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Freedom Rock lands in Oakland


April 15th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

An 82-ton pink quartzite rock has landed in Oakland’s Chautauqua Park. The 13-foot long and 10-feet wide boulder was brought in on a special flatbed trailer and carefully maneuvered into place, Monday. The Omaha World-Herald reports the event bringing Pottawattamie County’s version of the “Freedom Rock” to the park unfolded before residents of the community, including members of the Oakland Friday Coffee Ladies,  the group which spearheaded the project and collected donations for the purchase, transportation and, eventually, the painting of a patriotic mural on the rock.

The project began June 10th, 2011 when the coffee ladies traveled to Greenfield to see the Freedom Rock located north of there along Highway 25. Seeking one for Pottawattamie County as a show of respect and remembrance of military service members past, present and future, the group took the idea to the City Council Aug. 8t, 2013, where it was approved.

The rock, formed by a glacier about 2-million years ago, was mined from Schildberg Rock Quarry near Macedonia. Freedom Rocks are appearing in other places and painted by Ray “Bubba” Sorensen, based out of Greenfield. The Freedom Rock in Adair County attracts 14,000 people annually.

About $27,000 was the cost to buy and transport the rock, made possible through grants by the Pottawattamie County Community Foundation and from Oakland Foods and other fundraising. The cost of the painting will be around $8,000.

Study says memory loss begins at 30


April 15th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

A new study finds memory loss starts as early as age 30 and accelerates after 40. Doctor Steve Wengel, a geriatric psychiatrist in Omaha-Council Bluffs, says research continues to reinforce that your brain is much like a muscle that needs exercise or it will get flabby. “Mental exercise is a good thing as long as you’re doing something you enjoy,” Dr. Wengel says. “Don’t make yourself learn French when you’re 50 if you hate learning new languages. Don’t force yourself to do crossword puzzles if you hate it.”

Some people start to panic that it may be early-onset Alzheimer’s if they start to forget things, but Wengel says it’s common not to remember every little tidbit in our daily lives. “Forgetting the names of people you don’t know well, business acquaintences you might not have seen in a while, that’s pretty normal,” Wengel says. “However, if you start forgetting the names of close family members, that’s more concerning.”

Everyone occasionally forgets where they left their keys, he says, but finding your keys in the dishwasher might be a sign of a problem. Also, the memory is not like wine, cheese or antique cars. “There are very few cognitive functions that get better with age, unfortunately,” Wengel says. “Vocabulary, for example, does tend to get better as we accumulate new words as we get older, but everything else, it’s kind of a slow, downhill slide.”

Those who worry about memory loss are typically the ones who end up being just fine, he says, while those who may end up with Alzheimer’s disease are the ones who think they don’t have a problem and remain oblivious to warning signs. Wengel’s practice as at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

(Radio Iowa)

DHS director confirmed despite complaints about MHI, Juvenile Home closures


April 15th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

The director of the Iowa Department of Human Services has won senate confirmation to stay in the job, despite complaints from some senators about controversial closings of state-run Mental Health Institutions in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant and the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo. D-H-S chief Chuck Palmer was confirmed for another four-year term in the job by a vote of 39 to 11.

Senator Rob Hogg, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, calls the closings illegal because the legislature never approved them. “So this is a gut check moment for this body,” Hogg said. “I think it is essential that we say, ‘No, we are not going to tolerate lawbreakers as directors of our departments.'” Senator David Johnson, a Republican from Ocheyedan, says Palmer is a “compassionate” and stable leader. “This is a gut check,” Johnson said. “…I have full confidence in director Palmer.”

Johnson also discounted a district court judge’s ruling that Governor Branstad overstepped his authority in closing the Juvenile Home. “What a judge says is an opinion,” Johnson said. “I haven’t seen anything there that negates what happened last November. Elections have consequences and if there was a lack of confidence by the people in the direction that we’re going, we would have heard that.’ Senator Rich Taylor, a Democrat from Mount Pleasant, responded to Johnson.

“There would have been a bigger consequence to last November had the people of Iowa known the governor for three years has been planning to close these two mental health institutions,” Taylor said, “but he didn’t bother to tell anybody about that before the election.” Palmer got five more votes than the two-thirds support he needed to win confirmation.

The state senate on Tuesday also voted to confirm the governor’s budget director for another four year term. The woman who’s been leading the Department of Administrative Services since the governor fired the former director last year was also confirmed by the senate yesterday.

(Radio Iowa)

Iowa early News Headlines: Wed., 4/15/2015


April 15th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

Here is the latest Iowa news from The Associated Press

BURLINGTON, Iowa (AP) — A group of protesters are calling for the resignation of a Burlington police officer who fatally shot a woman when firing at a growling family dog. A few dozen people gathered in Burlington to protest 31-year-old Jesse Hill’s return to work at the Burlington Police Department. He had been on administrative leave following the Jan. 6 shooting of Autumn Steele and returned to work March 27. A rally has also been staged in support of Hill.

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) — A 78-year-old man has been accused of sexually abusing two girls. The Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Office says 78-year-old Merlin Jensen, of Avoca, was arrested April 3 and remained in custody without bond. A criminal complaint says Jensen is accused of inappropriately touching 7- and 4-year-old girls and exposing himself to them. The complaint says Jensen gave the 7-year-old girl a vibrating toy and attempted to have sex with her at least once.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Senate has confirmed the governor’s pick to lead the state Department of Human Services. The Senate endorsed Chuck Palmer, who took over DHS in 2011 after Gov. Terry Branstad returned to office. He also ran the department years ago.

MONTICELLO, Iowa (AP) — Hillary Rodham Clinton says she wants to be a “champion” for struggling American families. She laid out the early cornerstones of her 2016 presidential campaign with students and teachers at a community college in Monticello, Iowa. It was her first formal public event since returning to presidential politics. Clinton is opening her campaign with small events such as the community college meeting and leaving big rallies for later.

Bird flu confirmed in Iowa turkey flock

Ag/Outdoor, News

April 14th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A bird-flu strain that has already hit numerous turkey farms in the Midwest has been found in a turkey flock in northwest Iowa. An Iowa Department of Agriculture spokesman says Tuesday the H5N2 strain of bird flu virus has been confirmed in a barn on a farm housing 27,000 birds in Buena Vista County. The disease was suspected when turkeys began dying in the barn.

An Iowa Poultry Association spokesman says the farm is under quarantine and the turkeys will be euthanized. Animal health officials have long said the virus is dangerous to all commercial poultry. Iowa has 130 turkey farms raising 11 million turkeys a year. The state also is the nation’s leading egg producer with 59.6 million egg layers. No chicken flocks in Iowa have been infected.

Clarinda Police Make Early Morning Drug Arrest


April 14th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

Police in Clarinda today (Tuesday) arrested a local man on drug and other charges. Officials say at around 3:40-a.m., officers arrested 42-year old Jess Scott Larson, of rural Clarinda, for felony possession of marijuana, operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of a controlled substance believed to be marijuana and introduction of contraband believed to be marijuana into a correctional facility or jail.

Larson was arrested without incident following a traffic stop at 20th & State streets. He was booked into the Page County Jail, and held on $3,000 bond, pending an initial appearance before a Page County Magistrate.

Bridge out/road closed notices for Shelby County


April 14th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

The Shelby County Emergency Management Agency reports a bridge along Ironwood Road is closed for construction. The bridge is over Mosquito Creek, in the 1900 block of Ironwood Road, just south of 1944 Ironwood Road, between Union Township Sections 33-34. Construction is expected to last about six-weeks. Officials say the area has many dirt or Level-B roads. Considerable alternate route planning will be necessary for persons responding to emergencies in the area.

A reminder also, that a bridge along Yellowwood Road over Elk Horn Creek, is closed between 544 and 532 Yellowwood. Access to Elk Horn Park is only available from the south, in Clay Township, Section 10. The road in that area is closed for an indefinite period of time.

Iowa educators express frustration with funding holdup


April 14th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Across Iowa, school districts are finalizing budget proposals for the upcoming school year without a key detail: how much administrators can actually spend. The Iowa Legislature continues to be at an impasse over education funding for the fiscal year that begins in July. A deadline Wednesday for school districts to have preliminary approval of their budgets seems to be doing little to prod lawmakers into action.

Iowa school superintendents say the lack of certainty about funding has been frustrating. Some say it could affect staffing and programming, among other things. Democrats, who originally proposed more than $200 million in additional funding, are now pushing for about $150 million. Republicans are seeking an increase of more than $100 million. Both proposals include dollars dedicated to teacher leadership training.

Tax rate declines for Exira-EHK District


April 14th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

The tax rate for patrons of the Exira-Elk Horn Kimballton School District is being lowered for the 2015-16 Fiscal Year. Superintendent Dean Schnoes told KJAN News the levy will decrease about 70-cents per thousand dollars of taxable valuation.

Schnoes said the rate will decrease from about 13-dollars, to $12.31/per thousand. The change, which becomes effective July 1st, followed Monday night’s school board meeting on the 2015-16 budget, during which there were no objections from the public. The budget, according to Schnoes amounts to between 8-and 9-million dollars. (The exact figure wasn’t immediately available)

Schnoes said the Exira-EHK School Board also agreed to continue discussions with the Audubon Community School District, on sharing a wrestling program next year. He said they’d like to get to a point where they can field all the weight classes. Schnoes said it’s important to keep wrestling alive in both districts.

In other business, the board approved the resignations of 4th grade teacher Kara Wilson, who is moving to another district closer to home, and head volleyball coach Connie Wyatt. The Board also approved their assessment goals for kids next year, as well.

Audit of Pacific Junction finds improper pay to city employees


April 14th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – A report released Tuesday detailing an investigation by the state auditor of the town of Pacific Junction has revealed more than $30,000 in improper pay to city employees.

Auditor Mary Mosiman issued the report on the investigation of Pacific Junction that found $31,842 in wrongful disbursements to city officials over a five-year period, from July 1, 2008 through June 30, 2013. It also identified $75,825 in unpaid payroll taxes, including about one-third of that total in penalties and interest.

Concerns from citizens about the frequency and number of payroll check received by city employees prompted the review. According to the report, City Clerk Kari Williams received nearly $16,000 in unauthorized vacation, sick leave and holiday pay.