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Mason City mall owner pays some back taxes but still owes more than $200K

MASON CITY | The owner of Southbridge Mall has paid part of his past property taxes — but still owes more than $200,000, according to records at the Cerro Gordo County treasurer's office.

Mike Kohan of Kohan Investments, Great Neck, New York, owner of Southbridge, did not respond Wednesday to emails and phone messages seeking comment.

In October, records showed Kohan Investments, doing business as Southbridge Mall Realty Holdings LLC, owed $208,910 on four parcels where the mall is located. 

Those taxes date back to September 2016, when the company purchased the mall for $1.5 million.

With tax sale penalties on two of the parcels, the total amount owed was $237,100. As of Oct. 30, Kohan paid $28,190 on the two tax sale properties.

The current amount owed as of Wednesday, Nov. 1, is $210,854, according to Cerro Gordo County Treasurer Patricia Wright.

"Now that the tax sales are paid, the company has the opportunity to make partial payments, in any increments, on the other real estate taxes," Wright said.

CHRIS ZOELLER, The Globe Gazette 

The Barrel Drive-In, a local staple known for its broasted chicken, permanently closed its doors this year in Clear Lake. 

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It's official: Casey's to buy Barrel Drive-In in Clear Lake

CLEAR LAKE | Casey's General Store is finalizing a deal to buy the Barrel Drive-In, an iconic restaurant open in Clear Lake since 1958.

James Pistillo, vice president and treasurer for Casey's, told the Globe Gazette by email Wednesday the company is in the process of officially buying the drive-in. The sale is expected to conclude later this month. 

"It would be premature to confirm our exact plans for the site as we don’t yet own it," Pistillo said. A Casey's General Store is adjacent to the property. 

Dick Hayes, the real estate agent listed for the drive-in, confirmed Casey's has bought the drive-in.

Arian Schuessler / ARIAN SCHUESSLER, The Globe Gazette 

Troy Bendt, owner of Barney's Drive-in in Waseca, Minnesota, bought a chicken statue for a little over $3,000 from the Barrel Drive-In. 

"We're just awaiting a closing date," Hayes said by phone Wednesday. "It varies and we're just waiting on some of the legal documents to process."

Both Pistillo and Hayes declined to disclose the sale price, citing the ongoing closing/legal process. Currently, Iowa Realty lists the drive-in at $398,000, with a sale "pending."

The Barrel Drive-In closed permanently this year, after owner/operator Seth Thackery had spent the last several years organizing community efforts to save the restaurant. He was awarded $75,000 to help with a "business makeover" in 2014.

Thackery could not be reached for comment by email Tuesday or Wednesday.

The giant barrel and chicken, trademarks of the historic venue, should be on display at Barney's Drive-In in Waseca, Minnesota, by next summer.

Arian Schuessler / ARIAN SCHUESSLER, The Globe Gazette 

Troy Bendt, owner of Barney's Drive-in in Waseca, Minnesota, bought a chicken statue for a little over $3,000 from the Barrel Drive-In. 

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Officials say Medicaid withdrawal will have little North Iowa impact

CLEAR LAKE | Two North Iowa health care providers say their clients will feel little impact from the withdrawal of AmeriHealth Caritas from the state's Medicaid program.

One Vision and Prairie Ridge Integrated Behavioral Healthcare both have clients and residents who are served by AmeriHealth Caritas.

AmeriHealth Caritas, which covers one in four Iowa Medicaid recipients, announced Tuesday it is pulling out of the state program at the end of the month.

"It's disappointing because it's just one more administrative headache like it was when privatization of the state program occurred 18 months ago," said Jeff Nichols, chief executive officer of One Vision. "It's like, here we go again."

He said One Vision is still served by United Healthcare and Amerigroup Iowa.

State officials said the more than 213,000 Iowans enrolled with AmeriHealth Caritas will be reassigned to the two remaining Medicaid insurers — United Healthcare and Amerigroup, both of which re-signed contracts with the state.

"I'm confident our services will continue with little impact on those we serve. There might be implications further down the road but our organization is in a very solid position," Nichols said.

From a practical standpoint, nothing should change for folks on the ground (clients)," he said. "They will continue to get day in, day out support."

Jay Hansen, executive director at Prairie Ridge, said AmeriHealth Caritas served well over half of Prairie Ridge's patients.

"It was the best company to work with and had the most favorable rates. The clients will all get reassigned to another company and there will be paperwork.

"A lot of our patients do not react well to transition and this is another transition," Hansen said. But he does not think it will result in disruption of services.


CHRIS ZOELLER, The Globe Gazette 

One Vision in Clear Lake. 

Arian Schuessler / ARIAN SCHUESSLER, The Globe Gazette 

Southbridge Mall in Mason City. 


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Federal bill co-sponsored by Iowa senator aims to help trade issues with RV companies, including Winnebago

FOREST CITY | A new bill co-sponsored by Sen. Joni Ernst and two of her colleagues seeks to help RV companies nationwide — including Winnebago Industries, headquartered in Forest City — access more benefits of a federal trade program.

The bill, titled "Competitive Need Limitations Modernization Act of 2017," would update the Generalized System of Preferences, or GSP, program, allowing Winnebago and other similar companies to pursue more duty-free trade opportunities, based off of more recent trade data.

Sam Jefson, a spokesman for Winnebago, declined to comment by phone Wednesday, adding it is company policy not to discuss "pending legislation."

Currently, the GSP limits the amount of duty-free trade through a policy called "competitive need limitation." This policy, however, uses data of domestic production levels from 1995. The new bill proposes this policy should be based on production level data in "any of the three preceding years," thus updating current market levels and how much each company should be able to participate in duty-free trading.

"This bipartisan bill offers a straightforward approach to modernize outdated trade policy, offering relief from tariffs for our manufacturers," Sen. Ernst said in a statement.

Leigh Claffey, a spokeswoman for Ernst, said in an email trade policy has been updated several times by Congress in the past couple of years. The current bill will allow full-year data to be used in trade reviews by the United States Trade Representative, potentially opening up duty-free trade opportunities for Winnebago and similar companies.

Claffey added the legislation, while helpful for RV companies, wasn't the only reason for the bill's introduction.

"Senator Ernst’s goal in supporting this legislation is to help a broad swath of manufacturers across the country, including those in Iowa," she wrote in an email. "(It) was not related to any one company, though the RV industry is supportive of modernizing this outdated language."

Ernst is co-sponsor of the bill, along with Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana) and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio). Claffey said Ernst has worked on more than 20 bipartisan bills thus far this year, and hopes to continue working productively with her colleagues "across the aisle."  

The bill was introduced by the three senators this past Tuesday, and has been referred to the Senate's Committee on Finance.