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Mitchell County considers joining class-action opioid lawsuit

OSAGE | Mitchell County may join a class-action lawsuit targeting opioid manufacturers. 

The suit is being brought on behalf of cities and towns who are choosing to sue opioid manufacturers, County Attorney Mark Walk said during the board of supervisors meeting Tuesday. 

If the county chose to join it, Walk said there would be no cost. 

Mitchell County Sheriff Greg Beaver said Osage has "all kinds of costs related to drugs, from crime to housing inmates."

“People get hooked on painkillers like oxycontin, and when they stop being able to get it, they switch to things like heroin," Beaver said. "Ninety percent of crimes around the county — the domestic abuses, the robberies — could be solved if we could get rid of the drugs.”

A New York City firm is filing the suit and sending similar letters to cities and towns across the countries. The firm says opioid manufacturers knew there was no way the population of small towns could be supporting the amount of pills that were being sent to them. 

“It should have been a red flag,” supervisor Shannon Paulus said. “I’m not surprised about the class-action suit; we have been discussing the opioid epidemic at the substance abuse coalition and how much it has grown. I feel like this is going to be a message to the manufacturers.

“They should have known, just with the amount of prescriptions going out. They convinced the medical profession of this new product, but they weren’t careful of how much of this potent drug was getting out there.

"I want it to change," Paulus said. 

The supervisors will revisit the potential for joining the lawsuit at next week's meeting. 

Shannon Paulus

North End residents invited to free dinner, offer tips to better Mason City neighborhood

MASON CITY | Forty North End residents will have the opportunity to eat for free at three nearby restaurants on Thursday night.

The catch? Offer input and suggestions to University of Iowa students on how to better their neighborhood.

Travis Kraus, assistant director for the Iowa Initiative of Sustainable Communities at the University of Iowa, is one of the organizers of "Taste of the North End."

The event will take up to 40 residents through Burke's Bar and Grille, Blue Heron Bar and Grille and Little Chicago Pizza for small plates of food.

Those who participate can discuss issues in the neighborhood and how to better the community. Kraus said the idea for the event started from a past partnership with Mason City.

"As the planning team puts together their documents, they're going to get input from residents and stakeholders in the community," Kraus said of University of Iowa students working on the event.

The first stop will be at Burke's at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, and then Blue Heron at 6:30 p.m. and Little Chicago at 7 p.m.

CHRIS ZOELLER, The Globe Gazette 

Dan Burke, owner of Burke's Bar & Grill, prepares a cheeseburger for an order on Tuesday in Mason City. Burke's is one of three restaurants participating in "Taste of the North End" Thursday, where residents are given free food in exchange for input on how to improve their community.

Kraus said students and others have prepared for the event by reviewing crime data and how the neighborhood has changed during the past several years.

"There's a story that kind of gets told about this neighborhood," he said. "One of those challenges for this spot is the perceptions don't match what's actually happening."

One of the issues is assumptions about the North End — increased crime and declining property values — even though data and research doesn't back them up, Kraus said. 

Funding for the event will be provided by the Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health, Kraus said. A University of Iowa graduate student group will also be asking residents how public health can be improved in the North End, he added.

Vicki Lau, one of the co-owners of the Blue Heron, said she first heard about the opportunity to help with the event through a Facebook message from University of Iowa students.

Lau said some students will also be hosting an art exhibit Thursday night, and is happy about the chance to help better the North End.

"I think it has great potential," she said. "I also can see where slowing down traffic, adding crosswalks, enhancing the storefronts would be good ... and bring back the enhancements I think are important to any city."

Tickets can be picked up at Little Chicago. 

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Family puts down pet pig after Iowa city officials said they couldn't keep it

JESUP | A Jesup family, which was told by city officials they could not keep a pig as a pet, has put the animal down.

The Hingtgen family said their pet pig, named Miss Piggy, was popular in their neighborhood.

"People down the street, or even the people far away, they'd just come down with their bikes or walk down and take pictures with her. They would pet her," said Jenny Hingtgen.

A resident notified the city about the family having the pig. Jesup city officials said they had no idea the family had a pet pig.

Officials said livestock, for the most part, is not allowed as pets within city limits. The family claimed their pig was a pot-bellied pig, which didn't make it livestock, but the city said after receiving legal advice that the pig was still not allowed.

The Hingtgens chose to put Miss Piggy down after they couldn't find her a home.

"I miss her every single day. I mean, I just looked at videos a couple of days ago and started crying," Hingtgen said.

The family said they couldn't afford the potential $750 fine, along with additional fines for each day they kept Miss Piggy after.

Mayor Larry Thompson said the city tried working with the family. He said they gave them a 30-day warning in August to either find a home for the pig, or ask the City Council if they could keep it.

The family did not do that in time. They said it was because they were still waiting on more information about the ordinance to help their case.

Miss Piggy was cremated.

Thompson said the city did not tell them to put her down, only that they couldn't keep it.


Cargill buys Cedar Rapids animal health company

MINNEAPOLIS | Cargill announced Tuesday it has signed a binding agreement to acquire Diamond V, a leading global provider of natural solutions and technologies improving animal health, performance and food safety. 

The company said in a news release it is responding to growing consumer preferences for natural food production.

Diamond V is based in Cedar Rapids and develops immune support technologies for animals. 

Cargill says the acquisition, which follows its recent investment in Delacon, the global leader in natural, plant-based phytogenic additives, will give it market-leading participation in the $20 billion animal feed additives market. 

“This acquisition strengthens Cargill’s and Diamond V’s shared vision to be a leader in creating new solutions for evolving consumer preferences for sustainable and wholesome food production,” David MacLennan, Cargill’s chairman and chief executive officer said in a statement.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The transaction is expected to close in January 2018, subject to regulatory approval and customary closing conditions.