Category Archives: Local News

Positives, negatives locally in latest US Census data

MASON CITY — New US Census data shows Cerro Gordo County’s two largest communities saw a slight increase in population between 2015 and 2016, but population numbers are still lower than in 2010.

== The data shows Mason City’s estimated population as of July 1st 2016 is 27-thousand-430, 52 more than the estimated population in July 2015. The new figure is still about 2-point-3 percent lower than the April 2010 census figure of 28-thousand-79.

== Clear Lake’s estimated 2016 population is 75-hundred-89, 293 more than the 2015 estimate. It’s 2-point-4 percent lower than the 2010 census number of 77-hundred-77.

== Charles City’s 2016 population estimate is 74-hundred-57, two people fewer than the 2015 estimate. It’s 2-and-a-half percent lower than the 2010 population of 76-hundred-52.

Trial date set for Veal in Mason City double homicide case

MASON CITY — The trial date for a Lake Mills man accused of murdering two people in Mason City last year has been set. 30-year-old Peter Veal is accused of the November 17th murders of Mindy Kavars and Caleb Christensen, as well as the attempted murder of another person, at a residence in the 1600 block of North Hampshire. District Judge Rustin Davenport earlier this week ruled that Veal was competent to stand trial after he had been ruled incompetent in May.

Belmond man charged with theft, forgery for falsifying sales contracts

MASON CITY — A Belmond man has been arrested on forgery and theft charges. 31-year-old Joel Pals is accused of creating false sales contracts and on two occasions forging customer signatures while working as a salesman for Advanced Systems Incorporated in Mason City. A criminal complaint says the crimes allegedly took place between June of last year and January of this year, with Pals illegally obtaining over $54-hundred in commissions. Pals was charged with one count of second-degree theft and two counts of forgery. He posted $5000 cash bond on Thursday and is due back in court on June 7th.

‘Acting’ Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg says he’s ‘ordinary Iowa guy’

CLEAR LAKE — The man who Governor Kim Reynolds has named as her “governing partner” grew up in a small northwest Iowa town and credits former Governor Terry Branstad for igniting his interest in politics.

Reynolds has given Adam Gregg the title of “acting” lieutenant governor due to the recent legal controversy over whether she has the authority to name a new lieutenant governor.

Staff changes taking place as Reynolds takes over as governor

DES MOINES — Governor Kim Reynolds is making leadership assignments in her new administration. Earlier this week, Governor Branstad’s chief of staff announced his resignation. On her first day in office, Reynolds installed Jake Ketzner as her chief of staff. Ketzner ran the Branstad-Reynolds reelection campaign in 2014 as well as Congressman Steve King’s campaign back in 2012.

State Patrol urges motorists to avoid distracted driving during holiday

DES MOINES — The Memorial Day weekend is recognized as the start of the summer vacation season and Iowa State Patrol Trooper Vince Kurtz is pleading with motorists to put their phones away and focus on the road.

“It goes without saying that distracted driving is a serious problem on our roads,” Kurtz says. Distracted driving is blamed in large part for the more than 400 traffic fatalities in Iowa last year – up from 320 the previous year.

DNR says campers won’t notice much impact from tight budget

DES MOINES — All state court employees have an unpaid day off today in a cost-cutting measure implemented by the state judicial system to make up for cuts in the system budget. Judges will be working today, but their offices won’t be open to the public. Budget cuts are hitting all areas of state government, including the state park system as the unofficial kickoff to the summer camping season arrives.

Julie Sparks with the D-N-R’s State Parks Bureau, says campers shouldn’t notice many issues. “We’re keeping up our campsites pretty well. There may be a little delayed maintenance in some of our parks because of some of the staffing challenges that we have,” Sparks says.

Attorney General approves of Acting Lieutenant Governor appointment (Audio)

DES MOINES — Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller says he has no problem with new Governor Kim Reynolds designating an “acting lieutenant governor.”

Miller, a Democrat, released an opinion earlier this month that the state constitution does not give Reynolds, a Republican, the authority to name a new lieutenant governor after she became governor.

“You know I am pleased that Governor Kim Reynolds has taken action today that would not alter the secession provision,” Miller says, “That is the fundamental question, that is the Constitutional question, and she has complied with our opinion fully in that regard.”

Ernst introduces bill to train new military members to prevent sexual assault

WASHINGTON — Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, a Republican from Red Oak, has introduced a bill with a Democrat Senator from New York to mandate in-person sexual assault prevention training for new members of the military. Ernst says this training would add to what’s already in place.

“Those who are currently serving, they do undergo mandatory training when it comes to sexual assault prevention. And we do have many layers within our leadership — whether its our enlisted soldiers or whether its in our officer ranks — that are out there ever day encouraging respectful actions within our military,” Ernst says.

Iowa Supreme Court resets the way Iowa criminals are charged

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – A divided Iowa Supreme Court has reset the way criminals are charged by redefining when a person is formally arrested.

The court ruled Thursday in cases involving three Waterloo men accused of drugging and raping two 15-year-old girls in 2012. The men were not charged until more than a year later after DNA samples returned from testing labs connecting them to the case.

Trump in Cedar Rapids next week

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) – Donald Trump has scheduled a visit to Iowa – his first as president of the United States.

His campaign website says a rally is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. June 1 at the Cedar Rapids Convention Complex. People are invited to register for up to two tickets each.

Trump’s last visit to Iowa occurred in Des Moines during his “Thank You” tour as president-elect in December. Trump won Iowa’s six electoral votes in November.

Woman accused of stealing $30K diamond ring

MASON CITY — A not guilty plea has been entered by a Mason City woman accused of stealing a $30-thousand diamond ring. 43-year-old Debra Ewing-Swartz is accused of being involved in a burglary at a residence in the 1800 block of 12th Northeast in Mason City back on March 27th. A criminal complaint states that she took a 2.65-karat ring from the numerous items of $80-thousand worth of stolen jewelry and wore it for several weeks.

Ex-Iowa fire academy manager gets probation in test scandal

NEVADA, Iowa (AP) – A former Iowa fire academy administrator has been given two years’ probation for falsifying test scores that were used to improperly certify thousands of firefighters.

Former Fire Services Training Bureau certification manager John McPhee also was sentenced Wednesday in Story County District Court to a suspended prison sentence of five years. He was fined $750 and ordered to serve 100 hours of community service. He had pleaded guilty to felony misconduct in office after making a deal with prosecutors.

Iowa officials warn of fake food inspectors at restaurants

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – State officials say fake food inspectors have again popped up at restaurants in Iowa.

The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals says in a news release Wednesday that people posing as inspectors appear to be targeting ethnic restaurants in Scott County and central Iowa.

Planting times have been spread out this year

DES MOINES — Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey says farmers have been able to catch up quite a bit in their planting with some days of dry weather.

But he says some of the corn that’s already emerged may have been in too much water to make it. “They’ll be a little bit of replant where some water has been standing. Most of the rest of the crop it sounds like is up and going,” Northey says. “There’s still some beans to be planted yet….and it is wet enough across Iowa it’s going to take a little while in some places to be able to get back in the field.”

Ag group backs Grassley bill to help rural hospitals

WASHINGTON — Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley is co-sponsoring a bill designed to help keep rural hospitals open. Aaron Lehman, president of the Iowa Farmers Union, says his group backs the legislation which would create a new “rural emergency hospital” classification under Medicare.

“Rural hospitals are so important to us because they provide trauma services and emergency room services that you can’t replicate,” Lehman says. “We need to do whatever we can to help them make ends meet. By making some simple changes to Medicare, we think that’s a great way to start.”

Des Moines water utility plans to expand nitrate removal facility

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Des Moines Water Works plans to double the size of the nitrate removal facility that treats drinking water from the Raccoon and Des Moines rivers.

The utility’s board this week approved an $800,000 design contract. The utility expects to spend $15 million on the project, and officials say the new equipment and the cost to operate it will require bigger future rate increases.

UI alumni leader resigns before meeting on merger plan

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – The chairwoman of the University of Iowa Alumni Association has resigned ahead of a key meeting on whether the group should be merged with the university’s foundation.

Association board chair Clare Kelly had been critical of UI President Bruce Harreld’s merger plan, unveiled in March. She said his announcement stunned directors of the 150-year-old nonprofit, which is independent from the university.

UPDATE — Reynolds names Gregg as “Acting Lt. Governor” (AUDIO)

DES MOINES — Less than 24 hours into her tenure as governor, Kim Reynolds has made the executive decision to designate an “acting lieutenant governor.” She’s chosen Adam Gregg, an attorney who worked for Governor Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Reynolds, to be her “governing partner.”

“I value his opinion,” Reynolds said. “I trust his judgment.” But Gregg he will NOT be her successor should something happen to Reynolds. “Battling over who is going to be second in line to succession is a distraction and it’s a waste of taxpayer dollars at this point,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds faced a potential legal battle if she had named her permanent replacement. That’s because Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said earlier this month that according to his read of the constitution, Reynolds lacked the authority to name a new lieutenant governor.

Reynolds to appoint new lieutenant governor today, both will appear in north-central Iowa Friday

DES MONIES — Iowa’s new governor will hold a news conference later this morning to appoint a new lieutenant governor, with that person coming to north-central Iowa on Friday morning. The governor’s office says a news conference will be held at 10 o’clock this morning to announce whether she will appoint someone to the position. Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller issued a legal opinion earlier this month, saying that Kim Reynolds does not hold the authority to make that appointment. The Cerro Gordo County Republican Party is advertising an event on Friday where supporters can meet Reynolds and the new lieutenant governor. That will take place at 11:30 AM at Tom and Barb Hovland’s airport hangar at the Mason City Municipal Airport.

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