Des Moines, Iowa — (RI) — Governor Kim Reynolds is using nearly 40 percent of the federal coronavirus relief money Iowa received to cover unemployment benefits.

She’s depositing 490 MILLION dollars into the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. Iowa Association of Business and Industry president Mike Ralston says it’s a big announcement that will save Iowa businesses over 400 million dollars.

(as said) “Businesses would have paid more in unemployment insurance taxes, so that there would be money in the Unemployment Trust Fund to pay unemployment claims,” Ralston says.

If the balance in the state’s Unemployment Trust Fund runs low, the taxes business pay into the fund are increased.

(as said) “I think it’s too early to say whether this is a one-time thing or whether there will need to be additional money,” Ralston says. “but it’s a huge effort to try to stop that from happening.”

In a written statement, Reynolds says she decided to use federal CARES Act money to minimize the pandemic’s impact on businesses, so they can focus on growing and reinvesting rather than paying more taxes. Iowa’s unemployment rate in May was 10 percent.

July 3, 2020 - 9:03 am - Posted in News

Lake Park, Iowa — (RI) — Fire damaged a manufacturing plant in Lake Park Wednesday, temporarily halting production.

The fire at Northern Iowa Die Casting was reported at around 6:30 Wednesday morning.

(as said) “We had to be particularly careful in this situation because they’ve got a lot of liquid hot metal inside the building and we cannot apply water in there.”

That’s Lake Park Fire Chief Brandon Ehret. Heavy smoke was coming out of the roof when fire crews arrived.

(as said) “The fire was concentrated to the peak of the roof where the big vents are, the big fans,” Ehret says. “Talking with a Diecast employee, he said the fire started in one of the fans, so it was burning up in the ceiling.”

No one was injured and the fire was contained. Company officials says production will be suspended for the rest of the week. About 100 people work at the plant making a variety of products out of zinc and aluminum.

Statewide Iowa — Many Iowa pork producers are facing significant troubles due to the pandemic, as are many of Iowa’s restaurants, and a new promotion aims to help both groups.

Kelsey Sutter, spokeswoman for the Iowa Pork Producers Association, says they’re launching what’s being called the Iowa Pork Crawl Freestyle, encouraging Iowans to visit multiple eateries and order pork from the menu.

(As above) “You create your own crawl. You just need to do five — five restaurants and five pork entres,” Sutter says. “Then, simply document it with a picture of you and your entre, a selfie or have somebody else take it, and then share it on your favorite social media platform, either Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.” 

Use the hashtag, “#iowaporkcrawl”. Those Iowans who respond quickly to the promotion will be rewarded.

(As above) Sutter says, “The first 25 people that get their crawl done will win a swag bag from us that will include our famous, ‘Pork, it’s what we smoke here’ t-shirt, a meat thermometer and $10 in pork cash.”

The deadline to enter is August 30th. Once the crawl ends, there will also be a drawing for two grand prizes.

(As above) “One prize is a catered party for up to 20 guests or up to $500,” Sutter says. “You pick your favorite local caterer, you pick your date before the end of the year and Iowa pork foots the food bill.”

The other grand prize is a Yeti Explorer Package, which includes a $300 Yeti cooler containing some Yeti products, $100 in pork cash and a $25 gas card. Learn more by CLICKING HERE.

July 2, 2020 - 3:54 pm - Posted in News

Washington, DC — Iowa’s junior US Senator is coming for a visit. Unfortunately, the stops will not be open to the public, in order to follow public health guidelines.

Senator Joni Ernst will stop in O’Brien, Sioux, Lyon, Osceola, and Dickinson Counties as part of her 99 County Tour for 2020 on Wednesday, July 8th.

In O’Brien County, Senator Ernst will visit local businesses in Sheldon. In Sioux County, Senator Ernst will visit Premium Iowa Pork’s facility in Hospers and meet with local pork producers. In Lyon County, she will visit with and hear the story of Ryan Odens, a disabled farmer in Little Rock who, thanks to the Easter Seals organization, has been able to farm successfully for 20 years.

In Osceola County, Ernst will tour Hawkeye Point and meet with community stakeholders and the local FFA chapter to hear about the work that has been done to rehab Hawkeye Point. And in Dickinson County, she will meet with public officials from Dickinson County Public Health and Emergency Management.

July 2, 2020 - 3:21 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — The four northwesternmost Iowa counties reported six more COVID-19 cases on Thursday, according to the latest statistics from the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Sioux County was up four cases at 461. Lyon County was unchanged at 40. O’Brien County was up one at 86, and Osceola County was up one at 57.

As far as active cases, Lyon County has one, Sioux County has 111, O’Brien County has 26, and Osceola has four.

Recovery rate:

Lyon — out of 40 cases, 38 have recovered, for a rate of about 95%
Sioux — out of 461 cases, 339 have recovered, for a rate of about 74%
O’Brien — out of 86 cases, 55 have recovered, for a rate of about 64%
Osceola — out of 57 cases, 47 have recovered, for a rate of about 82%

Also, one death has been reported in these four counties since the beginning of the pandemic, that in O’Brien county on Tuesday, June 9th.

Total numbers of cases from other counties around the area and their change from the previous report (7/1/2020):

Iowa counties:
Plymouth 312, up 7
Cherokee 75, up 2
Buena Vista 1705, up 9
Clay 127, up 2
Dickinson 259, up 10

Minnesota counties:
Jackson 55, up 1
Nobles 1661, up 6
Rock 29, unchanged

South Dakota counties:
Minnehaha 3638, up 11
Lincoln 352, up 5
Union 126, up 2

Here are some density numbers from regional hot spots. But keep in mind, that these numbers do include people who have had COVID-19, and have since recovered.

Buena Vista County, Iowa has a density of about one case in 12 people. Very close to that density is Nobles County, Minnesota, where there is one case in 13 people. Next in our region is Woodbury County with one case in every 32 people, and then Minnehaha County, South Dakota with one case in 53 people.

In the four northwesternmost Iowa counties, Sioux County tops the density list at one case in 76 people. Osceola is next with one case per 106 people. Next is O’Brien County with one in 161 people, and Lyon County reports a density of one case in every 295 people.

Des Moines, Iowa — The top two Republicans in the Iowa Legislature are condemning the actions of protesters after 17 Black Lives Matter activists were arrested Wednesday on the Iowa Capitol grounds. The protesters say the police involved should be investigated.

In a written statement, House Speaker Pat Grassley and Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver say “assaulting, disarming, and spitting on law enforcement is never acceptable” and will not be tolerated by any group on the Capitol grounds. The two lawmakers say they strongly support law enforcement’s actions to end what Grassley and Whitver described as “a violent confrontation with a disorderly group of protesters.”

The Republican legislative leaders say any member of the public should feel welcome in the Iowa Capitol and “it is not, nor will it become, an area of lawlessness.”

Des Moines Black Lives Matter protesters have issued a written statement, saying they tried to “de-arrest” fellow activists being detained by police by pulling their peers away from officers. The group accuses the police of becoming “violent and unmanageable” at that point and injuring some of the people who were arrested.

To view the written statement Speaker Grassley and Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver posted to social media, CLICK HERE.

The Black Lives Matter social media post can be viewed by CLICKING HERE.

Northwest Iowa — Law enforcement officers will be out in force this weekend as the Iowa State Patrol partners with county sheriff’s offices and city police departments across the state in a special 4th of July holiday traffic enforcement effort focused at removing impaired drivers from Iowa roadways.

Iowa State Patrol Trooper Kevin Krull tells us about this special enforcement effort.

(As above) “We’ve got the ‘Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over’ campaign going on this year. July 3rd through the 7th we’re going to tally the numbers for local law enforcement agencies, as well as the State Patrol, and hopefully gather some information that our numbers are better than they were last year as far as the big ones are concerned. And that would be the crashes.  Last year we had 112 crashes, and of those crashes we had two (who) died, and nine serious injuries.”

Trooper Krull says you’ll see a lot of State Patrol vehicles on the roads this weekend, and those troopers will be looking for all kinds of dangerous behavior behind the wheel.

(As above) “We’re going to bring out officers that normally would have been off. They’re going to be working their overtime shifts, we’re going to have extra shifts for those officers to work. We’re going to have some late-night patrols. We’re going to have some speed enforcement going on. We’re going to do our part to step up step up and try to curb those speeds, look for those distracted drivers and put some people who need to be in jail for drunk driving, in a cell for that.”

The trooper asks that you celebrate the 4th of July in a responsible manner.

(As above) “We ask people to celebrate with a plan. We’re not telling them NOT to celebrate, we’re just telling them to celebrate with a plan….get that designated driver, do the right thing and get that safe ride home.”

Since Independence Day falls on a Saturday this year, Friday the 3rd is the legal holiday. Trooper Krull says having the celebration confined to one weekend will make things busier and more dangerous on the road.

(As above) “Some years, when it falls on a Tuesday or Wednesday…the middle of the week…people will pick which weekend they wish to celebrate, the weekend before or the weekend after, and some people are lucky enough to be able to go all week long and put two weekends together. But with it being on a weekend this year, I expect the numbers to be high, and it’s going to be a very, very busy weekend.”

Krull had this final word for those who plan to be on the state’s highways and byways this weekend.

(As above) “Just try to be safe out there. So for everybody that’s going to go out and celebrate the weekend, it’s sounds like the weather’s going to be great, so do your part and celebrate with a plan.” 

The ‘Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign runs from July 3rd through 7th. During the same period last year, two people lost their lives on Iowa’s roadways. Let’s all pull together and try to lower that number for this year.

July 2, 2020 - 9:57 am - Posted in News

The Tournament Softball pairings were released by the IGHSAU.

The Orabs start their tournament run on July 15th at Open Space Park in Sioux Center against Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley with a 5 pm start time.

Class 1A Pairings

Class 2A Pairings

Class 3A Pairings

Class 4A Pairings

Class 5A Pairings

Statewide Iowa — (RI) — A campaign is now underway to remind new and expecting mothers to use their seatbelts.

Iowa Department of Public Health nurse clinician, Stephanie Trusty, says they developed the campaign after seeing a concerning trend.

(as she says)”We do review all the deaths that occur during pregnancy and for a year after the birth of a baby,” Trusty explains. “And in our last review, 18 percent of maternal deaths were from car crashes.”

71 percent of the women who died in those crashes were not wearing a seatbelt. She says there could be a variety of reasons why pregnant women don’t buckle up.

(as she says)”Some women think that it might be a little bit uncomfortable — although the seatbelt should go beneath their pregnant abdomen like at the hipline just like normal. And I think some people think — well if the airbag deploys — that would harm the unborn child. That is really not true,” according to Trusty.

She says the message for mothers is to buckle up.

(as she says)”The safest thing that you can do to protect yourself and your unborn child is to wear a seatbelt. That’s the best way you can reduce injury and prevent being thrown from the vehicle,” she says.

Trusty says the deaths among mothers with newborns are likely because they got busy and didn’t buckle up.

(as she says)”Maybe the baby is crying — so whoever is driving pulls over — the mom gets into the back seat to attend to the baby and they take off without her being restrained. Unfortunately then if there is a crash or rollover, then she is thrown from the vehicle.”

Trusty says they are partnering with the Department of Transportation, Zero Fatalities, the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau and Safe Kids Iowa in a statewide social media campaign

(as she says)”Targeting young women to help more of them understand how important it is to buckle up every time they get into a vehicle, whether they are driving or riding in the car,” Trusty says. “We are also getting a brochure out to health care professionals encouraging them to talk to every pregnant woman about seatbelt safety during pregnancy.”

Trusty says it’s the nature of a mother to think about their kids first — but they can’t forget their own safety.

(as she says)”Sometimes moms put themselves last — and it’s equally important that they are buckled up,” she says.

The program targeted at mothers runs through September 30th. Trust says everyone is reminded to always use seat belts when driving or riding in a vehicle.

Sioux City, Iowa — A man who conspired to distribute methamphetamine in northwest Iowa has been sentenced to more than 10 years in federal prison.

According to the US Attorney’s office, 50-year-old Juan Lopez-Zuniga of Denison was convicted by a jury earlier this year after a three-day trial in federal court, of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. The verdict was returned following about three hours of jury deliberations.

The US Attorney’s office reports that the evidence at trial showed that Lopez-Zuniga was involved in a conspiracy that distributed more than 500 grams of methamphetamine from October 2015 through September 2016, from the Denison area. Evidence showed that Lopez-Zuniga conducted runs from Denison, right through our area — to Worthington, Minnesota — delivering half-pound quantities of methamphetamine to a co-conspirator for further re-distribution in Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota. Lopez-Zuniga would then return to Denison with the proceeds of drug sales.

United States District Court Chief Judge Leonard T. Strand sentenced Lopez-Zuniga to 127 months’ imprisonment. (That’s a little over ten and a half years.) He must also serve a 5-year term of supervised release after his release from prison. There is no parole in the federal system.