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 pledging its support to an effort to land a new industry.

The Board of Supervisors has agreed to meet, or even exceed, the 20% local match required for Iowa Fertilizer Company to receive state funding.

The company is considering the county for a $1.3-billion fertilizer plant.

The Iowa Economic Development Authority Board has signed off on tax credits and $1.6-million in loans for the project, half of which would be forgiven if certain requirements are met.

Around The Region

Feb 23, 2012

LEE COUNTY

The Iowa Department of Transportation is selling some of its property in Lee County.

Bids are due by 1:00 P.M. on March 14, 2012 on a nearly 52-acres piece of property located approximately six miles west of West Point.

The agency says the land has been appraised at $124,200.

The sale must be cash only.

 

LEE COUNTY

The Lee County Auditor’s Office is looking for someone to help with Election Day preparations.

The department is seeking bids to pick-up and drop-off about 100 pieces of voting equipment, booths and signs.

The Iowa Economic Development Authority Board is paving the way for a pair of projects in southeast Iowa.

During a meeting on Friday, the board signed off on a $1.6-million dollar award for the development of a large-scale fertilizer plant on 300 acres of land near Wever in northern Lee County.

The funding for Iowa Fertilizer Company will come through a forgivable loan, a loan, and tax benefits.

The company is a subsidiary of Orascom Construction Industries out of Cairo, Egypt.

Keokuk’s mayor delivered his 3rd “State of the City” address during this week’s Recognition, Appreciation, and Participation Breakfast.

Job creation and finances were prominent topics during the nearly 30-minute speech.

Mayor Tom Marion decided to get the bad news out of the way early in his speech to about 75 people at the Keokuk Country Club.

He started off by looking at the city’s revenue situation, breaking down how much money comes in through property taxes, TIF districts and state and federal aid.

The six men vying to be Burlington’s next city manager have plenty on their schedules while in town this weekend.

The selection process gets underway Friday morning with individual tours of the city.

Each candidate will be joined by a member of the city council and a representative of the Chamber of Commerce.

8:30 A.M. – 10:30 A.M. – William Way

9:30 A.M. – 11:30 A.M. – Ronald Chandler

10:30 A.M. – 12:30 P.M. – Alan Lanning

12:00 P.M. – 2:00 P.M. – Edward Sadler

1:00 P.M. – 3:00 P.M. – Steven Winger

LEE COUNTY

The Lee County Board of Supervisors and the union representing employees of the Sheriff’s Office have each signed off on a new two year employment contract.

The deal includes a 3%wage increase on July 1and a 1.5%increase on July 1, 2013.

It also changes holiday pay calculations,requires quicker use of vacation time and increases deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums related to health insurance.

The new contract runs through June 30, 2014.

 

FORT MADISON - SCHOOL

One local mayor says Lee County would be better off making his community the home of county government.

The Park Ridge Workshop complex in Montrose features more than 30,000 square feet of space.

The price tag for the three steel buildings has been reduced to $385,000.

Mayor Bob Reid says they could house the Lee County Conservation and Health Departments as opposed to a brand new building along Highway 61.

In fact, he says the buildings are large enough to handle all of county government, especially with expansion capabilities.

Lee County is looking into whether a construction project is damaging county roads.

Crews are working to raise the levee surrounding the Green Bay Drainage District.

Several residents told the Lee County Board of Supervisors, during this week’s meeting, that some gravel roads are being severely damaged by the heavy equipment needed for the project.

They say the contractor is using a shortcut instead of utilizing off-road opportunities.

Fort Madison residents can weigh in on the city’s spending plan next week.

A public hearing and the initial city council vote on the $25-million spending plan are scheduled for Tuesday, February 21.

City Manager Byron Smith says the budget could be considered status quo.

“I would not say bare-bone, but it is kind of basic for what we are doing,” says Smith.  “We did not propose any major staffing increases or decreases.”

Smith says money is available for employee raises and to expand nuisance enforcement.

Lee County is being asked to help enhance rural recycling opportunities.

The Great River Regional Waste Authority has about a dozen community trailers located throughout the county, including two in Donnellson.

That city is looking to switch to a curbside recycling program, which would prevent rural residents from dropping off their recyclables.

General Manager Wade Hamm says the authority is asking the county to hire a hauler to transport all of its trailers to the Fort Madison facility.

Around The Region

Feb 12, 2012

West Burlington

The Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission is working on a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy for its region: Des Moines, Henry, Lee & Louisa Counties.

Executive Director Mike Norris says the goal is to create a single plan for housing, economic development, transportation and infrastructure.

He says the commission received more than 300 online surveys and conducted another 60 interviews as part of the public input phase.

The Des Moines County Board of Supervisors appears willing to help one of the county’s largest employers.

Representatives of Great River Medical Center have approached the county about issuing $60-million in bonds on the hospital’s behalf.

The money being borrowed would be split between the construction of a new building and to refinance some of the hospital’s previous debt.

The Klein Center nursing facility will have about 160 bed, which is an increase compared to the current structure.

Jason Parrott’s guest is Russ Derr, who is the principal at Wells Carey and George Washington Elementary Schools.  They talk about the Weekend Backpack Nutrition program in Keokuk.

Students within the Keokuk School District are in the midst of a 3 ½ day weekend due to parent-teacher conferences.

Derr says students in homes where there is not a lot of food have learned to make it through a regular weekend before they can return for breakfast on Monday morning.

He says the extra time off makes it more difficult for students to get by.

Lee County must wait a little longer to put its proposed budget for next year on display.

The Board of Supervisors was ready to set a public hearing on the roughly $26-million spending for Tuesday, Feb. 21.

That plan changed, though, after the county received an email from the state that said its proposed property tax rate must be changed.

CPC Administrator Ryanne Wood says Lee County brings in tax revenue to help pay for day-to-day services for those with mental health or other developmental disabilities.

Around The Region

Feb 8, 2012

Keokuk

A 6th person has been arrested as part of a meth-making investigation in Keokuk.

Lindsay Riddle, 26, of 1813 Bank Street has been charged with conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine near a city park and in the presence of a minor.

The Lee County Narcotics Task Force says she faces up to 35 years in prison.

Authorities discovered items used in the “shake-and-bake” method of meth production while executing a search warrant at Riddle’s residence last month.

 

Fort Madison

The Keokuk City Council will play “catch-up” when it comes to some capital projects.

Mayor Tom Marion says the city could not afford to purchase new vehicles or replace some heavy equipment in the current budget.

He says that will not be repeated in the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Marion says the age and condition of Keokuk’s vehicle fleet dictate spending nearly $2-million.

He says the city will try to obtain credit from local banks to pay for the capital expenses.

Des Moines County’s proposed budget for next year requires another round of cuts.

Chairman Tom Broeker says the Board of Supervisors requested departmental budgets that covered needs but did not include frivolous spending.

He says that is what the panel received, but cuts were still needed.

The Board of Supervisors trimmed the initial departmental requests by more than $500,000.

That includes about $400,000 in the maintenance department and about $110,000 in conservation.

The organization representing Southeastern Community College’s faculty says it is worried that President Beverly Simone is jeopardizing the college’s accreditation.

The SCC Higher Education Association has sent a letter to the college’s Board of Trustees outlining its latest concerns and some possible solutions.

The SCC HEA expressed no confidence in Dr. Simone last year.

The college’s Board of Trustees said, after several months, that it remains confident in her and her commitment to the college.

Around The Region

Feb 6, 2012

Keokuk

The Keokuk City Council has created an application for special events with alcohol.

The form is designed to help city staff keep up with requests.

It requires information such as date, time, location and estimated attendance.

The city council approved its first application shortly after creating the document.

It was on behalf of the annual Rollin on the River blues festival in Victory Park.

 

Keokuk

The Keokuk City Council has created a union negotiating committee.

A proposal in Des Moines could result in more money for Keokuk Area Hospital.

Rep. Jerry Kearns (D-Keokuk) has filed legislation asking the Iowa Department of Human Services to recalculate one of its hospital funding formulas.

He says the state makes money available to hospitals that do not receive adequate reimbursement for care of low income patients.

Kearns says that state funding can be used to leverage even more federal money.

The Keokuk City Council needs more information before acting on a rezoning request for a local business.

Saint Louis Gear Company would like to move its operations from Royal Road to the Faith Family Church along Main Street.

President Dan Hodges says his company has outgrown its current plant and he does not want to have to move outside of the city.

“Keokuk is my hometown and I want to continue to try to build jobs in Keokuk,” says Hodges.

The move would require about 5.5 acres of land be rezoned for industrial use.

Burlington’s upcoming budget is expected to include money for a popular community attraction.

The city’s current budget does not include any money for Dankwardt Pool.

The former city council felt the pool had reached the point where its condition did not justify further investments.

The only reason the pool opened its doors, last summer, was community support and donations.

Interim City Manager Dan Luttenegger says this city council does not want to repeat last year’s decision on Dankwardt Pool.

Around The Region

Feb 2, 2012

- Burlington -

Burlington has expanded its list of finalists for city manager.

The city council has decided to add Alan Lanning, who currently serves as City Manager of Central City, CO.

He replaces an individual who withdrew from consideration prior to the names of the finalists being released to the public.

Lanning and the other five finalists are scheduled to be in Burlington on February 17 & 18 for a series of interviews and public forums.

Police Chief Dan Luttenegger is serving as interim city manager.

 

- West Burlington -

Burlington has released the names of the five finalists for city manager.

Two are currently serving in an administrative capacity.

- Edward Sadler as City Manager in Webster City, Iowa.

- Steven Winger as City Administrator in Center Point, Iowa.

Two others recently left their positions in city government.

- Ronald Chandler served as City Manager in Cedar City, Utah until the first of the year.

- Robert Knabel (kuh-NAY-bull) left his post as Collinsville, Illinois City Manager in November.

Keeping up with new technology could require the Burlington School District to do more than just purchase equipment.

The school board unanimously approved the district’s latest technology plan.

The 12-page document focuses on hardware, content, access, professional development and support.

Superintendent Jane Evans says the district has consistently worked to add and/or upgrade its technology at each building.

She says that will require a review of Burlington’s staffing levels to see if additional employees are needed in the area of technology support.

Burlington is narrowing the field in its search for a new city manager.

The city council met behind closed doors for nearly an hour Monday night to discuss the candidates.

The panel emerged with a list of six finalists.

Interim City Manager Dan Luttenegger says the names of the candidates are expected to be made public later this week.

That would allow time for them to be notified.

Luttenegger says the finalists will visit Burlington on Friday, February 17 and Saturday, February 18.

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad says a trip through Lee County shows his economic development policies are working.

The Governor and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds spent several hours talking to executives at employees at Pinnacle Foods and at Siemens on Friday.

They also toured both facilities and even participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a nearly 18,000 square foot expansion at Pinnacle.

The company spent roughly $20-million to build a new production line, which led to the creation of about 65 new jobs and the retention of several hundred more.

The Keokuk School District is proposing some major language changes in a new contract with its teachers.

The initial offer from the district to the Keokuk Education Association calls for a freeze in the base pay for new teachers.

It also seeks no movement on the salary schedule for experience or education.

The district also wants KEA members to start using direct deposit.

The most significant changes, though, come in the area of insurance.

Special events including alcohol can now be held at any public location in Keokuk.

An application for such events is now being developed.

The proposed application would be fairly simple.

It requires the name of the organization holding the special event, contact information, date, time and location.

Mayor Tom Marion says the idea is to help city staff keep track of event requests.

“(It would) give us advance notice so everything can be considered prior to the event itself,” says Marion, “because it would give us at least 60 days before the event.”

People  find different ways to relieve stress.

Some take a trip to  a spa for a bit of rest and relaxation. Others curl up on the couch  with a good book.

A group of women from the tri-states have  a slightly unorthodox method.

They lace up their roller skates  and beat the daylights out of each other.

Among them is Heather  Kath.

By  day, "Miss Heather" is the children's programmer  for the Quincy Public  Library, organizing activities such as story  time and summer reading  events.

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