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October ends as one of Iowa’s driest Octobers, and it was warmer, too

News, Weather

November 1st, 2011 by Ric Hanson

Humidifiers have been running almost non-stop for weeks as one of Iowa’s driest Octobers in more than 20 years is now over. State climatologist Harry Hillaker says the month that just ended saw very little rainfall, though it wasn’t a record-breaker. “The driest one is in a class all by itself, way back in October of 1952,” Hillaker says. “Most of the state had no rain what-so-ever and the statewide average was just 2/100ths of an inch for the month. That’s our driest calendar month of any month for the year, not just for October.”

Here in Atlantic, we received just .21” of rain during the month. The normal average is 2.54-inches. While official State numbers are still being tabulated, this October saw a statewide average between three-quarters of an inch and eight-tenths of an inch of rain, which will rank it around the 10th driest Iowa October on record. It was the driest October since 1988 when we only averaged two-thirds of an inch of rain statewide. Hillaker say the just-ended month was also warmer than usual.

“The month is going to average out about three-degrees warmer than normal,” he says. “We actually got off to a rather cold start. We had an unusually cold September and the first couple of days in October were well below normal as well. A little bit of cold weather was mixed in, especially the last week or two, but most days were above normal.” As for the month ahead, November may follow suit, at least as far as warmth.

“November, historically when we’re in a La Nina weather pattern as we are right now, has quite strong odds of being warmer than normal and just a teeny tendency to be on the dry side of normal as well,” Hillaker says. Based on the forecast though, he says Iowa may see rain showers as soon as tomorrow (Wednesday) with an even-larger storm front possibly moving over the state this weekend.

The average high for October in Atlantic, was 68.5-degrees, which was slightly warmer than the normal average of 65.7. The average low was 35.9, which was slightly cooler than the normal average of 38.1.

Midwest economic survey takes negative turn


November 1st, 2011 by Ric Hanson

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – For the first time in nearly two years, the overall Business Conditions Index for a nine-state region of the Midwest and Plains took a negative turn.  Today’s (Tuesday’s) report on the survey of supply managers and executives says the index dropped to 49.9 in October, compared with 52.2 in September. Organizers say any survey score above 50 suggests growth while a score below 50 suggests decline for that factor.

Creighton University economics professor Ernie Goss oversees the survey. He says one reading slightly below a growth-neutral 50 doesn’t signal a recession. But Goss says the October figure is evidence that the weakness in the national economy has hit the regional economy.

The states are Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

CCMH Audit report released


November 1st, 2011 by Ric Hanson

ATLANTIC – Gronewold, Bell, Kyhnn & Co., P.C. CPAs have released an audit report on Cass County Memorial Hospital, Atlantic, Iowa. The auditors reported that the Hospital’s Unrestricted Funds revenues totaled $31,689,800 for the year ended june 30, 2011, a 3.6 percent decrease from 2010. The revenues included $27,909,900 in net patient revenue, $844,700 in other operating revenue, $1,989,600 from the county and $297,300 in interest on investments.

Expenses for the year totaled $31,057,600, a 3.3 percent decrease from the prior year, and included $5,976,800 for nursing services, $12,993,800 for other professional services and $8,077,000 for fiscal and administrative services. The decrease in revenues and expenses was primarily due to the Hospital discontinuing its home care and hospice services during the year.

There were no corrective measures indicated necessary for this audit. A copy of the audit report is available for review in the office of the Auditor of State and the Hospital Administrator’s office.

(Press Release from CCMH)

Fire destroys machine shed in rural Atlantic this morning


November 1st, 2011 by Ric Hanson

(5:00-a.m.) In an update to a story posted earlier this morning: A smoldering  ember from a controlled burn was the apparent cause of a fire early this (Monday) morning about four-miles west of Atlantic, that destroyed a machine shed on the Dave and Lynn Eckles farm  The fire at 57899 Indian Creek Street was reported by Lynn Eckles at around 2:25-a.m.

Atlantic Fire Chief Mark McNees told KJAN News the structure, which was basically a pole barn with metal sides, formerly used as a hog farrowing house, was fully engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived. The structure was close to three, nearby, recently filled propane tanks, so that was a concern as crews sought to keep the flames from spreading.

McNees said the Eckles’ had conducted a controlled burning of leaves in a grated pit area on Monday afternoon. It appears a spark from the fire made it’s way into another pile near the building and smoldered for some time, before erupting in flames. He declared the fire accidental in nature. No injuries were reported. Firefighters were on the scene for a little over two-hours. A dollar amount of the damage is not currently available, but McNees said there wasn’t much in the building that was lost.

Nebraska man sentenced on firerarms charges in western Iowa


October 31st, 2011 by Ric Hanson

The U-S Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa said Monday, a Nebraska man was sentenced Friday 15-months in prison, for being an illegal user of drugs, while in possession of a firearm and ammunition. Attorney Nicholas A. Klinefeldt said Judge James E. Gritzner also ordered 26-year old Eric Steven Blevins of Norfolk, Nebraska,  to serve two-years of supervised release following his imprisonment.  And, he’ll have to pay a $100 penalty to the Crime Victim Fund. Blevins’ pistol and ammunition were also seized.  He remains in the custody of the United States Marshal pending designation of the Federal Bureau of Prisons facility at which he will serve his sentence.

Klinefeldt says on January 26th, 2011, the federal grand jury returned a one-count indictment against Blevins, charging him with being an unlawful user of marijuana in possession of a 9-mm pistol and ammunition. The charges were filed against him after Council Bluffs Police officersfound Blevins and another person at a Council Bluffs motel with marijuana and K2 (“synthetic marijuana”), on October 3rd, 2010

Outside the window of the motel room in which Blevins was staying, officers found an unloaded 9mm pistol and ammunition. A Subsequent investigation by the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives further linked the firearm and ammunition to Blevins, and demonstrated that Blevins had a lengthy history of use of marijuana, including on or about October 3rd, 2010. Blevins entered a guilty plea to the charge on June 30, 2011.

The case against him was prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa and investigated by the Council Bluffs Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Iowa shows rebuilding of I-680 on the internet


October 31st, 2011 by Ric Hanson

AMES, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Department of Transportation is showcasing the rebuilding of a flood-damaged stretch of Interstate 680 that links Iowa and Nebraska on its website. A 3-mile stretch of the highway north of Council Bluffs had some of the worst damage from a summer of flooding along the Missouri River. It’s to open on Wednesday, nearly two months ahead of schedule.

The department has put a time-lapsed video of the rebuilding from Sept. 30 to Oct. 25 on its website, plus a collection of photographs of the flooding and rebuilding on other highways, including I-29. The video and photos are available at http://www.iowadot.gov/floods

Report suggests regional approach to mental health in IA


October 31st, 2011 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa should revamp its mental health system by replacing its county-based approach with regional services and new crisis intervention programs, according to a report by the Department of Human Services that was released Monday. Agency head Chuck Palmer said the current system needs to be changed because there are inequities from county to county. The recommendation calls for creating from five to 15 regional divisions. Palmer said the next six weeks will be spent developing implementation plans with a final report ready for the Legislature in mid-December. DHS officials conducted nine regional forums to hear ideas on reshaping mental health programs in the state, a major issue that the next session of the Legislature will face.

Roughly $1.3 billion is spent each year on mental health programs in the state, with services delivered at the county level. About $120 million of that comes from local property taxes, with the rest coming from state and federal funding. Critics have pushed to overhaul that system, arguing that services vary widely from county to county.

A legislative interim committee will examine the recommendations and key lawmakers of both parties predicted lawmakers will reach agreement. The study committee is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, and the issue has not caused partisan divisions. During the last session, lawmakers approved a measure effectively ending the current mental health system in the summer of 2013. The move was designed to put pressure on the Legislature to overhaul the system.

Atlantic Chamber to host ‘Meet the Candidates’ forum


October 31st, 2011 by Ric Hanson

The Atlantic Area Chamber of Commerce will host a Meet the Candidates Forum this Thursday, November 3rd, from 7-8 p.m. at the Cass County Community Center.  Megan Roberts, Executive Director of the Atlantic Area Chamber of Commerce, says “With the number of candidates, particularly in the Supervisor race, we anticipate this forum will be full of great questions from the citizens of Atlantic.”   Roberts says “The Chamber Board chooses to offer these forums as a public service to encourage community involvement.”  

According to Roberts, all five of the County Supervisor candidates will be in attendance including Gaylord Schelling, Jeff Richter, Donald Lappe, Pat McCurdy and Kathy Somers.  Atlantic Parks & Recreation Board candidates Jolene Smith and Mary Strong also plan to attend. One City Council representative, Ashley Hayes for District 3, will also be at the forum. 

Questions can be presented in writing to the Chamber office in advance or brought to the forum Nov. 3rd. A moderator will then ask the panel of candidates each question allowing them all the same allotted time to answer. Questions for individual candidates will not be permitted, and no anonymous inquiries will be accepted.

Roberts said the forum will air on Channel 18 on Saturday, Nov. 5 at 5 p.m. for those who are unable to attend. For more information contact the Atlantic Area Chamber of Commerce at 712.243.3017

Cass Co. Supervisors approve exploration of Comm Center expansion options


October 31st, 2011 by Ric Hanson

The Cass County Board of Supervisors today (Wednesday), agreed to allow Public Safety Commission chairman Steve Livengood, the opportunity to begin a fact-finding mission in advance of a possible, future expansion and/or relocation of the County Communications Center. Livengood said the reason the Commission wants to explore all the options, is because the Comm Center…located in the basement of the Courthouse, is beginning to run out of room, and future equipment needs are likely to press the space to the limit. Livengood said future, Enhanced 9-1-1 upgrades will require new equipment, and quite possibly, additional personnel to run that equipment. Livengood said the fact-finding mission could include observation of other how other 9-1-1 centers operate, an addition to the courthouse, relocation of the Comm Center, and, in the distant future, the possibility of a shared Communications Center with one or more counties or entities. He says the State Patrol may be one of those entities that figures into a future equation. Livengood says it‘s simply an opportunity to explore all the options now, instead of being forced to make a rush decision in the future.

Cass County 9-1-1 Coordinator Rob Koppert says constantly changing technology in methods of communicating with 9-1-1 is the main reason for the Public Safety Commission to explore all the options.  He says communications centers are or will be receiving 9-1-1 text messages and picture or video from the scene of an emergency. All of that requires equipment which will not fit into the current Comm. Center confines.  Koppert says it will likely require and expansion of the current facilities or relocation, and at least one or two more personnel to operate the additional equipment 24/7. He said the likelihood of a “Regional Communications Center” — with two-or-three combined counties and or other entities, is not expected anytime soon, for technical reasons, and because no one has seriously explored that option at this point in time.

Atlantic graduate named to Ia Economic panel


October 31st, 2011 by Ric Hanson

Roger C. Underwood, Co-Founder Becker-Underwood

An Atlantic High School Graduate and co-founder of the world’s leading supplier of non-pesticide specialty chemical and biological products has been appointed to a State panel tasked with helping to steer Iowa’s economic development strategy. Roger Underwood, was among the 18 names announced today (Monday) by Governor Terry Branstad. Underwood will serve on the Iowa Partnership for Economic Progress (IPEP)Board, which Branstad says will be central to his approach to economic development, which gives businesses a strengthened hand.

Underwood attended Iowa State University, where he graduated with a B.S. degree in Agriculture Business in 1980. In 1982, he co-founded Becker Underwood with Atlantic native Jeff Becker. Following 23 years as Chief Executive Officer of Becker Underwood, Roger Underwood stepped back from daily operations in January of 2006.


The governor last week signed an executive order creating the Iowa Partnership for Economic Progress board of directors. Branstad also named the members of the Iowa Innovation Corporation board, which will head a nonprofit corporation funded by the private sector and federal grants that will seek to develop new technologies.

Both panels have been told to shape new approaches to economic development.