Rock Rapids, Iowa — A Rock Rapids man was taken to the hospital after an accident near Rock Rapids on Saturday, May 1, 2021.

The Iowa State Patrol reports that about 8:20 a.m., 21-year-old Tyler Van Veldhuizen of Rock Rapids was driving a 2002 International semi tanker southbound on K52, one mile south of Highway 9 in Rock Rapids.

The report says that Van Veldhuizen rolled the semi as he was rounding the curve. The semi overturned into the ditch and damaged a fence.

After he was extricated by mechanical means, the Lyon County Ambulance took Van Veldhuizen to Avera Merrill Pioneer Hospital. His injuries were listed as “serious.”

Van Veldhuizen’s International semi was totaled in the accident. The fence owned by Greg Popkes sustained an estimated $250 in damages.

Iowa, near Fairview, South Dakota — A about a hundred round bales were destroyed in a fire on Friday, April 30, 2021, near Fairview.

According to Fairview Assistant Fire Chief Jerome Vande Stroet, about just before 3:00 p.m., the Fairview Fire Department was called to the report of hay bales on fire at 2865 Arthur Avenue, three miles west of Fairview and a little bit north or about three and a quarter miles south-southeast of Beloit.

The assistant chief says the fire department saw about 100 bales fully engulfed in flames as they approached the scene. He says they pulled the bales apart and extinguished them with water, and then buried the ashes to prevent any flare-ups.

Assistant chief Vande Stroet says there were no injuries but they are concerned that some of the nearby cattle may have had too much smoke.

The fire department was assisted by the Canton and Inwood Fire departments.

He says the owner of the property thinks the fire may have been caused by his lawnmower flinging something at the bales like metal or stone sparks or a hot piece of wire as he had just mown next to the bales and a few minutes later noticed the fire.

Assistant Chief Vande Stroet reports that about 100 bales and two round bale wagons were destroyed in the blaze. He says there were alfalfa hay, grass hay, and straw bales.

He says the firefighters who responded were on the scene four hours.

Later, we had a chance to talk to Fairview Fire Chief Bernie Lang. He says he’d like to thank the volunteers from the Inwood and Canton departments and everyone who helped at the fire call.

Des Moines, Iowa — A Lyon County Sheriff’s Deputy who was killed in a traffic crash in the line of duty in 2019 is going to be honored and her name is to be added to a state memorial this week.

This Friday, May 7, 2021, Governor Kim Reynolds, Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg, along with State of Iowa leadership, law enforcement partners, and families will honor and pay tribute to fallen peace officers who gave the ultimate sacrifice while serving. On this Peace Officer Memorial Day, they tell us they will stand steadfast in remembering the brave men and women of law enforcement who died in the line of duty protecting Iowans and their communities.

This year, two officers will be honored and added to the Iowa Peace Officer Memorial. The Iowa Department of Public Safety asks people to join them in honoring “these fallen peace officers, as well as the many other Iowa officers who have given their lives in the line of duty over the last 152 years.”

Deputy Stephanie J. Schreurs, of the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office who died in an accident on duty on August 13, 2019 will be honored, as will an officer who died almost 100 years earlier, Special Officer John H. Bousman of the Chicago and North Western Railway, who died August 10, 1922.

The 2021 Peace Officer Memorial Ceremony will be this coming Friday, May 7, 2021 at 10:00 a.m. at the Grounds East of Oran Pape State Office Building, at 215 East Seventh Street in Des Moines. In case of rain, the ceremony will take place in the State Capitol at the First Floor Rotunda.

If you are unable to attend this year’s ceremony, it can be accessed on the DPS Facebook Page, which you can find @IowaDPS.

Northwest Iowa — There’s a mixed bag of good and bad news in this week’s COVID report from the Iowa Department of Public Health.

We had seen zero deaths from COID-related illnesses in the past two week’s reports for the four-county area of Lyon, O’Brien, Sioux and Osceola. Sadly there is one additional death to report in this week’s information. The death is that of a Sioux County resident, and brings that county’s COVID death toll to 74. O’Brien County remains at 56, Osceola at 16 and Lyon at 41 deaths since the pandemic began last year. The four-county total is now 187.

Despite the tragedy of deaths in the area, the number and percentage of positive tests in the four-county area are still headed in the right direction. The number of positive tests in Sioux County in the past seven days was 18, that’s down one from last week. Sioux County’s positive percentage was 3% for the second consecutive week.  O’Brien County reports 8 positive tests in the past seven days, down from 11 in last week’s report, and the positive percentage is also down in O’Brien County from 4% to 3%. Lyon County dropped from 13 positive tests last week to 6 this week, with their positive rate dropping from 7% to 2%. And in Osceola County, they report just 1 new positive test, that’s down from 11 the week before, while their positive percentage dropped from 6% to just 1%. Total number of positive tests resulted in the four-county area in the past seven days is 33, down from 54 in the previous week.

More good news on the statewide level: as of early Monday afternoon there were NO COVID outbreaks reported at any long-term care facility anywhere in the state of Iowa.

Statewide Iowa — Many Iowans enjoy attracting songbirds to their feeders year-round and to keep those feathered friends healthy, a bird expert urges people to clean their feeders thoroughly at least once a season.

Anna Buckardt Thomas, an avian ecologist at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says as we’ve just transitioned from winter to spring, it’s an ideal time to make sure there’s no moldy seeds in your feeder.

If your feeder isn’t cleaned properly, unsanitary conditions can lead to the spread of several diseases among birds that feed there, some of which can be fatal to the birds.

Thomas suggests cleaning feeders with a 10-percent bleach solution and make sure the feeder is dry before refilling it with seed. Also, she says to wear rubber gloves while cleaning feeders, since humans can contract some diseases from affected feeders or sick birds. It’s also important to routinely clean bird baths and watering stations.

If Iowans find sick birds at their feeders, Thomas suggests taking down the feeders for at least two weeks to help stop the spread of any diseases. There are some 430 species of birds in Iowa.

Statewide Iowa — April wrapped up on a very dry note Friday and the state’s drought conditions are worsening in some areas.

State climatologist Justin Glisan says the latest drought map from the US Drought Monitor has a new “D-1” area of moderate drought that’s appeared in northeast Iowa. Also, the vast majority of the state is now considered abnormally dry, which Glisan says is something of a warning.

The map shows the northwestern area of the state continues to be the driest.

Forecasters are calling for a chance of rain early next week and turning the calendar page may bring a change in the drought conditions.

On the plus side, in recent weeks there was a large patch of D-3 — or extreme drought — covering several northwest Iowa counties, which is just below the worst category, D-4, for exceptional drought. This latest map shows no D-3 in Iowa at all.

Statewide Iowa — The Iowa Supreme Court has sided with the State Auditor in a subpoena request from the University of Iowa.

State Auditor Rob Sand sought information from the U of I on its plan to lease out its utility system for the next 50 years for lease payment of more than one billion dollars.

The University and Board of Regents fought the subpoena request, saying the auditor was not engaged in a legally authorized audit.

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled it does not need to decide the exact moment the request for information turned into an audit. It says the State Auditor has wide latitude to audit state agencies — and had the right in this case to subpoena the information.

Washington, D.C. — Military commanders would no longer decide whether soldiers accused of sexual assault are prosecuted under a proposal Iowa Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst are supporting.

Ernst, a veteran of the Iowa National Guard, says sexual assault has plagued the military for too long and it makes sense to have neutral party make the decision.

(As above) “I’m a former commander, but I’m also a survivor of sexual assault,” Ernst says. “I understand the traumatic events too many of our survivors have faced.”

Under the plan that will be considered in a Senate committee, commanders will be notified of pending cases, but it will be prosecutors in the military justice system who decide if charges will be filed when a soldier accuses another soldier of sexual assault.

(As above) “To help ensure survivors are treated with the dignity, the respect and the justice that they so deserve,” Ernst said.

The bill also calls for more training and education that Ernst says will hopefully prevent sexual assaults from being committed in the first place. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat, has been working for eight years to build a coalition in the senate to address the issue. During a Capitol Hill news conference Thursday, Gillibrand noted Senator Grassley was the first Republican to back her effort. Grassley says the time has arrived for action.

(As above) “It looks like we’re going to have a success this year…If you’re right, eventually win out in the congress of the United States and this is a perfect example of your hard work paying off, maybe longer than it should have, but paying off now,” Grassley said. “Sexual assault cannot be tolerated anyplace, but particularly in the military.”

Gillibrand also credited Senator Ernst for her work on the policy and her recent effort to line up the votes to get it passed.

(As above) “She knows that this system is fundamentally broken,” Gillibrand said, “so her leadership today is extremely meaningful.”

Ernst previously opposed taking the decision to prosecute out of the chain of command, but Ernst says she has decided to support the change because the problem of sexual assault in the military has gotten worse. Last year 14 officers at an Army base in Texas were fired or suspended after an independent report found a culture of violence and sexual assault at Fort Hood. Ernst says she’s talking with three other senators and within the next week she and Gillibrand expect to have 60 senators as co-sponsors of the proposal. Ernst and Gillibrand both serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee. They intend to insert the Military Justice Improvement plan into the committee’s annual National Defense Authorization Act.

Lyon County, Iowa — Students have been attending school in-person for the most part in northwest Iowa all school year, since August. But there were a number of special policies in place. A few days ago we told you that some of those policies had been relaxed in the Sheldon Community School District. Now there’s word that a couple of schools in Lyon County are making similar changes.

The Central Lyon School Board met in special session this Wednesday to discuss the policy and make applicable changes. According to Central Lyon Superintendent Brent Jorth, the Central Lyon School Board slightly altered the mask requirement. Other changes were also made. Jorth says Central Lyon students and staff in grades PS-12 are still required to wear a face mask when unable to socially distance. There are some exceptions. When participating in PE, Band, outdoor recess, and athletics, and when eating and drinking, masks are not required. Additionally, Jorth says that students and staff will no longer be required to wear their masks while in the hallways, lunch lines, or other common areas; so long as they will not be in those spaces for more than 15 minutes and within 6-feet of another student or staff member.

Many Central Lyon students had been eating lunch in their classrooms. Junior high and high schoolers normally eat lunch in the commons, but due to social distancing, some had to be moved into the gym. Jorth says that starting on Monday, May 3, students in grades TK-6 will return to eating lunch in the lunchroom for the remaining three weeks of the school year. Likewise, students in grades 7-12 will resume eating lunch in the high school commons.

Meanwhile, restrictions are being lifted at West Lyon Schools as well. Superintendent Shawn Kreman says the West Lyon Board of Directors has decided to reduce the district mask policy from “required” to “recommended.” Kreman says this policy change is for all grade levels at West Lyon.

Incidentally, the other public school district in Lyon County has never required masks. George-Little Rock Superintendent Tom Luxford says masks have been “highly recommended if you cannot social distance,” (in other words, not mandatory) since the beginning of the pandemic, and the policy is still in place.

Des Moines, Iowa — The Iowa House and Senate have unanimously voted to give prosecutors another legal tool to crack down on human trafficking.

Representative Megan Jones of Sioux Rapids says it targets people who set up businesses like nail and hair salons, spas and massage parlors, with workers who are actually victims of human trafficking.

(As above) “This bill establishes a crime for knowingly letting your property be used for human trafficking,” Jones says. “…One really interesting part of this bill and I really appreciate this that the victims’ advocates brought this forward is that it provides restorative justice as a form of restitution.”

Victims of human trafficking will be able to avoid charges if they’re caught being forced to work in one of these businesses. Senator Brad Zaun of Johnston says the bill makes it harder to try to run an illicit spa or massage business using forced labor.

(As above) “We are blessed in the state of Iowa to have Interstate 80 and Interstate 35 which brings a lot of business to the state of Iowa,” Zaun says. “Unfortunately, it brings a lot of despicable human beings that are abusing other humans in regards to human trafficking. This bill really just clamps down on the landowners that  know this is  going on.”

The bill first passed the House on March 8th. The Senate gave it final approval this week. The bill also calls on the Iowa Public Safety Commissioner to establish a task force on human trafficking to understand the scope of the problem in Iowa and identify services for victims.