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Fire in Casey last August likely caused by arson

News

December 21st, 2014 by Ric Hanson

A fire last August in Casey that destroyed the City Hall there, was likely caused by arson. And, while arson is suspected as the reason for the blaze, in an interview with the Omaha World-Herald, Ron Humphrey, Iowa’s  chief fire investigator said the damage was so extensive that the cause might never be officially determined.

The combination City Hall and Community Center burned down early Aug. 20th, the day that state auditors were scheduled to arrive to look at the city’s books. Flames were first spotted in the part of the building where the city offices were located. Humphrey said while all the signs point to arson, proving it is difficult.

Investigators, including those from the FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, are awaiting the release of the state audit, which is likely months away. The city’s records burned in the fire, making the audit far more difficult.

There have been no arrests. A search warrant, which remains sealed, was executed shortly after the blaze at the home of the longtime city clerk, Dorothy Dillinger. Casey Mayor Forrest Schnobrich said Dillinger was interviewed by investigators a few days after the fire. He said she never returned to work after the interview and later resigned. Humphrey said Dillinger was very cooperative and denied having anything to do with the blaze.

Local officials knew the state auditors were scheduled to arrive that day. The audit of city finances was being done as the result of a petition signed by more than 160 local residents. While larger communities in Iowa are audited annually. The City of Casey hadn’t been audited in more than 20 years. Residents in Casey and three other small communities petitioned for an audit in the 2014 fiscal year.

Judi Zimmerline, who owns a hair salon in Casey, was an organizer of the petition drive. It was circulated, she said, because an audit hadn’t been done for so long and because there were suspicions of shoddy bookkeeping. Casey’s mayor has described the call for an audit as a “fishing expedition.” He believes the timing of the fire to be a coincidence.

Joh Ham, spokesman for the ATF’s Fire Research Lab in Maryland, told the paper evidence from the fire is being tested. Meanwhile, a new city clerk is on the job. The city offices have moved temporarily to the basement of the Rolling Hills Bank & Trust across the street. Schnobrich says he hopes the city can rebuild a new city hall-community center on the site of the old one. The city is insured to cover the cost up to $1.2 million.

Prostitution sting in Council Bluffs nets 11 arrests

News

December 21st, 2014 by Ric Hanson

Eight women and three men face charges after a prostitution sting in Council Bluffs. The Daily NonPareil reports the Council Bluffs Police Department conducted a covert operation last Wednesday, at an area hotel. Sgt. Bob Christensen said undercover officers set up meetings with clients and prostitutes via the Internet.

Those arrested on suspicion of prostitution included: 30-year old Holly Marks, of Omaha – who was also cited for possession of marijuana; 33-year old Misty S. Cook, of Council Bluffs; 25-year old Amanda D. Spencer, (no address listed); 27-year old Ashley T. Moss, 23-year old Antwanette L. Tyson, 28-year old Tara D. Marie, and 22-year old Romesha Brown, all of Omaha; 20-year old Latosha Jones, of San Antonio, TX; 49-year old James D. Alexander, of Deerfield, Ill.; 25-year old James C. Welty, of Elkhorn, Neb.; and 49-year old Andrew J. Korenak, of Blair, Neb.

Christensen said undercover agents pretend to be both clients and workers. About 15 officers involved in the operation were at the Council Bluffs hotel from 10 a.m. until midnight on Wednesday. Prostitution is an aggravated misdemeanor, according to Iowa Code.

Iowa early News Headlines: Sunday, Dec. 21st 2014

News

December 21st, 2014 by Ric Hanson

Here is the latest Iowa news from The Associated Press

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — State and local Iowa officials have approved $3.1 million in incentives for an Omaha, Nebraska soybean processor to build a $90 million vegetable oil refinery in northwestern Iowa. The Sioux City Journal reports that an agreement approved Friday by the Woodbury County board will exempt Ag Processing Inc. of Omaha from $2.1 million in county property taxes through 2024. At a separate meeting in Des Moines, the Iowa Economic Development Authority Board approved another $1 million in loans and state tax credits for the project at AGP’s complex near Sergeant Bluff.

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — Officials in Sioux City are keeping an eye on winter weather to help determine when a new children’s museum under construction will be ready to open to the public. The Sioux City Journal reports that the Children’s Museum of Siouxland was scheduled to open by next summer.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa health officials say the number of Iowans hospitalized for flu complications has more than doubled in recent weeks. The Des Moines Register reports that senior citizens in Iowa are being hit especially hard. A report released Friday by the Iowa Department of Public Health says more than half of Iowans being hospitalized for the flu are 65 or older.

DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) — Applications are now being accepted for the Citizen’s Police Academy in Dubuque. The Telegraph Herald reports that the annual program aims to give residents a better understanding of how police work.

Iowa flu hospitalization doubles in recent weeks

News

December 20th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa health officials say the number of Iowans hospitalized for flu complications has more than doubled in recent weeks. The Des Moines Register reports that senior citizens in Iowa are being hit especially hard. A report released Friday by the Iowa Department of Public Health says more than half of Iowans being hospitalized for the flu are 65 or older.

The latest report says that through Dec. 13, 65 Iowans were hospitalized for the flu at a set of hospitals monitored by the department. That was up from 50 the previous week, and 26 the week before that. Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, the department’s medical director, says the Type A H3N2 is the most common strain of the flu hitting the state.

7AM Newscast 12-20-2014

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December 20th, 2014 by Chris Parks

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OWI Arrest in Red Oak Saturday Morning

News

December 20th, 2014 by Chris Parks

The Red Oak Police Department reports the arrest of an Omaha man on a charge of OWI First Offense early Saturday (12/20/2014) morning.  22-year-old Dillon Jacob Fenn of Omaha was arrested in the 400 Block of East Washington Avenue on Saturday morning at 1:40am.  Fenn was booked into the Montgomery County Law Enforcement Center on $1,000 bond.

Audubon County Arrest

News

December 19th, 2014 by admin

The Audubon County Sheriffs Department reports the arrest of a Carroll man early Friday morning. 24 year old Andrew Roland Petersen was charged on an outstanding warrant. Petersen was charged with Operating While Intoxicated; Reckless Driving; Following too Closely; Unsafe Passing; Failure to Maintain Control and Driving on the Wrong Side of a Two Way Highway. The charges stem from the investigation into an accident that occurred on December 1st on Highway 71 south of Audubon. Petersen was transported to the Audubon County Jail and held. He was released following an appearance before the magistrate. A preliminary hearing is set for January 8th at 9-30.

Iowa’s November unemployment rate drops to 4.3 percent

News

December 19th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa’s unemployment rate dropped in November but remains slightly higher than the rate a year ago. Iowa Workforce Development announced Friday that the November unemployment rate was 4.3 percent, down from 4.5 percent in October. The November 2013 rate was 4.2 percent.

The agency says the number of unemployed residents dropped to 73,900 in November. The number of residents with jobs was nearly 1.64 million. Iowa’s unemployment rate remained significantly lower than the national rate of 5.8 percent in November.

Atlantic Police Chief issues another reminder about scams

News

December 19th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

Atlantic Police Chief Steve Green is reminding area residents, especially those who are elderly, about the numerous, ongoing telephone scams that continue to circulate. Green says in recent weeks, the scams have been escalating to the point that the Police Dept. is receiving several complaints per week.

Green says two of the most frequent types of calls claim to be from either the IRS (Internal Revenue Service), or, from Publishers Clearing House (PCH). Some of the calls are automated. The Chief wants to stress that neither PCH nor the IRS will call you to tell you about prizes won or taxes owed. Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES should give provide any personal or financial information to the caller, nor should you send cash or money orders to persons who have called demanding payment for those types of services and others.

The only true way to handle the calls, is to HANG UP. Any new calls should either not be answered if they show up as being from the same number, or if your caller ID show no numbers, then don’t answer, or hang up. The scammers on the other end of the line are experts at trying to gain your confidence or compliance by tempting you to win prizes or threatening you with arrest.

Green says the P-D is aware of the scams, and individual reports to police are not necessary. He says it’s especially important that you sit down with elderly family members or friends and explain to them they may be receiving the scam calls, because those persons are most often targeted for exploitation of their finances and personal information.

Iowa court: VoIP providers must pay telephone tax

News

December 19th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – The Iowa Supreme Court says companies that provide phone service through the Internet must be taxed the same as traditional telephone service providers. The court ruled 6-0 Friday that Voice over Internet Protocol providers operate “telephone lines” even if their service is provided through a broadband network. Therefore, justices say those companies are subject to annual property tax assessments based on the amount of cable and wire they use to provide the service.

The ruling rejected a challenge from Cable One, Inc., an Arizona-based company that provides cable, internet and VoIP service in the Sioux City area. Cable One challenged two years of Iowa Department of Revenue assessments totaling $1.4 million, arguing they didn’t apply because the company doesn’t operate a telephone line.