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Justin Wan, Sioux City Journal 

Anne Shadle, USA Track and Field sport psychologist and former South Sioux City athlete, leads a drill during a conditioning camp in South Sioux City on Friday.

SCJ EXCLUSIVE: Iowa DHS head says Woodbury County can't form its own mental health group

LE MARS, Iowa -- Woodbury County can't form its own group to deliver mental health services to the low-income and disabled, Iowa Department of Human Services Director Jerry Foxhoven said Friday.

Foxhaven said Woodbury County, for the 2019 budget year, must remain in the three-county Sioux Rivers Regional Mental Health and Disability Services, which also includes Plymouth and Sioux counties.

The DHS head spoke to the Journal after traveling to Northwest Iowa to visit with officials from the three counties.

"Woodbury County can't stand alone. The law doesn't even give me the power to give them a waiver right now," Foxhoven told the Journal. "I have visited with the (Iowa) Attorney General (Tom Miller) on whether I even have the right to allow (Woodbury County) to be a standalone. The answer is no."

The state changed from a county-based to a regional method of delivering mental health services in 2014. Last year, Woodbury County supervisors voted to exit Sioux Rivers, effective July 1, citing dissatisfaction with how the agency is governed and managed.

The seven-county Rolling Hills Community Service Region recently agreed to accept Woodbury County as a member but delayed its entry until July 1, 2019. As a stopgap measure, the Woodbury County supervisors in March voted to apply to the IDHS for an exemption from the requirement that regional mental health groups to consist of more than two counties.

Before Woodbury County can legally leave Sioux Rivers, there must be a plan to replace Woodbury with another county, Foxhhoven said. Otherwise, a region with just Plymouth and Sioux would not be viable.

"There needs to be compliance with the law," he said.

The DHS oversees the division of counties into regions. Only Polk County, the state's largest, is currently allowed to have its own region.

Foxhoven met with at least one person from each county Friday morning in Le Mars to get the lay of the land. The director said he was well aware of the troubled working relationship between the threee counties.

Asked if part of his message to the counties was that they need to move beyond past difficulties, Foxhoven replied, "They need to. Clearly, there is some animosity with them. But I think they also are committed to providing good mental health services to people."

Foxhoven said there is a bill pending in the state Legislature that could allow Sioux Rivers to function as a two-county group, but he's heard from a Republican leader that final passage of the measure this session is unlikely.

Woodbury County Supervisor Jeremy Taylor has been instrumental in pushing the county to move to Rolling Hills.

"Woodbury County had a troubled relationship in Sioux Rivers because of poor governance and management...and a culture of negativity, as reported by (service) providers," he said.

Mark Loutsch, chairman of the Sioux Rivers board, in March told the Journal that Taylor has overlooked ways Plymouth, Sioux and Woodbury could have cooperated.

"The things Jeremy wanted to get rid of or change were programs that Woodbury County had in place before becoming a region," Loutsch said. "We had plans last fall to evaluate each provider and their services, and Jeremy didn’t want to wait for the process to begin.

In a Friday statement to the Journal, Taylor said, "Woodbury County has learned that the Iowa Department of Human Services’ current position is that it does not have the authority to accept an exemption application from Woodbury County at this time. We are evaluating our options in light of this information but Woodbury County is committed to providing uninterrupted access to mental health and disability services to Woodbury County citizens."

It's not certain Woodbury County will transition to Rolling Hills on July 1, 2019, with a series of additional votes required in order for it to take effect. A majority of the supervisors in each of the seven counties would have to vote to accept Woodbury as a new member over the next few weeks. Then, the Rolling Hills governing board would have to take a final vote.

Rolling Hills includes Buena Vista, Sac, Calhoun, Carroll, Cherokee, Crawford and Ida counties.

Dogs are tops in Sioux City
Labs top dog breed in Sioux City, followed by terriers, records show

SIOUX CITY -- Hawkeye is a friendly, peppy sort. 

Like any four-month-old puppy, the Labrador retriever is a yellow blur of energy -- and sometimes mischief. 

"He's always excited, except for when he's sleeping," said 10-year-old Mason Elliott, who cares for Hawkeye along with his three siblings and his parents, Dan and Jennifer. 

Hawkeye enjoys playing, digging and gnawing on things, sometimes things he shouldn't like chairs and tables. He's lively around guests and likes to chase tennis balls outside. Some day he'll start bringing them back. 

The Elliotts welcomed Hawkeye into their family three months ago after the children, who range in ages from 4 to 12, kept asking for a puppy. 

"They begged and begged and we finally gave in," Jennifer Elliott said. "(We picked a lab) because their temperament is so good with kids."

Justin Wan, Sioux City Journal 

Jennifer Elliott of Sioux City talks about a her dog, Hawkeye, during an interview Thursday. Hawkeye is a lab, the most common type of dog in Sioux City. 

Jennifer said the kids named him Hawkeye for his black nose, yellow color and Iowa roots. There's another reason, too, indicated 9-year-old Thomas Elliott, pointing to his black-and-gold University of Iowa T-shirt. 

Mason and Thomas said they were surprised at how much work a puppy is. He'll soon be starting dog obedience training with 12-year-old Lily, who's in 4-H. 

Hawkeye represents a trend in Sioux City households. Labs and lab mixes are the top breed of dog in Sioux City, accounting for just under one in seven registered dogs in Sioux City.

The top dog breeds are labs and lab mixes, which number more than 400, followed by terriers and various terrier mixes, Chihuahuas, shih tzus, German shepherds and golden retrievers.

Compared with cats, dogs are in general the much more popular pet in the city, going by statistics from the City Clerk's office. Registered canines outnumber registered felines nearly five to one: 2,923 versus 631. 

The most common dog name: Bella, followed by Buddy and Lucy.

For cats, it's Charlie, followed by Oreo and Smokey.  

Why are there so many more dogs in Sioux City? Animal officials say there may be more to that statistic than meets the eye. 

Sioux City Animal Adoption & Rescue Center operator Cindy Rarrat said while it's impossible to know without going door-to-door, it's likely that many cat owners don't register their animals, despite the city's requirement to do so.

"There's a lot of people that do not realize they have to license their cats," she said.

Rarrat sees this firsthand at the shelter, where she says approximately 3,000 cats come through per year, many without registration or a microchip. 

"I think the cat population is just as high as the dog population because cats can reproduce at such a higher rate," she said. "There are a lot of cat lovers as well." 

Under city code, owners must register all dogs and cats over 6 months of age or that are younger than 6 months but no longer reside with their mothers. This applies to all animals, even those that never leave the house. 

Pet licenses are valid for one year and expire on Dec. 31 of the license year. Renewals are due each year by March 1.

The cost of the license is $11 for neutered pets or $31 for intact pets. Pets must be vaccinated for rabies before a license can be issued. Residents must pay a late penalty of $2 per license if renewed after March 1, an additional $4 after April 1 and an additional $6 after May 1. 

Sioux City's most common dog breeds somewhat follow the national trends. Labrador retrievers, German shepherds and golden retrievers were the top three most popular dog breeds for 2017, according to the most recently released American Kennel Club rankings. Yorkshire Terriers were No. 9, with shih tzus at 20 and Chihuahuas at 32.

Rarrat said the shelter sees an influx of different breeds each year but generally sees a steady flow of labs, German shepherds, terriers and terrier mixes.  

Dog Breed infographic

"Right now we're seeing a lot of Australian shepherds or blue heelers," she said. "Every year is kind of different." 

City pet registration statistics also show that, nearly 10 years after instituting a pit bull ban, the city's pit bull population continues to drop. More than 550 pit bulls were grandfathered in when the city banned any new dogs of the breed 10 years ago. As of March 12, the city had 47 registered pit bulls, about half of the total from two years ago.

Big blizzard expectations result in big cancellations

SIOUX CITY -- Expectations of a weekend blizzard moved people to call off a wide variety of events in Siouxland, knocking out plans for high school prom festivities, the biggest annual track meet in Sioux City and a forum for Iowa Democratic governor candidates.

The winds started Thursday evening and blew into Friday strongly at 40 mph, then rain and scattered thunderstorms poured down as Friday evening went on, and an onslaught of snow was expected in the early hours of Saturday, once temperatures dropped from the 40s of Friday.

All those elements conspired to cancel or postpone many Siouxland events. It also moved people to wonder if a legitimate spring season would ever arrive, now three weeks past the spring equinox and two weeks after Easter. The average high temperatures for April 14 and 15 in Sioux City is 62 degrees.

A man from Plymouth County posted on his Facebook account, "Mother Nature -- you are drunk."

The National Weather Service in Sioux Falls placed most Northwest Iowa counties, including Woodbury County, in a Blizzard Warning, as were the five closest Northeast Nebraska counties and all but a few northern counties in South Dakota. The blizzard warning runs to 1 a.m. Sunday.

A tweet from the Sioux County (Iowa) Sheriff's Office on Friday said, "Please prepare now and be ready to halt travel later Friday & Saturday for a dangerous winter storm. If this storm and accompanying winds arrive as predicted, no travel will be advised. Please take this storm forecast seriously."

A wind gust of 51 mph was reported just before 5 p.m. Friday near Little Rock, Iowa, in Lyon County. About 7 p.m. Friday, strong winds blew over some utility lines in parts of Sioux City, making for isolated power outages.

Sioux City could see six to eight inches of snow in the storm. Areas northwest of Sioux City could get pummeled much harder, as Yankton, South Dakota, might see a foot of snow.

Weather service Meteorologist Todd Heitkamp said with winds possible up to 45 mph, zero-visibility conditions and extremely perilous travel conditions could result.

"I wouldn't be surprised that the whole area will be under a blizzard warning," Heitkamp said.

Heitkamp said South Dakota will be hit hard by a blizzard, so it could be a "historic storm" in the state. The South Dakota Department of Transportation by 2 p.m. Friday had closed a long stretch of Interstates 29 and 90.

The city of Sioux City announced a snow emergency designation would go into effect at 2 a.m. Saturday. Residents should park on the even side of the streets on Saturday and the odd side of the street on Sunday.

The second day of the Sioux City Relays on Friday was cancelled due to poor weather. The two-day annual track and field meet at Olsen Stadium was originally scheduled for Friday and Saturday. But with rain turning to snow in the forecast, organizers moved up the relays by one day. Thursday's events went on as scheduled.

ACT tests were cancelled at Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa, and at Wayne State College, in Wayne, Nebraska, where a college planetarium was also cancelled. Also in that town, the Wayne High School prom was postponed.

Additionally, the Saturday public forum with five Democratic governor candidates at Morningside College has been cancelled due to inclement weather. Jeremy Dumkrieger, chair of the Woodbury County Democratic Party, said the forum may be rescheduled for a later date.

Among many other cancellations, the Tri-State Area College Fair in South Sioux City was called off for Sunday.