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(Update) Search called-off for SUV thieves


February 2nd, 2012 by Ric Hanson

Stolen, burned-out Hyundai Sante Fe (photo courtesy IA State Patrol)

Authorities in southwest Iowa have reportedly called-off their search for two people who stole an SUV from Missouri and led law enforcement on a chase throughout several southwest Iowa counties. The chase ended when the 2002 Hyundai Sante Fe, which was stolen from a residence this (Thursday) morning, in Burlington Junction, MO., crashed into a levee south of Sidney, and burst into flames. The two male suspects fled on foot, and remain at large. During the chase, the Iowa State Patrol set-up a roadblock on Interstate 29 near Nebraska City, NE. The Patrol said that’s where a Fremont County sheriff’s deputy fired two shots at the vehicle’s tires to try to stop the suspects. The vehicle was being tracked by GPS, but the signal was lost at around 10-a.m. 

Officials said a short time later, a farmer in Fremont County saw the SUV drive through one of his fields. He engaged in his own pursuit, and watched as the vehicle crashed into a levee near a gravel road off of Highway 275, and catch fire. The Iowa State Patrol said two of its cruisers were disabled during the chase: one blew an engine, while the other had cooling issues associated with the radiator.

Duplex fire in Atlantic


February 2nd, 2012 by Ric Hanson

Firefighters in Atlantic were called to the scene of a residential fire this (Thursday) afternoon, in a duplex located at 2101 Chestnut Street.

South side of 2101 Chesnut Street in Atlantic

 Atlantic Fire Chief Mark McNees said the fire was called in by a person living on one side of the home. He says the resident was awoken by smoke and tried to find her neighbors, but they were already gone. The chief says the house was fully engulfed in flames along the south, or back side of the structure, when fire fighters arrived. He says after speaking with the owners, it appears discarded smoking materials on the deck fanned by winds created the sparks that caused the fire.

McNees said they were still trying to determine exactly where the flames started, but he thought it might have been on some patio furniture.

Fire at 2101 Chesnut, closer view (Ric Hanson photo)

 The house sustained severe fire and smoke damage and will likely be declared a total loss. A single female lived in one half of the duplex. McNees says he believes a couple and their child lived on the other side. No injuries were reported.

Manhunt underway in Fremont Co. for SUV theft suspects


February 2nd, 2012 by Ric Hanson

Authorities in southwest Iowa were on the lookout this afternoon for two suspects involved in the theft of an SUV. According to reports,  two people in an SUV stolen out of Nodaway County, MO., led law enforcement through several southwest Iowa counties before the vehicle crashed along a levee south of Sidney. The SUV caught fire  and the suspects escaped on foot. Unconfirmed reports said shots may have been fired during the chase. The Fremont County Sheriff’s Office has asked the Marnie Simons Elementary School and Nishnabotna Middle School to be on lock down, while an is underway north of Hamburg. School officials said that students are not in danger, and they ask that no one visit the schools until the sheriff’s office has given the all-clear.

Iowa House OKs plan to overturn lead shot ban

Ag/Outdoor, News

February 2nd, 2012 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – The Iowa House has approved a resolution that would overturn a ban on the use of lead shot when hunting doves.  Backers of the resolution say the Natural Resources Commission overstepped its authority when writing rules governing the hunting of doves. That hunting was legalized by the Legislature last year. The House approved the resolution on a 68-27 vote Thursday, and the issue now goes to the Senate, where approval is likely.  Backers of the ban on lead shot say other animals can eat the lead and that can lead to sickness or death.  Opponents of the ban say lawmakers discussed the issue last year and decided not to ban lead shot. They argue regulators shouldn’t overturn that decision.

SW IA Iowa Renewable Energy, LLC to Pay $10,150 for Risk Management Plan Violations

Ag/Outdoor, News

February 2nd, 2012 by Ric Hanson

Officials with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Kansas City office report Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy, LLC, has agreed to pay a $10,150 civil penalty and spend at least $38,729 on a supplemental environmental project for failing to file a risk management plan and implement risk management regulations at its dry-mill ethanol plant in Council Bluffs.  According to an administrative consent agreement and final order filed by EPA Region 7 in Kansas City, Kan., an inspection of the ethanol plant in January 2010 found that the company had not filed a risk management plan for the facility, as required by the federal Clean Air Act. 

Under the Clean Air Act, the Council Bluffs facility was required to file a risk management plan because it had exceeded the 10,000-pound threshold for anhydrous ammonia, an extremely hazardous chemical. Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy was storing approximately 28,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia at the time of the EPA inspection. As part of its settlement with EPA, Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy has agreed to perform a supplemental environmental project, through which it will spend at least $38,729 to purchase emergency response equipment for the Council Bluffs and Lewis Township fire departments. By agreeing to the settlement, the company has certified that the Council Bluffs ethanol plant is now in compliance with federal Risk Management Program regulations.

Wine, Dine Sweetheart for Free this Year

Ag/Outdoor, News

February 2nd, 2012 by Ric Hanson

February 2 (Des Moines, IA) – The average American will spend $196 on Valentine’s Day this year, according to the American Express Spending and Saving Tracker. But one lucky person will be able to wine and dine their sweetheart for free thanks to the Iowa Wine and Beer Promotion Board and Dine Iowa. Now through noon on February 14, people can register at www.traveliowa.com to win a $50 gift certificate to their favorite Iowa winery, a $50 gift certificate to their favorite Dine Iowa restaurant and an iPad2 pre-loaded with the Iowa Wine and Beer and Dine Iowa apps. 

“Valentine’s Day presents a great opportunity to showcase Iowa’s wine and dining industries. Each is booming here and each creates jobs and enhances the state’s economy,” said Colleen Murphy of the Iowa Wine and Beer Promotion Board, an initiative of the Iowa Economic Development Authority. “The Iowa Wine & Dine promotion will give one lucky a winner a chance to surprise his or her sweetheart with a gift certificate good at one of more than 80 Iowa wineries and 400 Iowa restaurants, any of which promise to provide a memorable, uniquely Iowa experience.”

The winner will be announced on the Iowa Tourism Office’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/IowaTourism) at 2:14 p.m. on February 14. The Iowa Wine and Beer Promotion Board was created in 1986 to promote the state’s wine and beer making industries. Wine-related tourism generates nearly $30 million in expenditures across the state. To date, Iowa boasts 81 wineries and 25 breweries. Find more information at www.iowawineandbeer.com.

Winter Storm Watch expanded: brunt of snow to fall Saturday morning & afternoon

News, Weather

February 2nd, 2012 by Ric Hanson

The National Weather Service has expanded the Winter Storm Watch to include Taylor and Ringgold Counties in southwest Iowa. The Watch now covers nearly all of the KJAN listening area. Officials say a mixture of rain and snow will develop over area Friday evening before switching over to all snow past midnight Friday into the early morning hours on Saturday.

The heaviest accumulations are expected to occur Saturday morning into Saturday afternoon before it tapers off Saturday evening. Total snowfall across southwest and western Iowa may range from 4- to 7-inches. In addition, northeast winds at 20- to 30-miles per hours with higher gusts possible, are expected to cause significant visibility restrictions and drifting of snow on Saturday and Saturday night.

Continue to keep abreast of the latest weather forecasts, and consider postponing any travel plans early this weekend.


Labor Dep’t agrees to rethink rules on kids working on farms

Ag/Outdoor, News

February 2nd, 2012 by Ric Hanson

Federal officials have agreed to modify a plan that’s designed to protect children from dangerous jobs on family farms. The U-S Labor Department has been under fire from farm groups because the proposed rules were seen as too restrictive. Iowa Senator Tom Harkin says he’s encouraged to see the rules are being reconsidered by labor leaders. Harkin says, “They need to get additional information in, go back to the drawing table and write a better regulation.” The original proposal spelled out that children younger than 16 would be banned from using most power equipment, while those under 18 would be barred from working in locations like grain bins and feed lots. The new version will reportedly contain more exemptions for kids whose parents own or run the farms on which they’re working.

“I hope they’ll reach agreement on a regulation that protects kids but also recognizes family agriculture,” Harkin says. “It’s one thing to say that kids shouldn’t be operating fork lifts or humongous tractors or combines and to say they can’t even drive a garden tractor.” Harkin, a Democrat, says he agrees with those who’ve spoken out against the proposed regulations which would tear down generations of farm family traditions. “There has to be some balance, some rational thinking,” Harkin says. “Some of what they’re proposing, fine, but I talked to Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack about this. He says it would go so far to say kids couldn’t even drive a tractor across the road, well, kids have been driving tractors for years.” Labor department officials say they’ll work with the Ag department and others to make sure the new rules reflect rural communities’ concerns.

(Matt Kelley/Radio Iowa)

Toughest gun rights defense in country


February 2nd, 2012 by Ric Hanson

A proposal to add an amendment to the Iowa Constitution that would ensure Iowans have the right to keep and bear arms has cleared an initial hurdle in the Iowa House. Representative Matt Windschitl, a Republican from Missouri Valley, says Iowa is one of just six states with a constitution that does not provide “gun rights” to its citizens. “I’ve gotten a lot of people who have talked to me about stuff like this. Why don’t we have that protection in our constitution?” Windschitl says. “There’s a great unease out there.” If adopted, this proposal would be the toughest constitutional defense of gun rights in the country.

Representative Deborah Berry, a Democrat from Waterloo, says she supports the “second amendment rights” spelled out in the U.S. Constitution.  “You know my father was a hunter and so I know all that, but I think sometimes there are some consequences to some of the things we do related to guns and what have you and I’m concerned about that,” Berry says. Berry says she wants to know more about the proposal before she’ll decide whether to support or oppose it.

Richard Rogers of the Iowa Firearms Coalition says there’s nothing in the state constitution to “guarantee” gun rights in Iowa. “As our constitution states, you have an inalienable right to defend yourself from threats, but to say that you have that right but that you do not have the right to possess an effective means of doing so, a tool — doesn’t have to be a gun, by the way — that’s nonsensical,” Rogers says. Supporters like Rogers say the modern-day U.S. Supreme Court has narrowly ruled on gun rights issues and it’s important to enshrine those rights in the state constitution. The right to keep and bear arms….despite the fact that it’s an inalienable right, it seems to be one that people try to figure out ways around the constitutional guarantee, to kick it to the curb, sweep it under the rug and so we’ve learned by experience,” Rogers says, “and that’s why this is worded somewhat differently.”

If Iowans approve this constitutional amendment, Representative Windschitl says it would be possible for advocates of gun rights to sue to to get rid of some gun-related laws, like the state law which requires Iowans to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon. “The intent of this is not to cause controversy,” Windschitl says. “The intent of this is to protect Iowans second amendment rights and it’s meant to do that with the strongest language possible because there have been so many judicial abuses, in my opinion, of our second amendment rights. We’ve come so close to losing those fundamental rights. This is why we have the language crafted as we do.” The process of amending the state constitution isn’t easy. This proposal must pass the Iowa General Assembly this year, and then sometime in 2013 or 2014 before Iowans could vote on the proposed amendment in November of 2014. Early this morning (Thursday), a three-member House committee gave its approval to setting that process in motion. The proposal — it’s not a bill but a resolution — will next be considered by the House Public Safety Committee.

(O. Kay Henderson/Radio Iowa)

Lewis Central Spanish Teacher to be arrested on sexual exploitation charges


February 2nd, 2012 by Ric Hanson

A Spanish teacher at the Lewis Central High School has resigned, and is scheduled to turn himself-in today to authorities in Pottawattamie County, after a warrant was issued for his arrest. 30-year old Daniel Pantoja, of Omaha, NE, faces a felony charge of with Sexual Exploitation by a School Employee, and a Serious Misdemeanor charge of Lascivious Conduct with a Minor.

Pottawattamie County Sheriff Jeff Danker says the warrant for Pantoja’s arrest was issued after authorities conducted an investigation into his activities, following a complaint filed on Wednesday, by a 17-year old female student at the Lewis Central High School, and her father. The complaint alleges the juvenile received inappropriate text messages from Pantoja.

Danker says in December, Pantoja obtained the girls’ cellular phone number in class, because she was working at the Mall of the Bluffs as Santa’s Elf. Pantoja reportedly told the girl that he wanted to get his picture taken with Santa while the juvenile was on the job. Soon thereafter, she began to receive text messages from Pantoja, consisting of statements indicating if he were her age, he would ask her out, and other, similar statements.

The girl alleged Pantoja took her phone during class and without her consent, had searched the picture folder, where he discovered pictures of her wearing a sports bra and shorts. She said after he discovered the pictures, he texted her, asking her to send him that photo. The juvenile agreed to send Pantoja the picture in exchange for a better grade in class. Pantoja also reportedly sent the girl a nude picture of an adult male torso, with the genitalia covered by the left hand. The picture was allegedly sent from Pantoja’s cell phone, the same phone from which the text messages originated. He then allegedly requested she send him two more pictures of herself, one with more clothing, one with less.

Pantoja’s bond was set at $5,000. The man has made arrangements with his attorney, to turn himself-in.