2-1 NEWS

Authorities say a Cresco man died after a snowmobiling accident in northeast Iowa. KIMT television says Ross Wilson was killed in an accident last Friday morning around one-40 a.m. near Lime Springs. Authorities say Wilson was riding alone when his machine rolled over him. He was found later by other snowmobile riders. The accident remains under investigation.

An Iowa woman charged in the death of her baby left the courtroom sobbing during the first day of her trial when prosecutors showed photos of her lifeless son in a swing set. The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reports 21-year-old Cheyanne Harris caused a break in her trial Wednesday at the Plymouth County Courthouse in Le Mars. Harris has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and child endangerment resulting in death. She was arrested in August 2017 after medics found 4-month-old Sterling Koehn dead in the swing in a dark, sweltering bedroom. An autopsy shows he died of malnutrition, dehydration and an E. coli infection caused by being left in a maggot-infested diaper for up to two weeks. The boy’s father, Zachary Koehn, already has been sentenced to life in prison .

There’s good news and bad news regarding water and sewer rates in the city of Decorah.

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Decorah city manager Chad Bird says both funds should be in better shape after that.

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Bird says the issue will be discussed at Monday’s city council budget work session.

After a relatively mild winter until recently, Erika Randall with the Decorah Parks and Recreation says they’re happy to see the snow and cold.

Randall

More information about parks and recreation activities is available at parks-dot-decorah-i-a-dot-org.

The low temperature in Decorah (Thursday) morning was 37 degrees below zero. That ties for the fourth coldest temperature ever recorded in the city. The temperature tied for record for January 31st tying the mark set back in 1996. The only colder temperatures ever recorded in Decorah were -43 on January 30th, 1951, -38 on February second, 1951 and -39 on January 15th of 1963.

1-31 NEWS

The Decorah school district has hired a new superintendent. Mark Lane, who is currently the Associate Superintendent of Human Resources and Operations in the Urbandale School District, was selected after the school board and community members completed an interview process earlier this week. Lane is a native of Jefferson, Iowa. His educational resume includes teaching experience is Rialto, California and in the West Sioux and Coon Rapids-Bayard school district in Iowa. Lane also served as a guidance counselor in the Jefferson-Scranton and Waukee districts. His administrative career includes serving as an assistant elementary principal in the West Des Moines district, an elementary principal in the Urbandale district and his current position. Lane will take over for Mike Haluska, who will retire after 13 years as superintendent, at the end of the current academic year.

The Winneshiek county sheriff’s department says it has completed its investigation into two seperate incidents involving South Winneshiek high school students. Authorities say both incidents, one which happended at the high school and the other which occurred near Fort Atkinson, involve assualts that occurred on a South Winneshiek student. The case is being handled by the Howard County attorney’s office due to a conflict of interest in the Winneshiek county attorney’s office. The sheriff’s department says it will release more information once the prosecutor make a final decision on charges and juvenile referrals.

Earlier this week, the Iowa House rejected a request from democratic candidate Kayla Koether to have 29 absentee ballots counted in the house district 55 race. The ballots were not counted because they lacked a postmark but the postal service determined the ballots were delivered on-time. Koether lost the race to Republican Mike Bergan by nine votes. Should the standard of how absentee ballots are legal or not be changed. Republican state senator Mike Breitbach of Strawberry Point says yes.
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County auditor’s have asked the legislature for a change in the absentee postmark standard for a few years, but the matter has not been taken up by the legislature.

Our heating systems are facing their biggest test of the winter season right now. Alliant Energy spokesman, Justin Foss, says there are a couple of things you can do to help your home heating system make it through. Foss says make sure your gas meters are not covered up.
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Foss says older homes vent their furnaces and water heaters through the roof, but for newer homes, it’s different.
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Foss says there’s no magic answer on where to set your thermostat when it’s this cold outside
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Foss adds that carbon monoxide detectors need to be used in your home to detect any malfunction of the water heater or furnace.

1-30 NEWS

The Iowa House, on a party-line vote, rejected a request from Democrat Kayla Koether to have 29 absentee ballots counted in the house district 55 race Monday night. In the certified results, Republican Mike Bergan of Dorchester won the race by nine votes. The 29 absentee votes were not counted due to lack of a legible postmark, but the postal service determined the ballots were mailed prior to election day. Bergan gave his reaction on Tuesday morning’s From the Capitol Program on AM 1240-KDEC.

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Bergan says those involved in counting the votes said the law was followed.

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Koether told reporters after the house action she’d take a few days to decide the next step in the process. Since 29 votes in Winneshiek county were not counted and 12 such ballots in Fayette county were counted, those whose ballots were rejected could file a legal grievance under the equal protection law.

With the extreme cold weather in the forecast, authorities are encouraging people to stay at home if at all possible. Nancy Sacquitne with Winneshiek county public health provides some home cold weather tips.

Sacquitne

Temperatures are forecast to remain below zero through Thursday of this week.

We’re only a little over a month into winter and gasoline prices in Iowa are starting to gradually climb again. Nick Jarmusz (JAR-muss), a spokesman for Triple-A-Iowa, says it’s elementary economics — as supplies start to be squeezed and demand begins to rise, prices will go up.

Jarmusz

A few weeks ago, some Iowa gas stations were offering self-serve unleaded at prices in the one-90s, but most are now over the two-dollar mark.

Two Cresco residents will face trial on drug related charges in April. Court records say 29 year old Brittany Marie Balk and 26 year old Steven Nesbitt were arrested April fourth of a search of their vehicle. Authorities say meth and unidentified pills were found in the vehicle. Balk and Nesbitt were charged with possession with intent to deliver meth, possession of a prescription drug without a prescription and failure to use a drug tax stamp. Separate trials for the two are scheduled for April third.

1-29 NEWS

The forecast is calling for high temperatures below zero Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week. According to the Decorah weather statistics page put together by Luther professor Richard Bernatz, the last time Decorah had a high temperature of below zero was New Year’s Day of 2018 when the high temperature was one degree below. Prior to that, the previous last time Decorah had a high temperature below was January 6th of 2014 when the high was one below. Low temperatures are expected to be anywhere from 20 to 30 degrees below zero. The last time Decorah recorded a 20 below temperature was February 27th of 2015 when the low was 23 below. The last time Decorah had a 30 below low was January 16th of 2009 when the temperature was 34 degrees below.

Potential record breaking cold is in the forecast this week. Nancy Sacquitne with Winneshiek county public health offers a few reminders.

Sacquitne

Sacquitne says if at all possible, stay home. She also reminds people to check on their neighbors, especially the elderly, to make sure they’re ok.

A trial for an Alta Vista mother accussed in the death of her infant child is scheduled to begin (Tuesday). 21 year old Cheyanne Harris is charged with first degree and child neglect in the death of her four-month old son in August of 2017. The trail was moved from Chickasaw to Plymouth county because of pre-trial publicity. The children’s father, Zachary Koehn, was convicted in November of first-degree murder and child endangerment, as part of this case. Prosecutors choose to try Koehn and Harris seperately.

Republicans in the Iowa House have dismissed a request to open and count 29 absentee ballots cast in November’s election for a northeast Iowa House seat. Representative Steven Holt of Denison spoke for his Republican colleagues, arguing the ballots lacked a specific kind of Postal Service tracking number to determine if they’d been mailed on time.

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Republican Michael Bergen of Dorchester was declared the winner over Democrat Kayla Koether (KAY-ter) of Decorah by just nine votes. Bar codes sprayed on the ballots were checked in December and the Postal Service concluded the 29 were mailed before Election Day. Representative Marti Anderson of Des Moines was among the Democrats who argued those ballots should be counted.

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Liam Murphy of Decorah is one of the 29 people who cast an absentee ballot that was mailed in Decorah the day before the election, but not counted because the envelope lacked a postmark.

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Koether and nearly 20 people made the trip from Decorah to Des Moines AND back yesterday to lobby Republican lawmakers.

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Over the next few days, Koether plans to talk with the group who cast the uncounted ballots and see what they’d like to see happen. Several Democratic lawmakers argued the group could sue on the grounds that their constitutional right to vote had been violated — and they’d been treated unequally as absentee ballots in other counties cast in the same way HAD been counted.

1-28 NEWS

The jail renovation project will be a topic of discussion at today’s Winneshiek county board of supervisors meeting. The original bids for the projects were rejected and the board will look to set a public hearing for bids on the project. The board will also discuss insurance rates, the farm land lease and road issues. The meeting will begin at nine-30 at the courthouse annex building in Decorah.

A vote is scheduled in the Iowa House for today on a contested Northeast Iowa legislative race. A committee of three republicans and two democrats voted along party lines last week to not open and count 29 absentee mail ballots that could reverse the outcome of the race. Committee Chairman Steven Holt said Wednesday since the ballots had no postmark and didn’t have a seldom-used county election official tracking barcode, they can’t be counted even though postal officials have confirmed they were mailed in time to be valid votes. Democrat Kayla Koether now trails Republican incumbent Michael Bergan by nine votes for the Iowa House District 55 seat. District 55 comprises parts of Clayton, Fayette and Winneshiek counties. Committee member Rep. Brian Meyer, a Democrat, says Republicans “have turned this election contest into a sham” for refusing to hear from voters and election officials before deciding.

Three finalists for the superintendent’s position in the Decorah school district will be in town today for final interviews. The Decorah-North Winneshiek interim school board announced the three finalists last week. Cedar Rapids Prairie High school prinicipal Erik Anderson, Urbandale Assistant superintendent for human resources and operations Mark Lane and Des Moines Public schools director of the central campus (Ah-dee) (Pom-vi-say) were selected from seven interviews the board conducted via Skype last Tuesday. Board president Ron Fadness says a variety of community members will be involved in the interview process.

Fadness

The interviews will begin at two-15 in the Olin Building on the Luther College campus. The board will reconvene in closed session at seven p.m. at the Central Administration office to review the interviews. Fadness says the hope to hire a new superintendent by the end of the week. Current Superintendent Mike Haluska will retire at the end of the current academic year.

Multiple persons have been arrested after the completion of an investigation into an underage alcohol party which occurred New Year’s Eve at a residence in rural Hawkeye. The Fayette county sheriff’s department says it was determined individuals burglarized a secured room on the premises and stole multiple firearms from the residence. Authorities say 19 year old Kameron Sikkink of New Hampton, 18 year old Paul Wayne Laganiere (Lag-a-near) the third of Lime Springs and a 17 year old juvenile were all charged with second degree burglary, a class C Felony, trafficking in stolen firearms, a Class D felony, and second degree theft, a class D felony. The sheriff’s department say Sikkink and Lag-a-near were both arrested last week. Both men are being held on 20-thousand dollars and could face up to 20 years in prison. Also connected to the investigation, 18 year old Ashley Pleggenkuhle and 53 year old Kimberly Pleggenkuhle, both of Hawkeye, were cited for permitting persons under 18 to consume/possess alcohol.

1-27 NEWS

A vote is scheduled in the Iowa House for Monday on a contest Northeast Iowa legislative race. House Republicans leading a committee that is reviewing the results of a contested northeast Iowa House district election say they plan to recommend not opening and counting 29 absentee mail ballots that could reverse the outcome of the race. Committee Chairman Steven Holt said Wednesday since the ballots had no postmark and didn’t have a seldom-used county election official tracking barcode, they can’t be counted even though postal officials have confirmed they were mailed in time to be valid votes. Democrat Kayla Koether now trails Republican incumbent Michael Bergan by nine votes for the Iowa House District 55 seat. District 55 comprises parts of Clayton, Fayette and Winneshiek counties. Committee member Rep. Brian Meyer, a Democrat, says Republicans “have turned this election contest into a sham” for refusing to hear from voters and election officials before deciding.

The Decorah Parks and Recreation Department will host a new event today. Erika Randall is with the Decorah Parks and Recreation Department.
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Children and adults can dress up as their own Superheroes. Those attending are asked to bring a change of shoes. Children must be accompained by an adult.

The cold and wet spring of 2018 was a challenging one for many Iowa farmers, but a Midwest climatologist believes Mother Nature *could* be more cooperative this year. Al Dutcher says if the current El Nino weather pattern holds, it might bring a reversal of conditions seen last spring.
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Of course, there are lot of “ifs” when it comes to weather forecasting. A lot depends on if the El Nino continues on or starts to weaken in the spring.

A key member of the Iowa House says there’s a “very good shot” sports betting will be legalized in Iowa this year – and he predicts the law will let gamblers use their smart phones to place wagers on sporting events. Representative Bobby Kaufmann, a Republican from Wilton, is chairman of the House committee that will first consider a bill on sports betting.Wes Ehrecke, president and CEO of the Iowa Gaming Association, represents the 19 state-licensed casinos. The casinos are lobbying not only to set up a “sports book” area within their facilities, but they want a mobile aspect as well.That means wagers could be placed by people who are in a stadium or an arena watching an Iowa college game, as it appears the bill to be considered would legalize wagering on all professional and college sports. Last May, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled congress cannot prevent states from legalizing sports betting. Kaufmann says that created momentum for the bill.

The jail rennovation project will be a topic of discussion at tomorrow’s Winneshiek county board of supervisors meeting. The original bids for the projects were rejected and the board will look to set a public hearing for bids on the project. The board will also discuss insurance rates, the farm land lease and road issues. The meeting will begin at nine-30 at the courthouse annex building in Decorah.

1-26 NEWS

The Decorah-North Winneshiek school board hopes to name a new superintendent by next week. Three finalists for the positions will be in Decorah Monday for interviews. Cedar Rapids Prairie Principal Erik Anderson, Urbandale associate superintendent for human resources and operations Mark Lane and Aiddy (Ah-dee) Phomvisay (Phom-vi-say), the current director of the central campus for Des Moines Public schools, were chosen as the finalists from seven interviews conducted via skype this past Tuesday. The interviews will begin at two-15 in the Olin Building on the Luther College campus. The board will then meet at seven p.m. at the central administration office to review the interviews in a closed session. Current superintendent Mike Haluska will retire at the end of the current school year.

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Two Iowa lawmakers will host a legislative forum at Decorah city hall Saturday morning. State Senator Mike Breitbach of Strawberry Point and State representative Mike Bergan of Dorchester will host the forum beginning at 11:15 a.m.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources recently confirmed that 13 deer killed by hunters and one road-kill deer were infected with Chronic Wasting Disease. D-N-R wildlife biologist Terry Haindfield (Hain-field) says they let the hunters know who submitted the samples that their deer tested positive.
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Haindfield says the disease is not believed to be transmitted to humans.

The enrollment in the state’s 15 community colleges dropped slightly in 2018. Heather Doe of the Iowa Department of Education says the drop of around 15-hundred students mirrors what happened nationwide. Doe says it is due in part to a better economy.
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Doe says at the peak when the unemployment level was higher, more people were looking to get a degree or learn new skills at community colleges. The annual report on community colleges in the state was recently presented to the Iowa Board of Education.

The Decorah Public Library will be hosting a law enforcement program Tuesday night. Decorah Police officer Scott Jennings will present “Emerging Illegal Drug Trends in Northeast Iowa” Tuesday night at six-30 p.m. Jennings will discuss topics including recognizing suspected illegal drug activity in your neighborhood, identifying drug use in young adults, drug identification and recognition, and tatics used by local law enforcement to combat the illegal drug trade. The program is free and open to the public.

1-25 NEWS

A Ridgeway man was arrested early Thursday morning. The Winneshiek county sheriff’s department says 20 year old Caleb Fenske was taken into custody on warrants for three probation violations.

Efforts by the Decorah Volunteer Fire Department to build a fire training facility in Freeport have received a major boost from a local organization. Amanda Gallagher is with the Depot Outlet in Decorah.

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Steve Smith is with the Decorah Volunteer Fire Department

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The Volunteer Fire Association has also donated 50-thousand dollars towards the effort. Fire department representatives say they hope to break ground on the facility after the snow melts and to have it up and running by the fall.

The Decorah-North Winneshiek school board approved seven early retirements at its meeting Wednesday night. Teachers taking early retirement include high school spanish teacher Silvia Berrios-Merritt, middle school learner advocate Randy Iverson, Carrie Lee Elementary teacher Kerry Johnson, Middle school teacher Dale Wilharm, North Winneshiek teacher Birgitta Meade and John Cline Elementary school teacher Judy Moen and Barb Wettach.

State Auditor Rob Sand says energy usage will be flagged in every audit report his office issues for state and local government agencies. Sand spoke briefly this week to a crowd at the capitol for “Energy Efficiency Day on the Hill.” Sand says the kind of “bench-marking” he’s suggesting shouldn’t be controversial.

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Sand says his office will work with the Iowa Energy Office to identify the best money-saving measures.

1-24 NEWS

26 of 29 Decorah High School large group speech contest events received Division 1 ratings at the district contest in Postville Wednesday. Those 26 events will move onto the NE District State Speech Contest in Waterloo February 2nd.

The Republicans on a special committee reviewing the challenged outcome of a northeast Iowa legislative race say a batch of uncounted ballots should remain sealed. Republican Representative Steven Holt of Denison is chairman of the committee.
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Holt and two other Republicans on the panel say the Winneshiek County Auditor did not pay for that tracking service and that service is the only way to determine if the ballots were mailed by the deadline. A judge in December ordered that the general bar codes sprayed on 33 unopened ballots be checked and the Postal Service determined 29 were mailed by the deadline. Representative Mary Wolfe, a Democrat from Clinton, says Republicans should prioritize the rights of those 29 people who mailed their ballots on time.
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Republican Michael Bergen (BER-gun) of Dorchester was declared the winner over Democrat Kayla Koether (KAY-ter) of Decorah by nine votes in Iowa House District 55. A judge ruled last month it was up to the legislature to decide if those ballots should be opened. The “special committee” appointed to review the case will meet tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon. Republicans on the panel plan to pass their recommendation that the votes NOT be counted. The full House is likely to vote on the matter soon and another court appeal is likely.

A DeSoto, Wisconsin man was arrested after Waukon Police were called to an active burglary on 4th Avenue Southwest in Waukon Wednesday afternoon. Police say 47 year old Ricky Lynn Arentz was arrested and charged with third-degree burglary and driving without a license. Authorities say a search of Arentz vehicle lead to additional charges against him, including third or subsequent offense possession of methamphetamine, possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver and possession of drug paraphernalia.

The Decorah community school district has named the three finalists for its superintendent position. Cedar Rapids Prairie Principal Erik Anderson, Urbandale associate superintendent for human resources and operations Mark Lane and Aiddy (Ah-dee) Phomvisay (Phom-vi-say), the current director of the central campus for Des Moines Public schools, were chosen as the finalists from seven interviews conducted via skype Tuesday afternoon. All three will be in town next Monday for final interviews. The school board hopes to name a new superintendent by Feburary first. Current superintendent Mike Haluska will retire at the end of the current academic year.

Last year, the Iowa legislature passed and Governor Reynolds signed a fetal heartbeat bill, banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. The bill was ruled unconstitutional by a Polk county district court judge Tuesday. State Senator Mike Breitbach of Strawberry Point supported the bill last year. He says they’ll wait for the legal process to play.
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Breitbach says supporters of the measure expected a long legal battle when the passed the bill.

The Decorah school district is in the process of searching for a new superintendent. Current superintendent Mike Haluska was asked what his role will be once a new superintendent is hired.
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Haluska will retire at the end of the current academic year.

2018 was a busy year for the Decorah fire department. Decorah fire chief Mike Ashbacher told the public safety committee of the Decorah city council the department received 205 calls last year. Ashbacher said it was the most calls they’ve received in a year in his 20 plus years on the department. Ashbacher says so far this year, the pace of calls is ahead of last year’s.
The city of Decorah’s wells are doing ok in the cold weather. Decorah water department superintendent Todd Ihde told the city council Tuesday night they’ve tested all six city wells this week. Ihde says the temperatures of the wells have been in the upper 40s to the lower 50s. Ihde says they old get concerned if the well temperature drops into the lower 40s.

Decorah city officials are reminding residents to dig out fire hydrants. Water superintendent Todd Ihde and fire chief Mike Ashbacher says with the amount of snowfall the city has received, they’re asking residents to dig out any fire hydrants in their neighborhoods.

1-23 NEWS

Additional charges have been filed against a Cresco man arrested after a December traffic stop in Decorah. The Winneshiek county sheriff’s department says 22 year old Steven Geerts was charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia on December 14th. Authorities say after toxicology results were returned Geerts has also been charged with operating while under the influence, drug related.

The Traveling national True Black History Museum will be on the Northeast Iowa community College Calmar campus (Wednesday). The museum was established to preserve the history of African-American people and to educate the community about the many great contributions that African-Americans have made to mankind. The museum will be at the student center on campus from eight-30 a.m. until two-30 p.m. (Wednesday).

(Wednesday) is the deadline to purchase tickets for the Decorah high school vocal music department’s City of Stars performance. Jason Rausch is the vocal music director at Decorah high school.

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The evening of entertainment will begin at five p.m. on January 27th at Decorah high school. The show will include Broadway and popular music, a meal of hearty appetizers and performances by three large group speech musical theater groups.

Ryan Delaney was appointed and Joel Zook was re-appointed to the Decorah Planning and Zoning Commission by the Decorah city council at its meeting last night. DeLaney was unanimously approved. Zook was approved on a 5-1 vote. Councilman Randy Schissell voted against Zook. Schissell felt the city needed a more business-friendly voice on the commission. Schissell says according to the city’s audit report, local sales tax collections are down. Schissell cited Zook’s work to establish a municipal electric utility last year, saying it was an effort to push an established utility in Alliant Energy out of town. Johanna Bergan, the wife of Zook, abstained from the vote. DeLaney will replace Brian Cook on the commission. City manager Chad Bird said at a previous meeting Cook was willing to continue serving. Brad Wicks also applied to serve on the commission.

An extension to the SAVE school infrastructure fund in on the agenda for this year’s legislature session. But state representative Mike Bergan of Dorchester says it will likely needs strings attached to pass the statehouse.

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Bergan says they want to keep the power in the people’s hands.

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The fund, which is financed through a statewide one cent sales tax, is scheduled to sunset in 2029. School districts say the lack of an extension to the tax is making it difficult to use those dollars to finance long-term facility projects.

The Decorah-North Winneshiek interim school board will meet tonight. The board will discuss the bus barn, review early retirement applications and set a public hearing on the 2019-2020 school calendar. The meeting will begin at six at the central administration office.