district’s financial health, as well as the “Solvency ratio,” which, for Atlantic, is 8.6-percent for the current Fiscal Year.

He said the data shows the rate is “slightly down” for Atlantic, which Sinclair says is okay, because “You can’t always have an upward trajectory, it’s gotta be up and down. The recommended range is five-to 15-percent, not to exceed 25.” In FY 2011, Atlantic’s solvency ratio was 9.1%. The highest was in 2008, when the ratio was 14-percent. The current ratio, according to Sinclair, is in-line with what a bulk of other districts are experiencing. In the area of revenue expenditures, Sinclair said the Atlantic District spent 101.5% of revenue, which is healthy, but could be a problem in the future. He said almost every district has spent more money than they took in, because of the cuts in funding they experienced. He says Atlantic is healthy right now, but if overspending continues every year, that will create “some issues.”

Atlantic’s Unspent Budget ratio in FY 2012 was 25.3%, which is down from 28% in FY 2011, but still at the high end of the recommend amount. Sinclair says the recommended range is 5-to 15-percent, not to exceed 25. He said most school districts are in the same boat, a situation he blames in part, on a “Lack of Direction from the legislature.” Even so, he says the district needs to watch how much it has available in unspent budget authority. The Atlantic School District was on par with other districts, as far as its Salary and Benefit ratio, but it needs to watch its spending.

He said also, the district needs to keep tabs on overspending its revenues. In three of the last five-years, the district has overspent its revenue, which Sinclair says “Is not unusual,” and what it should be doing to “Some extent,” but it needs to watch its spending authority closely.

ISP releases names in fatal Monona Co. crash


April 23rd, 2013 by Ric Hanson

The Iowa State Patrol has released the name of a man who died following a crash early Saturday morning, in Monona County.Officials say 59-year old Albert Butler, of Mapleton, died from his injuries at Mercy Hospital, in Sioux City. Another person in the vehicle, 44-year old Judith Krohn, also of Mapleton, was injured. She was treated at the hospital for non-life threatening injuries. Officials say they still don’t know who was driving. Alcohol is believed to have played a role in the accident, which happened at around 1-a.m. Saturday, in Mapleton.

The Patrol says a 2004 Ford F-250 pickup occupied by Butler and Krohn was traveling east on Highway 141, when it failed to negotiate a curve. The vehicle left the road and rolled into the east ditch, just east of Pecan Avenue, in Mapleton. The accident remains under investigation.