SIOUX CITY | Caught in the middle of an ongoing dispute between Woodbury County and Sioux Rivers, Siouxland Mental Health Center has lost its first choice of a site to upgrade a home that serves individuals with mental health issues.
In April, the Sioux Rivers Regional Mental Health and Disability Services Board agreed to a $675,000 expenditure for Siouxland Mental Health Center to move ahead with plans to move its Friendship House to a more modern building. But the same day, the board postponed formal action, SMHC's Friendship House Manager Kathy Roberts said.
The delay came as Woodbury County officials increasingly voiced their unhappiness with Sioux Rivers, a three-county mental health services delivery group that also includes Plymouth and Sioux counties.
The Woodbury County Board of Supervisors later voted to withdraw from Sioux Rivers, effective July 1.
Roberts has raised the status of the Friendship House multiple times at Sioux Rivers board meetings.
"Whether you guys are divorcing, we are the kids and you need to take care of us," Roberts told the board at its October meeting.
Denny Wright, who represents Sioux County on the Sioux Rivers board, responded at the same meeting: "Stay together (as a region), we'll move forward in a minute."
The Friendship House, which allows individuals with mental health problems to socialize with their peers in a setting that's not treatment oriented, is currently located at 1101 Court St., four blocks from Siouxland Mental Health Center main offices. The existing building is no longer ideal for providing services, Roberts has said for months.
In an interview Wednesday, Roberts said the delay in receiving funding has cost the organization its best option for buying a different building. The former Siouxland Blood Bank building in the 1100 block of Jackson Street has been sold to another entity because the seller could not wait for a decision from SMHC.
The situation has SMHC contemplating legal action. The agency's Sioux City law firm recently sent a "demand letter" to the Sioux Rivers board and to the Plymouth and Sioux county supervisors that the funds for the Friendship House be delivered.
Roberts and Siouxland Mental Health Center Executive Director Sheila Martin updated the Woodbury County supervisors on the matter Tuesday. In response to a question from Supervisor Jeremy Taylor, Roberts said she had not heard back yet from Sioux Rivers or the counties.
Taylor said the funding for Friendship House should be carried out, and that "it is unfortunate for (SMHC) to bring legal petition" in an attempt to force the issue.
The Friendship House, created in 1981, has authorized membership to more than 1,000 individuals since then. About 140 members socialize at the house each month, with an average of 40 members visiting each day.
For months, Woodbury County officials have described a poor working relationship with Plymouth and Sioux counties, which they say has necessitated an exit from Sioux Rivers.
In its place, Woodbury County has applied for membership in the Rolling Hills Community Service Region, a mental health group that includes seven counties to the east -- Buena Vista, Sac, Calhoun, Carroll, Cherokee, Crawford and Ida.
The Rolling Hills Community Service Region Governance Board is slated to vote on adding Woodbury County at the next board meeting on Jan. 24.
SIOUX CITY | Sitting on Ashley Jones' lap, Minnie shivered slightly. Her big, round eyes displayed maybe a little fright, or perhaps the little Chihuahua mix was just overwhelmed.
Minnie's had a tough few months, capped off with a move to the Siouxland Humane Society, where she and a dozen other dogs arrived from an overcrowded Texas animal shelter on Jan. 5.
Of the 13 dogs, 11 found new homes with Siouxland owners within four days. Minnie and a female border collie named Raven still remained as of Thursday.
"We had a real excellent weekend. A lot of them got to go home," said Kelly Erie, Siouxland Humane Society public relations and volunteer manager.
Since Hurricane Harvey struck Texas in late August, leading to widespread flooding that lasted into September, animal shelters there have become overcrowded with dogs that have been abandoned, unclaimed or surrendered by owners unable to care for them while recovering from the disaster. Animal shelters and rescue groups throughout the country have taken in hundreds of those dogs and found homes for them in their local communities.
The dogs that arrived at the Sioux City shelter at 1015 Tri-View Ave. had already been waiting for adoption when Hurricane Harvey hit. Since then, their shelter had filled up with dogs left without homes because of the flooding.
"What a lot of people don't realize is the flood might be past, but they're still dealing with a lot of pets left," Erie said.
Siouxland Humane Society has had a low number of dogs available for adoption, so officials decided to take in some of the Texas dogs. Approximately 15 more are expected to arrive later this month.
"We aren't seeing a lot of dogs right now," Erie said. "If we did have a large abundance of dogs, we definitely wouldn't be bringing more in."
After seeing a Facebook post about the dogs' arrival, Jones said she wanted to see if one of them would be a good fit for her North Sioux City family and their dog. They've come to the Humane Society on other occasions when it received dogs transported from other states because of overcrowding.
"We've always been attracted to these dogs. They always seem more timid and scared, so if I can make one feel happy, that would be great," said Jones, who cradled Minnie in her lap before letting her meet her 10-month old daughter, Mileona Jefferson.
Erie said the Humane Society has taken in pets from other states experiencing surpluses in the past, and other area shelters have, too.
"We're all in it to help the animals," she said.
Officials at Sioux City's two other animal shelters -- Noah's Hope and Sioux City Animal Adoption and Rescue Center -- said they currently focus on finding homes for local pets, but Noah's Hope has taken in surplus animals from other states in the past.
When accepting dogs from another state, Erie said the Humane Society will choose breeds it either doesn't have or has very few of. Before being transported to Sioux City by rescue agencies, veterinarians examine the dogs, and the Humane Society is provided health information for each animal.
When news gets out about displaced or abused animals being available for adoption, shelters will often see an influx of animal lovers who want to give them a new home. It's great for those animals, Erie said, but also for animals that have been at the shelter for a longer time. Shelter volunteers always encourage visitors to see all the animals available for adoption, not just those that were featured in a news story or on a social media site.
"I encourage them to look at the other dogs. I don't want anyone being left," Erie said.
SIOUX CITY | People across the United States will recognize the life and legacy of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday, the federal holiday that marks his birthday.
In Sioux City, the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church will hold a celebration beginning 7 p.m. at the church, 1421 Geneva St. The theme of the celebration is "Love, Peace and Understanding Leads to RESPECT."
The Rev. Jeremy Robertson, Mt. Zion's new pastor, took some time over the weekend to tell The Journal what to expect and reflect on King's significance.
Q. What does Mt. Zion have planned for Monday night's service?
A. Mt. Zion will serve as host for the local chapter of the NAACP Annual MLK Service. The Mt. Zion Mass Consecrated Choir and a number of community friends and leaders will come together in song to commemorate the life, legacy and achievements of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. There will be a display of artwork by the students of the Sioux City community. Brother Richard Hayes will recite Dr. King’s “Mountain Top” speech. I will recite the speech entitled, “I Have a Dream.”
Q. How would you describe the legacy left to our nation by Dr. King?
A. The legacy of Dr. King is one that embodies the life of Christ. Dr. King demonstrated compassion, humility, and great sacrifice. His legacy was the catalyst of our civil rights movement. This movement catapulted amenable rights for all people domestically and internationally. Some of his notable achievements include the following: A leader of African-American civil rights movement, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize (1964), recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1977) and a recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal (2004).
Q. From what lessons taught by Dr. King can our society continue to learn today and tomorrow?
A. Our society must learn to respond to each other in a culturally sensitive, non-threatening and non-violent manner. We must learn to embrace Dr. King's philosophy of equality, love, peace and a spirit of unity. Dr. King believed that in God's eyes we are all created equal. We must learn to embrace our differences and commonalities without excluding one another. We must stop our complaints and focus on outcomes that bring about positive results for all people.
SIOUX CITY | After one year in the Iowa House, Jim Carlin shifted to the state's other chamber, winning an open Senate District 3 seat in a Dec. 12 special election.
The outcome set up the need for another quick special election with the Legislature entering its second week of the new session. On Tuesday, Republican Jacob Bossman and Democrat Rita DeJong will compete for the Iowa House District 6 seat vacated by Carlin, a Republican.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday. The 10 county polling places will be considered vote centers for the election, so voters can cast their ballot at any of them.
House District 6, which covers Sioux City, Sergeant Bluff, Bronson and Salix, leans favorably for Republicans. There are 7,778 voters registered as Republicans, 5,013 as Democrats and 6,617 as no party, according to election data as of Jan. 1.
Bossman, who lost a bid for Iowa House District 6 in 2016, is taking a second run for the House seat. It's DeJong's first run for elected office.
Here is a look at the two candidates.
Residence: Sioux City
Occupation: Retired educator, teacher for 11 years, then principal for 21 years in the Sioux City Community School District
Electoral experience: First run for elective office
Main issues for 2018
1. Education. As a longtime educator and school administrator, I watched the reward a good education can bring students and the communities they're from. We need to start investing in education again.
2. Affordable and accessible healthcare. Our current mental health care system is failing Iowans, with the Medicaid privatization mess. We need to do better for Iowans and their families.
Why vote for me: "I've spent the last 34 years as an educator with Sioux City public schools and worked hard to bring students, parents and our community together. I'd like to bring that same sense of compromise and willingness to tackle tough issues with me to Des Moines."
Residence: Sioux City
Occupation: Regional director for U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley
Electoral experience: Unsuccessful run for House seat in 2016
Main issues for 2018
1. Transparent, Balanced Budget: We must implement sound budgeting practices and hold the line on reckless spending. An honest, balanced budget will secure the economy without depending on emergency funds.
2. Tax Reform: Iowa needs a simple, fair tax code that will make our economy more competitive with neighboring states. A robust economy will provide security for many Iowa families.
Why vote for me: "I have young daughters and care about their futures. Having learned from Senator Grassley how to listen and serve constituents, I want to be the people’s voice in Des Moines."