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IA DHS Regional Director speaks to Cass County Supervisors


September 1st, 2011 by Ric Hanson

The Regional Service Director for the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) spoke with the Cass County Board of Supervisors, during their meeting Wednesday, in Atlantic. Tom Bouska, said there are some changes being implemented to DHS programs people should be aware of. One of the changes affects eligibility for food assistance. Bouska says the eligibility limits have increased to 160-percent of the poverty level. He says the DHS no longer counts resources for food assistance, so more households are potentially eligible to apply for assistance.

He says the DHS is not directly “advertising” the new eligibility standards, but is has spread by “word of mouth.” The local DHS office sees spikes in requests for food assistance during the Winter, because of seasonal layoffs in construction, and late in the Summer, as families prepare for the coming school year, and have less to spend on food.

Bouska says about one of out every six-persons in Cass County receives some type of assistance from the DHS. Over the past year, 787 households in the County have received food assistance through the DHS’ food stamp, or snack program. That means 1,826 individuals were served by the program, which brings in $200,000 per month, or nearly $2.5-million dollars to Cass County.

The Family Investment Program (FIP), which is the DHS’ smallest program, and offers cash assistance to families with children who meet certain income guidelines, averages 81 families, 199 recipients, and equates to $26,000 per month, or $300,000 for the past 12 months. Bouska says 2,480 persons in Cass County, are eligible for Medicaid, which brought in about $21.5-million dollars. All together, approximately $24-million dollars is being spent on households in the County. Bouska says that’s a fair amount of money coming in to the County, which has a ripple affect on the economy. For example, for every One-dollar in food assistance generates almost two-dollars worth of financial activity.

Bouska says last year’s cutbacks and restructuring in the Department of Human Services mean there are less people available to handle the increasing caseload’s they’re seeing. He says their regional staff now covers nearly double the amount of counties they did last year in western Iowa. He says they hope to maintain the staff they have until 2013, with any additional cutbacks.

The number of DHS offices in the region were also trimmed, from 18 to 12. Bouska says by the year 2013, there will be a new eligibility system that will replace the current, nearly 40-year old system, in anticipation of the “Affordable Care Act,” which could mean anywhere from 80-to 100,000- more individuals will be eligible for Medicaid.

Survey shows sluggish Midwest, Plains economy


September 1st, 2011 by Ric Hanson

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – An economist says an August economic survey in nine Midwest and Plains states suggests slow to no growth in the region, but not a return to recession. The survey report released today (Thursday), says the Business Conditions Index (BCI) dropped to 52 in August from 54.1 in July. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss oversees the report.

He says that despite healthy economic growth tied to agriculture, the region is being harmed by cuts in business, consumer and local governmental spending. The survey of supply managers and executives uses a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Any score above 50 suggests growth while a score below 50 suggests decline for that factor. The states are Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

Holiday travel is expected to be down this weekend


September 1st, 2011 by Ric Hanson

A busy travel holiday is just ahead, but industry experts say the number of travelers will be down about two-and-a-half percent across the state and nation compared to Labor Day weekend last year. Gene LaDoucer, spokesman for Triple-A-Iowa, says several factors play into the estimate. LaDoucer says, “Largely, it’s a mixed economic outlook, consumer uncertainty and recent downturns that are effecting discretionary income and are forcing people, particularly in the lower-income levels, to stay closer to home or at home.”

A survey finds airfares are up 13-percent compared to last year. Gasoline prices in Iowa are now averaging three-61 a gallon. He says on Labor Day weekend of 2010, gas prices were exactly one dollar cheaper. “Gas prices are up about 30% from where they were at this time last year,” LaDoucer says. “People are telling us that the higher prices aren’t necessarily going to keep them from traveling. What it is going to do, however, it’s going to keep them closer to home. They’re going to find different ways to cut back to make up that increased expense.”

He says hotels, restaurants and attractions in Iowa may actually benefit from the reduced travel prediction. “If you can cater to the audience that’s in your particular area, you could do quite well,” LaDoucer says. “Because of the outdoor activities that are prevalent in the Midwest, there’s a lot of things people can go out and enjoy for one last hurrah for the end of the summer travel season.” He notes, travel nationwide may be down even more than forecast as communities on the East Coast recover from damage caused by Hurricane Irene.

(Radio Iowa)

Walk up campsites going fast for the weekend

Ag/Outdoor, News

September 1st, 2011 by Ric Hanson

The last summer holiday has once again put camping spots at state parks at a premium. Department of Natural Resources Parks Bureau Chief, Kevin Sczdronski, says the on-line reserved spots always go quickly. But he says a visit to Rock Creek State Park east of Grinnell Tuesday showed how quickly the other spots go too.

He says the park staff already declared the campground full as all the “walk-in” sites already have people there and they are booked up for the weekend. “So there’s just one example that’s probably pretty indicative of what we are looking at across the state of the demand,” Szcodronski says. He says the numbers have been good for the parks throughout the summer. Szcodronski says extreme heat hurt attendance at some parks, but it helped others.

Szcodronski says the parks with beaches and lakes see even more people when it is hot. He says most of the campgrounds have been full almost every weekend. The D-N-R received some more money for maintenance of the parks when the new budget year began July first and Szcodronski says people should notice some improvement this weekend.

He says a lot of parks were able to hire some people and one of their first priorities is to get into day use areas and mow where they hadn’t mowed in awhile. You can find out more about the state parks on the D-N-R’s website at: IowaDNR.gov.

(Radio Iowa)

IA DOT crews ready to survey and repair flood-damaged roads


September 1st, 2011 by Ric Hanson

With Missouri River flood waters slowly receding, Iowa Department of Transportation officials must now work out a plan to deal with the damage done to many miles of highways and Interstates 29 and 680. D-O-T spokeswoman Dena Gray-Fisher says some areas where the murky water is pooled will have to be drained manually. “It’s also going to take a lot of work just to drain out the area so we can get in there and do something,” Gray-Fisher says. Once the water is gone, they can start the process of inspecting the area to see how much of the road is left and what happened to the soil under the roadways.

“If there’s actually a slab of pavement left there and if the road looks semi-sound, then we’ll go in there with some ground-penetrating ultrasound devices that actually test the road,” Gray-Fisher says. “They look for voids underneath the pavement. They also look for how stable is that soil because if you’re going to put heavy trucks on that, you want to make sure it can sustain that kind of weight.” For months, there have been huge sandbag berms placed along some sections of roads, including Highway 30 leading from Missouri Valley, Iowa, to Blair, Nebraska. Gray-Fisher says those sandbags will be removed.

She says, “The sand bags that are the large ones that we put along the interstate and on U-S Highway 30, the bags will be cut, the sand released and we will go in there with end loaders and haul that sand away.” As far as a time table for when some of these roads will reopen, Gray-Fisher says it won’t be long before they can actually see what is under that water. She says, “Between the next ten days to a couple of weeks, we are starting to see the roads emerge and we can start to see a little bit better what the picture is.”

Gray-Fisher says a timetable for repair and reconstruction can’t be developed until inspections are complete. Water that has receded over Interstate 680 between Omaha and Crescent, showed the power of the Missouri River to destroy infrastructure. The raging river tore through the interstate, and left in its wake a crumpled, massive jigsaw puzzle of concrete and asphalt, which officials say may not be fixed until November 2012, at the earliest. That’s because it’s not just the road that’s gone. The river churned underneath the road bed, causing it to collapse. Another area of concern, is I-29 south of Glenwood, which has been underwater more than two months.

(Radio Iowa/Omaha World-Herald)

13 wind turbines installed near Pomeroy


September 1st, 2011 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – MidAmerican Energy has announced it has completed the installation of 13 wind turbines near Pomeroy as part of the company’s plan to expand  wind energy production across Iowa. In a news release issued Wednesday, MidAmerican says the turbines are the first of 258 the company is erecting at three wind energy projects in Iowa this year.

The turbines, which are supplied by Siemens Energy Inc., will add more than 590 megawatts to MidAmerican’s energy generation portfolio. That’s enough to power about 190,000 homes. The Pomeroy project is in Pocahontas and Calhoun counties. The remaining turbines will be erected in Cass, Adams, Adair and Marshall counties by the end of the year.

Nebraska detective pleads guilty to OWI in Iowa


August 31st, 2011 by Ric Hanson

LOGAN, Iowa (AP) — A detective with the Omaha, Neb., police department has pleaded guilty to a drunken driving charge in Iowa. Online court records show 37-year-old Wendy Redding pleaded guilty on Monday in Harrison County District Court to first-offense OWI. She was arrested on July 3rd.

Redding was sentenced to 30 days in jail with 28 days suspended, placed on probation for a year and fined $625. Court records show as an alternative, Redding can serve two days in jail and attend an impaired driver’s course. But if she completes a weekend OWI diversion program, she won’t have to serve any jail time or take the course.

Omaha police spokeswoman Lt. Darci Tierney told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Redding is on paid administrative leave.

Intermittent lane closures on Iowa 192 in Pottawattamie County begin Sept. 6th


August 31st, 2011 by Ric Hanson

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa – Aug. 31, 2011 – Road construction work on Iowa 192/South Expressway Street just north of Interstate 29/80 at exit 3 near Lake Manawa will cause intermittent lane closures in both directions beginning Tuesday, Sept. 6th, weather permitting, according to the Iowa Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Council Bluffs construction office.
Flaggers will be used to control traffic during the closure. The roadway will return to normal traffic patterns when workers are not present. Motorists are asked to consider using an  alternate route during this construction project.  This project is expected to be completed by Jan. 9, 2012.

Iowa CCI tactics called “unproductive & embarrassing”


August 31st, 2011 by Ric Hanson

The chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party has publicly rebuked a liberal activist group that has gained media attention by confronting politicians of both parties. Martha Scarpellino, a member of the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, described her group this way after they pestered presidential candidate Mitt Romney at the Iowa State Fair: “I’m with these guys: the loud, noisy question-askers.” The group also heckled the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee spoke at the Fair.

This past week Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement sent out a press release with details of how the group had “confronted” Republican Senator Chuck Grassley at a town-hall meeting in Carroll “for over an hour” and “demanded” that the senator not cut Social Security. A columnist for the newspaper in Carroll blasted the group’s “ambush tactics” during and after the event. Sue Dvorsky, chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party, issued a statement, calling the actions of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement members “unproductive and embarrassing.” She accused the group of being “less focused on results and more focused on creating chaos” that gets written about by the media.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement issued a statement in response, saying Dvorsky’s attack was “baseless” but it also quoted another C-C-I member as saying “sitting back quietly while career politicians debate cuts to our livelihood would be unacceptable.”

(O. Kay Henderson/Radio Iowa)

Cass Supervisors award contracts for bridge/road projects


August 31st, 2011 by Ric Hanson

The Cass County Board of Supervisors have awarded contracts for two bridge and two road repair projects within the county. Cass County Engineer Charles Marker said the bids were received during a state letting on August 16th. One of the bridges, number 306, is located on Olive Street (or 620th), about two-miles south of Atlantic. The low bid of $725,996 was received from Murphy Heavy Contracting Corporation, out of Anita. The bid was slightly below the engineer’s estimate.

The other bridge, number 61, crosses Seven Mile Creek on Victoria Road, or south of Highway 92. There were also seven bids received, the lowest was from A-M Cohron, of Atlantic, in the amount of $644, 089, was also below the engineer’s estimate. The Supervisor’s approved both contracts, which will be forwarded back to the State for disposition. The Board also approved local letting Hot Mix Asphalt (HMA) and Portland Cement Concrete (PCC) road maintenance or repair projects within the County.

Henningsen Construction of Atlantic was the lone bidder for the HMA patching project. Their bid amounted to $155,555. Marker says the project includes: 740th Street, from Anita, west of the school, on north; Glendale Road (or, County G-27) from near Canby to Highway 148 south of Anita, and County Road G-43/Fletcher Chapel Road between Highway 71 and County Road N-28.

And, there were three bids for the PCC repair project. Marker says that includes: Atlantic Airport Road (G-30), west from the airport to the Pottawattamie County line; from the Airport south, on M-56 for a few miles. Gus Construction Company’s bid of $63,828 was the lowest of the three received. The Supervisors awarded the contract to the company, which is located in Casey.

And, the Supervisor’s approved the purchase of a John Deere excavator from Murphy Tractor, in the amount of $175,690. The machine will be used to clear away ditch debris.