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Justin Wan, Sioux City Journal 

Sioux City East's Jack Peterson, left, is defended by Sioux City West's Omar Maldonaldo during a high school basketball game in Sioux City on Friday.

Bond issues on the ballot in Siouxland Tuesday
OABCIG voters decide fate of $15.9-million bond issue

IDA GROVE, Iowa -- Driving through the OABCIG Community School District one sees little physical evidence there's a $15.9 million bond issue vote on Tuesday.

Oh, the new marquee on the historic King Theatre in Ida Grove shows there is a vote. And, there are fliers on counters at a number of business sites.

Public forums held in each community this week were lightly attended. Superintendent Matt Alexander isn't sure what to think of the relative quiet surrounding this vote, a measure that's already had 50 or so ballots filled out in a satellite voting effort completed during a Falcons basketball double-header on Nov. 30.

Voters defeated a $16-million measure in September 2017, a vote that came just three months after patrons in the Odebolt-Arthur and Battle Creek-Ida Grove districts voted to consolidate.

"We got 47 percent of the vote then," Alexander said. "There was some thinking that maybe that vote came too soon after the vote to consolidate."

District leaders and interested residents, teachers and staff members went back to the drawing board after the 2017 defeat and came up with a fresh set of physical components to be addressed in Tuesday's measure. In addition to the remodeling and updating of 17 classroom spaces (11 in the Odebolt school, six at the high school in Ida Grove), this plan will realize the construction of a 585-seat performing arts auditorium, a new band and choir room adjacent to the auditorium, a new wrestling room, new locker-rooms, a centralized district and high school office and more.

"This is the best time to bring this up," Alexander said of the 20-year bond measure. "First, it's never going to be cheaper as construction costs have risen 10 percent in 2018 alone. Second, with windmill properties in our district that will double in the next five years, those properties add taxable valuation to our district. Over time, as taxable valuation is added to the district tax rolls, the district could buy down the debt."

If the issue is passed on Tuesday, the annual tax increase for a home valued at $100,000 is $37.57, according to the district. The annual tax impact on an average acre of land is 96 cents in Ida County and 84 cents in Sac County.

"Even when we pass the bond issue with the additional tax levy, our overall levy rate will be in the lowest 30 percent of tax rates in the state," said Alexander.

OABCIG High School presented "Music Man" this fall at the high school in Ida Grove. As they've done for several years, actors and musicians presented the program on the stage that lines one end of the commons area. In years past, productions such as this were staged at the old high school site closer to downtown in Ida Grove, a structure that has since been sold and razed.

"The old auditorium in the old school was the only one in the district since 1971," said Alexander, a 1991 graduate of Ida Grove High School. "There were renovations done to it years ago, including really nice seats, but there was no storage backstage. It was still limited."

A new auditorium would have storage for costumes, dressing rooms and additional storage areas.

Currently, the high school site has a smaller wrestling practice room and weight-room facility contained in a detached, freestanding building. Members of the OABCIG Facilities Committee envision replacing those areas with a larger structure attached to the high school, adjacent to the gymnasium. Doing so would provide more space for those programs while increasing security measures on campus.

Lockers serving the Falcons programs -- and those of visiting teams -- are located on a lower level next to the gym. "Throughout time we've had constant water issues with those locker-rooms and it's tough to keep them from becoming moldy," Alexander said. "They're also not ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) compliant. We want to add ground-level locker-rooms for compliance. The new addition would go around the north and east side of the gym and, hopefully, that would take care of the water problems."

Additionally, the bond issue would allow for an expansion and relocation of woods, metals, industrial tech and FFA programs. Students in woods classes, for example, are now bused from the high school down the hill to a free-standing building at the foot of the hill leading to the high school.

Four classrooms are set to be modernized in the district this summer, as well as a window-replacement effort at the Odebolt school, part of a $650,000 capital-improvement plan slated for 2019, a plan that will proceed with or without passage of the bond issue. Should the bond pass on Tuesday, even more work will continue as the district seeks to improve sites in Odebolt and Ida Grove.

"We're putting millions of dollars into our buildings," Alexander concluded. "We need them all. We have no plans to build new ones. We want to improve what we have and make them all high quality."

Voting takes place from noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Ida Grove Rec Center, the Battle Creek Community Center and the Odebolt Fire Station.

Mr Goodfellow: Thorpe & Co. Jewellers

DONOR: Thorpe & Co. Jewellers

AMOUNT: $1,000

ABOUT THE DONOR: Located at 501 Fourth Street, Thorpe & Co. Jewellers has a four-generation, 118-year history in downtown Sioux City. The store, which offers a variety of fine jewelry and gifts, is owned by Rusty and Karen Clark. Rusty's father, Thorpe Clark, was a founding Tailwagger, a group of business leaders who worked behind the scenes in support of Mr. Goodfellow Charities and its Little Yellow Dog Auction.

DONOR COMMENT: "We have a long history of donating to organizations that support needy children and their families. We are proud to support the Goodfellows again this year."

Iowa ‘fetal heartbeat’ abortion law has day in court

DES MOINES -- A state law restricting legal abortions based on detection of a fetal heartbeat would deny women’s fundamental rights and should be struck down as unconstitutional, attorneys challenging legislation in Iowa court said Friday.

However, proponents of the so-called fetal heartbeat law — passed and signed earlier this year and considered one of the most restrictive abortion statutes in the nation — told a district judge Friday that Senate File 359 meets Iowa’s strict legal standard and an injunction should be lifted that prevented it from taking effect last July 1.

Polk County District Judge Michael D. Huppert — who previously accepted a mutually agreed-upon stipulation by attorneys on both sides to issue a temporary stay — said he expected to take up to 60 days to decide whether to grant a summary judgment barring the law as unconstitutional or allowing the matter to go to trial.

Regardless how the district judge rules, representatives on the losing side expect the decision will be appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court, and anti-abortion activists hope the ensuing legal battle ultimately could be a way to get the abortion issue before the U.S. Supreme Court, with the goal of overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

The Iowa law’s constitutionality is being challenged in a lawsuit brought by Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, Dr. Jill Meadows and the Iowa City-based Emma Goldman Clinic against Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Board of Medicine.

“This law is patently unconstitutional and would gravely harm Iowa women if allowed to take effect,” Alice Clapman, an attorney with Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told the judge Friday in seeking to block the law’s implementation.

“Summary judgment is a drastic remedy that must be exercised with extreme care,” countered Martin Cannon, special counsel for the Thomas More Society, a faith-based Chicago legal organization that is representing the state’s position at no cost to Iowa taxpayers.

Cannon said the 2018 law is narrowly tailored within the Iowa court’s legal standard to further the state of Iowa’s compelling interest in the life of a child in the womb with a measurable heartbeat.

Senate File 359, passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature and signed May 4 by Reynolds, would require doctors to conduct an abdominal ultrasound to test for a fetal heartbeat. If a heartbeat is detected — which attorneys said could be from about six weeks up to 10 weeks into a pregnancy — a physician could not perform an abortion except in cases of rape, incest or medical emergency.

The statute does not specify criminal or civil penalties for those breaking the law, but critics argue it was poorly written with vague language creating uncertainty for state-licensed doctors making medical decisions for their patients.

“This bill does not ban one single abortion, not one. It simply requires that all abortions be done early,” argued Cannon, who said the Legislature was acting within its legal bounds to impose standards at the start of life, similar to death provisions when a person’s heart stops beating.

“These legislators in Iowa have found that balance, they have found that tipping point, and it is heartbeat,” said Cannon during the two-hour hearing. “A human child with a heartbeat is a living child, no matter where she resides.”

Clapman said federal and Iowa courts have ruled that states can regulate abortion but they cannot ban abortion before viability, which she contended is what the state’s “heartbeat” law would do before many women would know they’re pregnant. If allowed to stand, the “egregiously” unconstitutional law would violate both due process and equal protection guarantees of the Iowa Constitution and “would virtually eliminate safe, legal pre-viability abortion care in Iowa,” she said.

“It would allow the Legislature to intrude upon the profoundly personal realms of family and reproductive autonomy, virtually unchecked so long as it stopped just short of requiring women to move heaven and earth,” the petitioners said in their request for summary judgment.

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Akron-Westfield to vote on $6.7M bond issue for school upgrades; 3rd attempt in 3 years

AKRON, Iowa -- A third attempt in three years to raise property taxes to fund upgrades to Akron-Westfield School District facilities go before voters on Tuesday.

Voters will consider a $6.9 million bond issue that would finance a new wing for industrial technology courses, a wellness and physical education wing, a substantial upgrading of the heating and air conditioning system, science classroom renovations, and a modernized entry system to improve security in the K-12 building in Akron.

The work is estimated to extend the life of the school by 30 years, according to a summary of the project.

The owner of a home with an assessed valuation of $100,000 would pay $139 more per year in property taxes if the referendum passes. Rural residents owning agricultural property would pay an average of an extra $2.79 per acre.

Under state law, the measure would require a 60 percent "super majority" to win approval. Two previous similar measures, in 2015 and 2016, failed after falling just short of that threshold.

In 2016, a $6.7 million bond issue won 55.8 percent of the vote. In the 2015 election, an even larger majority, 58 percent, supported a $6.7 million initiative.

On Tuesday, polls will be open at one location, the Akron Public Library, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. The district includes the Akron and Westfield areas in western Plymouth County.

The Akron-Westfield vote is one of several school bond issue votes in Northwest Iowa on Tuesday. Others are in Sergeant Bluff-Luton ($62 million), Storm Lake ($29 million) and OABCIG ($16 million).