WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Jason Parrott

Southeast Iowa Correspondent

Jason is the Southeast Iowa News Correspondent. He established Tri States Public Radio's news bureau in Keokuk in September 2003.  The bureau has moved from his apartment to the Hotel Iowa before landing in its current location at the Daily Gate City newspaper at 1016 Main.  Jason provides short- and long-form news coverage from southeast Iowa, northeast Missouri, and portions of west-central Illinois. Jason covers multiple governmental boards including the Keokuk City Council, the Lee County Board of Supervisors and the Burlington School Board. Jason was born in Burlington, IA and grew up in neighboring Henderson County before graduating from Monmouth High School.  He graduated from WIU in 2002 with Bachelor’s Degrees in Communications and History.  While in Macomb, he was a member of the WIU Track & Field team, serving as Captain during his senior year. Jason received his Master’s Degree in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield in 2003. He and his wife Jamie have called Quincy home since 2007.  They have two dogs (Howie and Sadie), one nephew, one neice and several god-children. During Jason’s free time, he enjoys watching sports, spending time with friends, playing fantasy football and traveling to the Lake of the Ozarks with his wife.

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Supporters of a proposed sports complex in western Fort Madison have received some good news from the state.

Tim Gobble with Fort Madison Partners says more than $2-million has been pledged or donated to build three baseball/softball diamonds and three football/soccer fields.

That includes $1.25-million from Fort Madison’s branch of the Southeast Iowa Regional Riverboat Commission, $500,000 from the city, and $175,000 from Pinnacle Foods.

That’s more than 60% of what is needed for the project to move forward.

A trial date has been set for a Hamilton man accused of sexual abuse of a minor.

August Dion Gregory, 44, appeared before Judge Richard Gambrell, this morning, for a pre-trial hearing at the Hancock County Courthouse in Carthage.

Gregory’s lawyer, Stephen Morris of Hamilton, used the hearing to request more time to review the evidence in the case.

Hancock County State’s Attorney Jim Drozdz responded by saying the people were ready to proceed to trial.

Lee County has been called the “Poster Child” for unemployment in Iowa.

Help could be on the way with the possible development of a fertilizer plant, but that would be just the start of what is needed to reverse years of job losses.

A recently-released study highlights the county’s strengths and weaknesses, but taking advantage of that information requires community support and interest.

Phil Chancellor of Keokuk has more free time on his hands now that he has retired after a career in the field of high-tech telecommunications.

The latest winners of the Spirit of Keokuk award will be announced during the 22nd Annual Affiliates dinner.

The Affiliates organization includes the Keokuk Area Chamber of Commerce, Main Street Keokuk, the Keokuk Area Convention and Tourism Bureau and Keokuk Economic Development Corporation.

Chamber of Commerce Director Chuck Betts says more than 75 people have been honored over the last two decades for their contributions to Keokuk.

“The phrase that has been used ever since they started was without them, it would not have happened,” says Betts.

Southeast Iowa’s Congressman is looking to his constituents for ideas to protect the future of Social Security.

Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-IA) says he would not be where he is today without the program.

He says Social Security helped his family get by while he was growing up and helped him afford to go to college.

The Congressman says that is why lawmakers must make sure the program remains solvent for decades to come.

The Burlington City Council has made its choice for city manager official.

The panel voted unanimously on Thursday night to appoint James Ferneau to the post.

His first day as city manager will be April 23.

Ferneau has been serving as City Administrator of Sergeant Bluff, IA.

Burlington Mayor Jim Davidson says Ferneau stood out from the other finalists.

Lee County is pledging its support to an effort to land a new industry.

The Board of Supervisors has agreed to meet, or even exceed, the 20% local match required for Iowa Fertilizer Company to receive state funding.

The company is considering the county for a $1.3-billion fertilizer plant.

The Iowa Economic Development Authority Board has signed off on tax credits and $1.6-million in loans for the project, half of which would be forgiven if certain requirements are met.

Around The Region

Feb 23, 2012

LEE COUNTY

The Iowa Department of Transportation is selling some of its property in Lee County.

Bids are due by 1:00 P.M. on March 14, 2012 on a nearly 52-acres piece of property located approximately six miles west of West Point.

The agency says the land has been appraised at $124,200.

The sale must be cash only.

 

LEE COUNTY

The Lee County Auditor’s Office is looking for someone to help with Election Day preparations.

The department is seeking bids to pick-up and drop-off about 100 pieces of voting equipment, booths and signs.

The Iowa Economic Development Authority Board is paving the way for a pair of projects in southeast Iowa.

During a meeting on Friday, the board signed off on a $1.6-million dollar award for the development of a large-scale fertilizer plant on 300 acres of land near Wever in northern Lee County.

The funding for Iowa Fertilizer Company will come through a forgivable loan, a loan, and tax benefits.

The company is a subsidiary of Orascom Construction Industries out of Cairo, Egypt.

Keokuk’s mayor delivered his 3rd “State of the City” address during this week’s Recognition, Appreciation, and Participation Breakfast.

Job creation and finances were prominent topics during the nearly 30-minute speech.

Mayor Tom Marion decided to get the bad news out of the way early in his speech to about 75 people at the Keokuk Country Club.

He started off by looking at the city’s revenue situation, breaking down how much money comes in through property taxes, TIF districts and state and federal aid.

The six men vying to be Burlington’s next city manager have plenty on their schedules while in town this weekend.

The selection process gets underway Friday morning with individual tours of the city.

Each candidate will be joined by a member of the city council and a representative of the Chamber of Commerce.

8:30 A.M. – 10:30 A.M. – William Way

9:30 A.M. – 11:30 A.M. – Ronald Chandler

10:30 A.M. – 12:30 P.M. – Alan Lanning

12:00 P.M. – 2:00 P.M. – Edward Sadler

1:00 P.M. – 3:00 P.M. – Steven Winger

LEE COUNTY

The Lee County Board of Supervisors and the union representing employees of the Sheriff’s Office have each signed off on a new two year employment contract.

The deal includes a 3%wage increase on July 1and a 1.5%increase on July 1, 2013.

It also changes holiday pay calculations,requires quicker use of vacation time and increases deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums related to health insurance.

The new contract runs through June 30, 2014.

 

FORT MADISON - SCHOOL

One local mayor says Lee County would be better off making his community the home of county government.

The Park Ridge Workshop complex in Montrose features more than 30,000 square feet of space.

The price tag for the three steel buildings has been reduced to $385,000.

Mayor Bob Reid says they could house the Lee County Conservation and Health Departments as opposed to a brand new building along Highway 61.

In fact, he says the buildings are large enough to handle all of county government, especially with expansion capabilities.

Lee County is looking into whether a construction project is damaging county roads.

Crews are working to raise the levee surrounding the Green Bay Drainage District.

Several residents told the Lee County Board of Supervisors, during this week’s meeting, that some gravel roads are being severely damaged by the heavy equipment needed for the project.

They say the contractor is using a shortcut instead of utilizing off-road opportunities.

Fort Madison residents can weigh in on the city’s spending plan next week.

A public hearing and the initial city council vote on the $25-million spending plan are scheduled for Tuesday, February 21.

City Manager Byron Smith says the budget could be considered status quo.

“I would not say bare-bone, but it is kind of basic for what we are doing,” says Smith.  “We did not propose any major staffing increases or decreases.”

Smith says money is available for employee raises and to expand nuisance enforcement.

Lee County is being asked to help enhance rural recycling opportunities.

The Great River Regional Waste Authority has about a dozen community trailers located throughout the county, including two in Donnellson.

That city is looking to switch to a curbside recycling program, which would prevent rural residents from dropping off their recyclables.

General Manager Wade Hamm says the authority is asking the county to hire a hauler to transport all of its trailers to the Fort Madison facility.

Around The Region

Feb 12, 2012

West Burlington

The Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission is working on a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy for its region: Des Moines, Henry, Lee & Louisa Counties.

Executive Director Mike Norris says the goal is to create a single plan for housing, economic development, transportation and infrastructure.

He says the commission received more than 300 online surveys and conducted another 60 interviews as part of the public input phase.

The Des Moines County Board of Supervisors appears willing to help one of the county’s largest employers.

Representatives of Great River Medical Center have approached the county about issuing $60-million in bonds on the hospital’s behalf.

The money being borrowed would be split between the construction of a new building and to refinance some of the hospital’s previous debt.

The Klein Center nursing facility will have about 160 bed, which is an increase compared to the current structure.

Jason Parrott’s guest is Russ Derr, who is the principal at Wells Carey and George Washington Elementary Schools.  They talk about the Weekend Backpack Nutrition program in Keokuk.

Students within the Keokuk School District are in the midst of a 3 ½ day weekend due to parent-teacher conferences.

Derr says students in homes where there is not a lot of food have learned to make it through a regular weekend before they can return for breakfast on Monday morning.

He says the extra time off makes it more difficult for students to get by.

Lee County must wait a little longer to put its proposed budget for next year on display.

The Board of Supervisors was ready to set a public hearing on the roughly $26-million spending for Tuesday, Feb. 21.

That plan changed, though, after the county received an email from the state that said its proposed property tax rate must be changed.

CPC Administrator Ryanne Wood says Lee County brings in tax revenue to help pay for day-to-day services for those with mental health or other developmental disabilities.

Around The Region

Feb 8, 2012

Keokuk

A 6th person has been arrested as part of a meth-making investigation in Keokuk.

Lindsay Riddle, 26, of 1813 Bank Street has been charged with conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine near a city park and in the presence of a minor.

The Lee County Narcotics Task Force says she faces up to 35 years in prison.

Authorities discovered items used in the “shake-and-bake” method of meth production while executing a search warrant at Riddle’s residence last month.

 

Fort Madison

The Keokuk City Council will play “catch-up” when it comes to some capital projects.

Mayor Tom Marion says the city could not afford to purchase new vehicles or replace some heavy equipment in the current budget.

He says that will not be repeated in the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Marion says the age and condition of Keokuk’s vehicle fleet dictate spending nearly $2-million.

He says the city will try to obtain credit from local banks to pay for the capital expenses.

Des Moines County’s proposed budget for next year requires another round of cuts.

Chairman Tom Broeker says the Board of Supervisors requested departmental budgets that covered needs but did not include frivolous spending.

He says that is what the panel received, but cuts were still needed.

The Board of Supervisors trimmed the initial departmental requests by more than $500,000.

That includes about $400,000 in the maintenance department and about $110,000 in conservation.

The organization representing Southeastern Community College’s faculty says it is worried that President Beverly Simone is jeopardizing the college’s accreditation.

The SCC Higher Education Association has sent a letter to the college’s Board of Trustees outlining its latest concerns and some possible solutions.

The SCC HEA expressed no confidence in Dr. Simone last year.

The college’s Board of Trustees said, after several months, that it remains confident in her and her commitment to the college.

Around The Region

Feb 6, 2012

Keokuk

The Keokuk City Council has created an application for special events with alcohol.

The form is designed to help city staff keep up with requests.

It requires information such as date, time, location and estimated attendance.

The city council approved its first application shortly after creating the document.

It was on behalf of the annual Rollin on the River blues festival in Victory Park.

 

Keokuk

The Keokuk City Council has created a union negotiating committee.

A proposal in Des Moines could result in more money for Keokuk Area Hospital.

Rep. Jerry Kearns (D-Keokuk) has filed legislation asking the Iowa Department of Human Services to recalculate one of its hospital funding formulas.

He says the state makes money available to hospitals that do not receive adequate reimbursement for care of low income patients.

Kearns says that state funding can be used to leverage even more federal money.

The Keokuk City Council needs more information before acting on a rezoning request for a local business.

Saint Louis Gear Company would like to move its operations from Royal Road to the Faith Family Church along Main Street.

President Dan Hodges says his company has outgrown its current plant and he does not want to have to move outside of the city.

“Keokuk is my hometown and I want to continue to try to build jobs in Keokuk,” says Hodges.

The move would require about 5.5 acres of land be rezoned for industrial use.

Burlington’s upcoming budget is expected to include money for a popular community attraction.

The city’s current budget does not include any money for Dankwardt Pool.

The former city council felt the pool had reached the point where its condition did not justify further investments.

The only reason the pool opened its doors, last summer, was community support and donations.

Interim City Manager Dan Luttenegger says this city council does not want to repeat last year’s decision on Dankwardt Pool.

Around The Region

Feb 2, 2012

- Burlington -

Burlington has expanded its list of finalists for city manager.

The city council has decided to add Alan Lanning, who currently serves as City Manager of Central City, CO.

He replaces an individual who withdrew from consideration prior to the names of the finalists being released to the public.

Lanning and the other five finalists are scheduled to be in Burlington on February 17 & 18 for a series of interviews and public forums.

Police Chief Dan Luttenegger is serving as interim city manager.

 

- West Burlington -

Burlington has released the names of the five finalists for city manager.

Two are currently serving in an administrative capacity.

- Edward Sadler as City Manager in Webster City, Iowa.

- Steven Winger as City Administrator in Center Point, Iowa.

Two others recently left their positions in city government.

- Ronald Chandler served as City Manager in Cedar City, Utah until the first of the year.

- Robert Knabel (kuh-NAY-bull) left his post as Collinsville, Illinois City Manager in November.

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