October 25, 2014

Pheasant season has prospects for better success this year

Pheasant rooster along fence.

Pheasant rooster along fence.

The annual pheasant season opens Saturday and the man who keeps track of bird counts across the state believes it could be a good one. DNR pheasant biologist, Todd Bogenschutz says the survey numbers shows a rebound in bird numbers in the August count.

“I am expecting hunters should see some more birds and that we’ll see an uptick in hunter numbers. I think the crop harvest is going to make it a challenge, with the late planting and then the wet weather we’ve had has really put them behind,” Bogenschutz says.

Crops give pheasants a place to hide. “When the crops are standing, they’ll pretty much stay there all day,” Bogenschutz says. He says if the crops are out, they will go out to feed in the morning and midafternoon and then they go back to grassy cover areas.

Saturday and Sunday could be big days for hunters. Bogenschutz says 30 to 40-percent of the total harvest happens during the first two weekends and nine days of the hunt. “We might see…somewhere around 50 to 60,000 birds harvested in the first nine days or so,” Bogenschutz says.

With farmers still in the field, there’s some added safety concerns. He says both the hunters and the farmers out in the fields should be aware and he says hunters should be wearing blaze orange. Bogenschutz says hunters in a group should be sure to have a plan and stick with it.

Hunters harvested 10,000 more pheasants in 2013 than 2012 despite record low survey counts. Bogenschutz says the harvest this year could get as high as 300,000.

Hunting hours for Iowa’s pheasant seasons are 8 a.m. until 4:30 each day. The daily limit is three rooster pheasants. The season closes on January 10th.


Former U-I employee given probation on mail fraud charges

A former University of Iowa employee will not serve prison time after admitting to mail fraud. A U.S. District Court judge sentenced 37-year-old Jennifer Whitmore-Meier of Avon, Colorado to three years probation after she plead guilty to three counts of mail fraud.

Court records show Whitmore-Meier was an I-T consultant for the University of Iowa Hospitals between 2003 and 2011 when she purchased 567 items with university funds without approval. She then sold the items on-line for more than $122,000.

She also admitted to buying personal items online and paying for their shipping with university funds.


Volga man charged with sexual abuse

James Miller

James Miller

A northeast Iowa man is facing charges for allegedly sexually assaulting a woman. The Fayette County Sheriff’s office has charged 58-year-old James Miller of Volga with third-degree sexual abuse, assault with the intent to commit sexual abuse, and third-degree harassment.

Deputies claim Miller assaulted the victim several times in the Elgin area. If convicted of all charges, Miller would face up to 23 years in prison. The Clayton County Sheriff’s office is investigating claims that Miller also assaulted the victim in Volga.


State and local officials celebrate renovated beef plant in Tama

Jeffrey Johnson, CEO of Iowa Premium Beef and Governor Terry Branstad.

Jeffrey Johnson, CEO of Iowa Premium Beef and Governor Terry Branstad.

State and local officials held a ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday for the Iowa Premium Beef newly renovated Tama beef processing facility. Tama Mayor Dan Zimmerman says the plant will process Black Angus beef.

“The opening of Iowa Premium Beef represents the beginning of a dynamic economic growth period for the Tama community and the state of Iowa,” Zimmerman says.

The company spent $48 million to renovate the plant. “Iowa Premium Beef is all the more special because it represents the future growth with a foundation in Iowa’s agricultural heritage,” Zimmerman says. “This facility will impact the workforce here in Tama in a big way. In just a matter of a few days, it will put 600 employees to work at wages well above the minimum wage.”

He says the plant also has room for future expansion. “This facility has the potential to add over 300 additional workers — when operating at maximum production levels — for a total of over a thousand jobs. Jobs that we need here in Tama,” according to Zimmerman.

The mayor says the impact of the plant will go beyond the city. “At peak production this facility will have the capacity to process 2,000 head of cattle each day. Needless to say, this will provide a shot of adrenaline to our state’s cattle market,” Zimmerman says. Iowa Premium Beef says the vast majority of the cattle processed at the plan will come from within 150 miles of Tama.

(Reporting by Chuck Shockley, KFJB, Marshalltown/ Photo courtesy of Iowa Premium Beef)



Iowa Tourism hands out annual awards

Elk Horn Danish Windmill

Elk Horn Danish Windmill

Officials involved in the tourism industry across the state have been meeting this week in Council Bluffs. Iowa Tourism Office spokesperson Jessica O’Riley says the annual conference included an awards ceremony last night and the presentation of the “Outstanding Attraction” awards.

The winner in the metro category is the NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids, while the rural award-winner is the Danish Windmill in Elk Horn. All nominations for the awards are reviewed and scored by industry members. Awards to both metro and rural areas were made in twelve categories, including “Outstanding Event.”

The Iowa Craft Beer Festival in Des Moines and the Grinnell Games claimed Outstanding Event honors. Long-time Iowa Great Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce leader Tom Kuhlman was also honored at the event with the “Hall of Fame Individual Tourism Leadership” award.

“He is retiring and he sure has been a great supporter of the Iowa Great Lakes area,” O’Riley said. “He was involved in their Winter Games and getting the Queen II (excursion boat) to town. Almost everything that’s related to tourism in the Okoboji area, Tom had a hand in.”

The Hotel Pattee in Perry was recognized with the “Outstanding Lodging” award. “You know, it’s been opened and closed…and the new owners have done a fantastic job reopening that hotel,” O’Riley said. According to the Iowa Tourism Office, tourism in the state generates more than $7.75 billion in expenditures, employs 65,400 people statewide, and generates nearly $354 million in state taxes.

2014 Iowa Tourism Award recipients:
Outstanding Attraction
NewBo City Market, Cedar Rapids (Metro)
Danish Windmill, Elk Horn (Rural)
Outstanding Collaboration
WATTA WAY Tours, Council Bluffs (Metro)
Grinnell Visitors Bureau and Grinnell Hotel-Motel Tax Committee, Grinnell (Rural)

Outstanding Community
Cedar Falls (Metro)
Le Mars (Rural)
Outstanding Dining
The Prairie Canary, Grinnell (Rural)
Outstanding Event
Iowa Craft Brew Festival, Des Moines (Metro)
Grinnell Games, Grinnell (Rural)
Outstanding Lodging
Hotel Pattee, Perry (Rural)

Outstanding New Event
BACooN Ride, Waukee (Metro)
Field of Dreams 25th Anniversary, Dyersville (Rural)
Outstanding Niche Marketing Initiative
City of Ottumwa / Wapello County (Metro)
Living Loess, western Iowa (Rural)
Outstanding Promotion Material
Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau, Des Moines (Metro)
Perry Area Chamber of Commerce (Rural)
Outstanding Retail
Jaarsma Bakery, Pella (Metro)

Outstanding Social Media
Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau, Des Moines (Metro)
Grinnell Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau (Rural)
Outstanding Website
Council Bluffs Convention and Visitors Bureau (Metro)
Bellevue Area Chamber of Commerce (Rural)
Hall of Fame Individual Tourism Leadership
Tom Kuhlman, Iowa Great Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce, Okoboji
Hall of Fame Community Tourism Leadership
Cedar Falls
People’s Choice Award:
Iowa Great Lakes Region



Iowa Supreme Court rules out video testimony in Dubuque County case

Iowa Supreme Court building.

Iowa Supreme Court building.

The Iowa Supreme Court has overturned a lower court ruling that would have allowed witnesses in a Dubuque County case to testify via video link. Zacariah Rogerson wrecked his car on August 13th of 2012 and in the process three passengers in the vehicle suffered multiple injuries.

He was charged with four counts of unintentionally causing serious injury by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle. The state sought to have witnesses who lived out of state and officials with the state crime lab in Ankeny testify via a two-way videoconferencing system. Rogerson appealed, saying the videoconferencing would violated his Six Amendment right to confront the witnesses against him.

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that the state did not show any exceptional circumstances for using the videoconferencing testimony. And it said while technology now makes such testimony very close to a face-to-face confrontation, the court does not believe it is the constitutional equivalent of the confrontation envisioned in the Sixth Amendment.

See the full ruling here: Video testimony PDF


Vehicle airbag recall causes flood of calls to auto dealers

A lot of auto dealerships across the state are fielding calls from concerned car owners. That’s after federal officials have increased a recall to a total of 7.8 million vehicles equipped with Takata brand airbags. Dave Wright, of Dave Wright Auto in Cedar Rapids, told KCRG-TV that his receptionists are keeping busy on the phone.

“We’ve experienced several calls each day from customers with questions about how to handle the recall,” Wright said. The recall involves cars of many makes and models, manufactured from 2000 to 2008. Three million additional vehicles are being recall than previously announced. Safety experts said the airbag can explode, shooting shrapnel into the faces of the people in the car.

Now, dealerships are watching and waiting for updates, especially with the growth of that list of cars involved. “Nissan acknowledged it a year ago and have repaired or at least had the campaign so customers had the opportunity to come in as much as a year ago and have their airbags replaced,” Wright said.

Auto companies send out a letters to everyone impacted with instructions on what to do. If your car is on that list of recalls, it’s also important to remember that it does not typically include every single car made during that time frame. “If you provide your (vehicle identification number), we’ll run it, and we will be able to tell you if you are in there and if you need the part replaced,” Wright said.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the airbags are more of an urgent issue in places of high humidity and temperatures. So, it is especially urging people in warm-weather states to see that the problem is fixed quickly.

By Jill Kasperie, KCRG-TV