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

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.

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.

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