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Every school district in Iowa getting state grant to begin planning for teacher improvement projects


November 26th, 2013 by Ric Hanson

Every public school district in the state of Iowa has applied for and received a state grant to begin planning for teacher improvement projects. The education reform package that became law this summer also sets aside bonus money for talented teachers who’ll be mentors to other educators, but Department of Education director Brad Buck says January 31st is the deadline for applying for that money.  “I think this is one of those concepts in Iowa that makes sense and I think people are ready to engage in the work,” Buck says. “I think we’ll get, actually, more requests for spots than we have spots in the first round.”

There are 346 school districts in Iowa, but the education reform plan is phased in over three years, so only a third of the districts will get the extra money for teachers on contract for the 2014/2015 school year. Another third of schools will get the money the following year and in year three the rest will get it. Buck says some superintendents have told him they want to wait until that second year — to see what lessons can be learned from the teacher improvement plans of other districts.  “They’re not quite yet sure how that would look in a 650-student district, so they’re waiting to see some other 650-student districts do this, talk about their model and then talk about applying that to their local district,” Buck says.

Other administrators tell Buck they want another year to plan to hire substitutes or replacement teachers for the teachers who’ll leave their own classroom to coach other teachers. Under the new education reform law, all public school districts in Iowa would have a new teacher leadership and compensation system in place by the 2016-17 school year. In the current academic year, each Iowa school district will get at least five-thousand dollars to start meetings among teachers, parents and the community to discuss teacher leadership options.

(Radio Iowa)

A reminder: ISP is increasing patrols this week


November 26th, 2013 by Ric Hanson

The upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday will have many families traveling various distances to visit relatives. The Iowa State Patrol would like to remind all motorists the long, four day holiday weekend will increase traffic on all Iowa’s roadways. The increase in traffic can translate into more collisions and traffic delays. 

Last year during the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend, nine individuals lost their lives on Iowa roadways. Six of these nine were not wearing their seatbelts. That is why the Iowa State Patrol is reminding all drivers and passengers to buckle up as they travel this holiday weekend. Officials say wearing your seatbelt can increase your chance of survival in a crash by 50 percent.

The Iowa State Patrol encourages all Iowans to remember as they travel this holiday weekend to buckle up, obey the speed limit, avoid distractions, and to get a designated driver if you are impaired.   If all motorists abide by these rules, we can avoid fatal crashes on our roadways this Thanksgiving holiday weekend. 

The Iowa State Patrol hopes you and your family have a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday.

Iowa sold record $256M in liquor last fiscal year


November 26th, 2013 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – The state of Iowa sold a record $256 million in liquor last fiscal year, led by a trend toward flavored liquors. The state’s wholesale liquor operation saw a 5.6 percent increase in sales during the year ending June 30.

Retailers and restaurateurs say the sales have been pushed by new flavors. Brian Duax, of Central City Liquors in Des Moines, told The Des Moines Register that “younger customers want something different.”  The Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division says that, on average, an Iowa adult age 21 or older consumed 2.27 gallons of spirits, 2.03 gallons of wine and 33.56 gallons of beer last fiscal year.

(podcast) 7:06-a.m. News: Tue., 11/26/13

News, Podcasts

November 26th, 2013 by Ric Hanson

Local and area news with KJAN News Director Ric Hanson…

HCSD Board approves design of new Merrill Field sports complex

News, Sports

November 26th, 2013 by Ric Hanson

The Harlan Community School District has approved a contract to develop and design the new Merrill Field. During their meeting Monday, the board of education agreed to a contract with FEH Associates out of Sioux City. The Harlan Community Education Foundation gifted the school district $600,000 during the board meeting. The Foundation has collected $950,000 in the bank for the $1.5 million project. However, the rest of the money has been donated but not collected. Superintendent Justin Wagner said the rest of the donations are guaranteed by a local bank. “The Education Foundation has taken out a loan, which it can do, with Farmer’s Trust and Savings and what it does is the bank guarantees the additional pledges that are still hanging out there.”

The $600,000 was given at the moment because that’s what the school can liquidate and that money will be set inside the school’s coffers and accounts in the next 7 to 10 days. Now that the money is close at hand, the board approved the contract with the designer FEH to get the drawings and specifications completed for the project. Wagner and other school officials met with the designer earlier on Monday to discuss the contract before presenting it to the board.

The contract states FEH Associates will be responsible for the overall coordination of the project, field verification as well as construction documents such as demolition around the bleacher areas, bleacher replacement and new fencing around the track. EDA Inc, Sundquist Engineering and Midwest Tennis and Track are also named as contractors for the Merrill Field renovation project. Each entity is in charge of certain aspects such as the field lighting, new drainage system and the entire track and field area. The Harlan Community School district will be responsible for the scoreboard installation, new ticket booth and coordinate site drainage issues with the City of Harlan.

Wagner told the board the designer fee is normally around 5 percent of the whole project and the contract states FEH Associates fee will not exceed $100,000. He said the actual design plans and specs will come at the December 20th school board meeting. The final say on the design will ultimately be approved by the school district but Wagner said the education foundation hopes to give a recommendation to the board.

Wagner says in the next 60 days or so the school board should see the plans and design, determine the cost and move forward with bids. The school district plans to begin the project on March 1st, 2014.

(Joel McCall/KNOD)

Villisca man arrested Tuesday morning in Clarinda


November 26th, 2013 by Ric Hanson

The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office reports the arrest early this (Tuesday) morning, of  a Villisca man. Charles A. Mace, Jr., was taken into custody at around 12:45-a.m. on a warrant charging him with Providing False Identification Information. Mace, Jr.  was located by authorities in Clarinda and transported to the Montgomery/Page County line, where he was turned over to Montgomery County authorities.

He was being held in the Montgomery County Law Enforcement Center on $300 bond.

Alleged copper theft attempt leaves a Bluffs man with severe burns


November 26th, 2013 by Ric Hanson

A Council Bluffs man who allegedly was involved in a botched attempt to steal cooper wiring from a power pole, may end up losing parts of both hands, after he suffered fourth-degree burns over the weekend. The Omaha World-Herald reports the unidentified man in his 40’s, who has not been charged, suffered severe enough wounds that a partial amputation of his hands may be necessary. His injuries occurred after an alleged, attempted theft Saturday afternoon.

Officials say at around 3:30 p.m., MidAmerican Energy crews responded to a downed power pole near 20001 225th St., northeast of Council Bluffs between the city and Underwood. Crews found the pole had been cut with a chain saw. MidAmerican contacted the sheriff’s office, which began an investigation that led to Jennie Edmundson Hospital. That’s where a man had recently been admitted with fourth-degree burns. Sheriff Jeff Danker told the paper the man’s burns were electrical and that the suspect entered the hospital around the time deputies were dispatched to 225th Street.

Danker says Police believe the suspect and another man cut down the power pole in an attempt to access the transformer and likely harvest copper. After the man burned himself, the accomplice drove to the hospital, dropped off his partner and fled. Danker estimated damage to the power equipment at $10,000. About 200 people lost power as a result. The sheriff said he’s confident an arrest will be made in the case as the investigation continues.

Medical personnel eventually transported the man from Jennie Edmundson to the burn unit at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, according to hospital staff, where he was in fair condition.

Iowa News Headlines: Tue., Nov. 26th 2013


November 26th, 2013 by Ric Hanson

Here is the latest Iowa news from The Associated Press…

LECLAIRE, Iowa (AP) — The Coast Guard says a towboat sank in the Mississippi River near the Quad Cities-area community of LeClaire, releasing oil into the water. The Stephen L. Colby struck a submerged object Monday, which caused the vessel to sink. The Coast Guard says nine members aboard made it to safety. About 100,000 gallons of petroleum products are reportedly on board the sunken towboat operated by Marquette Transportation Co. A representative declined comment Monday night.

ALBIA, Iowa (AP) — Attorneys for an Iowa man accused of killing his pregnant wife have argued for a reduced bond. The Des Moines Register reports attorneys met to discuss Seth Techel’s request to lower his bond from $750,000 to $75,000, and remove restrictions on travel and whom he can contact. Seth Techel is charged with first-degree murder in the May 2012 death of Lisa Techel. Both of his trials this year have ended in mistrial. Prosecutors say they will try him a third time.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Officials say there were more than one million visitors at the Iowa State Fair over an 11-day period this year. The final attendance tally was announced Monday. Visitors came to the fairgrounds in Des Moines from Aug. 8-18. Other numbers indicate there were more than 6,600 livestock exhibitors with more than 21,700 animals. New foods totaled 18, with items ranging from new flavors of funnel cakes to a shrimp corndog.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A former University of Northern Iowa music instructor has lost a lengthy legal fight to obtain benefits for mental health injuries that she blames on mistreatment by colleagues. The Iowa Supreme Court says it will not review lower court decisions that denied workers’ compensation benefits to Linda Sharp. A state commissioner ruled in 2011 that Sharp’s work environment at the now-closed Malcolm Price Laboratory School at UNI was stressful, in part because one of her bosses had an authoritarian style that caused conflict. But he said Sharp failed to prove her injuries were directly caused by the environment.

County has a contract for possible 9-1-1 Comm Center


November 25th, 2013 by Ric Hanson

The lingering question of where to locate the Cass County 9-1-1 Center is one step closer to being determined. During Monday evening’s meeting of the Cass County Public Safety Commission, Commissioner Gaylord Schelling, who also sits on the Board of Supervisors, made an announcement with regard to the Cambridge Law Firm building at 707 Poplar Street. Schelling said “We have a contract.” He said also if everything goes well, the building could be acquired before the end of the year. Commissioner Steve Livengood said “For tax purposes I think we ought to get it done before the end of the year.”

Cass Co. Public Safety Commissioners meeting 11/25/13. Ric Hanson photo

Cass Co. Public Safety Commissioners meeting 11/25/13. Ric Hanson photo

Last month the Public Safety Commission passed a motion requesting a quote from the Cambridge Law Firm, with regard to the purchase price of the building. Information was then presented before the Board of Supervisors who gave their blessing to proceed with negotiations. Schelling did not disclose what the purchase price would be during Monday night’s meeting, because there are still some matters being worked out.

Now that the County has agreed to purchase the building, it remains to be seen whether the lower level of the Cambridge building will be used for a new 9-1-1 Center, or the offices of the County Assessor and Engineer. Moving those offices to the building across the street from the courthouse, would likely open-up enough space for an expansion of the current Comm Center on the lower level of the courthouse.

Last month, E-911 Director Rob Koppert said it would cost more money to reconstruct the lower level of the courthouse – once the Assessor and Engineer’s offices are moved – than it would to make the Cambridge Building fit the needs of the 911 Center. Last night however, Koppert said while cost is still an issue, location wasn’t. He said “Quite frankly I don’t really care where the Comm Center is. If it’s cheaper to… keep over her [it in the courthouse], so be it. If it’s cheaper over there, so be it.”

Next week Al Povandra, with the Carlson, West and Povondra Architectural firm in Omaha, will be in Atlantic to re-assess the lower level courthouse space, with the idea the Assessor and Engineer’s offices would be moved out. He should then be able to come up with an estimate on how much it would cost to renovate those areas, and if it’s even wise to do so. In his report to the Board of Supervisors this past April, Al Povandra said any changes to the courthouse would cost “Big Bucks,” and it’s something that is not easily done. Discussions on how to handle the space needs of the Cass County 911 Center, along with new equipment necessary for Next Generation 911 (NG-911) services, has been ongoing for more than two-years.

The Iowa 911 Program Manager said at a recent meeting that all public safety answering points must have in-place a fully compliant NG-911 system by Dec. 31st, 2015. At Monday’s Public Safety Commission meeting, Rob Koppert said a location would have to be secured by July 1st, 2014 in order to properly build or equip a new communications center, which would take one-year to install and make operational NG-911 system equipment, which still needs to be ordered.

The Commission agreed to participate in a State of Iowa 911 grant program which requires a 50-percent match in order to obtain a maximum $50,000 grant to help with operational or project costs . If the grant application is approved, the funds will likely come from the wireless- or wireline-surcharges, and other areas.

Dec. 3rd nuke power plant exercise to be the topic of a public meeting


November 25th, 2013 by Ric Hanson

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Region VII office announced Monday (today) the states of Nebraska and Iowa, along with Washington County in Nebraska and Pottawattamie and Harrison counties in Iowa, will participate with the Omaha Public Power District in a one-day exercise on Dec. 3rd, 2013, in support of the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station, located near Fort Calhoun, Neb.

The routine exercise will test the abilities of the states of Nebraska and Iowa, the utility, and the participating counties to protect the health and safety of the public living and working in the vicinity of the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station. The exercise is a biennial requirement to determine the adequacy of the state and local radiological emergency preparedness and response plans. It will require the activation of emergency facilities by the participating state and local officials.

The activities of the state, county and local units of government will be observed and evaluated by the FEMA Region VII Radiological Emergency Preparedness (REP) Program. Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station on-site performance will be observed and evaluated by officials from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

On Thursday, Dec. 5th a public meeting will be held to describe and explain the full-scale response exercise process. Since the process of evaluating the full-scale response exercise will take months, the preliminary findings are very limited in scope. Members of the public are invited to attend this meeting beginning at 11 a.m. in the City Council Chambers of Blair City Hall, located at 218 S. 16th St., Blair, Neb. Representatives from FEMA Region VII will chair the meeting and explain the exercise process. A representative from the NRC Region IV office, located in Arlington, Texas, will discuss activities conducted on-site at the power plant during the exercise.