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Branstad intends to sign gas tax hike into law this week

News

February 25th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

Governor Terry Branstad says unless there is a glaring technical error, he intends to approve the bill that would raise the state gas tax by a dime a gallon on Sunday. “It is very likely I’m going to sign it and you’ll know very soon,” Branstad told reporters this morning. That’s because once an Iowa governor receives the formal copy of a bill, he or she must sign or veto it within the following three days.  “I do intend to sign it this week,” Branstad said.

Branstad got the formal copy of the gas tax bill this morning (Wednesday), shortly after nine o’clock, so he has a Saturday deadline for action. Branstad says he has a responsibility as governor to carefully review the final copy, but he doesn’t expect to find a problem that would prevent him from signing the bill into law. “What’s in this bill is not a surprise because we have worked and looked at all the different options and worked with the legislative leaders as they developed this,” Branstad said, “and then worked through the committee processes in the House and Senate.”

In a span of less than two-and-a-half hours the bill cleared both the House and the Senate yesterday (Tuesday) with bipartisan support.  “This is a great example, on a difficult and controversial issue, of the kind of bipartisan cooperation that really makes Iowa stand out as a state where we work together and we get things done,” Branstad said this morning.

Critics of the gas tax hike say Iowa retailers will now be selling the most expensive fuel in the region. Many legislators who opposed the bill said they agree there’s a need for more money to fix Iowa’s transportation system, but they favored cutting other areas of the state budget and diverting that money to road and bridge projects.

(Radio Iowa)

Much of Iowa soon to be buried under 6+ inches of snow

News, Weather

February 25th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

A major winter weather storm is rolling through Iowa as snow started flying this morning in the northwest and is moving southeast through the state. Jim Lee is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.  “The accumulations will vary widely across the state. The southwest corner will see very, very little (snow). Whereas, in a band from about the northern to southeastern part of the state we’re looking at six plus inches,” Lee said.

Parts of Iowa may receive eight or more inches of snow. Some cities in the area projected to get the most snow include Webster City, Marshalltown, Newton, and Oskaloosa. Winter Storm Warnings and Winter Weather Advisories cover nearly the entire state. The heaviest snowfall may occur over sections of central during the afternoon commute.  “We’re looking for snowfall rates probably close to an inch an hour at times within that heaviest band,” Lee said.

As the snow is moving out of the state later tonight, winds are expected to increase and usher in some very cold conditions. High temperatures on Thursday and Friday will be in the single digits to teens across the state. Another smaller snow event is possible for parts of Iowa Saturday night into Sunday.

(Radio Iowa)

Cass County Master Gardeners Grant Money Available for Local Garden Projects

Ag/Outdoor, News

February 25th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

The cold weather of winter is the time to plan for future gardens. The Cass County Master Gardeners group is again offering grant money to be used in the 2015 growing season, to encourage gardening to grow food and/or beautify local communities. The money may also be used for gardening education purposes. The David Williams Master Gardener Grants are offered to honor the many years of service Master Gardener David Williams provided as a long-time volunteer, with the Master Gardener program and other community organizations, including a term as Cass County Master Gardener president in 2012.

Any Cass County not-for-profit group or individual may apply. Schools, churches, libraries, 4-H clubs, Scouts, and individuals working to improving their communities can use the money to begin or improve gardens or landscaping, or to provide education for their members or the public. To ensure the money is helping a wide variety of community organizations, groups who were funded by 2014 grants will not be eligible to apply in 2015. Each grant has a maximum value of $300. The application must also include plans for teamwork and sustainability. Consideration for the environment is also an important selection factor.

Applications must be received by Monday, March 30th for consideration. They may be submitted by mail or email. Grant recipients will be informed of their selection by the end of April. For more information, or with questions, call the Cass County Extension office at 712-243-1132, email keolson@iastate.edu, or stop by the Extension Office at 805 W. 10th St in Atlantic. You may also contact committee members Judy Kennedy, Marla Anstey or Linda Edelman. Application forms can be picked up at the Extension Office, or printed from the Cass County Extension website- www.extension.iastate.edu/cass.

The Master Gardener program trains volunteers to develop their knowledge and skills in horticulture. These volunteers then give back to their communities through gardening service and education. The program is available in all 50 states and Canada through land grant university Extension programs such as Iowa State University. Education courses are available throughout Iowa on a regular basis. Contact Cass County Extension Program Coordinator Kate Olson, at 712-243-1132 or keolson@iastate.edufor more information.

Meeting on Hunting, Trapping Canceled Due to Weather

Ag/Outdoor, News

February 25th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has cancelled its public meeting on hunting and trapping regulations tonight (Wednesday), due to National Weather Service issuing a winter storm warning for much of the state closing many of the meeting locations. Meetings were scheduled over the Iowa Communication Network (ICN) in Atlantic, Boone, Chariton, Clear Lake, Council Bluffs, Creston, Davenport, Decorah, Dubuque, Johnston, Marshalltown, Monroe, Ottumwa, Sac City, Sergeant Bluff, Sheldon, Spencer, Tiffin, Waverly and West Burlington.

The DNR will attempt to reschedule the meeting, if possible, to receive the public’s thoughts on the hunting and trapping regulations for this fall. The decision was made in the interest of public safety; however, the public is encouraged to send comments about what went well last fall, what didn’t, and what changes hunters and trappers would like to see for this fall to wildlife@dnr.iowa.gov.

Those comments, along with the data that the DNR Wildlife Bureau collects on harvest and population numbers, will be used to develop recommendations for any rule changes for this fall.

Creston man arrested Tuesday

News

February 25th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

Police in Creston report the arrest Tuesday afternoon, of 27-year old Joshua James Merboth, of Creston. Merboth was charged with Driving While Suspended. He has since posted a $300 bond and was released from custody.

Underwood man arrested in Cass County on sex abuse charges has a prior record

News

February 25th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

A man from Pottawattamie County was arrested Monday in Cass County, on 10 felony counts of Sexual Abuse in the 2nd Degree.

Roger Allen Ericksen (booking photo courtesy Cass Co. Sheriff's Dept.)

Roger Allen Ericksen (booking photo courtesy Cass Co. Sheriff’s Dept.)

The Cass County Sheriff’s Office says the charges against 55-year old Roger Allen Ericksen, of Underwood, stem from acts that allegedly happened with a minor child in 2011. Ericksen was taken to the Cass County Jail where he remains held on $25,000 cash bond. His preliminary hearing is set to take place 2-p.m., March 5th.

In December 2012, Ericksen pled guilty in a prior case in Cass County District Court to Sexual Abuse 3rd Degree.

Walmart to raise starting pay to $9, ripples expected across Iowa

News

February 25th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

The nation’s largest employer is announcing plans to increase its starting pay to nine-dollars an hour this spring, with plans to boost the rate another buck to ten-dollars an hour next year. Walmart has 67 stores in Iowa. The move by the retail giant will have a “significant” ripple effect on the markets across Iowa and nationwide, according to Creighton University economist Ernie Goss. “Their competitors like Target and Costco are going to have to raise wages and for one of their competitors, Sears, this may push them further into the economic abyss,” Goss says. “They’ve been in, I won’t say dire circumstances, but I will say not good over the last few years. It’s going to have a real ripple effect and I think a lot of that is going to be positive.”

Walmart is a 272-billion dollar corporation and Goss predicts the move to raise wages from the current seven-25 an hour will -not- have a big impact on its bottom line.  “Their profit margin is above Target right now, it’s above Costco, it’s higher than most of their competitors,” Goss says. “It’s going to ding them a little bit but I think in the end, they’re going to raise productivity or they’re going to have to reduce profits or they’re going to have to increase prices. I think it’s going to come in increased productivity. It’s going to push Target and Costco, two major competitors, to raise their minimum.”

Walmart’s first wage hike to nine-dollars an hour will come in April and Goss says it’ll be a beneficial move for consumers, the economy and for taxpayers.   “For example, the Earned Income Tax Credit for many of these Walmart workers, that’ll be reduced,” Goss says. “Of course, some food stamp programs other programs, that’ll now be reduced.”

A bill that would raise the state’s minimum wage to eight-75 an hour passed the Democrat-led Iowa Senate on Tuesday, though it is -not- likely to be approved by the Republican majority in the Iowa House.

(Radio Iowa)

New University of Iowa dormitory to be largest on campus

News

February 25th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – The University of Iowa plans to construct a residence hall that will house more than 1,000 students and be 12 stories tall, making it the largest dormitory on campus. The Iowa City Press-Citizen reports that the university plans to open the 303,000-square-foot dorm in two years at the site of the old Iowa City water plant, overlooking the Iowa River.

According to university officials, construction for the $95 million building is scheduled to start late this spring, and be completed before the fall 2017 semester. The new dorm will have twice as many beds as another residence hall that is being built on the university’s campus. Plans for new construction come at a time when the university is trying to make room for larger incoming classes, and increase its in-state recruiting.

(Podcast) 8-a.m. KJAN News, 2/25/2015

News, Podcasts

February 25th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

More area news from Ric Hanson.

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(Podcast) KJAN News & funeral report, 2/25/2015

News, Podcasts

February 25th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

The 7:06-a.m. News with KJAN News Director, Ric Hanson

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