Category Archives: Local News

State economic development board questions Mason City leaders about downtown project (AUDIO)

Listen back to raw audio of today’s meeting by clicking on this audio player


DES MOINES — The Iowa Economic Development Authority’s Board of Directors heard from Mason City officials once again today about the $39 million River City Renaissance downtown redevelopment project. City officials last week were hoping the board would give final approval for the project to be part of the state’s Iowa Reinvestment Act program, but IEDA officials notified the city on Thursday afternoon the board would not consider final approval at today’s meeting because of concerns raised about the developer of the hotel portion of the project. G8 Development of San Diego won council approval for the hotel project after a bid-off against Gatehouse Capital LLC of Minnesota last month as part of an open bidding process that was mandatory under Iowa Code after Gatehouse had altered the original development agreement with the city. Board chairman Chris Murray showed his concern to city leaders about the continual change in the hotel developers. Murray questioned Mason City mayor Eric Bookmeyer about the status of the “Purchase of Sale Development Agreement” between the city and G8.

State board will not decide on approving Mason City downtown project today, cites concerns about hotel developer

MASON CITY — Mason City officials were hoping today was the day the Iowa Economic Development Authority’s Board of Directors would give their final approval to the $39 million River City Renaissance downtown redevelopment project, but the state board has now notified city officials that will not happen because of concerns raised about the developer of the hotel portion of the project.

Development Services Director Steven Van Steenhuyse in a memo sent last Friday to supporters of the project stated that the IEDA board would consider approval of the project as part of the state’s Iowa Reinvestment Act program.

Mason City woman who entered Alford plea to child endangerment wants sentencing hearing closed to public

MASON CITY — A woman who worked as an in-home daycare provider in Mason City and entered an Alford plea to child endangerment earlier this week now wants her sentencing hearing closed to the public after discussion of a protest has surfaced on social media.

31-year-old Tawny Symonds was arrested last December and charged with second-degree sexual abuse, sexual assault, and child endangerment causing bodily injury. Police said Symonds used to run an in-home daycare where she victimized one of the children who was under the age of three.

Jury convicts woman of murder in teen’s starvation death

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – A jury has convicted an Iowa woman of murder in the starvation death of her 16-year-old daughter.

Jurors reached their decision Thursday afternoon, finding 43-year-old Nicole Finn guilty of first-degree murder, kidnapping and child endangerment in the October 2016 death of Natalie Finn. The West Des Moines teen weighed only 85 pounds when she died.

State officials to decide on Mason City downtown project funding

MASON CITY — The Iowa Economic Development Authority’s Board of Directors meets Friday in Des Moines and will likely make a decision about Mason City’s application for support on a $39 million downtown redevelopment project.

The River City Renaissance project includes the construction of a hotel in the southeastern part of the main Southbridge Mall parking lot, the renovation of Music Man Square into a convention center complex, a new Meredith Willson Museum to be placed next to the hotel,

Mason City schools look over Iowa School Report Card results

MASON CITY — Mason City Community School District officials are praising the district’s results in the latest Iowa School Report Card report issued this week.

The School Report Card measures each school’s performance over a two-year period on measures of achievement, including student proficiency rates in math and reading, academic growth, narrowing achievement gaps among students, college and career readiness, student attendance, graduation rates and staff retention.

The Harding and Hoover elementary schools moved from a rating of “needs improvement” to “acceptable”. Remaining at the same level from last year were the high school, which is rated acceptable, and Lincoln Intermediate and Roosevelt Elementary, which were rated “needs improvement”.

Wage complaints lead to investigation of Cedar Rapids hotel

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) – Federal investigators are looking into complaints from several employees of the Clarion Hotel & Convention Center in Cedar Rapids that they have not been paid in weeks.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division is investigating the complaints.

Choice Hotels, which franchises Clarion Hotels, says the Cedar Rapids hotel has been dropped from its system and can no longer operate under the Clarion name.

Group says state not spending enough money on anti-smoking programs

DES MOINES — A new report shows Iowa only spends a small fraction of the money it gets from cigarette taxes and the settlement with tobacco companies on anti-smoking programs.

John Schacter, director of state communications for the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, says Iowa initially used most of its yearly allotment from the landmark lawsuit to help smokers quit and to keep youth from starting, but no more.

Iowa cover crop incentive: “A step in the right direction”

DES MOINES, Iowa – Planting cover crops now could save Iowa farmers money in the future.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship recently kicked off a three-year project aimed at increasing acres of cover crops and improving water quality in the state.

Aaron Lehman, president of the Iowa Farmers Union Aaron Lehman, says the program offers a $5-per-acre premium reduction on 2018 crop insurance for farmers who have fall-planted cover crops with a spring-planted cash crop.

CWD testing by DNR delayed

DES MOINES — The Iowa Department of Natural Resources says the testing of deer tissue samples for Chronic Wasting Disease is being delayed by a lack of test kits. DNR spokesman Mick Klemesrud says they seen delays in a couple of areas. “The labs that have the kits — like Colorado State that does have some — are getting inundated by other places that are trying to get their samples tested as well, so that’s kind of slowing it down there, a bottleneck out there. And then Iowa State is waiting for a supply of kits,” Klemesrud says.

Weapon, drug charges against central Iowa man after traffic stop in Clear Lake

CLEAR LAKE — A Greene County man has been arrested on weapon and drug charges in Cerro Gordo County.

The Cerro Gordo County Sheriff’s Department says shortly after 11:15 last night, a deputy made a traffic stop near the intersection of 4th Avenue South and South 40th Street in Clear Lake for a vehicle towing a trailer with no license plate. The department says 37-year-old Jason Clark of Churdan was arrested for driving while under suspension and having an open container.

High winds cause grain bin damage at Hancock County co-op

BRITT — High winds blew the roof off a grain bin at a co-op near Britt yesterday morning, causing the bin to collapse onto power lines and knocking out power to the area.

North Central Co-op site manager Tom Grant says 10,000 to 15,000 bushels of grain spilled onto the ground when the bin collapsed. Part of 225th Street was blocked off due to debris and a downed wire.

January 9 the target date for release of governor’s tax plan

DES MOINES — Governor Kim Reynolds aims to reveal details of her tax plan when she delivers the annual “Condition of the State” message to legislators on January 9, 2018.

The Republican governor, though, has been waiting for Republicans in congress to pass their tax plan.

“What happens at the federal level will have a big impact on what we’re able to do at the state level and so we’re watching very closely,” Reynolds said Wednesday.

GOP candidate Corbett calls for legalized sports betting, if court allows

DES MOINES — Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett, a Republican candidate for governor, says the state can raise millions in new taxes for the mental health system by legalizing sports betting.

The move, though, depends on a pending U.S. Supreme Court opinion.

“By most of the legal analysis…it looks like the court will rule in favor of states,” Corbett said, “and that will present an option or an opportunity for the State of Iowa to get into sports betting.”

Coalition proposes $1.50 hike in Iowa’s tobacco tax

DES MOINES — A coalition of 19 groups is calling on Iowa’s governor and legislators to more than double the state tax on tobacco products. Stacy Frelund, the state government relations director for the American Heart Association, said Iowa’s tobacco tax ranks 29th among the states and hasn’t been raised in a decade.

“Iowa’s tobacco prevention and control program has actually seen significant cuts the last couple of years,” Frelund said this afternoon. “Last year, we had over $1 million that was cut out of that program. and it’s one of the most significant cuts we’ve had in recent years and it’s really changed how a lot of the services are provided in our state.”

Push by farm organizations for 2018 action on water quality funding

DES MOINES — Farm groups are pressing Iowa lawmakers to find a “long-term” source of tax dollars for state programs that prevent soil and fertilizer run-off from farmland and improve the quality of Iowa water.

Matt Steinfeldt of the Iowa Farm Bureau says it’s his organization’s top 2018 legislative priority.

“Farm Bureau members are going to be focusing on water quality and soil conservation funding,” Steinfeldt says.

Ex-Glenwood center worker guilty of mistreating resident

GLENWOOD, Iowa (AP) – The first of six former Glenwood State Resource Center workers charged with mistreating facility residents has been convicted of abusing a severely autistic man.

24-year-old Kayla Stevenson was convicted Tuesday in Mills County District Court of wanton neglect of a resident. She faces up to two years in prison when she’s sentenced.

Business Council commitment about boosting ‘talent pipeline’

DES MOINES — A coalition of large Iowa businesses with a quarter of a million employees is promising to offer 30,000 internships and apprenticeships for students as well as “externships” for teachers by 2025.

Ruan Transportation Management Systems CEO Ben McLean (pictured), the chairman of the Iowa Business Council, said it’s part of the effort to get more skilled workers to fill job openings.

Casey’s see impact on sales from stormy October weather

ANKENY — The Ankeny-based convenience store chain Casey’s reports second quarter earnings of $1.28 per share, which is down 16 cents compared to the same quarter last year.

Casey’s Chief Financial Officer Bill Walljasper says increased expenses for labor were part of the reason for the lowered earnings. The company failed to meet its goal for increasing the sale of prepared foods. He says the continued storms in October were a big reason.

Clear Lake man who hit cyclist last year faces new charges

MASON CITY — A Clear Lake man who pleaded guilty to hitting a bicyclist with his car while high on drugs last year is facing new charges in Iowa and Minnesota.

37-year-old Nicholas Horst pleaded guilty back in March after hitting Gary Beach with his car while Beach was riding his bicycle on Main Avenue in September 2016. Beach was dragged more than 150 feet according to police. Horst was sentenced up to five years in prison but has filed an appeal in the case.

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