Harris, Iowa — The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has requested the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission to refer the case of a Harris egg-laying operation to the Iowa Attorney General’s Office for action.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources says that, back in October, a tank that contained egg washing liquid at Sunrise Farms south of Harris in Osceola County was dumped into a corn field and flowed into Stony Creek, where it proceeded downstream, killing fish in an area 18-miles long.  DNR officials say the waste spill killed more than 163-thousand fish, including seven hundred sport fish.

The Iowa Environmental Protection Commission will take up the DNR request Tuesday, March 15th.  If they refer the case to the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, the AG can seek higher penalties than the state environmental agency.

The state will reportedly seek restitution for the fish killed by the waste spill.  The DNR sets the value of those fish at $25,806.

March 14, 2016 - 1:35 pm - Posted in News

Sibley, Iowa — Iowa Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds will be visiting northwest Iowa this week.Lt Governor Kim Reynolds

She’ll attend the Osceola County Home Base Iowa Designation ceremony, which will begin at 1 PM Wednesday, March 16th, at the Capital Armament Company Manufacturing facility north of Sibley. Osceola County Economic Development Director Mike Earll says Home Base Iowa is an initiative designed to provide a welcoming atmosphere to military veterans who are leaving the service, encouraging them to live and work in the Home Base Iowa communities.

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He says they’re glad to receive the designation.

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Earll says they have done a number of things working toward the designation, and he gives us a small sampling.

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He says it’s a county-wide designation, and a county-wide honor.

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Meanwhile, Lieutenant Governor Reynolds will also be in Hawarden and Rock Rapids this week. She’ll be in Hawarden to attend the Hawarden Regional Healthcare Foundation Annual Banquet this Tuesday night.

Reynolds will also meet with Lyon County women who are business owners at Simply Said in Rock Rapids on Wednesday afternoon at 4 PM. She’ll have a round-table discussion talking about the challenges women face running a business, what the state government can do to better assist small businesses, and what can be done to assist other women to start their own businesses. Lyon County Economic development director Steve Simons says these conversations help Reynolds to create an action plan for the state to increase the number of businesses led by women.

The Lieutenant Governor is also making stops in Cherokee, Estherville, Emmetsburg, Spencer, and Storm Lake this week.

March 11, 2016 - 3:15 pm - Posted in News

Sibley, Iowa — A telephonic hearing in the case of a group of Osceola County taxpayers versus Osceola County and the City of Harris — has been postponed to April 15th.
Wind Turbines SVA

Court records indicate the hearing is to decide on the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgement.

The group of taxpayers allege that — an agreement to use Tax Increment Financing from a group of wind turbines in Osceola County for a waste water project and lagoon in Harris and for improvements to White Avenue — was illegal.

In their motion for summary judgement, they allege that Osceola County and the City of Harris did not enter into a joint agreement before Osceola County established an urban renewal area within the city of Harris’s area of operation. They say that means Osceola County acted without the necessary jurisdiction, or illegally.

The documents say the Harris City Council passed a backdated agreement memorializing a verbal agreement agreed upon in August 2015. The plaintiffs say that’s not allowed.

The plaintiffs allege that Osceola County’s established Urban Renewal Area 7 is not an “area” and that the inclusion of wind energy conversion property violates the spirit of the Tax Increment Financing law.

They say that the wind energy conversion property was not on the tax rolls at its full assessed value at the time Osceola County established Urban Renewal Area 7. The plaintiffs say that means that the County captured money in the tax increment that has nothing to do with the urban development taking place within the urban renewal area.

They also allege that the wind energy conversion property will receive no economic benefit from projects done in the city of Harris. The plaintiffs say both of these realities violate the entire purpose of TIF.

For background information on this story, click here.

The court is scheduled to decide on the merrits of the motion for summary judgement on April 15th. At this point a trial is scheduled on the case on September 20th, 2016.

March 10, 2016 - 3:19 pm - Posted in News

Ashton, Iowa — Law enforcement officers are often called upon to make difficult captures, but the one Osceola County Sheriff’s Officers were called upon to make Wednesday was definitely out of the ordinary.

Osceola County Sheriff Doug Weber says the Osceola County Communications Center received a call Wednesday of a bald eagle down in the median ditch on Highway 60, north of Ashton.  Weber says that when he arrived on scene, the bird was a little tough to find.
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Sheriff Weber says that once he saw what they were dealing with, he called for backup from experts.
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He says officials surmise that the eagle was injured by a passing vehicle.
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Weber says that after it’s capture, the eagle was taken to a rehabilitation facility.
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Sheriff Weber tells KIWA that his biggest worry during the attempt to capture the bird was that it would manage to get back up onto Highway 60 and be hit again.

Weber caught the bird’s capture on video, and that video is featured below, courtesy of the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office.

March 7, 2016 - 11:43 am - Posted in News

Osceola County, Iowa — If you enjoy following our ever-changing weather conditions, the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow network, or CoCoRaHS is looking for you.

Iowa State Climatologist Harry Hillaker says volunteers are needed as part of a national network of weather observers.
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The data that’s collected by the volunteer observers is available for free online and helps the National Weather Service with flood forecasting, drought assessments, and more.

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The CoCoRaHS network was established in Colorado in 1998 and has spread to all 50 states. Iowa joined the volunteer network in 2007. Hillaker says weather observers are needed statewide, but the most critical needs are in Osceola County, among others.
March 7, 2016 - 11:36 am - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — A fraudulent scam has been reported in this area, this time on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms.  This scam is a fraudulent Hy-Vee grocery giveaway post circulating on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms.

Hy-Vee company officials say the giveaway is not affiliated with or supported by Hy-Vee, and they urge their customers to not engage with the scam website or provide their personal information.

According to Hy-Vee, in recent weeks, these posts have surfaced using the likeness of other major retailers, as well.  Hy-Vee says they suggest that you beware of any offers that sound too good to be true, have unaffiliated URLs and contain grammatical errors or misspellings.

Hy-Vee says they are diligently working to get the website taken down. In the meantime, they recommend that you not share the post and simply delete it. The fraudulent post states people will receive $150 worth of groceries for their birthday.

Hy-Vee says they want their customers to know this giveaway is in no way affiliated with Hy-Vee.  The company also wants to educate customers on the dangers posed by sharing and clicking on the post, according to Hy-Vee Vice President of Communicaations Tara Deering-Hansen.

People who have accidentally clicked on the scam link and provided their personal information will want to scan their computer for viruses and malware and change any password information.

March 4, 2016 - 3:22 pm - Posted in News

Harris, Iowa — The state auditor’s office has completed a special investigation of the City of Harris. City officials requested the audit as a result of alleged misappropriation of City funds and concerns regarding the job performance of the former City Clerk, Robin Baumgarn.

stock photo

stock photo

The special investigation identified over $12,000 of improper and unsupported disbursements, according to the state auditor. They say the over $11,000 of improper disbursements identified consists of $2,682 of improper payroll to Baumgarn; $561 of improper reimbursements to Baumgarn; $441 of improper disbursements for the City’s share of FICA and IPERS; $7,345 of improper payroll to the City’s former Water Superintendent, Vic McKenna, while he served as a City Council member; $150 of improper disbursements to the City Treasurer, Dixie McKenna; and $50 of improper disbursements from the Harris Community Builders’ checking account. There were also over $1500 in unsupported disbursements.

The State Auditor’s Office recommends strengthening of the City’s internal controls and overall operations, such as improving segregation of duties, performing bank reconciliations, performing utility reconciliations, prohibiting the signing of blank checks, requiring adequate documentation to properly support disbursements, and performing an independent review of bank statements and financial information presented to the City Council.

They also recommend the City of Harris ensure all disbursements are presented to the City Council for approval, as well as ensuring all City Council meeting minutes are properly signed by the Mayor and City Clerk.

Copies of the report have been filed with the Division of Criminal Investigation, the Osceola County Attorney’s Office, and the Attorney General’s Office. A copy of the report is available for review on the Auditor of State’s website at http://auditor.iowa.gov/specials/1422-0668-BE00.pdf and in the Office of Auditor of State.

March 4, 2016 - 3:16 pm - Posted in News

Sibley, Iowa — The people of Sibley are upset about a smell in town, and options are being weighed to see what to do about it.Osceola County Courthouse Closeup_SVA

In 2013, Iowa Drying and Processing purchased the former AMPI (that’s Associated Milk Producers, Inc.) building near Sibley’s downtown. Iowa Drying and Processing makes a a high-protein agricultural blood product called plasma that goes into pet foods, according to company officials, and they admit that sometimes the process releases an odor.

The company said they’d install a deodorizing apparatus that would pump out a wintergreen smell, but Sibley City Administrator Glenn Anderson says it’s not working. And that’s a problem because Andrson says when it’s bad, people don’t want to go out to eat in Sibley’s restaurants or shop in Sibley’s stores.

A more expensive “wet scrubber” solution to the odor problem is being considered. The Sibley City Council wants it installed by April 1st.

Iowa Drying and Processing has been fined by the City of Sibley numerous times, but the case has been continued several times in Osceola County District Court. The case was to have been heard on February 29th. The latest non-jury trial date on the charges has been set for Monday, March 21st at 9:45 AM.

March 4, 2016 - 11:08 am - Posted in News

Des Moines, Iowa — Remember when a hunter in Osceola County last December shot a canine thinking it was a coyote, and then thought maybe it was a wolf? The DNR says it did turn out to be a wolf.

A couple of large canines that were shot this winter by hunters in northwest and southeast Iowa have tested positive as wolves, which are protected under law as endangered species. Vince Evelsizer, with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says both hunters thought they were shooting coyotes.

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The wolves were shot in Osceola and Van Buren Counties. According to Evelsizer, the wolves likely wandered into Iowa from the Great Lakes population in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. More wolves have been spotted in Iowa in recent years.

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Iowa’s coyote hunting season is open all year long, but participation is often highest in January and February. Last year, hunters in Iowa killed just under 14,000 coyotes. Evelsizer is asking hunters to make sure they know the difference between a coyote and wolf. While they are similar in color, wolves are 5-6 feet long from nose to tail and weigh 50-100 pounds. Coyotes are shorter in length and weigh 35-40 pounds.

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No charges are being filed against the two hunters, as investigators determined both cases were accidents and the hunters immediately contacted the DNR.

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The two wolves that were shot will be used for education outreach at the local county conservation boards.

March 1, 2016 - 11:17 am - Posted in News

Des Moines, Iowa — A bill to establish more state oversight after 560-thousand Iowa Medicaid patients are shifted into privately-run maiowa state capitol svanaged care plans was up for debate in the Iowa Senate on Tuesday. Senator Amanda Ragan, a Democrat from Mason City, says with nearly five-and-a-half billion dollars in state money being spent on the program next year, the legislature should ensure health care providers are properly paid and patients have some sort of recourse if they’re denied care.

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Senator David Johnson, a Republican from Ocheyedan, also has been raising concerns about privatizing Medicaid.

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But Governor Branstad objects.

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Branstad says he’s willing to hire a few more state workers to handle complaints from patients and Iowa health care providers once Medicaid is privatized April 1st.

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Branstad says since the private companies will have their own employees to take complaints and resolve disputes, there’s no need to hire dozens of state workers to “oversee the overseers.” Branstad made his comments this weekend during an appearance on Iowa Public Television.