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Sioux City's Hunt Elementary School reaches final two months

SIOUX CITY --  As the final weeks of classes wind down for Hunt Elementary School, Mary Steinhoff looked across the street as a group of students moved outside for recess Monday.

Steinhoff, who has lived for five years in the 2000 block of Jackson Street, said she's followed the plans to build a new Hunt Elementary adjacent to the current one, which is the oldest in the Sioux City school district. She likes to imagine how the school looked a century ago and how the neighborhood has changed over time.

Thinking of the thousands of students and families who have been impacted by attending Hunt, Steinhoff is torn on moving from an old building to a modern one.

Plus, she added, motioning towards the Hunt outdoor basketball area, her husband Josh Steinhoff "proposed to me on the playground."

Hunt Elementary, which dates to 1906, is by far the oldest in the city’s public school system. It will be demolished after students use the building for one last year, through May 30, then for a few years that Hunt students will be relocated to Crescent Park.

School officials have sought to modernize the fleet of schools in the district, so getting a new elementary building in that midtown area is a big step. Brian Fahrendholz, district director of operations and maintenance, said once Hunt is closed, the oldest school in the district will be Sunnyside Elementary, which dates to 1957.

Justin Wan, Sioux City Journal 

Students leave Hunt Elementary after the end of the school day in Sioux City, Iowa on Thursday, March 21, 2019. Sioux City Journal Photo by Justin Wan

The current Hunt Elementary School will be replaced with a building just south of the current one, bearing the same name. It is being built in the 1900 and 2000 blocks of Jackson and Nebraska streets, with a goal to be finished by August 2022, at an estimated cost of $20.5 million.

The school will be demolished this summer after some asbestos is removed and furniture and other equipment are moved out, Fahrendholz said. The current school site will be replaced by a teacher parking lot and part of the L-shaped building.

Seeing the school razed will be a sad thing for Mary Steinhoff.

Josh Steinhoff is a fifth grade teacher at Hunt, so he walks about 100 yards to the school's south entrance. The Steinhoffs selected their home for proximity to the school, and "we love the school and the neighborhood," Mary said.

Mary said Josh has noted the lack of air conditioning is a downside.

"A lot of people are excited for the new building," Mary Steinhoff said, but she likes some of the classic features of the school designed with flourishes from a bygone era.

"I like the architecture and all the fancies on the top. We are hoping we can get a piece," she said. "It is sad to see it torn down, because there are so many good memories, but it will be exciting at the same time."

Fahrendholz said he understands people like to save notable pieces of schools that get torn down. In the case of Hunt, he said, rosettes, or rose-shaped decorative pieces, and some of the sandstone concrete sections, including the "Hunt" lettering, will be kept.

"We are going to salvage several pieces, especially from the exterior," Fahrendholz said.

"It is not uncommon for us to do that... to bring along some elements of the building."

A final design of the roughly 90,000-square-foot building is under way and will  be aired later in the year. School officials decided to keep the Hunt school to two levels and not build a third floor in order to shave the total cost by $2 million.

Justin Wan, Sioux City Journal 

Students gather by the hallway at Hunt Elementary in Sioux City, Iowa on Thursday, March 21, 2019. Sioux City Journal Photo by Justin Wan

Recent tasks on the new Hunt grounds include installation of geothermal wells. The third bid package in the Hunt project was unveiled in mid-February for site work such as demolishing the school, plus remaining street and underground utilities reconstruction, Fahrendholz said. The block-long length of 20th Street will be removed as part of that work.

Those elements have an estimated cost of $2.4 million. A fourth bid package is expected by late 2019 or early 2020 for the main construction of the building.

Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal 

during South Sioux City vs Heelan girls basketball played Monday, Feb. 4, 2019, at South Sioux City, Nebraska. Sioux City Journal photo by Tim Hynds

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Louisiana officials denounce Steve King for his Katrina FEMA remarks

CHARTER OAK, Iowa -- Gov. John Bel Edwards and other top Louisiana officials are condemning Iowa 4th District Rep. Steve King for his comments comparing victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 with western Iowans inundated by recent flooding.

The outcry came after King, during a town hall meeting in Charter Oak Thursday, recounted a conversation with with an unidentified Federal Emergency Management Agency official, who praised Iowans for their willingness to help each other.

"But here’s what FEMA tells me: ‘We go to a place like New Orleans and everybody’s looking around saying, who’s gonna help me, who’s gonna help me?’ ” King told the audience. "We go to a place like Iowa, and we go, we go see, knock on the door at, and say, I'll make up a name, John's place, and say, 'John, you got water in your basement, we can write you a check, we can help you.' And John will say, 'Well, wait a minute, let me get my boots. It's Joe that needs help. Let's go down to his place and help him.' "

Bel Edwards, a Democrat, decried King's comments as "disgusting and disheartening."

"When communities are affected by disasters, we come together to help each other, not tear each other down," Edwards tweeted.

U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, a Democrat who represents a large portion of New Orleans, where more than 60 percent of the population is African-American, called King a "white supremacist."

"My heart goes out to all Iowans. Though it unsettles me that @SteveKingIA would dare compare them to the countless victims of Katrina, many of whom lost their lives," Richmond tweeted. 

"When people show you who they are, believe them. Steve King is a white supremacist and I won’t stand for it," he added.

King was stripped off his committee assignments and rebuked by the House in January following an uproar over his comments in a New York Times story in which he questioned how the terms "white supremacist" and "white nationalist" became offensive. King has repeatedly claimed he was misquoted, and has denounced white supremacy.

This week, King recalled visiting New Orleans in the aftermath of the 2005 hurricane and widespread flooding. In September 2005, he was one of only 11 House members who voted against a $52 billion aid package for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

King cited his dissenting vote on the need for "fiscal responsibility," saying the federal government needed to develop a comprehensive plan for  how aid dollar would be spent before more money was appropriated. King had voted for an initial $10.5 billion emergency aid package the week before the $52 billion measure came up.

Later, King said that his opposition to Katrina-related funding "probably was my best vote."

At Thursday's town hall meeting in the Charter Oak, King addressed the widespread and prolonged flooding western Iowa and eastern Nebraska that has led to damages estimated at nearly $1.6 billion. Later in the day, King toured Hornick and Missouri Valley, two towns in the 4th District that were briefly evacuated due to flooding.

 “Iowans are tough and resilient, and both of these commendable qualities are tested when we experience severe flooding,” King in a news release.

In the news release, the Republican congressman also highlighted his efforts to assist the victims.

“My team was the first to have boots on the ground in the 4th District’s affected areas, and I am working closely with local leaders to help our District recover from this disaster. As the dean of Iowa’s House delegation, and its only Republican, I will not hesitate to use my influence with President Trump to help Iowans gain access to federal flood relief programs."

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Corps delays reduction of Gavins Point releases

OMAHA -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has delayed a planned decrease in water releases from Gavins Point Dam until less water is flowing into Lewis and Clark Lake.

The corps had planned on dropping releases from 24,000 cubic feet per second to 20,000 cfs on Thursday. But water inflows continue to match releases, and the dam releases will not be decreased until inflow drops below 20,000 cfs.

"Releases were scheduled to be reduced to 20,000 cfs by (Thursday) morning, but Gavins Point inflows, primarily from the Niobrara River, continue to match releases. Our office will continue monitoring runoff conditions throughout the Missouri River basin," John Remus, chief of the corps' Missouri River Water Management Division in Omaha, said in a news release.

Once Gavins Point releases are lowered to 20,000 cfs, the corps will maintain that rate as long as system conditions allow, the corps said.

The corps also delayed its resumption of water releases from the upstream dam at Fort Randall until Saturday. Fort Randall has been shut off for more than a week to keep waters from rising at Lewis and Clark Lake, which has little flood storage capacity. The corps had initially planned to resume Fort Randall releases at 4,000 cfs on Friday.

It takes about a day and a half for water to travel from Fort Randall, at Pickstown, South Dakota, to Gavins Point, near Yankton, South Dakota.

The Gavins Point pool elevation was at 1208.1 feet Friday, a drop of 0.3 feet from Thursday. The lake's elevation peaked at 1212.3 feet on March 15.

The corps began increasing Gavins Point releases March 13 to make room in Lewis and Clark Lake for runoff from heavy rainfall and rapid snowmelt on frozen, wet ground in the drainage area between Fort Randall and Gavins Point. Releases were increased from 17,000 cfs on March 13 to 100,000 cfs for a brief time March 14. The corps began decreasing releases on March 16.

The corps has established a webpage at that can be saved to a mobile phone's home screen. The page provides links to up-to-date information, including runoff and release schedules, the National Weather Service and other corps websites and social media sites.