Wednesday, Nov. 25

Acorns Aplenty


Golf ball-size balls of buttery pecan cookie dough sit on wax paper on Phyllis Nissen’s kitchen sink. She sips from her winter-themed coffee cup before turning to her next acorn cookie workstation.

Picking up one of the golden brown dough balls, Nissen gently places it on her favorite battered cookie sheet – the one she bought close to 65 years ago when she married her sweetheart Don Nissen. She has used the cookie sheet so often that the metal sides sport deep nicks in at least four places.

She pinches the top of the dough ball to form a knob as she spins it slowly about 15 times. About a dozen knobs later, the pan goes into the oven.

With 15 minutes to go before the cookies are baked, Nissen takes another sip of coffee and talks about her unique acorn cookies’ destination – the United Church of Christ’s 25th annual Cookie Walk (Silver Bells, they’re calling it), this year scheduled for Dec. 5 at the East Platt Street church. 


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Ordinance questions remain unanswered


The Maquoketa City Council this week passed the first reading of an ordinance that would set standards for and require inspections of rental properties.

With several landlords in the audience of about 40 people who attended the near hour-long discussion Monday night, the council rejected requests to delay action in order to consider other proposals.

At the same time, the council agreed to hold a work session with a recently-formed property owners’ group to hear their ideas.

Councilman-elect Kevin Kuhlman, who served as spokesman for the group, was questioned several times about the group’s intentions. Mayor Don Schwenker agreed to meet with the group at its next meeting on Dec. 9. Interested council members will be invited and the event will be billed as a work session open to the public.

Also to be invited will be representatives of the East Central Intergovernmental Association of Dubuque, with which the council is considering contracting to inspect the rental properties.



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Wednesday, Nov. 18

Enduring faith in Petersville


The white steeple of Immaculate Conception Church rises unexpectedly out of a stand of trees, amidst the rolling cornfields three miles west of Charlotte.

Founded by Irish immigrants in 1852, the church, which has two weekly masses, is the remaining vestige of the town of Petersville. A few homes, a shuttered general store and a sign that announces the town used to be called Quigley are the only other evidence of the burg’s once robust existence.

The members of Immaculate Conception – about 20 families – have a clear commitment to the church community they, and in many cases their ancestors from Ireland, built.

“It’s in our blood,” said Darlene Burke, a long-time parishioner who helps clean the church. 

As dusk fell on a recent evening, Darlene, her husband Steve Burke and their sister-in-law Jean Burke gave visitors a tour of the church, which was built with pressed bricks in 1904 for $25,000.


Darlene pointed out two pictures hanging on the wall of the lobby, one in black and white and the other one in color showing parish members decades of years apart.



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Saturday, Nov. 14

Wisconsin native hired for new ‘mapping’


A West Virginia resident who recently moved to eastern Iowa has been hired as Jackson County’s first geographic information system specialist.

The Jackson County Board of Supervisors Nov. 3 approved the hiring of Heather Skidmore for the newly-created position. She began her duties Monday.

She is being paid a starting annual salary of $43,000 and will have a job and salary review after six months.

Skidmore will manage the county’s geographic information system, a computerized mapping system that can store and analyze many types of geographic data.

The county purchased the system several years ago. It has been housed in the county assessor’s office, but supervisors have said it will be moved to a separate location to be determined.

The supervisors, assessor’s staff and other officials had agreed that the system was not being used to its fullest capacity. After discussions among the supervisors, the county conference board and county auditor M. Joell Deppe over the past year, the supervisors last spring agreed to create a new position that would involve managing and operating the system.

The supervisors took appropriations from their own budget and those of the county auditor and assessor to fund the position.


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Wednesday, Nov. 4

Seed of Doubt


It’s a fact that corn prices fell dramatically between 2012 and 2014.

But the question of whether that plunge was caused by China’s refusal of U.S. corn imports has stretched all the way to Eastern Iowa, putting farmers here to a complex decision.

The issue has prompted a bevy of lawsuits by exporters, grain elevators and farmers against a global agribusiness. 

On one side is Syngenta, a Swiss international behemoth that manufactured a genetically modified corn seed containing traces of an insecticide banned by China. On the other side are plaintiffs who claim Syngenta’s actions caused prices to spiral downward. So far thousands of farmers have signed on to lawsuits; and for months, corn growers in Clinton and Jackson counties have been receiving information from a variety of law firms about joining the litigation.

While no local farmers contacted for this story wanted to say on the record whether or not they’d signed on to the lawsuit, out of a half-dozen people contacted two had not and four had.

“We’re getting lots of information, we’re just not sure what to do,” said one.


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Saturday, Oct. 31

Defense reigns


It didn’t take long for the Maquoketa defense to prove its worth in Wednesday’s Iowa Class 3A playoff matchup at a windy Goodenow Field. 

Clear Creek-Amana’s first drive lasted three plays for a net one-yard loss. The second drive was three plays and six yards. 

The tone had been set. Besides a 70-yard scamper by Clear Creek-Amana’s Drake Brezina set up the Clippers’ lone score, the Cardinals had their opposition’s number in the 13-7 victory. 

“It seemed like every time they’d get a little bit of a drive going, we stepped up and got a stop,” said Maquoketa head football coach Kevin Bowman. “You take away that long run they had, and we did well. 

Entering the game, the Clippers had only completed 26 passes, so the Cards expected a heavy dose of the running game. And, after reviewing tape, Bowman said they were confident.

“We liked our matchups with our d-backs on their wide receivers,” he said. “We were able to put more guys in the box and made it difficult for them.”



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