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Old 02-17-2018, 06:55 PM
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Default Week in Review Feb. 15, 2018

NCSD grapples with budget

Facing the possibility of layoffs, officials in the Newton Community School district were keeping a close eye on the state legislature this week.

Last week, the House and the Senate moved forward with education funding bills, a priority for governor Kim Reynolds.

The governor had budgeted for a 1.5 percent increase in school funding, at a cost of $54 million, but the house and the senate are at odds over the final number, with the house passing a 1 percent increase of $32 million in House File 2230. The senate amended the bill with an additional $14 million, earmarked to address transportation inequalities in Iowa’s most rural districts.

Rep. Wes Breckenridge, D-Newton, said he doesn’t feel like the funding bill goes far enough to address the needs of local school districts. Voting against the bill last week, Breckenridge said he believes the state needs to do more.

Newton mangets 25 years in sex abuse case

Dustin W. Cooper, 39, was sentenced to 25 years in prison in Jasper County District Court after pleading guilty to five counts of second-degree sex abuse.

Cooper pleaded guilty in November and was sentenced after his brother, Shawn D. Cooper, 42, was deemed incompetent to stand trial last month. The Newton brothers were accused of sexually abusing the same 10-year-old girl over the course of four months.

During the sentencing hearing, Assistant Jasper County Attorney Peter Blink read a victim impact statement written by the 10-year-old’s parents. They stated the shock that something like this happened to their little girl still remains.

“You took something that is supposed to be special to women away from her, and she will never get it back,” the parents wrote. “... You have hurt my child, you took away my normal, precious little girl ... we hope that after today we never see you walk free again.”

Two arrested for county burglaries

Following an investigation by the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office, a Newton pair is facing multiple theft charges for several burglaries in the county.

Law enforcement arrested Charles Loudermilk, 49, after a short vehicle pursuit Monday. Kristen Miller, 34, was also arrested after eluding police in a different vehicle at the same time.

The incident happened in the 5400 block of East Eighth Street North when deputies noticed an active arrest warrant for Loudermilk, as well as additional charges of burglary. When he fled, he drove through a ditch and law enforcement stopped him.

The vehicle Loudermilk was driving was reported stolen Dec. 24, 2017, and deputies also found a firearm inside the vehicle. A second vehicle in the area, driven by Miller, attempted to elude police. The vehicle was stopped at the 6800 block of Cone Street.

VA Board tightens up financial assistance

A recent review of records at the Jasper County Veterans Affairs Office has shown some individuals who don’t meet the state of Iowa’s definition of a veteran have been receiving emergency financial assistance from the office.

During the Commission of Veterans Affairs monthly board meeting Wednesday director Kurt Jackson asked the Commissioners to clarify the guidelines for emergency financial assistance.

“The reason I’m bringing this up is because we’ve been taking care of some veterans who don’t qualify as veterans,” Jackson said.

Jackson said he and his assistant Keith Thorpe first noticed the discrepancy while they worked to update and computerize the records system at the Veterans Affairs office. After reviewing the records, Jackson said he and Thorpe found individuals who have received emergency assistance payments from the VA office that do not qualify as veterans under the state of Iowa’s code.

PC plans action on abandoned properties

Prairie City leaders are taking action against abandoned and dilapidated properties and structures in town, and the city council amended the city code in January to align with that posture.

The new code provision allows the city attorney to file action against a blighted property, asking a judge to grant the city the title. In some cases, the property and its structures could be deemed a public safety concern if the building or home is collapsing.

According to Prairie City city attorney John Judisch, petitioning the court for a property title also wipes out any mortgages or leans that might still be against the property, allowing the structure to be rehabbed, or, in the majority of cases, demolished and the property sold to a responsible owner.

Judisch said this would be a last resort measure, employed when the property or home owner is unable to be located and the property is showing serious signs of blight.

While debating the amendment, city council members said the abandoned property measure is not to be used as a threat to homeowners to bring structures into compliance.

“The city doesn’t want to be in the repossession business. We don’t want to have to foreclose to get things done. We want to keep these (properties) on the tax line,” councilman John Lee said. “I think what your talking about should be the very, very last step in the process in getting something done. ... If it’s a true health risk to the public then, yes, something should be done.”

Monroe opts for reflectors at four-way stop

The Monroe City Council is taking a different spin on a proposal to install additional traffic safety devices at a major four-way stop on Highway 14.

North and southbound drivers crossing the intersection at Monroe Street/Highway 14 and Sherman Street will soon be alerted by rotating reflectors mounted atop the stop signs. The council voted 5-0 Monday night at its regular monthly meeting to install two wind-powered SpinAlert Reflective Hazard Warning Devices, in an effort to draw more attention to the traffic controls at the intersection and curb an increase in vehicles running the stop signs.

The reflectors are a less expensive compromise to the flashing LED stop signs proposed last month by Monroe Police Chief Nick Chambers. One LED stop sign would have cost the city roughly $1,200, compared to one 10 by 12-inch spinning reflector at $85.

Monroe Public Works Director Jeff Timmins was not in favor of the LED lights and proposed the reflectors as an alternative. The Iowa Department of Transportation did give the city approval to install additional traffic controls at the intersection, but also did not recommend the LED stop signs due to their high replacement costs, should they be hit by a vehicle.

Chambers told the Monroe Legacy in January he’s witnessed motorists on multiple occasions unknowingly drive straight through the intersection without stopping. The chief said the individuals are usually not Monroe residents and claim they did not see the stop sign.

Rock the Quarry concert expanded

This summer, Colfax will host a new town gathering that aims to bring people from around the state to simply relax in Colfax for a nice weekend.

According to Colfax Park and Auxiliary Board president, Doug Garrett, this new event, dubbed Relax in Colfax, will expand the Rock the Quarry concert at Quarry Springs Park into a weekend full of fun festivities.

The summer concert will feature three musical acts – country artist, Jason Brown, rock cover band, Back Alley Jam and local favorite, Richard Arndt and the Brew. The weekend, which will be held June 23 through June 24, will also be headlined with softball and disc golfing tournaments.




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