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Des Moines man arrested on Union County warrant


January 27th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

Sheriff’s officials in Union County say a Des Moines man, 25-year old Cody John Courtney, was arrested Monday night at the Law Enforcement Center in Creston, on a Union County Warrant for probation violation. Courtney is being held in the Union County Jail awaiting an appearance before the Magistrate.

State unemployment rate down in December, nearing full employment number


January 27th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

The state unemployment rate dropped down in December, and a spokesperson for Iowa Workforce Development says the state is getting close to “full employment.” I-W-D spokesperson, Kerry Koonce, says the December unemployment rate hit four-point-one percent, compared to four-point-three percent in November. “Four-point-one percent is actually the lowest rate we’ve had since June of 2008. The national rate is still standing at five-point-six percent for December,” Koonce says. She says the national experts believe Iowa is getting close to what’s called full employment, or the percentage of the labor market that is able to find a job if they want a job.

“It’s between three-and-half and four percent for Iowa, closer to the four percent,” Koonce says. “It used be closer to the three, three-and-a-half, but as the economy has changed over the years, they say the full employment for Iowa falls in that three-and-a-half to four percent range.” It is the third straight month that the unemployment rate has dropped. “What we’ve seen is we’ve seen a decrease in the number of people who are unemployed, plus a continued increase in the size of our labor force couple with adding 21-hundred jobs to the economy in the month of December, that’s what allows us to bring that rate down continually,” Koonce explains. She takes about the areas where the state gained jobs.

“A larger portion of the jobs were in manufacturing — that was 16-hundred of them — another 500 still in construction, plus we saw 15-hundred in business and professional services, and 600 of those were also in what we call other services, which is kind of a combined category,” Koonce says. The state lost one thousand jobs in the trade and transportation area, which Koonce says included the retail sector.  “You saw a lot of people leave at the end of the holiday season, plus the retail trade is just seeing a lot more people move to on-line shopping, so that just decreases the numbers they need in the actual stores,” she says.

Local and state government saw the loss of 900 jobs in the month, but she says but many of these losses were seasonal transitions and should be recovered in January. Iowa’s largest manufacturing employer, Deere and Company, announced the layoff of 900 workers last week. Koonce says that won’t have an immediate impact on next month’s unemployment numbers. “We’ll see it in the job numbers, but it may be kind of a slow progression. And that’s because the layoffs are spread out over three to four months with John Deere,” Koonce explains. “So they won’t be completed until the end of April, so it would be our May report which is for April numbers, when all of that would have taken effect. But if it’s spread out over several months it will be a small decline, you are not going to see a sudden drop of 900 all at once.”

Koonce says Iowa Workforce Development already is responding to help the Deere workers as they face the layoffs. I-W-D says the total number of working Iowans reached a current-year peak of one-million-642-thousand-900 in December. This figure is 31-hundred higher than November and 38-thousand-100 higher than one year ago.
(Radio Iowa)

Spokesman: Iowa governor released from Des Moines hospital


January 27th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad has been released from a Des Moines hospital where he received treatment for what doctors believe is a viral illness and dehydration. Branstad spokesman Jimmy Centers said the governor was released Tuesday morning and is resting at Terrace Hill, the governor’s official residence. Branstad’s public appearances for the week have been cancelled so that he can recuperate.

Branstad was taken by ambulance to Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines on Monday after he required assistance at a ribbon-cutting event. Doctors said they believed the governor has a viral illness. The hospital conducted tests and ruled out other contributing factors, including cardiac issues for which he’s been previously treated.

Atlantic School Board looks to make $650k in cuts


January 27th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

The Atlantic Community School District’s Board of Education is looking for ways to cut $650,000 from next year’s budget. Superintendent Dr. Michael Amstein told KJAN News during a work session Monday night, the Board gave the district’s Administrative team instructions to look at all areas where savings might be made.

Amstein says they’ve been in the process of trying to reduce costs for the current school year, which will impact this year’s budget. He says they believe they will come in under the amount they had targeted to spend. Amstein says over 80-percent of their budget is for personnel, and that’s “Certainly an area we’re going to have to take a look at.” Fortunately, he says the district received a TLC (Teacher Leadership and Compensation) Planning Grant for the 2015-2016 school year in the amount of $450,000, which allows them to move some people into instructional leadership positions.

So that may make it easier, by not having to replace those positions, but cuts will come from every department across the district. Last year, the district proposed $800,000 in cuts. Amstein says “With this on top of it, it’ll be almost $1.5-million dollars in cuts over the past two years,” and that they will have to “Turn every stone, now.”

Amstein says that money is already spent though, and can’t be used for anything else within the district. Amstein says this is the first time during his 5-years he’s served the district that they’ve had a true four-percent increase in educational funding, and it’s hard to keep up with just the cost of doing business each year when funding doesn’t meet the needs of the school district.

In addition, a miscalculation by the Iowa Department of Revenue will result in the Atlantic School District having to pay back more than $70,000 it received in overpayment from the state sales tax. The mistake was traced back to a faulty computer program that could not handle as much sales tax revenue as was collected last summer. The error affects school infrastructure projects.

Amstein said it won’t impact the Atlantic District as much as it would a smaller district, because it will be paid back over time, and will likely be accomplished by reducing the payments the district receives for the rest of this year.

No injuries reported following a collision in Creston


January 27th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

An accident Monday morning in Creston caused $4,000 damage, but no one was injured. Authorities say vehicles driven by 18-year old Keegan Williams, and 77-year old Jerry White, both of Creston, collided at around 8:40-a.m. at the intersection of Peterson and Adams Streets.

Officials say Williams stopped at the controlled intersection, but then proceeded north on Peterson Street in his 1990 Chrysler van before being hit by White’s 2010 Chevy HHR. Williams told authorities he looked before pulling away from the intersection, but didn’t see White’s vehicle approaching from on eastbound Adams Street.

The van broadsided the HHR, causing it to spin around nearly 360-degrees before it came to rest in the eastbound lane of Adams Street. No citations were issued.

Omaha man arrested, warrants issued for 2 more Cass County cattle theft suspects

Ag/Outdoor, News

January 27th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

An investigation into the theft of cattle from a farm near Lewis has resulted in the arrest of a Nebraska man, and arrest warrants for two other Nebraskans. The Cass County Sheriff’s Office reports 57-year old Ervin John Jacob, of Omaha, was arrested Jan. 22nd following the execution of a search warrant in Omaha.

Ervin John Jacob (Cass Co. Sheriff's Dept. photo)

Ervin John Jacob (Cass Co. Sheriff’s Dept. photo)

Jacob was arrested on three Class D felony counts of Theft in the 2nd degree, and a Class-D felony charge of ongoing Criminal Conduct, for his involvement in three incidents of cattle theft.

The Cass County District Court has also issued warrants for 49-year old James Michael Brunzo, of Omaha, for two counts of Theft 2nd for his complicity in the thefts that took place May 28th, 2014, and June 9th, 2014,  and for 42-year old Amy Louise Springer,  of Omaha, NE, who faces  one count of Theft 2nd Degree for her complicity in a theft that took place January 6th, 2015.

The investigation into the trio’s activities began on May 28th, 2014, when the Cass County Sheriff’s Office took a report of the overnight theft of two cattle from Freund Brothers Farms in Lewis. On June 9, 2014, the Cass County Sheriff’s Office took another report of the theft of four cattle from JW Freund Farms in Lewis, IA. Again, on January 6, 2015, Freund Brothers Farms reported the theft of two more cattle overnight. On January 16, 2015, Cass County, Iowa, Sheriff’s Office, conducted a search warrant in Omaha, Nebraska, with the assistance of the Omaha Police Department and the Cuming County, Nebraska, Sheriff’s Office.

Cass County authorities were assisted in their investigation by the Cuming County, Nebraska, Sheriff’s Office, the Omaha Police Department, and the Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Office. The Cass County Sheriff’s Office thanks the Massena Sale Barn, Rolling Hills Bank & Trust, and citizens, whose tips assisted in the outcome of the investigation.

Debate over education funding begins in Iowa House


January 27th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

The Republican-led Iowa House has begun debating a bill that would forward nearly 48 million more dollars in general state aid to Iowa’s public school districts for the next academic year. School advocates say the increase isn’t enough and won’t even cover negotiated salary hikes for teachers. Others complain Republican legislators are making property tax relief a higher priority than kids. Representative Ron Jorgensen, a Republican from Sioux City, says K-through-12 public schools would be getting “about half” of the additional state tax revenue that’s available in the coming this year under the G-O-P’s proposal.

“We are not the federal government. We must live within our means,” Jorgensen says. “We must do the math. If the money is not there, you can’t spend it unless you are willing to cut in other areas in order to pay for it.” Critics say Iowa’s per pupil spending level ranks 37th among the states. Jorgensen says another study that factored in each state’s cost of living and ranked Iowa 25th.  “I believe in education you could find a study that would pretty well prove whatever point you wanted to make,” Jorgensen says. And Jorgensen says per pupil spending “does not always equate to higher performance.”

Educators warn class sizes will increase and teachers will be laid off because the one-and-three-quarter percent increase in state aid that the G-O-P proposes won’t be enough to meet school district obligations. During last night’s (Monday’s) two-hour-long public hearing, just two people spoke in favor of the G-O-P proposal and one of the two is an aide to Republican Governor Terry Branstad.

(Radio Iowa)

Denison firm awarded roof replacement project at HCHS


January 27th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

A company based in Denison was awarded the bid for the Harlan Community High School’s roof replacement project. R L Craft’s bid of $160,217 was accepted by the Harlan Community Schools Board of Education.  The bid includes a 10-year warranty and additional items may include replacing insulation, the cost of which will not be known until the project is underway.

Insurance will cover all but $29,092 which the Harlan Community School district will be responsible for paying. This amount is under what officials had estimated for the district’s cost.

Former Harlan doctor facing a sex abuse charge reaches plea agreement


January 27th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

The second degree sexual abuse trial for a former Harlan physician charged with felony second degree sexual abuse, will not be held as scheduled. The trial for 81 year old Dr. Wing Tai Fung was scheduled to take place today (Tuesday) at the Shelby County Courthouse, but an order was handed down yesterday (Monday), indicating that a plea agreement had been reached. On Monday, Judge James Richardson issued an order for a pre-sentence investigation.  A written guilty plea must be entered by January 30th with sentencing set for March 27th.

Fung, of Scarborough, Ontario, Canada, was charged in May 2014, in connection with an incident that  took place in January 1999, where he allegedly molested a 10-year-old girl he was treating for a knee sprain at Myrtue Medical Center in Harlan. Chicago police arrested Fung April 28th at O’Hare Airport after he returned from Canada. He waived his extradition so the case could be tried in Shelby County.

Fung had entered a written plea of not guilty to the charge, last May.

Former Iowa postmaster pleads guilty to thefts from mail


January 27th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) – A former northern Iowa postmaster accused of stealing painkillers from the mail has pleaded guilty in a Sioux City federal courtroom. Fifty-five-year-old Danny Miller, of Ventura, was convicted of mail theft by a postal services employee. His trial had been scheduled to begin next week. A federal grand jury indicted Miller in October.

Federal prosecutors say Miller admitted that from about May 2013 through July 2014, while serving as postmaster for Forest City, he stole the prescription painkillers from the mail.  He’d been appointed Forest City postmaster in 2012. He’d also served as postmaster in Fertile.

A sentencing date hasn’t been set for Miller, who faces up to five years in prison.