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Newscast 4.16.24: Sioux City Council adopts $637 million budget; Supporters of city employee Ghebrekidan speak up; Iowa police chief dismissive of state law allowing arrest of undocumented immigrants

Semehar GHebrekidan
Semehar Ghebrekidan

The Sioux City Council members in their Monday meeting terminated the development agreement with Lamb Arts to develop a downtown property into a new live theater venue.

The building has fallen into disrepair with a collapsed roof, and Lamb Arts have not paid the $350,000 dollar loan the city provided in 2017. Lamb officials were aiming to raise millions of dollars to renovate the former KCAU-TV building.

The council had given several extensions to the loan, but city officials said it was time to end the development agreement.

The city will take ownership of the property. Decisions on whether to level the building could be made in future weeks, while awaiting the outcome of insurance claims that are underway as a result of building damage.

Lamb for decades has been located in the 400 block of Market Street, and is now temporarily hosting plays at Morningside University.

Also in the council meeting, the members approved the financial budget for the 2024-25 year after months of discussions.

No one appeared from the public for the last chance to speak on the proposed budget, so the members quickly adopted the budget that totals $637 million, with a lessened property tax levy.

Of that amount, almost $249 million are devoted to the operating budget, while the other $389 million is for larger capital projects, including $328 million for a huge wastewater treatment plant project that’s about to start.

The proposed budget has a lessened property tax levy of $16.54 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. The financial plan hosts all city departments with 806 city employees.

Additionally, for the second time in a month several members of the community spoke up in defense of a city inclusion department employee who has been on administrative leave since late February.

Inclusion Liaison Semehar Ghebrekidan has retained an attorney as she works through whether her employment will be continued. She was the first person to serve in that position created by city leaders in 2021.

Mayor Bob Scott said Ghebrekidan supporters certainly could speak during the meeting’s public comment portion, but noted city officials could not publicly comment regarding confidential personnel matters. Scott said the city continues to want to “foster diversity and inclusion,” and supports the city’s Inclusive Sioux City Advisory Committee.

Dave Scott said Ghebrekidan has participated in many events that opened avenues for Morningside University students. Dave Scott said without people like Ghebrekidan, “Sioux City will remain stuck in time and be unable to provide people with new, edifying experiences.”

In other news, Iowa members of the Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force say they’re concerned about a new state law that will let state police arrest undocumented immigrants who were denied entry to the U.S.

The national group includes a handful of Iowa law enforcement leaders. Marshalltown Police Chief Michael Tupper is the co-chair of the task force.

Tupper says, quote, “This law will make the job of law enforcement more difficult. It will diminish public safety because it will cause people to needlessly fear the police. This law has severely harmed community relationships that took decades to build.”

Governor Kim Reynolds signed the bill into law last week, saying the Biden administration has failed to enforce immigration laws. The new law is set to take effect July 1. But a similar law in Texas has been held up in court as judges decide whether states should be allowed to enforce immigration laws.

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