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Mark Becker’s mother: death of Ed Thomas might have been avoided if her son could have gotten help he needed


October 8th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

The mother of a man convicted of killing a popular northeast Iowa coach and teacher says families struggling with mental illness should not stay silent any longer. Five years ago, Mark Becker shot and killed Aplington-Parkersburg head football coach Ed Thomas. Since Becker’s trial and conviction of first degree murder in 2010, Joan Becker has spoken out about the dangers of dealing with an undiagnosed mental illness. Becker told KCRG-TV that her son backs her efforts to speak out — with hopes that his story may help someone else.

“He really supports what I’m doing. He said if we can help by sharing our story, if that helps one person, then it’s worth it,” Becker said. In a presentation before a crowd in Cedar Rapids this week, Joan Becker started with snapshots of an average young Iowa boy. But, around the age of 16, Mark Becker began to change into a troubled young man who heard voices and went through psychotic episodes that included threats of violence toward his family. Joan Becker encourages families to heed the warning signs, be persistent in seeking professional help for a loved one who is struggling, and don’t be embarrassed because the issue is mental illness. Becker noted no one would be embarrassed if the diagnosis was cancer.

“That is wrong, we should be able to talk about this and get support from our community, from our church family, and everybody out there,” Becker said. When someone in the audience asked how much has changed since the shooting, Becker said things have gotten a bit better but getting timely care for mental illness, especially for a family seeking help for an adult child, remains a struggle.

Following his conviction, Mark Becker was formally diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. His mother said that the death of Thomas might have been avoided if her son could have gotten the help he needed in time. Joan Becker said Mark gets excellent care in prison and if she calls correctional officials saying her son seems to be slipping backward a bit, they’ll adjust medication or provide more counseling. That reaction was missing when the family sought help before the shooting death of the coach.

Joan Becker finished a book this year about her son’s struggles with undiagnosed mental illness and the family’s attempts to get help at the time. Her agent still is seeking a publisher. Becker has hopes her message will eventually find a wider audience.

(KCRG/Radio Iowa)

Iowans encouraged to get out and walk today (Wednesday)


October 8th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

The effort to get people in the state moving to make them healthier continues today (Wednesday) with a fourth annual group walk. Delta Dental is one of the sponsors of the Healthiest State Initiative walk. Delta C-E-O Jeff Russell talked about the walk at the governor’s weekly meeting with reporters. “We believe the walk is a great way for Iowans to stay active and show their continuing support for the Healthiest State Initiative,” Russell says. “When you combine physical activity and good dental health, we believe Iowa can maintain momentum towards becoming the healthiest state in the nation.” Russell says they encourage Iowans to see a dentist and to do more walking.

“A visit to the dentist not only helps protect your dental health, but it can be used to detect more than 120 disease states throughout your body,” Russell says. Iowa Lottery C-E-O, Terry Rich, is the chairman of this year’s walk, and says there will be a wide variety of participants across the state. “The governor, legislators, staff, universities, businesses, churches, some political candidates and their supporters — heck we’ve even called out the National Guard in an effort to get everyone active,” Rich says.

The Iowa National Guard is mobilizing soldiers to lead families and residents in 1-K walks at 52 armories across the state. Rich says they’re asking everyone to log onto the Iowa-Healthiest-State-dot-com (www.IowaHealthiestState.com) website to sign up for the walk. “We believe we’ve probably already passed our goal of a half-million folks who will be walking Wednesday, but we’d love to have people register to kind of officially say that we did it,” Rich says. “So, if you will go to the website, we’d appreciate that obviously helping us out.”

Iowa has moved up from 19th to 10th on the health index that ranks the states. Governor Terry Branstad says obesity is the thing that’s keeping the state from moving higher. “It is one of our biggest challenges, and one of the real concerns is the increase in obesity among young people. So, this is one of the important challenges we are facing,” Branstad says. The governor says other states face the same problem with increasing obesity rates among children. “So, we’re trying to reverse that long-standing trend by getting people more active, by getting people not only to exercise, but also looking at their choices in terms of what they eat,” Branstad says, “encouraging more fruits and vegetables, protein, maybe reduce the amount of carbohydrates, things they can do. Got to get people to take ownership of their own health.”

The governor and lieutenant governor will lead a walk at the State Capitol. In addition, the Iowa Department of Public Health and County Health officials will be leading walks throughout Iowa and schools around the state are gathering students to walk as part of the “National Walk to School Day.”

(Radio Iowa)

Pottawattamie County Cities celebrate City Week October 6 – 10, 2014


October 8th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

City government is the government closest to most citizens and the one with the most direct daily impact upon its residents. With that in mind, municipal officials feel a responsibility to pass along their understanding of public services and their benefits. City Week is sponsored by the Iowa League of Cities to showcase and celebrate cities and the many services they provide. “City week is part of an ongoing effort to help promote good government and to help our members showcase the important role cities play in the lives of Iowans,” said League Executive Director Alan Kemp.

Area cities have been very active this year. Below are a few of the highlighted services and projects being offered by some area communities:

· Avoca: The City of Avoca has been growing steadily through the City’s Housing Grant and Loans program. In order to keep the community a nice place to live, the City of Avoca has been focused on quality of life projects such as a pedestrian bridge, 1.5 miles of trails, a dog park, and enhancements at Edgington Memorial Park. The City is nearing completion of a large road rehabilitation project funded in part by the CITIES grant program and the Iowa West Foundation.
· Macedonia: The City of Macedonia is beginning a project to upgrade their aging water delivery system; funding has been acquired from various sources including a CITIES grant from the Iowa West Foundation. “Come over to Macedonia”, it’s a great place to live.
· McClelland: The City of McClelland is currently improving stormwater drainage by replacing several street drainage sewers and ditches. The rain storms that came earlier this summer in such a fast & furious way and at quite frequency brought the problem of flooding of the lower part of McCelland to light.
· Neola: The City of Neola is focused on a beautification project along Front Street, which is Neola’s main street. The street enhancements and appearance will make the downtown more inviting.
· Underwood: The City of Underwood has been in growth mode, focused on Phase 3 of Fieldcrest Housing Development and planning for a new lift station and main to serve a newly annexed area. The Friends of Underwood Community and an Eagle Scout also worked with the City to place “Little Lending Libraries” in city right-of-way.
· Walnut: Walnut’s top priority is to make improvements to the downtown.  The City Council will address the issue of renovation, repair and restoration of existing building facades of properties in the downtown area.  The Streetscape Enhancement Project will include curb and gutter, sidewalk replacement, brick parking area improvements, and commercial facade restoration.  In that same vein, the City has hired a part-time marketing intern.

The Iowa League of Cities is the oldest, continuously operating municipal league in the country. Founded in 1898, the League is a not-for-profit organization that advocates for issues affecting cities throughout Iowa and provides cities wide-ranging services. Avoca City Manager Clint Fichter and Council Bluffs Mayor Matt Walsh are on the League’s Executive Board.

(Press Release)

Harlan Police release arrest & incident report


October 8th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

Police in Harlan, Tuesday afternoon, released a report on their most recent arrests and incidents. Officials say on Sunday, Oct. 5th, 15-year old Gloryana Erlemeier, and 16-year old Lorenzo Esquivel, both of Harlan, were arrested when officers found them in St Michael’s parking lot at 3:00 AM. Both subjects were cited for curfew violation and released to a parent/guardian. Erlemeier was also cited for minor in possession of tobacco. Later that same day, a Harlan resident reported someone had knocked over a street sign at the corner of 16th and Pine Streets and then hit her chain linked fence causing damage to the fence. The incident remains under investigation.

On Oct. 2nd, 16-year old Nicholas Haner was arrested following a traffic stop. Haner was taken to the Harlan Police Department where he was charged with possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, and carrying a weapon in a vehicle. Haner was also cited for violation of a restricted license. Haner was cited on all charges and released to a parent. All charges will be filed with the Juvenile Court.

On Sept. 30th, Harlan Police arrested 18-year old Johnathon Sibbitt, of Glenwood, on an active warrant out of Mills County Iowa. Sibbitt was taken to the Shelby County Jail where he was held pending extradition to Mills County.

And on Sept. 29th, 17-year old Justin Dickinson, was taken into custody in Harlan and charged with 9 counts of theft 5th degree and one count of on-going criminal conduct. The arrest was the result of the investigation initiated when Janelle Kenkel reported that Dickinson had fraudulently used a debit card belonging to her and her son, Brandon Wilke. Dickinson was transported to the Juvenile Detention facility in Council Bluffs.

Iowa early News Headlines: Wed., Oct. 8 2014


October 8th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

Here is the latest Iowa news from The Associated Press

GARNER, Iowa (AP) — A trial date has been set for an Iowa lawmaker accused of sexually abusing his wife at a care center. The trial against Republican State Rep. Henry Rayhons is scheduled to start Jan. 28 at the Hancock County District Court in Garner. Officials have accused the 78-year-old Rayhons, of Garner, of having sexual contact in May with his wife, Donna Rayhons, while she was a resident of a care center and not able to give consent. Donna Rayhons died in early August.

STATE CENTER, Iowa (AP) — A central Iowa man faces a felony charge after authorities say several weapons were found on the hood of his vehicle near a school. State Center police say 19-year-old Lane Kline was arrested early Saturday at West Marshall High School after a report came in about a vehicle doing circles on the grass of the school. Police say they found Kline and others standing outside the vehicle next to two assault rifles, a shotgun and a bow and arrow.

MUSCATINE, Iowa (AP) — Keeping track of time is a bit easier in Muscatine now that a clock atop the county courthouse is back in operation. Repairs on the Muscatine County Courthouse clock have been completed and all four clock dials are working again. The county paid a Cincinnati company about $26,000 to repair the clock, which had been stuck at about 4:20.

SPENCER, Iowa (AP) — A commercial recycling facility in northwest Iowa will pay $120,000 to settle allegations it violated federal clean water regulations. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 7 says the administrative settlement with Shine Bros. Corp. means the company will remove contamination that allegedly migrated from its Spencer facility to an adjacent public park. The EPA says Shine Bros. Corp.’s stormwater control tools were ineffective in handling pollutants.

IA Lt. Governor candidate to speak in Atlantic


October 7th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

Monica Vernon, candidate for Lieutenant Governor, will be in Atlantic at the Cass County Democratic Headquarters at 511 Chestnut, on Friday, October 10, 2014, at 1 PM to meet with the public. Vernon, a City Councilwoman in Cedar Rapids, was named as running mate in mid-June to Jack Hatch, who is the Democratic candidate for Governor of Iowa.

Monica Vernon

Monica Vernon

She has served on the Cedar Rapids City Council since 2007, and earlier this year was a candidate for Congress in Iowa’s 1st District. Vernon was the founder of Vernon Research Group, and served as president of the market research firm from its inception in 1987 until it was sold in 2013.

The public is invited to attend the event, with snacks provided.

Atlantic Area Ambassadors visit Fireside Lounge


October 7th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

The Fireside Lounge in Atlantic, is celebrating a birthday. The business has been in operation for 30 years, Mark Foegen has been the owner for the last 15 years. “We take 3 days every summer to expand or remodel the lounge to keep the lounge current and a nice place to relax,” Foegen said.

Fireside Lounge Owner, Mark Foegen. Ambassadors Pictured: Kathie Hockenberry, Dolly Bergmann, Lauren Coder, Jolene Roecker, Joanne Mueller, Connie Wailes, Tammy Waters, Melanie Petty, Julie May, Tara Jennerjohn, Dr. Jim Kickland, Bill Saluk, Debbie Leistad, Rich Perry, Ed Leistad, JoAnn Runyan, Sara Nelson,  Don Johnson, Carole Schuler, Sue Muri, Gerald Brink, Arlene Drennan, Lana Westphalen, Doug Harris, Dr. Mitch Peerbolte.

Fireside Lounge Owner, Mark Foegen.
Ambassadors Pictured: Kathie Hockenberry, Dolly Bergmann, Lauren Coder,
Jolene Roecker, Joanne Mueller, Connie Wailes, Tammy Waters, Melanie Petty, Julie May, Tara Jennerjohn, Dr. Jim Kickland, Bill Saluk, Debbie Leistad, Rich Perry, Ed Leistad, JoAnn Runyan, Sara Nelson, Don Johnson, Carole Schuler, Sue Muri, Gerald Brink, Arlene Drennan, Lana Westphalen, Doug Harris, Dr. Mitch Peerbolte.

The Fireside recently remodeled the bar with new coolers, allowing the employees more room and a better work environment. Fireside Lounge hosts several fundraising event each year to help benefit the community.

“Every year we donate to the local food pantry, we donated a turkey dinner for over 20 families in 2014,” Foegen said. Fireside Lounge is a great place to relax and enjoy time with friends, stop in and see the new improvements.

Adair County Supervisors to receive safe room update


October 7th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

The Board of Supervisors in Adair County are set to meet Wednesday morning at the courthouse in Greenfield. During their 9-a.m. session, the Board will receive an update from County Conservation Director Kevin Blazek, with regard to the Safe Room/Shower & Restroom Project at the Lake Orient Park Campgrounds.

They’ll also hear from County Engineer Nick Kaufmann, with regard to the signing of an agreement for a Secondary Roads Construction Program, along with building discussion and his regular report.

Other topics to be covered include: a Child Abuse Prevention Grant draw-down; Longevity increase; Manure Management Plan updates; Homestead and Military Allowances and Disallowances, and a Southern Iowa Council Of Governments (SICOG) Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy.

New I-29 southbound bridge to I-80 open to traffic on Oct. 10


October 7th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

Officials with the Iowa Department of Transportation’s Council Bluffs office are reporting good news for those planning on traveling southbound on Interstate 29 in Council Bluffs in the coming months. According to the DOT, the new southbound I-29 bridge is scheduled to open the morning of Friday, Oct. 10, weather permitting. Traffic will use this new southbound I-29 bridge to merge with eastbound I-80 on the right when traveling through the area.205

The DOT says reconstruction of the section of the interstate system will provide for efficient and safe vehicle movement on both I-29 and I-80. The improvements are located approximately one-half mile east of the Missouri River where I-80 intersects I-29 near the Western Historic Trails Center in Council Bluffs.

Once the new southbound I-29 bridge opens, eastbound I-80 traffic destined for 24th Street will exit earlier on the system just east of the Missouri River bridge. New lighting and signs in Nebraska and Iowa will inform travelers of the shift in traffic flow, so keep an eye out for these changes.

Iowa DOT is in the process of reconstructing I-80, I-29, and I-480 in the Council Bluffs metropolitan area. This comprehensive interstate redesign will modernize the highway system and improve mobility and safety of approximately 18 miles of interstate. If you would like more information about detours and traffic impacts visit the program’s website: www.councilbluffsinterstate.iowadot.gov.

Council Bluffs man accidentally shot while retrieving a handgun


October 7th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

Authorities in Pottawattamie County say a man was accidentally shot in the thigh when he went to retrieve a weapon from a gun safe. Council Bluffs Police Sgt. Chad Meyers said 46-year old Michael Heywood, of Council Bluffs, was transported to Creighton University Medical Center following the incident, which occurred at around 8:45-p.m., Monday. His injury was believed to be non-life threatening.CBPD

Meyers said officers were dispatched to 1729 6th Avenue, and when they arrived, found Heywood and three family members at the scene. The family had applied a tourniquet to Heywood’s left thigh prior to the arrival of Police.

An investigation revealed Heywood had retrieved a 9-millimeter semi-automatic handgun from a safe and was showing it to family members when it discharged. The round entered his left thigh in a downward trajectory and did not exit his leg/thigh. Alcohol was not a factor in the incident. The shooting was determined to be accidental, and no charges will be filed.