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Iowa early News Headlines: Wed., Feb. 19, 2020


February 19th, 2020 by Ric Hanson

Here is the latest Iowa news from The Associated Press at 3:33 a.m. CST

WASHINGTON (AP) — Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign plans to ask for a partial recount of the Iowa caucus results after the state Democratic Party released results of its recanvass that show Sanders and Pete Buttigieg in an effective tie. In the new results, Buttigieg has 563.207 state delegate equivalents and Sanders has 563.127 state delegate equivalents out of 2,152 counted. That is a margin of 0.004 percentage points. The Associated Press remains unable to declare a winner based on the available information, as the results may still not be fully accurate and are still subject to the recount.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa report says state workers didn’t act soon enough on child-abuse reports about a 16-year-old girl who starved to death. Officials have said Natalie Finn weighed only 81 pounds when she died in October 2016 in West Des Moines. An investigation report issued Monday by the state ombudsman’s office says more staffing, training and resources at the state’s top child-protective agency might have made prevented the abuse that led to Natalie’s death. Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds is seeking 47 new agency positions for fiscal 2021. Natalie’s adoptive mother has been sentenced to life in prison. Her adoptive father was given 30 years.

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — A northwest Iowa man has been given 11 years in prison for the drunken driving death of a cousin last year. The Sioux City Journal reports that Darrick Toel was sentenced Monday. He’d pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide while driving recklessly and to operating while intoxicated. Authorities estimate Darrick Toel was speeding at 90 mph July 1 on a rural highway just northeast of Sergeant Bluff when he lost control of his car and struck a tree. Toel’s passenger, 37-year-old Ryan Toel, of Struble, died two days later from his injuries.

HAMBURG, Iowa (AP) — A man accused of pushing a co-worker off the top of a grain bin in southwest Iowa has been found in Mexico and returned to the United States. The U.S. Marshals Service said in a news release Tuesday that Pedro Andrade was taken into custody outside Medina, Mexico. He’s been returned to a jail in Houston, awaiting his return to Iowa. A court document says the co-worker survived his 60-foot fall Oct. 10 in Hamburg. He told an investigator that Andrade had found out that Andrade’s wife and the co-worker were having an affair.

Atlantic City Council to act on property tax resolution, SWM Loan agreement & more


February 18th, 2020 by Ric Hanson

The Atlantic City Council will meet 5:30-p.m. Wednesday at City Hall. During the meeting, Mayor Dave Jones will make an announcement regarding “The Pledge of Allegiance.” A public hearing will take place prior to the approval of Fiscal Year 2021 Maximum Property Tax Dollars, the amount of which is unchanged from the Feb. 5th Council meeting, and that calls for the total maximum levy for affected properties in the amount of $2,295, 878, or an increase in generated dollars, of 2.71%.

According to City Administrator John Lund, the Maximum Property Tax dollars requested in the total maximum levy for affected tax levies in FY 2021, represents greater than 102% of the Maximum Property Tax Dollars requested for the current FY 2021. The total tax rate includes a voted General Fund levy, Debt Service levy, and Capital Improvement levy.

The Council will then hold a Public Hearing on a proposal to enter into a General Obligation (G.O.) Solid Waste Management (SWM) Loan Agreement, followed by action on passing a Resolution for the same, along with the levy of taxes to pay for the loan. The Cass County Landfill (as we’ve previously mentioned), has instituted a per-capita fee of $12 per resident, to be assessed annually. The City’s share of the total amount is $85,344, payable in four equal payments over the course of the fiscal year.

The SWM Resolution will be followed by a Resolution “Setting the date for a Public Hearing on a Proposal to Enter into a G.O. Refunding Loan Agreement, and to Borrow Money Thereunder, in a principal amounts not to exceed $2.25-million. Essentially, this would allow the City of refinance the remaining debt with a new, short-term bond, resulting in an interest savings over the term of nearly $53,000.

In other business, the Council will discuss No Parking on the north side of East 12th Street, which is a dead-end located just east of the Heritage House. Parking is allowed on both sides of the street, which one property owner says obstructs the passage of standard vehicles through the street. There have also been concerns from the Police Chief and Street Superintendent with getting police, fire and street department vehicles through the area.

And finally, City Administrator John Lund will present an overview of the FY 2021 Budget proposal and 10-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP)…amounting to 197 pages worth of information.

(Update) Driver in Fremont County hit & run located


February 18th, 2020 by Ric Hanson

The Fremont County Sheriff’s Office, late Tuesday afternoon, said deputies spoke with the suspected driver of the Hit and Run accident that took place in Sidney, Monday. 40-year old Fabien Bell, of Sidney, came to the Sheriff’s Office and told the Sheriff that he thought the boys had just slapped his car on the way by and did not know of the injuries.

Bell was cited for Failure to Yield to Pedestrian in Crosswalk, Leaving the Scene of an Accident and Failure to Provide Proof of Security Against Liability, Injury Accident. The incident remains under investigation.

Original report:

The Fremont County Sheriff’s Department said that at around 4:10-p.m. Monday, deputies were called to the area of Filmore Street and Illinois Street in Sidney, for a report of a juvenile that had been stuck by a car. Witnesses said a vehicle was eastbound on Filmore Street and turned south on Illinois Street, while two male juveniles were attempting to cross Filmore Street. The vehicle struck one of the juveniles, briefly stopped and then fled the scene to the south.

The vehicle is described as a smaller red vehicle. The driver is described possibly as a male with glasses and no facial hair. The juvenile was transported to Grape Community Hospital, by Sidney Rescue, with minor injuries.

Anyone with information about this case is asked to contact the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office at 712-374-2424.

Fate of Bottle Bill debated, again, at statehouse


February 18th, 2020 by Ric Hanson

(Radio Iowa) – After years of study and decades of debate, the fate of Iowa’s bottle deposit law is still being discussed by lawmakers. There are two vastly different bills in the Iowa House this year. One bill would KEEP the nickle deposit on bottles and cans, but send two cents of that to redemption centers rather than just a penny. The other bill would get rid of the “bottle bill” altogether in 2023. Mary Ann Renner has owned and operated redemption centers in Maquoketa and Tipton for 22 years.

“I’ve got family that live in Illinois and Wisconsin and we went over for a wedding last fall and we were just literally shocked at what the roadways looked like,” she said. “Are we really going back 40 years to that, the litter and the garbage in the roadways?” Lee Colins, the operator of the Can Dough redemption center in Ottumwa for the past eight years, says some people in her area depend on the money they get from returning the empties.

“I have homeless that come in daily, line up,” she says. “They have the cans to buy their food, whatever they need — shelter, diapers.” Bottle bill advocates say because of the bottle bill, about three-quarters of the empty cans and bottles that had pop, beer or wine get returned for the deposit. Grocery and convenience stores argue the cans and bottles are often filthy and shouldn’t be handled in a place that sells food. Brad Epperly, a lobbyist for the Iowa Grocery Industry Association, says the current system is not convenient for consumers, either.

“It’s not convenient to store them separately, stick them in a bag, drive them in your car to where you buy your food and then return them and stand in line with a ticket,” Epperly says. “It’s much more convenient to toss them in your recycling bin, so the question here is not just: ‘How great the bottle bill is?’ The question is: ‘Is that the best way that we should be recycling in the state?'” Representative Megan Jones, a Republican from Sioux Rapids, says the Bottle Bill helped teach generations of Iowans how to recycle, but she says the empties taken to grocery stores are now a public health issue.

“People are putting their kids in the same carts that someone just had their cans and bottles that were covered in crickets, frogs and chewing tobacco,” Jones says. “It is disgusting. It is gross and we owe our kids better.” It’s unclear what, if anything, legislators may decide to do on this topic — and this Friday is the deadline for committee passage of policy bills, or the legislation is dead for the year.

Audubon/CR-B Boards vote to continue Sharing Agreements


February 18th, 2020 by Ric Hanson

Members of the Audubon and Coon Rapids-Bayard School District Boards of Education have voted to continue a sharing agreement for the services of Superintendent, Human Resources, Transportation Director and Elementary School Counselor. The Audubon School Board approved a Memorandum of Understanding for the Superintendent and sharing agreement for the other positions, during their meeting Monday evening.

The contract for Superintendent Eric Trager is for three years, whereas the other posts are on a year-by-year basis. In other business, activity, the Board set March 11th during their regular meeting to hold a public hearing for the School Calendar. And, the Audubon School Board approved will offer their non-certified staff health insurance, including to their associates and cooks, in hopes of attracting and retaining quality people.

Exira-EHK Board acts on 2020-21 School Calendar; Superintendent sharing & Personnel matters


February 18th, 2020 by Ric Hanson

The Exira-Elk Horn-Kimballton School Board, Monday, held a Public Hearing with regard to a proposed 2020-21 School Year Calendar. Superintendent Trevor Miller said there were some questions raised during the hearing. Including about having the Monday after Easter off, instead they have Good Friday off, as well as the Thursday before, because that is a Professional Development Day. The District will have more hours than the State Minimum 1,080, with the flexibility to allow for snow days, moving forward. The Board approved the Calendar, which has school starting Aug. 24, 2020, and ending May 21, 2021.

The Exira/EHK Board also approved an 80/20 Superintendent sharing agreement with the IKM/Manning School District. The one-year agreement stipulates Mr. Miller will serve four days in the IKM-Manning District and one-day in the Exira-EHK District, while getting all the work done by serving different hours and through the use of technology. And, they approved Personnel transfers, hires and resignations. Brittany Williams is transferring from 1st grade Teacher to 3rd grade, which opens up the 1st grade position that’s been posted on various educational employment websites.

Special Education teacher Bev Ohlinger is going to retire. She came to the district from Tri-Center last year. Kathy Blazek was hired as a half-time, long-term substitute in the Elementary, covering Special Education; Dave Burkett’s contract was renewed as a para educator in the Elk Horn Building; and many contract renewals mean Athletic personnel will be returning for the upcoming school year. Miller says the District is in the processing of looking for a K-8 Guidance/P.E. position, a High School Business position, and a Middle School Special Education position.

Man gets 11 years for drunken driving crash death of cousin


February 18th, 2020 by Ric Hanson

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (Sioux City Journal) — A northwest Iowa man has been given 11 years in prison for the drunken driving death of a cousin last year. The Sioux City Journal reports that Darrick Toel was sentenced Monday. He’d pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide while driving recklessly and to operating while intoxicated. Authorities estimate Darrick Toel was speeding at 90 mph July 1 on a rural highway just northeast of Sergeant Bluff when he lost control of his car and struck a tree. Toel’s passenger, 37-year-old Ryan Toel, of Struble, died two days later from his injuries.

Harlan Police report (2/18)


February 18th, 2020 by Ric Hanson

The Harlan Police Department reports two recent arrests. Last Thursday (Feb. 13), 43-year old Alejandro Isidoro Hernandez, of Harlan, was arrested for Domestic Abuse Assault, and Child Endangerment. His initial court appearance was set for Feb. 24th. And, on Feb. 11th, 38-year old Matthew James Baucom, of Harlan, was arrested and charged with Disorderly Conduct.

Sen. Grassley calls for more protections to guarantee freedom of religion


February 18th, 2020 by Ric Hanson

(Radio Iowa) — While freedom of religion is a protected constitutional right thanks to the First Amendment, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says that freedom is under attack here in the U-S and abroad. Grassley, a Republican, says religious discrimination endangers innocent lives in cultures and societies around the world but the work to halt the intolerance and violence has to start in America. “You can see what happens to Jewish places of worship,” Grassley says. “I suppose we have some anti-Muslim, then we have some anti-Christian attitudes in the United States. That all has to be overcome.”

He’s calling on the U-S to help people in countries like Russia, Bangladesh and Sudan who live under authoritarian regimes and face persecution for their religious beliefs.  Grassley says, “Through various U.N. resolutions and the United States setting a moral standard for the rest of the world and demanding more religious freedom where it doesn’t exist in the world is our goal.”

Grassley says the U-S should use proposed and future trade agreements to pressure nations like China, North Korea and Pakistan to allow their citizens to practice their chosen religions and worship without fear. He says the U-S has built into its negotiations demands for improvements to working conditions and for the environment, so why not religious freedoms? “Like the USMCA and what we were negotiating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership before we pulled out,” Grassley says, “I think the same focus on religion is helpful to make sure that the moral standard we set on the environment and labor carries over to other freedoms as well.”

Grassley was asked if President Trump might consider including religious freedom issues in his talks with China. Grassley responded, “I don’t think so. I think the president’s mostly concerned about economics.”

Bill seeks study of Interstate rest area usage, upkeep


February 18th, 2020 by Ric Hanson

(Radio Iowa) — Members of the Iowa House are considering a bill that would launch another study of the 38 Interstate rest areas in Iowa. Representative Brian Lohse of Bondurant is leading the discussion. “The point of the bill is just to take another comprehensive look that hasn’t been done for about 30 years as to the rest areas,” Lohse says, “what goes into them, where they should be, whether or not there are ones that are truly cost-effective and are continuing to operate.”

In 2018, Iowa D-O-T officials unveiled a proposal to gradually close 11 rest areas, which have rest rooms AND close ALL the “parking only” rest stops — all after completing a study of usage. The bill that’s pending in the House committee calls for the Iowa D-O-T, the Iowa Economic Development Authority and the Iowa Finance Authority to evaluate existing rest areas and come up with a list of any necessary updates — plus offer some analysis of how the traveling public uses rest areas.  “I think they fill a necessary role, especially for truckers. They also serve a necessary role for anybody with young kids,” Lohse says, with a laugh. “They are there for a reason.”

Lohse says HIS kids are grown now and he makes fewer stops when traveling — and tends to patronize gas stations and restaurants rather than pull over at a rest stop. In 2018, state officials estimated 15-and-a-half MILLION interstate travelers stopped at an Iowa rest stop.