October 22, 2014

Evansdale middle school closed by fire

Fire forced the evacuation of the Bunger Middle School in Evansdale.

Fire forced the evacuation of the Bunger Middle School in Evansdale.

Fire forced the evacuation and early dismissal of students at a Waterloo-area middle school today.

Firefighters were called to Bunger Middle School in Evansdale when a school resource officer noticed smoke in a hallway. Evansdale Fire Chief Kent Smock says the school’s nearly 400 students and 50 faculty members were evacuated safely and taken to a nearby church.

When firefighters arrived, Smock says they encountered heavy smoke in a school hallway. “It took a while to find the (source of the) fire simply because we had to go through so many rooms and you couldn’t see anything inside,” Smock said. Because there were so many rooms to check, Smock said fire crews from nearby Waterloo, Raymond and Gilbertville were called in to assistance.

The fire was eventually discovered in a girl’s restroom and was quickly extinguished. Because of the type of fire and the amount of damage to the school, the State Fire Marshal is being called in to help determine the cause. “There’s extensive fire damage in that bathroom, but the fire damage was confined to that bathroom. Probably 50 percent of the school has some pretty extensive smoke damage, while the rest has minor to moderate smoke damage,” Smock said.

Classes at Bunger were called off for the day around 11 a.m. There is no school at Bunger on Thursday or Friday this week, due to conferences. Waterloo School officials expect classes to resume at the Evansdale school, as scheduled, on Monday.

(Story and photo by Elwin Huffman, KOEL-Oelwein)


Students escape serious injury in Fort Madison bus accident

School-BusA school bus, carrying dozens of children, collided with an SUV this morning in southeast Iowa. Nicole Baker, transportation director for the Fort Madison Community School District, says the bus was carrying 39 students.

None of them were seriously injured. “One of the students later complained of a sore arm. They paid attention to her during the day at school and the parents will get back to me if something develops out of that,” Baker said. “The bus driver, about an hour after the accident, started to not feel well. She had a headache and her shoulder hurt, so she went to the hospital to get it checked out.”

The driver of the SUV was cited for not having car insurance and could face more charges. “It appeared the automobile driver ran the stop sign and the school bus was unable to stop or avoid the accident,” Baker said. The crash happened shortly after 8 a.m. The bus was carrying K-through-6th grade students who were bound for Holy Trinity Elementary School.

Baker said the students boarded another bus and continued to school. This week is National School Bus Safety Week, so students in the Fort Madison district having been taking part in bus evacuation drills.


Republican Rand Paul campaigns in Iowa; Vice President Biden returning Monday

Rand Paul

Rand Paul

Big names from both parties are visiting the state in the final weeks before the November 4th election. Kentucky U.S. Senator Rand Paul is in Iowa to rally support for Republican candidates up and down the ticket. Speaking today at the University of Northern Iowa on behalf of First District candidate Rod Blum, Paul says he believes Republicans will do well in the upcoming election..

“In Kentucky where I’m from, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate can’t remember who she voted for for President, and then you come to Iowa and everybody comes here campaigning for the Democrat but they can’t remember his name either, ” Paul says, “I really do wish the best to Bruce Bailey well, I hope that Bruce Bailey does well.”

Paul was making reference to an appearance by First Lady Michele Obama earlier this month when she called Bruce Braley “Bruce Bailey.” Senator Paul has several appearances scheduled in the next day and a half including one to endorse Republican Joni Ernst in the U.S. Senate race.

Texas Governor Rick Perry will be in Marion tomorrow for a campaign rally with Ernst. Braley’s campaign reports Vice President Joe Biden will appear with Braley in Davenport on Monday.

Winnebago County doubles bounty to deal with beaver problem

The Winnebago County Board of Supervisors has doubled its bounty on beavers after having troubles with the animals building dams in their drainage districts. Farmers there have already removed a dam built into one drainage ditch and are hoping to catch the beaver before he builds another one.

Winnebago County Conservation Board Chairman Robert Schwartz says the beavers don’t waste time in reconstructing a dam. “You can tear out a dam and it’ll be back the next day, we’ve seen that, it’s not unusual. They says ‘busy as a beaver’ for a reason, they get a lot of work done in a short time,” Schwartz says.

He says the dams take time to remove because they are built of wood from the banks of the streams and rivers and sometimes even oak trees.

He says you generally find the soft woods along the streams, but they will cut down an oak tree and use it too.

Schwartz says relocating the beaver is not an option. “You know if it’s a wildlife species that’s maybe uncommon, protected or endangered, you might see some of that. But no, they aren’t going to relocate most common game species in Iowa,” Schwartz says.

The man who used to handle the beavers for the county retired and now the supervisors have doubles the beaver bounty to $50 as they look for trappers to catch the animals. The trapper has to bring in the tail of the beaver to the county auditor to collect the bounty.

(Reporting by A. J. Taylor KIOW/KHAM, Forest City/Britt)

Beware of bogus World Series tickets and Ebola email scams

With Game Two of the World Series tonight in Kansas City, many Iowans are planning road trips if they can snap up deals on tickets. Jim Hegarty, with the Better Business Bureau, says if you’re shopping at an online ticket broker, proceed with extreme caution.

“I would really make sure to check their reputation, look for reviews,” Hegarty says. “You can check the BBB to see if they’ve met our standards. Make sure the website has a secure payment processing system.” If you’re trying to buy Royals-Giants tickets through an online auction house, Hegarty says to make sure the seller is legit and has a long history of satisfied customers.

Iowans also need to watch for suspicious email about the Ebola outbreak. Hegarty says scammers are sending out mass emails that bill themselves as containing an important health update. “People are really curious, they want to know what’s going on and they’ll click on those,” he says, “and those can contain malware that can install some nasty stuff on your computer.”

Hegarty says Iowans who want to donate money for relief efforts in Ebola-stricken areas should only do so through reputable charities.


Low income heating program provides protection from utility shut off

thermostatWinter is getting closer as the month of October winds down and a spokesman for the Iowa Utilities Board says low-income Iowans want to be sure they are signed up for heating assistance programs.

Board spokesman Rob Hillesland says the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program can provide some help. “It’s also known as LIHEAP, and they also have an associated weatherization assistance program, which can help people weatherize their homes — for basically winter — but also for year-round and help them to be more energy efficient,”

Hillesland says LIHEAP is a federally funded program and you can qualify based on your income. “It’s not intended to pay for all of their winter heating costs, but it will provide them some assistance,” Hillesland explains. “And then related to that, between November 1st through April 1st, Iowa has a winter disconnection moratorium.”

You must be qualified for LIHEAP to be covered under the disconnection moratorium. “Qualified customers cannot be disconnected for nonpayment of their bills,” Hillesland says. “Of course, we still encourage people to pay what they can throughout the winter, otherwise they are going to be stuck with a large bill in the spring, and that can easily result in disconnection at that time.”

You can sign up for LIHEAP through you local Community Action Agency or online at www.dcaa.iowa.gov. Hillesland says the weatherization program is a way to ensure you are getting the most out of the money you are spending on heating and cooling. “They can actually go in through the weatherization program, and if they find that a furnace is in really bad shape, they can actually replace that. And they can help with various other things like better insulating the home,” Hillesland says.

You can also find information on the LIHEAP and weatherization programs on the Iowa Utilities Board website.


Website calls Iowa a top place to retire

Wanna-be retirees may dream of swaying palm trees and gentle ocean breezes but it turns out, they should be thinking about Iowa instead. Hawaii ranks as the number-one destination for retirees, according to a study being released by MoneyRates.com, but Iowa is second on the list.

The investment website rates the states based on several criteria like crime rates, economy, weather and senior population growth. Iowa did well in all categories, especially the low crime rate. Perceived retirement meccas like Florida and Arizona ranked 4th and 6th respectively behind Idaho at number 3 and Vermont was 5th.