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Newscast 3.13.24: Latest delay bumps Woodbury County jail opening to May; Voters approve & defeat 2 school bond issues; Report shows 16% of Iowans short of meeting financial needs

Woodbury County Law Enforcement Center
The Woodbury County Law Enforcement Center building is show in October 2023 as construction continues towards a planned opening in spring 2024.

The opening date for the new Woodbury County Law Enforcement Center has again been delayed, with the opening now estimated for mid-May.

Building a new county jail on the northeast edge of Sioux City was approved in a March 2020 bond issue vote. The new jail was at one point projected to open in September 2023, but some overlooked work cropped up, and April 9 was then set as the hoped-for opening date.

However, on Tuesday county officials said an inspection did not meet expectations, so the new date is mid-May.

In a news release, the Woodbury County Law Enforcement Authority, the group that oversees the project, said additional mechanical work needs to be done and blames an engineering firm for the problem.

The current jail in downtown Sioux City has many electrical, plumbing and other problems, so the new facility was pursued. The cost for the new jail and courtroom building has greatly increased from $50 million to nearly $70 million dollars.

Woodbury County Board members have previously picked a Des Moines law firm to investigate whether the delayed jail opening would cause financial harm to the county.

In other news, there were two large-dollar school bond measures before Northeast Nebraska voters on Tuesday, and one passed, while another did not.

Both required simple majority votes to be approved, and the proposal for the Bancroft-Rosalie School District got a 55 percent affirmative vote. That passage means school officials can borrow bonds to pay for a $19 million dollar project to add classrooms, a gymnasium, music room and other facets.

The bond issue defeat marks the second failed attempt in two years in the Crofton School District. The new measure on Tuesday was for $12.5 million dollars, but it only got a 40 percent affirmative vote. The proposal would have made improvements at the high school and elementary buildings.

Additionally, a new report estimates one in six full-time workers in Iowa earn below what is needed to cover the cost of basic needs.

That information came from a report by Common Good Iowa, a nonprofit group that advocates for families and children.

The report found while overall Iowa has seen strong wage growth in the past few years, inflation has outpaced those gains.

The report found a great disparity for Black and Latino Iowans. It estimates one-third of these workers cannot cover their families’ basic needs.

Sean Finn, a policy analyst with Common Good Iowa, said one reason is due to historical policies that contributed to systemic racism like redlining, which has had lasting effects.

*Also, several bills of note in the Iowa Legislature this week have moved forward or died.

One bill that would create a pilot program to offer state tax rebates for movie and TV productions to film in Iowa advanced in the Iowa House. The bill would create a two-year $10 million pilot project starting in 2025 that offers tax incentives to those who want to film productions in the state.

An official with the Renovo Media Group, a studio based in Clear Lake, said filmmakers have passed over shooting in Iowa for other states and countries that have incentives.

As for a bill that will die, Republicans on the Iowa House State Government Committee have declined to advance a bill affecting the state auditor’s office.

The bill passed by Senate Republicans would allow state agencies to opt out of being audited by the state auditor and instead hire private firms to perform audits.

State Auditor Rob Sand, a Democrat, has said the bill would further open the door to government corruption by letting agencies choose their auditors.

A second bill has also died, after a Republican Senate committee chairman didn’t bring it up for a vote. That was a bill that critics feared could impact in vitro fertilization.

The bill that passed the House would increase existing criminal penalties for terminating or seriously injuring a pregnancy without the pregnant person’s consent. And it would change the law’s wording from “terminates a human pregnancy” to “causes the death of an unborn person.”