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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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Construction is picking up at the former Eagles building in downtown Keokuk.  The two-story structure is being redeveloped for residential and commercial use.

Main Street Keokuk’s Joyce Glasscock says the biggest reason for the increased activity is the funding for the project is now in place.  She says the development is taking advantage of grants and historic tax credits.

The Keokuk City Council has signed off on a plan that could possibly lead to additional federal funding for Keokuk Area Hospital. 

It starts with the panel’s vote of 7-2 last night to contribute $100,000.

KAH CEO Wally Winkler says the city’s contribution will be paired with a $100,000 contribution from Lee County.  He says that money could result in roughly $510-thousand dollars for the hospital.

Winkler says additional state funding is also a possibility.

Principal Ryan Horner says the Revere C-3 School District has been around for more than 85 years.  He says it was a K-12 district until 2002 when the high school consolidated with the Clark County R-1 School District.

Revere C-3 currently serves about 18 K-8 students.  Horner says that number was at 29 earlier this year, but families left the district for a variety of reasons.

There is currently no one enrolled in kindergarten or fifth grade.

The city of Fort Madison is going to take its turn in trying to secure funding for a proposed sports complex.

The city has already pledged $500,000 over the next two years to the construction of three football/soccer fields and three baseball/softball diamonds.

The city council will write a letter to the Lee County Board of Supervisors to try to encourage the county to increase its contribution of $3,000 over three years.

Mayor Brad Randolph asked for the letter to be placed before the council.

Mount Sterling is located at the bottom of a hill along County Road W20 in southern Van Buren County.  It’s close enough to the Missouri border that when you look out from AJ’s Bar & Grill’s patio, you can see the Show Me State.

Mount Sterling is known for several things.  When the town was founded more than 150-years ago, it became known as “Dogtown” because reports said more dogs lived there than people.

The city of Fort Madison has a new mayor as the city council appointed Alderman At-Large Brad Randolph to the post during Tuesday night’s meeting.

Randolph served as Mayor Pro Tem under former Mayor Steve Ireland, who passed away last month.  Randolph has been serving as mayor since then.

Randolph says he is both honored and humbled to be Fort Madison’s new mayor.  He says one of his top priorities will be to complete a project near and dear to Ireland’s heart: the renovation of the Santa Fe Depot Complex.

The Keokuk City Council is ready to take the leap and go paperless.  The panel has reached a consensus to purchase 13 iPad 2’s for use during meetings.

City Clerk Barb Barnes says they should cost about $400 each, so the total price tag would be about $5,200.

The 13 iPads would be provided to each of the nine city council members along with Barnes, Mayor Tom Marion, Community Development Director Pam Broomhall and Public Works Director Mark Bousselot.

The Burlington School District is going back to the drawing board when it comes to reshaping school boundaries. 

Superintendent Jane Evans says the district’s elementary enrollment is out of balance.  She says, for example, North Hill has too many students while Blackhawk is running well below capacity.

The district estimates that 14% of its elementary school students do not attend their neighborhood school.  In response, it identified a neighborhood where students could change schools to help balance out the enrollment figures.

Fort Madison’s proposed sports complex has received another piece of bad news from the state.

Supporters traveled to Mason City to make a second pitch to the Vision Iowa Board for funding.  The task force promoting the sports complex is seeking up to $1-million to add to the $2.5-million dollars generated through public and private donations.

Unfortunately for the task force, the request for state funding was denied by an oversight committee for the Vision Iowa Board.

There is some apprehension among members of the Keokuk City Council when it comes to supporting the local hospital.

Keokuk Area Hospital continues to face an uncertain future due to its financial instability. 

The hospital says it is reimbursed about 75% of the money spent on care and services.  That is due to a number of factors, including a large number of low income clients and the formula for state and/or federal reimbursements.

Patrolman Robb Bell is a native of Hamilton who graduated from Hamilton High School.  He joined his hometown police department in Sept. 2005 after serving in the U.S. Marine Corps and with several other local law enforcement agencies.

After 6 ½ years on the force, Bell is in line for a big promotion.  He will take over as Police Chief on July 1, 2012.

Bell will replace Walt Sellens, who is retiring after 35-years with the department.  Sellens served as a patrolman and a sergeant before becoming chief in 1986.

Around The Region

Apr 12, 2012

WEST BURLINGTON, IA

West Burlington will soon be in need of a new police chief.  Current Chief Alex Oblein is stepping down effective June 22 to take a similar job in Piedmont, OK.

Oblein has served as West Burlington’s Police Chief since June 2003.

Mayor Hans Trousil says he will make an announcement about how the city will proceed with the search on Wednesday, April 18.

 

LEE COUNTY, IA

State Senator John Sullivan (D-Rushville) says everything is on the table when it comes reforming Medicaid in Illinois.

Governor Pat Quinn proposed a $2.7-billion dollar cut to the program in his budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. 

Sullivan told a crowd of 50 during a town hall meeting in Hamilton that some savings can be found through the scaling back of programs and the elimination of waste and fraud.

Superintendent John Henriksen says the Central Lee School District’s budget for the 2012/2013 school year is quite comparable to the district’s current budget.

The school board certified the roughly $14-million dollar spending plan Monday night. 

Henriksen says the spending plan is just a couple hundred thousand dollars larger than the current budget.  He says the budget’s general fund sits at around $10-million, though he believes the final expenditures will come in at around $9-million.

Southeastern Community College President Beverly Simone used last night’s Board of Trustees meeting to announce her retirement after 6 1/2 years with the college.

She emailed a copy of her statement from the meeting to college employees Monday night.

In it, Simone, who turns 66 this summer, says with many of her close friends retired and her family out of the area,she will retire this summer.  She says she will work with the Board of Trustees to determine a mutually agreeable date.

Simone will serve as President until her retirement takes effect.

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.

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