Early Voting Available For June 7th Primary

Northwest Iowa — While the major political parties voted for Presidential candidates in the February 1st Iowa caucuses, Iowa does have a primary election as well, and that’s coming up on Tuesday, June 7th.
vote voting ballot
In northwest Iowa the election is to nominate party candidates for United States Senator; United States Representative, Fourth District; some State Senate seats; some State Representative seats; some County Supervisor seats; County Auditors; and County Sheriffs.

All Democratic voters will select a nominee to run for the seat currently held by Senator Chuck Grassley. The candidates are Thomas Fiegen, Robert Hogg, Patty Judge, and Bob Krause. On the Republican side, Senator Grassley is the lone candidate to file papers.

For the Congressional seat held currently by Congressman Steve King, the only Democratic candidate is Kim Weaver of Sheldon. On the Republican side, King is being challenged by Rick Bertrand of Sioux City.

For State Senator, District 2, Republican Randy Feenstra is running unopposed by either side.

For State Representative, Districts 1 and 3, Republicans John Wills and Dan Huseman respectively are running unopposed by either side. However, there are three Republican candidates for the District 4 chair. They are Jeff VanderWerff, Kevin Van Otterloo, and Skyler Wheeler. No Democrats filed.

In Sioux County, the only contested race is for Board of Supervisors, District 3, where Al Bloemendaal faces Rich Koele on the Republican side.

In Lyon County, the only contested race is for Board of Supervisors, District 3, where Mark Behrens faces Gerald Klinkenborg on the Republican ballot.

In O’Brien County there are three contested races on the Republican side. For the Board of Supervisors, in the District 1 race, it’s a four-way race with Sherri Bootsma, James De Boom, Michael Negus and Jerry Nieuwenhuis squaring off for the nomination. In the District 2 race, Kelly Ney will face John Steensma. And for the Sheriff nomination, Allen Schuknecht faces Todd Wood.

In Osceola County, there are two contested races on the Republican side. For Board of Supervisors, District 2, Doug Hensch faces Jayson VandeHoef. For the District 5 nomination, Ed Jones faces Merlin Sandersfeld.

No Democrats filed for any county office nomination in O’Brien, Lyon, Osceola, or Sioux Counties.

Absentee ballots are available now for the primary at your county’s auditor’s office and you can request them in person or by mail. If requesting by mail, the request must be on an official absentee ballot request form available at sos.iowa.gov or by mail by calling your auditor’s office.

You can also vote in person now at the auditor’s office. That’s basically just requesting an absentee ballot and then filling it out and immediately returning it in person. Election officials stress that you cannot take the ballot with you, however.

If you want to switch parties or if you’re not registered to vote, that’s done at the auditor’s office as well. Voting day registration is available in Iowa, but it is normally discouraged because it takes time.

Polls will be open from 7 AM until 9 PM on Tuesday, June 7th.

Sample Ballot Links:

Lyon County (right side of page near bottom)
O’Brien County
Osceola County (Democratic)      Osceola County (Republican)
Sioux County (scroll to the sample ballot section)

Alton Man Re-Sentenced To Life In Prison

Orange City, Iowa — An Alton man has been re-sentenced to life in prison for a 1976 murder, but this time with the possibility of parole.
Sioux County Attorney Thomas G. Kunstle says that 55-year-old John Walter Mulder, originally of Alton, was re-sentenced on May 11, 2016 in Sioux County District Court for the 1976 Murder of Jean Homan.

Mulder was found guilty of Murder in the First Degree before a jury in 1979 and sentenced to mandatory life without parole on February 2, 1979. Mulder was convicted after accused of shooting and killing 55-year-old Jean Homan while she was in her Alton bedroom on April 23, 1976. Immediately before firing at Jean Homan, Mulder aimed at her husband, Carl Homan, but the rifle misfired, says Kunstle.

This re-sentencing arose after the United States Supreme Court held that juvenile offenders cannot be sentenced to mandatory life imprisonment without parole even for homicide offenses. Governor Branstad commuted Mulder’s sentence to life with parole after 60 years. In 2013, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that the Governor’s blanket commutation was not right because each case required an individualized sentencing hearing.

Since Mulder has had several disciplinary violations during his 37 years in prison, including escape attempts, the court decided to re-sentence him to life with the possibility of parole after 42 years before he will be eligible for parole or work release. Mulder has 30 days to appeal the sentence.

More information from the Sioux County Attorney’s Office:

In 2015 the law changed relating to the service of mandatory minimum sentences by juveniles convicted of murder, setting out three alternatives for the courts in these so-called juvenile murder re-sentencings. They are:

  • Life without the possibility of parole;
  • Life with the possibility of parole after setting a minimum term of confinement before parole eligibility;
  • Life with the possibility of parole.

Since 1979, Mulder has served 37 years in prison. The State requested a sentence under paragraph (ii) above – life with parole after 45 years. Mulder requested life with parole under paragraph (iii) above. The State cited the following DOC disciplinary violations as reasons for a stricter sentence:

  1. On 1/17/1980, Mulder possessed a bomb precursor. Mulder had received charcoal from another inmate, which was stolen from the Furniture shop, and that Mulder felt the inmate was going to utilize it to manufacture gun powder and make a bomb. Mulder was 18 years old.
  2. Between June 1981 and April 1982, Mulder was involved with multiple instances of collecting money and possessing and arranging for drugs to be purchased and introduced into the prison. Mulder was 20 years old.
  3. On 8/22/1989, Mulder had an argument with his at-the-time wife, and escaped from medium custody from a South Dakota Penitentiary. Mulder fled on foot, did not turn himself in, and was apprehended a short time later. Mulder received a 10 year suspended prison sentence from South Dakota for escape, and was no longer able to be supervised out-of-state. Mulder was 28 years old at the time.
  4. Mulder was part of a 1998 tunnel escape attempt which was ongoing for “six” or “seven months” where inmates tunneled just before the exterior prison wall, and inmates were “very close” to getting out. Staff found drills, masonry bits, electric extension cords, goggles, dust masks, gloves, coveralls, candles, pry bars, hammers, alcohol, plexiglass and steel shanks, spurious guard uniforms, and a 20 gauge shotgun made from galvanized water pipe and pipe fittings. Mulder stated he “knew about the shanks and gun” and Mulder’s personal property, marked with his inmate number, was located within the tunnel.
  5. Between 7/26/2013 and 8/20/2013, Mulder and another inmate were utilizing an off-limits room, avoiding surveillance cameras, for inappropriate consensual sexual misconduct. Mulder was also 52 years old at the time.
  6. Throughout Mulder’s incarceration he has been found with marijuana, un-prescribed prescription medication, tobacco, and alcohol.

Shortage Means Opportunity For Nursing Students

Northwest Iowa — According to area nursing instructors, there’s no shortage of jobs in the nursing field, and the need for nurses is only going to increase in coming years.
Ruth Hobson is the Director Of Nursing Education at Northwest Iowa Community College in Sheldon. She tells us why the nursing shortage is forecast to become deeper.

She says the nursing shortage, while it sounds like bad news is actually a great opportunity for those interested in nursing.

She says while some colleges are doing recruitment specifically for nursing, at NCC, they haven’t had a problem keeping interest high and classes full. And she says a nurse can get a job practically anywhere he or she wants.

Dr. Deb Bomgaars, Director of the Nursing Program at Dordt College in Sioux Center says that they are trying a new strategy.

Dr. Bomgaars echo’s Hobson’s sentiment that there is great opportunity in northwest Iowa in the nursing field, and she has the statistics to back it up.

She says unlike some professions where graduates have to go where the jobs are, nursing graduates can pretty much decide where they want to live, and get a nursing job in that city before they even graduate. And she says that’s exciting to see.

SCAT Supper Is Monday

SCAT-1 1Sheldon, Iowa — People from Sheldon and the surrounding area will have an opportunity this coming Monday to support an organization that is always ready to answer the call when someone is in trouble.

The Sheldon Community Ambulance Team, or SCAT, will hold their annual fundraiser dinner Monday evening from 5:00 to 7:00 pm at the Lifelong Learning and Recreation Center at Northwest Iowa Community College.  SCAT Director Tracy Gorter says the dinner is being held in conjunction with a health fair.

For the past several years the SCAT fundraiser has been known as the SCAT Chicken Supper, but Gorter says this year they’re shaking things up a bit.

She says the proceeds from Monday’s SCAT fundraiser will be used toward the purchase of a piece of state-of-the-art equipment that will help SCAT more effectively treat cardiac patients.

Gorter talks about what this equipment can mean in the treatment of a patient.

Gorter says that, on behalf of the entire Sheldon Community Ambulance Team, she wants to invite everyone to come out and support SCAT at Monday’s fundraising dinner so that they can continue to answer the call with the best equipment available to help provide the best outcome for those who use their service.

Granville Fire Trucks Move To New Fire Station

Granville, Iowa — After many years of dreaming, planning, design, and construction, the City of Granville now has a new fire station.

Photo courtesy Granville Fire Department
Photos courtesy Granville Fire Department

We talked to Granville Fire Chief Greg Penning. He says the idea for a new fire station has a long history.

He says they actually had some property purchased, but the project fizzled and nothing happened for a number of years.
New Granville Fire Station Outside

He says that they didn’t end up using the land that they had originally purchased for the new station. He tells us what they decided and about how much the project cost.

Penning says the building is 150′ by 60′, which includes a 50′ x 60′ community room, bathrooms, kitchenette, office, gear storage, and truck bays.

He says unlike the old station, they have a safe place to get geared up to go out on a call.

He says they have room for expansion and training, and it’s more safe.

He says there are enough “thank-yous” to go around.

Penning says he also wants to give the residents of Granville and the surrounding area a big thank you as well.

Governor Approves New Statewide System For 9-1-1 Response

Northwest Iowa — That 9-1-1 surcharge we all pay each month on our landline and cell phone bill will soon be used to pay the first year’s lease on a new statewide emergency communications system.

Branstad with 911 Responders

Governor Terry Branstad has signed a bill into law that launches the effort to build a new statewide radio communications system for every law enforcement and emergency response unit in the state.

Emergency responders in New York City found they could not communicate effectively when terrorists struck the World Trade Center nearly 15 years ago. States around the country began building new radio systems so all emergency responders could communicate with one another. Iowa is among the last states to act. Branstad signed the bill into law Wednesday morning in Adel, since Dallas County will be the first to connect to the new system.

Iowa Public Safety Commissioner Roxann Ryan says the system will let first responders talk to one another during disasters and big events, like the Iowa-Iowa State football game.

The state of Iowa is providing a “baseline” radio network. Cities and counties would have to pay extra for add-ons that improve radio communications in basements and hallways.

The communications hub for four Des Moines suburbs will be the first city system to join the new network and Branstad expects other central Iowa agencies will be among the first to join.

The project’s total cost is estimated to be $58-million. The state will pay a yearly lease that costs nearly $4.4 million. The lease money in the first year will come from an emergency 9-1-1 charge Iowans pay on their land lines and cell phones.