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NEWS 4.5.23: IA Government restructuring concerns, NE Economic Development Director steps down, Siouxland grants, and more

A major change to Iowa's state government is now law and causing some concern.

Gov. Kim Reynolds signed her nearly 1,600-page government reorganization plan into law on Tuesday. It will reduce the number of Iowa's state agencies from 37 down to 16.

The governor says it will save the state roughly $200 million and streamline government.

KCCI-Television in Des Moines reports some state workers, worry about what it means for state employees that will be moved to other departments.

Blind Iowans have pushed back on the plan, in which the governor would be in charge of appointing the director for the Iowa Department for the Blind. Currently, the Iowa Commission for the Blind appoints the director. Blind Iowans are worried that the change would make their department political and leave their voices out of the process.

House Democrats are proposing several pieces of legislation aimed at lowering costs for everyday Iowans.

They include efforts to help people afford childcare and college tuition, cap the cost of insulin, expand affordable housing, and lower home utility costs.

Democrats are calling on the Republican majority to work with them to advance these proposals. They say it’s the right time to pursue these policies as lawmakers have started working on the state budget.

Gov. Jim Pillen’s office announced the “immediate resignation” of one of his cabinet members on Wednesday.

Tony Goins, director of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, has stepped down.

Goins’ sudden departure comes days after a recent article in the Nebraska Examiner that raised conflict of interest issues.

Meanwhile, Senator Geist resigned her seat in the Unicameral to focus on her campaign. Gov. Pillen plans to appoint her replacement tomorrow afternoon.

Three Siouxland projects have each been awarded $750,000 in economic recovery funding, according to a recent announcement from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development.

The Sioux City Journal reports the Center for Rural Affairs, Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska and the City of South Sioux City are among 14 recipients receiving a total of $10 million in American Rescue Plan Act State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds. The projects are all within Qualified Census Tracts (QCTs) in Greater Nebraska.

The Nebraska Department of Economic Development received applications for 30 projects totaling over $30 million in requests.

Dordt University has received a $75,000 grant to develop an accelerated online master’s degree program for STEM teaching.

The “Labs to Classrooms” project will help upper-level undergraduate science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) students and adult STEM professionals receive teaching licensure, according to a Dordt news release.

Dordt plans to create a master’s of arts in teaching program, as well as improve the content and knowledge of STEM teachers in the region.

“The highest subject area shortages of teachers are in the STEM disciplines,” said Ryan Zonnefeld, professor of education and co-principal investigator for the project. “Dordt’s mission has always been to serve the broader community, and an MAT program broadens this service”

Steve Holtrop, director of graduate studies, Ryan Zonnefeld, and Valorie Zonnefeld, professor of mathematics, were investigators for the project titled “Exploration of a Labs to Classrooms Teaching Fellowship Program for Career-Changing STEM Professionals.”

A federal appeals court has dismissed a challenge that Louisiana and other Republican-leaning states filed against a Biden administration environmental policy. Wednesday's decision leaves in place the administration's formula for calculating damages to people and the environment from greenhouse gas emissions — a factor in developing regulations. A federal judge in Louisiana had ordered a halt to the administration's approach early last year. But the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans blocked the judge's order and the Supreme Court declined to intervene. On Thursday the appeals court threw out the case, saying the challenging states have not shown that the regulations caused them harm.

The felony assault case against former Nebraska interim head coach and assistant Mickey Joseph was dismissed because the alleged victim refuses to testify. Joseph had faced a charge of assault by strangulation or suffocation in connection with a November domestic disturbance at a Lincoln home. A preliminary hearing was scheduled, but prosecutor Erica Pruess told Lancaster County Judge Laurie Yardley the alleged victim said in an email she wouldn’t testify. The alleged victim now lives in Arizona. Pruess said a law enforcement officer unsuccessfully attempted seven times to serve the subpoena compelling the alleged victim to appear.

President Joe Biden has scrapped the idea of inviting to the White House the NCAA champion Louisiana State women’s basketball team along with Iowa’s players, who lost the title to LSU. First Lady Jill Biden suggested such a nontraditional scenario on Monday. But the social media pushback to her suggestion was swift and unexpected by her staff. Her spokesperson said Tuesday that the first lady looks forward to welcoming LSU. Iowa's star player, Caitlin Clark, says Louisiana State shouldn’t have to share the spotlight. The president tweets that both LSU and the winner of the NCAA men’s basketball title, the University of Connecticut, showed "the best of what this country can be.”

Submitted news releases:

Governor Pillen Accepts Resignation of DED Director

LINCOLN, NE – Today, Governor Jim Pillen accepted the immediate resignation of Department of Economic Development (DED) Director Tony Goins. Governor Pillen thanks Director Goins for his honorable service to our country as a United States Marine and wishes him and his family the best.

The Governor’s office will have further communication concerning future leadership for the Department of Economic Development in due course.

Red Cross Calls for Volunteers to Install Free Smoke Alarms

SIOUX CITY, IOWA, APRIL 5, 2023  Every eight minutes, the American Red Cross responds to a disaster in the U.S., the majority of which are home fires. Tragically, seven people die nationally in home fires each day, most in homes that lack working smoke alarms. This spring, the Red Cross is rallying volunteers across the country to install free smoke alarms during its Sound the Alarm home fire safety events.

On April 22, the Red Cross, working with the Sioux City Fire Department, Unity in Action and other community partners, is holding a smoke alarm installation event in South Sioux City, Nebraska. Volunteers will visit neighborhoods and install free smoke alarms, replace batteries in existing alarms and help families create escape plans.

Volunteers are needed to help with the event. No previous experience is needed and all training is provided on site. Those interested in volunteering can emailjennifer.meyer3@redcross.org.

“Neighbors vulnerable to home fires need your support today to prevent needless tragedies,” said Tammy Lee, Executive Director of the Red Cross of Northwest Iowa-Northeast Nebraska. “You can help families by ensuring they have working smoke alarms and know how to stay safe from these everyday disasters. Please join us to volunteer and raise funds to support our free, lifesaving services.”

Residents wanting to have smoke alarms installed should visit redcross.org/smokealarmNE.

Sound the Alarm Installation Event

April 22, 2023 – 10 a.m.-.1 p.m. (Volunteers meet at 9 a.m.)

Staging Location: South Sioux City, NE 68776

Visit SoundTheAlarm.org to learn more.

About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

 SIOUX CITY, Iowa – April 4, 2023 – Beginning at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, April 12 until Oct. 20, weather permitting, U.S. 75 northbound traffic between Hinton and Merrill will be shifted onto the southbound lanes in a head-to-head traffic pattern. A 13-foot-four-inch lane-width restriction will be in place and drivers won’t be able to make left turns in the work zone.

Help keep everyone on the road safer. Drive with caution, obey the posted speed limit and other signs in the work area, and be aware that traffic fines for moving violations are at least double in work zones. As in all work zones, you should stay alert, allow ample space between vehicles, and wear seat belts.

The latest traveler information is available anytime through our 511 system. Visit 511ia.org; call 511 (within Iowa) or 800-288-1047 (nationwide); stay connected with 511 on Facebook or Twitter (find links at https://iowadot.gov/511/511-social-media-sites); or download the free app to your mobile device.

It’s easy to subscribe to Your 511 and sign up to receive email/text alerts. Visit https://new.511ia.org/#login to sign up. For instructions and help with this feature, visit https://www.511ia.org/help/section/how-to-create-and-manage-a-511-account.html.

Gov. Reynolds Announces More than $8 Million to Help Five Companies Advance Water Conservation Efforts 

DES MOINES – Gov. Kim Reynolds today announced that $8.3 million in matching grants have been awarded to assist five companies in upgrading water infrastructure at Iowa manufacturing and industrial facilities in Boone, Davenport, Dubuque and Fort Dodge. The awards were made through Iowa’s Water Infrastructure Fund (WIF).

The funds will assist in upgrading systems to reduce the heavy demand placed on the state’s surface and ground water resources and will lessen the local utility’s need to treat wastewater that is used for industrial purposes.

“Iowa has a long history of innovation to improve water quality and sustainability, and these projects continue that legacy,” said Gov. Reynolds. “We rely on our land and water to provide for Iowa’s future generations, which is why we remain focused on protecting, preserving, and restoring Iowa’s water resources.”

These awards are a part of Gov. Reynolds’ historic $100 million investment in water infrastructure and water quality efforts for the State of Iowa aimed at reducing excess nutrients, improving public health, promoting reuse of water and wastewater, and providing significant economic benefits to communities and the state. Project Details:

AgCertain, Boone WIF Grant: $3,915,000 AgCertain in Boone is a food, agricultural and bio-based product development, manufacturing and marketing company that will use WIF funds to implement a reverse osmosis system to meet the water needs for the existing facility and projected expansion. The project is estimated to reduce water usage from the City of Boone by nearly 85%, lower water transportation costs by more than $1.2 million per year.

Arconic, Davenport WIF Grant: $2,205,277 Arconic produces fabricated aluminum products, serving the aerospace, automotive, packaging, building and construction, commercial transportation and industrial markets. Arconic’s water reduction project will utilize water filtration and Reverse Osmosis (RO) units to reclaim and reuse spent process wastewater from its production process. The company estimates that this project will reduce their water withdrawal by nearly 77%.

CJ Bio, Fort Dodge WIF Grant: $1,857,442 The CJ Bio plant in Fort Dodge produces the amino acids that are added to swine and poultry feed. A byproduct of this process also allows plant to produce a liquid soil amendment that adds nitrogen back to the soil. This project will include a large-scale reverse osmosis (RO) water purification system. The company estimates that this project will reduce their water draws from the City of Fort Dodge by approximately 600,000 gallons/day and their wastewater discharge by approximately 760,000 gallons/day.

Hormel Foods, Dubuque WIF Grant: $57,813 Hormel Foods is a food products manufacturer specializing in a variety of shelf stable meat-based products. The WIF grant will be used to implement utilization of excess reverse osmosis concentrate water that is currently being sent to the industrial wastewater system, which will increase system efficiency, reduce chemical usage and lower costs. The company estimates that this project will reduce their water demand from the City of Dubuque by 9% and their wastewater discharge by nearly 12%.

Prairie Farms, Dubuque WIF Grant: $275,350 Prairie Farms Dairy is comprised of more than 600 farm families throughout the Midwest and is a producer of high-quality dairy products. Prairie Farms will use the $275,350 WIF grant to upgrade its Dubuque location to a new energy efficient compressor system to reduce incoming City water to the plant and reduce discharge to the City’s wastewater treatment system. The upgraded system is estimated to reduce annual water costs by $85,000.

View award details here.

Gov. Reynolds Issues Disaster Proclamation for Marion and Warren Counties

DES MOINES -- Today, Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a disaster proclamation for two counties in response to the April 4 severe weather. The governor's proclamation allows state resources to be utilized to respond to and recover from the effects of this severe weather in Marion and Warren counties.

In addition, the proclamation activates the Iowa Individual Assistance Grant Program for qualifying residents, along with the Disaster Case Management Program, for those counties. The Iowa Individual Assistance Grant Program provides grants of up to $5,000 for households with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Grants are available for home or car repairs, replacement of clothing or food, and temporary housing expenses. Original receipts are required for those seeking reimbursement for actual expenses related to storm recovery. The grant application and instructions are available on the Iowa Department of Health & Human Services website at https://dhs.iowa.gov/disaster-assistance-programs. Potential applicants have 45 days from the date of the proclamation to submit a claim.

The Disaster Case Management Program addresses serious needs related to disaster-related hardship, injury, or adverse conditions. Disaster case managers work with clients to create a disaster recovery plan and provide guidance, advice, and referral to obtain a service or resource. There are no income eligibility requirements for this program; it closes 180 days from the date of the governor's proclamation. For information on the Disaster Case Management Program, contact your local community action association or visit www.iowacommunityaction.org.

Residents of counties impacted by the recent severe weather are asked to report damage to help local and state officials better understand the damage sustained. Damage to property, roads, utilities and other storm-related information may be reported. This information will be collected by the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and shared with local emergency management agencies. Damage may be reported at www.homeland security.iowa.gov.

A copy of the proclamation can be found here.

TO: Siouxland News Media

April 5, 2023 For Immediate Use


All-America Concert Band to present “Shades of Blue” April 29

(SIOUX CITY, Iowa)—The Morningside University School of Visual and Performing Arts presents the All-America Concert Band “Shades of Blue” concert, Saturday, April 29, 7:30 p.m. in Eppley Auditorium, 3625 Garretson Ave. Admission to the concert is free.

Dr. Martin Gaines, director of instrumental activities at Morningside University, is the conductor of the All-America Concert Band, assisted by Associate Conductor Braeden Weyhrich. This concert will feature “Blue Shades” by Frank Ticheli, “Elegy for Miles Davis” by Richard Bennett, “St. Louis Fantasy” by Peter Shaars, as well as marches by John Philip Sousa and Edwin Goldman.