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Jason Parrott

Southeast Iowa Correspondent

Jason is the Southeast Iowa News Correspondent. He established Tri States Public Radio's news bureau in Keokuk in September 2003.  The bureau has moved from his apartment to the Hotel Iowa before landing in its current location at the Daily Gate City newspaper at 1016 Main.  Jason provides short- and long-form news coverage from southeast Iowa, northeast Missouri, and portions of west-central Illinois. Jason covers multiple governmental boards including the Keokuk City Council, the Lee County Board of Supervisors and the Burlington School Board. Jason was born in Burlington, IA and grew up in neighboring Henderson County before graduating from Monmouth High School.  He graduated from WIU in 2002 with Bachelor’s Degrees in Communications and History.  While in Macomb, he was a member of the WIU Track & Field team, serving as Captain during his senior year. Jason received his Master’s Degree in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield in 2003. He and his wife Jamie, a middle school teacher, have called Quincy home since 2007.  They have three dogs (Howie, Sunny and Sadie) and they volunteer with the Quincy Humane Society. During Jason’s free time, he enjoys watching sports, spending time with friends, playing fantasy football and traveling to the Lake of the Ozarks with his wife.

Ways to Connect

The Lee County Board of Supervisors has decided against increasing the county’s contribution to a proposed sports complex in western Fort Madison.

The panel had previously agreed to provide a letter of support for the project along with all of the county’s hotel/motel tax revenue for the project. 

That sounds much better than it looks on paper, though, as Lee County generates less than $1,000 a year from that tax.

The ball is in Lee County’s court when it comes to the future of a proposed sports complex in western Fort Madison.

The $3.4-million project calls for the construction of three soccer/football fields and three baseball/softball diamonds near Fort Madison Community Hospital.  Some of the land is being donated for the complex while the rest is being leased.

Public and private donations have crossed the $2.4-million mark.  That includes $500,000 over the next two years from the city of Fort Madison.

Burlington is exploring the world of hydroelectric power.

The city, its renewable energy committee and Klingner and Associates have been working on a proposal to build a hydroelectric power plant on Lock & Dam 18.  The plan calls for about two-dozen low-head turbines to be constructed.

The Keokuk City Council has agreed to sell roughly 4,000 square feet of space behind City Hall to a group affiliated with Main Street Keokuk for $750.

The land will allow for the construction of private garages for the high-end apartments proposed for the former Eagles building.

Mayor Tom Marion says the city will maintain control of a small portion of the land.

“We are still keeping, basically it says trading, but we are keeping three spaces,” says Marion, “at the end near 4th Street.  We want to maintain what they do not need for city parking spaces.”

The new mayor of Fort Madison could be in place before the end of the month. 

The Fort Madison City Council has decided to appoint someone to replace former Mayor Steve Ireland, as opposed to holding a special election.

Steve Ireland, 53, passed away at Fort Madison Community Hospital last month.

City Manager Byron Smith says the appointment is expected to be made during the city council’s April 17 meeting.  He says the details of the appointment process have not be laid out, but he says interested residents are encouraged to contact City Hall.

Residents of Mooar/Powdertown agreed to work with Regional Utility Service Systems (RUSS) several years ago. 

RUSS helps rural communities in ten southeast Iowa counties secure state and/or federal funding for sanitary sewer systems.

The sewer project was put on hold, last year, during the engineering phase because of personnel and funding issues with RUSS.

The Lee County Board of Supervisors wanted to see if residents of Mooar/Powdertown were still interested in working with RUSS, so it held a public meeting Tuesday night.

CLARK COUNTY ELECTION RESULTS

1/5% Sales Tax – Road Improvements

Yes – 77%

No – 23%

 

Clark County Ambulance District #1

Steve Howell – 70%

Jerry Redding – 30%

 

Clark County Nursing Home District #2

Mike Frazier – 67%

Mark Boley – 33%

 

Clark County R-1 School Board

William Schutte – 39%

Jason Acklie – 39%

Penny Boulware – 22%

 

Lee County is showing support for Keokuk Area Hospital as the Board of Supervisors has pledged $100,000 to the financially-strapped hospital.

There is one condition with the contribution.  It must be matched or even exceeded by the Keokuk City Council.

Keokuk Area Hospital CEO Wally Winkler says the city and county are being asked for support the hospital in the hopes of receiving additional state funding.  He says there is money available to help hospitals, like Keokuk, that receive inadequate reimbursements for services.

The Keokuk School Board has signed off on the district’s roughly $32-million spending plan for the upcoming school year.

One of the highlights is the fact that the property tax rate will drop by 73-cents, or nearly 4%.  The district’s share of property tax bills are not expected to fall by 4%, though, because of the residential rollback.

The budget also includes an expansion of Keokuk’s preschool program for 4-year-olds.  The addition of a second classroom will allow an increase in enrollment from 30 to as many as 80 preschoolers starting in the fall.

Croton and Mooar/Powdertown are a couple of Lee County’s small unincorporated communities.  Mooar/Powdertown is located just north of Keokuk, along Highway 61 while Croton sits just a few miles south of Farmington near the Avenue of the Saints.

Neither community has a sanitary sewer system, which prompted them to start working with Mount Pleasant-based RUSS (Regional Utility Service Systems) in 2010.

There will be just two contested races for county office during the June 5th Primary in Lee and Des Moines Counties.

One of the contests is in the 5th Supervisor District in Lee County. 

Chairperson Janet Fife-LaFrenz is being challenged by former Supervisor Matt Pflug in the Democratic Primary.  Keokuk Alderman Mike O’Connor will likely face the winner as he was the lone Republican to file in District 5.

The Warsaw School Board accepted Superintendent Doug DeSchepper’s resignation earlier this week.  He has been with the school district since July 1, 2010.

DeSchepper says he is stepping down so he can assume the same role with the Orangeville School District on July 1, 2012.  Orangeville is located just a few miles south of the Wisconsin border, near Rockford, IL.

DeSchepper says he is stepping down for family reasons.  He says Orangeville is about 15 miles from the home where his family lives.

The Keokuk School District is currently serving thirty 4-year-olds as part of its state-funded preschool program at Hawthorne Elementary. 

Superintendent Lora Wolff says demand was even higher as applicants had to be turned away during registration last year.

That fact prompted the administration to propose the idea of adding a second classroom for the 2012/2013 school year.  The extra classroom would expand capacity from 30 students to 80 students.

The Fort Madison City Council could soon make a decision as to how it will fill an unexpected vacancy.  The vote could come as early as Tuesday night.

City Manager Byron Smith says Fort Madison has two options.  It could appoint someone to replace former Mayor Steve Ireland or to hold a special election.

Ireland died on March 20 at the age of 53 in Fort Madison Community Hospital.  He had entered hospice care just prior to his death.

The Lee County Board of Supervisors says it needs more information before signing off on an expansion of the Lee County Correctional Center.

The panel hopes to obtain that information from Midwest Construction Consultants.

The Houghton-based firm oversaw the renovation and expansion of the jail that was completed just a couple years ago.

The board has agreed to pay MCC up to $2,500 to study the need for additional cells and to develop a proposal that includes usage, costs, and timeline.

Around The Region

Mar 28, 2012

WEST BURLINGTON, IA

West Burlington residents can now better protect themselves from a disaster that is all too familiar to this region.

The city joined the more than 600 communities in Iowa participating in the National Flood Insurance Program a couple weeks ago.

City Manager Dan Gifford says there is some farmland next to a stream that is considered at risk of flooding within the city, which could hamper future development.

Adam Pitman of Keokuk is trying to block several pieces of evidence from being considered in his murder trial, which is scheduled for May 22. 

Pitman is accused of killing his mother, Rosa Pitman, at her home at 1602 Concert Street in Keokuk on August 30, 2011.  The state medical examiner ruled that Rosa Pitman was strangled.

Adam Pitman was pulled over by Fort Madison police at about 5:45 AM that morning for having no working tail-lights.  Authorities say he admitted to killing his mother at that time.

Tyler Hobbs, 26, of Saint Francisville, MO will spend the rest of his life in an Iowa prison.  He was found guilty of 1st Degree Murder in late February in the Nov. 6, 2010 death of Shawn Wright, 40, of Kahoka, MO.

District Judge Mary Ann Brown handed down the sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole on March 23.

Jason Parrott’s guest is Ryanne Wood, who is Lee County’s CPC Administrator.  They talk about mental health care reform and what is being proposed in Des Moines by the Iowa Legislature.

Lawmakers are running out of time during the spring session and there is still plenty of work to do in the area of services for those with mental health or other developmental disabilities.

Some of the more common services include one-on-one sessions, drop-in centers or sheltred workshops.

The U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics conducted national adult literacy assessments in both 1992 and 2003. 

They were designed to judge literacy proficiency for the nation and for large sub-groups.

The results showed that 14 percent of the adults did not have more than the most simple of literacy skills.

Paula Faulkner says she is seeing examples of this in her role as volunteer literacy coordinator for Southeastern Community College.

Fort Madison Mayor Steve Ireland, 53, died Tuesday, March 20 at 1:54 P.M. at Fort Madison Community Hospital.

Ireland's family will receive friends on Friday, March 23 from 4:30 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. at the King-Lynk Funeral Home and Crematory in Fort Madison.

The funeral service will be held Saturday, March 24 at 10:00 A.M. at the First Baptist Church in Fort Madison.  Burial will be held at the Claypoole Cemetery in Wever, IA.

***SOME OF THE CONTENT IN THIS STORY MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN***

 

Former Hamilton School Board member August Dion Gregory, 44, has been found guilty of sexually abusing a minor.  His sentencing is scheduled for Friday, May 18th at the Hancock County Courthouse in Carthage.

Gregory was arrested in December and charged with multiple felonies involving a minor: criminal sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual abuse and criminal sexual abuse.  He was scheduled to go on trial this week.

The Keokuk School District could soon know if it should expand its preschool program. 

The district currently serves 30 four-year-olds.  Half of them meet in the morning while the other half attends preschool in the afternoon.

Superintendent Lora Wolff says sign-up for next year is already underway.  She says more than 40 applications have already been returned to the district.

Iowa’s June 5 primary will feature multiple contested races in the southeast corner of the state.  Friday, March 16 marked the end of the filing period for state and federal office.

Four men beat the deadline to enter the race in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes 24 counties in southeast, south-central, and east-central Iowa.

Congressman Dave Loebsack (D-IA2) is being challenged in the primary by Joe Seng of Davenport.  On the Republican side, John Archer of Bettendorf will square off with Dan Dolan of Muscatine.

Former Fort Madison Police Officer William Bowker will not be returning to the department.  He was fired by City Manager Byron Smith on Feb. 25, 2010.

Smith cited various acts of misconduct.  They include falling asleep and/or missing phone calls while serving on the Southeast Iowa Narcotics Task Force and having an affair with the wife of Police Chief Bruce Niggemeyer.

Bowker appealed the ruling to the Fort Madison Civil Service Commission.  That panel sided with the city in mid-2010, prompting Bowker to sue the city and the commission in district court.

Several members of the Keokuk City Council are looking for some compensation for its generosity in regards to a new ordinance.

The panel has approved the first reading of an ordinance providing a special encroachment for Roquette America.

The company would be able to build its own road on an unused portion of Railroad Street between “F” Street and “H” Street once the ordinance is approved.

Around The Region

Mar 16, 2012

FORT MADISON, IA

The Lee County Narcotics Task Force has arrested six Fort Madison residents in connection with a methamphetamine manufacturing ring in the city.  They range in age from 21 to 55.

They each face one count of felony conspiracy to manufacture more than five grams of meth.  Several have also been charged with maintaining a drug house and a 24-hour pseudoephedrine violation.

If convicted, the six could each be sentenced to more than 20 years in prison.  Three simultaneous search warrants were executed on Tuesday, March 13.

 

BURLINGTON, IA

Congressman Dave Loebsack (D-IA2) says the United States should consider pulling its military forces out of Afghanistan sooner than currently scheduled. 

He says he does not have a specific date in mind for a withdrawal at this point.

“The President has already moved up his timetable from 2014 to the goal of late 2013,” says Rep. Loebsack, “I think we should move it up even sooner than that.  There is no way around that.”

The Burlington School District wants to balance its elementary school enrollment.

The administration says nearly 200 students attend an elementary school that is outside of their neighborhood.

Superintendent Jane Evans says this is likely the result of families moving within the city but choosing to remain a part of their previous school. 

She says the district wants to balance the enrollment at its five elementary schools: Blackhawk, Corse, Grimes, North Hill and Sunnyside.

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office is ready to provide additional coverage to Montrose on a temporary basis.

The Lee County Board of Supervisors has signed off on a 28E agreement between the county, sheriff’s office and the city for law enforcement services.

The deal runs from March 14, 2012 to March 13, 2013.

Montrose has been without a police chief since Karl Judd resigned to join the Fort Madison Police Department.  The city’s two reserve officers also resigned around the same time as Judd.

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