July 24, 2014

U.S. Attorney seeks information from victims in DeCoster egg case

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Iowa is looking for people who may’ve been impacted in the Quality Egg case in Wright County. Spokesman Peter Deegan explains what they are seeking. “We’re looking to contact anyone who believes they were sickened from eggs that were distributed by Quality Egg, LLC from about the beginning of 2010 to August of 2010, due to eggs that were contaminated with Salmonella,” Deegan says.

Deegan says they are looking for information to use in the sentencing of the two owners of the egg company. Seventy-nine-year-old Austin “Jack” DeCoster of Turner, Maine, and 51-year-old Peter DeCoster of Clarion each pled guilty to one count of introducing adulterated food into into interstate commerce in federal court in Sioux City.

Deegan asks anyone who believes they ate some of the bad eggs should contact them.”Visit our website at the U.S. Attorney’s office that’s at: www.justice.gov/usao/ian, or contact our victim witness coordinator, Shari Konarske at 319-363-6333,” Deegan says.

He says they will take the needed information when you contact them. “Right now we are asking anyone who believes they were sickened to go ahead contact us, and we’ll gather the information and take the process forward from there,” according to Deegan. The information provided by victims will be used to help determine the sentences given the DeCosters.


Work on electric lines during hot day raises concerns in Cedar Rapids

Some Cedar Rapids residents raised concerns after their power was shut off Tuesday on one of the warmer days of the summer. Alliant Energy spokesman, Ryan Stensland, says the power was shut down as part of planned repair to upgrade some power lines. “It impacted about 300 people, and the question has come up as to why we didn’t postpone it for a day or wait a week or whatever. And the answer is it was a system-reliability issue,” Stensland says.

He says they felt it was important to prevent even more unplanned power outages. “While we can go short periods of time in having part our system down or maybe not functioning at 100 percent — we did not want to extend that any longer than necessary,” Stensland says, “because it would not only impact those 300 customers, but it could impact many more customers in the area if something were to occur on the system.”

The work on the northwest side of the city started around 9:30 in the morning. Stensland says the potential for severe weather was also a factor. “And obviously when we are making these type of repairs and if we weren’t to complete the work it would leave our system vulnerable,” Stensland. “And given the warm weather we were having in addition to the potential for storms maybe moving through the area, that just makes our system that much more vulnerable if we don’t

make those repairs when we needed to.”

Stensland says the work was planned to take seven hours, but crews were able to get things done in about four hours.


Survey finds Latino children most likely to be uninsured

Information from the annual Kids Count survey released Tuesday shows Latino children in Iowa are more than three-times as likely to be uninsured than their white and black counterparts. Five years ago the number of uninsured black and Latino children in Iowa was about equal at a little more than 10 percent.

Joe Enriquez Henry, the director of the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa, says the state of Iowa has failed to promote healthcare within the Latino community. “I think the difference is that within the African-American community is that you have several generations of families that understand how access health care and other programs. Whereas within the Latino community you have a lot of young families, some are just first generation. They may not understand how the system works,” Henry says.

Henry recommends the state approach parents through their children’s school or by mailings, instead of using the internet, since fewer Latinos have access.


State wins grant to continue substance abuse recovery program

The Iowa Department of Public Health has won a three-year grant of nearly $8 million for a program to help people overcome substance abuse. Kevin Gabbert is the project director for what’s called Access to Recovery or ATR. “Because every person in the recovery is different, a key component to our program is choice,” Gabbert explains. “And so with ATR, the individual receiving the service chooses what services they want to be involved in from a variety of our providers.”

Gabbert says providing support services to those in recovery can be key to helping them succeed. “Basic things like transportation — so gas cards and bus passes. Child care so an individual can go to treatment services in the evening or go to a 12-step meeting. Some of those basic things that might have been barriers otherwise if they had not had access to ATR,” Gabbert says.

The program has been running since 2010, but its grant money was running out. “There was a new grant application process that was initiated in 2014. We applied and were one of six grantees out of 30 applicants,” Gabbert says. Gabbert says they’ve seen success with the percentage of individuals not using alcohol or drugs six months after admission increasing from over 73.3 percent to 82.3 percent from 2010 to this year.

He says they expect to serve 7,000 people with the new grant. “Individuals can come to us from a variety of different referral sources. It could be from the Department of Corrections, it could be from a primary care provider, it could be from the Department of Human Services, the list just goes on and on,” Gabbert says. “Individuals can just walk into one of our care coordination providers which we have across the state.”

For more information about Access to Recovery, visit the Iowa Department of Public Health’s website.



Supply trumps international issues to push gas prices down

Gas-pumpGasoline prices can be impacted by international events, but the military action in Israel and the downing of the Malaysian airliner have not led to an increase. Department of Agriculture analyst Harold Hommes says gas prices have been falling. “Basically around a dime from that 3.37 mark here in the (Des Moines) metro area, and I think that’s been pretty much replicated throughout the state. Falling nine or ten cents in the last two weeks,” Hommes says.

Hommes says a big reason for the drop is that the refineries are running without interruption. He says the refineries have had extremely low turnarounds or construction down times. “Barring a catastrophic situation, which we’ve not had, those are usually handled in pretty good fashion where industry covers for each other so that nothing gets missed if you will,” Hommes says. “Refinery production is running right at 100 percent right now, so the situation is as about as good as we could ask for.”

Hommes says the price of a barrel of oil did move up slightly from last week with the international news, but he says the good supply of gasoline has overridden concerns.

“There’s as much downward pressure on refined gasoline prices as there is upward,” according to Hommes. “The upward momentum if you will, or pressure is coming mostly from market psyche if you will, in that those are things that don’t necessarily really affect supplies in a fundamental stance.”

The drop in gas prices comes as the summer driving season is still in full swing.


Ashton man sentenced to 5 years on child pornography charge

A northwest Iowa man will spend five years in federal prison on a pornography charge. Twenty-two-year-old Todd Techen of Ashton pled guilty to one count of distribution of child pornography in April of this year.

Techen admitted that between 2012 and 2013 he knowingly distributed child pornography. Techen was sentenced to 60 months in prison and will have to be listed on the sex offender registry. His case was part of the nationwide “Project Safe Childhood.”


Rally calls for bringing children entering U.S. illegally to Iowa

Several hundred people gathered at a rally in Des Moines Monday night advocating for Iowa to offer refuge to thousands of children from Central America entering the country illegally at the southern border.

Wendy Vasquez of Des Moines was at the rally and plans to travel with nine other Iowans to Washington, D.C. later this month to protest the children’s detention and deportation. “Think about your own children. What if your children had no food, no future? Think about your children and what you would do for them. If it were them, would you welcome them in your country? Yes, you would,” She says.

Governor Terry Branstad said last week he has empathy for the children, but said they should not come to Iowa because they had entered the country illegally. The Democratic candidate for Governor, Jack Hatch, said it’s time to form a non-partisan “Iowa Coalition of Mercy” to discuss how the state can respond to the “humanitarian crisis” of unaccompanied kids from Central America who’re walking into the U.S.

The U.S. government estimates up to 90,000 unaccompanied children will enter U.S. this year.