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Chris O'Meara 

Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald (7) gets stopped by Iowa defensive end Matt Nelson (96) during the second half of the Outback Bowl NCAA college football game Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Mason City nature center plans $386K renovation in 2019

MASON CITY | The Lime Creek Nature Center will receive a $386,000 face-lift this year.

Last month, the Nature Center Board announced plans to replace the center’s original main-level exhibits with “museum-quality,” “interactive” and “durable” ones that will highlight the area’s natural resources and the unique features and history of the Lime Creek Conservation Area as well as provide an engaging educational experience for visitors.

“It’s going to be really awesome,” said Todd Von Ehwegen, Cerro Gordo County conservation education manager.

• Letters to the editor: Gifts, plans, acts, walls, letters

The nature center, 3501 Lime Creek Road in Mason City, opened in 1984 and was one of the first in Iowa thanks to “tremendous community support,” like foundation grants, civic group contributions, private donations and volunteer labor.

It features displays comprising mounted animals, reptiles, amphibians, fish and natural resources as well as an auditorium, natural resource library and the Cerro Gordo County Conservation Board staff offices.

Von Ehwegen, who has held his position since 1990, said some of the center’s current displays are “outdated” and “deteriorating,” so the 13-member Lime Creek Nature Center Board started working with Taylor Studios Inc. of Rantoul, Illinois, to plan, create and install a variety of new exhibits.

The “tentative floor plan” shows an entrance capturing the conservation area’s history and displays for geology, wetlands, woodlands, prairies and live animals as well as pollinator and nocturnal rooms.

Lime Creek Nature Center Renovation Plans

He said Lime Creek and Taylor Studios staff are currently working together to plan and design the exhibits. The renovations are slated to be complete in December.

Von Ehwegen said the renovation will take place in December and shouldn’t cause any “major disruptions” visitors.

“It’ll be a fantastic improvement for Lime Creek Nature Center,” Von Ehwegen said.

But it’s an “expensive endeavor.”

Von Ehwegen said a large portion of the $386,000 exhibit renovation project will be funded by the Maxine Sanberg Memorial Fund and several other generous private donors, but the Nature Center Board hopes to raise $100,000 to cover the remainder of the project. To date, it’s received $19,100 in donations.

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

He estimated more than 30,000 individuals, including local regulars, area students and vacationers, visit the Lime Creek Nature Center and Lime Creek Conservation Area annually for conservation education and outdoor recreation and hopes the renovation project will increase that number and become a “can’t-miss destination” in North Iowa.

“It’s a great opportunity for Lime Creek to be able to do,” said Shannon Anderson, Lime Creek Nature Center Board president. “We’re super excited about it.”

To donate toward the project, mail a check to Lime Creek Nature Center, c/o exhibit renovation project to: Lime Creek Nature Center, 3501 Lime Creek Road, Mason City, IA. 50401; or drop one off during its regular office hours.

Lime Creek will accept donations in memory and in honor of individuals.

For more information about the Lime Creek Nature Center renovation, call 641-423-5309 or visit

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

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

Attorney: North Iowa woman wants to see animals seized by Worth County after cat dies

NORTHWOOD | A North Iowa woman accused of running a puppy mill is asking to see animals seized by Worth County after one cat she requested custody of died and another has become ill.

Barbara Kavars, 65, Manly, a Worth County Magistrate Court to allow her to keep 13 animals, nine Samoyeds and four house cats, of the 154 animals seized by the county the Worth County Sheriff's Office and American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in November.

Winnebago County Attorney Kelsey Beenken, who is also an assistant Worth County, argued that the 13 animals should be declared “threatened animals” and should not be returned to Kavars.

Kavars request for inspection

Kavars, who claims she did not neglect the animals, has not been charged with a crime. ASPCA says charges are pending.

On Dec. 31, Kavar’s attorney Michael Byrne asked the court to grant Kavars the right to inspect the animals in custody.

Beenken sent Magistrate Douglas Krull and Byrne an email Dec. 28 stating that one a cat was “critically ill” and the ASPCA made the decision to euthanize the cat.

Beenken response

“The animal is suffering serious pain despite extensive palliative care and euthanasia was recommended,” Beenken said in the email.

Beenken said the ASPCA and the county were trying to hold off on making a decision until there was a ruling in the case.

“However, I just received word from the ASPCA that they have decided to euthanize due to the suffering,” she said. “They believe that they could be liable for neglect or something else if they allow the animal to continue living.”

Beenken told Krull and Byrne that she “strongly resisted that decision” since the county does not own the animals.

She further added that there is “a second animal heading in the same direction, very critically ill.”

A total of 154 dogs were seized during an animal neglect-related search warrant Nov. 12. Kavars signed a document surrendering all but the 13 animals she wants to keep.

According to court documents, all four of the cats are between 14 and 18 years old.

Byrne previously said the cats have been raised by Kavars and have all been house cats at her home for their entire lives.

“If Barb does not have those four cats returned to her, they will likely be euthanized due to their age and care requirements,” he said in court documents in December.

Beenken replied to that statement, saying there was “not one shred of evidence admitted that supports this statement.”

Byrne asked the court to allow Kavars to inspect all the animals and demanded that the ASPCA should provide information on the care and condition of all animals in their care.

“Kavars should have immediate access to the ‘second animals heading in the same direction’ to give and receive input in the decision of care for that animal,” he said.

Byrne claims that the ASPCA and the county withheld information from Kavars about the animals and that the ASPCA had no authority to euthanize the cat in their care. He asks that the remains of the cat be returned to Kavars “for her opportunity to conduct an vertanary autopsy if she chooses, otherwise dispose of the remains as she chooses.”

On Dec. 4, Beenken told the court that the ASPCA may have to move the 13 animals, as the sheriff's office may not be able to renew the lease where the animals are being held.

ASPCA staff are caring for the dogs at an undisclosed location in Worth County.

Beenken asked the court for authorization to move the animals to one of the ASPCA's secure facilities out of state or to an ASPCA partner agency in the state.

Kavars’ attorney, Michael Byrne, said she wanted the animals to stay together in Iowa and also requested the opportunity to visit the animals before their possible move. Krull allowed her to see the animals if they were to be moved.

According to documents filed Jan. 1 by Beenken, the ASPCA was able to renew the lease and the animals were not moved. As a result, Kavars did not get to see the animals as it was not part of the court order, Beenken said. Byrne claims that Kavars was refused access to them.

Beenken argues that allowing Kavars to inspect the animals is not authorized or mandated by Iowa Law.

Beenken also said the county would agree to allow Kavars to choose a veterinarian to inspect the cat at her cost but stipulates that Kavars should not be there as she is not a licensed veterinarian.

Beenken requested that a ruling on this issue should be deferred until the court decides if the animals are threatened.

Krull has not ruled on either issue as of Thursday afternoon.

Photos: Inside the kennels, home of a North Iowa woman accused of running a puppy mill

Photos: Inside the kennels, home of a North Iowa woman accused of running a puppy mill

Courtney Fiorini / COURTNEY FIORINI, The Globe Gazette 

Barbara Kavars, 65, of Manly, appears in Worth County Magistrate Court regarding ownership of some of the dogs and cats seized from her property in November by law enforcement and animal welfare officials. 

North Iowa teens arrested for robbery in Mason City, warrant issued for third

MASON CITY | Two North Iowa teens were arrested in connection with a December robbery, officials said.

A 15-year-old boy was arrested and charged with first degree robbery Thursday night. He is in the custody of juvenile court services and his name has not been released.

According to police, an arrest warrant was issued for Camden Michael Nicholson, 17,  for first degree robbery. Nicholson is believed to be out of state, police said in a release.

103 odd North Iowa crime stories from 2018: Pasta salad evidence, cigarette robbery, stolen pigs (with mugshots)

At 11:38 p.m. Dec. 27, Mason City Police officers responded to the 800 block of Eighth Street Northeast. They say up to three men who forced their way into a home.

According to Mason City Police Lt. Rich Jensen, one man held an adult woman who lived in the home down while the other men stole items from the home.

According to court documents, jewelry and electronics were stolen.

The woman, who was alone, was strangled by her attacker and lost consciousness. The attacker had a knife and threatened to stab her.

The woman did not seek medical attention, according to police.

Police executed search warrants Thursday on a vehicle located in the 500 block of North Washington Avenue and a residence in the 00 block of South Adams Avenue in connection with the robbery.

Joseph Ryan Jaskiel, 16, was charged with felony first-degree robbery Thursday as well.

Pig theft, school threats, puppy mill: North Iowa crime and courts news for December (with mugshots)

Jaskiel was arrested during the search warrant execution on South Adams Avenue. He is held in Cerro Gordo County Jail.

The investigation into this incident is ongoing and more arrests are possible, Jensen said in a release.

North Iowa's mugshots of 2018

North Iowa's mugshots of 2018