A Station for Everyone
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Newscast 4.10.24: Completion date for Woodbury County Jail switches back to May; Iowa abortion ban goes to court; Iowa bill would put more restrictions on traffic camera use; Solar energy gains seen in South Dakota

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 moving target for the completion of the Woodbury County jail facility continues to bounce around. After some delays kept bumping the completion forward in time, now officials are saying a reversal should have it done by mid-May.

The governing body of the jail project, the Woodbury County Law Enforcement Authority, held a meeting Tuesday, and late in the day put out a release that gave a timing update. The authority said the prior announcement of recent days that the jail would be done in June has been updated, so now the best estimate is Mid-May.

Ron Wieck is the authority chairman. The release said the county continues to be financially damaged by the delayed completion, which at one point was planned for September 2023. The Woodbury County Board of Supervisors, who hold the task of paying for the jail that has risen from a cost of $54 million to $70 million, have retained an attorney firm to look into pursuing damages from contractors or others involved in the work.

Hausmann Construction is the main contractor for the project. Some delays have resulted from needed building elements, such as fire dampers, being inadvertently left out of plans.

The release said some construction tasks have a deadline of April 17, and the state’s sole jail inspector is tentatively slated to inspect the facility on April 19.

Additionally, the Iowa Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments Thursday about Iowa’s law that bans most abortions after a so-called fetal heartbeat is detected, as early as six weeks of pregnancy.

The law isn’t being enforced while the legal challenge plays out, which means abortions in Iowa are still legal up to about 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Last year, a tie vote by the Iowa Supreme Court prevented the so-called fetal heartbeat abortion ban passed in 2018 from taking effect.

So Republican lawmakers held a one-day special session in July to pass the abortion ban again. Republican Governor Kim Reynolds says she’s optimistic the Court will let the law take effect.

Planned Parenthood challenged the law, arguing that it would ban the vast majority of abortions and put women’s health at risk. The Court is expected to issue a ruling by the end of June.

In other news, cities would have to get permission from the Iowa Department of Transportation to have traffic cameras that automatically lead to speeding tickets under a bill that has passed in the Iowa House.

The bill would also require signs notifying drivers of the cameras, plus tickets couldn’t be issued unless drivers go at least 10 miles per hour above the speed limit.

Republican lawmakers have worked for many years to ban speed cameras, but they’ve repeatedly failed to get enough support.

Republican Representative Phil Thompson of Boone said current traffic camera systems ar, “being abused across our state.”

The bill passed 85 to 12 with support and opposition from both parties. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Additionally, South Dakota for years has lagged well behind other U.S. states for production of solar power. But the launch of two large solar farms and availability of new tax incentives create the possibility the state might soon see a hotter market for solar, South Dakota News Watch is reporting.

The solar industry in the state received a jolt when a medium-sized solar farm began producing electricity near Hot Springs last fall, and a large solar farm became operational on two square miles near New Underwood in March.

Until last year, South Dakota had only one small utility-scale solar farm near Pierre, and solar accounted for 0.01% of the state's overall power generation.

The two new solar farms are tapping into substantial clean energy tax incentives in the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act that are in place for developers of solar generation facilities. The tax breaks come at a time when energy companies are moving away from coal-fired plants and power providers are seeking to diversify the sources of energy they purchase.

However, industry experts say while renewable energy options are gaining, the American power grid will continue to rely partly on coal and natural gas, due to their ability to generate power on a consistent basis, South Dakota News Watch reports.