Northwest Iowa — The second and final installment of your property taxes is technically due on Monday (March 1st). However, county treasurers in northwest Iowa are reminding you that the taxes may be paid without penalty on or before March 31st.

If you own real estate you’re required to pay a half year’s taxes on that real estate every six months. Or you can elect to pay the full year’s taxes in one payment. The first payment was due in the fall of the fiscal year, with the last payment due the following spring. The final 2020-2021 payment is due March 1st. If you have a mortgage, your property taxes are probably paid by your lender through an escrow account.

Taxes can be paid online, in person, or by mail. And during the pandemic, most county courthouses have a dropbox near the courthouse, allowing you to pay your taxes at the courthouse without having to deal with anyone in person.

The treasurers advise that if you want to pay your taxes online, the website to use is www.iowatreasurers.org. Paying online requires the payment of a convenience fee. If you pay by credit card, the fee is a percentage of your tax payment plus a flat fee. But if you pay with an e-check, the entire fee is less than a dollar.

The county treasurer’s offices in the four-county area are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

If you’re going to pay your taxes in person at your county treasurer’s office, via dropbox, or via US Mail, the proper stub needs to accompany your payment. For more information, call your county treasurer’s property tax department.

February 25, 2021 - 3:57 pm - Posted in News

Sheldon, Iowa — If it seems like this year’s influenza season has been mild, you’re not just imagining it — at least according to a provider at Sanford Sheldon.

Emergency Room provider Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner Nicholas Vust tells us he has seen minimal influenza A or B or even RSV cases in the Emergency Room this year, and the normal influenza season is drawing to a close at this time.

As you might imagine, Vust says the probable reason for that is that the measures that we take to prevent the spread of COVID-19 also are the same measures that prevent influenza.

We asked Vust what he thought about the rumor that flu cases are being misreported as COVID cases for nefarious purposes.

He says the conspiracy would be pretty hard to prove, especially at Sanford.

Vust tells us that if people continue to be careful and take precautions, it’s possible we’ll see milder flu seasons in the future. When it comes to COVID, there are quite a bit fewer cases in the E.R. at this time, says Vust, and he thinks things are continuing down the path to normalcy, especially in Iowa. With the vaccine being administered and another type of vaccine being released recently, while he says he doesn’t think things will ever be like they were before, a fairly normal life appears to be on the horizon.

February 25, 2021 - 1:36 pm - Posted in News

Statewide Iowa — A spectacular southwest Iowa traffic crash, involving an Iowa DOT Officer’s SUV, illustrates once again, the importance of paying attention when you drive, and moving over when approaching a vehicle with flashing lights.

According to the Iowa State Patrol, 56-year-old Theresa Ann Fox, of Ankeny, was driving a 2015 Chevy Tahoe southbound in the right-hand lane of Interstate 29 next the Exit 1 overpass.

The vehicle was moving slowly and providing traffic control for a DOT Highway repair crew conducting pavement patching. The Tahoe had its rear emergency lights activated and arrow stick directing traffic to merge left, when at around 2:45 p.m., the SUV was struck by a southbound Volvo semi.

Troopers say the impact caused the SUV to leave the road to the right and roll over, before coming to rest on its wheels.

Photos show the vehicle is barely recognizable due to the amount of damage. Officer Fox was transported by Hamburg Rescue to Grape Memorial Hospital, where she was treated and released. She said on social media, “I’m alright. Seat belts save lives.”

The driver of the semi, a man from Hollywood, Florida was not injured.

The Fremont County Sheriff’s Office posted a note on social media asking motorists to “Please move over and slow down for stopped vehicles on the roadway.”

February 25, 2021 - 11:19 am - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — As the schedule for vaccinations proceeds, Iowa public health officials tell us there are new cases of the coronavirus being reported here in northwest Iowa.

According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, in the past seven days there have been a total of 57 new cases of COVID reported in our four-county area. That includes 16 positive tests in O’Brien County, 8 in Osceola County, 4 in Lyon County and 29 in Sioux County. Those positive test results account for 4% of the tests conducted in O’Brien County, 7% in Osceola County2% in Lyon County and 5% in Sioux County.

COVID-related deaths in the four-county since the pandemic began total 178. That represents 69 in Sioux County, 54 in O’Brien County, 41 in Lyon County and 14 in Osceola County.

According to health officials, a far greater percentage of Iowa women than men have been tested for the coronavirus in the state. Of the total number of tests conducted, 59% of those tested were female, while just 41% were male.

 

Des Moines, Iowa — A law professor who’s a leader in the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council is urging Republicans in the Iowa Senate to table a bill targeting big tech companies. Read The Full Story…

Washington, DC (RI) — The leader of one of Iowa’s largest commodity groups is reacting favorably to former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack headed for another term as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. The U.S. Senate voted to confirm Vilsack on Tuesday to a post he held during all eight years of the Obama administration. Iowa Soybean Association President Jeff Jorgenson says they can now move forward with an experienced leader at the USDA.

(As above) “It was just a matter of time before it got stamped and approved and handled,” Jorgenson says. “He obviously went through the confirmation hearing with not many issues by any sort. It’s good for agriculture. It’s a friendly face.”

Jorgenson says he’s hoping Vilsack can focus on working with other countries to promote Iowa’s and America’s commodities.

(As above) “We really need to work on our trade,” Jorgenson says. “If there’s barriers, working on those barriers and making sure the world knows that we are ready for business and we’ve got ag goods that we need to move.”

Iowa is the nation’s number-one producer of corn-based ethanol and soybean-based biodiesel and Jorgenson says Vilsack understands the value of biofuels.

(As above) “He’s going to play a big role in it,” Jorgenson says. “Honestly, the thing we see and that we’ve seen in the past as soybean producers, he was a voice in the room that calmed the situation and we’d actually made some good progress. That’s where we’re headed, that’s what we need.”

Jorgenson says it’s also important to have Vilsack heading the USDA as the writing of the new Farm Bill appears on the horizon.

Photo caption: Tom Vilsack

February 24, 2021 - 3:19 pm - Posted in News

Des Moines, Iowa — Republicans in the Iowa legislature are considering changes they say will ensure the taxes businesses pay into the state’s unemployment trust fund don’t go up.

The bill would impose a one-week waiting period before workers would be eligible to receive unemployment. Kelli Harrison, a UAW member from Marshalltown, says manufacturing plants are notorious for short-term layoffs.

(As above) “Do we really want to go after these workers? Do we want to take a week’s worth of pay because they were laid off through no fault of their own during a time when unemployment funds are not depleted?” she asked.

Carrie Duncan, a union member at the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant in Middletown, says if the bill were law today, about 90 workers at the plant just laid off for a week would be ineligible for unemployment.

(As above) “These are my coworkers, some that have family at home to financially support that are counting on that 40-hour paycheck, as the bills will continue to come regardless,” she says. 

Republican lawmakers are also considering changes for workers laid off by companies that go out of business, limiting unemployment benefits to a maximum of 26 rather than 39 weeks. Scott Punteney of Council Bluffs, president of the Western Iowa Labor Federation, was among 300 workers laid off due to a plant closure in 2014.

(As above) “I was very lucky. I was the fortunate one. I was able to transition into a new line of work…Many of my coworkers were not,” he says. “…These benefits, these extra 13 weeks to some of my friends and co-workers were life saving. They needed that money to survive, to put food on the table, to put a roof over their head.”

The bill calls for ending jobless benefits for someone who fails to accept a job that pays less than the one they lost. Business groups say Governor Reynolds used federal CARES Act money to cover skyrocketing unemployment claims during the pandemic, but that’s a lifeline that may not be available in the next economic downturn and the bill will help shield Iowa businesses from significant tax increases to cover unemployment benefits. Republicans on the House Labor Committee approved the bill after a nearly six hour meeting this week and Democrats vow to an even longer debate if the bill comes up for a vote on the House floor.

February 23, 2021 - 2:10 pm - Posted in News

Statewide Iowa — Following last week’s brutal cold and severe winter storms, gasoline prices have jumped up to 20-cents a gallon — or more — in some Iowa cities.

Nick Jarmusz, a spokesman for Triple-A Iowa, says the price you pay at the pump depends on where you live.

(As above) “For the state we’re seeing an average increase that is about 15 cents,” Jarmusz says, “but in some places it is more than that.” 

He adds, refinery shutdowns in Texas are typically not a major factor in Iowa’s gasoline prices.

(As above) “Our refining is all done here in the Midwest,” Jarmusz says. “There’s refineries in the Chicago area, there’s refineries up in Superior (Wisconsin) and that’s mostly refining oil that’s coming down from Canada.” 

The sizable winter blast that brought Iowa snow and prolonged subzero temperatures also dumped flakes on parts of the U.S. that rarely see snow, spinning off a deadly tornado in North Carolina and knocking out the power to four-million homes in Texas. The largest refineries in North America were idled because severe cold cut electricity, water and fuel supplies across Texas.

(As above) “There is an indirect effect, because of the commodity nature of gas,” he says. “There’s less of it out in the national market, and that does push prices up, even in places that aren’t directly impacted by that capacity.” 

Triple-A says the average gas price in Iowa is two-61 a gallon. The state’s most expensive gas is selling in Des Moines at two-67, while Sioux City has the cheapest gas at two-49. Here in Sheldon, as of early Tuesday afternoon, gas was selling within a penny, or two, of two-59 a gallon.

February 22, 2021 - 2:27 pm - Posted in News

Des Moines, Iowa — Iowa officials have tweaked the state health department’s coronavirus website to better reflect some of the figures, especially with regards to COVID-19 test results.

Kelly Garcia, director of the Iowa Department of Human Services says they are shifting from individual tests to total tests on the website. She says that means that Iowa’s overall positivity rate will align with total test results. She says it will make it easier when home tests become available.

Previously the website kept track of how many people had tested positive. Now, it will instead track the number of TESTS that have come back positive. But this means that a person who has been tested four times will now show up as four results, so the numbers on the website have increased dramatically.

Because of the change, the numbers reported from northwest Iowa are significantly up. But remember these are now TESTS, and not people. Sioux County reported an increase of 182 from the end of last week to a total of 4894. O’Brien County reported an increase of 142 since then, for a total of 1915. Osceola County’s total was up 25 for a total of 691 on Monday, and Lyon County reported an increase of 9 for a total of 1444.

The Iowa Department of Public Health says the new way is the way they keep track of other diseases, such as influenza.

February 22, 2021 - 1:23 pm - Posted in News

Washington, D.C. — Republican Senator Chuck Grassley began Monday’s hearing on Merrick Garland’s nomination to be U.S. Attorney General by addressing his own role in denying Garland a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012.

(As above) “I had something to do with that after the death of Justice Scalia,” Grassley said. “…As you’ll recall, it was an election year with a divided congress.” 

Grassley criticized how Democrats reacted to the 2018 election year nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, who was ultimately confirmed to the court.

(As above) “Yes, it’s true that I didn’t give Judge Garland a hearing. I also didn’t mischaracterize his record. I didn’t attack his character,” Grassley said. “…I admire Judge Garland’s public service. Just because I disagreed with anyone being nomination didn’t mean I had to be disagreeable to that nominee.”

Grassley praised Garland for his role in prosecuting Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and called Garland an honorable person.

(As above) “So, Judge Garland, I just want to say that I like you, I respect you and I think you’re a good pick for this job,” Grassley said, “but I have a lot of questions about how you’re going to run the Department of Justice.” 

Garland’s confirmation hearing is scheduled to last two days. It takes 51 “yes” votes in the senate to be confirmed as attorney general.