Northwest Iowa — A major provider of vision care in the state of Iowa says it’s dealing with a ransomware attack…..and will not be paying up.

Wolfe Eye Clinic says it will be notifying approximately 500-thousand current and former patients that their personal information may have been inappropriately accessed as a part of a cyber-related incident. The Clinic discovered a cyberattack on its systems in early February. Chief Financial Officer Luke Bland states the company responded to the attack to determine just how bad the breach was. According to the news release, “The threat actors demanded a ransom, which was not paid.” The full impact of the attack was not really known until late May and the forensic investigation was completed earlier this month.

Bland says the attackers were clearly not amateurs

Bland says patients will be receiving a notice with information on how to protect themselves.

Wolfe Eye Clinic says it has not been informed of any identity theft issues as of yet. That website and a toll-free number are; https://response.idx.us/wolfe 1-833-909-3906.

In our area, Wolfe Eye Clinics operates a clinic inside the Spencer Municipal Hospital in Spencer.

 

 

June 21, 2021 - 3:31 pm - Posted in News

Sioux County, Iowa — The Sioux County Sheriff’s Office is warning the citizens of Sioux County of a possible air duct cleaning scam that has been occurring in the area recently.

These air duct cleaning crews offer a low-priced opportunity to clean residential or business ductwork. The phone number they have been using is 712-218-2577. When you call this number, you will receive a message saying, “this text mail subscriber is not available.” Even if you don’t leave a message, the scammer begins a dialogue with you via text message asking you for personal information, such as, “How many furnaces do you have?” “What is your zip code?” Callers have been reporting that if you answer them back, the dialogue has continued with statements similar to, “We charge $250.00 and at this price we will be cleaning all of the ducts from the top to the basement; all the vents from top to the basement, all the main lines, all the return lines, antibacterial sanitization process, no hookup charges, no hidden charges and no per-vent charges.” Reporting parties have told authorities that if you ask them for references, the scammer will send you links to local credible duct cleaning businesses who has no affiliation with these scams; the scammers are simply sending them to you to gain your trust.

Sioux County authorities say they’ve also heard reports that these scammers may be driving white vans with no business lettering.

Deputies offer a few additional tips for you if you deal with these companies.

1) Usually no contract is offered: Always make certain there is a written contract. Without a written contract, the original low estimate you were given may grow into hundreds of dollars or even thousands after the work is finished.

2) They will push you to make a quick decision:  Reputable contractors will provide a written estimate that will be valid for weeks or even months. Good contractors leave the decision to you without pressure.

3) Unmarked trucks: Suspicious trucks usually will not have business markings or names on them or will have an out of town address and phone number displayed.

Always do a check on any company you hire before agreeing to have any work started. Get a written estimate and tell them you will get back to them. Making sure that you first get bids from other local air duct cleaning companies before granting them permission to start is also a good way to compare prices.

The best advice is to know who you are doing business with. In many cases, you are safer dealing with a contractor who has local ties to the community.

Make sure that if you are in doubt, don’t agree to any services. If these companies pressure you or begin work without your permission, don’t wait; contact your local law enforcement agency immediately.

June 21, 2021 - 11:26 am - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — The streak continues, with another week with no COVID-related deaths reported in O’Brien, Osceola, Sioux or Lyon Counties, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

However, despite that good news, we must remember that 188 of our neighbors have succumbed to COVID-related sickness since the pandemic began. 71 in Sioux County, 57 in O’Brien County, 41 in Lyon County and 16 in Osceola County.

We were up slightly in the number of new positive cases in this area in the past seven days. Sioux County reports 4 new positives, with a positivity rate of 10%. That’s up 4 from the previous week’s number of positives. O’Brien, Osceola and Lyon Counties each reported no new positives during the previous seven days.

Three long-term care facilities in Iowa report COVID outbreaks as of late morning Monday. One facility in Audubon County reports 14 staff and residents have the virus, one facility in Cerro Gordo County has 12 staff and residents with the illness and on facility in Des Moines County reports four cases, for a total of 30 cases at three locations in the state of Iowa.

Sheldon, Iowa — It’s not a bank in the conventional sense of the word, but a new “bank” is in Sheldon, Sioux Center, and most other towns with a Hy-Vee store.

Hy-Vee, Inc. has announced the launch of Hy-Vee Financial Services, fueled by Midwest Heritage.

Hy-Vee officials tell us that customers across their eight-state region can now enroll in and apply for financial services, including checking and savings accounts, auto and home insurance, home mortgages, consumer loans, and pet insurance.

Additionally, they tell us that Hy-Vee Fuel Saver + Perks and Hy-Vee Plus premium members can also access exclusive insurance services and additional savings on mortgage loans and pet insurance. Customers can visit Hy-Vee Financial Services online at www.mhbank.com/financial-services to learn more.

Hy-Vee Chairman, CEO, and President Randy Edeker says that customers are now seeking more affordable and more convenient financial options. He says that by leveraging Hy-Vee’s ownership of Hy-Vee’s subsidiary Midwest Heritage, they are able to serve their customers in a new way that meets those needs, “…while also bringing more value to our Hy-Vee Fuel Saver + Perks and Hy-Vee Plus members.”

Additional offerings such as life insurance policies, health insurance plans, and more are expected to be added to Hy-Vee Financial Services within the year, according to Hy-Vee officials.

They tell us that over the past several months, Hy-Vee and Midwest Heritage have installed contactless kiosks inside 210 Hy-Vee locations to allow a convenient spot for customers to access an overview of the offerings available through Hy-Vee Financial Services. Using the kiosks, customers can access QR codes to learn more about specific services on their mobile device or pick up brochures for more information. Ashley Skokan, Hy-Vee’s Communications Manager tells us that not every Hy-Vee has a kiosk but most of them do, and specifically, both the Sheldon and Sioux Center stores have kiosks.

Tony Kaska, chairman, CEO, and president of Midwest Heritage says that the in-store kiosks serve as a gateway for Hy-Vee customers to learn more about the affordable offerings available to them. He says that customers who inquire to learn more about Hy-Vee Financial Services can expect to receive a “…personalized, high level of service as we help them select the best offerings based on their tailored financial needs and goals.”

Rock Valley, Iowa — A tractor was damaged in a fire on Thursday, June 17, 2021, near Rock Valley.

According to Rock Valley Fire Chief Brent Eshuis, about 3:40 p.m., the Rock Valley Fire Department was called to the report of a tractor fire near 290th Street and Dogwood Avenue, a mile north and three miles west of Rock Valley.

The chief says the fire department saw flames in the engine compartment, extending into the cab as they approached the scene. He says they used water and foam to fight the fire.

Eshuis says no injuries were reported. He says the fire occurred on a gravel road, so there wasn’t much of anything to burn except for the tractor.

He says the cause of the fire is undetermined.

Chief Eshuis reports that there was major damage to the tractor.

He says the firefighters who responded were on the scene for about 20 minutes.

June 18, 2021 - 4:01 pm - Posted in News

Click to enlarge

Northwest Iowa — The new map from the U-S Drought Monitor shows worsening conditions across Iowa.

Only five percent of the state is shown as having normal conditions, all in the southeast, while drought gained more ground practically everywhere else. Parts of eastern and far southwestern Iowa are in the abnormally dry category, but the majority of the state’s in drought.

A week ago, 56-percent of Iowa was in moderate to severe drought, now, it’s 76-percent. Severe drought covers about 40 of the state’s 99 counties, including virtually all of northern Iowa and much of the central region.

According to the National Weather Service, highs in northwest Iowa are forecast to stay in the 80s for the next six days, with one exception. Monday, a reprieve from the heat is forecast, with a high only around 70. On Thursday the mercury will rise into the lower 90s

At this point, the weather service says it looks like we’ll have a chance for showers this Saturday night and Sunday, with a 70 percent chance on Saturday night and a 60 percent chance on Sunday.

The six-to-ten-day forecast is calling for normal temperatures and normal precipitation.

June 18, 2021 - 3:53 pm - Posted in News

Washington, D.C. — KIWA had a chance to talk this week to 4th District U.S. Congressman Randy Feenstra about some of the current issues being worked on by those on Capitol Hill.

The Hull Republican told KIWA that, by far, the biggest issue is President Biden’s Budget which, Feenstra says, calls for spending almost twice as much money as the government takes in each year.

Feenstra, who sits on the House Budget Committee, says that creates all kinds of problems.

He says inflation is expected to increase from its current level.

And, he says, the administration wants to pay for the extra spending  with Capital Gains taxes, a move Feenstra says would be devastating to farmers.

Feenstra is in his first term representing Iowa’s 4th Congressional District in the nation’s capitol. He was elected this past November, beating Democrat JD Scholten in the general election, after winning a five-way primary in which he defeated incumbent Representative Steve King.

Northwest, Iowa — Sheldon and Rock Valley have each been awarded a $10,000 Rural Housing Assessment Grant from Iowa Economic Development. The grants were announced late this week.

Earlier this year, Sheldon Development Director Curt Strouth came before the City Council to request permission to apply for the grant, which would fund an assessment of housing in the city through Iowa State University Extension.

Strouth tells us about the grant program.

He talks about the schedule for the assessment project.

Strouth says the state of Iowa has a particular goal in mind for the results of the assessment.

At the current time there are very few homes for sale in Sheldon, causing an immediate housing shortage in the community. And while Strouth says the Housing Assessment will be very beneficial for planning purposes going forward, he acknowledges that it doesn’t solve the immediate problem.

Sheldon and Rock Valley were two of six Iowa communities to be approved for a $10,000 Rural Housing Assessment Grant. The other communities are: Grinnell; Livermore; Mount Ayr; and Onawa.

June 18, 2021 - 11:02 am - Posted in News

Des Moines, Iowa — Republican Governor Kim Reynolds has signed legislation that establishes tougher penalties for rioting and protests that block pedestrian or vehicle traffic.

The law also provides new legal protection to police, so they cannot be sued for most on-duty actions.

Republican legislatures in other states have passed similar bills this year. Iowa’s new law makes rioting a felony and someone convicted of unlawful assembly could be sentenced to up to two years in prison. Reynolds says amid calls to “defund the police,” this bill takes just the opposite approach.

Nearly all Democrats in the legislature voted against the measure, arguing the penalties in the bill were too harsh and that the GOP had turned its back on racial justice efforts. Representative Ruth Ann Gaines of Des Moines, a member of the House Black Caucus, says the bill sends the wrong message to people of color and young people.

Representative Ross Wilburn of Ames, the first black Iowan to be chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party, says the governor’s approval of this bill is a giant step backwards.

Reynolds had asked the Republican led legislature to include proposals to track data from traffic stops and ban racial profiling in the bill, but those were left out. Reynolds says she will offer a stand alone bill in 2022 to accomplish those goals.

Democrats say they doubt Reynolds can convince her fellow Republicans to pass that bill. Governors have 30 days after the legislature concludes to sign or veto bills. Reynolds took final action on a few remaining bills Thursday, including one that provides state funding for police department equipment.

Statewide Iowa — A bill that became law this week increases the state tax credit for volunteer firefighters from 100 to 250 dollars.

Another approved by the governor last week will, for the first time, let voters approve a property tax levy to support the operations of a local fire department. About 90 percent of the firefighters in Iowa are volunteers and Iowa Firefighters Association president Nick Riley of Traer says legislators recognized volunteer firefighters took on new risks during the pandemic as emergency responders, transporting COVID patients to hospitals.

Riley says the association is hoping to take another step in 2022 and get legislative approval of a pension fund that volunteer firefighters could contribute to. Riley says the Iowa Firefighters Association has found a financial institution that will manage it.

Riley, like many, has a family history in the profession. His dad was a firefighter for 33 years in Mount Pleasant. His brother served for 15 years and Riley has been a firefighter for the past 12 years. The Iowa Association of Firefighters represents 15-thousand volunteer and career firefighters.