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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Year In Review: Top Stories of 2011 Including “Story Of The Year”


2011 - A river runs through it CHAD NATION

More inside


For many city residents, the summer of 2011 was a loss. Lost time, lost money, lost sleep and lost memories all accompanied the historic flooding that was unleashed throughout the Missouri River valley. City, county, state and federal employees battled the river for the entire lost summer as unseen levels of water raged for more than 100 days. The flood of 2011 is not only the biggest story to strike the area this year, but probably will have a lasting effect on the region moving forward over the next several years. The whispers of the danger began toward the end of May. Following heavy storms in the northern basin on May 21 and 22, the U.S. Corps of Engineers started to worry about the retention of water in the six upstream reservoirs. By June 1, Mayor Tom Hanafan had issued a proclamation that people who refused to leave the river side of the levee south of Highway 92 and west of Lake Manawa would constitute a nuisance. By June 2, Gov. Terry Branstad issued a disaster proclamation for six counties along the Missouri River – Pottawattamie, Harrison, Fremont, Mills, Monona and Woodbury counties. It took only four days from the proclamation before the first levee break would occur in Fremont County near Hamburg. Two breaches happened on the same day; it would be the first of many days of waiting and wondering for residents along the river. What could be considered the understatement of the year, Jody Farhat, the Army Corps of Engineers water management chief in Omaha, said, “This is by far the wettest season and the wettest year the basin has experienced.” July runoff above Sioux City was 10 million acre-feet, making it the wettest July on record and fifth-highest single runoff month the basin has experienced since 1898.

■ Road project slowed indirectly by flood, 4C ■ 82 cents: A small price to pay for protection, 5C ■ Officials: City could survive another flood threat, 5C ■ Rivers Edge plans still in limbo, 6C ■ IWF’s rare emergency donation helps effort, 6C ■ Farmers continue long recovery process, 7C ■ City workers, Guard work overtime to beat river, 8C ■ Schools were prepared for potential flooding, 8C ■ Bluffs couple compared floods of 1952, 2011, 9C ■ New facility played key role in flood fight, 10C

File photos

Above, flood waters from the Missouri River begin to cover Interstate 29 on June 19. Below left, the level of the Missouri River was noticably up at the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge on May 27. Below center, the levee breech near Hamburg on June 13. Below right, Interstate 680 suffered considerable damages from floodwaters. Pictured is a section of the road on Sept. 15. While the stretch of road was in shambles, after the water receded, construction crews, contractors and sub-contractors from across the region teamed up to rebuild the stretch in a mere 34 days. The basin experienced three consecutive months of record runoff above Sioux City since the flooding started in May. June was the highest single month on record with 13.8 million acre-feet of runoff. May runoff was 10.5 million acre feet, the third-highest single month since 1898.

The Missouri River peaked on July 2 at 36.29 feet, according to the National Weather Service. It is the second highest measurement of the river at Council Bluffs, only being topped by the flood of 1952 when the river reached 40.2 feet. For 40 days from June 22 to Aug. 30, Council Bluffs was on Alert Level

1 status, which warned people to have an evacuation plan in case of a breach in the levee or another emergency. The interstate system was impassable as the river water found the path of least resistance for most of the summer, with stretches shut down from the Missouri border to Sioux City. The biggest destruction occurred

on Interstate 680 from Crescent to North Omaha where all four lanes of the 3.1-mile stretch were reduced to rubble as the river flowed over the section like rapids for more than two months. While the stretch of road was in shambles, after the water receded, a construction feat to marvel at was completed when construction crews, contractors and sub-contractors from across the region teamed up to rebuild the stretch in a mere 34 days. People pulling together could be seen throughout the flood fight. More than 900 volunteers filed in and filled more than 200,000 sandbags at the Mid-America Center on June 4, and hundreds more volunteers would turnout in subsequent bag-filling events. Council Bluffs Finance Director Art Hill said volunteers signed up for 13,539 hours of free labor. The cost of that labor is worth $219,966 to the city. The Iowa National Guard also played a key role in making sure the levee system did not fail. From June 13 to Aug. 30, hundreds


Good times ahead: Officials celebrate Plumrose groundbreaking CHAD NATION CNATION@NONPARIELONLINE.COM

File photo

Mayor Tom Hanafan speaks during the groundbreaking ceremony for a new $70 million facility for Plumrose USA north of the intersection of South 32nd Street and 21st Avenue on Nov. 8.

As the economic crunch lingers, Council Bluffs received some good news on Nov. 8 as elected officials and executives from Plumrose USA broke ground on a new $70 million facility. The company is building a new 100,000-square-foot cold cut facility north of the intersection of south 32nd Street and 21st Avenue to increase capacity to meet strong customer demand. CEO David Schanzer said that after an extensive search of states throughout the Midwest, Council Bluffs was chosen as the best place for the company to expand.

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“We are happy with the relationship we have had with Council Bluffs,” Schanzer said. “We’re pleased to bring good paying jobs to Iowa.” The new facility will house a state-of-the-art slicing facility. The current plant at 2650 23rd Ave. produces products that must be sliced at a different location. The new facility will not replace the old facility, but will add more production and the access to slicing. As many as 100 jobs could be created at the new plant, which could open as early as October 2012. The company, which is owned by the Denmark-based packaged meats company Danish Crown, has seen strong

demand for their products. “We have been battling to keep up with demand for some time, and our employees have shown great flexibility by working weekends to process orders and to service our customers. Therefore, we have no doubt that investing in a new modern facility is the best solution to safeguard the future of the business,” Schanzer said. “Competition is intensifying in our line of business, and for us to remain a preferred supplier, we need to invest in new facilities to meet customer requirements and modernize production.” Council Bluffs Mayor Tom Hanafan said the plant is good economic news for the city,

county and state. “Not only are we establishing a new facility, but growing our economy,” Hanafan said. “This says a lot about what is happening in the city and county.” The facility would be LEED certified, which means it will meet strict “green” building standards. Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal said expanding an existing business is good news for the region. “It is great to celebrate a bunch of new jobs coming to Council Bluffs,” he said. Hanafan said cooperative efforts between city, county and state officials, is what makes economic growth possible.

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2C Wednesday, December 21, 2011


The Daily Nonpareil

Housing good in 2011, could get better in 2012 MIKE BROWNLEE MBROWNLEE@NONPAREILONLINE.COM

Despite the flood, housing sales in 2011 bested 2010 numbers. “Honestly, we had a great year. We really did, in spite of the flood,” said Dan VanHouten, broker at NP Dodge. “We did lots of sales, better than 2010.” That’s not to say the flood didn’t affect the market. Jason James, a partner at Heartland Properties, said homeowners on the west end of Council Bluffs who might’ve otherwise looked to sell held off listing their home because of flood concerns. “We had three to four months where no one wanted to do anything,” James said. From May through September, “the best selling months, in my opinion,” he said, many people didn’t put their house up for sale. Conversely, people shopping for a new home likely didn’t look in the west end or any place where the possibility of flooding was present. Additionally, some lenders put a moratorium on financing

homes in flood-prone areas, VanHouten said. “They took it on a case-bycase basis. There were some transactions, very few, that were closed in the potentially affected area,” he said. Thankfully, the water never came. Michael Allmon, a realtor with NPDodge and the vice president of the Southwest Iowa Association of Realtors, said sales in the west end took off when the flood threat subsided. During the first half of 2011 – January through June – home sales were down about 14.8 percent in southwest Iowa compared to the same timeframe in 2010, according to statistics from the Southwest Iowa Board of Realtors multiple listing service. There were about 783 homes sold for about $191 million during that span in 2010, compared to about 667 homes for about $147 million in 2011. The average home price dropped from $122,094 to $110,731. When flood concerns receded in August, buyers

Staff photo/Cindy Christensen

Despite the flood, housing sales in 2011 bested 2010 numbers, though Jason James, a partner at Heartland Properties, said homeowners on the west end of Council Bluffs who might’ve otherwise looked to sell held off listing their home because of flood concerns. started buying. In Council Bluffs from August 2010 to August 2011 pending sales are up 3 percent and closings are up 59 percent, Allmon said. “We’re real fortunate. It’s been stable,” he said. The number of houses available – new and old – on the

market is crunched into inventory months by sale price, James said. For example, in August of this year there were 300 houses on the active market in the zero to $100,000 price range and 49 sold. At that rate, there are 6.1 inventory months available for the price range.

More tenants open shop at Metro Crossing DENNIS FRIEND DFRIEND@NONPAREILONLINE.COM

Metro Crossing Shopping Center went up at the northwest corner of Interstate 29 and U.S. Highway 275 and has attracted a number of new tenants over the year. LongHorn Steakhouse, with an atmosphere reminiscent of a Western rancher’s home, serves steaks, chicken and fish and offers specialties such as baby back ribs and LongHorn salmon. LongHorn operates more than 350 restaurants in 33 states. Men’s Warehouse applied for a permit in June and occupies 3,975 square feet of shopping space. Men’s Warehouse also has three Omaha locations, and offers suits, dress shirts, ties, shoes, tuxedos and accessories Aspen Dental opened in early March in the shopping center. The practice provides services ranging from dentures and preventive care to general dentistry and restoration. In addition, Aspen Dental provides comprehensive exams, hygiene services, treatment of periodontal (gum) disease, extractions, fillings, oral surgery, whitening and crown and bridge work. The office features digital radiography and offers advanced screening for oral cancer. The office hours include evenings and some Saturdays and accepts walk-in and emergency patients. Aspen Dental also has an on-site denture laboratory for denture repairs or adjustments. Freddy’s Frozen Custards and Steakburgers opened its doors Nov. 30, becoming Freddy’s first restaurant in Iowa. The menu includes steakburgers, grilled chicken breast sandwiches, patty melts, Chicago-inspired hot dogs, chicken tenders, Freddy’s fries, cheese fries, chili, onion rings and more. Freddy’s Original Double,

The average for all prices is 7.9 in southwest Iowa. James said a “good” housing market would feature about three inventory months. Improvement of that degree won’t come quickly, but is attainable, he said. “I don’t think we’ll see any

Retail chains ponder new Bluffs locations TIM ROHWER TROHWER@NONPARIELONLINE.COM

File photos

Panera Bread and Freddy’s Frozen Custards and Steakburgers are among the newest tenants at Metro Crossing Shopping Center at the northwest corner of Interstate 29 and U.S. Highway 275. two steak patties on butter toasted bun with fries and drink, is $5.69 plus tax. A kid’s menu also is available. T.J. Maxx also opened a retail store at Metro Crossing. With nearly 900 stores nationwide, T.J. Maxx sells brand-name family apparel,

including women’s footwear and active wear, home fashions and other merchandise

like beauty aids. The Council Bluffs store includes 20,372 square feet of retail space. Panera Bread opened at its new location in March. The bakery-café shop offers a drive-through as well as an outdoor patio. “This is our first drivethrough in this area,” Panera marketing manager Kelli Nicholson said. The outdoor patio seats up to 36 patrons and may be heated on cooler days. When the company moved to its new home from its previous location at the Mall of the Bluffs, it stated the relocation meant it could better serve its customers in Council Bluffs. The indoor café seats 92, includes a community table where groups can sit together and offers free wi-fi capability. Smashburger also opened at the Metro Crossing Shopping Center this year. Beauty Supply House is scheduled to open soon.

great gains in the next few years,” James said. “But my feeling is this area will be steady.” Allmon said he expects the Council Bluffs market to remain steady and continue improving. “I foresee it staying strong,” he said. “I think we’re fortunate.” That optimism comes thanks to favorable affordability conditions, which include low prices – that national average is $168,300, down 5.1 percent compared to August 2010 and $57,569 higher than the average in southwest Iowa – and low interest rates. A 15year fixed mortgage is about 3.375 percent, while a 30-year mortgage is around 4-4.25 percent, James said. “Those rates are unbelievable,” James said, noting rates were around 9 percent when he entered the real estate business 17 years ago. James said rates and prices going down at the same time is rare. “We’re at a perfect storm here,” he said. “This is the best time in the history of real estate to buy a house.”

Council Bluffs officials were still working out details in late December with the Walmart retail chain on financial incentives for a new Walmart store on North 16th Street. A final agreement may come in January 2012, according to Don Gross, director of the Community Development Department. This past fall, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. officials announced their hope of building a new Council Bluffs store, in addition to the one already located in the Manawa Power Centre. Originally, the company’s officials requested $5 million worth of incentives that was to come in the form of $3 million in tax increment financing rebates from sales tax revenue and similar rebates of $2 million in property taxes to build the new store. City Council members expressed concern about that amount. Councilman Matt Walsh at a late September council meeting said that the company is entitled to some type of incentive because of the necessary work involved in building the structure, but he felt a figure of $2.9 million or slightly higher might be more appropriate. The use of a sales tax TIF is something new, a financial tool for cities approved by the Iowa Legislature three years ago,

said City Attorney Richard Wade. It allows cities to capture all of the sales taxes in a designated sales tax TIF district over a period of years and return a portion of that to the beneficiary, in this case, WalMart Stores Inc., to help pay for construction costs. The company would need to demolish the old Gordmans store, do a lot of grading work, transport in fill dirt and deal with storm water issues before constructing their store, Wade said. While negotiations have been going on, residents have expressed their desire for the project. Pam Horihan, 1128 N. 23rd St., told the council at a September meeting, “It would be a lot more convenient for people in our area.” There might also be a new location for one of the city’s Family Dollar stores. A certificate of occupancy has been issued, according to the Community Development Department, for officials of that national chain of variety stores to move its current store at 3415 W. Broadway further east to the long vacant building at 28th Street and West Broadway that was once occupied by Jubilee Foods. The permit to remodel the vacant building was $110,000, according to the city’s Building Division. The chain’s other store at 1714 W. Broadway will remain there.

Monday-Friday 9am-5:30pm, Saturdays 10am-2pm 2701 W. Broadway , Council Bluffs, IA 51501 (712) 328-2288 Fax: (712) 328-2299 Toll Free: (888) 798-2288



The Daily Nonpareil

Wednesday, December 21, 2011 3C

Much debate, little action on hot-button issue TIM ROHWER

court immediately. It was a court case.� A court threw out a South Dakota bill similar to the Iowa House proposal, Gronstal added. The Senate’s bill, had it been approved by the House, he said, would have required a physician to demonstrate that such a clinic was needed in the state, he said. There were only six later-term abortions performed in Iowa in 2009 and that hardly demonstrates a need for such clinics, he added. The House bill would have banned abortions after the first 20 weeks of pregnancy unless the mother’s life was threatened by continuing it. Not surprisingly, as abortion has been a hot-button issue for decades, there were emotional views from the public, espe-


There was much debate, yet little action taken on late-term abortions in Iowa this year. Will that be the case in 2012? “From the House perspective, the focus will be on the economy, jobs and putting people back to work, though obviously there will be other issues debated,� said Rep. Hanusa Mary Ann Hanusa, R99th District. The Iowa House and Senate were unable to join forces and pass a bill outlawing abortions after 20 Gronstal weeks of pregnancy that many people, especially in Council Bluffs, wanted so as to prevent Dr. Leroy Carhart from opening a clinic here from nearby Nebraska, where late-term abortions are outlawed. The only action taken on abortion in Iowa was minor lan-

&KRRW\'HFHPEHU6$/( File photo

Rally attendees hold up pro-life signs as the Value Voter Bus Tour makes a stop at Bayliss Park in Council Bluffs on Aug. 11. guage changes stating a woman must be given the opportunity to see an ultrasonic of the fetus, but she is not required to view it. In addition, she would have to be given information about alternatives to abortion, such as adoption

and carrying the pregnancy to term and retaining custody. There was plenty of finger pointing on the lack of stronger language. “The House passed two separate bills that would ban abortions at 20 weeks or after, and

the Senate did not take up either one for a vote,� Hanusa said. Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, also of Council Bluffs, didn’t see it that way. “The bill the House passed would have been thrown out of

IWCC gains national attention for growth DENNIS FRIEND DFRIEND@NONPAREILONLINE.COM

Iowa Western Community College gained national attention in 2011 for its continued enrollment growth. The December edition of Community College Week Magazine ranked IWCC ninth on its list of the Top 50 Fastest Growing Community Colleges in the nation. The list considered two-year schools with enrollments between 5,000 and 9,999. Between fall of 2009 and fall of 2010, Iowa Western was ninth from the top with a 13 percent increase in enrollment. The IWCC head count increased 799 students from 6,000 to 6,799 during the recording period. This year, the school enrolled 7,206 full- and part-time students. The magazine report was no surprise to IWCC President Dan Kinney, who had announced in September that the school had registered “another all-time record enrollment.� “We had students from 57 different countries and from all over the country,� Kinney said. “We’ve created an environment in which students and parents know our instruction is as good or better than a university, but our costs are lower. We want it to feel like a university. It does, and it’s a community college.� Don Kohler, marketing and public relations vice president, said this year marked the first time the school “surpassed 7,000 in head count.� The rising popularity of Iowa Western can be attributed to “a multitude of reasons,� Kinney said, including a rate of tuition “about 60 percent of tuition at the universities, and private colleges are much more.� Iowa residents pay $126 per credit hour at IWCC. A credit hour at the University of Northern Iowa costs $267. At the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Iowa students who live in Pottawattamie, Harrison and Mills counties and eight other counties pay $284.63 per credit hour, or 150 percent of Nebraska resident tuition of $189.75 per credit hour. Other non-residents pay $559.50 per credit hour to attend University of Nebraska at Omaha. “You can come here for the first two years, then finish at a four-year school and save a lot of money,� Kinney said. Recent improvements that include a $5 million Center for Advanced Nursing and Allied Health Education, more oncampus housing and a new $12 million student center also may play a role in the enrollment increase. Cara Cool became IWCC’s

cially by pro-life supporters. On a Saturday morning in May, some 300 people gathered in Bayliss Park to show support for the House bill. Those who gathered were seniors, middleaged, and mothers with small children. “They are the rank and file people,� said local activist Jon Jacobsen at the time. “They are moms and dads working 50 hours a week and their kids are going to school. This is a tremendous turnout.� The lack of action surprised and disappointed Council Bluffs officials. “It allows the doors to remain open for late-term abortions,� Councilman Matt Walsh said. “I thought it was a done deal,� Mayor Tom Hanafan said. “That is surprising.�

student recruiter this year after graduating from the University of Iowa with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications. “I went to Iowa Western, graduated with an associate’s degree in arts and general studies, then I went to the University of Iowa. All my classes transferred,� Cool said. A similar agreement with the University of Northern Iowa known as the Admissions Partnership Program was characterized by UNI President Ben Allen in 2009 as a “win-win-win situation.� IWCC students planning to

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pursue a bachelor’s degree may begin their studies with a transfer in mind. Advisors help guide the students through courses they need, and it may be possible to complete the bachelor’s degree within two years of full-time study after earning a two-year degree from IWCC. Kinney, Kohler and Cool believe the increase in student enrollment also is tied to improvements at the campus. Clark Hall went through a facelift over the summer to accommodate a new “one-stop shop� for students beginning college.

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1221 N. 16th Street Council Bluffs, IA


In February, the school dedicated a $5 million Center for Advanced Nursing and Allied Health Education. Kinney said enrollment in the nursing program has doubled. There are now 148 students in the RN program and more than 200 in the LPN program, “with 300 people on the waiting list.� Another phase of the Reiver Suites housing complex opened in August, with room for 144 more students. “We have more than 1,200 students living on campus now,� Kinney said. “Even with the new 144 suites, we still have a waiting list.�




YEAR IN REVIEW First year under way at new schools Road project slowed

4C Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Daily Nonpareil

indirectly by flood


The Council Bluffs Community School District opened two new elementary schools at the start of the 2011 school year. College View Elementary School, 1225 College Road, is a first for the district. The school has been confirmed as a candidate school for the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme, meaning College View will be the first school in Council Bluffs to actively pursue authorization as an IB World School. The IB program approach means College View students are taught the same subjects as students at other district schools, but with an inquiryheavy approach “to promote knowledgeable and caring young people,” according to IB informational material. For instance, a social studies class might study the three branches of U.S. government, but the inquiry approach might mean students look into the effect of a government decision, and a student may be allowed to pick an area to study more deeply. IB students also are required to study a second language, and at College View, it will be Spanish. “The approach creates children who have learned to


File photo

Members of the Thomas Jefferson High School marching band join the teachers of Carter Lake Elementary as they perform a flash mob during the open house at the new elementary school on Aug. 16. research and communicate,” principal Sue Rice said. Research and discussions will allow children to develop what IB calls “international-mindedness.” According to IB literature, the approach allows students to become knowledgeable thinkers and communicators, and to be “principled, openminded, caring risk-takers who are balanced and reflective.” College View is a two-story, 67,000-square-foot facility with 18 classrooms, three for each grade level from kindergarten

through fifth grade. There are preschool classrooms and areas for other programs. The new Carter Lake Elementary School at 1000 Willow Drive replaced the original but aging Carter Lake school that sat at 1105 Redick Blvd. Dancing, singing, a marching band and a ribbon cutting ceremony greeted parents and students when they showed up for Back to School Night. “Look at your new school, it’s very pretty,” Principal Kim Kazmierczak told youngsters

arriving for the first time. The new building is a twostory, 63,000-square-foot facility that resembles the College View building. The architectural firm of Beringer Ciaccio Dennell Mabrey designed both schools. The district chose to replace and demolish the 60-year-old Carter Lake school building because the foundation has been shifting and repairs would cost too much. Both schools accommodate about 500 students.

Board: Community theater’s future looking dim TIM JOHNSON TJOHNSON@NONPAREILONLINE.COM

Staff photo/Cindy Christensen

The Chanticleer Community Theater Board of Directors announced Oct. 26 it might have to close the theater after this season – if it can’t shore up more community support. Airline Tickets Hotel Reservations Car Rentals Corporate Travel

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he said. “Those lights are $400 to $500 apiece, so you can’t just go out and buy a bunch of them.” The board has made an effort to bring in outside funds, Putman said. “We write grants like crazy and get turned down like crazy,” he said. The Pottawattamie County Community Foundation has provided small grants to the theater for several years, Putman said. “That’s probably the only one that’s been real consistent for us,” he said.

File photo

Part of the Iowa Department of Transportation’s plan is to widen I-80/29 between the west and east interchanges to 12 lanes. It will mean adding another level to the west interchange, building bridges over Mosquito Creek, pictured, and completing additional work at Highway 275.

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ater productions and workshops, Chanticleer gives students opportunities to learn to act, build sets, operate the lights and run sound, he said. At the end of the season, there’s little or nothing left for major capital expenditures, Putman said. “We’ve got five roofs on the building, and all of them need to be replaced,” he said. There’s no hail damage, he said, “but they’re flat, and they leak. We’re looking at about $70,000 for the roofs, and part of that would be the relocation of two of the furnace/air conditioning units that are currently on the flat roofs. “And, of course, once you start doing any major projects, you’re probably going to be looking at $25,000 to $30,000 for a sprinkler system. We’re grandfathered in on several things because of the age of our facility.” But if the theater spent a certain percentage of the building’s value, the city would want it to bring things up to code, he said. Some of the facility’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning units need repair or replacement, too, Putman said. “We have six units, so different ones need attention,” he said. When the theater replaced one unit about three years ago, the cost was $6,500, Putman said. “A lot of the lights our lighting designer uses for the shows we were using in 1952 or 1960,”


The lights may be dimming at Chanticleer Community Theater – and not just during scene changes. The Chanticleer Community Theater Board of Directors announced Oct. 26 it might have to close the theater after this season – if it can’t shore up more community support. The theater’s operating budget is divided almost evenly between facility expenses and production costs, said Bob Putman, manager. “We hope that season ticket sales and the memberships cover building expenses, and then the gate covers the production expenses,” he said. Building expenses have surged for Chanticleer, just as they have for everyone else. In the past few years, gas bills have almost doubled, he said. Electric bills have increased by a somewhat smaller but still substantial amount. Production costs grow as royalties increase, building materials for sets go up and raises are given to the theater’s few paid employees – directors, music directors, etc., Putman said. “Royalties, especially for musicals, are horrendous,” he said. “You could very easily run about $4,000, plus the security deposit – and you never get all of it back, because they take the shipping out of that, if nothing else.” The board has tried to keep ticket prices reasonable, he said. This season, tickets to individual performances are $17 for adults, $14 for seniors and $9 for students, he said. Memberships are $65 for adults (includes five shows), $50 for seniors and $30 for students. But if attendance falls, as it has this year, revenue may fall short. The drop could be seen in the last Children’s Theater production, “Babes in Toyland,” Putman said. “Usually, we have between 180 and 225 at each of our Children’s Theater productions,” he said. “This year, it was not anywhere near that.” Through its Children’s The-

The board raised $2,000 from a Halloween party years ago and $700 from a cookie dough sale – its last fundraiser, Putman said. “That’s nice, but that’s not enough to cover what we really need,” he said. Putman believes an endowment fund is needed. The fund could pay for capital expenditures and maybe some production costs, he said. The board would like to start it off with $1.2 million, with $200,000 going for current needs and the rest left to earn interest. “But if the community doesn’t step up and we can only make $125,000 to $130,000 to keep on doing shows, the building is a year older and that much more is needed to fix things up,” he said. “The one thing that upsets me the most is the fact we’re not going to be able to have our children’s theater activities like we’ve done in the past,” he said. “Over the course of the year, we have about 100 children involved in productions, and we’re not going to have that anymore.” Putman said the board would decide by March 1 whether to continue for another season.

The flood delayed the already arduous process of getting permits for the Council Bluffs Interstate Project, an Iowa Department of Transportation official said recently. “We’re in the process of getting a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit to make the changes and start the grading for the west system interchange,” said John Carns, Council Bluffs Interstate Project coordinator. The flood distracted the Corps from completing its divisional review of the plan – which is just one of many in a long, drawn-out process, he said. As a result, the Corps temporarily suspended permits. Carns hopes the permit will be issued in the next few months. “We’re hoping to let bids on the 17th of April,” he said. The DOT hopes to hold a public hearing on the design in March, he said. The corps has already slowed down the process by adding requirements to the application process, Carns said. “Typically, the theme is a 100-year flood,” he said. “We submitted information for a 100-year flood and a 500-year flood.” The corps also wanted information on the effects of 25- and 50-year floods, he said. That was after the DOT had already done an internal review and had reviews by an independent party and two

Corps of Engineers district offices, Carns said. Fortunately, this is the final review. “It’s been a long process,” he said. “It’s delayed our letting date for about a year now.” The corps is taking a close look at the plan, because it would involve moving part of the levee a few hundred feet to accommodate the interchange at the west I-80/I-29 split, he said. The plan is to widen I80/29 between the west and east interchanges to 12 lanes, Carns said. It will mean adding another level to the west interchange, building bridges over Mosquito Creek and completing additional work at Highway 275. “We’ve got two or three years of construction in that area,” he said. “We’re going to be working in the 275 area for three to four years and changing some railroads.” That includes rebuilding the I-29/Highway 275 interchange and moving some railroad lines, Carns said. “Our goal is to get rid of the railroad by Lewis Central School, get rid of some crossings, move the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe railroad by the Bartlett grain elevator and get rid of the crossings by the Manawa Power Centre.” Plans also call for installing a sound barrier, he said. Work on the I-80 bridge over the river was completed pretty much on time, Carns said. “It’s got some cleanup items, but it was supposed to be done by October, and it was pretty much done.”

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The Daily Nonpareil

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


82 cents: A small price to pay for protection CHAD NATION CNATION@NONPAREILONLINE.COM

The heroes of the flood-fight of 2011 along the Missouri River have been publicly lauded on numerous occasions since the river finally returned to its channel. But there is one unsung workhorse that has not been widely discussed: The sandbag. Hundreds of thousands of sandbags were filled and flung throughout the county. Whether they were shoring up the levee or guarding city infrastructure, sandbags played a crucial role in protecting the citizenry. Council Bluffs Finance Director Art Hill said the city purchased 696,414 sandbags this summer. At an average price of $.40 each, that adds up to about $278,565.

Hill said the city also purchased some 13,000 tons of sand to fill the bags. The sand prices averaged $13.75 per ton – meaning $178,750 of sand was bought this summer. Throw in the cost of pallets to stack them on and shrinkwrap to secure them, and you have an estimate of the cost of each sandbag. “We came up with 82 cents,” Hill said. “That’s just materials for the bag because most of the labor was volunteer.” Hill broke down the cost to $.40 for the bag, $.27 worth of sand in each bag, $.10 for the pallet and $.05 for shrink-wrap. Volunteer labor saved the city almost $220,000, which will also serve as an in-kind match for grants. Volunteers performed 5,275 shifts during the flood event,

File photo

Ray Loftus of Council Bluffs secures a crate of sandbags before it is hauled away on June 11. according to Hill. Those shifts consisted of 13,539 hours of volunteer labor.

“That is worth $219,966 to the city when it is time to sort out who pays for what,” Hill

added. After the flood, the city did collect filled sandbags, and there are none that are currently being stored. “There is no stock pile of filled bags; if you had them sitting for a long period of time and tried to lift them, you ended up with a pile of sand,” Hill joked. But nearly half of the sandbags were debagged in October. The city set up a de-bagging site at the Parks and Recreation’s maintenance facility. A machine tore open 290,000 bags to remove the sand. The resulting pile of sand, around 6,500 tons, will remain at the facility. “We will use that for other purposes, such as fill in the parks, and to keep on hand in case it should be needed again

this spring,” Hill said. Pottawattamie County Emergency Management Director Jeff Theulen said he did not have hard numbers on what the county spent on sandbags, because multiple departments purchased and used the bags as needed, but Emergency Management bought 50,000 sandbags in the beginning of the event and maintains a stockpile. “We bought them not necessarily to use but because he wanted to make sure he had them,” he said. “It was a situation where you knew sandbags were going to be sold out, so we wanted to get our order in.” The leftover stockpile is spread throughout two county warehouses. Theulen said they would hold onto the bags in case of future flooding events.

Officials: City could survive another flood threat TIM ROHWER TROHWER@NONPAREILONLINE.COM

Obviously, Council Bluffs officials and the city’s residents hope that 2012 won’t be a repeat of this year when it comes to high Missouri River waters. Nevertheless, Public Works Director Greg Reeder seemed confident the city could weather another flood. “We have no reason to believe the levee can’t do it again,” he said. Granted, the federally built levee took a beating this year and it’s 60 years old to boot, Reeder said, but the U.S. Corps of Engineers constantly monitored the levee’s condition this past summer. The end result was that it did its job, he said. There was also no gaping holes in this levee that needed fixing, unlike others along the river, he added. The Corps identified two

areas that needed immediate repairs, Reeder said. These areas involve pump stations near the river. One of them is by the Veterans Memorial Highway on the south side, the other up on North 28th Street. “Those two areas are to be completed before next March 1,” Reeder said. Fortunately, for the city, the Corps will pay for those repairs, he said. In fact, the Corps has budgeted $10 million of federal money for those two emergency repairs and other needed repairs. The city has also made repairs on so-called gate structures within the levee, Reeder said. When necessary, these gates will close to prevent high river water from backing up into the city’s sewer system. Ditches around these areas were cleaned up for better water absorption, he added. The flood caused 25 sani-

tary sewer collapses and the worst ones have been repaired, Reeder said. The city is also going through the process of ensuring the levee meets new Federal Emergency Management Agency standards. In the past, when communities needed to recertify their levees, an occasional requirement, FEMA insisted that necessary repairs bring the levee back to its condition the year before. Now, FEMA requires a community’s levee be as good as the day it was built before it gives its approval. Then, there’s also the experience that city officials received from this summer’s flood should another come quickly, Reeder said. “It’s fresh in everybody’s mind on flood fighting,” he said. “It’s hard to predict the future, but we have no reason to think we’ll have a levee problem.”

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6C Wednesday, December 21, 2011


City leaders are determined to build a park along the river without breaking the bank. Officials have been negotiating with contractor MFT on a scaled-back design that would allow the city to establish the park but divert some of the $11 million cost of the original proposal into flood repairs. Work on River’s Edge Park began in March but was suspended in May when the Missouri River was rising, said Larry Foster, parks director. Since then, Mayor Tom Hanafan froze capital projects so the city could focus on repairing flood damage – which has estimated at upwards of $25 million. When the flood came, the city had already signed a contract with MFT. Officials are hoping the contractor will be willing to settle for a smaller project for the immediate future. “It’s probably in both the city and the contractor’s best interest to have some kind of project,” he said. “But the mayor has been adamant – and the council – that we need to decrease the cost to the city of the project” so the city can devote as much money as possible to repairing sewers, storm sewers, pump stations, lift stations, streets and other infrastructure. “It’s going to take a large amount of money and take a

The Council Bluffs Barnes & Noble will close on Dec. 31.

Staff photo/Cindy Christensen

City to lose bookstore on Dec. 31 MIKE BROWNLEE

number of years of city resources to get the city put back together.” Fortunately, the park site suffered relatively minor damage in the flood, Foster said. “Generally, we’ve been very reassured about what we’ve seen,” he said. “The damage is very minimal – no major erosion, no large silt deposits.” Based on conversations with hydrologists, city officials expect the site to escape serious damage, Foster said. The main channel is farther out in the river, and woodlands buffer the area on both ends. “It has performed just as we thought it would,” he said. If negotiations and revision of the plans go well, Foster is hopeful that the project can move ahead next year, he said. “If we can move fast enough, we would hope that we could do some things this winter and get moving strong in the spring,” he said. The park is to stretch from well north of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge south to Harrah’s Council Bluffs Casino & Hotel with a twolane road meandering through and paved pathways connecting with the bridge and existing trails. The centerpiece was to be a six-acre “Great Lawn” for recreation, outdoor concerts and other activities. The ground will gradually rise going to the east to help minimize future flood damage.

The Daily Nonpareil

IWF’s rare emergency donation helps effort $515K grant to American Red Cross helped address several needs, including restocking emergency canteens, operating costs MIKE BROWNLEE MBROWNLEE@NONPAREILONLINE.COM

When the flood alert ended and recovery began, the Iowa West Foundation stepped up to help the transition. On Sept. 7 the nonprofit organization announced a $515,000 grant to the Loess Hills chapter of the American Red Cross to help meet the needs of individuals and families negatively affected by Missouri River flooding. “One of the top priorities in the Iowa West Foundation mission statement is, ‘human and social needs,’” said Jerry Mathiasen, interim president and CEO of the foundation. “It’s extremely rare to give emergency grants, but in this case, the foundation, board and I felt it was absolutely necessary. The grant exemplifies our efforts to meet our mission.” The money helps the Red Cross recovery effort, Jill Orton, executive director of the Loess Hills Chapter, said. “The Red Cross hopes to be catalytic in our approach in this recovery effort by working with many groups in the entire region,” she said. “This tremendous funding not only signals community support, but also is a real boost of confidence to area human service volunteers and staff.” Mathiasen said as the flood threat loomed, he touched base with Orton and, “we met to begin planning for a possible catastrophic event.” “Thankfully, that didn’t happen,” Mathiasen said. “But we continued to develop ways to not only be prepared for such an event but to assist affected residents and developed plans to help residents meet recovery challenges. “As a result, when the flood alert was lifted on Aug. 30, about a week later the foundation and Red Cross were able to announce the grant to be immediately available.” Grant funds were available in two phases, Mathiasen explained. The first included addressing immediate needs, such as bulk distribution of clean-up kits, sump pumps, as

well as – “this is an important one,” he said – restocking the emergency canteens of the Red Cross and Salvation Army. The canteens were used for distribution of water and food to residents who volunteered (predominantly sandbaggers) and the Iowa National Guard. The early funds were also used to operate the city of Council Bluffs volunteer center at First Christian Church. In addition, the funds were used for operating coalition of community and human service agencies. Mathiasen said the coalition was modeled on a similar coalition model used in eastern Iowa during ’08 floods. “If anything unfortunate happens in 2012, this coalition is ready to go,” he said. The second phase of fund availability continues, for interim housing, debris removal, housing repairs, casework of individuals and families (including mental health services), utility assistance, rental fees – for products used in homes – and other critical costs as the area recovers from the flood. On top on $515,000, Mathiasen said the foundation provided an additional $50,000 for general operating support of the local Loess Hills chapter. “Our objective was simple: Help the individuals and families with their critical recovery needs,” Mathiasen said, including the cleanup and repair of their homes. “We believe the grant has been vital in doing just that,” he said.

File photo

Jill Orton, executive director of the Red Cross Loess Hills Chapter, stands with the materials that make up the Red Cross flooding clean up kits. The Iowa West Foundation awarded a $515,000 grant to the Loess Hills chapter to help fund cleanup on both sides of the Missouri River.

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Bye, bye books. Word came in early November that the Barnes & Noble bookstore at the Mall of the Bluffs would close at the end of this year and not relocate in Council Bluffs. The Council Bluffs Barnes & Noble store also featured a coffee shop and a large area of CDs and DVDs for purchase. “The Council Bluffs store is closing as it comes to the end of its lease term. The (mall) has lost a number of major tenants over the last few years and has significant vacancies, along with no major plans for new investment or new tenants coming to the project,” David Deason, vice president of development for the book chain, said in an email. “We encourage employees to apply at other Barnes & Noble locations in the area.” The Council Bluffs Barnes & Noble will close on Dec. 31. The bookstore’s departure from the Mall of the Bluffs is the latest in a string of businesses to vacate the mall in recent years, slowly turning the former shopping Mecca into a ghost town. The closure also leaves just two Barnes & Noble outlets in the area, both in Omaha. Council Bluffs is left without a dedicated bookseller. The Council Bluffs Public Library, though, continues to provide an outlet for reading, listening and watching your favorites.

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The Daily Nonpareil

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Farmers continue long recovery process MIKE BROWNLEE

scraper, a piece of construction equipment pulled behind a tractor, to pick up soil to haul off. They’re considering using a 4-foot deep plow to push some of the sand under, where it


Total acres underwater in Pottawattamie, Harrison and Mills counties during the 2011 Missouri River flood: 150,037. Of that total, 140,775 acres were farmland. “For lack of a better phrase, it was a hassle,” farmer Mason Hansen said in an acknowledged understatement. “But that doesn’t do it justice.” Hansen, 37, and his cousin, David Hansen, 39, work the fields north of Crescent. Their operation includes land throughout the area west of Interstate 29 along the “river bottom,” what farmers call land between the Loess Hills along the river on both sides. David said the flood wiped out 80 percent of the crops on their “average-size farm” (he declined to get specific on acres). Iowa Farm Service Agency public relations and outreach coordinator Beth Grabau provided the numbers on total acreage and farmland flooded, but estimates on the amount of revenue lost weren’t available. Anecdotally, farmer Roger Clark assessed the situation. “It was a long summer,” he said. “A very costly summer for farmers.” Clark farms about 650 acres in the Crescent area, south of the Hansens, on the north and south sides of Interstate 680 and east of I-29. About 600 of his acres were underwater during the flood. The disaster hit Harrison County the hardest – of the three counties listed above – with 85,752 total acres and 77,849 acres of cropland flooded. In Mills County, there were 34,346 acres flooded, including 31,532 acres of farmland. And in Pottawattamie County the flood affected 33,939 acres – 31,394 acres of cropland. The Hansens, Clark and Iowa State University Extension field agronomist Aaron Saeugling were in agreement on what farmers can expect next year. “No one really knows what the impact will be,” Saeugling said. Mason added: “It’s really unknown how large this issue will be.” The Hansens’ farmland is muddy and brown now, the soil drying and cracked like a desert. Patches of sand and silt are visible throughout the cropland, left behind by the water. “And the closer the land is to the river, the more sand. You can’t farm that, you have to remove it and haul it away,” Mason said. “That’s a very expensive proposition.” The roof of a neighbor’s former out-building sits on the soil, the rest of the structure either in pieces around it or gone. Mason noted the building was functional before the flood. In every direction there’s much of the same: Sheds, storage bins and other buildings that look weathered and decrepit, as if they’d been decaying for years or decades, but instead just ravaged by the water. The floodwaters are gone, but farmers continue to assess damage, take stock of what their land looks like and begin to plan the rehabilitation process. “We’re trying to decide the best method,” David said. The Hansens have used a

At left, sand that covers much of Bob Collison’s farmland near Blencoe sifts through the fingers of a visitor to the farm in November. Below, once good farmland, much of Lee Westergaard’s land in Whiting is covered with sand from Missouri River flooding in November. In the distance, a scraper works to clear the sand from the soil, mixing it with soil in other areas.

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year will be a restoration year of sorts, with yields likely below average in 2012 and maybe beyond. “The thing is, no one’s been through this before. Everything they’re saying is a guess, and they’ll admit that,” he said. “No one’s had this much water on the ground, in this large an area, for this long.”

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8C Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Daily Nonpareil

Schools were prepared for potential flooding St. Albert, IWCC only sites well out of harm’s way DENNIS FRIEND DFRIEND@NONPAREILONLINE.COM

File photos

AmeriCorps volunteers, pictured above as they canvas neighborhoods alongs Ninth Avenue on June 18 to distribute evacuation information, were one of many groups of volunteers to help in the summer and fall.

City workers, Guard work overtime to beat river TIM JOHNSON TJOHNSON@NONPAREILONLINE.COM

City workers and Iowa National Guard personnel worked overtime to keep the Missouri River at bay and make flood-related repairs this summer and fall. The city of Council Bluffs spent $255,000 on overtime hours between May 25 and Nov. 30, according to Art Hill, city finance director. That’s over and above the $1,034,000 it paid out for regular wages. In addition, salaried employees worked an enormous number of extra hours to stay ahead of the advancing floodwaters, he said. In all, exempt personnel worked 2,918 hours beyond their regular hours at no extra pay. The 14 people on salary worked an average of 208 extra hours per person during this period. “In order for us to get through this, all of us had to work together as a team,” Mayor Tom Hanafan said. “Without that cooperation, we wouldn’t have gotten through this. I never heard a complaint.” Repairs had to be made to pump stations – sometimes on an emergency basis – sewers and streets. “It was remarkable how much work was done,” he said. “It was a lot of dedication.” City officials had to develop an evacuation plan for 35,000 people and seven schools and plan alternate routes in case streets in flood-prone areas had to be closed, Hanafan said. Officials were also concerned about possible risk to the water plant, sewer treatment plant and power plant. “There were a lot of things that could have happened – none of them good,” he said. “I think, in some cases, a lot of people didn’t realize – or couldn’t realize – the magnitude of what could have happened.” Also immense was the contribution of the Iowa National Guard, which monitored the levee around the clock for almost three months to make sure any weaknesses were promptly addressed, Hill said. “The value of what they did was almost priceless,” he said. “They worked around the clock. The value of the equipment they brought in was huge. “Had we not had the Guard – because our original plan was to do levee patrol ourselves with temporary workers – we would have (paid) up to about $5,000 a day to do that for as long as they did it – about $350,000 to $400,000,” he said. “The level of education and experience they had was tremendous. A lot of the supervisors in charge of the details were engineers.” In addition, some members served as liaisons between agencies and helped coordinate the response efforts, Hill said. And, of course, community members also pitched in. Countless local residents volunteered to fill and stack sandbags, operate shelters, distribute food and water and keep other volunteers supplied with

Pvt. Jesse McCarvel marks a small white flag next to a hole filled with water he found on the dry side of the levee on Aug. 9. snacks. Among the organizations mobilizing volunteers were the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Heartland

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Although area school officials believed the levees in Council Bluffs would hold back the Missouri River floodwaters, they were prepared in case the levees didn’t. The Council Bluffs school district spent $35,576 on flood preparation, which included practicing for emergency school evacuations and moving furniture, files and other items from the lower floors of buildings located in the path of a possible flood. Costs could have been higher had it not been for volunteer efforts. The Council Bluffs Community School District made plans to move summer school and summer lunch programs if necessary. District representatives assessed flood threats and felt buildings most at risk would include Walnut Grove, Rue, Longfellow, Ninth Avenue, Thomas Jefferson and Franklin. Walnut Grove Elementary School, 2920 Ave. J, is on the flood plain and stands about a half-mile from the Missouri River, and volunteers moved items from the basement to the second floor. Sump pumps in the basements at Longfellow Elementary and Thomas Jefferson High School kept water

intrusion at minimum, but district finance director Kristy Hansen said water damage in the Thomas Jefferson High School basement has been estimated at more than $80,000. District building and grounds foreman Joseph Smith said water damage was not unexpected, since Thomas Jefferson is an older building that “typically takes on water,” when it rains, primarily from moisture seeping in around cracks in the basement floors. Cost estimates linked to the flooding have been submitted to FEMA. The Council Bluffs school district also arranged for Kirn Middle School to be used as a Red Cross shelter if needed as other agencies made flood-response plans. District employees and volunteer teachers moved materials and equipment from the basements and lower levels of schools like Walnut Grove Elementary; Longfellow Elementary, 2011 S. 10th St.; Thomas Jefferson; and from the basement of the Educational Service Center, 12 Scott St., as well. The Lewis Central Community School District also prepared for possible flooding. Supplies and other items at E.A. Kreft primary school were moved onto tables and off the floors. Jeff Carper, Lewis Central school operations director, monitored the flood threat and set up sandbags as a precaution around E.A. Kreft primary school, 3206 Renner Dr. Flood-related costs would include $4,943 for sandbags and labor, Carper

said, “$6,136 if you add the cost of bus drivers at Kreft involved in our quick-evacuation plan.” The FEMA reimbursement of $4,069 included sandbag purchases and some labor. In August, high water and heavy rain combined to swamp a Lewis Central school bus carrying twodozen middle and high school students. The bus stalled near 30th Street and Atlantic Avenue as water poured into the intersection, rising to about four feet. The National Guard rescued the children through the rear-door exit on the bus. No one was injured and the bus was undamaged, Carper said. St. Albert Catholic Schools was well out of harm’s way on a hill at 400 Gleason Ave., but president Joe Connolly said the school was prepared to help. “We agreed to open to Catholic churches as worship or office space if flooding occurs,” Connolly said. He also agreed to make space available for Pottawattamie County offices on a temporary basis, and the Council Bluffs Fire Department would have been allowed to set up a staging area for an urban search and rescue team if the need arose. Like St. Albert Catholic Schools, the Iowa Western Community College campus is located on high ground. Don Kohler, vice president for marketing and public relations, said two local businesses made arrangements to park vehicles at the college should flood waters threaten.


The Daily Nonpareil


The Missouri River flood of 2011 rivaled the Missouri River flood of 1952. “The flood in 1952 lasted a couple of weeks. This time, it lasted three months. We have the dams now, and they held so damn much water,” Harry Springer said. Springer and his wife, Lila, were around for both floods. The couple had moved into their home at 820 Ave. C in June 1949. Then came the flood of 1952. A severe winter in 195152 dropped unusually large amounts of snow, followed by an early, rapid snow melt which filled the Missouri River tributaries. In March 1952, blizzards were followed by rain and by temperatures that climbed as high as 75 degrees. Frozen ground allowed melting snow to run directly into streams feeding the Missouri River. On April 5, the river began to rise, and it kept rising. On April 7, the river reached the 19-foot flood stage, and predictions called for water to rise to levels higher than 23 feet. The Army Corps of Engineers said the levees were designed to handle 26.5 feet of water and would not be topped unless the river rose above 31.5 feet. Council Bluffs Mayor James Mulqueen realized west end homes on the three-mile flood plain were vulnerable and evacuation orders were issued. The Springers were part of that mandatory evacuation. “We were kicked out for about two weeks,” Harry Springer said. They still live at 820 Ave. C, and have been married 64 years. This year, there was no mandatory evacuation, but Lila Springer said the flood of 2011 was difficult because “the high water lasted so long. The worrying lasted longer.” The Springers were one of


Water dominates headlines

Bluffs couple compared floods of 1952, 2011 DFRIEND@NONPAREILONLINE.COM

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

TOP STORY/From Page 1A of members of the Iowa National Guard walked the levees – 24 hours a day, seven days a week – looking for levee abnormalities. Public Works Operations Director Pat Miller said it would not have been possible to keep the levee system operational without the assistance from the National Guard. “I can’t imagine we would have gotten this far without them,” Miller said in August. “I don’t know how we would have done it. They had hundreds of soldiers out there. We wouldn’t have had enough people to do it and still do all the other things we did.” And it was Miller’s crews at the Council Bluffs Public Works that did a lot of the heavy lifting during the event. “They are first responders to this disaster; if it had been a fire, it would be a fireman or if there was a hostage, it would be the police,” said Pottawattamie County Emergency Management Director Jeff Theulen. “In a flood, it has been Public Works in the city.” “We had a lot of guys putting in 16-hour days,” Miller said. “It’s one thing for me to put in a 16-hour day in my office, but these guys were out there actually doing the hard work.” Even with all of the hard work, damage was still inevitable. North and south of Council Bluffs farmland was inundated with water. According to the new study commissioned by the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation in October, this year’s flooding caused an estimated $207 million in lost crop sales and related economic activity. Just how that land will recover in the coming years is unknown. Some farms have multiple feet of sand dunes scattered throughout the land, while others have newly formed lakes left by the river carving through the earth. Homes across the area are still abandoned, marbled with dirt and debris. Pottawattamie County

the first to move back into their home in 1952 and the house never flooded. Their home was untouched by floodwaters in 2011 as well. Both are convinced Council Bluffs was better prepared for flooding in 2011 than in 1952. “They were more efficient and they had more equipment this time. Back then (1952), they mostly had bulldozers,” Lila Springer said. “The water was near the top of the dikes in 1952, but not this time,” Springer said. In addition, Lila Springer remembered the levees and dikes were tended by so many volunteers in 1952 that, “if the dikes had gone, we would have lost a lot of men.” When the river reached flood stage in 1952, 5,000 people went to work on the levees. The Red Cross stated a levee break would endanger 5,846 families in the Bluffs. On April 12, the order went out for anyone who lived west of 30th Street to move to higher ground. Everyone in Carter Lake and East Omaha also had been told to evacuate. By April 13, mass evacuations were under way in the west and south sides of Council Bluffs. Crews worked all night to add 2 feet of dirt to Council Bluffs levees. Most levee roads become unusable because of rain, floodwater and mud. The U.S. Army sent in 6,000 troops. Watersoaked and saturated levees were said to “quiver like Jello” underfoot. Council Bluffs residents had evacuated 17 square miles of the city. The flood crest slammed into the Council Bluffs area April 18, 1952. According to National Weather Service records, the river rose to 40.2 inches before it began to recede April 19. The floodwaters of 2011 crested at 36.29 inches July 2 before beginning to drop. Lila Springer pointed out a similarity in both floods – “The Red Cross was so good.”

Above, the widening Missouri River overflows its banks near the Interstate 29/Interstate 680 interchange looking east on June 16. At right, Matt Tighe (center) helps his uncle and cousin, Steve and Chris Baker, fasten plastic wrap to their home in Modale in hopes that it will protect the home from flood waters on June 2. WHNS

Planning Director Kay Mocha said that 38 properties in Pottawattamie County have signaled their desire to participate in the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, which allows homeowners to sell their substantially damaged property to the county at 110 percent of its accessed value as of Jan. 1, 2011. The cost to acquire all the properties would be $6,381,510. The county’s share of the bill would be

more than $950,000. Mocha said up to $1 million in Community Development Block Grants have been set aside to assist counties pursuing the grant program. The city of Council Bluffs has also filed an application to pursue the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program for homeowners on Gifford Road and Emil Lane in the southern portion of the city.

Even while the aftermath is beginning to unfold, there are still so many questions that have yet to be answered and we will carry with us into 2012. One thing is for certain moving forward, the flood of 2011 will linger in the minds of some 10,000 homeowners on the south and western portions of the city as spring approaches.

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New facility played key role in flood fight CHAD NATION CNATION@NONPAREILONLINE.COM

It took a few extra months to get the ribbon cut, but the official opening of the new Council Bluffs Public Works Operations Facility was held on Nov. 22. While crews have been calling the facility at 1001 10th Ave. home since July, fighting flooding from the Missouri River took precedence over celebrating the building’s opening. Council Bluffs Mayor Tom Hanafan said the facility played a key role in the flood fight. “If we didn’t have this facility, I don’t think we would have been able to do it (keep the city from flooding),” he said. “We don’t build buildings often, but when we do, we do it right.” Located just west of the city Fleet Maintenance Building, the building provides 37,000 square feet of space, bringing together the city’s street, sewer and traffic maintenance offices, which use to all be housed in different locations across the city. That structure houses some 60 pieces of large equipment like snowplows, as well as 65 employees. Also, the operations building features in-floor radiant geothermal heat with an emphasis on natural and energy efficient lighting.

Total flood costs up in air Officials await news of help from FEMA TIM ROHWER TROHWER@NONPAREILONLINE.COM

Staff photo/Cindy Christensen

The official opening of the new Council Bluffs Public Works Operations Facility was held on Nov. 22, though crews have worked from the facility at 1001 10th Ave. since July. The project would not have been completed, Hanafan said, without help from state funding. Nearly half of the funding for the $8 million project came from the IJOBS stimulus package advanced by formerGov. Chet Culver. Public Works Director Greg Reeder said after the Fleet Maintenance Building was erected, he thought it would be some time before his city

department opened another new facility. But IJOBS made it possible. “We had our turn, I thought we’d go to the end of the line, but along came IJOBS,” he joked. “But we have a lot of new technology in this building that will help our employees.” Hanafan said having the equipment protected from the elements is one more advan-

tage of the new building. “We will be able to deliver services much better,” he said. “FEMA analyzed our old properties and said, ‘If a flood or tornado comes through, Public Works would be out of business. You’ve got to move.’ “This building will make a difference in operations for years to come, and it will make it a lot better for our employees.”

Projects in holding pattern while awaiting funds TIM ROHWER

An illustration of the proposed new addition to the Council Bluffs Y.


Two construction projects were still on the drawing board in 2011 as efforts continued to raise the necessary funds to make those projects a reality. Meanwhile, a rehab of a damaged downtown parking garage was still going nowhere. Fundraising for a new Midlands Humane Society animal shelter reached well over the halfway mark in 2011, especially after the Union Pacific Foundation gave $5,000 to the project in July. More than $2.3 million has been raised so far, according to Leslie Southard, president of the society’s Board of Directors. The goal is to obtain $3.2 million, she said. The society plans to construct a 13,300-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility at the intersection of College Road and the new Railroad Avenue extension. The facility will double the number of holding areas of the current Council Bluffs shelter and could accommodate up to 7,000 animals per year. Dogs and cats will be exposed to natural light, plus the most modern heating and ventilation. There will also be specific areas for the care and treatment of injured and sick animals. The city is on board as a major partner and the Iowa West Foundation has already committed $200,000 to the plan. Fundraising continues for a proposed addition to the Council Bluffs Y. The plan is to raise $7 million, according to Director Leo McIntosh. The project would include a 22,000-square-foot, two-story addition directly to the south of the swimming pool. A park-

The Daily Nonpareil

ing lot providing more than 45 spaces would be built to the south of the new addition. A vacant house that the Y owns in that area now would be torn down, along with the redevelopment of three empty ground lots further south. McIntosh and many others would also like parking available on the other side of Fourth Street in a parking garage that’s been vacant since 2008. Unfortunately, repairs to the damaged structures didn’t occur this past year and the city is getting angry. “We’ve revoked the permits,” said Steve Carmichael, the city’s chief building official recently. “It’s a dangerous situation. Somebody can fix it, but

we’ve seen nothing.” Unless renovation begins in the early months of 2012, the city may begin the process of commanding the garage. This process might involve taking the issue to a judge, Carmichael said. The garage was closed in July 2008 after a lower-level ceiling panel broke loose from a wall and fell. Up until then, people working in the downtown area, Y members and the general public used the garage. Since then, Y members have had to park two to three blocks away for evening and weekend events, McIntosh said. “We lost a little bit of our members because of lack of parking,” he said.

Not only are government officials concerned that infrastructure repairs from this summer’s floods are completed effectively and in a timely manner, but the costs and funding sources are still up in the air. “We’re doing our best to get FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) funding, which would soften the blow,” said Council Bluffs Public Works Director Greg Reeder. “That would be a huge help.” “If we were to do it on our own, it would be a tremendous financial burden,” added City Finance Director Art Hill. FEMA would pay up to 75 percent of damaged eligible projects, but it must rely on its funds from the federal government that’s in a belt-tightening mode. City officials have applied for $34 million in FEMA assistance, Reeder said. Until that money is approved and arrives, Council Bluffs must use its 1-cent option sales tax as a funding source for damaged infrastructure. Thank goodness, the city has such a source, Reeder said. “If we didn’t have this, our city’s infrastructure would be in dire straits,” Reeder said. “It has enabled us to do things without using property taxes.” This tax has to be approved by the voting public, which Council Bluffs residents did back in the 1980s to improve

and maintain streets and sewers. “That 1-cent sales tax will continue to be important,” Hill added. Besides the funding sources, local officials will need serious review of the city’s long-term needs that might be impacted by the flooding. Because there are so many street/sewer projects each year, the city may put off those that could wait for a few more years, while focusing on more urgent projects, Reeder said. “We may have to do things in a different order.” Both he and Hill said that a review of the long-range needs will begin in January. Being closer to the river, homes on the west end of Council Bluffs received damage either from high flood waters or water seeping up from the ground. This could impact property valuations for these homeowners and maybe the city’s property tax base, according to the Pottawattamie County Assessor’s office. The first step is to find out who was impacted, according to Bill Kealy, county assessor. “We know where the flood occurred, but we don’t know exactly who was affected by high groundwater levels,” he said. “We don’t know who all had groundwater.” Some residents with that damage have contacted his office concerned about the valuations, but it hasn’t been a huge rush, either, Kealy said. His staff has gone out to inspect these homes. “If enough value comes off, that would reduce the assessed value (later),” Kealy said. It’s going to be a few months before it’s clear how much the assessed value of individual properties and entire blocks will be impacted by water issues, he said.

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The Daily Nonpareil

Wednesday, December 21, 2011



Gas, a car wash and pizza. A new Casey’s General Store sits at 23rd Avenue and the South Expressway, with a car wash attached, the first such combo ever for a Casey’s. “We’re pretty excited about it,” said Jeff Ballenger, owner of the Gorilla Car Wash locations in Council Bluffs. Ballenger teamed with Casey’s to make the first gas station-car wash for the company become a reality. “This is an opportunity to team up with a very, very successful company,” Ballenger said. Ballenger explained he’s done business with Casey’s File photos for about 15 years. The busi- Above, customers check out the new Casey's General Store located at 23rd Avenue and nessman owned a car wash South Expressway during the store's grand opening on Dec. 16. Below, customers line up on the land that now houses to try the new and improved Gorilla Car Wash. the new Casey’s, while the old Casey’s location on 23rd a pleasure working with Avenue was across the them.” street. The Casey’s car wash will “When people got gas at feature a 110-foot tunnel the Casey’s they got a $1-off and should wash a car in coupon to the car wash,” Bal- about three minutes, Ballenger said. lenger said. Ballenger said when “And it’ll come out spotCasey’s looked to expand, less. That’s how far the techthe company eyed the lot on nology has come,” he said. the other side of 23rd “You can get your pizza, gas Avenue. and a car wash in one place. “I didn’t want to give up Within five minutes. We’re the car wash, so we part- excited to offer folks onenered up,” he said. “It’s been stop shopping.”

Health center breaks ground for new facility TIM JOHNSON TJOHNSON@NONPAREILONLINE.COM

On a crisp fall morning, Council Bluffs Community Health Center officials and other VIPs broke ground for construction of a new $5.6 million facility. In fact, when the ceremony was held on Nov. 21, dirt work had already begun for the new health center near South Sixth Street and Ninth Avenue. John Dalton, chairman of the CHC Board, said the project had been a long time coming. “Today, we mark the beginning of a project we’ve been working on for a long time, and that’s to build a new health center,” he said. The new center is expected to open in November 2012 under the name “All Care Health Center.” “We feel that name will give us a little better identification with the community,” Dalton said. Cecelia Creighton, executive director of the CHC, thanked the board for its dedication to making the project a reality. “This board has been focused all the way through on getting this done,” she said. Creighton also thanked U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, for helping to secure funding and architects HGM Associates and contractor ConStruct Inc. for working with health center officials during the planning stages. Amanda Nelson, a member of Harkin’s staff, read a letter from the senator, who sent his “warmest wishes.” “It’s been a long time coming, and I couldn’t be happier that we’ve reached this milestone,” Harkin said in the letter. “You all know that I have a history of supporting community health centers, and this one in particular,” the letter continued. “I believe in community health centers, because they play a critical role in our communities and are a lifeline for the countless Iowans they serve.” The new facility will make

See stars. Every WEEKEND. Sundays in ... The Daily Nonpareil Newspaper name

File photo

Mike Hoy, the owner of Hoy-Kilnoski Funeral Home that opened in August, stands inside the facility before the funeral home opened to the public.

New funeral home opens in 2011, another to expand in 2012 MEGAN PARROTT MEGAN.PARROTT@NONPAREILONLINE.COM

What’s so special about the new Hoy-Kilnoski Funeral Home? Everything, according to owner Mike Hoy. Hoy-Kilnoski offers “unparalleled yet equal service in a superior facility at a fair price,” Hoy said in July, prior to the funeral home’s grand opening. The facility at 1221 N. 16th St. marked its premiere with a ribbon cutting ceremony and open house on Aug. 8. The location is off the beaten path in Council Bluffs, built on land owned by Hoy’s grandfather, Bud Kilnoski. Hoy and Kilnoski are the sole investors in the business, allowing them to exercise utmost control over everything that happens there. The building has three equal-sized rooms, which can combine for a 400-seat chapel. It also boasts a playroom for children, an area for lunches and receptions and an on-site cremator. No detail is too small, Hoy said. For example, there are two family relief rooms with private bathrooms, and its merchandise selection room offers an electronic information center for selecting and modify-

ing caskets and urns. But Hoy doesn’t think it’s the building that makes his funeral home so special. He’s dedicated his life to helping people through hardship. Hoy’s interest in the industry started when he was a teenager, when he washed cars at Meyer-Woodring Funeral Home. After college, he pursued another career: law enforcement. A stint with the Iowa State Patrol helped Hoy cultivate an attention to detail, which will followed him to his new venture, as did his passion for helping others. “I’m just so committed to having every family get that sense of value,” he said. “And be treated equal.” The Cutler-O’Neill MeyerWoodring Funeral Home and Crematory will expand its services in 2012. A new, spacious facility opens in January. The Walnut Hill Chapel & Reception Center, located near the Walnut Hill Cemetery in Council Bluffs, will provide space for large or small gatherings. The new location features an indoor reception center, kitchen facilities, a large outdoor patio and barbeque center and other new amenities. For more information, call (712) 322-7779.

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Council Bluffs Community Health Center officials and other VIPs broke ground for construction of a new $5.6 million facility on Nov. 21. the health center an even bigger asset to the community, Mayor Tom Hanafan said later. “I think it’ll help not only Council Bluffs, but it’ll help western Iowa,” he said. It will help more area residents gain access to affordable health care, he said. The fact that the project will be done with mostly federal money makes it a good opportunity for the community, too, Hanafan said. The 18,400-square-foot building, which will be almost twice the size of the center’s current quarters in the Omni Centre Business Park, will contain an in-house pharmacy and space for medical, dental and behavioral health providers. It will be all on ground level, with surface parking nearby. ConStruct Inc. submitted the low bid of $4.1 million for

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The Daily Nonpareil

At gas pump, it was the year of big squeeze NEW YORK (AP) – It’s been 30 years since gasoline took such a big bite out of the family budget. When the gifts from Grandma are unloaded and holiday travel is over, the typical American household will have spent $4,155 filling up this year, a record. That is 8.4 percent of what the median family takes in, the highest share since 1981. Gas averaged more than $3.50 a gallon this year, another unfortunate record. And next year isn’t likely to bring relief. In the past, high gas prices in the United States have gone hand-in-hand with economic good times, making them less damaging to family finances. Now prices are high despite slow economic growth and weak demand. That’s because demand for crude oil is rising globally, especially in the developing nations of Asia and Latin America. But it puts the squeeze on the U.S., where unemployment is high and many people who have jobs aren’t getting raises. The trap has caught Michael Reed of Charlotte, N.C. He hasn’t been able to find work since he lost his computer-support job in 2009. Now high gas prices are claiming more of what he has left. He and his wife won’t exchange gifts this Christmas. “I try to drive as little as possible so it doesn’t take such a

chunk out of my wallet,” he says. In 1981, when the economy was sliding into recession and oil prices were high because of Middle East turmoil, gas ate up 8.8 percent of the typical family budget, says Fred Rozell of the Oil Price Information Service. Over the past decade, gas has taken up 5.7 percent of the family budget. If families had spent only 5.7 percent this year, they would have saved $1,300. For this year, gas should average $3.53 per gallon. That’s 76 cents more than last year. It’s 29 cents per gallon more than 2008, when gas last set an annual record, $3.24. That year, the price of oil hit a record in the summer but collapsed when the financial crisis struck in the fall. Besides leaving families less money to eat out and go to the movies, high gas prices take a disproportionate toll on consumer confidence. People are more aware of small changes in gas prices because they drive past the signs all the time. And a buck spent on gas has less bang in the economy than, say, a dollar spent at a restaurant. The U.S. is an oil-importing country, so many of the dollars spent on gas ultimately leave the country instead of being invested here in new ventures and jobs. James Hamilton, an economics professor at the University of California, San Diego,

1980. Also, the low price of natural gas has kept heating and electricity costs down for the same households spending more on gas. Relief from high gas prices is nowhere in sight, though. Ed Morse, head of commodities research at Citibank, expects oil to average $100 per barrel next year, which would eclipse 2011’s average of about $95 per barrel. Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at OPIS, expects gasoline prices to approach $4 per gallon again next spring. Drivers are keeping gas guzzlers in the driveway, combining trips and buying more efficient cars. Compared with the


Michael Reed fills his gas tank at a station in Charlotte, N.C. The retail price of gasoline averaged more than $3.50 per gallon for the year, a record. Drivers cut back where they could, driving less and switching to more fuel efficient cars. who studies energy prices, estimates that high gasoline prices reduced economic growth by about 0.5 percent for the year – a substantial hit for an economy only growing at an annual rate of about 2 percent. Still, it could be worse. The U.S. economy is much more fuel-efficient than it was during the oil spikes of the late 1970s and early 1980s. In 1980, for every $1,000 of economic out-

put, 1.07 barrels of oil were consumed. By 2010, it took half that – 0.53 barrels, says Judith Dwarkin, chief energy economist at ITG Investment Research. Today, the U.S. uses almost no oil to generate electricity. The percentage of households using heating oil has fallen. And vehicles are less thirsty than ever – 20 percent more fuel-efficient than they were in

Top business story in ’11: Europe financial crisis NEW YORK (AP) – Europe took the financial world on a stomach-churning ride in 2011. The rising threat of default by heavily indebted European countries spread fear across financial markets and weighed on economies worldwide. As the year came to a close, banks and investors nervously watched Europe’s political and financial leaders scramble to prevent the 17-nation eurozone from breaking apart. Several of the other biggest business stories of the year highlighted the global economy’s linkages: A British phone-hacking scandal shook the foundations of Rupert Murdoch’s U.S.-based media empire; a nuclear disaster in Japan stymied auto plants in the U.S. and beyond; and the price of gasoline surged because of unrest in the Middle East and growing demand in Asia and Latin America. In the U.S., political squab-

year and Apple founder Steve Jobs died. The European financial crisis was chosen as the top business story of the year by business editors at The Associated Press. The sluggish U.S. economy came in second, followed by the death of Jobs.

year before, American gas consumption has been down every week for more than nine months, according to MasterCard SpendingPulse, a spending survey. But that only helps so much. Hunter Collins, a software support technician who lives in Richmond, Maine, commutes 40 miles each way to his job in Falmouth. He has started to carpool with a colleague and to take his wife’s more fuel-efficient car to work when it is his turn to drive. It’s still not enough. He says he’s going to sell his beloved 8cylinder Dodge Charger. “She’s my baby, but I’m going to have to switch to something more economical,” he says.

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The Daily Nonpareil

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Killing of bin Laden voted top news story of 2011 NEW YORK (AP) – The killing of Osama bin Laden during a raid by Navy SEALs on his hideout in Pakistan was the top news story of 2011, followed by Japan’s earthquake/tsunami/meltdown disaster, according to The Associated Press’ annual poll of U.S. editors and news directors. The death of bin Laden, the al-Qaida leader who masterminded the Sept. 11 terror attacks, received 128 first-place votes out of 247 ballots cast for the top 10 stories. The Japan disaster was next, with 60 firstplace votes. Placing third were the Arab Spring uprisings that rocked North Africa and the Middle East, while the European Union’s financial turmoil was No. 4. The international flavor of these top stories contrasted with last year’s voting – when the Gulf of Mexico oil spill was the top story, President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul was No. 2, and the U.S. midterm elections were No. 3. Here are 2011’s top 10 stories, in order: ■ OSAMA BIN LADEN’S DEATH: He’d been the world’s most-wanted terrorist for nearly a decade, ever since a team of his al-Qaida followers carried out the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. In May, the long and often-frustrating manhunt ended with a nighttime assault by a helicopter-borne special operations squad on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Bin Laden was shot dead by one of the raiders, and within hours his body was buried at sea. ■ JAPAN’S TRIPLE DISASTER: A 9.0-magnitude earthquake off Japan’s northeast coast in March unleashed a tsunami that devastated scores of communities, leaving nearly 20,000 people dead or missing and wreaking an estimated $218 billion in damage. The tsunami triggered the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl after waves knocked out the cooling system at a nuclear power plant, causing it to spew radiation that turned up in local produce. About 100,000 people evacuated from the area have not returned to their homes. ■ ARAB SPRING: It began with demonstrations in Tunisia that rapidly toppled the longtime strongman. Spreading like a wildfire, the Arab Spring protests sparked a revolution in Egypt that ousted Hosni Mubarak, fueled a civil war in Libya that climaxed with Moammar Gadhafi’s death, and fomented a bloody uprising in Syria against the Assad regime. Bahrain and Yemen also experienced major protests and unrest. ■ EU FISCAL CRISIS: The European Union was wracked by relentless fiscal turmoil. In Greece, austerity measures triggered strikes, protests and riots, while Italy’s economic woes toppled Premier Silvio Berlusconi. France and Germany led urgent efforts to ease the debt crisis; Britain balked at proposed changes. ■ US ECONOMY: By some measures, the U.S. economy gained strength as the year progressed. Hiring picked up a bit, consumers were spending more, and the unemployment rate finally dipped below 9 percent. But millions of Americans remained buffeted by foreclosures, joblessness and benefit cutbacks, and investors were on edge monitoring the chain of fiscal crises in Europe. ■ PENN STATE SEX ABUSE SCANDAL: One of America’s most storied college football programs was tarnished in a scandal that prompted the firing of Hall of Fame football coach Joe Paterno. One of his former assistants, Jerry Sandusky, was accused of sexually molesting 10 boys; two senior Penn State officials were charged with perjury; and the longtime president was ousted. Paterno wasn’t charged, but expressed regret he didn’t do more after being told there was a problem. ■ GADHAFI TOPPLED IN LIBYA: After nearly 42 years of mercurial and often brutal rule, Moammar Gadhafi was toppled by his own people. Anti-government protests escalated into an eight-month rebellion, backed by NATO bombing, that shattered his

regime, and Gadhafi finally was tracked down and killed in the fishing village where he was born. ■ FISCAL SHOWDOWNS IN CONGRESS: Partisan divisions in Congress led to several showdowns on fiscal issues. A fight over the debt ceiling prompted Standard & Poor’s to strip the U.S. of its AAA credit rating. Later, the so-called “supercommittee” failed to agree on a deficit-reduction package of at least $1.2 trillion – potentially triggering automatic spending cuts of that amount starting in 2013. ■ OCCUPY WALL STREET PROTESTS: It began Sept. 17 with a protest at a New York City park near Wall Street, and within weeks spread to scores of communities across the U.S. and abroad. The movement depicted itself as leaderless and shied away from specific demands, but succeeded in airing its complaint that the richest 1 percent of Americans benefit at the expense of the rest. As winter approached, local police dismantled several of the protest encampments. ■ GABRIELLE GIFFORDS SHOT: The popular third-term congresswoman from Arizona suffered a severe brain injury when she and 18 other people were shot by a gunman as she met with constituents outside a Tucson supermarket in January. Six people died, and Giffords’ painstaking recovery is still in progress. Among the news events falling just short of the Top 10 were the death of Apple Inc. cofounder Steve Jobs, Hurricane Irene, the devastating series of tornados across Midwest and Southeastern U.S., and the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that barred gays from serving openly in U.S. military.


Above, in this May 1 image released by the White House and digitally altered by the source to diffuse the paper in front of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House in Washington. Below, an earthquake-triggered tsumanis sweep shores along Iwanuma in northern on March 11.

In this April 10 photo, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi waves at his supporters in Tripoli, Libya.

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YIR Top Stories 12-21-11  

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YIR Top Stories 12-21-11