April 22, 2019 - 1:54 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — While it was slow to develop, it appears the effects of the current El Nino weather pattern will hang around for a while — likely several months.

Meteorologist Dennis Todey, director of the USDA’s Midwest Climate Hub says they expect a longer-than-average El Nino, which typically means warmer, wetter weather for our area.

An El Nino occurs when Pacific Ocean surface temperatures rise, which in turn impacts weather across North America. An El Nino can last just nine to 12 months or sometimes as long as seven years. Todey says the center is predicting warmer-than-normal temperatures at least through early summer.

Todey says the long-range outlook calls for above-normal rainfall for most of the summer.

It follows a snowy winter and a rainy early spring which led to record flooding on the Missouri River and significant flooding on the Mississippi and elsewhere, with billions of dollars damage in Iowa and several neighboring states.

April 22, 2019 - 1:23 pm - Posted in News

Statewide Iowa — The Iowa Legislature could wrap its business for the session this week, and their final budget will impact how much the students at the three state-supported universities pay in tuition.

The Board of Regents held off on setting tuition at their meeting last week as president Mike Richards reiterated the process set in the board’s new five-year-tuition model.

Richards says they want to know how much of the money they requested will be approved by state leaders.

Under the model designed to give students and parents predictability, the Regents will use a formula to set the tuition at the University of Iowa and Iowa State University.

The formula for tuition at the University of Northern Iowa is different.

It is not clear how the tuition rate would be impacted at the University of Northern Iowa if the Board of Regents does not receive the amount of state money they requested. The board is expected to hold the first reading on the tuition rates at its June meeting.

Sheldon, Iowa — A controlled burn got out of control was extinguished by Sheldon firefighters late Friday afternoon.

According to Sheldon Assistant Fire Chief Brad Hindt, the Sheldon Fire Department was called to 3119 Marsh Avenue, about a mile north of Northwest Iowa Community College, shortly after 5:20 Saturday afternoon.

Hindt says a controlled  burn at that location had gotten out of hand, threatening both a machine shed and a house. Upon arrival, Hindt says firefighters witnessed a large grass fire burning. He says fire crews were able to bring the blaze under control and extinguish it, but not before it had burned approximately 20 acres.

Sheldon firefighters were on the scene for about two-and-a-half-hours.

 

Amy Sinclair

Statewide Iowa — Students at Northwest Iowa Community College, along with all of the state’s other community colleges, as well as university campuses in Ames, Iowa City and Cedar Falls would be able to carry stun guns on campus if a bill that is likely to pass next week does become law.

Senator Amy Sinclair, a Republican from Allerton, says the reality is there’s an elevated risk of assault on college campuses.

Representative Matt Windschitl, a Republican from Missouri Valley, says current Iowa law lets anyone above the age of 18 carry a stun gun, but some public colleges and universities have campus-wide bans on the devices.

Windschitl says stun guns are not lethal.

Nine senators and 37 members of the Iowa House opposed the bill. Representative Mary Mascher, a Democrat from Iowa City, says a college campus — especially a football stadium — is not a place you’d want stun guns.

Representative Chris Hall, a Democrat from Sioux City, opposed the bill, suggesting it is condescending to women.

The proposal won approval in the Iowa Senate in mid-March. The House voted to add language that would prohibit anyone with a felony conviction from carrying a stun gun on a public college or university campus in Iowa. The Senate is expected to approve that caveat this coming week and send the bill to the governor for her review.

April 19, 2019 - 3:03 pm - Posted in News

Statewide Iowa — The state unemployment rate remained unchanged once again in March, and has now been at the historically low 2.4% level since October. The latest seasonally-unadjusted unemployment figures for northwest Iowa are down.

Iowa Workforce Development spokesperson, Donna Burkett, says the major disaster issues that hit in March didn’t influence the numbers.


She says the lack of flood impact on the unemployment rate could be attributed to several factors.


There were some areas that lost jobs in the month.


The construction industry has been off to a slow start, and also lost some jobs in March.


Burkett says they should learn more about the flooding impact when the April job numbers come out. She says there’s also a possibility that the flood repairs could have some impact on the construction industry. The leisure and hospitality industry rebounded from declines in February to add one-thousand jobs in March. Overall though, the total number of working Iowans was 5400 higher than February. And Burkett says Iowa is still one of the states with the lowest unemployment in the country.


The unemployment rate was 2.7% one year ago. The U-S. unemployment rate remained at 3.8% in March.

The latest county-by-county figures are those for February. In northwest Iowa, Lyon and Osceola counties were tied for the lowest unemployment at 1.8%. That’s a tie with several counties for third place, behind 1.7 in Johnson County and 1.4 in Story County. Those figures are not adjusted for seasonal employment like construction and resort work, so they’re naturally a little higher in the winter. But they’re down from January when Lyon County had 2.3 and Osceola had 2.2. Sioux County’s February figure was 2.2%, down from 2.6% in January. O’Brien’s February rate was 2.3, down from 2.6 in January. All four rates are lower than the February rates for 2018.

Orange City, Iowa — There’s an art exhibition going on now in Orange City that features artists from our area.

Orange City Arts’ 8th Annual Regional Art Exhibition features the work of 24 local artists at the Northwestern College DeWitt Theatre Arts Center from now through next Saturday, April 27th.

Orange City Arts officials tell us that the exhibit is co-sponsored by Northwestern College’s Art and Theatre Departments, and is offered in conjunction with the production of the world premiere of the student-written play, Julianne & Kristofferson Get Back Together, which will be performed in Northwestern’s England Theatre on Friday, April 26th at 7 p.m. and Saturday, April 27th at both 2 and 7 p.m. The show is free; seating is first-come, first-served.

The public is invited to attend the closing reception next Saturday, April 27th at 6pm. The exhibition is located at 810 Albany Ave Southeast in Orange City.

Admission to the exhibition is free. For the second year, the gallery is also available to view and purchase online. Those involved with Orange City Arts tell us that you can enjoy the wide variety of styles and mediums by artists from a 350-mile radius of Orange City.

To purchase an item, we are told that you can email lbauer@orangecityarts.net.

Click here for more information about the play.

April 19, 2019 - 12:31 pm - Posted in News

Orange City, Iowa — With the beautiful weather forecast, our thoughts are on spring. And spring means road construction. In addition to road work on state and federal highways in northwest Iowa, construction is planned on various county roads as well.

Sioux County Secondary Road Engineer Doug Julius tells us that one of their projects this summer may affect those who are trying to get to Sioux Center from Interstate 29. He says the hard-surfaced road that goes through Carmel (B30 or 360th Street) will be under construction on the west end of the county.


Julius tells us that they will also be working on the hard-surfaced road on the south side of Ireton.


He says they’ve also got some work to do further south of Ireton.


Julius says they’ll probably have smaller projects, but those will be the major ones for this construction season.

April 18, 2019 - 3:23 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — Since it’s spring, and we can once again dig in the ground, April is National Safe Digging Month – a time to remember to always call 811 before excavating or digging.

Every six minutes in the U.S., an underground utility line is damaged because someone started digging without first calling 811. MidAmerican Energy is the electric and gas company serving Sheldon and a number of other northwest Iowa communities. MidAmerican spokesperson Geoff Greenwood tells us it’s very important.


He says it’s very easy to ask for lines and pipes to be located.


Greenwood tells us that the person or entity doing the digging is the one who should call 811. If a contractor is doing digging on your property, you should make sure they have called 811 first. He says it’s a nationwide number, so it should work anywhere in the United States. It’s a free service.

Statewide Iowa — The 2019 Iowa legislature may be poised to increase the number of working Iowans who can claim a tax credit for child care expenses.

Parents with an annual income above $45-thousand are NOT currently eligible. A bill that’s cleared a senate subcommittee would make Iowa parents who earn up to $57-thousand a year eligible for child care tax credits. Hull Republican Senator Randy Feenstra has been working on the proposal.

Senator Pam Jochum, a Democrat from Dubuque, says it’s a significant move.

The bill also would set up indexing for these child care tax credits. It means there would be annual, incremental increases in the income level at which a parent is eligible to receive a tax credit for child care expenses.

Northwest Iowa — It’s been said that Iowa has two seasons: “snow removal” and “road construction.” Hopefully we’re done with snow removal until late fall. That means it’s time for road construction.

We talked with Iowa DOT Transportation Planner Dakin Schultz recently, and he told us about construction projects planned on state and federal highways in northwest Iowa this year.


He says that the project will probably start in May. He tells us they do have just a little work on Highway 18 between Sanborn and Hartley to finish.


According to Schultz, that project will involve both lanes of Highway 60.

As we reported recently, there is also a patching project on Highway 71 through the heart of the Okoboji area, but if all goes well, it should be done before Memorial Day.

We also talked to the county highway engineers in our area and we’ll tell you what projects will happen on the county roads in future stories.