One of Mason City’s largest employers is facing a walk-out. Some 96-percent of the workers at Holcim Cement Company have authorized union leaders to call for a strike if labor negotiations break down before their contract expires at midnight Wednesday night. PACE Union Local President Michael Dunn says talks are still underway on three major issues in an attempt to avoid a strike. Dunn says little progress is being made in the negotiations. Dunn says Holcim is trying to eliminate overtime payments for working over eight hours in a day and eliminate premium pay for employees working on a Sunday, there are issues regarding the healthcare coverage for retirees. Dunn says workers believe that Holcim needs to up the ante with the company’s retirement healthcare packages. Dunn says the elimination of overtime and premium pay would be a burden for Holcim employees. Holcim spokesman Tom Chizmadia says the company is making its best attempt to negotiate a new contract.Holcim’s Mason City plant manufactures seven types of cement and has been a part of the community for almost a century and employs about 170 people.
Archives for June 2004
A new report from one of Iowa’s largest insurers shows more Iowa kids are being diagnosed with A-D-D and being treated with prescription drugs. The latest so-called “Wellmark Report” finds an 83 percent increase in the use of drugs prescribed to Iowa and South Dakota kids diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder between 1999 and 2003. In 2003 alone, Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield paid out nearly six-and-a-half million dollars for about 86-thousand prescriptions to treat kids in Iowa and South Dakota who’ve been diagnosed with the disorder. Wellmark officials say over the past five years, the price of drugs to treat the attention deficit disorder has doubled, but that increase can be attributed in part to new drugs on the market that can be taken once a day. That means the kid doesn’t have to take his prescription drugs at school. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids who have difficulty paying attention, are in constant motion or who act and speak without thinking.
State and local investigators are trying to find out more about how an Iowa Department of Transportation inspector died Monday at a Des Moines construction site along I-235. Construction continued today in the area where 55-year-old Bobby Lee Derrickson of Earlham was hit and killed by a loader. Just a few hundred yards away at the D-O-T’s main office for the I-235 reconstruction project, spokesperson Dena Gray-Fisher says they can’t say much about the details of what happened until the investigation is complete. She says they D-O-T in the meantime is doing all it can to assist in the investigation. Gray-Fisher says counselors have been talking with D-O-T workers and contractors on the project. She says it’s a very difficult time for the organizations as there’s a lot of shock among those who’re working on the project and those who’ve worked with Derrickson . Derrickson had been with the D-O-T for three years. He also was a snowplow operator in the winter and a member of the Earlham city council. Fisher says Derrickson’s death was the first at a construction site, since two D-O-T workers were killed in an accident near Hanlontown about two years ago. She says workers are given safety training, and understand the risks of working in construction areas. She says there’s a lot of heavy equipment involved and you’re working close proximity to the equipment, making it very dangerous. Gray-Fisher says the I-235 reconstruction is the largest single project in the history of the D-O-T.
Former Iowa Barnstomer quarterback Kurt Warner is returning to Iowa for the first time since joining the New York Giants. Warner’s First Things First Foundation will hold the “Hope for the Future” banquet on Friday, July 16, 2004 in Des Moines. Funds raised at the event will benefit the Iowa outreach of First Things First, which helps single mothers move into their first homes. The two-time NFL M-V-P was released by the St. Louis Rams on June first and then signed a two-year contract with the Giants.
Two Newton men face several felony counts of theft after the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office searched a home on Monday. Douglas Krier and Keith Stephen are both charged with three counts of second-degree theft, possession of stolen property, and on-going criminal conduct. Officers found over 20-thousand dollars in stolen property at the Beltline Drive home. The property had been stolen during three recent burglaries. A large amount of construction equipment recovered has been identified by victims of the thefts. Additionally, a stockpile of high dollar tools and equipment was discovered. A search for the rightful owners is underway. Krier and Stephen are being held in the Jasper County Jail. This morning, the county magistrate set their bond at 75-thousand dollars each.
Some northeast Iowans are being warned to be on the lookout for a door-to-door salesman selling what may be tainted meat. The Buchanan County Sheriff’s office is seeking a man driving a blue truck with a blue freezer compartment who recently approached county residents. The man claims to represent Prairie Food Distributing. The sheriff’s office is saying there is a possibility the meat may not be safe for human consumption. Deputies were unable to provide a further description of the man or truck or whether the meat had been tested. Anyone who has encountered the salesman or who may have purchased the meat is asked to call the Buchanan County Sheriff’s office at (319) 334-2568.
The interim leaders of Iraq are threatening to declare martial law, a move that troubles some pro-democracy activists in the U.S., but it’s not a big worry to Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley. Grassley says “There’s a difference between martial law where everybody behaves themselves and Saddam Hussein’s police state where innocent people could have their arms cut off or be beheaded or put in jail forever just ’cause they didn’t look at Saddam Hussein in the correct way and worship him.” Grassley praises the handover of power from the U.S. to Iraq and trusts the new leaders in that nation. He says “They want democracy. They want everybody to participate. They want freedoms and I think they’re making the decision, not the U.S. government.” A U.S. Supreme Court ruling Monday ruled Americans and foreigners who’re being held as “enemy combatants” -do- have the right to challenge their imprisonment in court, a blow to Bush administration anti-terrorist policies. Grassley says times change and the government will have to change too. Grassley says the President was relying on previous decisions and thought the right thing was being done, but now, the Supreme Court’s ruling will have to be accepted and followed.
Waterloo officials have released more information on the illness that hospitalized the city’s police chief over the weekend. Paramedics were called to the home of Thomas Jennings Sunday morning on a report of an unknown medical problem. Emergency crews took Jennings to a local hospital, and later flew him to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. It was there where doctors determined that Waterloo’s 49-year-old police chief had suffered a heart attack. On Monday, Jennings underwent a cardiac catheterization, a procedure that’s done on patients being considered for heart surgery or angioplasty. According to a Waterloo police news release, the procedure was successful. Jennings remains hospitalized in Rochester. His condition is not being released.
There were tears of joy — and sadness — as an Iowa National Guard unit returned home on buses Monday afternoon. About 70 members of the Davenport-based 106th Aviation Battalion were released from duty after a brief ceremony following 18 months of service, 14 of those months in Iraq. At the welcome home ceremony, Governor Tom Vilsack remembered the soldiers from the unit who didn’t return.Two members of the unit, Bruce Smith and Paul Fisher, were killed. Vilsack praised those men saying they’ll never be forgotten and their bravery will continue to inspire others. At first there was anticipation, then excitement as the buses pulled up to the aviation unit’s headquarters. Captain Bob Hegland says the soldiers couldn’t be happier to see family and friends. Hegland says he returns with a mixture of excitement and sorrow after losing two of their soldiers and a third from the rest of the unit.While most of the returning soldiers greeted family, friends, and loved ones they had seen before, others kissed newborn babies they’ve never seen before. The unit was supposed to come home four months ago but had its tour of duty extended. Many of the soldiers say they’ll spend the next few days relaxing, having fun, and getting to know their families again.
Next week’s John Deere Classic near the Quad Cities will include three of the top ten finishers at this month’s U.S. Open. PGA Tour veteran Jeff Maggert has committed to play after a third place finish at the open. The number of top pros taking part continues to grow for a tournament that just a few years ago had difficulty attracting any. Tournament director Clair Peterson says moving to a new course was a big upgrade and that’s one of the factors. Vijay Sinhg is the defending champ and will return this year even though the tournament is the week before the British Open. He says just as exciting is having Nick Price play the tourney for the first time in 14 years.Mark McGuire will not be part of the field. The retired St. Louis Cardinals homerun king has said he is interested in competing someday on the Champions Tour but declined an invitation make his PGA debut next week. He says McGuire sent a reply that he still has concerns about his golf game being ready for the test. The first round of the Deere Classic is July eighth.