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Busy holiday weekend on Iowa roads


September 5th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

Low gas prices and the last holiday of the summer will combine to possibly make this weekend one of the busiest of the year on Iowa’s highways and interstates. Iowa State Patrol Sergeant Nate Ludwig also points out that the University of Iowa’s first football game kicks-off this (Saturday) morning in Iowa City, while UNI plays at Iowa State tomorrow night.

“So, there’s going to be a lot of people on the interstates traveling,” Ludwig says. “We just ask that everybody takes their time getting to where they’re going, make sure you wear seat belts, and at all cost avoid texting while driving or distracted driving.” Last weekend, law officers in Iowa and 15 other states took part in a stepped-up enforcement effort along Interstates 80 and 35. Just over 5,900 motorists were issued speed citations, including more than 11-hundred speeding tickets in Iowa.

Ludwig says over 1,100 seat belt citations were issued, but only 41 were in Iowa. “That’s pretty indicative of our 93 to 94 percent seat belt compliance rate in Iowa,” Ludwig says. There were 18 arrests for OWI and 9 for drug offenses in Iowa. The goal of last weekend’s enforcement effort was to reduce serious crashes. Authorities says there were zero fatal crashes over the three-day period along Interstates 80 and 35 in the 16 states.

(Radio Iowa)

Survey finds few acres will be coming available for new farmers

Ag/Outdoor, News

September 5th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

A national survey of land ownership shows just over two-percent of farmland will be available for beginning farmers and ranchers in the next year, perhaps ten-percent over the next five years. Traci Bruckner, senior policy associate at the Center for Rural Affairs, says land access is a long-standing problem for those just starting to farm, though she calls the U-S-D-A report “really disturbing.”

“The continual unaffordability of land and then just what the survey is saying, there’s only going to be 2% available for new entrants that don’t have a natural, direct access to land,” Bruckner says. “That is an issue and Congress needs to start taking it seriously. They need to have policies that are more meaningful to help a new generation get started.” Bruckner says the land access problem needs help at the federal level, with changes that will help young producers who want to farm.

“We need to be serious about beginning farmer policy, not just throwing a few million dollars here and there to help create training and mentoring,” she says. “We need to actually have some meaningful reform on some of the main conventional commodity market-driven programs, like the farm program and the crop insurance program.” Bruckner says the student loan forgiveness program that is in the works would help beginning farmers with their cash-flow issues.

“But at the end of the day,” she says, “if we don’t do something about land access, then none of our other efforts are worthwhile.” While land values have come down some, she notes they’ve been rising for years to levels that make it impossible for beginning farmers and ranchers to buy. The Center for Rural Affairs is based in Lyons, Nebraska.

(Radio Iowa)

Iowa early News Headlines: Sat., Sept. 5th 2015


September 5th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

Here is the latest Iowa news from The Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller says since Iowa has no laws governing the transfer of fetal tissue his office has no authority to investigate abortion providers about the practice of donating tissue for research. Republican lawmakers delivered a letter in August to Miller asking him to investigate abortion practices. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, which operates 13 Iowa clinics, voluntarily offered answers, saying it has never accepted donated fetal tissue for research.

MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa (AP) — Police have charged a Marshalltown school board member with child endangerment and animal neglect after finding numerous pets in her home, including two dead cats. KCCI-TV reports someone called police Tuesday to express concern about the living conditions of school board member Kendall Derby’s 13-year-old child.

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) — A surge in absentee ballots is forcing Black Hawk County officials to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on new voting machines and vote-counting equipment. The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reports the county Board of Supervisors this week received bids from three firms.

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — University of Iowa president-select J. Bruce Harreld has erased doubts about his qualifications before, but this time could be an even tougher sell. Many faculty, staff and students are revolting against Harreld’s appointment as Iowa’s president, arguing the businessman was the least qualified out of four finalists. But a former colleague says Harreld will succeed by listening and leading.

Cass County Assessor says she was surprised by decision against reappointment


September 4th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

Cass County Assessor Brenda Nelson said she was essentially blinded-sided by the decision Thursday night by the Cass County Conference Board, not to re-appoint her to the position beginning January, 2016. Earlier, Duane McFadden, who represented to Board of Supervisors at the Conference Board meeting, had said there were several questions Nelson could not or would not answer. Nelson told KJAN News that’s because those questions required specific facts and figures which she did not have available because she was not requested to produce them prior to the meeting.

She says she was questioned on the number of working hours (which she says was approved by the board many years ago), the use of an outside appraisal company (that the board approves every year in her budget), and that the Conference Board told her there were complaints her staff had been rude to the customers, and she [Nelson] had not done anything about it.

Nelson said she was also asked why commercial property taxes are so high. She explained that when sales come through on a commercial property, she has to indicate what the assessment is. She says that within the last year or two, assessments have generally been 13-percent too low. A building assessed at $100,000 should bring that much at sale, but they are selling for about 13-percent more than the assessed value.

Part of the problem she says, is that the assessment is based on the building and land alone. Its contents or permanent fixtures inside, may be unknown to the assessor unless they are reported to the Recorders Office. For example, when the Atlantic Animal Health Center was sold, Dr. Leonard noted the building was being sold with examination tables, animal chutes and kennels.

She says if the seller doesn’t disclose the contents of the building is being including when documents are given to the Recorder at the time the sale is registered, it tends to skew the numbers the Recorder sends in to the State, because State officials will think it’s only for the building and the land. One or two or types of artificially inflated sales in the County, according to Nelson, can inadvertently give her a State-ordered increase because it appears she is way too low on the assessments.

Nelson says if she could have been given 15-minutes to go into her office and retrieved the information she asked for, that would have helped.

As for the Geographic Information System position, Nelson says the Director is an AMU employee who contracts with the Assessor’s Office two-days per week. Nelson’s employee, Mike Onnen, wanted the bigger office that was occupied by the GIS Coordinator because that person is only there two days per week. Nelson says the Board of Supervisors gave conflicting information as to what office space was available and where Onnen would be located. She said the move didn’t involve her, and was between the Board of Supervisors, Onnen and the GIS Director. She said also, the other County departments which utilize GIS mapping, have not, as has been stated to the contrary, contributed to the cost of the employee. Brenda Nelson says she doesn’t know what the future holds for her, including whether she would re-apply for her job.

She said Saturday that ‘Several people have called” and want her to run again, and that she has received “A massive amount of calls, emails and texts of support,” urging her to run again for her job.

SWIPCO to celebrate 40th Anniversary in Harlan


September 4th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

The Southwest Iowa Planning Council (SWIPCO) will hold its 40th Anniversary celebration and Annual Meeting September 17th, in Harlan. The event will highlight the many accomplishments of SWIPCO over the past 40 years, and will include a recognition of current and past staff and board members, presentation of the annual report, and awards. The evening will conclude with entertainment provided by veteran farm broadcaster Von Kettelsen.

SWIPCOFive awards will be presented at the meeting. Larry Anderson, of Red Oak, will be honored as the 2015 Driver of the Year for his outstanding service. Jeremy Middents, Community Development Specialist, will be recognized for his 15 years of dedicated service to the agency. Frank Waters, of Cumberland, will be recognized for serving as board chairman in 2013 and 2014. The City of Harlan will be recognized for their continued partnership with SWIPCO and dedication to improvements for their community.

And, the Iowa DOT Office of Public Transit will be recognized as a partner of SWIPCO that has enhanced the lives of southwest Iowans through assistance to the Southwest Iowa Transit Agency (SWITA) since it was formed in 1978.

The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. September 17th, at the TG Therkildsen Center. For more information about the 40th Anniversary and Annual Meeting, or to RSVP, contact Tammy DeBord at 866-279-4720.

SWIPCO, a council of governments serving members in eight counties in southwest Iowa, began in September 1975 with one staff member in a small rented office in Griswold. Since then, SWIPCO has grown to 18 staff members and 55 drivers throughout southwest Iowa with an annual budget of over $4 million.

A few of the organization’s accomplishments include: securing $80 million in grant funds for infrastructure projects, writing over 200 plans and 117 codes of ordinances, providing over five million transit rides, rehabilitating 1,200 homes, and directly creating 82 jobs through the business revolving loan fund.

Atlantic Marquee Sign at 7th and Chestnut will be replaced


September 4th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

The Atlantic Area Chamber of Commerce’s Image Builders committee has raised almost $30,000.00 to replace the marquee sign at 7th Street and Chestnut. Gerald Brink, Brink Flower and Gift, said “It wasn’t a challenge raising the money because the sign is such a pillar in our community and our residents and businesses want to see it working again.”

Image Builders MarqueeThe original digital marquee sign was put into place in 2003 and stopped working in March of 2015. The Image Builders Committee felt a strong need to replace this mainstay in the community and took the task of fundraising.

Chamber Executive Ouida Wymer said “They were determined and able to utilize our community resource and raised the funds in a very short period of time,” . “We are excited to get a new sign, hopefully by the holidays.” The Atlantic Area Rotary donated $7,500.00 to the project and the City of Atlantic’s Community Promotion Commission donated $10, 000.00 to help replace the sign. The rest of the funds were donated by businesses in the community and private donors.

CDC: 8,000 Iowans now have autism spectrum disorder


September 4th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

A new federal report estimates as many as eight-thousand Iowans have what’s referred to as A-S-D, or autism spectrum disorder. The report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the prevalence may now be one in every 68 children. Liz Delsandro is a clinical professor in the University of Iowa’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders and she specializes in the treatment of children with the disorder. Delsandro says A-S-D isn’t always obvious but it can be identified.

Delsandro says, “It really characterizes itself as challenges in communications skills, challenges in socially interacting with others and also what is termed repetitive behaviors.” Children with autism may play with their toys differently, she says, instead of using their imaginations like other kids, they may line toys up. Before a child is diagnosed with A-S-D, several professionals — including psychologists, educators and speech language pathologists — may have to become involved in watching and assessing the child.

“They present tasks, such as play tasks, and they do a lot of observation of behavior,” Delsandro says. “How does that particular child interact with that person in the play situation and interact with the toys in the play situation.” Research is finding that some treatment techniques can reduce the severity of autism, she says, if they’re implement with integrity.

“There are treatments that have evidence based behind them,” Delsandro says. “What’s exciting is there’s more research and more money behind the research in the area of autism to find those best practices, best approaches to treat children with autism.”

Next weekend, a fundraising dinner and auction is planned in Iowa City for the U-I’s Wendell Speech and Hearing Clinic. Proceeds from the September 11th event will help fund clinical programs that provide services and support to Iowans who have speech and communications disorders. For details, send email to Amy Behrens at amy-behrens@uiowa.edu.

(Radio Iowa)

Chamber Ambassadors visit landscaping business


September 4th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

Members of the Atlantic Area Chamber of Commerce’ Ambassadors paid a recent visit to Robinson Landscaping & Patio Design, LL.  In his first year of business, Nate Robinson has created “Lots of happy customers,” according to his dad and silent partner, Ted Robinson. Ted says “Nate has always had a love for landscaping and design.” Nate handles all aspects when creating a patio, from consultation, to design, and construction.

Robinson Landscaping & Patio Design, LLC Owners: Mary Jo Robinson, Nate Robinson, and Ted Robinson.   Ambassadors Pictured: Dolly Bergmann, Ouida Wymer, Pat McCurdy, Kate Olson, Diane Gipple, Bill Saluk, Dan Mehmen, Nedra Perry, Dr. Keith Leonard, Michelle Heath, Melanie Petty, Sara Nelson, Janet Cappel, JoAnn Runyan, Dr. James Kickland, Sue Muri, Kathy Sweeny, Chip Hansen, Lana Westphalen, Russ Joyce, Debbie Leistad, Darryl Hockenberry, Rich Perry, Ed Leistad.

Robinson Landscaping & Patio Design, LLC Owners: Mary Jo Robinson, Nate Robinson, and Ted Robinson.
Ambassadors Pictured: Dolly Bergmann, Ouida Wymer, Pat McCurdy, Kate Olson, Diane Gipple, Bill Saluk, Dan Mehmen, Nedra Perry, Dr. Keith Leonard, Michelle Heath, Melanie Petty, Sara Nelson, Janet Cappel, JoAnn Runyan, Dr. James Kickland, Sue Muri, Kathy Sweeny, Chip Hansen, Lana Westphalen, Russ Joyce, Debbie Leistad, Darryl Hockenberry, Rich Perry, Ed Leistad.

Union County Sheriff’s Report, 9/4/15


September 4th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

Sheriff’s officials in Union County report the arrest on Thursday of 23-year old Sarah Jo Edwards, of Lorimor. Edwards was taken into custody at the Union County Law Enforcement Center on a Simple Assault charge. She was issued a citation to appear later in court, and released.

And, 28-year old Anthony Michael Atkins, of Creston, was arrested Wednesday at his home, on an Interference with Official Acts, charge. Atkins was also issued a citation to appear later in court, and released.

Cass County Conference Board votes against reappointing Assessor


September 4th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

(Updates w/clarification on how an appointment is made)

By a vote of 2-to1, the Cass County Conference Board Thursday, decided against reappointing Cass County Assessor Brenda Nelson to another six-year term, which expires at the end of the year. Instead, the Board will open up the position to new applicants. The Conference Board is made of representatives from the Board of Supervisors, Mayors of the cities in Cass County, and the School District, who choose one person from each entity to vote on matters before the Board.

Cass County Assessor Brenda Nelson

Cass County Assessor Brenda Nelson

Board of Supervisors member Duane McFadden told KJAN News the decision not to re-appoint Nelson boiled down to several questions not being answered to the Conference Board’s satisfaction, with regard to the person hired for the GIS (Geographic Information Specialist) position. He said “There’s been a little issue with the GIS person being in a certain location which he was, next to them [the Assessor] and below the Auditor and close to the Engineer, and we thought we had that resolved yesterday [Thursday] morning in meeting with her, and her people. But the thing is, it seemed like there was a lot of questions that we didn’t get direct answers on.”

McFadden said Nelson was concerned about her budget, that the GIS expenditures come through her budget, but tax dollars he said, pay for the position, and each of the departments that utilize the service have agreed to pay for their portion of that service which was set up Nelson’s budget.

McFadden said Brenda Nelson didn’t speak following Thursday night’s decision, and she was not immediately available this (Friday) morning, for comment. McFadden said there’s no guarantee that whoever is appointed to the Assessor’s job in January, won’t butt heads with the various County Board Members and Offices, but the Conference Board felt they couldn’t continue for another six-years having issues.

He said someone else coming in may operate in the same way, but you’d hope that if there’s a problem, it’s addressed with a satisfactory solution. He said “There’s just some things we don’t seem to get resolved fully [with Nelson].”

Cass County Auditor Dale Sunderman said the County Examiner’s Board (appointed by the Cass County Assessor Conference Board), shall, in accordance with Iowa Code, “Within seven days of the occurrence of the vacancy, request the director of revenue to forward a register containing the names of all individuals eligible for appointment as assessor. The examining board may, at its own expense, conduct a further examination, either written or oral, of any person whose name appears on the register, and shall make written report of the examination and submit the report together with the names of those individuals certified by the director of revenue to the conference board within 15 days after the receipt of the register from the director of revenue.”

“Upon receipt of the report of the examining board, the chairperson of the conference board shall by written notice call a meeting of the conference board to appoint an assessor. The meeting shall be held not later than seven days after the receipt of the report of the examining board by the conference board. At the meeting, the conference board shall appoint an assessor from the register of eligible candidates. However, if a special examination has not been conducted previously for the same vacancy, the conference board may request the director of revenue to hold a special examination (pursuant to section 441.7). The chairperson of the conference board shall give written notice to the director of revenue of the appointment and its effective date within ten days of the decision of the board.”