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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Wednesday, April 29

City, Scott YMCA open talks for new agreement

Officials of the Scott County Family YMCA hope to continue operating the Maquoketa Area Family YMCA for at least a decade.
The Maquoketa City Council and the Davenport-based YMCA organization opened negotiations last week to seek renewal of the management agreement between the two entities.
YMCA officials met with the council’s Finance Committee on April 20.
The current five-year agreement expires June 30 of this year.
The Maquoketa YMCA building and property are owned by the city. The city has contracted with the Scott County Family Y to manage and operate the YMCA and its programs since the YMCA opened in October of 2007.
The Scott County Y also has operated the city’s other non-YMCA-related recreation programs, such as summer baseball and softball, during that period. An initial three-year agreement that took effect in July of 2007 was renewed with the current five-year pact that began July 1, 2010.
Under the agreement, the city has paid an annual subsidy of $175,000 to help support the operating budget of the YMCA.

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Severed line slows business

A severed cut in a fiber optic cable disrupted business as usual for more than four hours for eastern Iowa residents using a landline telephone, the Internet and 911 emergency services Friday.
The disruption affected CenturyLink customers in Jackson, Clinton and Dubuque counties starting at about 10 a.m. when a fiber optic line was cut in a field north of Davenport, according to CenturyLink spokesman David Slinker.
Slinker said he did not know the specific cause of the problem with the fiber optic line, only that it was resolved by about 3 p.m.
He said the outage specifically affected CenturyLink customers in Dubuque, Maquoketa, Clinton and Camanche and surrounding areas served by those main offices. Slinker said he doesn’t believe CenturyLink serves DeWitt.

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Saturday, April 25

Cardinal principal retires after three decades in education

Youths yell out her name.
“Mrs. Bollman! Mrs. Bollman!”
“Sometimes I feel like I’m a celebrity…among the little kids at least,” chuckles Cardinal Elementary School Principal Joan Bollman, seated behind the paper-strewn conference table in her office. “It’s a world of happy.”
After seven years as principal and 29 years in the Maquoketa Community School District, Bollman retires at the end of the school year. Tears fill the corners of her eyes as she contemplates her final weeks with the staff and students she calls family.
“I just love the kids and staff,” Bollman said. “The last day…that’s going to be really hard. My fingernails are going to be stuck in the carpet and someone’s going to have to drag my feet to get me out the door.”
She first walked in the door in 1986 when the school district hired her to teach kindergarten.

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Streetscape plan draws contentious debate at meeting

The look of Maquoketa’s proposed downtown streetscape remained more undecided than ever this week after a discussion that turned testy at times ended with no decision.
The council, after an hour-long discussion Monday night, agreed to ask the staff to develop financing scenarios for a $4 million project. What that project will look like still is up in the air.
“We should have just done streets and sidewalks and never did a streetscape,” Councilman Troy Thede said at one point during the sometimes-heated discussion.
The council is attempting to decide what features and amenities to include in the planned comprehensive reconstruction next year of the three blocks of Main Street between Maple and Quarry streets.

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Wednesday, April 22

RonAnn’s Floral Shoppe celebrates 60 years in business

When Wendy Scott arrives at work, she doesn’t see the almost 60-year-old piecemeal buildings, intensive labor or long hours that can come with owning and operating RonAnn’s Floral Shoppe.
Around every corner in the greenhouse, she sees her father, Ronald Meade, who constructed all but one of RonAnn’s buildings. In every flowering bloom and smile on the now third- and fourth-generation customers, Wendy sees her mother, Anita Meade.
And she chuckles each time she spies a flowerbox, recalling stories of herself as a child in a playpen made from a flowerbox in the shop her parents opened the year she was born.
As RonAnn’s Floral Shoppe celebrates its 60th anniversary this year and prepares for its annual spring open house May 2-3, Scott said she has no plans to retire from a job that has never been work to her.
“When your work is what you love, why should you retire? That’s why people stop working, to do something they like. I’m already doing it,” Scott explained.

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Utility seeks ‘win-win’ with city

By Douglas Melvold
Officials of CenturyLink responded this week to charges that the telecommunications company is dragging its feet in working with the City of Maquoketa on the proposed reconstruction of a portion of Quarry Street.
City officials have said the company is “being difficult” in working with project engineers to plan the two-block project.
Project engineer John Wandsnider of IIW Engineers & Surveyors told the City Council’s Street Committee that a duct that contains all of the company’s lines serving Maquoketa customers runs under one of the targeted blocks, the 100 block of East Quarry Street.
Wandsnider said CenturyLink officials had said that moving the lines, which are in the street right-of-way, would involve a cost estimated at $1 million.
Contacted last week for comment, a CenturyLink spokesman provided a comment from the company Monday.
“CenturyLink is working with the City of Maquoketa to create a win-win resolution for the Quarry Street project,” the company statement said.

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Saturday, April 18

City: CenturyLink giving busy signal

As though the project hasn’t hit enough snags, the proposed reconstruction of Quarry Street in Maquoketa is getting resistance from a utility company.
CenturyLink, the telephone and Internet services provider, is dragging its feet in working with the city to prepare for the eventual Quarry Street project, City Manager Brian Wagner told the City Council’s Street Committee recently.
He cautioned that the city eventually may need to take legal action against the nationwide telecommunications company.
The issue is that an underground ductwork containing all of CenturyLink’s lines serving Maquoketa is in the city’s right-of-way, under the 100 block of East Quarry Street, one of the two blocks of Quarry involved in the project, John Wandsnider of IIW Engineers & Surveyors of Dubuque told the committee.
He said company officials have said relocating the lines to facilitate the project would cost the company about $1 million.

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Committee proposes wayfinding signs for city

The Jackson County Board of Supervisors this week gave its blessing to a proposal to erect signs throughout the Maquoketa area that would help visitors find public facilities and attractions.
Chuck Current, a member of the Vision 2020 Committee, and Tom Devine, executive director of the Maquoketa Area Chamber of Commerce, described the plan to the supervisors on Tuesday.
Current said the committee hopes to erect wayfinding signs at a dozen or more locations in and near the city.
Each of the signs would list some nearby attractions, along with an arrow pointing to their location.
Current said the committee is working with the Parks to People project and would coordinate the content of the signs and the design with sign designs that group may adopt.
He also said the committee may choose two or three designs and allow the public to vote on a favorite in an online poll.
The signs would point the way to such public attractions as the Jackson County Fairgrounds, Prairie Creek Recreation Area, the Clinton Engines Museum, Ohnward Fine Arts Center, City Hall, Jackson County Regional Health Center, Maquoketa Community High School and Goodenow Field.

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Wednesday, April 15

Burns hangs up binoculars after almost 30 years

A young girl named Ann dreamed of traveling to Africa to research wildlife.
She and her younger brother spent hours playing in the creek and exploring the windbreak on their family’s rural Oneida farm. They soaked up the sun’s rays as they plucked flowers and examined the bountiful wildlife scurrying across their path.
“My brother and I, since we were the youngest, we got to do a little more play than work than [our] older three [siblings], so we played a lot in that creek pasture and little windbreak,” the now 59-year-old Ann Burns recalls, gazing at the marsh from a chair in the conference room at the Hurstville Interpretive Center.
“I was always interested in being outdoors, and I especially was interested in learning more about animals,” she said.
Burns’ passion for nature and wildlife found a natural habitat in the woods, on the prairie, in the marshes, in a butterfly garden and in countless area classrooms. She exudes as much confidence with animals in the wild as she does inside a classroom of students.
For almost three decades, Burns dedicated her life to teaching people of all ages how to respect the environment. She hangs up her binoculars and tucks away her field notes – professionally at least – to enjoy early retirement beginning May 1.

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Water problem costs city $76k to remedy

The City of Maquoketa is having to dig deep to cover the unexpected cost of a new pump for the city’s main water well.
The City Council last week approved the purchase of a submersible pump at a cost of $76,207 from Cahoy Well & Pump Service of Sumner.
The purchase resulted after the city hired the Cahoy firm to pull the pump apparatus from the well for what was expected to be a routine inspection and maintenance.
The firm found what Darin Cahoy, company president and a certified pump installer, called “a menagerie of situations” and “a variety of problems.”
He said the shaft shouldn’t be re-used because of damage caused by vibrations as the shaft revolves at about 1,700 revolutions per minute  due to the shaft being out of alignment.
He said the inspection showed a number of parts in the well apparatus that were mismatched, apparently done in previous maintenance work. No one was certain when the pump was first installed. Cahoy found maintenance work on it dating back to 1979.
“In a nutshell, we’ve thrown away better pipe than this,” Cahoy told the council’s Utilities Committee on April 1.
“The issue at hand is the shaft can’t be re-used.”

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Saturday, April 11

Green space proposal recommends stage, electricity and pavers

Maquoketa’s downtown green space would be adorned with a stage, acoustical shell, trees, a design in paver blocks and other amenities if plans of a Vision 2020 subcommittee reach fruition.
The City Council on Monday night heard of a three-phase plan of the downtown revitalization subcommittee of the Vision 2020 Committee.
The council decided on the location of the proposed stage but took no action on other aspects of the plan.
Chuck Current, chairman of the subcommittee, described the plan to the council. He said the group views the area as space for events and not as a traditional city park.
“This is not a park to compete against our other public parks. This is really, truly an event space,” Current told the council.
The area, known as the downtown green space, consists of the four lots in the 100 block of South Main Street left vacant by the January 2008 downtown fire. The area, which measures 209 feet by 113 feet, is owned by the city.
The downtown revitalization subcommittee is seeking to improve the central business district.

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Supervisors approve early retirement for Burns

The Jackson County Board of Supervisors this week approved a request from Ann Burns, the Jackson County Conservation Board’s environmental education coordinator, for voluntary early retirement.
Approving the request Tuesday on a 3-0 vote, the board praised Burns for her 29 years with the conservation board.
Daryl Parker, the conservation board’s executive director who presented the request, said the effective date of her early retirement is June 30.
Because she will take accumulated vacation time, her last day on duty will be May 1.
A public reception for Burns will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. May 2 at the Hurstville Interpretive Center.
Under the county’s early retirement policy, Burns will be paid up to $5,000 per year for three years following her retirement to cover the cost of health insurance.
“We want to thank Ann for her years of service,” said Supervisors Chairman Larry “Buck” Koos.
 “She will leave big shoes to fill,” Parker told the board. “She’s a very dedicated employee, no doubt about it.

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Wednesday, April 8

Residents eligible to receive free urgent notifications

Jackson County residents can receive alerts of tornados, blizzards, boil orders, road closures, law enforcement matters, water main breaks and other occurrences through an emergency notification system.
The service is free to subscribers and is being provided by the Iowa Homeland Security & Emergency Management through the Jackson County Emergency Management Agency.
“It is up and running,” Lyn Medinger, Jackson County emergency management coordinator, said last week.
The service sends instant alerts to subscribers on matters of severe weather and other matters of emergency or urgent circumstances by voice telephone, text message, e-mail or pager.


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To sign up for the Jackson County emergency notification system, go to the county’s Web site at and click on the “Sign-up for Emergency Alerts in Jackson County HERE” notation.
That will bring up a form that residents may fill out with the desired method of receiving messages, the types of messages they would like to receive and communities.





ISU students show fun and functional options for park

Envision camping areas and cabins perfect for a weekend getaway, picnic areas for outdoor entertaining and plot to demonstrate sustainable agriculture.
Picture a visitor center directing guests to new paths to discover, an education center teaching youth and adults about the plants and animals native to the park. Perhaps pedestrian, bicycle and even equestrian trails beckon to be explored.
More than 35 Jackson County area residents viewed conceptual drawings for these and other possible attractions for the Prairie Creek Recreation Area on the southeast edge of Maquoketa. Visitors also offered their own suggestions for the land during the public charrette held at the Hurstville Interpretive Center Saturday morning.
A group of about 30-40 Iowa State University landscape architecture students spent the past two weeks focused solely on Prairie Creek Recreation Area, about 300 acres of mostly untouched timber and grassland bequeathed to Jackson County Conservation by the late Robert Martin.


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Saturday, April 4

Street estimate jumps to $5 million

Reducing the number of raised planters, eliminating decorative brickwork and dropping streetscape features from side streets are among options a Maquoketa City Council committee is studying as a way to cut costs from a project whose estimated cost has ballooned by two-thirds.
The council’s Street Committee pored over architectural designs and discussed cost-cutting options, at times with sharp exchanges, during a 2 1/2-hour meeting Tuesday night.
The committee also viewed possible financing scenarios for the project.
City Manager Brian Wagner said the Main Street streetscape project, which last year was projected to cost $3 million, would cost $4.985 million if prices in bids the city received in February for the reconstruction of Quarry Street were applied to the Main Street project.
The council had intended to reconstruct the two blocks of Quarry Street between Olive and Second streets, including constructing streetscape elements at the Quarry-North Main Street intersection, next summer. That project was put on the shelf, however, when bids came in about 50 percent above the engineer’s estimates.


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Middle school teacher receives full-tuition reward

Two gals giggle over their latest tweets and Instagram photos. They exude joy as they hunch over their cell phones in the eighth grade literacy room and comparing notes about what was taught in English class that day.
Joy is contagious at any age, which is exactly what eighth grade literacy teacher Rachelle Kober and curriculum director and 2014 Iowa Teacher of the Year Jane Schmidt share with Maquoketa Middle School students.
Their commitment to Iowa Core standards and curriculum allowed Schmidt to help Kober pursue her own personal dream of a higher education.
All teachers of the year convened in Arizona for an event sponsored by the University of Phoenix. While there, the teachers nominated up to three fellow teachers through Teach it Forward for a chance to win a full-tuition scholarship to the university.
“Rachelle is just somebody who is passionate about education,” Schmidt said. “She always gives back to her students and fellow staff, and she had a need. She thirsts for knowledge, and I thought this was a way I could give back to her.”


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Wednesday, April 1

Emma Stroyan, 1 1/2, walks  away from the Easter egg hunt with her bucket overflowing with findings. Saturday morning’s Easter egg hunt sponsored by the Optimist Club.
Emma Stroyan, 1 1/2, walks away from the Easter egg hunt with her bucket overflowing with findings. Saturday morning’s Easter egg hunt sponsored by the Optimist Club.

Rental ordinance would require leases

A new ordinance governing rental properties should require landlords to have leases with their tenants.
And while it’s a good idea for landlords to obtain background checks on prospective tenants, they should not be required.
Those are among the provisions a committee of volunteers, working with the Maquoketa City Council’s Public Safety Committee, is drafting as part of the ordinance.
The committee last week reviewed provisions of the draft ordinance, which it has been working on since last fall.
The ordinance would create an inspection program for the approximately 920 rental units in the city. The ordinance would list criteria intended to ensure that rental units meet basic safety standards.
The committee agreed that leases should be required. While landlords would be allowed to draft their own lease agreements, the ordinance would list items that would be required.
Information that would be required in the lease would include such basic information as the location of the unit, the dates the rental agreement is in effect and the amount of the monthly rent and when it is due.
The lease also would have to list all occupants of the rental unit and indicate whether the landlord or tenant will pay for each of the utilities.
Other requirements include statements that all notices between the landlord and tenant must be in writing and that the landlord will supply smoke detectors and the tenant will maintain them.
The ordinance also would suggest — but not require — leases to address several matters, including the security deposit, maintenance items for which the landlord is responsible and the tenant is responsible and nonpayment of rent.
The lease also should advise tenants that renter’s insurance is their responsibility and procedures that will take place if it appears the tenant has abandoned the property without notice.

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Future for behavioral disorder program may take on new look

Iowa’s special education funding guidelines are changing, and how the Maquoketa Community School District educates students with behavioral disorders may change with it.
Beginning this fall, Maquoketa and other school districts across the state must pay expenses not solely related to special education out of their already-strained general education fund, and that will have a significant impact on special education programs, said Chris Hoover, Maquoketa superintendent.
This could force a wholesale reworking of the program that serves students with behavioral disorders. It could also lead to a new service provider, a new location or changes in services.
The new rules could shift as much as $800,000 in expenses away from the special education fund and into the general fund.
The school district currently contracts education services through Hillcrest Family Services, which has headquarters in Dubuque. Hillcrest rents a South Olive Street building, where educators teach 25 to 30 students in kindergarten through 12th grades.
These students “have tried to make a go of it in our [public school] setting, but their behaviors – physical or verbal aggression, depression, etc. – make them unsuccessful,” Hoover explained.

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Saturday, March 28

Supervisors insert bridge, paving to 5-year agenda

Jackson County’s freshly updated five-year road improvement plan has taken on a new look, thanks to the increase in the state fuel tax.
The county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a plan recommended by county Engineer Clark Schloz that adds two pavement rehabilitation projects and replacement of two bridges to the final year of the five-year plan, in 2020.
Each year, the supervisors are required to update the plan and file it with the Iowa Department of Transportation. In recent years, supervisors simply added two or three projects to the fifth year of the plan.
What the supervisors did this week that they haven’t been able to do in recent years is add projects to the earlier portions of the plan.
The supervisors plan to resurface the 1.25-mile paved portion of Sieverding Ridge Road extending west from the Bellevue city limits this year.
That project was quickly added to the five-year plan after Gov. Terry Branstad signed a bill in late February increasing the state gasoline tax by 10 cents per gallon. The increase took effect at the pumps on March 1.
Residents along Sieverding Ridge Road had lobbied the supervisors to repair the paved portion of the otherwise-gravel road. They noted that the pavement was breaking up and expressed concern that a chunk of asphalt kicked up by a passing vehicle could strike a pedestrian walking along the road near Bellevue.


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Study: How wired is Jackson County?

The Jackson County Economic Alliance is plugged in to finding communication infrastructure improvements across the county. But before potential improvements come to the area, several dominoes need to fall. The first one is currently in motion.
The JCEA seeks community organizations in the county to join a working group that will conduct a countywide assessment to see how Internet service is utilized.
“Broadband (or high-speed Internet) is a great tool, but only if you know how it can help you and if it is available,” said Dave Heiar, JCEA director.
The JCEA is seeking information regarding Internet use in the county and how the current broadband infrastructure is utilized. Organizations in the county that use broadband service are encouraged to assist.


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Wednesday, March 25

LaMotte depot will move to historical society in Maquoketa

The Jackson County Historical Society has acquired ownership of the historic narrow gauge railroad depot in LaMotte and will move it to Maquoketa.
Bonnie Mitchell, curator of the Jackson County Historical Society Museum, said Monday the 104-year-old depot was gifted to the historical society by Dixie Clasen of LaMotte.
The terms of the acquisition call for the depot to be moved from its present location at the south edge of LaMotte by June 1. Current plans call for it to be moved onto the historical society’s Clinton Engines Museum site.
“We’re really excited,” Mitchell said Monday. “We are really grateful to Dixie Clasen for making it happen. And we have some very talented volunteers to get this moved. It’s going to be a real operation. It has to be moved 20 miles.”

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Main Street project to become 2016 focus

Frustrated over unexpectedly high bids for the reconstruction of two blocks of Quarry Street, the Maquoketa City Council will switch gears and instead consider lining up the streetscaping of Main Street for next year.
The council, at an hour-long work session Monday night, reviewed a series of possible changes to cut costs from the streetscape project. The council agreed with a proposal by Mayor Don Schwenker to drop the planned reconstruction of two blocks of Quarry Street for at least two years and instead consider taking bids this fall on a reconstruction of Main Street between Quarry and Maple streets.
The council referred the plan to its Street Committee to work out details.
“I’m trying to save the project and get Main Street done,” Schwenker told the council. “For God sakes, we’ve been talking about it for 25 years. We get close but it always comes down to money. We can’t let this always get tripped up by financing. Every year we wait it gets more expensive. We need to come together with a consensus of the council and move forward.”

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Saturday, March 21

Cost reductions listed for Quarry Street

Reducing the streetscape features, changing the way the project is bid and combining projects are among options that the Maquoketa City Council is considering as it seeks a route to getting the reconstruction of Quarry Street and the start of the downtown streetscape project done.
The council will hold a work session at 6 p.m. Monday to discuss its options. Most were enumerated in a six-page report written by the project engineer, John Wandsnider of IIW Engineers & Surveyors of Dubuque.
The city is seeking to reconstruct the two blocks of Quarry Street between North Second and North Olive streets and to incorporate streetscape elements at the Quarry-North Main Street intersection.
Plans to do the project this summer fell apart when bids for both segments of the project in all came in more than 50 percent above the engineer’s estimates.
A project that IIW engineers had estimated would cost $919,000, not including engineering, contingencies and other costs, drew low bids of $1.4 million combined, some 52.8 percent above the estimate.
The council last month rejected all four bids received on the paving portion of the project. It has taken no action on five bids for the underground utilities portion.

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Creativity flows from pen to paper in 7th grade art room

Autumn Dykstra wrote the word “Performance” in the center of a sheet of white paper, circled it and thought for a moment. She began writing more words around it, including art, painting, dancing and plays.
She was one of 37 students in Karen Streif’s 7th grade art class at Maquoketa Middle School who started the first stage of a multi-school art project March 13. Working under the guidance of artist Anita Jung, a professor at the University of Iowa, the students expressed what performance means to them by listing different words on their papers.
“Performance can mean different things to different people,” Jung said, encouraging students to think of examples that inspire them.
Lisa Edwards filled her chart with such words as singing, music, being on stage.
Nick VanHecke had some of those same words, but his paper also included sports.

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Wednesday, March 18

Businesses open job opportunities to people with unique needs

Danny Twellman practices many trades.
He inspects valves, ensuring there are no scratches and that the mechanisms fit together. He checks for defects in the machine work and washes spool caps to remove any metal shavings.
Broken pallets also find their way to Twellman. “As I get ‘em, I try to fix ‘em,” he explained.
His determination and dedication to quality keep Twellman, who receives services from DAC, Inc. in Maquoketa, steadily employed at HUSCO International’s Maquoketa factory.
Community integration is part of DAC’s goal for all the individuals with mental, intellectual and developmental needs.

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Quarry project delayed again

Still weighing its options for the troubled Quarry Street reconstruction project, the Maquoketa City Council this week scheduled another meeting for Monday night (March 23) to decide on a course of action.
Mayor Don Schwenker said the proposed reconstruction of Quarry Street between North Olive and North Second streets, including adding streetscape elements to the North Main-Quarry street intersection, won’t be done this year.
Project engineer John Wandsnider of IIW Engineers & Surveyors of Dubuque reviewed a six-page report that lists a number of options that would cut the cost of the project. The options included ways to cut costs with the large decorative planters, which were identified as a major reason for the higher costs. Other alternatives include reducing the amount of accent bricks, reducing the number of streetlights and eliminating streetscape elements from side streets, where they are planned to extend for a half-block.
Other options included expanding the overall project to get lower unit prices or combining two or more projects.
City Manager Brian Wagner said a key question facing the council is how faithful the council wants to remain to the streetscape design concept that was proposed a year ago by Confluence, a Des Moines urban design and landscape architecture firm, and that the council adopted for a new look in the central business district.

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Saturday, March 14

Dubuque couple explains the good and the bad with historical restoration

By Nick Joos
A caravan of city representatives from Maquoketa, Preston and Bellevue made the trek to Dubuque Thursday to tour several historical districts in an effort to gather ideas for potential building restoration projects.
The tour, organized by Jackson County Economic Alliance director Dave Heiar, was attended by about 20 interested business professionals and city officials and visited storefronts along Main Street in Dubuque as well as the newly renovated warehouse district.
The group was led by John and Mary Gronen of Gronen Restoration, the company in charge of many restoration projects in Dubuque.
Participants in the tour admired the architecture and praised the Gronens for their articulate care for history, as a vast majority of the building and aesthetic materials used on the restoration projects were recycled from the past.
Heiar’s goal for the tour was to expose Jackson county residents and officials to the possibilities available with any number of restoration projects that could eventually come to the area.
“We wanted to get a hands-on feel for what historic rehabilitation can bring to a community,” he said. “Historic rehab isn’t easy, but this was to show it’s an option for us.”
Heiar said there are no specific plans around the county to enter extensive renovation projects to historic buildings, but said Maquoketa’s downtown district could potentially be subject to a re-facing down the road once roadwork and infrastructure construction is conducted.
“Just look up,” he said when talking about Maquoketa’s downtown buildings. “There’s a historical fabric there.”

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Wednesday, March 11

Three proposed middle school renovation plans sent to board

The Maquoketa Community School Board in April will review three proposed renovation plans to bring the middle school up to 21st Century learning standards.
Those plans include heating and air conditioning, larger classrooms, a new gym and other renovations to improve learning and update the building.
The three plans – conceptual drawings only, not final plans – come with price tags between $14.5 million and $16.1 million.
“The numbers are pretty rough but they’re good for comparison,” explained Kevin Eipperle of FEH Associates Inc., architectural engineer on the project.
The need for air conditioning, followed by building studies, two task force advisory meetings and 22 hours of drawings and public input resulted in a total of 16 preliminary plans to improve the middle school building.
During two 12-hour design sessions at the middle school March 4-5, architects and engineers heard suggestions from middle school teachers and a few parents.
Attendees viewed hand-drawn conceptual drawings of most of the 16 options while Eipperle described the suggested modifications and additions.
Following Eipperle’s presentation, attendees evaluated the proposals using criteria the advisory task force developed Feb. 26.
Attendees then affixed blue stickers on the two conceptual drawings of their choice.
n Plan 1A, $16.1 million: The most blue stickers covered plan 1A, meaning more people favored it compared to the other plans.

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County officials receive raises

Jackson County’s elected officials will receive 3 percent salary increases this summer, 1 percent less than the raises the Board of Supervisors had proposed.
The salaries were set as part of the board’s adoption of the county budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year, which starts July 1.
Other than the salary change for the eight elected officials, the supervisors on March 3 approved the budget as proposed with a 3-0 vote.
The budget calls for the property tax rate for parcels inside the county’s 12 municipalities to drop by about 3 cents, to $5.28 per $1,000 taxable valuation.
The tax rate for rural areas would decrease to $8.26 per $1,000 taxable valuation from $8.30 this year.
The proposed budget projects revenues of $14.58 million and calls for $13.86 million in spending in 2015-16.

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Saturday, March 7

Council wants plan for Quarry

The Maquoketa City Council this week told city staff members and engineers to come up with a plan and a schedule to get the Quarry Street reconstruction project done, preferably this year.
Project engineer John Wandsnider met with the council Monday night for the second time since bids for the two-block project came in substantially higher than his cost estimates.
Wandsnider, an engineer with IIW Engineers & Surveyors of Dubuque, and city Public Works Director Frank Ellenz reported on discussions they had with contractors regarding the bids which took them, council members and city staff members by surprise when they were opened in late February.
They said the three contractors they spoke with listed a variety of reasons why bids were much higher than estimates, including the large amount of projects from which they could choose to bid, the relatively small size of the Quarry Street project, and streetscape elements, including brick pavers, large planters, benches and trash receptacles.
Wandsnider said one contractor called the project “ugly.”

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Former officer equips force with $10,000 donation

Maquoketa police officers soon will be equipped with body cameras to record interactions with citizens, thanks to the generosity of a former officer.
Carol Mueller handed a $10,000 check to Mayor Don Schwenker and Police Chief Brad Koranda as a donation to purchase the cameras at the start of Monday night’s Maquoketa City Council meeting.
Mueller, who may be better known to longtime Maquoketans as Carol Baker, was a meter maid, radio operator-dispatcher, part-time officer and full-time patrol officer on the department during the 1970s. She left in 1979 after five years as a full-time officer. She and her husband, Jim, reside near Epworth.
She told the council that she, her husband and her son, Jim of Orlando, Fla., are making the donation in memory of the late longtime Chief Buddy Olson, under whom she served, his widow, Myrna, and their sons, David and Jay.
“All of us appreciate everything the City of Maquoketa and its citizens have done to help us in the past,” Mueller told the council. “All I can say is that I love this town.”

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Wednesday, March 4

Ryan Warren, 13, adjusts his goggles after leaping out of the YMCA indoor pool Thursday during a YMCA Maquoketa Marlins practice session. Warren is one of four local swimmers who have posted state meet-qualifying times. Those four, along with their coache
Ryan Warren, 13, adjusts his goggles after leaping out of the YMCA indoor pool Thursday during a YMCA Maquoketa Marlins practice session. Warren is one of four local swimmers who have posted state meet-qualifying times.

Andrew residents renew request

Jackson County supervisors said last week they will again reconsider a request from several Andrew area residents to install a guardrail along a portion of county road E-17 east of Andrew where a fatal traffic accident occurred last year.
The supervisors met Thursday night with concerned residents who have said the road presents a hazard, particularly for motorists unfamiliar with the highway.
The site is on E-17 one mile east of Andrew. Sandra Jo Klein, 36, of Springbrook was fatally injured at the location on June 6 last year when her car ran off the highway and plunged down a steep embankment.
For eastbound traffic, the road curves to the right while descending a hill. At the bottom of the hill is a bridge the county built a few years ago to replace a narrower span crossing Brush Creek.
At the supervisors’ first meeting after the accident occurred, several residents asked the board to take measures, such as signage and a guardrail, to increase safety on that portion of the highway.
In December, the residents renewed their request for a guardrail and presented the supervisors with a petition to that effect containing 484 signatures.

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Public encouraged to share ideas for middle school’s future this week

Indoor climate control at Maquoketa Middle School tops the list of renovation issues to be addressed, a group of concerned citizens decided.
Next, ensure the building contains adequate and that the Maquoketa Community School District has the funds to pay for those updates.
Those three items – temperature control, space and funds – topped the list of important considerations developed by the Maquoketa Middle School Advisory Task Force Thursday night.
For two hours, the group of about 25 community members and school district employees reflected on the current condition of the middle school and the updates necessary to keep it functioning effectively.
The task force’s goal is to “identify the challenges we see with the building now to give teachers and students the tools they need to compete in the 21st Century,” explained Kevin Eipperle of FEH Architects.

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Saturday, Feb. 28

Local horse wins 12 straight races, earns top award

“Come ‘ere, old boy,” Bob Larkey purrs as he pours a ration of grain from a red coffee container into a feed bucket suspended on the horse stall door.
A stunning chestnut horse tosses his mane and briefly nuzzles his owner’s hand before planting his muzzle in the feed bucket.
Larkey laughs at his horse’s greedy antics. After all, his Standardbred is the Wisconsin Harness Horse Association’s Pacer of the Year.
“I’ve owned a lot of horses, but Super Son of Sandy is one of the best,” Larkey brags. “He won 12 of 12 races in Wisconsin last year.”
Larkey, who is perhaps better known for owning and operating Maquoketa Livestock Sales for the past 35 years, cannot remember a time without horses.
“My dad, Alvie, had horses all my life. He shipped Belgian horses to Maine for logging camps,” he recalled.
At age 6, Larkey rode his spotted pony bareback at the fair in Wyoming.
“I’ve never been without a horse. I’ve been down to one or two, but I’ve never been without one and I never will be,” Larkey said.
He transitioned from horse lover to racehorse owner in 1971.
At that time, Larkey hung out with the good ol’ boys of Jackson County horse and harness history: Ray Kroeger, Junior Bowman, Charlie Wendel, Jay Keeney, brothers Glen and Charlie Eaton, Jack Wilson and Leo Doerr.

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Bids exceed estimate

The proposed two-block reconstruction of Quarry Street in Maquoketa was thrown in jeopardy of not being completed this year when the lowest bid for the project came in 49 percent over the original estimated costs.
The City Council, at a hastily-called special meeting Thursday night, voted 6-0 to reject all four bids that were received for the paving and streetscape elements of the project. Councilman Troy Thede was absent.
A disappointed John Wandsnider of IIW Engineers & Surveyors of Dubuque, the project engineer, said he would contact the bidding contractors starting Friday morning to try to learn why the bids were so high.
“This is something we’ve never seen. Our whole office is baffled by it,” Wandsnider told the council.
The project involves the proposed reconstruction of the two blocks of Quarry Street between North Olive and North Second streets.

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Gas tax hike earns praise from officials

At least one Jackson County supervisor wants to waste no time putting the county’s share of increased gasoline tax revenue to work.
Both houses of the Iowa Legislature on Tuesday passed a bill raising the state tax on gasoline and diesel fuel by 10 cents a gallon. Gov. Terry Branstad signed the measure Wednesday morning.
Motorists will start paying the higher tax at the pump on Sunday.
A vehicle owner who drives 15,000 miles per year in a vehicle that gets an average of 20 miles per gallon will pay an additional $75 per year in fuel tax.

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Wednesday, Feb. 25

Gasoline tax fuels upkeep

Funds to maintain Jackson County’s roads come from several sources, the biggest share of which is the state gasoline tax.
The Jackson County Board of Supervisors has been lobbying Iowa legislators hard for the past several years to increase the tax, saying more money is needed to adequately maintain the 841 miles of county roads and 225 bridges and large drainage structures.
In an interview last week, Clark Schloz, Jackson County Engineer, said there seems to be misinformation from the public about how maintenance of county roads is paid for. For instance, he said no proceeds from the Iowa Lottery go to help fund county roads.


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Convenience store robbed at gunpoint in Andrew

Two individuals walked into an Andrew convenience store with a gun Saturday night and walked out with money.
Jackson County sheriff’s deputies are continuing to investigate a robbery that occurred minutes before the Andrew Country Mart was scheduled to close for the evening.
A store employee said that a male and female entered the store at 9:58 p.m. Saturday. Both were wearing ski masks.
According to sheriff’s deputies, one of the suspects displayed a gun and ordered the employee to give them all of the store’s money.
The male and female then fled the scene with an undisclosed amount of cash.
One employee was in the convenience store at the time of the robbery, according to Deputy Steve Schroeder, who said there were “no customers that he knows of” in the store at that time.


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Saturday, Feb. 21

Dancing fever hits Saturday

One small town dance party in a high school gym affects thousands of young patients from across the state.
club hOpe from Maquoketa Community High School invites the public to catch dancing fever this weekend during its fourth annual Dance Marathon. The party begins at 5:30 p.m. in the high school gym.
Don’t want to dance in public? No fears. People aren’t required to dance, just attend and support the dancers and youths who have received services at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital.
 “The whole point of Dance Marathon,” according to club hOpe adviser Mindy Orris, “is really for us to stay pumped up and moving no matter how tired we get. These kids in the hospital in Iowa City don’t have the choice.

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Middle school renovations to be explored

How can the Maquoketa Middle School best meet the changing needs of 21st Century students in an 82-year-old structure?
The answer may be installing air conditioning for $3 million, constructing an entirely new building for about $18 million and any idea in between, according to a new community advisory task force that began exploring answers Tuesday night.
Following an 80-minute overview of the school’s structure and mechanics, attendees briefly discussed improved use of the existing space, the merits of constructing a new building and developing community partnerships.
Public discussions resume at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 26, when the group next meets to develop possible construction and renovation scenarios for the building.

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Wednesday, Feb. 18

Supervisors ask DOT to alter U.S. 52 detour

The Jackson County Board of Supervisors has asked Iowa transportation officials to change the route of a detour that will increase traffic through LaMotte this summer.
The supervisors on Feb. 3 agreed to send a letter to Iowa Department of Transportation officials asking them to consider an alternative detour route when a portion of U.S. 52 in northern Jackson County is closed for a repair project.
County Engineer Clark Schloz said plans call for 52 to be closed to through traffic from about June 1 through Aug. 15 while crews repair .63 of a mile of 52 between Tete des Morts Creek and the north city limits of St. Donatus.

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Home-schooled students learn the art of doodling

Instructor Penny Pearcy encouraged doodling. In fact, she insisted on it. The students obeyed.
They transformed simple shapes such as triangles, circles and squares into unique works of art.
A group of about 25 area home-schooled students of all ages learned the art of Zen doodling during a workshop at the Maquoketa Art Experience last Friday. Equipped with white paper, pencils and pens, the youths let their imaginations run free in the class.
“I loved making spirals and this gave me lots of ideas,” said Jutta Dieterich, 12, during a cookie break Friday afternoon.

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