April 2, 2020 - 4:05 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — If you’ve been parking somewhere else all winter because you would really like to park your vehicle on a city street overnight, but you can’t — you can rejoice. In some communities, you can now park on the street again, and in some others, it won’t be long.

In Sheldon, parking is prohibited on any street in the city between the hours of 2:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. from November 1st to April 1st. Violation of Sheldon’s overnight parking ban is subject to a citation that carries a $10 fine.

In Sanborn, no parking is allowed from 2:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m., year-round, on Main Street. In addition, from November 1st through March 31st, no parking is allowed on any city street in Sanborn from 2:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. Violation of Sanborn’s overnight parking ban carries a $15 fine.

You’ll have to wait a little longer in Sibley. According to Sibley city officials, their overnight parking ban calls for no parking on any city street between 2:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m., from November 1st through April 15th. The fine for violating Sibley’s overnight parking ban is $25.

Orange City officials say that no parking is allowed on any of their city streets between the hours of 2:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m., from October 15th through April 1st. The fine for noncompliance in Orange City is $10.

In Sioux Center, there is no parking allowed on any city street between 2:00 and 6:00 a.m. year-round.

Rock Valley’s winter parking ordinance states that parking is not allowed for more than 30 minutes between 2:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. The ordinance stays in effect until April 1st. The fine is $20 per night.

There are a couple of area communities that don’t have an actual overnight parking ban, but do have an ordinance that’s effective when snow falls. So motorists who park on the street need to keep up-to-date on the weather forecast.

Hartley City officials tell us there is no overnight parking ban in that city. However, their ordinance says that vehicles must be off the streets when snowfall begins and must remain off the streets until the streets are cleared of snow. Failure to do so will result in a $15 fine from the City of Hartley.

In Rock Rapids, parking is banned on all city streets and alleys from midnight to 6:00 a.m. during snow removal operations from November 1st to April 1st. There is an exception, however. Parking is banned from 2:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. in Rock Rapids’ downtown area, year-round, and there are signs posted to that effect. The fine for non-compliance in Rock Rapids is $25.

As always, make sure you know the ordinance in whatever community you are parking.

Des Moines, Iowa — Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate says the state will mail an absentee ballot request form to every active registered voter in the state — for voting in the June 2 primary.

Pate released a recorded message about the decision.

(as said) “The June 2nd primary election will go on as scheduled because it’s important for Iowans to make their voices heard by voting,” Pate said, “and the safest way to vote will be by mail.”

Pate last week announced he was using emergency authority to add 11 more days to the early voting period for the June primary and he encouraged Iowans to use the vote-by-mail option to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Pate’s office will send the absentee ballot request forms later this month and each will include prepaid postage for mailing the requests to county auditors.

(as said) “The safety of voters while casting their ballots is our top priority,” Pate said in the recorded message.

Pate indicated there are about two million active registered voters in Iowa. Iowans may request absentee ballots for the June Primary through May 22. County auditors begin mailing ballots on April 23.

Northwest Iowa — Personal Protective Equipment, or PPEs have been in short supply around the country, including right here in Iowa. But a group of volunteers from across the state have stepped up to try and help fill the demand.

Kevin Wilkinson is a tech teacher in Williamsburg, in eastern Iowa, and he says he is one of a number of people across Iowa with access to 3-D printers, who are helping to manufacture face shields, originally for University of Iowa Hospitals.

(As above) “My wife got in contact with some people on social media and we’ve been working with Eric Engleman and he coordinated with a lot of the cedar rapids school districts got all three D. printers from there and had kind of gotten a group together to help three D. print a lot of PPE headsets. So they’re primarily face shields.”

He talks about how the face shields are made, once the 3-D printers have made the frames.

(As above) “Between the 3-D prints, and then they take like overhead transparency pieces and they adhere those to that so it it’s at least helping with some of the shortage because Iowa was ordering the pieces and so what they did is on social media they reached out and asked if anybody has 3-D printers if they can help print that, so there’s people all over the state of Iowa that are printing different things and then trying to coordinate and bring those in.”

He says the designs of the PPEs have been tweaked throughout the process, making changes based on feedback from the front-line healthcare professionals who are using the items.

(As above) “The new version that they set up uses rubber bands to kind of hook on to the 3-D printer part so that way they don’t have to tie on weapons or anything. So what they’ve done is they’ve kind of gotten feedback from the medical staff that’s been using them, they’ve given kind of suggestions because they have to disinfect these in between each patient visit and stuff, so trying to make them as easy to sterilize as possible as well.”

Wilkinson says a website has been set up at newbo.co/ppe/. He says the site provides information about the program, as well as allowing medical professionals to place orders for the 3-D printed PPEs. In addition, a Facebook page has also been established. He says you can also find information about donating to the project.

 

March 31, 2020 - 3:40 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — The candidate filing deadline has come and gone for June’s primary election, so we are now able to bring you the names of individuals seeking public office in the four northwest Iowa counties.

In Osceola County, there are no Democrats running either. Incumbents Jayson Vande Hoef, Jerry Helmers, and Ed Jones will run for their Districts 2, 4, and 5 county supervisor seats, respectively. Incumbent auditor Rochelle Van Tilburg is running for her seat too. Chief Deputy Sheriff Kevin Wollmuth is unopposed in his bid to become the Osceola County Sheriff.

Of course, for the President, those candidates were voted on during the Iowa Caucuses. As of right now, it appears the Republican candidate will be President Donald Trump, and the Democratic Candidate will be either Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders, as all other candidates have suspended their campaigns.

Fourth District Republican Congressman Steve King’s seat is also up for election this year. His primary challengers include Randy Feenstra of Hull, Steven Reeder of Arnolds Park, Bret A. Richards of Irwin, and Jeremy Taylor of Sioux City. On the Democratic side, J.D. Scholten is running unopposed for his party’s nomination.

Since Randy Feenstra is running for Steve King’s seat, his District 2 State Senate Seat is up for grabs. Republican Jeff Taylor of Sioux Center is running unopposed for his party’s nomination. There is no Democratic candidate.

Incumbent Republican John Wills is running unopposed for his party’s nomination for his District 1 State House seat. There are no Democratic candidates either.

Dan Huseman is not running again for his District 3 House seat. Zero Democrats and three Republicans have filed. The Republicans are Dennis J. Bush of Cleghorn, K. Lynn Evans of Aurelia, and Mark McHugh of Sheldon.

District 4 State Representative Skyler Wheeler of Orange City is unopposed for the Republican nomination for his seat, but there is a Democrat running for that party’s nomination in the primary. He is Bjorn Johnson of Ireton.

Again, this is the Primary Election — in which we select candidates to be on the ballot during the general election in November.

Sioux County Auditor Ryan Dokter is among a group of auditors who are strongly encouraging
voters wishing to vote in the June 2 Primary Election to vote absentee by mail due to the recent concerns with COVID-19. For more information, contact your county auditor.

March 31, 2020 - 2:22 pm - Posted in News

Spencer, Iowa — The transit service for our area is temporarily shutting down for the most part, which could make it even more difficult for seniors to get out and get what they need in the midst of the pandemic.

RIDES advises that they have temporarily ceased providing General Public transportation in their 9-county service area during the COVID-19 pandemic.

They say the RIDES Board of Directors and Executive Management made what they call “this very difficult decision” after extensive discussion and evaluation of the circumstances. They tell us their ridership has been reduced by over 80% and revenue has equally plummeted. RIDES personnel say they had hoped to continue servicing the transit-dependent public as long as they could, however, the delicate balance of protecting the community and passengers they serve combined with the loss of revenue resulted in what they say was, unfortunately, a “really clear choice.”

RIDES says they will continue to provide previously-established dialysis trips and a few medical trips.

But they have closed their administrative office following a reduction in administrative staff.

RIDES officials tell us they are seeking alternative ways to serve the communities and will be reaching out to local businesses to see how they could possibly assist in that manner.

They say they consider it a privilege to serve their communities and they look forward to being back as soon as possible.

You can watch their website, their Facebook page, and listen to their voicemail for updates as to their return.

For more information, you can contact RIDES at 262-7920 or 1-800-358-5037. Their website is www.nwiarides.org.

March 31, 2020 - 9:36 am - Posted in News

Orange City, Iowa — And then, there were three. The Sioux County public health department, known as Sioux County Community Health Partners has announced that there are now three Sioux County residents with COVID-19.

The new case is an adult between the ages of 41 and 60. Community Health Partners says the individual is in isolation.

They are also reminding people what to do to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus to yourself and others:

*stay home if you are sick
*avoid close contact with others
*clean your hands often
*cover your coughs and sneezes
*clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces

A check of area health resources shows no COVID-19 cases in any of the other four northwest Iowa counties, but there are cases near us. At last report, there was one case in Dickinson County. In the bordering Minnesota counties, there is one case in Jackson County, but at last check, Nobles and Rock counties reported zero. In South Dakota, there are 28 cases in Minnehaha County, four in Lincoln County, and one in Union County. In Iowa, there are no cases reported in Plymouth, Cherokee, Buena Vista, or Clay counties. The next closest cases are in Woodbury county, where there are four. This information can change by the hour, and was accurate as of Tuesday morning.

For more COVID-19 prevention information including case counts in Iowa see: https://coronavirus.iowa.gov/#prevention

Des Moines, Iowa — Iowa’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained at 2.8 percent in February. The state’s jobless rate was 2.7 percent one year ago. The U.S. unemployment rate decreased slightly to 3.5 percent in February.

Iowa Workforce Development Director Beth Townsend says that because of the way the Bureau of Labor Statistics collects data, they do not expect the COVID-19 numbers to have an impact on the unemployment rate until April. The April unemployment rate will be released in mid-May. She says that the Bureau of Labor Statistics may change this but it is where we are now. Therefore, she says the February and March rates are not indicative of where we are now as a result of the recent outbreak. Townsend says they continue to encourage employers to utilize as many employees as possible and use alternative methods to allow them to work during this challenging time.

The county-by-county statistics are always a month behind and are not directly comparable to the statewide numbers because the statewide numbers are seasonally-adjusted. That is, they take into account that in the winter, there are fewer jobs in the ag, construction, tourism, and other industries. The county-by-county numbers are raw numbers that don’t take that into account.

The trend of Lyon and Sioux counties always having the lowest unemployment in our area and even in the state seems to be changing. While northwest Iowa continues to have some of the lowest unemployment figures in the state, we’re not always THE lowest.

Osceola county actually had the lowest unemployment in northwest Iowa in January — the latest month for which figures are available — at 2.6 percent. Lyon was next with 2.7, then O’Brien with 2.8, and the highest unemployment in the four-county area was actually Sioux County this time, with 2.9 percent.

Since the numbers are not seasonally adjusted, it would stand to reason that unemployment would be higher in January than in December, and the numbers bear that out. O’Brien County had the smallest increase over December numbers, up only five-tenths of a percent. Next was Lyon County, up six tenths. Osceola and Sioux counties were tied, both rising eight-tenths of a percent.

Des Moines, Iowa (RI) — Iowa Workforce Development has updated its leave policy for filing unemployment insurance benefits following the enactment of the federal coronavirus relief bill.

Iowa Workforce Development says employees who are or will be laid off or are unable to work for reasons related to COVID-19, will no longer be required to use all paid leave prior to being eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. This change is not retroactive and claims will not be backdated prior to the week of March 29th for new or existing claims.

The federal bill known as the CARES ACT provides funding to help sustain the Iowa Unemployment Trust Fund, which is funded entirely by employers doing business in Iowa and is the source of all benefit payments. For more information, click here for the press release or click here for the Iowa Workforce Development website.

March 30, 2020 - 3:35 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — There are some that think that the COVID-19 pandemic will have an effect on spring planting, and therefore it could affect the food supply.

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Crop Field Specialist Joel De Jong says he doesn’t think there will be a direct link, but . . .

(as said:)”Planting is going to happen. I don’t think there’s much doubt. I don’t think it’s going to keep farmers from getting in the field. I think in most cases most farmers are working with family members. And so they’re already in contact with each other. That’s kind of their circle of contact. On top of that a lot of the practices actually they can keep some social distance. So they probably can still protect themselves to quite a decent degree if they if they’re doing that. The question I’ve got and I’m not sure about would be, is the supply line going to continue to be filled? Will we have problems getting the products we need to actually get planting started? Will this COVID-19 cause a problem on the supply line for the crop production? My guess is a lot of it’s already in place. It needs to go out to the farming operations and get there. So I think it might be a limited impact unless we get a lot of people that actually show up with the virus themselves.”

And De Jong says if a farmer comes down with COVID-19, in this area, at least, you can probably count on fellow farmers lending a hand and planting their crop for them. He says that’s just what we do here.

(as said:)”Yeah, that’s definitely true. And I think if that situation comes up that’s probably going to happen, you know, but it’s nice in the ag sector. It’s not like being in a factory where they’re working shoulder to shoulder all the time in many cases. We have a limited number of people in that circle. And so I think that helps protect us also.”

Corn in northwest Iowa is normally planted in mid-April through mid-May if weather and soil conditions are fit. Soybeans are normally planted just a touch later, around the first of May.

March 30, 2020 - 2:26 pm - Posted in News

Statewide Iowa — A person from Linn County with COVID-19 died Saturday night. State public health officials say the person was between the ages of 61 and 80. It’s the fourth death in the state connected to the pandemic. A total of 336 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed within the state.

Sarah Reisster of the Iowa Department of Public Health says projections indicate the number of cases will continue to climb.

(As above) “We’re thinking we might see a peak, a first peak, in the next two to three weeks, so that’s the best information that we have right now,” Reisetter says. “I would reiterate that things are changing on a daily basis and we continue to look at numbers both here in Iowa and what’s happening in other states.” 

Reisster is urging Iowans who live in a county where a positive case of COVID-19 has not been reported to stay vigilant about personal hygiene and staying home, if possible.

(As above) “It should be every Iowan’s assumption that the virus is currently circulating in their community,” Reisetter said. “Although I know we all stand up here and sound like a broken record, but those mitigation strategies are so very important regardless of where you live in Iowa at this time.” 

Governor Kim Reynolds emphasizes that the incubation period for the virus is up to 14 days.

(As above) “Iowans who have recently traveled for spring break and may have been exposed to the virus are are still in that incubation period,” she says. 

The latest figures from the Iowa Department of Public Health indicate 51 Iowans were hospitalized on Saturday night for treatment of COVID-19. Experts say 80 percent of those who get the virus will either not have any symptoms or their symptoms will be mild and they’ll be able to recover at home.