Report: Sioux Healthiest County In Iowa

medical health caduceus_sxcOrange City, Iowa — A new report ranks a northwest Iowa county as the healthiest of Iowa’s 99 counties.  The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation releases the annual County Health Rankings.

Katie Wehr is a spokesman for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and she says that, coincidentally, the most and least healthy counties in Iowa are both on the western border of the state, and in fairly close proximity to one another.

Wehr says the annual rankings aren’t a contest between counties, but more of a tool or guidebook.

The report shows rural counties have higher premature death rates compared to urban counties. Also, rural counties have higher rates of smoking, obesity, child poverty and teen births, and higher numbers of uninsured adults than their urban counterparts. Large urban counties have lower smoking and obesity rates, fewer injury deaths and more residents who attended college.

That website, again, is

In addition to Sioux County being ranked number 1, Lyon County came in at number 4, while O’Brien and Osceola came in at number 40 and 42, respectively.

Firefighters Fight Barn Fire In Sheldon

Sheldon, Iowa — A barn was destroyed in a fire on Friday night, March 18, 2016 in Sheldon.

Sheldon Fire 3-18-16
Photo courtesy Tyler Whitcanack

According to Sheldon Fire Chief Jerry Meyer, about 10:16 PM, the Sheldon Fire Company was called to the report of barn on fire at the home of Jay Groot, at 821 Park Street. That’s about a block west of Washington Avenue on Highway 18. This is the same place to which fire crews were called on November 4th of last year. Last time the larger barn burned. This time it was a smaller one.

The chief says a Sheldon Police officer called it in. The chief says the barn was fully engulfed as they approached the scene. He says they used water and foam to fight the fire. He says steel roof sheeting made the fire harder to get at.

Meyer says 23 firefighters fought the fire, and no injuries were reported.

He says the cause of the fire is suspicious but undetermined.

Chief Meyer reports the barn was totaled.

He says they used about 8000 gallons of water and about 45 gallons of foam concentrate to fight the fire, and crews were on scene until about 1:38 AM.

Responding to the call were the Sheldon Fire Company, Sheldon Emergency Management, and the Sheldon Police Department.

Pellet Production At Mill Hoped To Start In April

Sheldon, Iowa — Construction continues in Sheldon on a $7.2 million expansion at Ag Partners.
New Pellet Tower at AGP - March 2016
If you’ve been driving through Sheldon, perhaps you’ve caught a glimpse of the new white tower on the west side of Old Highway 60. That’s the building for Ag Partners’ new pellet mill. Ag Partners’ Vice-President of Feed, Scott Lovin, gives us a construction update.

He tells us why they built the 140-foot pellet tower.

According to information released about a year ago, the facility will include a 60-ton per hour pellet line, and a six-ton mixer. This will increase total capacity to 600,000 tons of meal feed annually and 300,000 tons of pellets.

Lovin says they may be adding five to ten employees as volume grows to keep Ag Partners in front of the demand for the production of pellets. He says they hope to be up and running by mid-April, and a ribbon-cutting and open house will be announced as construction wraps up and production begins.

Koontz Officially Ends Tour Of Duty

O’Brien County, Iowa — Emergency services personnel from all over northwest Iowa gathered Friday morning to remember and celebrate the life of O’Brien County Emergency Management Agency Director Anne Koontz, who passed away unexpectedly earlier this week, at her home in Sanborn.

Emergency Vehicles Line Up At East Lawn Cemetery To Honor Anne Koontz
Emergency Vehicles Line Up At East Lawn Cemetery To Honor Anne Koontz

Koontz had headed the O’Brien County EMA since April, 1984, when she left a position as Executive Director for Sioux-Lakes Emergency Medical Services, a position she had held since 1979.

Her funeral, which was held at 10:30 Friday morning in Sanborn was attended by a large number of emergency services personnel, not just from O’Brien County, but throughout the area.  The procession from First Presbyterian Church in Sanborn to East Lawn Cemetery in Sheldon, where Anne was laid to rest, consisted of numerous emergency and law enforcement vehicles from across the region.

At 12:01 pm Friday, the O’Brien County Communications Center activated the pagers of all of the County’s emergency services personnel, with this message, “Attention all stations and all personnel.  Effective March 14th, 2016, Anne Koontz made her final call, and is now out of service.  She will be missed, but never forgotten.  12:01.”

FEMA Reverses Denial of Assistance After 2013 Ice Storm

ice power lines sxcNorthwest Iowa — The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, has reversed an earlier denial of disaster assistance to three rural electric cooperatives and one municipal utility in our area, according to Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s office.

An April 2013 ice storm caused millions of dollars in damage to electrical utility lines in five Iowa counties: Dickinson, Lyon, O’Brien, Osceola and Sioux. The damage was so extensive that a Presidential Disaster Declaration was issued on May 6, 2013. On Aug. 30, 2013, FEMA denied the request for funding in the amount of $19 million to restore downed utility lines in those five counties. In issuing the denial, FEMA initially said the utilities did not conduct comprehensive laboratory testing to verify the damage was a direct result of the disaster.

On Dec. 24, 2013, the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management submitted an appeal to FEMA, asking for reconsideration of their denial of funding for the impacted rural electric cooperatives. HSEMD filed the appeal in conjunction with Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative, Lyon Rural Electric Cooperative, Osceola Electric Cooperative, and Sanborn Electric and Telecommunications Utility.  That appeal was denied in April 2015 and in August 2015, HSEMD submitted a second appeal. This second appeal has finally been granted.

By granting this second appeal, federal Public Assistance funding will be able to be used to replace conductors on the applicants’ electrical distribution systems, according to the Governor’s office.

Iowa Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds says she’s pleased that, after originally denying funding, FEMA listened to the concerns of Iowans and have reversed their original decision, which, she says, will go a long way to aiding the three rural electric cooperatives and one municipal utility in Northwest Iowa.”  Reynolds says the importance of this decision cannot be undervalued.

Chuck Soderberg, executive vice president of the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives, says he’s thankful to Gov. Branstad, Lt. Gov. Reynolds and the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for submitting the second appeal to FEMA.  He says this funding is greatly needed to the three electric co-ops that were affected and it allows them continue providing reliable and affordable power to their member-owners.

Lawsuit Filed In Pizza Ranch E. Coli Sickness

Pizza Ranch wagonOrange City, Iowa — A lawsuit has been filed in federal court against the Pizza Ranch after 13 E. Coli cases were linked to the Orange City-based restaurant chain.

The lawsuit, which was filed by the family of a 7-year old Kansas girl, says the child became severely ill from E. Coli after eating at a Pizza Ranch.  The lawsuit seeks $750-thousand in damages.

In a prepared statement, Pizza Ranch Chief Administrative Officer Ryan Achterhoff says the restaurant chain is very concerned whenever there’s a question about the quality of their food.  He says that’s why the company acted proactively in early February when they first learned of a possible issue with one of their ingredients and why they take the filing of this lawsuit very seriously. Achterhoff says they’re thankful that the Centers for Disease Control has determined that this outbreak is ended.  Achterhoff says the company’s commitment to the safety of their guests and to the wholesomeness of every meal they serve is unwavering.