Ashton, Iowa — A house was basically destroyed in a fire on Friday, February 24, 2023, in Ashton, and authorities believe it was intentionally set.

According to Ashton Fire Chief Andy Gacke, at about 10:25 a.m., the Ashton Fire Department was called to the report of a house fire at 533 5th Street in Ashton.

The chief says the fire department saw heavy smoke as they approached the scene. He says they used water from handlines to fight the fire.

Gacke says the occupant and their pet were able to escape the flames and were found outside when firefighters arrived. He tells us the American Red Cross was contacted in regard to living arrangements for the occupant.

The fire department was assisted by the Sibley Fire Department and EMS personnel from both Ashton and Sibley. The Osceola County Emergency Management Agency also assisted at the scene.

He says the cause of the fire is under investigation by the Iowa State Fire Marshal’s office

Chief Gacke reports that there was extensive damage, and that the house was probably totaled in the blaze.

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

Late on Friday, KIWA Radio received word from the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office that upon investigation at the scene, an Osceola County Deputy arrested 32-year-old David Alvarez Jr of Ashton in connection with the fire. Alvarez is charged with alleged Arson 1st Degree, a Class B Felony; and Criminal Mischief 1st Degree, a Class C Felony. Alvarez was transported and booked into the Osceola County Jail and held on a $35,000 bond.

Sibley, Iowa — At a Sibley-Ocheyedan School Board meeting on Friday morning, February 24, 2023, board members voted to approve Sibley-Ocheyedan’s current 7th-12 grade principal, Stan De Zeeuw to move into the superintendent role.

According to Sibley-Ocheyedan officials, De Zeeuw will transition with current superintendent James Craig and officially start his duties on July 1, 2023.

They tell us De Zeeuw was excited to accept the position saying, “I am humbled and honored to get the opportunity to lead the Sibley-Ocheyedan School District.” School board president Kyle Grimes also issued a statement, saying, “Stan was a clear choice by the interview teams and has the full support of the school board. We are excited about what the future holds under his leadership.”

Sibley-Ocheyedan officials say that during his tenure as principal, De Zeeuw took the lead on evaluating teachers, refining the at-risk program and lead staff to program delivery changes. He also collaborated with other administrators on staffing and budget issues. De Zeeuw holds an education specialist degree from Wayne State College in Wayne, Nebraska, and has served as a member of the School Administrators of Iowa since 2018. They tell us that prior to his current role, De Zeeuw was a teacher at the Rock Valley CSD. Board members have been working with Grundmeyer Leader Services to conduct the search. The new superintendent will officially begin leading the Sibley-Ocheyedan Community School District on July 1, 2023.

February 23, 2023 - 3:50 pm - Posted in News

Sheldon, Iowa — Officials with Northwest Iowa Community College in Sheldon are again reporting that never before have this many students attended the college at one time.

In the first two semesters of the 2022-23 academic year, the College is on pace for a record enrollment year. The Fall of 2022 was the largest fall class in the school’s history dating back to 1966. They tell us the 1,811 enrolled students represent about a 5.54% increase from Fall 2021 when the headcount was 1,716. The previous record was in the fall of 2019 when enrollments were 1,777 students.

NCC officials say the enrollments for Spring 2023 follow in a similar trajectory topping all previous enrollment numbers with a record-setting 1,850 students. This represents a 3.64% increase over last year’s enrollments of 1,785.

NCC has multiple terms and start dates throughout the year, so the fall and spring enrollment numbers are just two data points that NCC records throughout the year. They say that another strong indicator is the summer semester enrollments.

Beth Sibenaller-Woodall, NCC Registrar, says that summer enrollments are looking strong, but there won’t be an accurate count until the official count day which is 10 days after the start of the semester. She says NCC is on track for a record-breaking year. Sibenaller-Woodall tells us that by the end of NCC’s previous academic year, on August 6, 2022, the college had taught 2,701 different students in its credit programs.

John Hartog, College President says, “We are excited to see what our year-end numbers will be this coming August. We care for each of our students, and we show our care with our affordable tuition rates and the services we offer to all of our students. Higher numbers mean more students are entering the workforce and transferring to four-year institutions with advanced standing credits.”

Lake Park, Iowa — The estimates are in for the proposed construction work at the Harris-Lake Park schools in Lake Park. But the results were somewhat unexpected.

Interim Superintendent Les Douma tells us that the cost of renovation somehow was more than the cost of building new.

And, while you might think that would be good news — that for less money, they could have a brand new facility — that was not the reaction that staff and the school board had, says Douma.

The problem is, according to Douma, that there are now fewer options, because the renovation option is off the table, due to bonding capacity.

The district is also considering some other construction work, depending on funding.

Douma says the next steps are a board study session on March 6th to discuss where to go from here, and the next meeting, at which a decision may be made, will be on March 20th. He says he really appreciates the board’s work on this. He says it’s an exciting time at Harris-Lake Park.

February 20, 2023 - 4:19 pm - Posted in News

Sheldon, Iowa — It sounds like we’re going to get some more wintery weather. And some are saying it could be a repeat of a storm we had earlier this season, with large amounts of snow.

We talked to meteorologist Jim Murray with the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls. He tells us how they believe things will start this Tuesday.

Murray says there’s a chance we could see blizzard conditions in northwest Iowa. He tells us the event will probably wrap up by midday Thursday, and at this time they are thinking we could see 10 inches, up to maybe a foot of snow.

He gives us an idea of what to expect after the storm passes by.

Murray says the way things look right now, do not travel Wednesday evening or Wednesday night.

Sibley, Iowa — The number of finalists for the Sibley-Ocheyedan School District Superintendent position is down to three.

The finalists are Dr. Robert Bolen, an HR director at an Alaska school district; Stan De Zeeuw, the current 7th-12th Grade Principal at Sibley-Ocheyedan; and Daniel Hoey, the PK-12 superintendent of a school district in Hartford, South Dakota.

Board members tell us they have been working with Grundmeyer Leader Services to conduct the search. As a next step, the board and stakeholder interview teams will conduct final interviews with each of the finalists on Tuesday, February 21st, 2023. The board will then discuss the candidates and reach a final decision soon after the formal interviews.

They say the new superintendent will officially begin leading the Sibley-Ocheyedan Community School District on July 1st, 2023, after current superintendent James Craig leaves the position on June 30th.

Sibley, Iowa — The Sibley-Ocheyedan Community School District Board of Education has laid out plans for how instructional time lost to snow days will be made up.

The school board has voted to eliminate Wednesday early dismissals. That begins this Wednesday, February 15. They also have added five days to the end of the school year. They report that their new last day for students will be May 25th. The new last day for teachers will be May 26th. If there are more snow days this school year at Sibley-Ocheyedan, the next four days that are missed will be forgiven. But, starting with the fifth day, the days will be added to the end of the school year.

School officials tell us the board did not rule out adding time to the school day. They will have another hearing and consideration at a future meeting to consider that possibility if needed.

Sibley-Ocheyedan officials ask parents to contact the district office if they have any questions.

Tea, South Dakota — It looks like most of the funding to get the Lewis & Clark water pipeline to Sibley has been accounted for.

Troy Larson, who is the executive director of the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System tells us that the Bureau of Reclamation has announced that the system is receiving $60 million in FY23 from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Larson says that combined with the $18.6 million included in the FY23 Appropriations Bill that was signed into law on December 29, 2022, it brings total FY23 funding to $78.6 million for the ongoing construction of the tristate drinking water project.

Larson tells us the $60 million will be used for the Sibley service line, Sibley meter building and Phase 3 of the water treatment plant. Among other things, Phase 3 includes two more solids contact basins, a second gravity thickener and another lime slaker.

Larson says Sibley will get its water from the Minnesota pipeline, which will come down from the Adrian area as a branch of the Worthington line.

He says this funding does not get the project across the finish line in terms of completing the 44.19-million-gallons-per-day base system, but it gets it really close.

Larson says, “Depending on the FY24 funding levels from the Appropriations Bill and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we hope next year will be the last year federal funding is needed for the base system.”

The pipeline that will serve Sheldon will come from Hull. The pipeline from Sioux Center to Hull has been in use for several years to sell Sioux Center water to Hull. And the line to Sioux Center from Beresford has been completed too. Work on the line from Hull to Sheldon is underway, with the $16.4 million contract awarded last August.

February 13, 2023 - 4:02 pm - Posted in News

Sheldon, Iowa — An Ocheyedan man has been arrested on a warrant for drug charges.

According to a criminal complaint filed with the O’Brien County Clerk of Court’s Office by the Sheldon Police Department, 59-year-old Glen Dowdy of Ocheyedan is accused of the possession of a controlled substance after at least two prior convictions. He was arrested on a warrant on Thursday, February 9th, 2023.

The complaint states that during a search on January 29th, a small baggie with a white crystalline substance was found on the passenger floor of the vehicle. Dowdy had been sitting in the passenger seat of the car when he was contacted by the officer. The officer says the baggie was field tested and was positive for methamphetamine.

Dowdy was charged with possession of a controlled substance, third or subsequent offense, a class D felony. If convicted, Dowdy could face up to five years in prison.

Dowdy faces a preliminary hearing on March 1st, 2023.

He was released from custody the same day he was arrested.

February 13, 2023 - 3:50 pm - Posted in News

Sheldon, Iowa — A Harris man has been arrested on drug charges after an arrest in Sheldon.

According to a criminal complaint filed with the O’Brien County Clerk of Court’s Office by the Sheldon Police Department, 49-year-old Michael Eaton of Harris is accused of the possession of a controlled substance after two prior convictions. He was arrested on Friday, February 10th, 2023.

The complaint states that Eaton was a passenger in a vehicle called in for possible drug activity. The officer says the vehicle was located in the area a short time later and the driver was pulled over for a traffic violation. A Sheldon K9 indicated on the vehicle. A glass pipe and black container were allegedly located in Eaton’s coat.

Eaton was charged with possession of a controlled substance, third or subsequent offense, a class D felony, plus a misdemeanor count of possession of drug paraphernalia. If convicted, Eaton could face up to five years in prison.

He faces a preliminary hearing on March 3rd, 2023.

At last report, Eaton remained in the O’Brien County Jail in Primghar.