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Looking back at 2012: A year of growth and change

Friday, December 28, 2012

(Photos by Sentinel staff/contributed) 2012 saw changes in Le Mars with a look at both the future and its history. Wells Enterprises began construction on a 65,000-square-foot addition at the South Ice Cream Plant. A grant will add blue recycle totes to Plymouth County communities. Gehlen Catholic School, in Le Mars, and Spalding Catholic, at Granville, are discussing merging their high schools. Downtown Le Mars was named a historical district and listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Editor's note: This is the first of two stories looking at the top local news of 2012. The second story will be published in the Monday, Dec. 31 edition of the Le Mars Daily Sentinel.

10. 2012 General Election

Plymouth County voters set new records in the number of ballots cast in the presidential election.

The total number of votes was 12,999 with 5,577 being cast absentee -- a new record in Plymouth County.

There were about 1,200 more absentee ballots cast in the 2012 General Election compared to the 2008 presidential election.

County election officials attributed the record-high number of absentee ballots to more awareness of the option, the ease of filling out the ballot in the auditor's office or mailing it.

The total number of voters, 12,999, was also one the highest percentage of voter turnout in Plymouth County in recent years.

Election officials attributed that to the presidential nature of the General Election, which pitted President Barrack Obama against Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

Plymouth County voters overwhelmingly selected Romney as their candidate for president, but Obama ultimately won re-election.

During the primary election this past June, Plymouth County voters also re-elected three of the five county supervisors and the sheriff to their offices.

Perhaps the increase in voter turnout will be a continuing trend for county voters.

9. Recycling brings changes locally

This past April, Van's Sanitation & Recycling, in Le Mars, began accepting recyclable materials from Plymouth County residents.

Van's pays $10 a ton for the recyclables, which are sorted at the company's sorting facility on Highway 75, north of Le Mars.

That change occurred when the county severed its ties with the Cherokee County Solid Waste Commission, which had planned to start charging to receive recyclable materials.

The Plymouth County Solid Waste Agency recently received a $63,788 grant from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to purchase about 1,800 blue recycling totes for outlying member cities.

Those 96-gallon totes will be used in Merrill, Kingsley, Struble, Brunsville, Craig, Remsen, Oyens and Westfield.

The cities of Le Mars and Hinton already have the residential recycling totes.

In addition to countywide recycling changes, this past summer the Le Mars City Council approved a commercial recycling ordinance.

The city purchased about 800 commercial recycling totes with the help of a $20,000 forgivable loan from the DNR.

Van's is in the process of delivering the blue recycle totes to commercial accounts that wish to participate.

Commercial entities, which includes apartment complexes with three or more apartments, are not required to use Van's free recycling program.

However, they do need to have a recycling program in place.

8. Gehlen Catholic, Spalding Catholic consider merger

The Gehlen Catholic and Spalding Catholic schools' boards of education are discussing sharing a high school.

Gehlen Catholic School is in Le Mars. Spalding Catholic's high school is in Granville.

This past fall the two schools merged their varsity football programs into one, a decision made in January 2012.

School officials decided to share a football program for the 2012 and 2013 seasons.

From that decision, the idea to consider merging the two private Catholic high schools into one was born.

Since September, boards of education in both schools have been hosting public meetings in both Le Mars and Granville to discuss the merger.

Gehlen's and Spalding's boards of education are expected to vote on the merger by Jan. 20, 2013.

If the merger occurs, both schools will each continue to provide separate pre-kindergarten through eighth grade education.

7. Wells Enterprises to keep it all in the family

Wells Enterprises, in Le Mars, made the decision to keep its company family-owned, instead of seeking outside investors to reach its goal of being No. 1.

Wells, the third largest ice cream company in the United States, wants to become the No. 1 company by 2020.

In November, Wells released a statement that instead of seeking outside investors, the company had decided to refinance its debt and keep the business family-owned.

Wells is the largest employer in Plymouth County.

This year has also been a time for expansion at Wells with a 65,000-square-foot addition being built onto the South Ice Cream Plant.

The expansion will provide new space for both manufacturing of ice cream products and building infrastructure such as receiving raw materials, according to a company spokesman.

The new addition is being constructed on the north side of the South Ice Cream Plant, 1191 18th St. S.W., Le Mars, and is expected to be completed in April 2013.

Wells plans to celebrate more than its new addition next summer.

The company will celebrate its 100th birthday by sponsoring more activities during Ice Cream Days, June 12-15, in Le Mars.

6. Le Mars downtown's history recognized

After more than a year of in-depth study, historic areas in the downtown business district are now listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

The listing recognizes the historical significant of the area in American history, local history and the architecture of buildings.

The downtown Le Mars area was added to the national registry in November, after a decision by the National Park Service.

The new designation has more than a historical significance.

It could also lead to state and federal tax credits for restoration of buildings in the historic areas, according to the Le Mars Main Street manager.

The historical areas listed on the National Registry of Historic Places are bounded by Second Street North, Second Avenue West, First Street South and First Avenue East.

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