Ocheyedan, Iowa — The Ocheyedan Fire Department was called out for a fire on Tuesday, April 23, 2019, near Ocheyedan.

According to Ocheyedan Fire Chief Dan Hartwig, about 4:00 PM, the Ocheyedan Fire Department was called to the report of a grass fire near the junction of Highways 9 and 59, five and a half miles west of the Ocheyedan turn-off.

The chief says the fire department extinguished the grass fire with water. Hartwig says no injuries were reported.

He says a controlled burn of CRP pasture land got out of hand, but the damage was limited to the grass that was going to be burned anyway.

He says the 15 firefighters who responded were on scene for about two hours.

April 24, 2019 - 1:56 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — Last week the Iowa State Patrol, along with county deputies, and local police officers from six Midwest states conducted a special traffic enforcement campaign. The enforcement effort was primarily designed to take drivers off the road who had been impaired by marijuana. The effort was called the 4/20 campaign, and was held the 19th and 20th of April. 4/20 is the unofficial national holiday for marijuana users.

Iowa State Patrol Trooper Nick Erdmann says the northwestern eight counties in Iowa, O’Brien, Sioux, Lyon, Osceola, Dickinson,  Emmet, Palo Alto and Clay comprise Iowa State Patrol District 6. Erdmann talks about the results of the 4/20 enforcement effort in District 6.

Trooper Erdmann says there was one drug arrest in District 6.

According to Erdmann there were a lot of tickets issued during the two-day enforcement period.

Taking a look at the statewide numbers, he says there were several OWI arrests by troopers across the state during the period.

He says troopers across the state issued a lot of tickets during the enforcement period.

Of those 2,275 tickets issued statewide, 1,371, or more than half, were for speeding. Erdmann says there were quite a few people statewide ticketed for not wearing their seat belts, as well.

Trooper Erdmann says he considers the enforcement effort to be a success.

Trooper Erdmann is the Iowa State Patrol Public Resource Officer for the Patrol’s District 6, which is headquartered in Spencer.

Statewide Iowa — Iowa has become the 6th state in the country to offer state government information through “smart speakers.” People may now reference the “State of Iowa” as they ask their Amazon “Alexa” or Google “Echo” some common questions, like how to get a birth certificate or replacement driver’s license.

Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg says nearly half of all the adults in the U.S. use voice assistants to interact with their mobile devices.

Jeff Franklin, the chief information officer for the State of Iowa, says the state hired a private company called “Webspec Design” to develop the template for this project.

State agencies identified more than 200 questions often asked by citizens. Those questions are now part of the “Ask the State of Iowa” database accessible by smart speaker.

April 23, 2019 - 3:01 pm - Posted in News

Orange City, Iowa — The final “End It! For Autumn Color Run” is coming up this weekend in Orange City — and the “it” we’re talking about is child abuse.

The fourth and final annual event is this Saturday, April 27th. It’s a benefit for Camp Autumn, a therapeutic camp for kids in northwest Iowa, created through Autumn’s Center at Seasons Center for Behavioral Health in Spencer.

Seasons Center officials say Autumn’s Center is a regional children’s center serving northwest Iowa children and their families. Autumn’s Center was named in honor and memory of Autumn Elgersma, of Orange City who died on October 31, 2013 after being hospitalized for two days due to the abuse she endured while in the care of her babysitter.

One of the organizers of the event, Cindy Cleveringa tells us more about it.

She says after careful and prayerful thought, Autumn’s parents and those organizing the run have decided that this will be the last run.

She says you can register online, but they’ll even take in-person registration up until the time of the event.

According to Cleveringa, it’s a fun run, in which colored powder is dropped on the runners, making pretty patterns on their clothing. She gives us some suggestions.

She says there will be a bypass lane if you don’t want your small children to get the color powder on them.

Cleveringa says she wants to thank all the sponsors and others who have made the color runs possible over the years.

For more information and the registration link, click here.

Sibley, Iowa — The construction season has begun, and road work is planned on several northwest Iowa roads this summer. We’ve told you in a previous story about the state and federal highways getting updates.

In Osceola County, Secondary Road Engineer Aaron Holmbeck says they’ve taken on a rather aggressive construction schedule.

He says that due to the flooding the past couple of years, they’ve got some repair work to do as well.

Holmbeck says they’ll be busy all summer with all the work that needs to be done. He says some of the projects will be fairly quick, but the overlay in eastern Osceola County will have a pretty large impact.

April 23, 2019 - 12:52 pm - Posted in News

Statewide Iowa — The ACLU of Iowa is challenging the latest version of the state law that seeks to prevent people from going undercover at livestock production or packing facilities.

A federal judge ruled in favor of the group in its lawsuit against the first version of the so-called “ag-gag” law. ACLU Iowa legal director, Rita Bettis Austen, says the new law is just slightly different than the first.

She says the new law has the same issue as the old one.

The harm referred to is the harm to a businesses reputation or economic harm caused by the reaction to the things revealed by undercover investigations.

The second law was signed by Governor Kim Reynolds on March 14th. Austen says this law’s limited scope also makes it illegal.

A state lawmaker said during debate that the new law was based on an Idaho law that withstood a legal challenge. Austen says that is not correct. She says the one area of the law that can stand is the portion that prevents someone from harming someone at a business or doing physical damage to a facility.

The first law is on hold while the state appeals the ruling. The second law went into effect as soon as the governor signed it, but Austen says they will also seek an injunction against it while the case is heard.

Des Moines, Iowa — (RI) — Governor Kim Reynolds is giving few hints about her views on legalized sports betting.

Monday night, the Iowa House gave final legislative approval to a bill that would let the state’s casinos take bets on professional and college sports — either at the casinos or elsewhere via a smart-phone app.

The formal copy of the bill has not reached the governor’s office yet. If she receives it WHILE THE LEGISLATURE IS IN SESSION, she’ll have three days to sign or veto it. After the legislature concludes, Iowa governors have 30 days to review all bills.

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.

April 22, 2019 - 12:03 pm - Posted in News

Ashton, Iowa — A storage building and its contents were destroyed in a fire on Sunday, April 21, 2019, in Ashton.

According to Ashton Fire Chief Andy Gacke, about 3:05 p.m., the Ashton Fire Department was called to the report of an abandoned building on fire near 322 Third Avenue in Ashton.

The chief says the fire department saw the roof had partially collapsed and the building was fully engulfed in fire as they approached the scene. He says they used water to fight the fire.

Gacke says one firefighter was hospitalized due to smoke inhalation.

The fire department was assisted by Ashton Community EMS (ACES), the Sibley Ambulance squad, and the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office.

He says the cause of the fire is undetermined.

Chief Gacke reports that the 30′ by 50′ building was totaled in the blaze. According to Gacke, it was a good thing that it was a block building, as it held in some of the heat and may have helped them save two other nearby buildings. He says most of the contents were not of much value, consisting of an old pickup and an old motorcycle, along with several plumbing and electrical parts.

He says the thirteen firefighters who responded were on scene for five hours.

Thanks to Greg Frohwein for the photo.