WIUM Tristates Public Radio

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

Lee County is projecting a slight decrease in its upcoming property tax rate.

The Board of Supervisors has spent the last few weeks putting together the county’s spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The latest draft shows a $0.13 decrease in the rural property tax rate, from $11.03 to $10.90.

There would be an even larger cut to the urban tax rate from $9.00 to $8.62.

This would mark the second Lee County budget in a row to feature a reduction in both property tax rates.

Keokuk’s mayor is optimistic the state will come through with funding for its hospital.

A delegation of city and county leaders joined representatives of Keokuk Area Hospital in a trip to Des Moines to meet with two key lawmakers in the field of health care.

State Representative Dave Heaton (R-Mt. Pleasant) chairs the Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee in the House while State Senator Jack Hatch (D-Des Moines) leads the same committee in the Senate.

Mayor Tom Marion says the goal of the meeting was to share information.

Community leaders in Burlington are looking for volunteers to help improve the city.

The Imagine Our Future campaign started out with about 1,800 ideas for making the Burlington area a better place to live, work and play.

A committee reduced that number to 100 before the public had the chance to cut the list to 30.

Campaign Co-Chair Matt Shinn says that is when the process became very difficult.

But he says about 28 of the 30 entries could be lumped into one of five areas.

Teachers in two southeast Iowa school districts are looking for pay raises.

The Keokuk Education Association and the Burlington Education Association have each made their initial contract offers for next year to their respective districts.

Keokuk’s teachers are seeking a $1,000 increase in the base pay for new faculty to $31,745.

The salaries for veteran teachers would increase accordingly based on experience and education.

They are also looking to change two pieces of language from the current contract.

Organizers hope the recent temperature dip will make it easier for people to watch the bald eagles soar above Keokuk’s riverfront this weekend.

Lee County Conservation Director Tom Buckley says the warmer weather this winter has provided more hunting locations for the eagles.

He says they have been able to travel up and down the Mississippi River because of the open water.

Buckley says as the river starts to freeze, the eagles will start to congregate below Keokuk’s Lock & Dam because the moving water keeps that area open for hunting.

Jason Parrott traveled to three regional art galleries for this week’s program to spotlight current exhibits and to preview the year ahead.

Fort Madison, IA

Brian Riggs is the Executive Director for the Fort Madison Area Arts Association.

He says 2012 is starting out as it has for years with the annual Budding Artists Showcase.

The show features more than 100 pieces from elementary and middle school students from Central Lee, Fort Madison, and Holy Trinity.

Plant Manager Dennis Clark says testing at the biodiesel plant in downtown Keokuk could get underway in a couple of weeks.

He says that process will continue until the equipment is up to speed, as it sat idle for several years.

The same company (W2 Fuel that owns the former Tri-City Energy plant in Keokuk has a similar facility in Crawfordsville, Iowa.

Clark says the hiring process is underway at both locations.

The Iowa GOP has released the certified results from the January 3rd Caucus.

They show the race between former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney was too close to call.

Romney was leading by nearly 10 votes on caucus night, but Santorum is now ahead by about 35 votes.

There will be no official winner, though, because the final vote totals were not available for eight precincts in Iowa, including four in Lee County.

Fort Madison is moving ahead with a proposed rental inspection program.  City Manager Byron Smith says the idea is to make sure apartments, duplexes and rental homes are safe.

He says inspectors could look for smoke detectors, malfunctioning doors and windows and overloaded electrical outlets, among other items.

Smith says the program would also address a key need for cities like Fort Madison.

The Burlington School District believes it has a permanent home for one of its programs.  The district’s alternative high school serves about 100 non-traditional students.

These are students who are not able to attend regular classes for a variety of reasons (arrest, behavior, having a baby, etc.)

Superintendent Jane Evans says they are required to complete a similar course-load as students at Burlington High School.

Keokuk Mayor Tom Marion says the city council needs to reach a decision, soon, on whether to rebuild about 12 blocks of Grand Avenue.

He says the design work is complete so the next step is to put the project out for bid so work could begin this year.

Marion says moving ahead with Grand Avenue will not impact the surfacing of several streets around Wells-Carey Elementary School.

These streets have been gravel for more than a year to allow some subterranean sewer work to settle.

Keokuk borrowed about $3-million to rebuild Grand Avenue several years ago.

Two Southeast Iowa lawmakers believe the state’s fuel tax will eventually increase.

State Senator Gene Fraise (D-Lee County) and State Representative Jerry Kearns (D-Keokuk) do not foresee an increase during an election year.

The two recently spoke to members of the Keokuk Area Chamber of Commerce during a legislative luncheon.

Fraise says a proposal gaining support in Des Moines would increase the fuel tax by four cents/year for two years.

It would take effect next year.

The Southeastern Community College Board of Trustees has released a statement in response to the SCC Higher Education Association's vote of no confidence in President Beverly Simone.

The relatively warm weather in recent weeks has benefited Keokuk's new water tower.

An organization known as Residents for a Better Richmond has filed a class-action lawsuit in the Iowa District Court for Washington County.

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