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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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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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