Des Moines, Iowa — Lawmakers continue to discuss how distribution of the nickel deposits on bottles and cans of beer and carbonated beverages that are sold in Iowa might be restructured. A key senator is expressing doubts, though, that this is the year the so-called Bottle Bill will be changed. Senate Republican Leader Jack Whitver points to April 30th, which is the target date for ending the 2021 legislative session.

(As above) “There is still progress being made,” Whitver says, “but it will be difficult to wrap that up in the next three weeks.”

Republican Representative Shannon Lundgren of Peosta is among the House members hoping to come up with a compromise by that deadline.

(As above) “We are probably starting to run out of time,” Lundgren says, “so I think we have to come with some language and get that out there.” 

Representative Chuck Isenhart, a Democrat from Dubuque, says something must be done to address the declining number of options for consumers who want to return the empties and get their deposits back.

(As above) “I think we need to be cognizant of consumer convenience,” Isenhart says.

But Senator Whitver says no single solution has emerged that has enough support to pass either the House or Senate.

(As above) “If there are 12 different ideas, there’s not one and you need one to make it law and I know a lot of legislators, a lot of interests on every side are working on this,” Whitver says. “We haven’t got a whole lot closer than we were in January.” 

During an appearance on Iowa PBS this weekend, Whitver agreed with an interviewer that debates about the Bottle Bill are a bit like “Groundhog Day” since they restart EVERY January when the legislature convenes.

 

Sioux Center, Iowa — The Sioux County Democrats have come up with a list of values.

We are told that at their meeting last week, the Central Committee of the Sioux County Democrats approved a list of nine organizational values.

Sioux County Chair Anita Cirulis said, “As county leaders, we wanted to articulate standards that could direct our activities and help others know who we are as an organization.”

The list was discussed and refined over a period of months. The approved version says,

“As a county-based political organization, we seek to—

Treat all people with dignity and equity;
Conduct civil, fact-based discourse;
Facilitate inclusion of all people in the political process;
Support diverse representation in political leadership;
Promote policy based on evidence and the common good;
Provide education on political issues;
Use our resources with stewardship and accountability;
Practice environmental stewardship and sustainability; and
Search for common ground and potential partnerships.”.

The information comes from a statement from Cirulis released on Sunday, April 11th. She says for more information, you can contact her at anita.cirulis@gmail.com.

April 12, 2021 - 3:34 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — A couple of fire calls were reported recently in central Sioux and central Lyon counties.

The Rock Rapids Fire Department was called out to a tractor fire about 12 noon on Sunday south of Rock Rapids on Highway 75. Rock Rapids Fire Chief Ed Reck says the fire was at 1734 Highway 75, about a mile south of town. According to Reck, something caused a fire in the engine compartment of the tractor and the driver was able to get it off the road and onto a driveway. But due to the fire, a heater line blew and the antifreeze in the line put out the fire. Reck said firefighters just made sure the fire was out, disconnected the batteries, and returned to the station.

A little later, about 1:05 p.m. on Sunday, the Sioux Center Fire Department responded to a call. That call was to the area of 380th Street and Grant Avenue, and the caller said it was a ditch fire close to a transformer. That address is about a mile and a half northwest of the Hardee’s corner in Sioux Center. Sioux Center Fire Chief David Van Holland says they extinguished the fire in short order. He says investigation discovered that a squirrel had climbed onto overhead electric wires, and had touched both the hot wire and a connection to the ground at the same time and electrocuted itself. He says, the squirrel, now on fire, fell onto the grass below and started the fire. He says firefighters were there for about half an hour.

Van Holland says the Sioux Center firefighters were also busy on Saturday morning. He says the Country Home Motel and Campground folks decided they didn’t want the motel portion of the business anymore north of Sioux Center on Highway 75, and so firefighters conducted a training burn there. He says things went well and it was a good experience for the fire department.

April 12, 2021 - 2:52 pm - Posted in News

Hull, Iowa — A Hull woman was taken to the hospital after her car collided with a school bus near Hull Monday morning.

Sioux County authorities say they received a call at 7:55 Monday morning about a car vs school bus collision at 310th Street and Harrison Avenue, a mile west of Hull.

According to the accident report, 73-year-old Leona Vanda Vegte of Hull was northbound on Harrison Avenue in a 2009 Bluebird school bus when she entered the intersection and collided with a westbound 2005 Pontiac Grand Am, driven by 39-year-old Sarah Grevengoed of Hull.

Grevengoed was transported to Sioux Center Health for treatment of minor injuries, according to authorities.

The Bluebird sustained approximately $500 in damage. The Pontiac sustained an estimated $4,000, according to deputies.

Vande Vegte was reportedly cited for failing to obey a stop sign and Grevengoed was cited for failing to use seat belt, according to the Sioux County Sheriff’s Office.

The sheriff’s office was assisted by the Hull Ambulance and Hull Fire Department.

Northwest Iowa — Two additional deaths were reported in the past week in the four-county area of Lyon, O’Brien, Osceola and Sioux Counties, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

One resident of Sioux County and one from O’Brien County died due to COVID-related illness, according to the IDPH. That brings Sioux County’s total deaths since the start of the pandemic to 73, while O’Brien County’s total goes to 56. There have also been 16 deaths in Osceola County and 41 in Lyon County since the pandemic began.

In addition, there were 72 new positive COVID tests in the area in the past seven days. Sioux County had 35 positive tests, with a 6% positive rate. Lyon County reports 13 positive tests with a 4% positive rate, while O’Brien and Osceola Counties each report an additional 12 positive test results. O’Brien County reports a 3% positive rate, while Osceola County reports a 6% positive rate.

There are no COVID outbreaks in northwest Iowa long term care facilities as of early afternoon Monday, with outbreaks at only three long-term care facilities state-wide. One of those facilities is located in Polk County in central Iowa, where there are 16 cases reported at the Urbandale Healthcare Center. The other two facilities are in southeast Iowa; The Good Samaritan Society home is Ottumwa, in Wapello County, has seven cases, while Park View Manor in Washington, Iowa (Washington County) reports six cases in their facility.

April 10, 2021 - 5:47 pm - Posted in News

Sioux Center, Iowa — Just A Guy, a short film by Dordt University senior Noah Deist, has been selected by Produce Iowa as one of six films for the Executive Directors’ Film Festival Picks showcase.

Deist says, “It is so cool to have a film that I played a part in creating be recognized for its excellence.” He said, “Our team did a really great job start to finish and I am glad people enjoyed the film.”

The program is designed to promote film around the state of Iowa. Just a Guy had previously been awarded the “Best of College” category at Dordt’s Prairie Grass Film Challenge.

The film, which is about a guy hoping to get a date with the girl next door and includes an unexpected twist, was produced entirely by Dordt students with eight crew members. The writers and actors are also from Dordt.

Photo above: Noah Deist. Photo courtesy of Dordt University

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.