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Education reform effort may be faltering

News

April 30th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

Legislators appear to have reached a standstill at the statehouse, with deep divisions over taxing and spending issues, plus the much-vaunted education reform effort is in jeopardy. House Speaker Kraig Paulsen says the 10 lawmakers who’ve been trying to hammer out that education plan are “obviously struggling” to find common ground between the two parties.”I don’t know if they’re able to bridge that gap or get over those hurdles,” Paulsen says. Senator Herman Quirmbach, a Democrat from Ames who is involved in the negotiations, admits the impasse may not be resolved. “I would be disappointed at that outcome,” Quirmbach says. “But there are some places that we will not go.” Some Republican lawmakers question whether it is necessary to pass a state spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1st, since legislators approved a partial two-year budget last year. That two-year plan would provide most state agencies with half as much as they’ve gotten this year.

Senator Bill Dix of Shell Rock is the top-ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee. “I believe that there are sufficient resources that were allocated a year ago to get to January 1,” Dix says, “in which case the next legislature, after this November election, could make a determination at that point of how to supplementally approve resources for the balance of that year.” Dix says he “promised the taxpayers” he would ensure state spending doesn’t grow beyond available revenue. “That’s why I ran,” Dix says. “That’s why I’m here and that’s why I believe I have the support of people in my district.” But Representative Scott Raecker of Urbandale — the Republican who chairs the House Appropriations Committee — has not signed onto the idea of walking away now without taking action on the state budget. “If there’s no further action on the budget, then there would be areas of state government that I believe would run out of their cash flow prior to the legislature convening next January,” Raecker says.

Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs says state agencies would have to make tough choices if legislators don’t come to some agreement soon on the budget. “They cannot presume that next January we would come back and do anything — they cannot presume that — and therefore one-quarter of all people in nursing homes would be thrown out of nursing homes,” Gronstal says. “Schools would lose thousands of teachers. I mean, it’s not really a plan that works.” House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, the top Republican in the legislature, says the budget problems will be solved before July. “We’ll get it sorted out and it’ll all be fine,” Paulsen told reporters. Legislators are still grappling with the issue of property tax reform, too — but no one involved in the behind-the-scenes negotiations is yet willing to declare that issue dead.

(O. Kay Henderson/Radio Iowa)

Two incidents examples of why you should call before digging

News

April 30th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

A spokesperson for Iowa One Call says two recent incidents in western Iowa could have been prevented if workers had only called his organization to get help locating underground utilities. An underground natural gas pipeline was hit east of Hinton Wednesday –leading to an explosion and injuries to two workers on a trencher. Last month a fiber optic cable was cut near Orange City and that left thousands of customers in Le Mars without cable, internet and phone services. Iowa Once Call spokesperson, Ben Booth, says their system is set up for “damage prevention, ” and the law requires you to notify Iowa One Call before any digging is done.  “In essence, if you do not call before you dig, you are in violation of this serious law and there are ramifications,” Booth says. He says the state’s top lawyer can take action if you fail to call before digging.

“The Attorney General has the power to investigate and enforce the penalty proceedings under Chapter 480 and that could amount — in a gas line situation — in fines up to a half-a-million dollars. That’s 10-thousand dollars per day, per violation all the way up to half-a-million dollars,” Booth explains. “So you can see, it really is a very, very, serious matter with potentially very serious consequences.” The One Call spokesman says he doesn’t understand why people don’t use the service, especially since it only takes a little pre-planning.  “Here’s the thing, it’s not only a toll-free phone call, the service itself is free. The only thing you have to do is plan 48-hours in advance. You need to notify Iowa Once call at least 48-hours prior to commencing with your excavations or your digging projects. And that does not include Saturdays and Sundays and legal holidays,” according to Booth. He says no one is exempt from the law — from people digging in backyards to backfields — everyone must call before they dig.The number to call is 8-1-1, or 1-800-292-8989.

The Iowa Attorney General’s office says it is looking into the pipeline explosion for possible action. Other recent incidents of people hitting underground utilities while digging, include Saturday morning’s gas line rupture in Red Oak, which occurred during an excavation and forced the evacuation of some residents, and, an incident late last week here in Atlantic, when a contractor hit a gas line while digging just off of Lincoln Drive. For more information on Iowa One-Call, go to www.iowaonecall.com.

(Radio Iowa/KJAN)

 

 

Red Oak man arrested for OWI

News

April 29th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

The Red Oak Police Department reports 42-year old Danny Jo Lane, of Red Oak, was arrested early Sunday morning, on an OWI charge. Lane was taken into custody just before 1-a.m. on a charge of OWI/Drugged, and held in the Montgomery County Jail on $1,000 bond.

Western IA woman sent to Neb. prison for dog dumping

News

April 29th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (AP) – An Iowa woman has been ordered to serve 90 days in a Nebraska prison for dumping 23 dead or dying dogs in a cornfield. Hall County District Judge William Wright said during Friday’s sentencing hearing that Denise Withee surrounded herself with animals to help her cope with depression. Wright ordered the prison to evaluate Withee, of Mapleton, Iowa, and report back to him so he can make a final determination on her sentence.
 
Withee said during her animal cruelty trial that she was taking the dogs someone in Nebraska when she became sick, pulled over and passed out. She said that when she awoke, most of the dogs were dead from the heat. She said she panicked and dumped them near Grand Island.

Cut Gas Line Causes Evacuation in Red Oak

News

April 28th, 2012 by Chris Parks

A gas leak west of Red Oak  forced several residents from their homes for about two and one-half hours, Saturday. Montgomery County emergency management director Brian Hamman said a home owner at 1938 G Avenue cut a one-inch diameter natural gas line while digging in his yard, about 10:20 a.m. Fire crews evacuated four houses and closed roads in the area while crews from Mid-American Energy promptly acted to repair the the line. Residents were allowed to return to their homes about 1 p.m. Saturday. No injuries were reported.

8AM Newscast 04-28-2012

News, Podcasts

April 28th, 2012 by Chris Parks

w/ Chris Parks

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Iowa DOT begins traffic information collection in southwest Iowa

News

April 27th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

Officials with the Iowa Department of Transportation said Friday they’ll be working across the state this summer to determine how many cars, trucks and other vehicles are using the state’s roadways. This year’s efforts are concentrated in southwestern Iowa, but occasionally crews will work elsewhere in the state.

Many employees will spend peak hours between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. at one location counting the morning, noon and evening traffic. They will count and classify vehicles, record vehicle turning movements, tally helmet usage by motorcyclists, and gather other data necessary to plan the future of Iowa’s roadway systems. During off-peak hours when they are not counting vehicles, those same employees may be seen around the community.

The DOT says other employees will be placing and checking portable traffic recorders in the same general areas. When the recorders are set, they usually record data for one or two days and are checked periodically. Employees responsible for the recorders work various shifts, so their vehicles may be seen at local motels while most of us are going about our regular daytime activities.

Another data collection method involves capturing images of the state highways. The program covers half of the state yearly and utilizes a van with two mounted cameras that collect 200 images per mile. At the same time, precise location information is collected through a global positioning system. That data is stored along with the images on the van’s onboard computer system. The van may be seen operating on the state’s highways in the southern half of Iowa as well as all the interstates this year. Other statewide work scheduled for this summer includes the installation, upgrading and maintenance of permanent, automatic traffic recorders and weigh-in-motion equipment.

Officials say all of the work is critical to the future of the state’s transportation system. The information gathered allows transportation officials to better predict traffic trends, and allows them to plan improvements that they say will give Iowans the most benefit for each dollar spent.

Iowa reviews energy SynGest exec’s background

Ag/Outdoor, News

April 27th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

IOWA CITY (AP) — Iowa economic development officials are reviewing whether to continue a $2.5 million investment in a startup company pitching a groundbreaking fertilizer technology in Menlo, after learning jurors once found its chairman had misused investor money in another energy project. Court records reviewed by The Associated Press show SynGest Chairman Serge Randhava was found in 2008 by a jury in Illinois to have committed civil racketeering and fraud with associates in connection with $500,000 invested to develop a fertilizer technology. A judge vacated the verdict in 2009 when the case was settled. Randhava denied wrongdoing and said the case was one part of a messy, high-stakes business litigation. Two Iowa Power Fund Board members who voted to invest in SynGest say they were unaware of the case and would have investigated the details.

In January, Iowa economic development leaders notified Syngest that it won’t get a $2.5 million grant unless it successfully lands investors in a proposed $130 million biomass-to-ammonia plant to be located in Menlo. The company seeks to make fertilizer using corn cobs and other corn residue. Company leaders promised huge returns: hundreds of jobs in Menlo, a new revenue source for farmers selling corn cobs and cheaper, more sustainable fertilizer. Eventually, they envisioned 20 such plants in Iowa.

The California-based company had pledged to attract $3.5 million in investment in the plant by Oct. 1st, 2011 in the plant, but by Jan. 17th, 2012, had failed to do so. The company cited difficulties attracting investors amid a slow economy. In January, state officials gave SynGest 30 days to raise the money or lose the aid. SynGest soon said it had the funds, and provided proof of their deposit in a bank account. SynGest says it will soon begin engineering and design work and start asking for reimbursement from its state aid, although it hasn’t yet.

Prostitution sting nets arrests in Iowa, Nebraska

News

April 27th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

COUNCIL BLUFFS (AP) — An undercover operation has netted more than a dozen arrests for prostitution in Council Bluffs and Omaha, Neb., and officials say the investigation isn’t over. Authorities say those arrested include both prostitutes and their customers. They were taken to the Pottawattamie County jail in Council Bluffs. Police in both cities are assisting the FBI in the investigation. Last week, federal authorities indicted four people who prosecutors say used spas as fronts for a prostitution operation in Omaha.

Iowa evening News Headlines: April 27 2012

News

April 27th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

Here is the latest Iowa news from The Associated Press

COUNCIL BLUFFS (AP) — An undercover operation has netted more than a dozen arrests for prostitution in Council Bluffs and Omaha, Nebraska. Authorities say those arrested include both prostitutes and their customers. They were taken to the Pottawattamie County jail in Council Bluffs.

IOWA CITY (AP) — Iowa economic development officials are reviewing whether to continue a $2.5 million investment in a startup company pitching a groundbreaking fertilizer technology. The Associated Press reports Illinois jurors found its chairman had misused investor money in another energy project. Two Iowa Power Fund Board members who voted to invest in SynGest say today they were unaware of the 2008 case against SynGest Chairman Serge Randhava and want more details.

HINTON (AP) — The Iowa attorney general’s office is investigating a natural gas pipeline explosion near Hinton to see if workers followed a state law requiring utility companies to be notified before digging begins. The One Call law requires workers to call a hotline 48 hours before digging so utility companies can mark the location of underground lines or pipes. Violators face a $10,000 fine per day of digging if they fail to call.