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Proposed Sioux City campground now envisioned near ag center

SIOUX CITY | A Sioux City campground once envisioned for a scenic spot along the Big Sioux River may now end up near the proposed Bomgaars Ag Expo Center and directly east of a small hog plant. 

The new plans would be a refocusing of the initial vision for the Sioux City's first public campground, which city officials originally viewed as a rustic  destination for families looking for "stay-cations" but now would be positioned in a more industrial setting with an eye toward serving exhibitors at the expo center.  

The project also has been pushed back a few years in the city's proposed capital improvements budget. 

In mid-2016, the city viewed preliminary site designs for a 52-space campground at 3400 Sioux River Road near the Big Sioux River, but the city later ran into problems acquiring the necessary land from private owners.

The City Council then moved the project back a year during last year's budgeting process, instructing staff to continue exploring alternate locations.

City Parks and Recreation Director Matt Salvatore said the city sees the new proposed location, on city-owned land to the south of the proposed ag center, to be a logical fit because of the need for a campground to serve those visiting the expo center for agricultural and equestrian events. 

"The idea would be that the campground would help support the efforts of the expo center, especially during your agricultural events and shows," Salvatore said. "There's a lot of people who bring campgrounds or trailers to those types of events." 


Ian Richardson / Provided 

Progress continues on plans for the Bomgaars Ag Expo Center proposed for the former John Morrell site in the old stockyards area of Sioux City.

A map in the city's capital improvements budget book shows the campground on city-owned land bordering Bacon Creek and accessed by Cunningham Drive. The proposed site is south and east of the ag center and east of Verschoor Meats, a small, specialty hog slaughter plant.

Salvatore said the project remains in the preliminary stages as far as the layout and plans. Asked whether the city foresaw any issues with locating a campground near a livestock plant, Salvatore reiterated the plans were still in the beginning stages. 

"The plan is so preliminary that we haven’t really dug into any of those things," he said.

The $16 million Bomgaars Ag Expo Center will be built on a city-owned parcel where the larger John Morrell hog slaughter plant once stood. The Morrell plant, one of the last vestiges of the city's livestock district, closed in April 2010.

The 200,000-square-foot ag center will feature a 45,000-square-foot main arena and approximately 2,000 seats, a warm-up arena and additional exhibit space. The large space will also allow for removable indoor turf and sport courts to be used for recreation purposes such as sports practices, games, tournaments and camps. Construction is expected to begin this year.

Dirk Lohry, president of the Siouxland Expo Center Board of Directors, said he sees the campground as a valuable space for event attendees, as well as an additional revenue source. 

"Most ag expos that I've seen around the area do have some sort of an RV park nearby," Lohry said. "It's not only good for the operation of the equestrian events and other events, but it's also a profit-setter."


The campground would be the first such facility within the Sioux City limits.  In the city's proposed five-year capital improvement program, the project is slotted for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2021. The plan includes $1.25 million in funding for that year and $1.25 million for the following budget year. 

Salvatore said discussions on the project would likely begin next budget year at the earliest. 

"It's not something that is high on the priority list right now," he said. 

The city paid JEO Consulting Inc. $72,340 to determine a proper site for the park. The firm had also presented preliminary designs and cost estimates for the site at 3400 Sioux River Road. Salvatore said he believes some of the preliminary planning would still apply to the new location. 

Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal 

An Iowa Department of Transportation crew removes snow from along an outside barrier on northbound Interstate 29 Thursday.

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GALLAGHER: Racial taunts in Spencer target Storm Lake athletes

STORM LAKE, Iowa | For the second time this academic year, an athletic event involving high schools in Spencer and Storm Lake is being remembered for racist acts.

The most recent, a boys' basketball game at Spencer Fieldhouse last Friday, has resulted in the disciplining of Spencer students who taunted Storm Lake players.

Storm Lake Superintendent of Schools Carl Turner said a chant, "Go back home," came from the Spencer student section as the Tigers tripped the Tornadoes, 63-50.

Jamie Knapp, Storm Lake Times 

Storm Lake Tornado Cham Deng, center, goes up for a shot against two Spencer Tiger defenders in a Lakes Conference basketball game Friday in Spencer, Iowa. During the game, some Spencer students in the stands taunted non-Caucasian Storm Lake players with chants of "Go Back Home," and "U-S-A, U-S-A." 

"It doesn't mean go back to Storm Lake," Turner said. "It means go back where you came from."

Storm Lake High School is home to dozens of nationalities, a school wherein students speak 24 languages. Eighty-four percent of the children in the Storm Lake district are non-Caucasian. "I think we're the most diverse school district in Iowa," Turner said.

Are its student-athletes the most targeted by opposing student sections? Maybe. I've been told by friends and family members in Storm Lake that students in opposing student sections this winter -- and in past seasons -- have chanted "U-S-A, U-S-A," on more than one occasion while their team hosts Storm Lake.

The chant could be heard briefly on Friday in Spencer, on a night where a select few in the Tigers' student section observed a "USA theme night" by donning patriotic red, white and blue apparel.

"When you have real patriotism, it's a chance to unite," said Tanner Hoops, a Storm Lake High School alum who broadcast the game for a Storm Lake radio station. "But when it's used here to mask bigotry, it's wrong."

"There was some USA clothing," acknowledged Spencer Community Schools Superintendent Terry Hemann, who added that any "USA theme" for that evening was not approved by administrators. "Our high school administrators estimate that about a dozen students had USA clothing on that night, which was about 10 percent of the students we had in the crowd."

"There were some U-S-A chants and we saw the (Spencer) athletic director go up and handle that," said Turner.

Just over three months ago, some students in the Spencer student section directed racial slurs at Storm Lake students following the Tigers ' 17-14 football victory over the Tornadoes. The confrontation occurred in front of the bleacher section for Storm Lake on the Tornadoes' home field.

"The Spencer kids ran around the track to where the players exit," Turner said,. "There was some dialogue exchanged from Spencer to Storm Lake people. Some of it was racial in nature."

That episode led principals from the high schools to devise a plan to bring the student bodies closer. Not long after the football game, a delegation of Spencer students traveled to Storm Lake and spent a portion of a school day at Storm Lake High School, getting to know their rivals off the field of play. A group of students from Storm Lake headed north to Spencer and returned the favor days later.

"They spent time following each other to class," Turner said. "And, afterwards, they had pizza."

"Ever since football, we've talked," said Hemann, noting how activity directors Ty Seaman (Storm Lake) and Ryan Sweeney (Spencer) have visited, as have the superintendents and high school principals, Elli Wiemers, of Spencer, and Beau Ruleaux, of Storm Lake. "At the end of the day, it's about sportsmanship, about how we treat each other."

Turner agreed. "Jesus taught the lesson," he said, "treat people the way you want to be treated."

Seaman has reached out to athletic directors in the Lakes Conference, asking them to direct their students to refrain from observing a "USA theme night" when the Tornadoes come to town.

"There's nothing wrong with 'USA night,'" Ruleaux said. "But maybe you can have 'USA night' when you play Le Mars or Spirit Lake. We're just asking them to be aware of the dynamic."

"Most of our events go off without a hitch," Hemann said. "Spencer, just like any other community, has great kids doing the right thing."

In this case, several of them weren't and Hemann and his staff seek to make it a teachable moment. Students have been disciplined. The investigation continues as others will be questioned about what transpired Friday, he said.

Moving forward, he said, Spencer High School will observe no specific theme nights when it comes to inter-scholastic competition. Rather, students will be asked to cheer for the Tigers while donning their school colors, purple and gold.

Jamie Knapp, Storm Lake Times 

Storm Lake Tornado Cham Deng, center, goes up for a shot against two Spencer Tiger defenders in a Lakes Conference basketball game Friday in Spencer, Iowa. During the game, some Spencer students in the stands taunted non-Caucasian Storm Lake players with chants of "Go Back Home," and "U-S-A, U-S-A." 

"We don't condone poor sportsmanship," Hemann continued. "Now, this becomes a teaching opportunity and a learning opportunity, for our community, and, most important, for our students."

"We have the same mission here," Turner said. "We have some kids here, some are great, but we have some kids and adults who can become better people. We must teach that differences are OK, they make the world a great place. Let's celebrate our differences and diversity and try to learn as much as you can about other people.

"The teachable moments," Turner concluded, "are more important than any wins and losses."

Bruce Miller / Associated Press  

Bruno Mars will perform on Sunday's Grammys show.

State agencies face $52 million in spending cuts

DES MOINES | Senate Republicans on Thursday proposed $52 million in spending cuts for the current fiscal year to address a projected revenue shortfall that could mean further belt-tightening for state university and community colleges, Iowa courts and economic development efforts.

Sen. Charles Schneider, R-West Des Moines, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the mid-year adjustments would not impact K-12 schools, Medicaid or public safety programs but would impact other budget areas in an effort to enable the state to end the year June 30 with a $35 million cushion in a $7.2 billion budget.

Shortly after the proposed adjustments were announced, State Court Administrator Todd Nuccio said the proposed $4.83 million cut to the judicial branch likely would leave “no other choice that to close courthouses and eliminate personnel branch-wide.” He projected more than 30 county courthouses would be closed indefinitely and proportionately over eight districts and the caseload shifted to other offices.

Overall, the Senate GOP plan, which cleared Senate committee on a 13-8 party-line vote Thursday, would cut spending by $52 million and scoop $7 million in unobligated economic growth funds while supplementing nearly $2 million in utility and indigent defense money and leaving untouched any state benefits from the federal tax cuts.

“We want to make sure that we’re being fiscally responsible with taxpayer money,” said Schneider in discussing proposed cuts that go deeper than Gov. Kim Reynolds has recommended but are fairly close to levels advocated by majority Republicans in the Iowa House.

“We’re very close,” House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, said of budget talks with Senate Republicans. “We’re probably going to cut a little more than the governor.”

In her first state budget presentation last month, Reynolds proposed paring back current-year funding by $34.7 million via a mix of cuts and adjustments to erase a projected shortfall created by state revenues growing at a slower rate than projected. But legislative Republicans were looking at deeper spending cuts as they worked to balance the state ledger with five months left in the fiscal year.

“This is part of the process. This is how it works. I put my budget forward. We looked at everything. We thought this was the most fiscally responsible budget so we could still honor some of the commitments and fund some of the initiatives,” Reynolds said in an interview.

The governor sought to de-appropriate $19.4 million in selective cuts to various budget areas, while also making a $10 million adjustment in Medicaid spending and using about $11.2 million in revenue the state will gain when Iowans begin seeing lower federal wage withholdings in February that they will owe state tax on. She proposes plowing any future state gain from the federal tax changes into lower individual state income tax rates, eliminating federal deductibility and simplifying Iowa’s complicated tax system.

By contrast, the Senate GOP de-appropriations bill called for cutting education by $27.3 million, human services (excluding Medicaid)  by $11.77 million, justice systems (excluding the Iowa State Patrol and law enforcement training academy) by $7.7 million and economic development programs by $1.12 million.

Senate Democratic Leader Janet Petersen of Des Moines described the GOP cuts as “massive.”

The proposed $19.3 million cut to Iowa Board of Regents' institutions equated to $8.7 million for the University of Iowa, $6.9 million for Iowa State University and $3.7 million for the University of Northern Iowa will lose over $3.7 million, along with a $5.4 million cut in general aid to Iowa’s 15 community colleges and $1.7 million to the Iowa Department of Education.

“The real news today is the Republican budget crisis has gotten worse in the last three weeks,” said Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, ranking member on the Senate Appropriations Committee. “When you have people who don’t like government running government, here’s what the results look like, and it’s not pretty.”

However, Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock, said Senate Republicans for years had opposed state spending that outpaced growth by using surplus money that they contended was not sustainable and eventually would cause a day of budgetary reckoning that has now arrived.

“This is what it looks like. We’re going to fix that,” Dix said. “We want to make sure that we do this as quickly as possible, the sooner the better. It gives everybody more time to find a way to accommodate the services that Iowans expect and do it in a manner that gives Iowans a better deal.”

Reynolds administration officials had warned state agency directors last fall that mid-year budget adjustments could be needed, so many have prepared for the likelihood of making additional spending cuts, Upmeyer noted.

“We were expecting it to come so we were not naïve to this,” said Debi Durham, director of the state Economic Development Authority.

“For the last six months we’ve been figuring out how we could adjust to a new normal,” added Durham. “They keep expecting us to do more with less so I guess we’ll continue to deliver. We’ve been able to lean down the institution and we’ll continue to do it but we’ll have to prioritize.”