WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Keokuk

The Keokuk School Board could announce the district’s new superintendent as early as Thursday night during a special board meeting.

The panel met behind closed doors for about one hour Tuesday night.

President Tyler McGhghy says the board used the meeting to talk about the details of a potential contract with the firm helping the district, Cedar Rapids-based Ray & Associates.

He says at this point, the maximum starting salary in a potential deal is $155,000.

McGhghy says the meeting was also used to discuss the six interviews conducted over the weekend.

One member of the Keokuk City Council wants residents to address a growing nuisance.

City code requires residents to trim their trees so they do not block sidewalks or extend out over city streets.  The excessive limbs can damage larger vehicles like fire engines and garbage trucks.

1st Ward Alderman Mike O’Connor says there are too many properties, throughout Keokuk, where the trees are out of control.

He wants to put the entire city “on notice” to deal with these overgrown trees.

The Keokuk School Board could hire a new superintendent as early as this weekend.

The panel will interview six candidates during special meetings on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning.

The school district will not identify the finalists.  The meetings will also be off-limits to the public per agreements between the candidates and the firm handling the search process.

The district received more than 40 applications. 

Keokuk is putting more money into tourism efforts as the city council has agreed to boost funding for the Convention and Tourism Bureau by $7,000.

The increase would bring the total for the current fiscal year to $140,000.

Tourism Director Kirk Brandenberger requested the increase based on Keokuk’s last fiscal year being its best ever when it comes to hotel-motel tax revenue.

He says the tax generated $276,000, which is up from the projected total of $260,000.

A development project in downtown Keokuk is facing a financial penalty from the city.

The former Eagles building, which is located at the corner of 4th and Blondeau Streets, is being renovated for commercial and residential use.

The project requires the replacement of an older, 1 ½” water line with a new 2” line, with the connection being made beneath Blondeau Street.

That is an issue as city code allows Keokuk to impose a penalty of up to $1,000 because crews will be cutting into a street that is less than 5-years old.

Keokuk residents and businesses will pay more for sewer services as the city council has finalized a vote to increase the monthly rate effective August 1.

The commercial rate will increase by 3% while the residential rate will go up 5%.

Mayor Tom Marion says the commercial rate increase is smaller because Keokuk wants to remain competitive for businesses and industries.

The city says the minimum monthly charge for a residence will now be $24.25.

Keokuk could have a new police chief in place by the end of the week.

Mayor Tom Marion is recommending Administrative Captain Dave Hinton for the post.

Hinton has been with the Keokuk Police Department for more than 20 years.

Marion says Hinton stood out from the other five candidates, who are also members of the department.

A Keokuk landmark opened its doors to the public over the weekend after being off-limits for more than a decade.

Plant Superintendent Larry Weiman says daily tours of Ameren Missouri’s power plant on the Mississippi River were provided for years.

That is until the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011, when public access was denied.

That restriction was lifted for Saturday and Sunday.

The idea was to increase interest in the facility in anticipation of next summer’s 100th anniversary of the completion of the power plant and the Keokuk dam.

Jason Parrott’s guest is Keokuk Police Chief Tom Crew.  They talk about Crew’s upcoming retirement and his 25 year career in law enforcement.

Crew describes his time with the Keokuk Police Department as a “great ride” filled with good friends and fond memories.

He says he is grateful that he found a career where it was never a burden to have to go in to work. 

Crew says that will make it more difficult, though, to walk out of his office for that final time.

Safety and liability concerns led the city of Keokuk to replace the original “Rocket Slide” in Kilbourne Park with a newer model several years ago. 

There were aspects of the original slide that no longer met federal standards.

Nels Olson of Wisconsin bought the Rocket Slide in the hopes of restoring it and installing the slide on his own property.

With that, people in Keokuk seemed to lose track of the slide, until it ended up on the reality television show, American Restoration.

The Keokuk School Board could soon see a list of potential superintendent candidates.

Business Manager Greg Reynolds says applications will be accepted through July 9.  He says Ray & Associates (Cedar Rapids, IA) will review the applicants in the hopes of presenting a final list to the board by July 23rd.

“They are then going to interview (candidates) the following week,” says Reynolds.  “I believe the 30th and 31st (of July) is the plan.”

Keokuk hopes to have a new superintendent in place before the start of the school year.

It will soon cost a little more to own a cat or a dog in Keokuk as the city council has agreed to increase the cost of the annual license.

Owners currently pay $5/animal each year. 

The cost of the license will increase to $10 on July 1 if the animal is spayed or neutered. A three-year license would also be available for $25.

Mayor Tom Marion says the license would increase to $25 for one year and $65 for three years if the animal is unaltered.

The Keokuk City Council must decide how the city should pay for some highly-anticipated street work.

Keokuk replaced some sewer lines around Wells-Carey Elementary about two years ago.

The project required crews to tear up several streets to do the work.

Keokuk did not immediately replace them, though, because the sewer needed time to settle.  Gravel was added for the time being, but that has led to plenty of complaints from residents about dust.

Thursday night’s Keokuk City Council meeting had a feeling of Christmas as aldermen opened the boxes containing their new iPads.

The city spent more than $6,000 to purchase the devices for the nine city council members along with the Mayor, City Clerk, Police Chief, Fire Chief, Public Works Director, and Community Development Director.

The iPads are for the specific position or office-holder, not the individuals.  There is a device for the 3rd Ward Alderman, not for Ron Payne, for example.

Keokuk residents have several opportunities to weigh in on the search for a new school superintendent.

The school board has hired Ray & Associates to help the district find a replacement for Doctor Lora Wolff.  She is stepping down to take a teaching position at WIU.

The Cedar Rapids-based firm will hold two public input sessions at the middle school on Tuesday.  The first will get underway at 12:00 P.M. while the second is scheduled for 5:30 P.M.

Those who cannot attend can provide input through a survey on the district’s website.

Keokuk could get some financial help from some of its employees.

The city’s current contract with the firefighter’s union runs out June 30, 2013.  It is the only contract in place for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2012.

Keokuk is currently in negotiations with the unions representing police officers, employees at the wastewater treatment plant, and the general union, which includes parks, streets and cemeteries.

The firefighters are offering to give up the 3% raise its members are in-line for come July 1.

Keokuk Police Chief Tom Crew used Thursday night’s city council meeting to announce his retirement.  His final day on the job will be June 28, but he will officially leave the payroll on July 6.

Crew has been with the Keokuk Police Department for 25 years.  He worked his way through the ranks, serving as patrol officer, captain and assistant chief along the way.

Crew has led the department for the last seven years. 

His time in local law enforcement also included a stint as commander of the Lee County Narcotics Task Force.

Keokuk has started talking about developing its own multi-sport complex.

The discussions began with a request to upgrade Rees Park.  Mayor Tom Marion says the idea is to prepare the park for softball games or practices.

“We will put the fencing back up and we will disc the infield,” says Marion.  “We will also bring some clay sand and put it on the infield and fix the bleachers.”

The city council reached a consensus to proceed with the project, which could cost several thousand dollars.

Keokuk is ready to do something about the former Flowers by Daryl building at 707 Main Street.

Code Enforcement Officer Kathie Mahoney says a majority of the building’s exterior is in good shape, but she says the rear portion of the structure is basically gone.

The city has received one bid of just under $8,700 to repair the building.

Mayor Tom Marion says Keokuk does not want to see another vacant Main Street lot.

The Keokuk Board of Adjustment has signed off on a couple of small changes to the design plans for several garages that will be built behind the former Eagles building.

The property is being re-developed for commercial and residential use.  There will be four high-end, upper-story apartments, which require the construction of the garages.

Time is of the essence when it comes to a multi-million dollar project at the Keokuk Municipal Airport.

The city council has awarded the contract for resurfacing the airport’s 5500 ft. runway to Shipley Contracting out of Burlington.

The company’s bid of just under $3.8 million came in roughly $1-million below original estimates.  The city received three bids but did not consider one of them.

Keokuk could have a buyer for three pieces of prime, Main Street real estate.

The city shut down the Keokuk Saddle Club in 2004 to allow for the construction of the Hampton Inn along Main Street.

That project resulted in four additional, unsold lots.  They have sat vacant since the hotel was completed, except for a large For Sale sign.

Mayor Tom Marion says the organization, Goodwill Industries, has approached the city through a local realtor about purchasing three of the lots.

District Court Judge Cynthia Danielson has scheduled Adam Pitman’s murder trial for Tuesday, July 10 at the south Lee County Courthouse in Keokuk.

The trial, which is expected to last about two weeks, was originally scheduled for later this month.

Pitman is accused of killing his mother, Rosa Pitman, 46, of Keokuk on August 30, 2011.  Officers found her body in her home after Adam Pitman allegedly confessed to the crime during a traffic stop in Fort Madison.

The Keokuk Re-Engagement Center could be up and running within a few weeks.  It will be located on Southeastern Community College’s local campus.

The goal of the center is to combine education and job training.

The Region 16 Workforce Investment Board has been directly involved in the development of the center. 

Chairperson Janet Fife-LaFrenz says it will allow individuals who are seeking a GED to also gain certification in one of 15 specialized fields.  They include carpentry and auto repair.

Keokuk could make it easier for downtown properties to be developed.

Fire Chief Gabe Rose says city code requires sprinkler systems be added to a downtown building if it is renovated for mixed use. 

Mixed use generally refers to commercial/retail business on the first floor and residential units on the upper level.

Rose is proposing a change that would provide an exemption to the sprinkler system requirement for certain buildings.

District Court Judge John Wright has ruled that Lexington Square will be able to intervene in a lawsuit involving the Keokuk Board of Adjustment.

The Board of Adjustment is being sued by 17 individual neighbors of the nursing home over the panel’s decision to allow Lexington Square to expand its facility.

Lexington Square wanted to enter the lawsuit because of the impact the final ruling would have on its operations.  The nursing home is looking to add more private rooms without increasing its bed count.

Keokuk Walk of Fame

Apr 22, 2012

Keokuk’s Walk of Fame is expected to grow this summer.

The first plaque is in place on a planter at the corner of 4th and Main Streets.  It features Chief Keokuk, the city’s namesake.

Main Street Keokuk’s Joyce Glasscock says more plaques will be added in the coming weeks and months.

“We have sold or found sponsors for a total of 15 of the 24 who will be on the Walk of Fame,” says Glasscock, “so we are very excited about that.”

Jason Parrott’s guests are Keokuk Tourism Director Kirk Brandenberger and Wes Pohorsky, who is a longtime member of the Keokuk Tourism Board.

A Keokuk tradition is celebrating a major milestone this month as the 25th annual Civil War Reenactment will run from Friday, April 27th through Sunday, April 29th.

“It will probably hit after it’s over with,” says Brandenberger about the thought of the 25th anniversary.  “Right now, we are just working real hard towards putting on a great event for the area.”

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 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.

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