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CHRIS ZOELLER The Globe Gazette 

Mason City students rehearse for Mohawk Follies in the North Iowa Area Community College auditorium on Monday.

CHRIS ZOELLER, The Globe Gazette 

Riders take off from the starting line for a race during the ninth annual Jack Helgren Memorial Race Saturday in Clear Lake.

'The Jack:' Clear Lake snowmobile races return for 10th year

CLEAR LAKE | Mother Nature is finally cooperating with one of Clear Lake’s popular outdoor events.

The Jack Helgren Memorial Race, which draws hundreds of individuals from the region who ride, race and show their snowmobiles, returns Friday and Saturday.

“It’s just a neat event to get people out of the house and out on the ice in the wintertime,” said John Helgren, one of the event’s organizers and the late Jack Helgren’s son. “It’s one of the cures for cabin fever.”

• Mason City Council pushes back multipurpose arena bid

Last month, the two-day event, also known as “The Jack,” was postponed due to unseasonable temperatures and poor ice conditions that couldn’t accommodate the snowmobilers — and spectators — who not only race but park on the lake’s ice.

According to the National Weather Service, Friday will be mostly sunny, cold and blustery with a high near 1 degree, and Saturday will be mostly sunny with a high near 12 in North Iowa.

“We had some warmer weather over the weekend, but it’s freezing back up really nice,” said Gary McVicker, one of the event’s organizers.

The memorial race — in its 10th year — is named after Jack Helgren, an area businessman, former snowmobile dealer and avid racer who died in 2009.

The event begins Friday with registration at Rumorz Bar & Grill, 1210 S. Shore Drive, in Clear Lake and a snowmobile ride around the lake. Registration is from 6 to 9 p.m.

It continues Saturday at Clear Lake State Park, 6490 S. Shore Drive, with:

  • Registration: 7 to 8 a.m.
  • Le Mans practice and drivers’ meeting: 8:10 a.m.
  • Opening ceremonies and parade lap: 9 a.m.
  • Radar runs: 9:05 a.m.
  • Le Mans racing: 10 a.m.
  • Kitty Kat and 120 racing
  • Vintage show featuring decades-old restored, unrestored, cutter, youth, mini and race sleds: All day

McVicker said there is racing for all ages. Spectators are encouraged to attend. Parking is available at Clear Lake State Park or on the ice.

Saturday night the event concludes with an awards ceremony at 7 p.m. at Best Western Holiday Lodge, 2023 Seventh Ave. N., in Clear Lake, and live music from Split Second Band.

“Everybody who’s come has had a really good time,” McVicker said, noting the event is based off racing that occurred in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s in the area.

During the awards ceremony, a 1975 Ski-Doo TNT 440 F/A, donated by John Helgren for the event’s 10th anniversary, will be auctioned off for charity.

Since The Jack started, it’s been able to donate proceeds to the Winnebago Honor Flight, Clear Lake Restoration Project, American Cancer Society, Clear Lake Chamber fireworks, Patriots for Pets, Opportunity Village and area snowmobiling organizations.

“It was originally going to be a one-year event and now here we are 10 years later,” John Helgren said. “We appreciate the support from our sponsors and the community.”

North Iowa Nine: What's happening in North Iowa (with photos)

The event is made possible each year by more than 50 volunteers, who will begin prepping the ice on Thursday, McVicker said.

“I’m sure Jack is up there looking down on us and smiling,” he said. “If he was around, he’d be out there with us showing us how it’s done.”

In 1965, Jack Helgren started North Iowa Tire Company and House of Sports, where he was in business for 44 years until his illness. John Helgren owns the House of Sports today.

For more information about the event, visit

• Photos: The Jack 2018 at Clear Lake

Photos: The Jack 2018 at Clear Lake

Globe Gazette file photo 

John Helgren, right, son of the late Jack Helgren for whom "The Jack" snowmobile races are named, leads a group of snowmobilers on a parade lap around the race course.

Alta Vista baby death: Cheyanne Harris found guilty of 1st-degree murder, child endangerment

LE MARS | A former Alta Vista mother has been found guilty in the 2017 death of her son.

After four hours of deliberation, jurors found 21-year-old Cheyanne Harris guilty of first-degree murder and child endangerment causing death.

First-degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence without parole. Sentencing has tentatively been set for Feb. 19.

Cheyanne Renee Harris, 21, was charged with first-degree murder and child endangerment resulting in death.

Authorities said her 4-month-old son, Sterling Koehn, was found dead in a swing seat in the back bedroom of their apartment on Aug. 30, 2017, after the child's father called 911.

Insects in his diaper showed he hadn't been changed, bathed or picked up in nine to 14 days, and he had died half a day to a day before the 911 call.

Trial was moved to the Plymouth County Courthouse in Le Mars on a venue change, and testimony wrapped up on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Denise Timmins urged jurors to find Harris guilty as charged.

"Your words can't bring Sterling back, but your words can do justice," Timmins said.

Harris quietly shook her head and mouthed something under her breath as Timmins recounted some of the testimony.

Doctors determined that Sterling died of dehydration, malnutrition and infection from untreated diaper rash that had worked its way up the child's chest and back.

Timmins said Harris didn't want anything to do with Sterling because she was tired of hearing him cry and blamed him for the family's problems. Harris placed him in the swing, faced him toward a wall and left him there. That set off a change of events that eventually led to the baby's death, Timmins said.

"She let her blessing die a slow and painful and unnecessary death," Timmins said. "She heard him scream, and she did nothing. How many days did he cry?"

Harris knew that the father, Zachary Koehn, wasn't caring for the child, Timmins said. She noted that the apartment had baby formula and other items to care for Sterling, who ultimately died in a bedroom just feet away from new, unused diapers.

Harris is charged with murder under the felony murder theory, so jurors would have to find Sterling died while Harris was committing the crime of child endangerment, with malice and under conditions showing extreme indifference to human life.

Defense attorney Aaron Hawbaker admitted that the state had proved its case for a conviction on the child endangerment charge. But he fought the murder charge, saying there was no evidence of malice.

Hawbaker said that less than a week before Sterling's death, Harris was arranging to have her mom look after the kids for the upcoming weekend.

"She was ill. That's delusion," Hawbaker told jurors. He said looking back, she now realizes she messed up.

A clinical psychologist for the defense had testified that Harris suffered from severe meth abuse, massive depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, which would have hindered her parental abilities.

But a psychiatrist for the prosecution said the depression wasn't so severe because it didn't carry over to other aspects of Harris' life, and he said the facts didn't show that she was incapable of caring for Sterling.

Photos: Cheyanne Harris murder case

Mason City Council pushes back multipurpose arena bid

MASON CITY | Another delay. 

That's how City Administrator Aaron Burnett characterized the decision at Tuesday night's city council meeting to push back the recommendation and request for approval of the second round of bids for work on the forthcoming multipurpose arena at the former JCPenney in the Southbridge Mall.

The second round of bidding, which focuses on structural steel, concrete foundation and the ice plant, was initially due in on Jan. 29 (according to a Jan. 2 city council packet) but the date was reshuffled to avoid, as Burnett said, "rushing the contractor to a bid and not getting the most competitive bid."

"(It) would be beneficial for all involved to delay the bid, actually until tomorrow, and then have the bid award and approval of plans and specs at the next council meeting," Burnett clarified.

During Tuesday night's meeting, Councilman Will Symonds asked Burnett whether these delays would affect the arena's construction schedule, slated to finish within 10 months.

Burnett was hopeful that those delays, which represent about two weeks of lost time, could be made up as the process moves forward.

"Those time frames, obviously we've got to move a little bit quicker on the critical path to make sure that we continue to hit that date," Burnett said.

"Right now, I think we've lost about two weeks. Hopefully, we can gain those two weeks back through other parts of the project."

Mason City Council modifies lease agreement with Southbridge Mall for new arena

MASON CITY | Almost two hours into a regularly scheduled City Council meeting Tuesday night, resident Matt Jensen stepped to the microphone in the library's nearly full Mason City Room and asked a question that succinctly conveyed the concerns of those in the audience who had voiced dissent about a proposed lease agreement for the forthcoming multipurpose arena.

Tim Moreau, a local engineer who raised a caution flag during the first round of bidding, continues to take issue with that process as well as this new bit of bid letting.

Moreau laid out that there are three specific ways in which the "Notice to Bidders" must be posted.

The first two focus on posting a bid notice to pertinent contractor and construction services.

Posting such a bid notice to Master Builders of Iowa, which calls itself the "Voice of Iowa's Advanced Construction Industry," would satisfy the first two needs.

Meanwhile, the third calls for a posting to be made to an internet site sponsored by either the governmental entity or a statewide association that represents the government entity. 

Moreau, who has 30-plus years of experience, said he was unable to locate a posting for both bid packages that would satisfy the third stipulation.

"It's very disheartening that even after I brought all of this to the City Council’s attention at the Jan. 15, 2019, City Council meeting regarding Bid Package No. 1, that they still cannot get it correct on Bid Package No. 2," Moreau said.

In answering those particular charges, Burnett reaffirmed the review work the city attorney's been doing on the project.

Mason City breaks ground on multipurpose arena (with photos)

MASON CITY | After five-plus years, numerous delays, multiple developers, continual pledges, countless meetings, threats of lawsuits, bidding issues and rent agreement amendments, city officials broke ground Monday afternoon on the downtown multi-purpose arena that will anchor the River City Renaissance project.

"The City of Mason City continues to fully comply with the bidding and posting requirements in state law and these concerns were reviewed with the city attorney. This review produced no violations of law," he said.

Bidding would now be open Feb. 6 and a final decision would be made at the Feb. 19 city council meeting.

Primarily what Burnett said is causing the delay is ice plant equipment. 

"When you start talking about steel and some of those other items, those can really add some time," Burnett said. "Especially the ice plant. That's pretty specialized equipment. That's part of the reason it's part of bid package two."

The long, winding road of Mason City's downtown project
Photos: Southbridge Mall in its heyday