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Main Street Mason City refuses 'ransom', has new website

MASON CITY | Colleen Devine, executive director of Main Street Mason City, said Wednesday there was no way she was going to pay ransom for her website.

So the organization has a brand new one:

It had operated for years with the same name except as a domain designated for non-profits — with ".org" at the end of it.

Then, a strange development occurred.

"During the interim period when there was no full-time director, the domain registration expired," said Devine, who has been at the helm for a little more than a year.

"We discovered that the registration had been picked up by someone on the East Coast who was using it," she said. "When we contacted him, he offered to sell it back to us which we weren't about to do. Ransom? No way," Devine said.

She did not say how much the person wanted in "ransom money."

A logical question is: Why would anyone on the East Coast want a Main Street Mason City domain?

Devine thinks the culprit probably latches onto expired domains from all over the country with the intent of selling them back to the original users.

The old website still exists, full of advertisements but with no obvious theme. 

As for Main Street Mason City, it is business as usual with the new website — and business is good, Devine said.

The last two "Friday Night Live" events have drawn thousands of people downtown. The next big attraction is the Great River City Festival on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 15-16, which will feature the annual re-enactment of the John Dillinger robbery of the First National Bank.

On Friday, Sept. 15, Main Street Mason City will partner with the North Iowa Diversity Appreciation Team in putting on the 14th Annual Ethnic Lunch featuring foods from many different cultures. 

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Mercy announces new $9.78M behavorial health center addition

MASON CITY | Officials at Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa announced details concerning a new $9.78 million, 27,200 square-foot facility for its behavioral health department at a press conference Wednesday morning.

The project is partially being funded by the Jan Again Foundation, who donated an additional $900,000. Those funds will be used to build a Help Center at the front of the new facility, which will be built to the north of the hospital's emergency entrance.

The rest of the project will be funded through a reinvestment of Mercy's funds and capital, Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa President/CEO Dan Varnum said.

The Jan Again Foundation was established in 1999 for Jan Smeby, who suffered from depression and took her own life in 1998. The foundation gave $68,000 in grants to North Iowa mental health and wellness last September.

Smeby's husband, Wally, is an advisor to the foundation and said he was pleased when he saw the renderings of the new facility. He added he hopes the new addition can help save lives, and commended Dr. Theresa Mock, senior vice president of Mercy Clinics, for her efforts.

"There has to be a leader in this," he said. "And there is a real visionary in Dr. Mock."

Currently, Mercy is usually only able to serve up to 22 patients in its behavioral center at a time. Mock said the new facility will be able to house 34 behavioral health service patients.

"Currently, we have 28 beds but they're in semi-private rooms," Mock told reporters. "Obviously you can't mix gender there, but also, you have patients who can't have a roommate."

Other improvements include open-concept nurse stations and sensory or "calming rooms" that offer different forms of intervention when patients are overstimulated. 

Mock told the Globe Gazette that because of a lack of resources, Mercy had to turn away 3,000 patients last year. She said that with the new facilities, the hospital is aiming not to be in that position.

"Our goal is to not turn anyone away in the state of Iowa," Mock said.

The two-floor facility will be divided by inpatient and outpatient services. The second floor will house 24 private rooms, group therapy room, dining room and additional space, while the first floor will feature Intensive Outpatient and Partial Hospitalization programs.

The aforementioned Help Center will provide general information and community resources about mental illness.

Construction is scheduled to begin this fall, and should be completed by the summer of 2019. Neighbors and community members are invited to attend a public forum about the project Sept. 6 from 6-7 p.m. in the second-floor auditorium of Mercy's Cancer Center.


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North Iowa man to pay $318K in restitution to Clear Lake business

CLEAR LAKE | A federal judge on Wednesday ordered a Buffalo Center man to pay back the $318,485 prosecutors say he took from a Clear Lake business. 

In addition to restitution to Titan Pro, U.S. District Judge Linda R. Reade sentenced Richard Wubben to 30 months in prison, with three years of supervised release to follow. 

Wubben pleaded guilty to mail fraud in U.S. District Court April 27. 

Federal prosecutors accused Wubben of selling seeds, farm chemicals and other agriculture products for Titan Pro, of Clear Lake, but never giving the company the money.

Wubben was accused of taking the funds while working as a sales specialist for the company from Oct. 14, 2014, to Dec. 8, 2015.

Prosecutors say the crimes were discovered in 2015 when Titan Pro implemented a new inventory management system to track the amount of product assigned to its sales associates.

Titan Pro staff conducted inventory of the Buffalo Center building where Wubben said he housed the company's inventory. They determined he was missing $318,485 worth of products, according to court documents. 

Court filings cited a case from November 2015, where Wubben allegedly sold 43 bags of Titan Pro seed corn to a customer.

He reportedly sent an invoice to the customer instructing the $3,630 check should be made out to Wubben Ag.

Documents say Wubben kept that money.