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Siouxland snowfall
Sioux City continues to dig out from under nearly 5 inches of snow

SIOUX CITY -- While the snow front that dumped nearly 5 inches of the white stuff in Sioux City Wednesday has left the area, the clean-up continues.

Sioux City Street Division Supervisor Ed Pickens said street crews will continue to work, 24 days a day, to remove snow from main streets in addition to cleaning up side streets.

This task isn't easy because of the residents who aren't complying with Sioux City's snow emergency ordinances, Pickens said Wednesday afternoon.

"It would make our job easier if people would follow parking rules when a snow emergency is declared," he said.

However, Sioux City's snow emergency is expected to be lifted at 7 a.m. Thursday. The vehicles will be able to park on both sides of the street, unless otherwise posted.

Still, Sioux City did come on the low end in terms of precipitation, according to Jeff Chapman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls.

"Northern parts of Siouxland were hit especially hard with this system," Chapman said, noting that Emerson Neb. had 7.5 inches of snow while Rock Rapids had 8 inches of wintry precipitation.

Sunshine will return to Siouxland on Thursday, with a forecast high approaching around 31. Another round of snow showers is possible Thursday night. One to three inches of accumulation is possible with lows around 20.  Friday's high will hit near 33.

But don't get used to this above freezing highs, Chapman said.

"Even though it's too early to tell but snow may be returning to Siouxland on Saturday," he said.


Govt-and-politics
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Sioux City budget to avoid property tax increase; increase in mayor, council pay advances

SIOUX CITY -- Changes to the next year's city budget will stave off an increase in residential property taxes.

The tweaks mean the city's share of the tax bill for a typical home assessed at $100,000 will remain unchanged at $816. Commercial property owners will see a tax decrease of $21 per $100,000 of assessed value. 

During a budget wrap up session Wednesday, the City Council also voted 3-2 to  increase salaries for the mayor and council members by 2.5 percent, beginning Jan. 1, 2020.

The city staff prepared budget for fiscal 2020 called for no change in the previous year's property tax levy of $16.07 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. Due to a state-mandated increase in the percentage of residential property subject to taxation, most commonly known as the rollback, the owner of a typical $100,000 home would have paid an additional $21 in taxes to the city. 

Through a series of budget cuts, the council lowered the levy to $15.67 per $1,000 assessed valuation, low enough to avoid a residential tax increase.

Ian Richardson / Provided 

Scott

Finance Director Donna Forker said carpet and wall covering upgrades to the Convention Center were removed from the budget, as well as a roofing project at the Art Center. She also noted that increases in rental permits, reductions in expected workers compensation claims and salary adjustments were among the changes made to keep property taxes in check.

During Wednesday's meeting, Mayor Bob Scott moved to raise pay for the mayor and council. Scott and Council members Rhonda Capron and Alex Watters supported the increases, which will require a second reading for final passage. Councilmen Pete Groetken and Dan Moore voted no.

With the city's budget being so tight, Groetken said he doesn't think a raise is appropriate.

Groetken

"I'm not afraid of asking for it, but I am more grateful for what we have already. I don't want to push the issue when I know $4.58 a month means a heck of a lot of money to the people," Groetken said, citing a monthly rate increase some 4,200 seniors could see if a solid waste collection discount ends.

The last increase in pay -- 53 percent for council members and 50 percent for the mayor -- took effect on Jan. 1, 2018, after 16 years of stagnant wages.

That brought the mayor's annual salary is $15,000, and council pay to $13,000. 

Before Wednesday's vote, Capron said previous councils should've voted for a "minor raise," so an increase wouldn't be "such a big issue now."

Capron

"I really don't believe it should be an issue. Everybody else gets raises out here," she said. "Who runs the city? We make the big decisions up here, with obviously the help of our director. You can't be a good leader without surrounding yourself with good people."

During the budget wrap up session, the council also continued to discuss upgrades to the Tyson Events Center, a city-run venue now managed by Spectrum. 

At a previous capital improvement program, or CIP, budget meeting, council members took issue with requests to add magnetic locks to exterior doors and remodel the box office to improve security. They said they would rather see enhancements that would directly benefit the public, such as creating a box office in the northwest corner of the arena. A parking ramp that will serve Hard Rock Hotel & Casino patrons and Tyson concertgoers is currently being built near that entrance at 205 Pearl St.

Enzo Carannante, assistant general manager of the Tyson, said, so far, staff have been unable to find portable ticket booths that had been placed in storage some time ago. 

Watters

Buying a new portable booth and the associated equipment to run it would cost an estimated $40,000.

"I don't want to drop $40,000 now for just a Band-Aid and then we're looking at really revamping it in four years," Watters said.

Since the northwest entrance wouldn't necessarily be able to accommodate the high volume of traffic that major events bring, Carannante said it could be used instead as a VIP entrance.

"When you say VIP, to me that just says forget it. How do you tell me when I'm there, 'Sorry, you don't have a VIP ticket. You gotta go around?,'" said Scott, who also expressed frustration over the missing portable ticket booths. "I don't know why we can't find these ticket booths. Where the heck did they go?"

City Manager Bob Padmore said concertgoers could be instructed to enter at a specific gate based on their assigned seat.

"We would have staff that are standing outside walking down the street saying, 'Hey, this line is awful full. Please go around the corner and up the stairs," he said. "The whole goal is not to harm customer service by creating an expectation at that entrance."


State-and-regional
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Casinos, daily fantasy sports big winners in new sports betting bill

DES MOINES -- Sports betting would be legalized and hosted by the state’s 19 casinos, including the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Sioux City and Grand Falls Casino & Resort near Larchwood, under a new legislative proposal.

The proposal, which also includes an online option, was introduced Wednesday in the Iowa House, and will receive its first subcommittee hearing Thursday.

It is similar — but not identical — to a proposal making its way through the Iowa Senate.

What the two proposals have in common:

• betting on professional and college sporting events would be legalized in Iowa.

• betting on daily fantasy sports sites like DraftKings and FanDuel would be legalized.

• casinos would be eligible to apply for licenses to host sports betting on-site and online.

• the betting activity would be regulated by the state’s Racing and Gaming Commission.

• gambling addiction would be addressed with program funding and allowing participants to set limits on their gambling.

What’s different about the proposals:

• the House established a tax of 6.75 percent on gaming revenue. The Senate has not yet established a tax rate.

• the Senate requires online gamblers in the first 18 months under the new law create their new account at a casino. The House bill has no such requirement.

Each proposal is scheduled for a hearing Thursday afternoon at the Iowa Capitol.

What’s not in the bills also is important.

Some of the professional sports leagues had asked for an integrity fee to protect the leagues against what they say are additional risks brought by legalized gambling on their games, a requirement that the casinos purchase the data that resolves bets from the leagues, and a voice in determining what kinds of in-game bets — known as proposition or “prop” bets — would be allowed. None of those were included in either bill.

The Iowa Lottery had requested the ability to provide sports betting where lottery items are already sold. That was not included in either bill.

“We feel good about the process. It’s been an open, transparent process. We’ve taken input from colleagues, constituents, stakeholders,” said Roby Smith, a Republican senator from Davenport who chairs the state government committee through which the Senate bill would pass. “We’re working on a bill. It’s a work in progress to come up with the best possible bill for all Iowa. And we still have many more steps to go in the process.”

Optimism was expressed by Wes Ehrecke, president and CEO of the Iowa Gaming Association, which represents the state’s casinos. He said he thinks the differences between the two bills can be worked out.

“We feel it’s an ideal solution to have competitive and robust sports betting legalized here in Iowa via the casinos who have a long-standing history (with) not only the expertise and the experience but the ability to operate in a highly compliant, highly regulated environment,” Ehrecke said.


Ian Richardson / Provided 

Scott