IL Offers Low Income Residents More Help with Propane

CHICAGO (AP) — The state of Illinois is offering more help to low-income households struggling to heat their homes because of a shortage of propane.  

Earlier this week, Gov. Pat Quinn declared the shortage in Illinois an emergency. He relaxed rules on truck drivers so they could travel out of state in search of propane supplies. On Friday, Quinn announced other steps, including an additional credit of $1,000 for each household taking part in a program that helps low-income residents with home energy bills. The governor says no one should have to choose “between feeding their families and heating their homes.” Continue Reading

Marion Group-Home Resident Died from Heat

MARION, Iowa (AP) — State records say a mentally disabled woman overheated and died inside a Marion group home that had been heat-treated for bedbugs.  

The Des Moines Register says 61-year-old Rhonda Skoog died at 29th Street Crest Group Home. She was found dead the morning of Aug. 30 last year, a day after superheated air was blown into the home, raising the temperature to at least 125 degrees. State records say home staffers were undertrained and unaware that Skoog’s diagnosed sensitivity to heat was aggravated by two of her medications. Continue Reading


Iowa’s Winter Has Been “Unusually” Cold

There’s a reason this winter feels as if it’s dragging from one endless arctic chill to another. State Climatologist Harry Hillaker said today his records show this winter has been unusually cold. Temperatures in Iowa between Oct. 1 and Jan. 23 represent the ninth coldest for that period in the past 121 years. Continue Reading

Dust Storm Closes Central IL Highway

CARLINVILLE, Ill. (AP) — An unusual dust storm forced authorities to shut down a five-mile stretch of a central Illinois highway because of low visibility.  

The (Springfield) State Journal-Register reports Friday’s dust storm near Carlinville caused several car crashes on Illinois 108. Drivers said they couldn’t see beyond their cars’ hoods. The road was closed for about four hours. Continue Reading

Muscatine Co. Sheriff Under Fire from Own Party

MUSCATINE, Iowa (AP) — The Muscatine County sheriff has refused to publicly disclose how he determined that no rules or policies were broken when a mentally ill jail inmate was repeatedly shocked with a stun gun last fall.  

Now, members of the sheriff’s own political party are calling for an independent investigation. The Des Moines Register reports that Sheriff Dave White has denied the newspaper’s repeated requests for documentation or interviews explaining his conclusion that no laws were broken and jail policies were followed when the woman, Marie Franks, was shocked four times in eight minutes during the Oct. 7 incident. Franks suffers from bipolar disorder and was off her medication at the time. Continue Reading

Hawkeye State in the Red…for Traffic Safety Laws

A national highway safety organization lists Iowa among the “worst states” for traffic safety measures.  

The group Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety evaluated the 50 states based on 15 “optimal laws.” Cathy Chase, Vice President of Governmental Affairs for Advocates, says Iowa has adopted only 5 of the 15 laws her group endorses. Iowa is one of 11 states to receive a “red” rating — meaning the states are “dangerously behind” in the adoption of Advocates’ optimal laws. One of the strikes against Iowa, according to the report, is the lack of an all-rider motorcycle helmet law. Continue Reading


Iowa Bike Summit Next Weekend; RAGBRAI Route on Itinerary

It’s the middle of winter but Iowa’s bicycling enthusiasts are already thinking about the summer ahead.  

The 10th annual Iowa Bicycle Summit will be held this weekend in Des Moines.   Mark Wyatt, executive director of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, says Friday is the first day of the gathering and it will feature guest speakers, an all-day workshop and breakout sessions on a host of bicycle-related topics.   The other half of the weekend is the Iowa Bike Expo, a free event on Saturday featuring more than 100 exhibitors. After the expo, there’s also the route announcement party for RAGBRAI, the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, on Saturday at 8 P-M. Continue Reading


Iowa Company Makes Good Use of Ash

An eastern Iowa company is turning a problem into an opportunity when it comes to firewood.  

Iowa Firewood Products of Preston uses three kilns to bake the moisture out of split wood to get it ready to burn, and it’s a process that also kills the emerald ash borer, allowing the wood to be shipped outside the quarantine put on to stop the spread of the ash borer.  

Derek Heiar  runs the company that’s the first to be licensed to export firewood beyond the quarantine, and he says recent mild winters left some dealers with piles of unsold firewood, but this year’s cold burned up supplies or left wood that was too green to burn.   Heiar says he moved out 225 semi loads of his processed firewood last year.   He says up to 15-percent of that came from threatened ash trees and it finds a use for the trees that are being removed. Continue Reading

Mortgages, Debt Collections & Cars Top Consumer Complaints List

Complaints about home mortgages and debt collection topped the list in the last year for the Consumer Protection Division of the Iowa Attorney General’s office.  

Bill Brauch leads the division and says over 300 of the complaints to his office involved home mortgages and 171 involved debt collection.   The total number of complaints did drop 10-percent last year to under three-thousand. Complaints about cars were third on the list.   That includes things like a car that may have been in a major wreck was fixed up and then sold the buyer without disclosure, or dealers charging fees that were not disclosed. Continue Reading