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Update on closure of Missouri River bridge near Decatur, Neb. (Monona County, IA)


September 6th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

AMES, Iowa – Sept. 6, 2011 – The Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) is continuing to closely monitor the Missouri River flooding situation at the Iowa 175 bridge crossing near Decatur, Nebr., and is working behind the scenes so that it is prepared to begin repair work just as soon as conditions permit.

Preliminary inspection work has revealed a deepening of the river channel around the bridge pier by as much as 42 feet, and serious scour and loss of embankment near the bridge abutment on the Iowa side has occurred.

Emergency work to prevent further loss of the embankment and roadway itself was completed earlier. Since then, the stability of the embankment has deteriorated further, preventing additional work from being performed adjacent to the bridge at this time. 

The Missouri River level has been dropping as the releases from the Gavins Point Dam have decreased, but the land adjacent to the roadway remains inundated with flood waters, leaving the road extending out into the widened river channel like a long boat pier. See the latest images of this area.

The next step that must be taken to restore travel on the bridge is to fill the void that exists around the pier so that it is stable and safe enough to support traffic. This will require placement of a large volume of material in the river bottom. Attempting to place material in the river at this point would not be successful because the flood waters are too deep and fast, and would cause the material to simply wash down the river. This work will begin as soon as conditions allow.

Meanwhile, the Iowa DOT is working with the Burt County Bridge Commission and Nebraska Department of Roads to finalize reconstruction plans. A meeting is also being scheduled with several contractors that are experienced with dredging and hydraulic pumping work to evaluate various concepts for making the repairs. Site conditions make this a very unusual and challenging project; and working with the private sector will help determine the feasibility of the reconstruction concepts.

The Iowa DOT recognizes the inconvenience for travelers due to this closure and is doing everything possible to expedite the recovery work by having all emergency contracts in place to begin work when conditions permit. A team of individuals is dedicated to evaluating all options, including nontraditional approaches and innovative ideas, to get traffic moving again in western Iowa as quickly as possible.

For regular updates on the Iowa DOT’s flood recovery progress, visit: http://www.iowadot.gov/floods/index.html

1 injured when bicycle & SUV collided in Shelby County (corrected age of victim)


September 6th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

A Harlan man suffered possible, unknown injuries Saturday afternoon, when the bicycle he was riding was hit by an SUV, south of Panama, in Shelby County. The Shelby County Sheriff’s office says 43-year old Craig Daniel Bieker, of Harlan, was transported by Panama Rescue to Myrtue Medical Center in Harlan, before being transferred by helicopter to a hospital in Omaha for further treatment.

Authorities say Bieker was traveling north on Highway 191, when a 1999 Chevy Suburban stopped as it was traveling west on County road F-32, but then failed to yield to the bicycle. The accident happened at around 4:15-p.m., Saturday.

The driver of the SUV was identified as 43-year old Daniel Lee Owens, of Woodbine. Owens was cited for Failure to Yield and Failure to provide proof of insurance. Owens’ vehicle sustained $1,000 damage during the collision, while the bicycle, was destroyed.

NE man seriously injured in Saturday accident near Corley


September 6th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

Sheriff’s officials in Shelby County say a Nebraska man suffered incapacitating injuries early Saturday morning, when the pickup he was driving rolled several times into a field west of Corley. 19-year old Joshua Klassen, of Papillion, NE, was traveling north on Highway 59, when he fell asleep at the wheel of the 2000 Ford Ranger pickup he was driving at around 3-a.m.

When the pickup truck crossed the center line of the road, an oncoming semi-truck driver was forced to take to the shoulder to avoid a head-on collision. When Klassen woke up, he took evasive action, but lost control of the pickup, which skidded sideways on Highway 59 before crossing Shelby County Road F-58 and entering a ditch at the northeast corner of the intersection.

As the pickup rolled multiple times, it hit a Stop, a No Passing-, and street- signs before coming to rest on its wheels. Klassen was extricated from the vehicle by Harlan Fire and Rescue, and transported by ambulance to Myrtue Memorial Hospital, before being flown by helicopter to a hospital in Omaha. Officials say he suffered from rib, and possible internal injuries, along with lacerations to his head.

The pickup was totaled in the crash.

7AM Newscast 09-06-2011

News, Podcasts

September 6th, 2011 by Chris Parks

w/ Ric Hanson


Father and son injured in go-cart accident


September 6th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

A two-year old Red Oak boy suffered life-threatening injuries during a go-kart accident late Monday night. According to Red Oak Police, Ryan E. Soar and his 35-year old father Shawn Michael Soar, were riding a go-cart at around 9:15-p.m. Monday, when the machine hit a parked car in the 700-block of East Grimes Street. The child was flown by helicopter to a trauma center in Omaha. His father suffered minor injuries and was treated at the Montgomery County Memorial Hospital.
Red Oak Police say that alcohol appeared to have played a role in the crash, which remains under investigation.

DNR worries about future

Ag/Outdoor, News

September 6th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

The chief of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources parks bureau says he’s worried a reduction in summer employees over the past few years means fewer young people are getting the experience they need to eventually take on a bigger role with the D-N-R. Kevin Szcodronski says there’s so much competition for the jobs that are open, that they won’t even consider you unless you’ve worked several summers as a seasonal employee.

“It’s pretty common for us when we have one position open that we may have sixty to eighty applicants,” Szcodronski says, “So you can imagine out of eight people it really takes that four year degree and four to five years.” Szcodronski says when the economy improves the department will have a host of vacancies to fill but he worries the talent pool will be shallow.

He says since the cuts have been going on for two or three years, there’s workers that have gone elsewhere and gotten experience or have changed their career completely because they’ve gotten frustrated. Szcodronski says that’s the long term effect that they are not going to realize for years to come. Mike Howell has a Natural Resources degree from Northland College in Wisconsin with an emphasis on wildlife and fisheries ecology. The 26-year-old has spent the past four summers scrounging up any hours he can get in his field. But this summer the D-N-R had few to offer so he was forced to take a lower paying parks job with AmeriCorps. Eventually the state agency got clearance to add more seasonal employees and Howell jumped at the chance.

“Most of my friends that I graduated with in Natural Resources, most of them that I know of have already moved on to other jobs,” Howell says, “Certainly I’m in a lucky position that I have a wife who’s working at a pretty good job too. But if I didn’t, I definitely wouldn’t be able to pay the bills going from seasonal job to seasonal job.” Howell would eventually like to land a permanent position with the D-N-R as a fisheries biologist or technician. Another example of the problem is Brandon Pease. As a college senior in 2008, he interned at Waubonsie state park in Southwest Iowa. Pease got hired on for the summer but was let go when the D-N-R ran out of hours. He spent a few months as a security guard before landing a job with the U-S-D-A’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Page County. Pease says his old boss at the D-N-R is always trying to offer him summer hours but never enough to make ends meet.

“I’m sure there’s maybe kids that are more fortunate enough that are able to work for the D-N-R part time and not need a full time job. But unfortunately I don’t have that luxury so it’s either find a full time job somewhere else or starve to death basically,” Pease said, “So with the budget cuts and everything at the wrong time it just wasn’t a good fit for me.” Howell says he could soon face a similar decision. During the winter he works for a temp agency and each summer it gets harder to leave a decent paying job for seasonal work, especially as the D-N-R offers fewer and fewer hours. Howell figures he can hold out until his wife finishes her pediatric residency at the University of Iowa Hospitals. In the meantime state parks officials hope they can provide the seasonal work that’s necessary to keep people like Howell in the system long enough to join the D-N-R permanently in the future.

(Radio Iowa)

Study finds 1 in 5 western Iowa kids at-risk for hunger


September 6th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

A new study shows 20-percent of children in western Iowa and eastern Nebraska are at-risk of going hungry. Susan Ogborn, president and CEO of the Omaha-based Food Bank for the Heartland, says the report contains alarming numbers, especially for those under 18.  “We have far more hungry children in particular than what we think is acceptable,” she says. The study, “Map the Meal Gap: Child Food Insecurity 2011,” indicates the most vulnerable people in our region — children — are the ones who are in the toughest situation. Ogborn says many children are facing hunger from the first day they’re brought into the world.

“One out of every two babies being born today is what we call WIC-eligible, that’s Women, Infant and Children, a feeding program for low-income women and their babies,” Ogborn says. “What it looks like is that our up-and-coming population is much hungrier and much poorer than our existing adult population and that’s concerning long-term.” Ogborn says the report shows the food bank will have to work harder to make sure children in the region get the food they need.  “What we will do is try to double our efforts and reach out to areas where we haven’t had contacts yet, particularly in the more rural parts of the state,” she says.

The report shows the most at-risk children for hunger in western Iowa are in Woodbury County, with about 64-hundred, and Pottawattamie County with 44-hundred. The Food Bank for the Heartland is the largest food bank in Nebraska and Iowa, encompassing 93 counties in the two-state region and distributing nine-million pounds of food a year. The agency serves more than 300 food pantries, emergency shelters, after-school programs, senior housing sites and rehabilitation centers.

(Radio Iowa)

Branstad order on lunch may save state $1 million


September 6th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

Governor Branstad has issued an order which forbids most state workers from claiming their bill for lunch as an expense unless they’re spending the night away from home. David Roederer, the governor’s budget director, says the old rule allowed a state employee to be reimbursed for lunch if they ate outside the county in which their office was located.  “So if somebody were in Des Moines and went down to Indianola, just a few miles south, and it was over lunch time, since they were in different counties, then the state would reimburse them for that meal,” Roederer says. “What the new policy is is that you must be on a trip that at least requires one overnight before you would be reimbursed for a lunch.” The new policy on lunch reimbursement is “standard practice” in most private companies, according to Roederer.

“We’re estimating that it could save the state taxpayers up to $1 million a year,” Roederer says. There will be a few exceptions to the new policy. State troopers, for example, will still be reimbursed for the lunches they buy while they’re on the road, patrolling their territory. “There will be exceptions made on a case-by-case basis,” Roederer says. The I.R.S. has a complicated set a rules for businesses that reimburse meals for employees, requiring businesses to count some reimbursement as taxable income for the employee if it exceeds 52-dollars per meal. However, there are other rules which let that reimbursement price rise if the meal is consumed in an area where food costs more, like New York City or Aspen, Colorado.

(Radio Iowa)

King says five candidates didn’t sway him one way or another in Monday’s forum


September 6th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

Five Republican presidential candidates gathered in South Carolina yesterday (Monday) for a forum and Iowa Congressman Steve King was on the panel, asking questions.  “Hopefully we filled some of the pieces in in the jigsaw puzzle,” King told reporters after the forum. “I was also impressed by the depth of the candidates. When I listened to them talk…even though I know all these candidates, things came out of these candidates that I’ve never heard in the time that I’ve had to be around them.” King posed questions about foreign policy and immigration. King has not endorsed a candidate for 2012 and he told reporters in South Carolina that yesterday’s event didn’t steer him toward or away from a candidate.

“I know I couldn’t stand here and say I didn’t think when Newt Gingrich said the best, first thing to do is pass my repeal of ObamaCare bill, I’m going to fall for that one. That was a good answer,” King said, laughing. “But, not from a substantive way, nothing made it real clear to me.” In addition to Gingrich, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, businessman Herman Cain, Texas Congressman Ron Paul and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney attended the event. Governor Rick Perry dropped out at the last minute, returning to Texas to deal with the wildfires there. King hosted his own candidate forum in Iowa back in February and invited South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint to speak as that event’s closer. DeMint returned favor Monday and invited King to be part of the candidate forum DeMint hosted in Columbia, South Carolina.

(Radio Iowa)

Pottawattamie County Chief Deputy retires


September 6th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

A retirement party was held Friday, for a man whose voice has been heard from time-to-time by many in western Iowa, on KJAN and elsewhere, and whose service to the Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Department has spanned more than 30-years.  Chief Deputy Jim Matthai officially turned in his badge, August 31st. Matthai, who worked with the FBI, U.S. Marshals, Iowa State Patrol, Council Bluffs and Omaha police departments, Douglas County, Nebraska, Sheriff’s Office and other agencies during his career, told the Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil, that “It’s been a great ride,” and that he’s “Been lucky.”
When he was hired by former Pott County Sheriff Lynn Ford in February of 1980, the 23-year old Matthai was assigned court security as a bailiff, protecting judges. He says that allowed him to work closely with the County Attorney’s Office, learn what they expect law enforcement, and  how the legal system was handled by the courts.

One of the toughest jobs he’s had to handle, was being a traffic accident investigator from 1986 to 2001, especially those which involved serious injuries or death.  He says he saw so many deaths, where if a seat belt would have been used, lives most likely would have been saved. During his career with the Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Department, Matthai also worked in the sheriff’s office investigations unit, and  on the SWAT team. He’s served on a bicycle patrol unit.

Matthai rose through the ranks in the sheriff’s department, until January 2001, when current Sheriff Jeff Danker promoted him to Chief Deputy. Danker credited Matthai for his work in making the Sheriff’s Office a progressive, professional agency.  The Sheriff says he hates to see Matthai retire, and that he will be missed.

John Reynolds, a 24-year member of the Sheriff’s Office, will replace Matthai as Chief Deputy.