April 10, 2021 - 8:43 pm - Posted in News

Larchwood, Iowa — An unidentified suspect faces felony drug charges as the result of a search warrant executed in Larchwood.

According to the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office, they executed a search warrant at 1137 Broadway Street in Larchwood earlier this week. Deputies say the defendant, who was not identified in their press release, was found at the address and was allegedly found to be in possession of less than 50 kg of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

The defendant was placed under arrest for unlawfully manufacturing, delivering or possessing with intent to manufacture or deliver a controlled substance, according to authorities, and was transported to the Lyon County Jail.

April 10, 2021 - 8:02 pm - Posted in News

Lyon County, Iowa — Lyon County authorities are investigating a 2-vehicle crash that happened Friday morning at the intersection of 270th Street and Elmwood Avenue, which is east-southeast of Inwood.

According to authorities, a 2013 Chevrolet Traverse, driven by 48-year-old Janette Dissing-Boer, of Alvord, was northbound on Elmwood Avenue, while a 2012 Peterbilt pulling a 2016 Jet Co side dump trailer, driven by 58-year-old Daniel Vander Broek, of Canton, was southbound on Elmwood.

Deputies say Dissing-Boer crossed the centerline and struck the Vander Broek semi. Both vehicle’s overturned and became disabled off of the roadway, according to authorities. Both drivers were transported to the Hegg Memorial Hospital in Rock Valley, according to deputies.

Authorities estimate damage to Dissing-Boer’s SUV at approximately $10,000, while damage to Vander Broek’s semi was estimated at $125,000.

Officials say the investigation into the crash is on-going.

The Lyon County Sheriff’s office was assisted by the Rock Valley Police Department, Rock Valley Fire Department, Rock Valley Ambulance, Sioux County Sheriff’s Office, Sioux County Engineer’s Office, Doon Fire Department, Doon EMS, Trackside Towing and Service, and Inwood Body Shop.

Statewide Iowa — The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is rolling out a new pricing system for the state parks and campgrounds. Parks Bureau Chief Todd Coffelt, says it’s in response to a law passed by the Iowa Legislature giving the DNR the authority to set the pricing.

(As above) “The law didn’t say raise all the prices. The law said we’ll give you the tools to make the decision that is necessary,” Coffelt says. “So on an annual basis we will be comparing these and we’ll be coming back with plans every year as we report to the legislature. We are going to see how the response is.” 

Coffelt says they have to look at similar attractions within 60 miles of the state facilities and see if their prices are comparable. He says they sorted everything into four tiers — with tier one being the facilities that see the fewest visitors each year.

(As above) “The first tier where the use is down we actually lessen the price to get people to go there, to make it more attractive,” he says. 

Tier four facilities have the most use and often the most amenities, and Coffelt says they will likely see an increase.

(As above) “So when you add in the amenities of your own pedestal for electricity, your own hydrant for water, and your own connection for greywater, that’s where you are going to see the price increase in those more popular areas,” Coffelt says.

State parks were shut down for a time by the pandemic — and once back open — 2020 set a record of more than 16 million visitors. Coffelt says people were looking to get out of the house in the pandemic and that seems to be continuing.

(As above) “Our March numbers for this year, relatively speaking, they are double what they were last year,” Coffelt says. “So people are getting out, we’ve had nice weather, The public has the equipment, and they’ve seen the value of being able to get outside and spend time with family We are going to be busy. And we are excited by it.” 

Coffelt thinks people will understand if the cost to go to their favorite park or campground increases, as that money is going back into the facilities.

(As above) “We haven’t raised them for 21 years. This is going to allow us to do things to care for the resource that we haven’t been able to do because they weren’t a high enough priority,” he says. “And we are really going to take a look at how the public is using them. Options could be more staff, options could be improvements. We’ll have to take a look at that. We are just getting started.” 

Coffelt says one good thing that came out of the pandemic is people became more aware of the parks last year.

(As above) “It was our hundredth anniversary last year, and so we had the greatest plan ever to get people to come to the parks moving up into it,” Coffelt says. “Then all of a sudden the pandemic happened and we put the plan on the shelf and more people came to the parks than we could ever have anticipated. On one hand it happened, on the other hand it didn’t happen the way we thought it would.” 

Coffelt says the cost changes for each facility are listed on the iowadnr.gov website. Click on the “Places to Go” tab.

Des Moines, Iowa — Republicans in the Iowa House and Senate are proposing different levels of state taxpayer support of Iowa’s three public universities. House Republicans have a budget plan that would provide no additional money to the University of Iowa, Iowa State University or the University of Northern Iowa — and they’re calling for student tuition and fees to remain the same in the next academic year.

Senate Republican Leader Jack Whitver says the Senate GOP budget plan includes budget boost for the three universities of 10 million dollars.

(As above) “There is disagreement there, at least in our initial budget proposals,” Whitver says. “I think it’s difficult to give them zero new dollars and freeze tuition. They have to be able to fund their universities somehow, but…like everything in the budget, we’ll continue to talk with the House about that.”

Representative David Kerr of Morning Sun says House Republicans settled on a tuition freeze and no new state money for the three universities partly because they’ll get federal money from the American Rescue Plan.

(As above) “And then when you add the declining enrollment,” Kerr says. “…In 2016 and 2017, there was approximately 82,000 kids enrolled in the Regents universities, now we’re down to 75,000, a little over.” 

A spokesman for the board that governs the three universities says everyone has the same goal of keeping college affordable and accessible for students, but the responsibility of setting tuition rests with the Board of Regents, to avoid politicizing Iowa’s tuition rates.

Sheldon, Iowa — After announcing a week and a half ago that their Run, Walk, and Roll would be postponed from June to September this year, Village Northwest Unlimited in Sheldon is announcing changes to this summer’s Independence Day Celebration.

Unlike the Run, Walk, and Roll, the scheduled date for the celebration has not changed, but Village officials tell us there will be changes to the celebration. It’s still scheduled for Friday, July 2, 2021. The celebration is normally held on the VNU campus as a way for the Village to say “thank you” to the greater Sheldon community for its support of the Village and people with disabilities. However, because of the ongoing pandemic Village officials noted that some adjustments needed to be made to safeguard the residents of the Village.

Barry Whitsell, President and CEO says this year the Village will be partnering with the City of Sheldon, the Sheldon Chamber and Development Corporation (SCDC), and Rise Ministries to provide an Independence Day Celebration for the greater community of Sheldon.

Whitsell says that the health and safety of the vulnerable population served at VNU meant that hosting thousands of people on their campus would not be safe and so alternative ways were explored to host the event since everyone looks forward to the Village event and the fireworks.

Village officials say this year’s event will be held at the RiseFest festival grounds. The main event will be a concert performed by The Hepperly Band. The start time for the concert and other details for the Independence Day Celebration are still being worked out by officials from the City of Sheldon, SCDC, and Rise Ministries and will be announced at a future date.

Whitsell says, “Following the concert, the traditional Village fireworks display will be held. This will work very well because people attending the concert will just be able to turn their chairs and have a wonderful vantage point to watch one of the best firework displays in Northwest Iowa.” He continues, “We are excited to be able to have the fireworks this year as everyone missed them last year and our residents are excited to have them again this year. Partnering with Rise Ministries, SCDC, and the City of Sheldon is a great way for all of us to collaborate and come together to celebrate our nation’s independence.”

Northwest Iowa — One of Iowa’s Republican representatives in Washington is reacting negatively to President Biden’s call on Thursday to seek out ways to curb gun violence through legislation.

Fourth District Congressman Randy Feenstra of Hull says he’ll oppose the president’s call for “red flag” laws and any new federal rules to restrict gun purchases and ownership.

(As above) “We have to be very careful what we’re doing here,” Feenstra says. “Our founding fathers enshrined the Second Amendment in our Constitution. I stand up for our Constitution. Our Constitution says that we have a right to bear arms and the Biden administration is trampling on our Second Amendment rights here.”

The president wants to ban assault weapons, crack down on “ghost guns” that are self-assembled, and eliminate the exemption on lawsuits against gun manufacturers. Feenstra says they’re all troublesome.

(As above) “I’m really concerned and there’s going to be a lot of discussion starting next week, Monday, on this issue,” Feenstra says. “It seems like what Biden wants to do is blatantly step on our Constitutional rights, on the right to carry, and to have law-abiding citizens have guns.” 

Feenstra has spent the last two weeks of Easter Recess traveling in the district, meeting with residents and touring industries. He will return to Washington on Monday.

April 7, 2021 - 4:27 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — Iowa US Senator Chuck Grassley was in northwest Iowa on Wednesday and met with people in several locations.

Grassley started his day at Diamond Vogel Paint in Orange City. He was also at Weld North Education (formerly AOP/Glynlyon) in Rock Rapids, the CFE mill in Ocheyedan, the Community Services Center in Sheldon, and finished his day in Spencer. Grassley staff told us there were 12 stops this week on Grassley’s schedule.

We asked Grassley what the top issues have been that he’s heard from Iowans about on his visit this time. One of the big ones has been his trip to the Mexican border. He says the Congressional delegation went there because the media was not allowed to publicize the conditions there. He says if the Biden administration had listened to the Border Patrol, they wouldn’t be having the issues that they are. He says the open border is causing national security, humanitarian, and drug issues. He says more Border Patrol officers are needed, and the “fence” or wall has been working, but we need more of it.

Grassley tells us what other issues have been on the minds of Iowans.

(as said) “From farmers… the inability some days not to get a livestock market or if you do, taking a penalty for being a residual supplier because there’s not enough competition because four companies have the major part of it; the rationale for spending another one and nine-tenths trillion of which probably only 10% of it was related the pandemic and doing that on a party-line vote, which obviously you know, how I voted; and let’s see… we’ve had questions on health insurance; almost every factory you go to we can’t hire help and so why is the federal government paying people more unemployment not to work than work; the federalization of all election laws; after 240 years… doing away with the state election laws. Another one we hear a lot about is a big bill that deals with a lot of labor issues, but the one thing it does that’ll affect Iowans… it does away with Iowa’s and 26 other states’ right-to-work laws.”

We asked the Senator if he had any solutions to the issues.

(as said) “I can tell you I’m not for federalization of state election laws. That wasn’t intended by the Constitution writers. I can tell you that I don’t want to do away with Iowa’s right-to-work law. I can tell you that I want to get farmers a market for their livestock and that’s my own bill and I want to cut down on the price of prescription drugs with a bipartisan bill that I’m writing and have written already with Senator Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon.”

Other issues that Grassley heard about on Wednesday included how can agricultural producers get the labor they need legally, the risks to peoples’ lives during a polar vortex when too much attention is paid to environmental issues, and nursing home regulations that prevent people from seeing and being an advocate for their loved ones during a pandemic when they can’t help themselves.

Grassley says Congress’s Easter break gave him the opportunity to meet with people. He says normally he holds public meetings, but with the pandemic, he has switched to going where he is invited. He says it helps him know what’s happening in his state and gives people who work in these facilities the opportunity to meet with Grassley.

Photo caption: Grassley talks with Weld North/AOP’s Vice President of Operations, Tami Murray at Weld North’s Rock Rapids facility

Statewide Iowa — Governor Kim Reynolds has ordered all flags in Iowa to remain at half-staff until midnight April 7th, in honor and remembrance of Representative Alcee Hastings, a congressman from Florida and a prominent champion for civil rights.

Representative Hastings passed away on Tuesday (April 6th). The governor’s order is issued in conjunction with President Joe Biden’s Proclamation to lower all United States flags to half-staff for the same length of time.

Flags will be at half-staff on the State Capitol Building and on flag displays in the Capitol Complex. Flags will also be half-staff on all public buildings, grounds and facilities throughout the state. Individuals, businesses, schools, municipalities, counties and other government subdivisions are encouraged to fly the flags at half-staff for the same length of time.

Statewide Iowa — Four wardens within Iowa’s prison system have been reassigned, including the warden who was in charge at the Anamosa State Penitentiary when two staff members were murdered by two inmates last month.

Randy Gibbs, the warden of the state’s maximum-security prison in Fort Madison, has been temporarily reassigned to serve as warden at Anamosa.

Jeremy Larson, who had been Anamosa’s warden since late 2019, was named interim warden of the prison in Newton today. A spokesman for the Iowa Department of Corrections says having a different leader in place will help ensure “a thorough and impartial investigation” of the murders of a correctional officer and nurse at the Anamosa prison.

Since Fort Madison’s warden has been reassigned today, the deputy warden is now in charge there. And finally, the warden who’s been in charge of the prisons in Fort Dodge and Rockwell City retired today. The warden of the Newton prison is now interim warden of the two facilities while the search is on to replace the warden who retired.

Statewide Iowa — While hundreds of thousands of Iowans have been vaccinated for COVID-19, with thousands more getting the shots daily, Governor Kim Reynolds says they shouldn’t have to carry a “vaccine passport” to prove it to anyone.

(As above) “I strongly oppose vaccine passports and I believe that we must take a stand as a state against them,” Reynolds says, “which I intend to do either through legislation or executive action.”

Vaccine passports have already been banned via executive orders by the governors of Texas and Florida. The statement by Reynolds, a Republican, comes after the Biden administration announced Tuesday it would -not- create a federal vaccine passport or require travelers or businesses to be inoculated. A spokesman for Reynolds said federal officials may change their minds and that’s why Reynolds is planning state action.

(As above) “While I believe in the efficacy of the vaccine enough to get it myself and encourage Iowans to do the same, I also respect that it’s a personal choice,” Reynolds says. 

The governor says a federal vaccine passport would have privacy implications and might be unconstitutional.

(As above) “What you’re doing when you move forward with something like that is you’re creating a two-tiered society,” Reynolds says. “You’re either engaged or you’re marginalized.” 

Reynolds plans to meet with lawmakers to discuss whether a bill can be passed before the 2021 legislative session ends this spring, or if she needs to take executive action.

(As above) “Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve consistently put my trust in Iowans to do the right thing rather than demand or mandate it,” Reynolds says, “and vaccination is no different.” 

A bill stalled in the Senate this year that would have prohibited Iowa businesses and health care facilities from requiring that employees get vaccinations. The bill also sought to bar health insurance companies from denying coverage based on a lack of immunizations. Reynolds announced this (Wednesday) morning that 44 percent of adult Iowans have had at least one dose and 28 percent of Iowans eligible for COVID shots are fully vaccinated. However, she said vaccination rates among middle aged Iowans are lagging and 61 percent of the people with COVID who are hospitalized in Iowa are in their 40s, 50s and 60s.

(As above) “I’m asking Iowans, if you’re comfortable, please take the first vaccine that’s offered to you rather than wait for one that you believe is better than the others,” Reynolds says. “Everyone of the vaccines are safe and effective, especially at preventing serious illness that can result in hospitalization and death.”

Reynolds used a portion of her weekly news conference to highlight efforts in Storm Lake to boost vaccination rates among Latinos. A mass vaccination clinic in Storm Lake is planned for Sunday April 18th.