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NEWS 4.8.21: Sioux City Aviation Center Boost, Migrant Children, Broadband Support, and More

City of Sioux City

The Sioux Gateway Airport will receive $1,000,000 from the U.S. Department of Commerce to help build a local flight school. The $7,000,000 project includes hanger and office space and is expected to create 43 new skilled jobs. The aviation center will partner with area schools and colleges to provide education and training opportunities, including a fully accredited flight school. Construction is expected to start this year.

The former location of Sears at the Southern Hills Mall will be transformed into a family entertainment center. The mall says Tilt Studio is expected to open next year and offer mini-bowling and golf, bumper cars, laser tag, video games and event rooms. Sears in Sioux City closed in March of 2019.

Gov. Kim Reynolds says the state was asked to take in children who are being held at the U.S. border with Mexico. 

The Department of Health and Human Services reached out to ask the state to house migrant children and Reynolds declined. 

The governor told a Des Moines radio station, Iowa does not have the facilities and her priority is to protect the health and safety of Iowans.

According to The Associated Press, nearly 19,000 children traveling alone were stopped at the Mexican border last month.

Many migrants are fleeing poverty and violence in Central America.

The Iowa Department of Human Services is considering policies to encourage more staff members at its six facilities to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

The most recent numbers from the department indicate 36 percent of employees have declined the vaccine.

A department spokesperson  said the state is considering requiring employees to use their own paid time off to quarantine if they are exposed to the virus once the vaccine is more widely available.

According to a Des Moines Register Iowa Poll released last month, 27 percent of Iowans say they do not plan to get the shot.

The Iowa Department of Public Health reports one more death due to complications of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours. There were 666 new cases, including another 23 cases in Woodbury County.

Nebraska colleges and universities are encouraging students to get vaccinated for the coronavirus, but they won’t require the shots before students return to campus in the fall.

A growing number of younger people are being hospitalized with the coronavirus in Nebraska as more variants spread in the state.

Nebraska health officials said the average age of hospital patients declined to 51 in March from 61 in January.

Officials said the age is also shifting lower because a significant number of older people have been vaccinated.

The speaker of the Iowa House Pat Grassley says he expects Governor Kim Reynolds to sign a $450-million plan to expand broadband connectivity and high-speed internet access.  The state Senate passed the proposal this week. 

It sets up matching state grants for broadband projects with download speeds of 100 megabits per second and a minimum upload speed of 100 megabits per second where services are not currently available. At least 20 percent of the grants must go to projects in difficult-to-serve areas.

Asked about paying for the project, Grassley said on a conference call with reporters today Republicans will set aside 100 million dollars for the plan in next year’s state budget. 

“We are in a good position, we feel that would really be an aggressive first step, and significantly higher than anything else we have even considered in the legislature.”

The bill’s manager says the financial details depend on an update tomorrow from the State Revenue Estimating Committee, and the final amount Iowa is allocated from the latest federal pandemic relief bill. 

The Iowa House is advancing a budget proposal that would increase funding for education programs by more than 24 million dollars, but it would not increase support for the state’s three public universities.

Iowa State University, the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa had requested increases ranging from 4 to 18 million dollars, along with funding to restore cuts made last year.

The bill now goes to the full House House Appropriations Committee.

A jury has convicted a 71-year-old Spirit Lake man of second-degree murder for the May shooting death of another man in a rural northwestern Iowa home. The Sioux County prosecutor says Gregg Winterfeld was found guilty on Wednesday for the May 9 killing of 58-year-old Grant Wilson, of Cleghorn. Winterfeld was tried on a count of first-degree murder, but the jury found him guilty of the lesser count. Winterfeld faces up to 50 years in prison when he's sentenced at a later date. Sheriff's investigators say Winterfeld shot Wilson at a rural Ireton home during an argument after they and a woman had spent the day drinking at the home. Winterfeld’s attorney had argued that Winterfeld acted in self-defense.

News release from the City of Sioux City:

City Receives EDA Grant for New Aviation Facility

The U.S. Department of Commerce announced today that the Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is awarding a $1 million grant from the Public Works Economic Adjustment Assistance Program to the City of Sioux City. The grant will assist with the construction of a new $7 million aviation facility on City-owned land at Sioux Gateway Airport/Brigadier General Bud Day Field.

The project will include the construction of a new 39,400 square foot aviation center with a flight school, two hangar bays and two stories of office space, and is expected to create 42 new skilled jobs. The aviation center will partner with area schools and colleges to provide education and training opportunities, including a fully accredited flight school.

The City will construct and own the facility and is currently in negotiations with a tenant to bring forward a proposal for a long-term lease agreement in the next 30 days.

The new aviation center is expected to provide a significant increase in the number of airport operations, add needed hangar space, support the 185th ANG, and help broaden the employment base. The collaboration of industry and education will increase skill levels and provide a solid foundation for Sioux City’s growth in the aviation industry.

“This is an exciting project for Sioux City as we anticipate an increase in aircraft activity with the new flight school at Sioux Gateway Airport,” said Mayor Bob Scott.

Construction of the new aviation facility is anticipated to begin this year.

Sheila Brummer returns to her radio roots as a Reporter/Special Projects Producer for Siouxland Public Media KWIT-KOJI.
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