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Iowa native discusses her role in movie “Nebraska”

News

November 12th, 2013 by Ric Hanson

A southwest Iowa native has what she calls a “small but pivotal” role in a Hollywood movie that will premiere nationwide later this month. Melinda Simonsen is a Hamburg native and a 1979 Farragut High School graduate. Simonsen now lives in Norfolk, Nebraska, where parts of the movie, called “Nebraska,” were shot. Simonsen, who is a registered nurse — not an actress, says it all started when she answered a newspaper ad seeking locals to work as extras. “The emphasis was actually on farmer types — and I’m not a farmer — and people from the local area,” Simonsen says. “It was an email address. They just wanted a snapshot and to know how to contact you.”

About three weeks later, the film’s casting director, John Jackson, asked Simonsen to audition at the Norfolk Theater. The first audition consisted of her doing a read-through of the script with Jackson.  “He was reading the lines and I was saying the other lines, didn’t have it memorized, had a camera in the room so he was taping me,” she says. “He kept saying, ‘Melinda, don’t look at the camera,’ and I’m like, ‘Oh, heck,’ and left thinking I didn’t do very well.”

A few weeks after that, Simonsen was asked to audition for the director, Alexander Payne, whose earlier movies include “About Schmidt,” “Sideways,” and “The Descendants.” She says her audition apparently impressed the director as she got the part. “He did say, ‘Melinda, you’re my favorite one for the receptionist,’ and he filled me in on when the filming would be done. My part was filmed in Lincoln.”

Well-known actors Bruce Dern and Stacy Keach star in the film. A movie website says it follows an aging, booze-addled man who makes the trip from Montana to Nebraska with his estranged son to claim a million-dollar lottery prize. “Nebraska” opens nationwide November 22nd but a special screening will be held this Friday (November 15th) at the Film Streams Theater in Omaha.

(Radio Iowa)

WIC shifting to electronic program for benefits

News

November 12th, 2013 by Ric Hanson

The Iowa Department of Public Health is using a five-point-three-million dollar grant from the U-S-D-A to upgrade the system that provides benefits for the Women, Infants and Children or WIC food and nutrition program. Program manager, Brandy Benedict, says they will move away from sending out paper checks to giving participants plastic cards. She says the participants will then use those cards at the grocery store to purchase their benefits.

The transition is similar to the changeover in the Food Stamp Program, which went from the paper food stamps to electronic benefit cards. Benedict says the federal grant will be used to hire a company to develop the electronic system. “We’ve partnered with Colorado WIC so the R-F-P (request for proposals) is actually posted on the Colorado bid system and the Iowa bid system,” Benedict says. She says they will begin evaluating the bids around January.

While the changeover is similar to what the food stamp program went through, Benedict says there are enough differences that they can’t share the same electronic system. “Their cards actually are very similar to a prepaid credit type card or debit card type card that you can purchase as a gift card. WIC is based on specific products,” Benedict explains.

The WIC system will be designed specifically them. Benedict says, “Our cards have to be set up to house products and U-P-C’s rather than dollars.” So for example, the WIC cards could be loaded to allow the recipient to receive five gallons of milk, and after they purchased one gallon, the card balance would drop to four gallons. Retailers are then reimbursed for the cost of the milk. Benedict says the program operates very efficiently right now and they don’t expect to see much in savings from switching to an electronic system versus paper.

“The benefits that we’ll see are related to better prevention of fraud since there will be different types of authentication on the cards — which we can’t protect the paper checks in the same way,” Benedict says. The Iowa WIC Program served approximately 69-thousand-159 participants each month last year. The federal government has required all states to shift to the electronic system for WIC by 2020.

(Radio Iowa)

7AM Newscast 11-12-2013

News, Podcasts

November 12th, 2013 by Chris Parks

w/ Ric Hanson

Play

Concepts for improving Atlantic School District facilities could cost upwards of $20.1-million

News

November 12th, 2013 by Ric Hanson

The public and patrons of the Atlantic Community School District will get a close-up look this Thursday night at five concepts the District is considering, to address its need for more instructional space. During Thursday night’s meeting, Jerry Purdy with the Design Alliance architectural firm and a facilitator will spend time going over the five concepts, which range in price from $8.7- to nearly $20.1-million. The District has been exploring the possibility of expanding its facilities for some time, to handle increased in enrollment in the lower grades and as those students move through the ranks in the District.

Concept 1

Concept 1

Superintendent Mike Amstein said among the factors the Board must consider when it comes to approving one of the five concepts, is the number of current classes that are not being held in one of the District’s four buildings. There are currently two preschool classrooms at the old Lincoln Building, five Washington classes being held in two mobile classrooms (or trailers), and three classrooms currently at the Clarinda Building, which the District is leasing. According to Amstein, next year, the school district will need to add an additional 4th grade teacher at Schuler when the six sections of Third Grade moves into the Schuler Building.

There will be three sets of drawings showing the five concepts to made available to the public during Thursday night’s meeting.

Concept 2

Concept 2

The options were put together following a number of focus groups meetings that included staff, faculty, members of the community and others, a fact Board member Rod Hartwig pointed out during Monday night’s meeting. Hartwig said it was not the Board that came up with the options being considered, as some in the public seem to think.

The least expensive Concept (Concept 1) would have Pre-K through 2nd grade students at Washington Elementary, third through 5th grade students at Schuler Elementary, sixth through eighth grade at the Middle School, and the ninth through 12th grades at the high school. Among the other changes, would be the addition of classrooms at Washington, Schuler Elementary and at the High School, along with a new media center at Schuler, and new dining facilities at both Washington and Schuler. The cost is about $8.71-million.

Concept 2, which the first choice among faculty and staff, is also the most expensive, at $20.08-million. Among the differences from Concept 1, is that Schuler Elementary would house the 3rd & 4th grade students only, while the current Middle School would handle 5th & 6th grades. A NEW, 80-thousand square foot middle school would house the 7th and 8th grades and would be attached to the High School. It would also feature a competition gymnasium, but no auditorium. The high school would house 9th through 12th grade students, see additional classrooms constructed and an expansion of the Art room.

Concept 3

Concept 3

Concept 4

Concept 4

Concept 5

Concept 5

Possible site plan for the area south of the Washington School & new facilities.

Possible site plan for the area south of the Washington School & new facilities.

The community meeting will begin at 7-p.m. Thursday, in the Commons Area at the Atlantic High School. Participants will be encouraged to provide feedback and input to the School Board during and after the session, with regard to the concepts to be presented.

ISU research tracks economic impact of local food sales

Ag/Outdoor, News

November 12th, 2013 by Ric Hanson

Sales of locally-grown food accounted for at least nine-million dollars in economic activity in Iowa last year according to a new report. Researchers at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University tracked “institutional purchases” of locally-grown food by grocery stores, restaurants, hospitals, nursing homes and schools. The researchers say this is the first attempt to try to measure the economic impact of regional food systems in Iowa.

Their work went beyond the traditional concept of a grower selling to a consumer at a farmers’ market to track sales between growers and businesses. Restaurants, grocery stores and other bulk purchasers reported buying nearly nine million dollars worth of locally-raised food products. On average, local food purchases accounted for a little less than nine percent of an institution’s overall food budget.

(Radio Iowa)

Iowa early News Headlines: Tue., Nov. 12th 2013

News

November 12th, 2013 by Ric Hanson

Here is the latest Iowa news from The Associated Press…

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — More than 800 Iowa county officials are gathering in Des Moines for an educational conference. The Iowa State Association of Counties will meet Wednesday to begin discussing legislative priorities they want to lobby in the future. The group’s board of directors has recommended issues like road funding, mental health and disability services and user fees. The legislative priorities are debated and approved at the conference.

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — Former First Lady Christie Vilsack is returning to Iowa as part of her new federal job promoting international education. Vilsack has worked since March as a senior adviser at the U.S. Agency for International Development in Washington. Kirkwood Community College says Vilsack will visit its main campus in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday to meet with students from Central America who are studying agricultural business under a USAID scholarship program.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa Farm Bureau program designed to teach children about agriculture is opening the process for teachers to apply for grant money. The Teacher Supplement Grant program was established in 2003 and this year will award $200 to teachers in language arts and science who develop classroom programs that help students learn about agriculture. Farm Bureau has awarded nearly $100,000 to teachers in the last three years of the grant program.

BONDURANT, Iowa (AP) — Authorities are investigating a rollover crash in central Iowa that injured two of 10 van passengers. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office says the single-vehicle crash happened Monday afternoon on a roadway near Bondurant. Emergency personnel found the full-size van in the center median off of the roadway. Two of the 10 passengers onboard were taken to hospitals in Des Moines for minor injuries. Authorities say the weather may have contributed to the accident.

Red Oak man wanted for kidnapping & attempted murder

News

November 12th, 2013 by Ric Hanson

Authorities in southwest Iowa are on the lookout for a Montgomery County man who allegedly kidnapped and tried to murder a woman in Red Oak.

William Wayne Elliott

William Wayne Elliott

Investigators say the incident occurred at the home of 57-year-old William Wayne Elliott, of Red Oak22-year old Shelby Mae Schmitz, of Red Oak, told authorities after she went to Elliott’s home in the 200 block of East Maple Street Monday afternoon, he allegedly forced her into the basement, splashed her with gasoline and threatened to set her on fire. Schmitz fought back, broke loose and managed to escape before walking into the Montgomery County Law Enforcement Center at around 3:55-p.m. , and asking for help.

The woman was hospitalized for evaluation and treatment as authorities got a search warrant for Elliott’s home. He was not there but authorities say they located evidence in the home, including narcotics. William Elliot is wanted on felony charges of kidnapping and attempted murder. Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to contact Red Oak Police at 712-623-6500, or Montgomery County Crimestoppers at 1-800-432-1001.

Tax Preparation Volunteers Needed to Continue Local Program

News

November 11th, 2013 by Ric Hanson

For several years, ISU Extension in Cass County and surrounding counties has served as a host site for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program. Now, organizers are looking for local volunteers to keep the program going strong. VITA is an IRS-sponsored program that certifies community volunteers to prepare and e-file basic tax returns at no cost for low to moderate income individuals and families. Approximately 70 individuals benefitted from the program for the 2012 tax year, bringing over $150,000 in tax refunds back into the county.

Volunteers are needed in Cass County, as well as other locations across southwest Iowa, to prepare 2013 taxes. Volunteers can work weekdays, weekends or evenings, giving as much time as their schedule allows, and would be needed in late winter/early spring 2014. Interested individuals do not need to be full-time tax preparers to qualify, but should have a basic understanding of income tax laws, an interest in helping others and basic computer skills.

VITA volunteers are provided free training, self study materials, and software necessary to prepare basic income tax returns including Forms 1040EZ, 1040A, and 1040. Volunteers must complete a certification exam and the IRS waives liability for volunteers if they prepare returns within the scope of their certification.

For more information on volunteering with the VITA program, contact the Cass County Extension Office at 712-243-1132 , or Mary Beth Kaufman, Extension Family Program Specialist at 712-755-3104 (or e-mail: mbkaufma@iastate.edu.) Interested persons will need to complete a one page application.

The VITA program provides free tax preparation to low and moderate income families so they can claim the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Care Tax Credits. In Southwest Iowa, the program is coordinated by Iowa State University Extension with funding and support from the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Human Services, and Iowans for Social and Economic Development (ISED).

1st snowfall reminds drivers of winter driving skills

News, Weather

November 11th, 2013 by Ric Hanson

The season’s first snowfall in the KJAN listening area has brought some quick reminders to motorists that they need to slow down and allow extra time for traveling. Early this (Monday) afternoon, there have been several reports of accidents along Interstate 80 in Cass County, none of which have resulted in injuries (as of 3-p.m.).

According to scanner traffic, semi’s were jackknifed into the median and/or partially blocking the road between the 60 and 72 mile markers. And a pickup truck rolled into the median at around 2:50-p.m. just east of the Olive Street exit, but no injuries were reported.

Remember, when driving in winter weather conditions, slow down, turn off your cruise control, turn on your headlights and know that road conditions can change very quickly.

Nebraska authorities ID body found along river

News

November 11th, 2013 by Ric Hanson

PERU, Neb. (AP) – Authorities in southeast Nebraska have identified the body of a man found on a bank of the Missouri River.  The Nemaha County Sheriff’s Office says the body was that of 43-year-old Mark Miller, of Omaha. People fishing by the river north of Peru found the body Oct. 27.

Miller was presumed missing Oct. 2 after a boat he’d borrowed was found unoccupied floating down the river. Miller had been camping near the river in Fremont County, Iowa. A crime is not suspected.