Saturday, August 29

Crozier: Settlement decision ‘gut wrenching’

Easton Valley, Northeast agree to out-of-court settlement

When the inked signatures dry, two local school districts will have put an end to years of contentious litigation that went as far as the state Supreme Court.
Easton Valley and Northeast school districts reached a monetary settlement that, when officially signed by both districts, closes the two-and-a-half-year courtroom battle determining where a portion of Easton Valley’s students in grades seven through 12 should attend classes.
“We’re done and moving on,” said Easton Valley Superintendent Andy Crozier. “This hurt – not financially – but it hurt some of our pride to have this done out of court.
“Our board really wrestled with this. This was a gut-wrenching conversation and decision for our board. There was a lot of emotion and pain involved in this process,” Crozier described. “I think the majority of the board decided they didn’t want to let this linger any longer. We did what needed to be done.”
Northeast Superintendent Jim Cox said via phone Wednesday that he would comment on the settlement next week, saying he “had not yet seen the final paperwork.” The Northeast board voted 3-2 in favor of the settlement Aug. 19.
The settlement resolves a 2013 lawsuit filed by Northeast.

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Jobs agency to resume Maquoketa presence

Jackson County area residents looking for a job or wanting to file for unemployment benefits soon will be able to do so with the personal help of a state agency official in Maquoketa.
Four years after Iowa Workforce Development shuttered its satellite office in Maquoketa as a cost-cutting move, the agency will assign a representative to hold office hours one day a week in the city.
Although final details will be announced, preliminary plans call for the Iowa Workforce Development official to visit the Maquoketa Public Library on Mondays, said David Heiar, director of the Jackson County Economic Alliance.
Heiar disclosed the plans during a report on activities of his office Tuesday morning before the Jackson County Board of Supervisors.
The move came as good news to county economic development leaders, who had complained when Iowa Workforce Development closed its Maquoketa office on Aug. 31, 2011, that the area would be left underserved.
“This is obviously a step in the right direction,” Heiar said in an interview Thursday.
“Although they’re not giving us what we were accustomed to previously, this is a great way to at least acknowledge there is an unmet need here.”

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Wednesday, August 26

Maquoketa volleyball 2015 season preview


With four returning starters and a swath of others ready to fill the shoes of last year’s seniors, the Maquoketa Cardinals are looking to build off last year’s 20-19 record.

With this year’s senior class paired with a large, skilled junior group, head coach Laura Luckason is confident the team can compete in a tough WaMaC conference. 

“There’s a lot of talent and leaders in the senior class,” Luckason said. “They’re a fun group.”

Luckason pointed to friendly competition between the seniors and juniors that will ideally push both to be better.

As practices continue leading up to the first action of the season — Saturday’s invitational hosted by the Cards — Luckason is looking to pull every drop of skill from her players.


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Betterment buys downtown building


Delete one storefront from the list of dormant properties in downtown Maquoketa.

On Friday, the Maquoketa Betterment Corp. purchased the unoccupied property at 110 S. Main St. in Maquoketa from Gerald and Melody Miller, who last operated Timber City Trophy & Shirtworks and a JC Penny catalog outlet in the building in 2010.

Betterment spokespeople declined to comment on the purchase price. 

After renovations, the building will hold the Maquoketa Winter Farmers Market and provide shared office space for start-up companies and businesses that need an office or meeting space, a physical presence, according to Betterment President Chuck Current.

“We are excited that the Betterment Corp. can act as a catalyst for our community by getting projects moving,” Current said.

Josh Smith, Betterment vice president and HUSCO International plant manager, added that “this is a new phase for the Betterment Corp. in taking the lead by investing in building infrastructure.”

Joni Winegar of Ohnward Financial Services said it took the Betterment Corp. six months to decide that buying the property was its best option.


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Saturday, August 22

Maquoketa football back in action


Beads of sweat fertilized the practice field behind Maquoketa Community High School Monday afternoon as the Cards executed only their second full-pad practices.

Helmets crunched, pads popped, and the energy was building in anticipation for tonight’s scrimmage against Northeast at 6 p.m.

The session began with stretches before the players broke off into their respective positional drills. This early in the season, players are still proving themselves. They go full bore in the hopes a coach notices their extra efforts. 

This try-hard group of young men brought as much tenacity as the sweltering Iowa summer sun would allow, and head coach Kevin Bowman is taking notice.

“These kids work extremely hard on and off the field,” Bowman said. “They’re doing things with character.”

It’s a mindset Bowman instills in all his players: work hard, do a job and accomplish something. 

And thanks to many returning offensive and defensive starters, the Cardinals are looking to make some noise this season. 

Maquoketa will face its typical opponents,  including some of the most talent-rich teams in the state, including Cedar Rapids Xavier and Solon. But by now, this group is used to that. District 4 is known to be tough, but thanks to returning talent on both sides of the ball, the Cards will look to improve on last year’s 1-8 record. 


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Police body cameras now in service


Carol Baker Mueller’s gift to the Maquoketa Police Department went on duty this month.

Mueller, a former Maquoketa police officer, donated $10,000 to the city in March to purchase body cameras for officers.

Police Chief Brad Koranda said the Watchguard brand cameras went into service during the first week of August. Mueller’s donation allowed the department to purchase eight cameras, along with a computer and hard drive to store the data.

The number of cameras is sufficient to allow every officer of the 11-officer department who is on duty at any given time to be wearing a camera. With four officers typically on duty and wearing cameras, that allows four units to be charging for the next shift.

The tiny, battery-operated cameras are held in place by a magnetic mount that is attached to the officer’s shirt.

The department’s policy calls for officers to switch on their cameras almost anytime they interact with the public.


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Wednesday, August 19

YMCA given ‘green’ light for grant

The Maquoketa Area Family YMCA is seeking an energy-saving grant that, if approved, would provide $100,000 for measures to lower utility costs that would reduce future participation fees in the city’s recreation programs.
The City Council last month authorized YMCA Executive Director Scott Warren to apply for a grant of up to $50,000 from the Grants to Green program. Any amount approved must be matched with an equal amount.
The Grants to Green program, which is administered locally through the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, provides matching grants of up to $50,000 to help nonprofit organizations save money on their utility bills and thus strengthen their operations, Warren told the council at its July 6 meeting.
Warren said the foundation invited the Maquoketa YMCA to apply for the grant.
The matching funds would be provided by an interest-free loan to the city from WPPI Energy of Sun Prairie, Wis., which is Maquoketa Municipal Electric Utility’s wholesale electricity supplier.
Warren said a study showed an estimated potential energy savings of $8,000 a year, if all elements of the proposed grant are carried out. Additional savings would be realized from reduced use of chlorine, purchase of light bulbs and benefits from less chemicals used in the pool area.

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Maquoketa woman shares butterfly passion with residents

Marylou G.’s mouth gaped open in surprise and awe at the treasure in her hand. It wasn’t the inch-high paper cup or the moist cotton ball; it was the special guest that clung to the cup, then her finger, and simply would not let go.
More than 30 minutes later, similar guests had disappeared from Clover Ridge Place, searching for the freedom of wide open spaces. But not Marylou’s guest, which slowly fluttered his brilliant orange wings from time to time but made no effort to leave.
“Marylou was sitting outside after everyone had about gone, and she told me she was naming her monarch Clarence, after her husband who died. They were married 54 years. That was pretty emotional for me,” said Dawn Leon of Maquoketa, who brought about 25 monarch butterflies for release at Clover Ridge Place Aug. 9.
During El Dia de Los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) in Mexico, monarchs are regarded as the liberated souls of loved ones who have died. It was only fitting that Marylou named her new monarch friend after her deceased husband.


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Saturday, August 15

61 Drive-In Theatre one of five left in the state

Isaiah Miller of Maquoketa and Sophia Lindstrom of Preston relaxed on a repurposed minivan seat tucked up against the back of Miller’s blue Ford truck bed last Saturday night. Out on their first date together, the teens snacked on pop and popcorn and watched “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation” and “Spy.”
“We both enjoy the drive-in. We like being able to sit outside on the cool nights and talk and watch the stars,” Miller said.
One of the most nostalgic attractions in the area, the 61 Drive-In Theatre has served as the backdrop to numerous first dates, celebrations and family outings for 65 years.
Walter Allen of Maquoketa built the theater in 1950. It is one of only five left in Iowa (the others are in Grandview, Spirit Lake, Newton and Blue Grass) and one of 357 left in the United States.
Richard Franklin and his wife Betty, who lived on the farm where the drive-in is located, partnered with Allen to build the 61 Drive-In, which opened Aug. 11, 1950.


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Bulb likely triggered explosion

An natural gas leak and electric spark likely caused the June 25 house explosion that killed a rural Preston man, according to the Iowa State Fire Marshal’s Office.
While the official cause of the explosion is undetermined, agent Jeff Shatzer said in a summary of the case that the explosion “was caused by a leak of an LP fuel system to the structure.”
Shatzer noted that the decimation of the house and its contents made him unable to determine the source of the natural gas leak.
The explosion occurred at about 4:40 a.m. June 25. The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office received a call from a security company reporting that fire and motion detector alarms were sounding in multiple locations at Brandenburg Drainage, located at 2236 312th Ave., just off Iowa Highway 64 eight miles east of Maquoketa.


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Wednesday, August 12

Tragic death of Andrew child leads to life for others

A tragic death last month in Andrew may have renewed life for at least three others.
Nyx Jones, the 18-month-old daughter of Aaron and Jessica Jones, fell into a swimming pool July 20. She was unresponsive when pulled from the water and died in an Iowa City hospital the following day.
Two weeks ago, the little girl’s heart was sent to a 2-year-old in Ohio. Her liver went to a 2-year-old in Nebraska, and her kidneys were donated to a 56-year-old who has been awaiting a transplant for two decades.
Parents Jessica (Jochum) and Aaron Jones, both graduates of Bellevue High School, say the decision to donate their daughter’s organs was just another impact young Nyx had on the world during her short life.

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11% can tote gun in county

Eleven percent of Jackson County residents can legally carry guns. If they plan to continue to hold a permit, they must renew beginning in December.
The fifth anniversary of the Iowa law that modified weapons regulations is approaching, and according to Jackson County Sheriff’s Department office administrator Karen Wells, many Jackson County residents are unsure of how to renew their permits.
Wells said 2,206 Jackson County residents have permits to carry weapons, including professionals who need guns for their jobs, such as peace officers, reserve officers and retired officers.

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Council considers new rules for downtown signs

One move that Maquoketa can undertake to make its downtown more attractive and shopper-friendly is to legalize and promote blade signs, the City Council was told last week.
Lucas Tully of the Maquoketa Area Chamber of Commerce presented the idea to the Maquoketa City Council on Aug. 3.
After hearing the proposal, the council approved a request by City Manager Brian Wagner that the council refer the proposal to the city staff and to the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment for further review.
Blade signs are small signs that hang overhead from a building wall, projecting perpendicular to the wall.
Tully proposed that the council amend the city’s sign ordinance to permit blade signs in the downtown area.
They would be limited to the central business district, which he defined as the area along and inside Maple, Olive, Quarry and Niagara streets.

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Saturday, August 8

Emergency texting now available in Jackson County


People needing emergency help in Jackson County now may contact 911 by text message as well as by telephone.

Text-to-911 is available for use in Jackson County, Maquoketa Law Center officials said Monday.

Jackson is one of 12 Iowa counties participating in a pilot program to test new technology that allows cell phone users to contact 911 using text messaging from within the county.

Text-to-911 allows cell phone users to send a text message to 911 in an emergency, said Bob Lane, chief dispatcher at the Maquoketa Law Center, where emergency communications for the county’s police departments, sheriff’s office, fire departments, ambulance services and first responders are handled.

Currently, U.S. Cellular, Verizon, iWireless and AT&T have text-to-message capability in Jackson County, Lane said. Sprint and T-Mobile will be testing such capability in the near future, he said.

Prepaid plans that operate on one of those networks and have a data plan also will be able to send texts.

“If possible, it is always better to call 911 in an emergency,” Lane advised. 

Text-to-911 was developed primarily for people who are hard of hearing, deaf or speech-impaired.

Texting can be used in situations in which a voice call to 911 would endanger the caller, such as during a home invasion or some domestic situations, Lane said.

Sending a text to 911 also can be helpful in situations where a medical condition makes it impossible for the caller to speak.


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Historic Bricks may resurface


A bit of buried history would be recycled and brought to the surface of Maquoketa’s proposed Main Street reconstruction project if built.

The City Council last week informally agreed with a proposal offered by the project engineers to repurpose bricks – which were once the surface of Main Street – as crosswalk pavers.

The bricks are still in place, except that they have been paved over by the present asphalt surface.

John Wandsnider of IIW Engineers & Surveyors of Dubuque and the project engineer for the job, offered the suggestion to the council at its July 27 meeting as the council reviewed the final draft of the conceptual plan.

He proposed that enough of the bricks that once formed the Main Street pavement be salvaged to re-use as crosswalk pavers. The project calls for the street – including the bricks under the present asphalt – to be excavated for the replacement of the water, sanitary sewer and storm sewer lines under the street.


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Wednesday, August 5

Area farmer helps peers get a leg up


After watching tired and aging farmers have a difficult time trying to climb up and down the steep ladder on their John Deere combines, a rural Maquoketa man came up with a solution – create a ladder with a more gradual incline.

Ron McDonald is making it easier for farmers to continue making their livelihood despite sore hips or bum knees. 

McDonald’s shop sits on a farm southwest of Maquoketa. A soybean and corn farmer, McDonald is busy with crops, family, his 1937 Chevy and making his invention come to life. 

“I came up with the idea after seeing older farmers struggling to climb the steep ladder that comes with the John Deere combine,” explained McDonald, saying his inspiration came from older 7720 John Deere combines.

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Record crowds flood county fairgrounds


The blue moon hovered over the Jackson County Fairgrounds, casting an extra glow over the county fair and adding a bit of mystique to the annual event. 

For the superstitious Lanny Simpson, that full moon meant unique things were going to happen, things out of the normal realm for her years as Jackson County Fair manager.

She was correct. 

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Saturday, August 1

City council promises  $50,000 toward new recreational trail


s week pledged $50,000 toward construction of a bridge that would carry a proposed recreation trail across the Maquoketa River.

The council on Monday night approved the request for grant matching funds made by Daryl Parker, director of the Jackson County Conservation Board, who is a member of a committee working with the Parks to People initiative.

A key component of the initiative is development of an off-road recreation trail that would link the Prairie Creek Recreation Area at the east edge of Maquoketa with the Hurstville Interpretive Center and eventually to Maquoketa Caves State Park.

Noting the trail will need to cross the Maquoketa River, Parker said the committee is proposing construction of a bridge that would use concrete piers in the river that were left in place when a previous North Main Street-U.S. 61 bridge was replaced. The piers are just upstream from the present Hurstville Road bridge.


Wednesday, July 22

Fowler, others win at national trapshooting championships

SPARTA, Ill. — Rob Waack stood in the grass behind traphouse 7A Wednesday morning, looking on as his son, Kaden Waack, powdered pigeons in the 200-target handicap shoot.
He beckoned to the Iowa flag attached to Maquoketa Trapshooting head coach Steve Fowler’s utility vehicle.
“That’s a flag directly from the statehouse,” he said proudly. “Sen. Tod Bowman gave it to us to take here.”
It was one of many examples illustrating the support the Cardinals receive, from near and far.
The Cardinals traveled to the Scholastic Clay Target Program national championships and put up scores rivaling those across the nation. Maquoketa reeled in multiple  medals, including Sam Fowler, who captured the 200-target handicap national championship after winning a tie-breaker. The junior shattered 195 of 200 birds en route to the championship.
Without their traveling group of dedicated parents, the success might have been harder to come by.
The World Shooting Complex is a massive expanse of traphouses and campgrounds, extending over the horizon as far as the eye can see. It’s a six-plus hour drive from Maquoketa and in one of Illinois’ more rural areas. The event spanned six days (July 13-19).
Yet, dozens of parents and followers made the trek to witness the event. Some had campers, locked and loaded for the week-long event, while others stayed in hotels located up to 45 minutes away from the range and commuted each day.
The Cardinals returned to the national shoot one year removed from capturing the national singles championship, and represented well.


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The Brandon Michael Bodenhofer who walked into a Jackson County courtroom for sentencing Friday appeared markedly different than the man who led local law enforcement on a foot chase through Maquoketa more than one year ago.
After 377 days in jail, Bodenhofer wore street clothes and had gained about 60 pounds, no longer resembling “death warmed over,” as his attorney, Harold DeLange II, described.
And Bodenhofer sported ankle cuffs, mandatory for all alleged criminals thanks to Bodenhofer’s escape.
His physical changes, however, were not at issue. His desire for rehabilitation and the need to face the consequences of his actions were.
Joel Barrows, 7th Judicial District Court judge, sentenced Bodenhofer to a maximum of 15 years in state prison as part of an agreement in which he pleaded guilty to eluding officers, escaping from police custody and second-degree theft.
Bodenhofer will serve a minimum of three years in prison, with credit for more than a year spent in the Jackson County Detention Center in Maquoketa.
Following the 50-minute sentencing hearing, sheriff’s deputies transported Bodenhofer to the Iowa Medical and Classification Center at Oakdale to begin his prison term. 


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Saturday, July 18

County finalizes EMS posting

Jackson County supervisors and members of an ad hoc group have agreed to begin the process of filling a newly created job that will oversee training and certification for emergency medical services in the county.
The supervisors have set a $78,560 first-year budget for the one-employee department.
Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a job description and authorized the hiring process to begin.
The supervisors and members of the county’s emergency medical services advisory council have been at odds over a starting salary for the position. The two sides agreed during a work session on June 30 to not list a starting salary in advertisements soliciting applications.
Instead, applicants will be asked to list a desired salary.
Supervisors said they would hold fast to a proposed starting salary in the range of $40,000 to $45,000, in addition to benefits that would include health insurance, enrollment in the state pension system and other benefits accorded to county employees.
EMS council members have said the salary range is too low to attract quality candidates for the job. They have said their research into similar positions in other Iowa counties has shown those jobs carry a salary of $50,000 or higher.


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Maquoketa native sheds light on career as lighting director for music duo

Chad Till starts hearts pounding and people screaming with a simple flick of his wrist. On his cue, thousands of fans go wild and country music duo Montgomery Gentry takes the stage.
It’s a pretty heady experience – one the Maquoketa native repeats night after night around the nation, even around the world.
“I’m the guy who shuts the lights off before the guys go on stage. That’s such a cool part of it all – the roar of the crowd as the lights go off,” said Till, sitting at home Monday morning after riding on a bus for two days from a gig in Massachusetts to his Nashville home.

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Wednesday, July 15

Veto disappoints school officials

Area school superintendents say they’re disappointed, and some were surprised, by Gov. Terry Branstad’s veto of $55.7 million in additional school funding the Legislature had approved. 
Branstad handed down the line-item veto July 2, while he was wrapping up action on the last remaining bills passed by the Legislature, which adjourned last month. It would have been a one-time cash payment that would have been an addition to a 1.25 percent increase in state aid. The Legislature included it as part of a compromise to solve a bitter dispute over K-12 funding.
Superintendents here said they didn’t count on the money for this year’s budget, but obviously could have used it. Some criticized Branstad’s timing.
Maquoketa Schools Superintendent Chris Hoover chuckled ruefully when asked about his reaction to the veto.  “You can’t print it,” he said.
“Regardless of whether it was one-time funding or something they were going to add to our state supplemental aid, in one way or another it was going to help out.  You can always use textbooks or a new van.”

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Kathy Tebbe and Lois Stillmunkes, both breast cancer survivors, support each other with laughter as they walk the survivor’s lap at 2015 Jackson County Relay for Life Friday night in Maquoketa. The eight-hour event raised more than $64,000 – about $6,000 more than last year – for the American Cancer Society.

Signs to point the way

A Maquoketa civic group is hoping to make it easier for out-of-town football fans to find Goodenow Field on an autumn Friday night or a stock car racing fan, history buff or fairgoer to locate the Jackson County Fairgrounds in late July.
Signs pointing the way to those landmarks, Maquoketa Community High School, Ohnward Fine Arts Center, Maquoketa Area Family YMCA and other attractions would be posted at strategic locations beginning this fall, according to the group’s plans.
Chuck Current, president of the Maquoketa Betterment Corp. board, outlined the plan last week to the Maquoketa City Council’s Street Committee.
Current said the group is working with ASI of Grinnell, a company that develops and manufactures what are called wayfinding signs.
He said his group has settled on a proposed design and color for the signs, which must be approved by the Iowa Department of Transportation.
The group plans to erect 29 signs at an estimated cost of $179,000. The cost includes the design, manufacture and installation of the signs.

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Saturday, July 11

Jackson unemployment rate drops to 3.8 percent


A native Maquoketan is in a Minneapolis, Minn., hospital recovering from multiple injuries he received when he fell in an abandoned Minneapolis grain elevator.

Luke Kutsch, 22, suffered a broken leg, pelvis and jaw among other injuries when he fell through a hole in the floor and down a grain shaft at the former Fruen Mill shortly after midnight on June 26.

Kutsch, a 2011 graduate of Maquoketa Community High School, is the son of Don and Rebecca Kutsch and the grandson of Bob and Joan Head, all of rural Maquoketa.

According to family members and news reports, Kutsch and two friends, Marshall Hawks and Adam Paulus, all of whom live in Minneapolis, went to the grain elevator to check out the view from the top. Hawks also is a native Maquoketan.


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French game of strategy gaining popularity makes its way to Maquoketa

Kristy Koranda favors a crouched position when she plays pétanque, an outdoor ball-tossing game. Koranda wants to start a pétanque club in Maquoketa.
Kristy Koranda favors a crouched position when she plays pétanque, an outdoor ball-tossing game. Koranda wants to start a pétanque club in Maquoketa.


As Kristy Koranda assumes her stance – a crouch, actually – she plans her next strategy. Should she aim her boule (ball) as close to the target as possible and hope for the best? Should she be aggressive and knock the opponent’s boule (pronounced bool) away from the target? Or should she up the ante by shifting the target itself?

Koranda balances the orange-size metal boule in her right hand and sets her sights on the target – a jack (ball) the size of a quarter – about 20 feet in front of her. She launches the boule with a fluid, underhand motion.

She overshoots the mark and waits for her next turn at pétanque, laughing and chatting with fellow players.

Through a demonstration Thursday, Koranda said she hopes to organize a pétanque club in Maquoketa and play competitively. 

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Wednesday, July 8

Happy 239th America!

Two-year-old Joe Link gets a lift from his grandfather, Randy  McClain of Zwingle, as they hike to a prime spot to watch the Fourth of July parade in LaMotte.
Two-year-old Joe Link gets a lift from his grandfather, Randy McClain of Zwingle, as they hike to a prime spot to watch the Fourth of July parade in LaMotte.


Loretta Koos sat calmly in the shiny blue pickup truck she purchased in 1951 as “an everyday” vehicle. The trusty workhorse served her well through years of errands and farm chores. 

It has since been restored to parade-worthy shine and seemed a fitting choice to carry the 99-year-old along the parade route Saturday in LaMotte. 

Koos, who farmed for years in LaMotte and now lives in Dubuque, was the grand marshal of the parade. She turns 100 years old on Aug. 24, and well wishers along the parade route smiled and waved as she rode in the truck.


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Jackson County unemployment rate drops to 3.6 percent


Anyone who wants a job in Clinton and Jackson counties can have one, a local employment official said.

“There is virtually no unemployment here,” said Lori Susie, area manager for Sedona Staffing Service, which has offices in Clinton, Maquoketa and Rock Falls, Ill. 

Sedona connects businesses with the work force, and at the moment, demand for labor is close to outweighing supply.

“We are very busy here (at our office). We are looking for good people with a good attitude who will show up to work on time,” Susie said.

She noted that while many of the jobs available are entry-level positions in industrial settings, there are opportunities for people who are looking for employment.


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Wednesday, July 1

Burns almost finished with Colorado portion of Continental Divide trail

When summer comes around, Maquoketa State Bank CEO Kevin Burns trades in his suit and tie for a quick-dry shirt, shorts and hiking boots.
Keen to challenge himself both physically and mentally, the avid hiker has taken on the personal challenge of hiking the entire Continental Divide.
Burns, 59, and wife Ann began their backpacking escapades in 1980 at the Grand Canyon. They continued backpacking as their children were born, and soon it became a fun family affair.
Burns began hiking the Continental Divide in 2004 as a way to challenge himeself. He started in the southern part of Wyoming, traveling south along the trail ever since.
He has returned to complete a new section of the trail almost every year since that time. This is roughly 12-15 miles per day compared to the six to eight miles per day he and his family used to walk. Burns’ wife, son and daughter have all completed sections of the trail with him, but sometimes he goes solo.

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Council reviews design options

Maquoketa’s downtown streetscape would include some signature Maquoketa elements under a proposal shown to the city council last week by project engineers.
The council reviewed plans for the proposed 2016 reconstruction project with engineers John Wandsnider and Andy Goedken from IIW Engineers & Surveyors at a special meeting on June 22.
Wandsnider noted that four large planters that had been proposed for the intersection of North Main and Quarry streets would have cost a total of $275,000, according to bids the city received earlier this year for the Quarry Street project. The council rejected all bids and put the two-block project on hold.
Council members have repeatedly expressed dissatisfaction with the cost of the planters.
Wandsnider described a downsized arrangement that would include a planter, a bench and a streetlight pedestal. The planter would have a bronze plaque mounted with a large “M” and a background with the appearance of tree bark. Wandsnider said the tree bark design is intended to relate to the city’s longtime nickname of “Timber City.”
The structure also would incorporate some high quality Mo-Keta limestone, which is quarried in the area.

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Saturday, June 27

Early morning explosion kills Preston man


A rural Preston man died after the house he was in exploded early Thursday morning.

Authorities said Stephen Walter Brandenburg, 73, was living in the two-story farmhouse, located at 2236 312th Ave., just off Iowa 64 about eight miles east of Maquoketa.

Only a few wooden beams and a brown patio railing remained as evidence that a house even existed on the property. 

Hundreds of curious motorists drove past the scene after the sun came up Thursday morning. They saw fluttering yellow tape circling the property, which Jackson County Sheriff’s Deputy Steve Schroeder called a crime scene. 


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Do taxpayers in the Maquoketa Community School District support renovations such as air conditioning at the middle school? If those renovations came at a price the district could not readily afford, would taxpayers support a bond referendum that would increase their annual property taxes?

That’s what district Superintendent Chris Hoover and school board members hope to learn through the results of an unscientific, six-question, yes-or-no survey now on the district’s website.

Taxpayers can complete the survey by logging on to Click the appropriate yes or no answers, then select the “submit” button.

“We just want to get as much input as we can to see what the vast majority of people would support, or we need to re-think our plans,” Hoover said last week.


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As the Maquoketa Community School District embarks on remodeling efforts at the middle school and Goodenow Field, school board members began considering whether they should examine all the district’s facilities.

The question of whether to pay for a comprehensive district facilities study drew opposing views from board members but concluded with the superintendent seeking cost estimates for such a study.

A comprehensive facilities study would analyze each building in the district, taking into account the structure’s physical condition and accessibility. The study would also examine how the district uses its space and if that space is conducive to current and future learning practices.

Briggs Principal Pat Bollman proposed the idea of a comprehensive facility study during a recent district administrators’ retreat at Superintendent Chris Hoover’s home.


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Inmates jamming jail cells


Jackson County’s overcrowded jail situation has eased somewhat in the past several weeks, but the county continues to pay hundreds of dollars a day to house inmates elsewhere.

Shuttling people to and from distant mental health facilities also consumes considerable staff time.

Sheriff Russ Kettmann gave the county Board of Supervisors an updated report on the jail situation at the board’s June 16 meeting.

Kettmann said the Jackson County Detention Center is nearly filled to capacity with 10 inmates. In addition, five county inmates are being housed at the Dubuque County Jail, down three inmates from earlier this spring, “so that helps us out a little bit.”

Jackson County pays Dubuque County $60 per prisoner per day, which amounts to $300 per day or $2,100 per week.

The detention center has three cells and a capacity of 12 inmates, including a one-person holding cell typically used to detain a person for a few hours until he or she appears in Magistrate Court.

The sheriff also reported on problems transporting patients who have received temporary court committals to inpatient mental health facilities.


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Maquoketa city employees wanting to retire early would be able to cash in some portion of their accumulated sick leave benefit when they retire, under a proposal being considered by the city council.
The council on Monday night asked its personnel committee to craft a proposed policy that would set rules and benefits of city employees wanting to retire early.
The city has not had an early-retirement policy in recent years.
The issue was triggered by a request from Patrick Fier, who will complete his 25th year on the police department in September.
Fier told the council he wanted to retire under a provision in the state police retirement system that pays benefits for retiring officers who are at least 55 years old with at least 22 years of service “rather than waiting until he has 30-plus years and is age 65.”
In a letter to city officials dated April 24, Fier asked the city to approve an early retirement effective June 26. He proposed that the city pay him $15,000 over three years as a retirement benefit, which he would use toward health care coverage.
Fier calculated that the city would save approximately $30,000 in salary and benefits over the next three years if he retired and was replaced with a younger officer who would receive a lower wage. He proposed that he receive half of the savings as a retirement benefit; the city would retain the other half.
City Manager Brian Wagner referred the request to the council’s personnel committee, which met twice on the topic and sent the request to the full council without making a recommendation.
Fier noted that the issue didn’t get to the council in time for a decision “and put us in a time crunch.”
After a 30-minute discussion, council members said that if the city will offer any kind of retirement incentive, it needs to adopt an overall policy.

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Program finds a place to call home

Eight area school districts ended months of uncertainty about their behavioral disorder program by joining forces and contracting with Hillcrest Family Services.
The Maquoketa Community School Board Monday night signed an agreement with seven Jackson and Clinton county school districts to form the Eastern Iowa Behavioral Consortium. As part of the agreement, that group will contract for special services with Hillcrest Family Services, based in Dubuque.
The eight districts in the consortium are Bellevue, Andrew, Delwood, Easton Valley, Northeast, Maquoketa, Midland, Central Community in DeWitt and Calamus-Wheatland school districts.
The decision follows months of discussion about whether Maquoketa should renew its service contract with Hillcrest, which already serves the district’s dozen or so students who require special education resources, or start its own program.

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Wednesday, June 17

Couple hosts annual Lunch on the Dairy Farm picnic June 28

Cassidy Moore sips some water before he and his mom, Heather Moore, begin milking. The Moore dairy hosts Lunch on the Dairy Farm June 28.
Cassidy Moore sips some water before he and his mom, Heather Moore, begin milking. The Moore dairy hosts Lunch on the Dairy Farm June 28.

Beef collided with dairy when Brandon and Heather Moore wed. The Iowa boy and Wisconsin girl grew up in families dedicated to their brand of livestock.
The Moores merged the two on their farm, located about five miles north of Maquoketa, and invite the public to tour their dairy operation as part of the sixth annual Jackson/Clinton County Lunch on the Dairy Farm from 1-4 p.m. June 28.
The Moores milk about 50 primarily red and black Holsteins. Visitors to the farm will be treated to a free picnic lunch, children’s activities and other opportunities they can only get on a farm.
Heather’s dairy dreams began as a young girl living on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. She only lived there until she was 10, when her family moved to town, but that was enough to hook her for life. Her father still milked cows and she continued showing cattle and working for family and friends on dairy farms during high school and college.

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Quarry operator fined for output

A rural Preston business has agreed to pay a $4,000 penalty after state enforcement officials found the firm was responsible for an illegal discharge into a creek near Elwood.
Preston Ready-Mix Corp. of 46794 Highway 64 agreed to pay the penalty last month as part of an administrative consent order with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
According to the order, Preston Ready-Mix operates a stone quarry known as the Yeager-Elwood Bloore Quarry and Elwood Quarry at 1723 110th St. in northern Clinton County. The quarry is located about two miles northwest of Elwood and about eight miles southwest of Maquoketa.
On Oct. 15, 2014, DNR officials received a complaint that the water in Prairie Creek near the Elwood Quarry was turning yellow, according to the order.
On the same day, Mark Heiderscheit, an environmental specialist with the DNR, investigated the site. After observing that the water in Prairie Creek at two locations downstream from the quarry was yellow or had a yellow tint, Heiderscheit also found a trench that had been cut from the quarry to the nearby creek.

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Wednesday, June 10

County debates roadside safety

John Schneider thinks a shoulder should be constructed along a portion of a county road north of Bellevue to create safer conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists who use the road.
And as owner of Bellevue Sand & Gravel, he’s willing to donate at no charge to the county the gravel and fill material that would be needed for the project.
Schneider voiced his safety concerns and made the offer during a work session on June 2 with the Jackson County Board of Supervisors.
Supervisors expressed interest in taking Schneider up on his offer and directed county Engineer Clark Schloz to look into the feasibility of the project and report back to them.
The area Schneider is concerned about is on 395th Avenue north of 308th Street about two miles north of Bellevue and continuing to the Bellevue Golf Course entrance at 320th Street, a distance of about three-quarters of a mile. The paved road has little or no shoulder on either side.
Schneider noted that the road is heavily traveled because of trucks and other vehicles going to and from a rock quarry operated by his company and because of housing developments that use the road for access.
He said many area residents walk along the road, particularly in the late afternoon. The road also is frequently used by bicyclists and women pushing baby strollers.

Hamilton opens his prairie land for guided public tour

The native Iowa compass plant directed Dr. Ray Hamilton to preserve one of his passions – prairies.
Hamilton often drove Jackson County’s gravel backroads searching for a remnant of original prairie or native plants. Raised amidst Iowa woodlands with a love of nature, Hamilton sought any glimpse of untouched soil in a county where every ounce of productive land was tilled and cropped.
Driving 35th Avenue (Codfish Hollow Road) one day a couple decades ago, Hamilton spied the telltale yellow flowers of the compass plant. The first hillside of those native prairie plants pointed him to another hillside then another, about 60 acres of rare prairie for which he had been looking. He bought the property.

Wednesday, June 3

Doctor says new coordinator would unite county EMS

The Jackson County Board of Supervisors last week began discussing in detail the creation of a new county position that would oversee training and procedures of the county’s emergency medical services.
The supervisors earlier this year authorized funding for the position as part of the 2015-16 county budget. Plans call for the position to be filled sometime after the new fiscal year begins on July 1.
The supervisors met on May 26 with three members of the Jackson County Emergency Medical Services Advisory Council to review a proposed first-year budget of $90,840 for the office. They also discussed the job description for the proposed position of emergency medical services system coordinator.
The supervisors took no action on either document, but indicated that they agreed in general with both as proposed.
The budget and job description for the proposed full-time position were presented by Dr. Ray Hamilton, chairman of the advisory council, Larry Deppe, vice president of the group, and member Lyn Medinger.

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Man takes own life following pursuit

By Sheri Melvold
A Davenport man died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot following a chase on U.S. 61 Sunday night near Maquoketa.
Iowa State Patrol Lt. Neil Wellner said the man’s body will undergo an autopsy. As of press time, police had not released the man’s identity.
Wellner said he couldn’t confirm whether the man shot himself. But unofficial scanner reports from Maquoketa Police indicated the man shot himself on U.S. 61 at the turnaround before the Wal-Mart exit.
Wellner said Davenport police issued a statement that a distraught male was driving south on U.S. 61. Trooper Milan James saw the car on the highway driving southbound near Fulton. The driver would not stop for the trooper despite emergency lights flashing and sirens blaring.
Maquoketa police officers gathered on the highway near the Caves Road intersection to assist.

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Wednesday, May 27

Veteran Jim Rankin contemplates the meaning of Memorial Day as he rests on the Grand Army of the Republic monument at Mount Hope Cemetery Monday morning.
Veteran Jim Rankin contemplates the meaning of Memorial Day as he rests on the Grand Army of the Republic monument at Mount Hope Cemetery Monday morning.

District, teachers ratify 2015 contract

Teachers and nurses in the Maquoketa Community School District receive a 3.34 percent increase in salaries and wages beginning this fall.
The Maquoketa Community School Board and Maquoketa Education Association (MEA) earlier this month ratified a contract for the 2015-16 school year. The MEA is the district’s teacher bargaining organization.
Under the terms of the new contract, the base salary increased by $781 to $28,000. This means a total increase of $193,676, or 3.34 percent, for general education teachers and nurses. All other teacher salaries are factored as a percentage of the base salary, so when the base salary increases, so do the other salaries.
One prom sponsor was added to the supplemental wage schedule. That position would be offered to certified staff and comes with $600.
Employees will pay 7 percent of their insurance premiums, an increase from 5 percent in the current contract.
The employee insurance committee will be able to independently research alternative insurance plans and/or options and bring them to future negotiations for consideration.

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Supervisors approve actions on three rural nuisance properties

The Jackson County Board of Supervisors has directed that action be taken against the owners of three properties that are seen as unkempt or have zoning violations, including one that could carry a fine of $750 a day.
County Zoning Administrator Ben Kober said Friday he is preparing civil infraction notices or abatement citations for the three.
Kober said he plans to file a civil infraction notice against Leonard and Susie Barnett, owners of property at 395 149th St. in Canton, and David Wiersma, a tenant at the address.
Kober said Wiersma, who moved into the property in the summer of 2013, has built an accessory building on the property, but did not obtain the required building permit or floodplain development permit. The latter is required because the property is in a floodplain near the Maquoketa River.
Kober told the supervisors that in a conversation Wiersma “misrepresented the truth. He claimed he didn’t build the shed when I have evidence to the contrary.”
Kober said he has photos that he said show that Wiersma built the shed.
In addition, Kober said Wiersma has parked buses on the property that belong to a party bus service operated by Wiersma called Shenanigans. He said some of the buses are not licensed.
He said Wiersma “is claiming the Canton property is not his place of business, but he’s parking vehicles related to the business there, which is a zoning violation.”
He said the zoning violations involving the lack of building permit and the buses amount to a civil infraction, which would be filed in Jackson County Magistrate Court.
If the infraction is upheld, Kober said the fine could amount to $750 per day until the violation is corrected.

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Wednesday, May 13

Supervisors take steps to address jail overcrowding

Just as the Jackson County Board of Supervisors is putting the finishing touches on a $652,000 office building project, the next major county project is in the beginning discussion stages.
Spurred by jail overcrowding that is forcing the county to send inmates to other facilities, supervisors last week took the first steps toward replacing or upgrading the 43-year-old Jackson County Detention Center.
The board met May 5 in a work session with Sheriff Russ Kettmann, Jail Administrator Mark Pape and county Attorney Sara Davenport to discuss the overcrowding situation.
Although no formal action was taken, supervisors asked Kettman to start gathering information to start the process of addressing jail concerns.
“Let’s consider this our start,” said supervisors Chairman Larry “Buck” Koos, noting that the discussion  marked the first time the supervisors had met with Kettmann, Pape and Davenport regarding the jail issue.
“We all know there’s a problem. None of us really like the problem very well; we don’t want to look at a new jail because that’s a scary thing,” Koos said.
“We have to decide what we’re going to do now, how we’re going to do it and how we’re going to get the people convinced this is what we need to do.”

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Veteran surprises son at Delwood spring concert

Disney tales are loved for their inspirational messages and happy endings. One Delwood second grade student found himself as the star of the show, surprised by a happy ending he did not see coming after his school’s spring concert Thursday night.
At the end of the 45-minute Disney-themed concert, Dalton Miller, 7, found himself squeezed in the tight bear hug of the U.S. Army father he hadn’t seen since last June.
Whether they were in on the secret or not, everyone literally sweated it out in the school gym Thursday. One by one, each Delwood class performed a few musical or instrumental selections in front of their parents, grandparents and community members.
Sue Goodall, Delwood superintendent and principal, urged the audience to stick around at the end of the concert for a special surprise. She called Dalton to the stage as her special helper and proceeded to ask him about his father.

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Saturday, May 9

Council acts on revised project

The Maquoketa City Council will seek bids this fall for a Main Street streetscape project that will include bumpouts but fewer amenities than originally planned.
The council on Monday night voted 5-2 to proceed with a series of recommendations made by the council’s Street Committee a month ago that calls for the reconstruction of three blocks of Main Street in 2016.
The proposed improvement of two blocks of Quarry Street would be bid as an optional add-on project.
The split council vote fell along the same lines as earlier votes on the streetscape, with council members Amy Moore, Troy Thede, Josh Collister, Jerry Bowen and Eric Pape voting in favor of proceeding with the project and Councilmen Ed Turney and Cory Simonson opposed.
Turney and Simonson have expressed concern about the cost of the project. Simonson also has said he does not favor bumpouts.
The council’s action sets in motion a schedule that calls for bids to be opened in late fall and, if a contract is awarded, construction to take place next year.

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Local youths spur rodeo enthusiasm

Spencer Meyer’s horse snorted and stomped after spotting a calf in the chute on the right. Spencer maintained control, calling over to fellow team calf roper Ben Kilburg, “Ben, ya ready?”
“Yep,” he replied.
Clang! Mitchell Meyer thrust open the chute doors, releasing the calf to temporary freedom in Meyers’ horse arena east of Otter Creek. The freedom wouldn’t last. Spencer roped the horns while Ben’s lime green rope caught the hooves.
Done. Bring on the next calf.
With only two weeks to go before competing in the Dubuque-Wisconsin Regional High School Rodeo, Spencer and Ben eked out every bit of practice time they could find. Joining them this particular Friday morning (a school in-service day) were senior Madison Lapke and junior Brooke Lapke. A prior commitment prevented fellow team member and calf roper Atlee Miller from attending.

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Wednesday, May 6

Security measures approved

Jackson County offices soon will receive security upgrades as the first step of a planned two-part action plan to improve Courthouse safety.
The Board of Supervisors on April 28 approved a series of measures as recommended by the county’s Security Advisory Committee. The equipment and materials involved are estimated to cost $12,112.
The supervisors also turned down one request of the committee, opting to keep the southeast door of the Courthouse open to the public. The committee had proposed that that entrance be closed and converted for use only as an emergency exit.
The measures were recommended by a committee of employees from several county departments. The panel was formed about a year ago to make recommendations to the supervisors about ways to improve courthouse security.
Committee members Lyn Medinger, county emergency management coordinator, sheriff’s deputy Steve Schroeder and District Judge Nancy Tabor presented the committee’s recommendations to the supervisors.
After hearing the recommendations, the supervisors discussed the report in a work session and voted on its decision.
Measures recommended by the committee and approved by the supervisors were:
n Closing the north door of the Courthouse, along West Platt Street, to the public and converting it to an emergency entrance.
That entrance will remain available as a loading area for voting machines and other equipment coming into and out of the Courthouse.

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New offices unveiled

It’s been a long path and all the finishing touches aren’t on quite yet, but the Jackson County Board of Supervisors will welcome residents to tour the county’s newest facility next week.
The supervisors will host a public open house at the Penrose Annex from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Monday.
The public is invited to tour the facility at 311 W. Platt St. and talk with board members and staff. Refreshments will be served.
Because of the limited parking space at the annex, visitors are asked to park in the Courthouse parking lot off South Second Street on the south side of the Courthouse.
Regional Transit Authority buses will transport visitors to and from the annex.

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Saturday, May 2

Garden art: Bellevue artist Angela Weber helps put some touches on a student’s project. Weber assisted students with the design phase of their work as well. The work was part of the inaugural creative welding class offered by Clinton Community College at its Maquoketa campus.

Campaign promotes achievements

“Maquoketa Can!”
That’s the new catch phrase unveiled this week to point out to Maquoketa residents and visitors the accomplishments that have been made in the city in recent years and efforts that are continuing.
The promotion campaign was announced at a dinner held Tuesday night for members of four Maquoketa service organizations.
Approximately 55 members of the Maquoketa Kiwanis Club, Maquoketa Lions Club, Maquoketa Optimist Club and Maquoketa Rotary Club dined on lasagna and other pasta entrees at Michel’s Hall in what is believed to be the first such social event involving the four organizations.
Tom Devine, a Lions Club member and executive director of the Maquoketa Area Chamber of Commerce, and Chuck Current, a Rotarian and chamber vice president, disclosed the upbeat phrase they hope will catch on.
“It’s a public relations campaign to remind everyone in Maquoketa of all the things we’re accomplishing and all the things we’ve accomplished in the past,” Current said afterward.
“Sometimes when we think things aren’t moving fast enough, we need to focus on the positive rather than the negative.”
The campaign will be publicized through newspaper and radio advertising and bumper and window stickers.
Stickers and forms that residents can sign asking that someone contact them regarding volunteer opportunities will be available at the offices of the chamber of commerce, Sentinel-Press and KMAQ.


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