Rock Rapids Marks One Year Since 2014 Flood

Rock Rapids, Iowa — It has now been one year since the northwest Iowa Flood of 2014. Earlier this spring we got an update on the flood recovery progress in Rock Valley from City Administrator Tom Van Maanen.
While things are going well in both Rock Valley and Rock Rapids, the situation is totally different in Rock Rapids says that community’s Mayor, Jason Chase. While Rock Valley only had two homes that were in the flood plain and qualified for the buyout program, Rock Rapids had many more, and will probably be a different-looking community when it’s all over.

He says that work is just beginning.

Mayor Chase says it was a different situation for the owners of the red-tagged “condemned” properties.

Chase says the buyout is a voluntary program and people can change their mind up until closing, but if they choose not to participate, depending on the property and the amount of damage incurred, they may still be fairly restricted as to what they can build there.

With around forty homes being torn down in a small community, there is obviously a housing shortage in Rock Rapids, says Chase.

He says some of those apartment tenants are temporary while they get their permanent housing finalized. Chase says as the new homes are built, people move into the old house that was vacated when the new home’s owners moved into their new home, and so forth. He says it’s just like the old puzzle game where you slide one piece and move the next into its spot.

He says there are some housing incentives including a $4000 incentive, tax abatement, efficient appliance chamber bucks, and a residential demolition program for houses that need to be torn down in the core of the city, but are not part of the buyout.

Chase says there’s piles of paperwork and they really need to have their ducks in a row to get reimbursed from Homeland Security and FEMA. He says after they’ve done phase one, he expects the remaining phases to go more quickly.

He says they’re also planning some flood-related changes to Island Park.

He says they hope to be able to let out a project for bids soon for a new shelter house behind where the zoo building was.

Chase says that considering the havoc that the flood raised in the community, they’re doing as well as can be expected a year later.

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Council To Hold Hearing On Vacating A Strip Of Land

New-Sheldon-SignSheldon, Iowa — The Sheldon City Council will meet Wednesday afternoon, June 17th at 4:30 with a public hearing on vacating a narrow strip of property in the Sheldon Crossing area. It is located between Prairie Trail Road and the east side of land owned by Larry and Vivian Rosenboom. If this strip of property is vacated it will be offered to the Rosenbooms for one dollar with several stipulations. They will be required to pay all legal fees and other costs and will be responsible for upkeep and maintenance of this real estate as well as upkeep of the right-of-way between this real estate and Prairie Trail Road.

In other business the council will consider the final reading of the new water and sewer ordinance, which proposes an average rate increase of three percent for these services.

The meeting’s consent agenda includes renewals or issuance of several liquor, wine and beer licenses. It also includes approval of an ambulance applicant and a salary and wage resolution for fiscal year 2015/2016

Wednesday’s Sheldon City Council meeting will be held at 4:30 pm in the upper level of the Sheldon Community Services Center.

Community Park Planning Committee To Meet Thursday Morning

city councilSheldon, Iowa — Sheldon’s Community Park Planning Committee will review and update plans for the new Community Park and Event Center when they meet this Thursday morning, June 18th at seven o’clock.

Recently the committee and Mike Bell representing the company developing the plans presented their ideas and heard comments from the public on those plans. Bell is returning to Sheldon for Thursday morning’s meeting and will present their preliminary plans for the proposed event center as well as other aspects of the park, at that time. They will also discuss the next steps to be taken in the process. The public is welcome to attend.

Thursday’s meeting will be held at 7 a.m. in City Council Chambers, which is located in the upper level of the Sheldon Community Services Center.

Unknown When Bird Flu Barns May Restart

bird flu barns
Several vehicles lined up at barns hit by avian influenza south of George

Northwest Iowa — The Iowa Department of Agriculture reported just one new case of bird flu last week, and says all the infected birds at the turkey facilities have been destroyed, and all but one of the chicken facilities have had their birds euthanized. Deputy Ag Secretary Mike Naig (Nayg like leg), told Radio Iowa recently that it will not be a quick process to put birds back at those sites.

(as he says)”It’ll vary from site-to-site. Depending on the facility, you could be looking at several months before some of these sites can have re-population, some may be sooner than that,” Naig says. “But it really is on a case-by-case basis, whether you are talking about a turkey site that is composting, whether you are talking about a large layer facility that has cages that need to be cleaned.”

There are 76 infected sites in 18 counties, and the long it takes to get them back up and running, the more money they stand to lose. But Naig says there’s not a quick answer on a when the sites can be back in business.

(as he says)”That is unfortunately a big question mark for a lot of folks out there. How long will they be out of operation and how quickly can they get back in operation again,” he says.

Naig says cleaning up the facilities takes more than a bucket of soapy water.

(as he says)”It can be quite complex — there’s a process that has to be gone through — dry cleaning and actually cleaning out and sweeping the cages out. And then a couple of other options that could be available, some spraying and disinfection and fumigation, those types of things,” according to Naig.

There are more than 31-and-a-half million birds that had to be destroyed after becoming infected. The U-S-D-A has more than 21-hundred staff and contractors working on the avian influenza situation here. More than 300 state employees have also participated in the disaster response at some point.

Story from Radio Iowa.

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Ernst Makes Good On Visits To NW Iowa

Rock Rapids and Sibley, Iowa — Senator Joni Ernst stopped in Rock Rapids and Sibley over the weekend. We were able to ask her about a number of topics, including the bird flu, country of origin labeling, and what she calls “EPA overreach”.
Joni Ernst Rock Rapids June 2015
She says even though we’re seeing fewer and fewer new cases of the bird flu, the response has just begun, and people she’s talked to have some concerns.

She says Country of Origin Labeling started as a good thing — a way to know where your meat was coming from and a way to make sure you were buying American meat.

However, Ernst says not all Republicans share her view, including Iowa’s other Senator, Chuck Grassley.

Ernst says she’s also concerned about what she calls “EPA overreach”. We asked her about some issues that the EPA has been concerned with in the past — agriculture dust and livestock methane. She says they are still concerns, and there are several others.

Ernst made these comments after her appearance at Popkes Car Care in Rock Rapids on Saturday, June 13th.

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Up To Ten Years Shaved Off Sentence

Spencer, Iowa — A Spencer man has had up to ten years knocked off his sentence after a hearing.
According to court records 23-year-old Christopher Fitzpatrick was serving a 45-year term after being convicted of Voluntary Manslaughter, First Degree Robbery, and Conspiracy to Deliver Methamphetamine in the death of 59-year-old Edward Kitto in September of 2012. The altercation happened in August of 2012. Fitzpatrick had been sentenced to ten years on the Voluntary Manslaughter charge, twenty-five years on the First Degree Burglary Charge, and ten years on the meth charge, with all sentences to run consecutively.

Fitzpatrick argued that he received ineffective counsel because his lawyer did not object to the court’s failure to abide by the plea agreement or object to the prosecutor’s failure to correct the court’s mistake.

Friday’s ruling means the Voluntary Manslaughter sentence and the methamphetamine sentence can be served concurrently.

Clay County Attorney Michael Houchins says that the re-sentencing stems from a misunderstanding. He says Judge Carl Petersen said that the plea agreement that was reached was mandatory on the court. But Houchins says that in this case, even though both parties were making the same sentencing recommendation, it was not binding on the court, and the court could have imposed another sentence allowed by law. The Iowa Court of Appeals said that because neither side’s attorney objected to the misstatement, Fitzpatrick needed to be re-sentenced.