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Mason City, IEDA still waiting on financing for downtown hotel project

MASON CITY | Mason City is two-thirds of the way toward meeting the expectations of the Iowa Economic Development Authority in securing state funding for its downtown renovation project, according to Interim City Administrator Kevin Jacobson.

The missing link is proof of financing from the developer, Philip Chodur, president of G8 Development, San Diego.

The other two components — a signed development agreement and Chodur dropping his lawsuit against the city — have been accomplished.

"We are currently in discussions with the developer on the financing component," Jacobson said.

Attempts to reach Chodur by email and phone messages were unsuccessful Wednesday.

City officials met with IEDA personnel in December to update them on the city's plan, including a change in developer from Gatehouse Mason City LLC to G8.

Jacobson and others anticipated returning in December to give a further update. But Mason City is not on the agenda for IEDA's meeting Friday.

Kanan Kappelman, marketing manager for the IEDA, said Wednesday discussion at the December meeting "included the City Council's recent decision to change developers and documentation the board would require before making final approval.

"The IEDA has not (and did not) put the project on the agenda for this week's board meeting as we continue to dialogue with Mason City officials," she said.

"We will plan on inviting Mason City back," Kappelman said. "The IEDA Board will want to ensure that needed documentation and financing has been secured before we consider placing the Mason City project on the agenda for any future meetings."

The city is seeking up to $10 million in state money to help leverage its $38 million River City Renaissance Project that includes building a hotel in the Southbridge Mall parking lot; connecting it via a skywalk to The Music Man Square; building a conference center inside The Music Man Square; building a performing arts pavilion at the north mall entrance and an ice arena/multipurpose center in the area vacated by J.C. Penney in the mall.

The hotel is a key part of the overall project because the state requires a $10 million private investment in order to qualify for the state funds, and the hotel meets that requirement.

Earlier, Chodur had an agreement with the city to build a hotel next to City Hall as part of a larger project. He was granted extensions on construction starts but was eventually found in default because of the missed deadlines, which city officials attributed to a lack of financing.

The city then sought new proposals and received them from G8 and Gatehouse. In March, the City Council decided to go with Gatehouse.

When negotiations bogged down, a quirk in the law allowed for new bidders.

G8 submitted a bid, and the council voted to give Chodur another chance.

'Generosity of North Iowa consistent': Charities, churches mostly optimistic with new tax bill in play


MASON CITY | Multiple area churches and charities are hoping the new tax bill, passed by Congress and President Donald Trump last month, won't negatively impact contributions this year.

Some feel it's too soon to say what its impact may be, including United Way of North Central Iowa. Jen Arends, community impact director of the organization, said supporters' generosity is a major component of how United Way runs 32 counties in its eight-county coverage area, including Cerro Gordo.

Arends added other financial circumstances, outside of how people benefit from writing off charitable giving come tax season, can cause changes in donation levels.

"It depends, somebody may get more back in tax refunds but other things may impact what they give charitably," she said. "They may have a medical emergency or their furnace is going out, or stuff like that."

Along with charities, several churches in Mason City rely on donations for the needy and other services. The Rev. Chuck Kelsey, pastor at First Congregational Church of Christ, doesn't think the bill should have much of an impact on his church.

"I really don’t think the tax bill will impact weekly giving ... It might impact larger gifts, however, most don’t give to ministry for a tax-break," Kelsey wrote in an email. "The faithful give because they want to make a difference in the lives of others."

Ron Stein, pastor at First Baptist Church, believes the reason his congregation gives is purely for religious purposes.

"I think people who give to God is different to people who give for a tax deduction," Stein said, later adding: "I believe they give because they know the benefit of giving to God."

Some of the key changes to the tax bill include doubling the standard deduction for single-payer and families, along with the elimination of many itemized deductions.

Melissa Schoneberg, executive director of Habitat for Humanity North Central Iowa, said her organization will be tracking how these changes impact giving in the coming year.

She added she does have concerns those who itemize deductions might not give as much this year — but hopes people continue to give to benefit their community.

"I think there are a lot of people who do want to support organizations," Schoneberg said. "But nonprofits are nervous because those that itemize tend to give more … I’ve been with nonprofits for over 15 years, but what I’ve seen is it does save the community and taxpayers money … especially in the long run, because it helps people become more self-sufficient."

For Schoneberg, however, and several others, it's still too soon to predict what will happen. Lt. Kenyon Sivels, of the the Salvation Army in Mason City, didn't want to "speculate" too much about the tax bill's impact

Sivels added one of the Salvation Army's main goals is to educate the community on its mission, and not get bogged down in how tax deductions impact giving.

"There are folks who have the capacity and do choose to donate significant amounts of money," he said about people who give to the Salvation Army. "And there are folks who can only donate a few dollars … but we’re thankful for both of those givers."

Arends, of United Way, said the generosity of North Iowa should support charities who rely on donations to operate, regardless of tax bill changes.

"We really continue to operate under the lens we’re doing good work, and as long as we’re doing good work, people are going to support it," she said about United Way. "Although the economy may be variable, the generosity of North Iowa is pretty constant."


Tom Thoma / Picasa 


Boys, 12 and 13, arrested for killing half million bees belonging to Iowa honey business

SIOUX CITY | Sioux City police have arrested two male juveniles for alleged vandalism that destroyed more than a half million bees at a Sioux City honey business last month.

The minors, who were not identified by police, have been charged with three felonies — first-degree criminal mischief, agricultural animal facilities offenses and third-degree burglary, as well as misdemeanor possession of burglar's tools.

Court records of juveniles accused of crimes in Iowa are confidential by law, unless the juvenile is charged in adult court or charged with a forcible felony, such as murder or kidnapping. 

JUSTIN WAN, Sioux City Journal 

A destroyed beehive is seen at Wild Hill Honey in Sioux City on Thursday. 

The juveniles, who are 12 and 13 years old, are accused of destroying all of Wild Hill Honey's hives on Sioux City's west side. The company's losses were estimated at $60,000.

The damage was not covered by insurance. But the public, outraged by the senseless act of vandalism, raised tens of thousands of dollars online for the owners, Justin and Tori Englehardt.

JUSTIN WAN, Sioux City Journal 

A destroyed beehive is seen at Wild Hill Honey in Sioux City on Thursday. 

The Englehardts said they plan to rebuild their business, and restock their hives as early as this spring in light of the public's generosity.

Police say they did not anticipate any further arrests.

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North Iowa man arrested for sexually abusing two children over six-year period, police say


BRITT | A Britt man is accused of sexually abusing two children during a six-year period in Hancock County. 

Damien Ian Kyhl, 35, is charged with two counts of felony second-degree sexual abuse and two counts of felony third-degree sexual abuse. Police say he lived in Britt from 2013 to 2017. 

According to Britt Police Department criminal complaints and court documents, Kyhl:

• Allegedly fondled and sexually assaulted a 12- to 13-year-old child from January to August 2017.

• Allegedly performed sex acts on a 12- to 15-year-old child from 2015 to August 2017. 

• Allegedly fondled and sexually assaulted a child under the age of 12 from 2014 to March 2017. 

• Allegedly performed sex acts on a child under the age of 12 from 2011 to 2014. 

Kyhl was booked into the Cerro Gordo County Jail Wednesday morning on a $50,000 cash-only bond that must be in his name. 

Court documents state that if he is released by posting bond, he is required to be under the supervision of the Department of Correctional Services.

It is additionally ordered by Magistrate Kelsey A. Beenken that he is prohibited from residing with or having any contact whatsoever with any minors. 

Kyhl is scheduled to appear in Hancock County District Court Jan. 26.

Mary Pieper /