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Hydrant help
Dakota City seeks half-cent sales tax increase for hydrant fixes, other projects
Hydrant help

DAKOTA CITY -- There's a fire hydrant at 17th and Myrtle streets with a broken, leaky top and a crack on the side. 

At 13th and Broadway, another has a similar problem.

A hydrant at 14th and Elm can't be opened. One at 14th and Walnut South has specific instructions not to be opened. One on Hickory Street leaks underground. 

Throughout Dakota City, 23 of its 110 hydrants are in need of repair or replacement, creating a situation that has become difficult for the Nebraska city of nearly 1,900 to keep up with. 

"Most of them were installed in the 1970s, and usually your fire hydrants have 20 to 30 years of life," said Clint Rasmussen, Dakota City's fire chief and a city council member. "There is definitely the need to replace or repair them for public safety."

Rasmussen said the public isn't currently at risk -- fire crews don't have to look several blocks to find another working hydrant in an emergency -- but the need for replacement is much greater than the typical one to two hydrant fixes per year that the city's revenue will currently allow for. 

That's why Dakota City is looking to a half-cent citywide sales tax increase that would go toward a prioritized list of backlogged infrastructure projects, of which the hydrants are at the top. 

During Nebraska's May 15 primaries, residents will go to the polls to approve or reject the sales tax measure. If approved, it would raise the overall sales tax rate in the city to 6.5 percent, effective Jan. 1. Along with fire hydrants, it could also eventually fund replacement of catch basins and street panels and inspection of storm sewers.

"Our fire hydrants, the critical repairs needed, those will be addressed first and then any critical catch basin or panels will be next," said city administrator Alyssa Silhacek. 

KKaufman / Kirby Kaufman, Sioux City Journal 

Silhacek

Silhacek said the city plans to be able to increase the number of hydrants it repairs each year from one or two to five. The cost to replace a fire hydrant is around $4,000. 

The Dakota City Council passed a resolution on April 19 that prioritized a list of the projects upon recommendation from an infrastructure task force formed earlier in the year. The list includes the 23 fire hydrants, 134 street panels, 15 catch basins and more than 10 miles of storm water mains that need inspection. 

Silhacek said the move will help the city keep up with the repairs without further burdening residents with increased property taxes or utility fees. Several recent projects such as a water treatment facility rehabilitation project, well rehabilitation project and construction of a new wastewater treatment plant all used utility fees. 

"We're asking a lot of our utility customers already," she said. "In addition, we still have old infrastructure ... and what we've found is we do need this extra revenue to be sure these are addressed in a timely manner."

The task force will hold an open house public information meeting Tuesday at the Dakota City Fire Station, 208 S. 21st St., to discuss the projects and the needs. The session will run from 6 to 8 p.m.

More than 60 percent of Dakota County voters in 2014 approved a half-cent sales tax to help fund the new Dakota City Fire Station, as well as upgrades to the stations in Homer, Hubbard and Emerson. Rasmussen said the fire department has been thankful for the community's support in that project, and he hopes the next one passes as well. 


Local
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Morningside students share leftover cafeteria food with the needy

SIOUX CITY -- There is never a food shortage at a busy college but there is always plenty of waste.

This was something Morningside College computer science sophomore Samuel Padilla noticed when he took a job working at the school's Weikert Dining Hall during his freshman year.

"You don't realize how much food is wasted until you see how much is thrown away," the Bogota, Columbia native noted.

Padilla, president of the college's Sustainable Environment Association (SEA), decided to spearhead a pilot program that collects food which had been prepared but not served to students.

He and his volunteer crew will then pack the food, delivering it to the food pantry at Radiant Life Community Church, 2410 West First St. on a monthly basis.

Radiant Life Community Church will, in turn, use the food for its free, open-to-the-public meals. The remaining food will go to nonprofit organizations like Sioux City's Warming Shelter, according to The Rev. Doug Collins. 

Since the pilot program began in January, SEA members have collected and donated nearly 300 pounds of food, including meat, produce and loaves of bread.

Padilla said the project wouldn't have gotten off of the ground without the support of Casey Benton, general manager of Sodexo, the food service provider for Morningside.

"More than anything, Casey knew that wasted food wasn't good for his bottom line," Padilla said. "Redirecting the prepared food so it would go to the disadvantaged was a win for everybody involved."

Sterling Stecker, a Morningside freshman from Forest City, Iowa, was simply happy that the food would stay local.

"Many service projects involved sending food to different parts of the world," he said. "With this project, the food is prepared here and will help Siouxland families."

Fellow SEA member Skyler Briggs nodded his head in agreement.

"We all want to do our part when it comes to sustainability," Briggs, a freshman science education major from Akron, Iowa, said. "This is how we're making a difference right on campus."

As he and his fellow SEA members transferred covered containers of frozen food to a Radiant Life Community Church van, Padilla said anyone can make a difference when it comes to the environment.

"Our association is all about promoting an action in order to make a difference," he explained. "We're not biologists or sociologists or pretend that we have expertise in food science."

That's OK by Padilla.

"Anyone can create a cool project," he said. "You just need to be willing to do it."  


Lee-wire
AP
North Korea offers to give up nukes if US vows not to attack

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un told his South Korean counterpart at their historic summit that he would be willing to give up his nuclear weapons if the U.S. commits to a formal end to the Korean War and a pledge not to attack the North, Seoul officials said Sunday.

Kim also vowed during his meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday to shut down the North's nuclear test site in May and disclose the process to experts and journalists from South Korea and the United States, Seoul's presidential office said.

While lingering questions remain about whether North Korea will ever decide to fully relinquish its nukes as it heads into negotiations with the U.S., Kim's comments amount to the North's most specific acknowledgement yet that "denuclearization" would constitute surrendering its weapons.

U.S. national security adviser John Bolton reacted coolly to word that Kim would abandon his weapons if the United States pledged not to invade.

Asked on CBS' "Face the Nation" whether the U.S. would make such a promise, Bolton said: "Well, we've heard this before. This is — the North Korean propaganda playbook is an infinitely rich resource."

"What we want to see from them is evidence that it's real and not just rhetoric," he added.

The long awaited meeting between the United States and North Korea is likely to occur before the end of May, President Donald Trump suggested Saturday evening during a rally in Michigan.

“I think we’ll have a meeting over the next three or four weeks,” Trump said. “It will be a very important meeting.”

“Whatever happens, happens,” he said of the meeting, noting he may go in and ultimately leave. “I’m not going to be a John Kerry who makes a horrible Iran deal.”

Seoul officials, who have shuttled between Pyongyang and Washington to broker talks between Kim and President Donald Trump, said Kim has expressed genuine interest in dealing away his nuclear weapons.

But there has been skepticism because North Korea for decades has been pushing a concept of "denuclearization" that bears no resemblance to the American definition. The North has long vowed to pursue nuclear development unless Washington removes its 28,500 troops from South Korea and the nuclear umbrella defending South Korea and Japan.

During their summit at a truce village on the border, Moon and Kim promised to work toward the "complete denuclearization" of the Korean Peninsula but made no references to verification or timetables.

Kim also expressed optimism about his meeting with Trump, Moon's spokesman Yoon Young-chan said.

"Once we start talking, the United States will know that I am not a person to launch nuclear weapons at South Korea, the Pacific or the United States," Kim said, according to Yoon.

Yoon also quoted Kim as saying: "If we maintain frequent meetings and build trust with the United States and receive promises for an end to the war and a non-aggression treaty, then why would we need to live in difficulty by keeping our nuclear weapons?"

The Korean Peninsula technically remains in a state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War was halted with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

In another sign of warming relations between Seoul and Pyongyang, South Korea said it will remove propaganda-broadcasting loudspeakers from the border with North Korea.

Seoul's Defense Ministry said today it will pull back dozens of its frontline loudspeakers on Tuesday and expects Pyongyang to do the same.

South Korea had turned off its loudspeakers ahead of last Friday's summit talks, and North Korea responded by halting its own broadcasts. Seoul had blasted propaganda messages and K-pop songs from border loudspeakers since the North's fourth nuclear test in early 2016. The North quickly matched the South's action with its own border broadcasts.

The closing of the nuclear test site would be a dramatic but likely symbolic event to set up Kim's summit with Trump. North Korea already announced this month that it has suspended all tests of nuclear devices and intercontinental ballistic missiles and plans to close its nuclear testing ground.

Still, Adam Mount, a senior defense analyst at the Federation of American Scientists, said Kim's comments were significant because they are his most explicit acknowledgement yet that denuclearization means surrendering his nuclear weapons.

"Questions remain about whether Kim will agree to discuss other nuclear technology, fissile material and missiles. However, they imply a phased process with reciprocal concessions," Mount said in an email. "It is not clear that the Trump administration will accept that kind of protracted program."

Analysts reacted with skepticism to Kim's previously announced plan to close down the test site at Punggye-ri, saying the northernmost tunnel had already become too unstable to use for underground detonations following the country's sixth and most powerful test blast in September.

In his conversation with Moon, Kim denied that he would be merely clearing out damaged goods, saying the site also has two new tunnels that are larger than previous testing facilities, Yoon said.

Some analysts see Moon's agreement with Kim at the summit as a disappointment, citing the lack of references to verification and timeframes and also the absence of a definition on what would constitute a "complete" denuclearization of the peninsula.

But Patrick McEachern, a former State Department analyst now with the Washington-based Wilson Center, said it was still meaningful that Moon extracted a commitment from Kim to complete denuclearization.

"The public conversation should now shift from speculation on whether North Korea would consider denuclearization to how South Korea and the United States can advance this denuclearization pledge in concrete steps in light of North Korea's reciprocal demands for concrete steps toward an eventual peace agreement," McEachern said in an email.

North Korea has invited the outside world to witness the dismantling of its nuclear facilities before. In June 2008, international broadcasters were allowed to air the demolition of a cooling tower at the Nyongbyon reactor site, a year after the North reached an agreement with the U.S. and four other nations to disable its nuclear facilities in return for an aid package worth about $400 million.

But the deal eventually collapsed after North Korea refused to accept U.S.-proposed verification methods, and the country went on to conduct its second nuclear test detonation in May 2009.


Justin Wan, Sioux City Journal 

University of South Dakota's Chris Nilsen finished as the runner-up in the men's elite pole vault at the Drake Relays.


Govt-and-politics
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King: If there were 250 Steve Kings, national debt would be zero

SIOUX CITY -- U.S. Rep. Steve King has been critical of failure to keep a balanced federal budget and halt the growing debt, during eras when both Democrats and Republicans have held control of federal chambers and the presidencies.

King has a solution -- the federal government needs 249 more Steve Kings.

"If there were 250 Steve Kings in Congress for the last 20 years, we would have a balanced budget and we wouldn't have any national debt. And I guarantee you, we would have a more dynamic economy than we have now, because we wouldn't be dragging that anchor of debt," King said in an interview this week.

King said he knows that is true because he had his staff do a compilation, which detailed seven important financial-related bills that he either supported or authored.

"Had the rest of the Congress followed my lead -- this was their calculation -- had the rest of the Congress followed my lead when I delivered it, not only would we have had a balanced budget by now, but we would have paid off our national debt," the congressman said.

The federal debt was $6.7 trillion when King first joined the House in 2003, for the first of what is now eight terms. He is a Republican from Kiron, and the representative for the Iowa 4th congressional district.

The Congressional Budget Office this month computed that the December tax cut bill and the March $1.3 trillion spending bill would add more than $2.6 trillion to the national debt over the coming decade. Both measures were led by Republicans, who control both federal chambers and have Donald Trump as president.

There also is a looming return of the first trillion-dollar deficits since President Barack Obama's first term in the late 2000s, while the federal debt is projected to rise to $21 trillion this year and keep growing.

Federal lawmakers have suspended the debt ceiling until 2019.

King voted for the tax cuts, saying it was his all-time favorite vote. However, he voted against the March spending bill.

King said not enough House members are doing what he does, voting against big spending bills.

"If it is irresponsible spending, I will vote against it," he said.

King said Republicans have been better in passing budgets than Democrats, but conceded members of his party haven't done well lately, "relatively speaking."

He is not happy about that.

"We have the mantle of fiscal responsibility, if you compare us to what Democrats would do. But if you compare us to what we should be doing, no," King said.