Sioux Center and Hospers, Iowa — Final federal approval has been received, and a company that started out many years ago as a northwest-Iowa-based independent telephone company has completed the final sale of a company with very similar beginnings.

This past April, Premier Communications and HTC Communications announced that Premier would be buying HTC. At that time, they hoped that the Federal Communications Commission would give their approval in time for a July 1st transfer date. Premier CEO Doug Boone says it didn’t quite happen by that time, but it has now happened.

Boone says that “right out of the gate” HTC customers will notice “no changes.”

He says that Premier will continue to provide voice, video, and data services as HTC has done in the past. He says HTC customers won’t even have to call new numbers to get a hold of billing or tech support.

HTC employees have become Premier employees as of this week. He says eventually bills will say “Premier Communications” instead of HTC. But Boone says that the HTC — or Hospers Telephone Company — name will not go away completely.

Boone says they plan on the continual upgrading of their facilities and adding more and more fiber to their network, improving speeds and performance.

He says HTC offers service in Hospers, Sheldon, Ashton, Sibley, and Ocheyedan. Boone says that since their 2016 acquisition of Consolidated Communications’ area in northwest Iowa, they have been the facilities-based provider for telephone service in Sibley. He says a number of years ago they served Ashton and Ocheyedan as well, but sold that to HTC, so now they are coming full circle. He says Premier looks forward to working with customers in HTC’s area, and that if people have partnership ideas, they’re open to hearing what they have to say.

August 17, 2018 - 2:57 pm - Posted in News

Sibley, Iowa — Next in our series of schools at which students will find a new principal is Sibley-Ocheyedan.

The former principal, Brent Town, has become the new high school principal at the Sioux Center Community School District. The Sibley-Ocheyedan School Board hired Mr. Stan De Zeeuw to fill that role.

Mr. De Zeeuw gives us his background.

He tells us about his passion.

De Zeeuw tells us about his family.

He says they’ve been renting a place in Sibley, but they have purchased a home and plan to move in mid-September.

Mr. De Zeeuw says students shouldn’t notice any sweeping change. He tells us about his strengths.

He says he’s excited for the new school year and says he’s had a very positive experience so far.

August 17, 2018 - 1:54 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — The Labor Day sTEP, or Special Traffic Enforcement Project, is now in progress and will continue through Labor Day, Monday September 3rd.

Iowa State Patrol Trooper Vince Kurtz says this sTEP period will focus on impaired drivers.

Trooper Kurtz says that, although the FOCUS may be on impaired drivers, troopers, deputies, and local police officers will be enforcing traffic laws across the board.

He says troopers, county deputies, and local police across the state are taking part in this enforcement project, and will be out in force, some in marked patrol cars, and others in unmarked patrol cars. So buckle up, put your phone down, drive safe, and if your celebration includes alcohol, please find a designated driver.

The Labor Day sTEP project began Friday morning and runs through Labor Day.

Statewide Iowa — (RI) — Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate — the commissioner of Iowa elections — says there is no way for hackers to alter VOTES in Iowa because every one of the state’s voters cast a PAPER ballot.

Pate warns, however, that “bad actors” on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook may try to sow doubt about election results.

Pate, a Republican, served one term as secretary of state in the 1990s and returned to office in 2015. He is seeking reelection to a third term as secretary of state. His Democratic opponent, Deidre DeJear, last week accused Pate of not doing enough to secure voter registration information that IS computerized, as recent news from the investigation of Russia’s attempt to influence the 2016 election revealed Russian operatives visited the websites of some Iowa counties. Pate says new voter ID requirements will address that, as voters show a driver’s license, a military or tribal ID, a passport or voter registration card at their polling place.

The voter ID requirement takes effect in 2019. For this year’s election, Iowans who do not show an ID at their polling place may sign an oath verifying their identity and will be allowed to cast a ballot.

Northwest Iowa — Iowa 4th District Republican U.S. Congressman Steve King says the best thing the Trump Administration could do to alleviate farmers’ angst about the trade war would be to allow higher percentages of ethanol to be blended into gasoline year-round.

King met privately Monday evening with EPA acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler. King says Wheeler is trying to strike a deal that will placate the ethanol and oil industries.

King says the 2017 tax bill was an early Christmas present that is still giving and has created confidence and optimism in the business community.

King says he’s warned the Trump Administration things “will get pretty tense” in Iowa if there’s no progress on trade deals by the time soybeans are maturing in September.

Northwest Iowa — According to a new study, income growth in northwest Iowa is among the fastest in the state.

According to SmartAsset, median base pay for workers in the United States climbed by 1.6 percent in June, which was the strongest growth in the wage statistic so far in 2018. SmartAsset analyzed Census data over a five-year period to determine where incomes were growing the fastest, and three of the four northwest Iowa counties that make up our main coverage area ranked among the top places in Iowa. This metric is part of SmartAsset’s overarching study on the most “Paycheck Friendly” places.

The study shows that the top county in Iowa for income growth is Delaware County (between Waterloo and Dubuque on Highway 20), where it says income growth was 3.8 percent. The next two counties were here in northwest Iowa, where the study says Lyon County income growth was at 3.7 percent, with Sioux County next at 3.3 percent. Down the list just a little bit is O’Brien County at number 8. Income growth in O’Brien County was at 2.7 percent, according to the survey.

SmartAsset says they assumed a $50,000 annual income in every county, then indexed the paycheck amount for each county to reflect the counties with the lowest withholding burden. Next, they created a purchasing power index for each county. Finally, they calculated the weighted average of the indices to yield an overall paycheck friendliness score.

Both Lyon and Sioux counties also rated high in this index with Sioux County having the second-most paycheck-friendly score, behind only Dallas County. Lyon County was third.

August 14, 2018 - 3:26 pm - Posted in News

Statewide Iowa — (RI) — Farmers in Iowa and across the region want quick resolution to the looming trade war due to the negative impact it’s starting to have on their bottom lines.

Speaking in Des Moines, the U-S Ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, says he isn’t sure how long the impasse with China will last.

Branstad, a former Iowa governor, says President Trump is justified in putting tariffs on imports of Chinese goods into the US. He says China is in worse financial condition than the US due to the drop in that nation’s stock market and currency value.

Speaking at the Iowa State Fair, Branstad says it’s unfortunate American farmers have been collateral damage in the trade war and he’s unsure what it will take for China to finally cut a deal with the US.

Branstad says US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has been in talks with Chinese officials over the past two weeks, so the countries are trying to negotiate.

August 14, 2018 - 12:00 pm - Posted in News

Washington, DC — The first part of a three-part farm aid package is scheduled to be rolled out by the USDA in about three weeks.

Spirit Lake farmer, and former Iowa Ag Secretary Bill Northey, the USDA Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Ag Services, says more details will be out soon on what’s being called a market facilitation program.

Northey says the delay on the program’s details is because they’re still working on the rule-making part of the process.

Northey says they’re trying to make it so producers can certify their production numbers as simply as possible.

Northey also encourages farmers and ranchers to visit that site for more details on the tariff aid package.

That website again is

Northwest Iowa — With the start of school in just a few days, some changes are in store regarding school lunches.

The Iowa Legislature passed, and Governor Reynolds signed — a new law to end the “food shaming” some say is happening in a few Iowa schools.

Many lawmakers said it’s not the fault of the children if their parents failed to pay for lunch at school.

The law says that the school can’t publicly identify students with lunch debt. In bigger cities, this has taken the form of making students with lunch debt sit at different tables, stamping hands or requiring students to wear wristbands, putting students’ names on a poster, requiring them to do chores to get a lunch, and not allowing students with lunch debt to participate in extracurricular or after-school activities. The law bans all of these practices in Iowa.

When the bill was being discussed earlier this year, legislators said that they have found that if a child is hungry, it affects their ability to learn. Some have said that there are children who, just by standing in a lunch line — not knowing if they’ll be embarrassed — causes them so much anxiety that they avoid lunch altogether.

Many legislators said one key provision may help parents who’ve fallen behind on the school lunch tab for their children. Under the old state law, Iowa school officials could only notify parents once a year about enrolling their child in the free or reduced lunch program. Now the law requires them to provide information twice a year and if the student owes for five or more meals.

The law still allows schools to provide an “alternative” lunch to students who are in debt, but that same type of lunch has to be made available to anyone who asks — to avoid identifying a student as having accrued meal debt.

The law focuses only on students. School districts are still able to collect meal debt by any legal means.

The law also allows school districts to set up a special account to which people or community organizations can donate to pay down the meal debt of students in the district.

Also, in an effort to prevent food waste, school districts are encouraged by the law to place the pay station before the area where the meal is received to prevent dumping of food that can’t be paid for.

School districts are making their policies public. For instance, we received a document outlining the details of the hot lunch program at Sibley-Ocheyedan.

Among the highlights there:

All meal purchases are to be prepaid before meal service begins. When their balance reaches $0.00 a student may charge no more than $15.00 to this account. When an account reaches this limit, an alternative meal will be offered to the student. They tell us that their student information system automatically notifies parents of low or negative nutrition account balances.

They also say that the policy and supporting information regarding meal charges shall be provided in writing to all households at or before the start of each school year; students and families who transfer into the district, at time of transfer; and all staff responsible for enforcing any aspect of the policy.

As is the case in the majority of the school districts in northwest Iowa, Free and Reduced Lunch Applications are available in each of Sibley-Ocheyedan’s offices, the central office, and the district’s website. This form may be completed at any time during the school year. Sibley-Ocheyedan officials tell us that means a patron may complete the application whenever there is a change of circumstances.

August 13, 2018 - 2:46 pm - Posted in News

Statewide Iowa — The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is still looking for volunteers to help with its annual wild turkey survey this summer.

The work is pretty simple: while outdoors in Iowa this August, keep an eye out for wild turkeys. If you see one, determine if it is an adult female or adult male (males have beards on their breast), and whether there are young poults (baby turkeys).

Count the number of young, make a note of the date and the county in which you saw the turkey, or turkeys, and then report your sighting online to the Iowa DNR’s Wildlife Bureau at