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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.

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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.

The  Keokuk National Cemetery is the final resting place for more than  600 Union and Confederate soldiers.

Most of the soldiers  were from Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri.

A total of 17 states  are represented in the cemetery, though, including Ohio, Alabama,  and Texas.

A  special ceremony was held to bring those soldiers "home."

Soil  was collected from all 17 states. It was spread on the graves so  soldiers could be buried under their native soil.

March 28 marked the six month anniversary for Roquette America locking out roughly 240 union workers in Keokuk.  Hundreds of people from throughout the Midwest met in the southeast Iowa city over the weekend to stand in solidarity with the union.  The event also served as a rallying cry for the working class.

Supporters  honked their car horns as more than 400 people marched along Main  Street in downtown Keokuk.

The  demonstrators marched from  the Keokuk Labor Temple to the intersection  of 14th and Main and  back, carrying signs and chanting.

Wednesday night’s Keokuk Board of Adjustment meeting centered on two concepts: neighborhood integrity vs. business growth.

The board ended up signing off on an proposed expansion for Lexington Square, but the issue appears far from settled.

Julie Totten says her family bought its home at 17 Greenbrier Court in March of 2009.

Lee County’s public libraries are looking for a funding increase from the county.

There is not a single library that serves rural residents.

Instead, they can visit one of the five libraries located in Keokuk, Fort Madison, Montrose, Donnellson, and West Point.

Keokuk Library Director Emily Rohlfs says that allows more rural Lee County residents to take advantage of the facilities.

“We are seeing an increase in the number of items borrowed, the number of patrons we have, and the number of people who are coming to library programs.”

Keokuk’s Planning and Zoning Commission opposes a proposed business expansion.

Lexington Square needs a special use permit from the city to add a roughly 10,000 square foot addition to its complex.

The goal is to provide more private rooms for residents of the nursing home on Keokuk’s north side.

Many residents who live near the complex oppose the expansion because proposed increases in water drainage, traffic, noise, and overhead lights.

The planning commission is recommending the city’s Board of Adjustment NOT issue the special use permit.

Lee County Sheriff Jim Sholl says he will run to stay in the office he has held for the last 16 months.

He was serving as Chief Deputy in late 2010 when he was appointed to replace Sheriff Buck Jones, who was retiring.

Sholl has been with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office for more than 24 years.

He says he intends to continue to serve and protect the citizens of Lee County with commitment, dedication, and loyalty.

Sholl graduated from the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy in 1988.

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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