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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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Saturday, Feb. 14

Maquoketans treasure meals delivered by high school students

Knock knock knock.
The thump on the door could be anybody.
“Who’s there?” the voice behind the door hesitantly calls out.
“It’s your meal delivery. Can we come in?”
“Just a minute,” comes the reply.
The door opens to the smiling faces of Maquoketa Community High School’s life skills students, those with unique needs.
The students stand outside the door, in one hand clutching a reusable plastic container with a hot meal and in the other, a paper bag with bread and milk.
Monday through Friday, Joanie Bowman and Joyce Lansing’s students deliver meals to area shut-ins and others who receive nutritious meals through Jackson County Home Delivered Meals. Jackson County Senior Citizens Center staff prepares the meals.
The program serves about 30 residents per day. Volunteer drivers from the community load up meals from the senior center and drive to the addresses listed on the clipboard they are given. The drivers deliver the new meal and retrieve the container from the previous day’s meal, if there is one.

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Courts going digital

In less than two months, the Jackson County Clerk of Court Office will go paperless.
Well, not entirely. Many file folders containing criminal charges, civil suits, divorce decrees, wills and other legal documents already filed will still be around.
But starting April 7, if all stays on schedule, filing of court documents will shift to an electronic digital format.
Iowa’s judicial branch is ending the paper filing of court documents statewide.
Actually, Jackson County is on the tail end of the process, which began on the state’s western border five years ago.
Jackson, Clinton and Jones counties are among just 16 counties that are not already filing electronically.
Plans call for the entire state to have gone electronic by June 30 of this year. If that target is met, Iowa will have the first mandatory electronic filing system in the nation, according to Steve Davis, communications officer for the Iowa Judicial Branch.

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Wednesday, Feb. 11

Slight tax rate drop seen in proposed county budget

The Jackson County Board of Supervisors has proposed a budget for 2015-16 that calls for slight decreases in the property tax rate from this year’s levels, establishing two new departments, implementing courthouse security measures and granting 4 percent pay increases to elected officials.
At a special meeting Thursday morning, supervisors approved the proposed budget on a 3-0 vote. They scheduled a public hearing on the proposed spending plan for 10 a.m. March 3, followed by final adoption of the budget.
With approval of the proposed budget, the supervisors can approve the budget as proposed or they can reduce the overall amount. They cannot increase the total budget.
The new budget will take effect with the start of the 2015-16 fiscal year on July 1.
The budget calls for the property tax rate to drop by about 3 cents, to $5.28 per $1,000 taxable valuation from the current rate of $5.31 per $1,000 taxable valuation for urban areas.


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Chamber hires grant writers to boost growth

The Maquoketa Area Chamber of Commerce signed a service contract that it hopes will spur economic development and revitalization in the city.
When the contract takes effect March 1, the chamber will pay East Central Intergovernmental Agency to research and write grant applications to bring money into the community to help the chamber reach specific goals.
Among those identified goals:
- The greenspace-to-park conversion in the city’s downtown
- Chamber programming
- Building improvements
- Maquoketa Art Experience
- Economic development programs
- Sign improvement funding in coordination with possible ordinance work


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Saturday, Feb. 7

Partnership between restaurant and chamber spurs local investment

Despite the blizzard brewing last Saturday night, La Casa de Pancho Mexican restaurant was bustling with a suppertime crowd.
Owner Leticia “Leti” Rosas visited and laughed with customers. She consistently checked on things in the kitchen, pitching in to bring food and drink to guests in the recently refurbished north dining room.
New seating, a tile floor, a bar area and walls painted in shades of avocado and terra cotta give the room a polished yet comfortable feel.
“This was our first project,” Rosas said of the new decor. “I think our customers like it.”
The renovation is just the beginning of upgrades planned for the iconic Carson Pharmacy building at the northwest corner of Platt and Main streets.
Rosas, who has been operating the restaurant there since May 2012, recently bought the property from an out-of-town investor. She is joined in the venture with her husband Pancho Rosas and nephew Adrian Martinez.

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Taxpayers may see 96-cent drop in rate

Maquoketa property owners will see some relief in the city portion of their tax bills, if the City Council adopts a proposed rate decrease.
The council, at a budget work session Wednesday night, directed that the staff prepare a proposed budget that would drop the city’s property tax rate for 2015-16 by 96 cents, from the current rate of $13.08 per $1,000 taxable valuation to $12.12.
The council plans to set the tentative budget for publication at its Feb. 16 meeting. The council also will schedule a public hearing and final adoption for an early March date to be set.
The new budget will take effect July 1.
City Manager Brian Wagner told the council that due to the retirement of economic development project debt, primarily debt related to the Family Dollar distribution center project, the city’s tax-increment financing claims from the 2014-15 to the 2015-16 fiscal years were $938,226 lower.
The reduction returned that amount of funds to the tax rolls as shared by the city, Maquoketa Community School District, Jackson County and other property taxing entities.

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Wednesday, Feb. 4

Council discusses rental inspections, rec plan, downtown

Enactment of a rental inspection ordinance, a recreation plan that includes an outdoor aquatic center, downtown storefront improvements and redevelopment of the Mitchell-Maskrey building are among possible objectives the Maquoketa City Council addressed last week in its annual goal-setting session.
The council and department heads reviewed their previous list of goals and set new ones during the two-hour work session Wednesday night.
In separate surveys of council members and city staff members, both listed the ordinance as the top priority.
A group of seven volunteer residents is working with the council’s Public Safety Committee to develop a proposed ordinance that would call for mandatory inspections of rental housing.


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Customers flood shops before storm

The sun peeked timidly over the horizon Monday morning to shine down upon 10-12 inches of snow across Jackson County.
The strongest storm of winter 2014-15 struck the county Saturday afternoon, arriving in the form of a light mist followed by rain before switching over to snow around 6 p.m.
A consistent snow fell throughout the evening and well into Sunday evening, when residents began the arduous task of shoveling off their sidewalks, driveways and vehicles.
The public expected some type of snowstorm and began preparing early.
Shoppers seeking last-minute grocery staples or munchies for Sunday’s big football game noticed long lines and lack of parking at Fareway grocery store in Maquoketa Saturday.
“It was a madhouse out here Saturday. It was packed,” described store manager Mike Koll.


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Saturday, Jan. 31

Land, wealth transition issues explored in play

Paul Gerlach can go about his daily chores maintaining an almost 1,000-acre cattle operation just outside of Maquoketa with some piece of mind about his legacy.
“This will pass onto my family,” said Gerlach, 54, who farms with his wife, Sandra, and his 26-year-old son, Matt, who currently works full-time as the plant manager at Agvantage FS in DeWitt.
Gerlach knows firsthand some of the issues that have to be considered when passing a farm to the next generation, and it’s something he thinks about.
For some farming families, the future isn’t so clear and tough questions must be answered.
That was the motivation to create the play “Map of My Kingdom” written by Mary Swander, Iowa poet laureate and Iowa State University professor. It will be performed in Maquoketa Feb. 7 and Dewitt Feb. 8.

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School dates debated

Local control and flexibility.
That is all Jackson County school superintendents ask for – well, and more state funding – when talk turns to school start dates.
“I wish we had some more flexibility on the start date,” said Andy Crozier, superintendent of Andrew and Easton Valley school districts. “I favor local control. The start date decision should be left to the local school boards of Jackson County, not the legislator in Des Moines. Our community members were already providing us feedback to move the date back and we were more than willing to respond to that request.”
Tom Meyer, Bellevue Community School District superintendent, agrees. “Local control on this issue, and many others, is still the best way for schools. There are many variables that the boards and school districts look at as a whole when determining school start dates and other issues.”

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Wednesday, Jan. 28

Legislators discuss hot topics

More funding for roads, bridges and schools, as well as debate about the school start date, appear to be the hot-button issues facing Iowa legislators as week three of the 2015 policy-making session gets under way.
Sen. Tod Bowman, D-Maquoketa, and Rep. Brian Moore, R-Bellevue, pointed to those issues as the most important of the new legislative season. They, along with county Supervisor Larry “Buck” Koos, spent an hour discussing those topics and answering questions from the dozen people who attended the Jackson County Farm Bureau legislative forum Saturday morning at Maquoketa City Hall.
Fuel tax
Increased funding to repair Iowa’s roads and bridges led Saturday’s discussion. Legislators must address the state’s $215 million deficit for roads and bridges, said Bowman, who called it “one of biggest issues facing the legislature this session.”


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Citizens ‘think big’ at parks meeting

Residents covered display boards with yellow sticky notes. They wrote all over a table using permanent markers.
The Grant Wood Mississippi River Region Committee encouraged it and asked for more. All of those notes represented ideas for the Parks to People pilot project.
 “No idea’s crazy,” said Daryl Parker, executive director of Jackson County Conservation.
“We want people to think big,” added David Heiar, director of the Jackson County Economic Alliance.
Connecting communities through bike trails, hosting high school athletic competitions in state and county parks and holding...


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Wednesday, Jan. 21

Teachers take early retirement

Some 411 years of educational experience leaves the Maquoketa Community School District June 30.
The school board approved early retirement applications for 14 district employees during its Monday evening meeting.
The retirements could save the district more than $292,800.
Retiring at the end of the school year are:
- Dianne Henry, high school executive secretary, 41 years, $13,586.40
- Cindy Hepker, kindergarten teacher, 38 years, $22,047.39
- Linda Lippens, teacher associate, 32 years, $7,463.14
- Laurnet Spalding, career and technology teacher, 39 years, $27,763.38
- Judy Koon, teacher associate, 27 years, $7,463.14
- Nancy Batey, middle school administrative assistant, 28 years, $11,354.24
- Rick Williams, custodian, 23 years, $15,392
- Luanne Huckstadt, high school math teacher, 32 years, $25,517.82
- Joan Bollman, Cardinal principal, 29 years, $38,570.56
- Cathy Durkop, first grade teacher, 42 years, $25,517.82
- Bonnie Bruck, Cardinal teacher, 16 years, $27,763.38
- Barbara McKeon, district business coordinator, 18 years, $33,817.77
- Kathy Klocke, Cardinal nurse, 15 years, $12,466.30
- Jackie Crowley, high school teacher and nurse, 31 years, $24,088.82

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County pushing for rural clean-up

The Jackson County Board of Supervisors want a farm lot near Maquoketa Caves State Park cleaned up, but it’s unclear if the owner is violating any ordinances.
The supervisors last month asked county Zoning Administrator Ben Kober to continue efforts to enforce a possible zoning violation at the Gary DeLarm farm, 9282 Caves Road, about five miles northwest of Maquoketa.
The farm, which is easily visible from Caves Road, has  what appears to be unused equipment strewn about.
Kober told the supervisors that DeLarm may be violating a variance agreement that was granted by the county Zoning Board of Adjustment 16 years ago.
Kober said he sent DeLarm a “courtesy letter” last month notifying him of the possible violation and giving him a week, which expired earlier this month, to respond.

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Man given probation in stabbing case

A Maquoketa man who severely cut another man who was to be his partner in a business venture four years ago received a suspended prison sentence last week and was placed on probation for two years.
Todd Allen Clark, 40, of 311 N. Main St., was sentenced Friday in Jackson County District Court in Maquoketa.
In a plea agreement, Clark pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of willful injury resulting in bodily injury.
He was accused of assaulting Richard Allen, 45, of Maquoketa, by cutting his neck with a knife, which authorities said was a life-threatening injury, in January of 2011.
Judge Mark Lawson sentenced Clark to a five-year prison term, which he suspended, and placed him on probation for two years.
Clark was fined $750 and was ordered to pay court costs, a 35 percent surcharge and court-appointed attorney fees of up to $1,000. He also was ordered to pay restitution of $1,339.72 to the Iowa Crime Victim Compensation Program.
The court issued a  protective order prohibiting Clark from having contact with Allen for five years, and he is not allowed to possess firearms.

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Saturday, Jan. 17

There’s a book for that

Rosheim’s 50 years of writing spans wide range

There’s no pigeon-holing David Rosheim.
In a career of writing, the Maquoketa author, book collector and book dealer has covered a wide range of styles and subjects.
From poetry to biography to social commentary to history to fiction, the multi-faceted Rosheim has a book covering that genre.
Rosheim last year completed a half-century of published writing.
Rosheim, 70, got his start while a student at Luther College in Decorah in the mid-1960s.
As literary editor of the Luther student newspaper Rosheim began writing poems.
He also was co-editor of and a contributor to the “Oneota Review,” a journal of book reviews and professional resources for the teaching of reading.
He published his first work in 1964, a small booklet of poetry he had composed as a student, titled simply “Poems.” The printing was done by the Decorah newspaper and he sold a few copies for 50 cents apiece.

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Wednesday, Jan. 14

Tree Board branches into ash borer treatment plan

As the emerald ash borer continues its invasion of the Midwest, destroying ash trees in its wake, a Maquoketa city board last week began the gloomy task of assessing a forest of data about the city’s trees and options for dealing with the threat.
The city’s Tree Board on Jan. 6 began poring over data that were collected in a fall survey of city-owned trees. The board took no action and will meet again Jan. 27.


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Cattlemen celebrate accomplishments during annual banquet

About 500 Jackson County area residents dined on ribeyes, watched the crowning of beef royalty, cackled at a couple of comedians and anted up to raise money for the local cattle industry
The Jackson County Cattlemen served about 500 meals, comparable to last year, during its annual beef banquet Saturday evening inside Pearson Memorial Center in Maquoketa. The Cattlemen grilled ribeye steaks, with the remainder of the meal catered by Springbrook Country Dining.
Longtime Jackson County cattle producer Wayne Meyer was inducted posthumously into the Jackson County Cattlemen’s Hall of Fame. He grew up on a farm east of Miles raising Hampshire hogs and Hereford cattle, which he exhibited as a member of the Miles Baby Beef 4-H Club.
After marrying Dora Burken in 1963, the couple farmed 260 acres of land north of Preston. They milked and raised hogs but the lure of cattle called, so they began raising stock cows.

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Saturday, Jan. 10

                                     CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’

Kaden Caes, 6, makes the solitary sojourn up Maquoketa’s popular West Summit Street sledding hill Tuesday after Mother Nature dumped five inches of powdery white snow on the area.

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Conservation’s helping hands get national award

A toddler shuffles to the pond in front of the Hurstville Interpretive Center, giggling as he spots tadpoles in the murky water.
A teen saunters toward the musical instruments outside, glances around to ensure no one is looking, and clangs the metal pipes.
Adults strive for stability while walking across a log balance beam through wildflowers at the center.
“We see a lot more people actively exploring outside, not just looking around and walking up the ramp into the center,” said naturalist Jessica Wagner. “You see more wonder and excitement and a lot of it is thanks to the Friends.”
That outdoor fun was part of the Hurstville Outdoor Makeover – a $100,000-plus improvement project at the Hurstville Interpretive Center. Friends of Jackson County Conservation made this and numerous other projects happen, earning national recognition for its efforts.
Friends of Jackson County Conservation received the Excellence in Interpretive Support award from the National Association for Interpretation. The award recognizes an...

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Wednesday, Jan. 7

Bellevue family offers insight into cattle industry

When it comes to cattle production, Charlie and Jenni Peters of rural Andrew know the business inside and out.
The family operation, Peters Beef Genetics, is quite well known in the area. The local ag business consists of a purebred and commercial cow-calf herd, a bred heifer program, feedlot cattle and custom embryo program.
As well as the large cattle production business, the Peters family also has a crop and grain operation consisting of corn, soybeans, alfalfa and pasture.  The majority of the crop operation is used to provide feed for the cattle operation. 
According to patriarch Charlie Peters, his family has been raising cattle and farming for six generations around Andrew in Jackson County.
“We grew up with Simmental, Limousin and Angus cross cows and my parents, Floyd and Lavonne, began using artificial insemination in 1969 when the first Continental cattle were being imported from Europe,” explained Peters. “We also had a feedlot operation and as kids we exhibited cattle in 4-H and were involved in livestock judging.”

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Saturday, January 3

Security measures would lock doors, add cameras

The Jackson County Courthouse and other county facilities will see additional security measures taken in the new year if the Board of Supervisors approves recommendations of a study committee.
Security measures that include having only one public entrance, increased numbers of upgraded “panic buttons” and security cameras, and a metal detector are among recommendations an advisory committee has given to the supervisors.
Three committee members, Lyn Medinger, county emergency management coordinator; Kim Hess, clerk of court; and Steve Schroeder, chief sheriff’s deputy, presented the recommendations to the supervisors on Dec. 23.
The board took the recommendations under advisement and said it would act on them after further study.
The recommendations are the product of a committee that was formed in May to advise the supervisors on security measures that could be taken to protect Courthouse employees, patrons and others who may be in or near the Courthouse from a variety of dangers ranging from severe weather to an armed intruder.

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