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

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.

The Keokuk School Board approved more than $600,000 in cuts to next year’s budget during last night’s meeting.  There was one exception, though, which earned the board plenty of applause.

The board met for about 2 ½ hours last night, in front of roughly 30 students, parents, and teachers at the former Torrence Elementary.

About a half-dozen of them spoke during the meeting, including three current students, with most calling for the board to not eliminate a half-time high school science position.

Lexington Square wants to join a lawsuit filed over its planned expansion in Keokuk.

The nursing home has filed a motion in District Court to intervene in a lawsuit against the Keokuk Board of Adjustment.

The commission is being sued by 17 individuals living on Greenbrier Court, which abuts Lexington Square.

They object to the fact that the Board of Adjustment issued a special use permit to the nursing home so it can expand its facility. 

Lexington Square would is looking to add private rooms without adding additional beds.

End-of-life decisions can be the most difficult someone will make.

The need for hospice care and the people who provide it continues to increase, thanks to the “Baby Boomer” generation.

Jeri Welch with the Lee County Health Department describes hospice as comfort care provided at the end of someone’s life.

She says the service can be provided in the home, a nursing home, or a hospital.

Welch says eligibility is based on a doctor declaring a patient has six-months-or-less to live and the patient choosing to allow nature to take its course.

Burlington is trying to determine if Cascade Bridge can be restored.

The city council closed the bridge on South Main Street, several years ago, to both vehicular and pedestrian traffic.  The pedestrian ban was eventually rescinded.

The city was in the process of moving ahead with plans to tear down the roughly 115-year-old structure and build a new bridge.

The four-million dollar project was put on hold, though, after the State Historic Preservation Office stepped in.

The Keokuk City Council is ready to do some spring cleaning.

Susan Dunek represents the city’s 7th ward.  She says the month of March is a good time to start sprucing up Keokuk’s appearance.

Dunek says a drive around the city will reveal areas the city can quickly address, such as lining up concrete strips in parking lots and straightening street signs and markers.

Some residents of the Argyle Sanitation District will be receiving a bill for past due sewer services.

The county says 22 properties are behind in their payments to Regional Utility Service Systems (RUSS).

The Mount Pleasant-based organization owns and operates Argyle’s sanitary sewer system.

Lee County has been covering the late fees for months, which has prompted the Board of Supervisors to approve the mailing of bills to delinquent customers.

The supervisors have that authority because they are also serving as the trustees for the sewer district.

A southeast Iowa lawmaker says the state needs to put more money into economic development efforts.

The Iowa House has passed the Economic Development Budget bill.

The legislation not only funds statewide economic development efforts, but also agencies like the Department of Cultural Affairs, the Board of Regents, and the Iowa Finance Authority.

State Representative Jerry Kearns (D-Keokuk) voted against the bill.

The West Burlington School District has agreed to sell its former middle school to the city for just $1.

Superintendent Dave Schmitt says this is the best option for the entire community.

“We could have gotten $5,000-$10,000 for the building,” says Schmitt, “but then there could have been that risk that it become dilapidated or an eyesore for our community.”

The city plans to tear down the former school at 211 Ramsey Street so several new homes can be built, one of which would be targeted to low-income families.

Lee County could be forced to expand its jail earlier than anticipated.

A major expansion and renovation of the Lee County Correctional Center wrapped up in mid-2010.

The roughly $6-million dollar project pushed the current capacity of the facility to 92 inmates.

It also improved security and made it easier for correctional officers to oversee more inmates.

Another aspect of the expansion/renovation put the infrastructure (water, electric) in place to allow the jail to eventually be expanded to hold up to 144 inmates.

The Keokuk School Board is weighing future goals versus current needs as it considers cutting next year’s budget.

The panel met for nearly two hours, Monday night, to review the administration’s plan for closing a $1.3-million shortfall.

It calls for the use of @$580,000 in cash reserves and $700,000 in cuts.

The cash reserves are being looked at as a one-time revenue source, so the same amount would likely be needed through cuts next year.

Keokuk’s budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2012 attempts to get the city back on track when it comes to equipment and infrastructure.

The city council has approved the roughly $29-million spending plan after working on it for several months and holding multiple Saturday workshops.

The numbers show that most departmental budgets will be at or just slightly above their level in the current city budget.

Mayor Tom Marion says holding down spending was one goal for the new budget.

Pages