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 two dogs (Howie and Sadie), one nephew and several god-children. 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

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.

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.

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