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Hog Issues Resurface

The Union County Board of Supervisors’ boardroom Monday was once again the scene of the debate between a young farmer wanting to erect a hog confinement unit and community forces concerned about its environmental impact. Rockin’ G Ranch has submitted an application for a swine facility in Spaulding Township.

As required, the Union County Supervisors have scored the Master Matrix. Waste discharge is of particular concern in any such operation. Kent Krouse of Pinnacle, who developed Rockin’ G’s Manure Management Plan, outlines inspection measures addressed in the plan.

The Manure Management Plan allows for self-inspection. Justin Geidel of Rockin’ G further explains that means visually inspecting tile lines and immediately notifying the DNR of any discharge.

But is that good enough?, questions citizen Mary Jane Weishaar, who would like to see state inspectors take on the responsibility to protect the public health.

The unit will utilize underground pit manure storage and Krause says all the manure will be used locally as fertilizer.

The new facility will also utilize an EPA-approved composting structure for composting carcasses.

The Board of Supervisors approved the application, although that has little significance in the process. The county can voice objection, but the ultimate decision rests with the DNR at the state level, and it relies primarily on the Master Matrix score.

Geidel is working with the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers to add trees and other measures to reduce odor.

School Board Talks Money, Barns and Jobs

Among the items presented for action at Monday night’s Creston School Board meeting was the 2014-2015 Certified Budget. Following a public hearing devoid of public, the budget was passed unanimously. The total budget is nearly $5 million less than last year. The tax levy will remain the same, while other revenues showed a decline. Expenditures for Facilities Acquisition and Construction, and Debt Service, also declined, balancing the budget at just under $22 million.

The last of the 2012 tornado-related projects is still on the drawing board – the bus barn. Superintendent Steve McDermott says the plans are now at the State Fire Marshall’s office awaiting approval. Once the OK is given, bid packets will be available to contractors. He says there are contractors who have expressed interest and have begun planning, so he expects good response.

McDermott was reminded the day was the second anniversary of the storm. The project has been plagued with problems, and the pressure is on to complete the structure this construction season to avoid another barnless winter.

McDermott also informed the board of a recent speaking engagement at a Cromwell Church Lenten Breakfast, where he talked about the school’s plans for technology; and the continued partnership with Prescott leading to a possible consolidation vote next spring.

There were staff issues to address as well. Current Business Manager Roy Stroud is vacating the position due to health issues. McDermott says the district has advertised and has received response from several good applicants.

Among the other resignations received were Elementary Literacy Coach Becky Riley, who will retire the end of this school year, and building and grounds maintenance supervisor Gary Latham. McDermott says the unions are requesting a review of substitute pay for all positions. The issue will come before the board in the near future.

The board also approved 110 students for graduation on May 25, and approved student fees for the 2014-2015 school year with no changes from the current year.

The next board of director’s meeting will be held Monday, May 19, 6 p.m., in the boardroom at 801 N. Elm Street.

A New Way of Banking is Coming to Creston

A new technology is coming to Creston. It's called an Interactive Teller Machine, or ITM. PCSB Bank Marketing Assistant Dawn Loudon says the machines look similar to an ATM, but when buttons are pushed, a teller appears on the screen to guide the customer through their transactions.

Loudon says customers can expect to perform the same banking functions they would inside the bank, from deposits and withdrawals to loan payments and more specific needs.

She says just because it's a machine, doesn't mean you won't get personal service. The teller machines are manned by a crew at the Clarinda call center, enlisted and trained for the special force.

The machines will eventually replace the tube system drive-throughs. The outside lane will be installed in July, with the inside lane to come this fall.

The ITMs will be available 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 to 1 on Saturday. Loudon says the expanded banking hours are one of the perks of the new addition.

PCSB is one of the first banks in the country to implement the Interactive Teller Machines.

You can contact Dawn Loudon at PCSB Bank in Creston for more information.

Chamber Helps Paint a New Face

Do you have the urge to tackle that big paint project this year, but just don’t have the funds? A program to help Creston residents paint their homes is in need of applicants. Creston Chamber of Commerce Director Ellen Gerharz explains the program will provide the paint; the homeowner must provide the labor. Nineteen homes have been painted through the program over the past five years. The paint is purchased locally.

Applications are available at the Creston Chamber of Commerce office on Highway 34. The homeowner must be the resident of the home.

She says homeowners also need to be aware there are no tax repercussions for the upgrade. A homeowner’s property valuation will not increase.

Gerharz says the city has a vested interest in home preservation. Every house maintained, is one less house to be torn down.

The program will also cover the cost of painting supplies such as scrapers and brushes for approved applicants.

Plans Progress for Ranger Residence

Plans for a new Park Ranger residence at 3-Mile Lake are nearing completion. Conservation Officer Doug Jones reviewed details of the bid packets with the Board of Supervisors last week. With final approval by the Conservation Board, bid packets are headed to contractors. Jones says they are hoping for a bid opening in around a month.

Between the bid opening and bid letting, the Conservation Board will review the bids and make any recommendations to the Board of Supervisors. The project will be bid in three segments – a modular home, the basement and foundation, and the septic system. Some site work will be required.

A fourth bid will go out later for log siding for the home. Jones says they hope to start construction toward the end of June, but the timeline is still somewhat fluid. He says if all goes well, the house may be finished by September or October.

The house will replace an old residence that was deemed beyond repair.

More Bad Bridges for Union County

The annual bridge inspection report is in. Union County bridges are inspected by Calhoun-Burns & Associates, transportation structure experts, of West Des Moines. The report cites six bridges that require lower weight limits due to structural problems.

Union County Engineer Steve Akes says two bridges on the list are in the program to be replaced in coming years. And two more could be repaired, like one on Redwood Avenue in Sand Creek Township, just reduced from legal weight to a 20 ton limit. County crews can encapsulate the rotted wood pilings in concrete, increasing the longevity of the structure.

Another, on Eagle Avenue in Platte Township, is also slated for repair. The bridge’s weight limit was lowered from 6 tons to 3 tons. Akes says they plan to replace the deck. The repair will not increase the weight limit of the bridge, but it will make it safer.

But some of the structures are not so easy. Akes says it can sometimes be hard to justify a new bridge on a little used, or in some cases, Level B, road. That’s the case with one bridge in Pleasant Township, reduced from 6 to 3 tons. The traffic count on the road is 10 cars a day, one of the lowest in the county, but as Supervisor Ron Riley reminded Akes, those 10 are important to someone.

Bridges are generally inspected every two years unless they have been flagged as in need of more attention.

Greenfield True Value Changes Hands

True Value Hardware and Rental in Greenfield has a new owner. Dave Wallace of Greenfield purchased the store from Kent Sinn in February. Sinn is the owner of the True Value in Creston. Wallace also owns the NAPA stores in Greenfield and Stuart.

Before the purchase was complete, there was plenty to be done. Dave Wallace says it was about six months ahead of the final purchase that he and Sinn made preparations.

Wallace took over on February 7. Right now, he is still waiting for the final floor plan. However, many renovations will be done before then. Purchase of the store will include renovations to give it a more updated look.

Another improvement to the store will be the lawn and garden area. Wallace plans to put on a greenhouse attached to the building, so plants have more shelter from weather.

The greenhouse will not be a part of the plans for this year; however, this will be a busy year for the store. Most construction will be in the next two months, and interior changes will be in July and August.

When the purchase occurred, all lawn mower and chainsaw parts were moved to Creston True Value. Parts manager Bob Hogan has been ordering new parts daily to restock the inventory. He says most inventory has been restocked, and customers are still able to get anything by order.  In addition to parts, the rental department is going to continue and lawn mower service will continue.

All employees were able to stay on under the new owner. Wallace does not intend to close the store at any time during the renovations. New lawn mowers will be arriving in the next couple weeks and plants will arrive at normal time, later this month.

New hours for Greenfield True Value are 7:30 to 5:30 Monday through Friday, 7:30 to 4:00 on Saturdays and noon to 5 on Sundays. The manager of True Value in Greenfield is Doug Buckner.

The Creston True Value will continue to be managed by Sinn.

Learning from Data

Student progress is measured by a series of tests administered throughout the year. Data is charted, graphed, and analyzed – not only for its comparison against No Child Left Behind benchmarks, but for its insight into each student’s strengths and weaknesses. Creston Pre-K – 3rd Grade Principal Callie Anderson addresses the Creston Board of Directors with the latest stats to come to the district.

Anderson explains the data presentation, highlighting the conundrum facing Creston and other schools in the coming year – No Child Left Behind demands 100 percent proficiency, or the district will face sanctions.

The No Child Left Behind achievement goals are set based on a percentage of proficient students, with the percentage growing each year. Andersen says there are better ways to measure educational success – like measuring individual student growth over their previous year’s scores.

Board Chairman Galen Zumbach agrees, comparing the scenario to the difference between teaching football skills to improve players’ performance, and expecting every player to make it to the NFL.

Anderson says that’s why following trends within the data offer more relevant information to direct teaching strategies. The district has adopted a goal of one year’s academic growth each year for all students.

No Child Left Behind sanctions have already required the district to direct Title I funds into professional development. If the 100 percent goal is not met, more sanctions will likely follow.

Understanding School Budgets

The Creston Schools Superintendent and the District Board of Directors has the 2014-2015 Certified Budget ready for the publication and public approval process. At the most recent board meeting, Larry Sigel, School Finance Director with the Iowa Association of School Boards, delivered a video presentation on the certified budget process.

Sigel says the certified budget is the first step in the process, and as such has its limitations. Funds are lumped together to come up with total dollars, and that can be misleading to the public who may not be aware certain expenditures must come from certain funds.   

Standardized worksheets help, with districts filling in what blanks they can, but Sigel says much of the picture is out of their control. Funding is related to property tax values and student populations.

The deadline to certify the budget is April 15, and it is meant to be an estimate. A line-item budget will be developed over the summer with monthly expenses tracked throughout the school year.

According to the Certified Budget, Creston’s school levy will remain the same as last year at just more than 15 cents per $1,000 valuation.

The Public Hearing for the Creston School District 2014-2015 Certified Budget is set for Monday, April 14, 6 p.m., in the district boardroom at 801 N. Elm Street.

It's Time for Road Construction to Begin

Winter is almost a distant memory – and that means road construction season is upon us. Union County engineer Steve Akes gives a run-down of projects scheduled around the county.

A bridge on 167th Street northeast of Thayer is scheduled for replacement. Akes says a July 15 letting is scheduled. The DOT has not yet set the start date, but with the July letting it will be August 15 at the earliest.

The county crews will tackle a second bridge project on 197th. They will begin taking bids for materials soon. Akes says the project will involve more grading than many the county does themselves.

The process is about to begin on improvements to the REA road. Two large culverts will be replaced. The project is scheduled for an April letting, and work should be completed this season, but Akes says it will take longer than that to have the road back to normal. The immediate area around the culverts will be rocked temporarily, then allowed to settle for at least a year, before the pavement is replaced. The rock stretches on the REA road will be dust-treated and properly signed.

The diamond grinding projects on the High & Dry and Cromwell roads have been let and will be done sometime this summer, but no exact date has been set.


Board of Supervisors Considers Enterprise Zone

A subdivision planned for the west edge of town will likely take advantage of a popular economic development tool.

The Union County Board of Supervisors on Monday considered the creation of an Enterprise Zone on the west edge of Creston. If approved, the zone will encompass the Cottonwood Subdivision. Union County Development Association Director Wayne Pantini presented the plan to the board.

Qualifying counties can designate up to 1 percent of its total acreage for Enterprise Zones. The program provides benefits for the developer, who must apply to the state, in the form of tax credits on the property and development, and rebates on products purchased. In order for that application to take place, the county must create the Enterprise Zone.

The program is due to change June 30. A new set of rules coming out of the Legislature will limit development of “green fields” – areas like Cottonwood that are on undeveloped land. The new program will focus more on infill and second story housing. That makes it more beneficial for the Cottonwood developer to apply under the current program.

The subdivision is a city project. The county must create the Enterprise Zone, but it is the city that must work out the intricacies of public infrastructure and choose a developer. The council has shown interest in a condo proposal presented by Sonntag Construction of Atlantic, but a decision has yet to be made. Pantini is hoping that will happen soon to keep the project in motion.

Since it has been several years since the last Enterprise Zone was created, the supervisors will review the program, and likely take up a vote on the issue next week.

Once created, an Enterprise Zone generally lasts for 10 years.

It's Good to Share with Others

In the real world of elementary and secondary education, school districts share all sorts of things – facilities, transportation, personnel. Sharing teachers is perhaps the most common, allowing small districts to provide a more extensive array of classes. In presenting annual sharing agreements to be approved by the Board of Directors, Creston Superintendent Steve McDermott outlines the current arrangements.

Several teachers are shared with other districts, mostly in the areas of physical education and special subjects. McDermott says sharing can provide a wider variety of classes for students, but it is also used as a scheduling tool. Creston shares with Murray, Mt. Ayr, Nodaway Valley, and Lenox.

O-M students can take basically any Creston High School course they would like. Principal Bill Messerole says upper-level math, science and English, industrial tech, music, and foreign language  are the most popular. Creston also shares a transportation supervisor with O-M. The Board approved the current agreements. Last year, it declined to renew an agreement with Diagonal in an attempt to streamline the music department.

Creston also shares with Prescott, where the Creston Board has opened the door for movements toward eventual joining of the districts. That sharing agreement includes the Superintendent and business Manager.

Board action included approval of a sharing agreement with Southwestern Community College. The agreement covers classes taken through the college by Creston High School students. High School Principal Bill Messerole says more than 121 students take more than 25 classes. SWCC bills the school each semester by the credit hour, at a reduced rate.

McDermott also presented for approval a list of 14 open enrollment applications into the district. The students represent eight families. He explains the list does not include open enrollments out of the district, as the decision to approve or deny the application rests with the receiving district.

He says the reasons for open enrolling are varied and mostly depend on family circumstance.

Sometimes the reason for switching districts is a common misconception, as people assume a smaller district will mean a smaller class size. That is not necessarily the case. McDermott says he always counsels families and tries to leave the door open should their circumstances change.

In addition to its regular April meeting, the Creston School District Board of Directors will meet Monday, April 14, to hold public hearings on its Certified Budget and 2014-2015 Calendar.

Creston Hires Director of Instruction

Creston Schools will see a new face next year. The Creston School District has hired a Director of Instruction. Kevin Teno will join the district on July 1. The position was created under Interim Superintendent Chuck Scott, through a reorganization of administrators. But the spot has remained unfilled for a year.

When current Superintendent Steve McDermott came on the scene last July, he began working with administrators to define the job description. Though the process, current administration determined certain aspects of oversight and scheduling were best left in their hands.

McDermott sees this as a more realistic plan for a position designed to coordinate programs for special populations as well as ensure academic progress for all students.

The district has now filled the position. Teno comes from the Sioux Central School district in Northwest Iowa. He has spent 13 years as a principal and has worked with special ed programming. He also has experience with the TAG, or Talented and Gifted Program. McDermott describes Teno as a “detail person,” a characteristic he sees as a plus for the position and the district.

In other news from Monday’s Board of Director’s meeting, the school district and the teacher’s union have begun the contract negotiation process for this round. McDermott says initial proposals have been exchanged and are being considered by both sides.

Parent-Teacher Conferences are the Place to Be

Creston High School Principal Bill Messerole gave a report to the Creston school board Monday night. He highlighted attendance at parent-teacher conferences, adding that he met with the principals of the Hawkeye 10 conference schools last week.

Creston's parent-teacher conference attendance for the spring semester was nearly 85 percent, and Red Oak's was 90 percent, while Denison's was only 40.  All other Hawkeye 10 schools were below 60 percent attendance.

Messerole's report also included a detailed study sent to him by Northwest Missouri State University – including grade point averages of 15 Creston High School graduates who attend. Creston students’ GPA average is 3.39, compared to 2.79 average for all students.

He adds the report also breaks down the English, Math and Science classes. All of Iowa's regent universities used to do this, but no longer provide the information.

Messerole also reported that 3 Creston school personnel, 25 students, and himself will attend the Governor's Conference on Bullying on April 1st.

Elm's Club Burger Hailed Again

The Elm's Club in Creston has one of the best burgers in the state, according to the Iowa Beef Industry Council. The IBIC hosts the Iowa's Best Burger contest every year, and the Elm's Club has survived the first round of voting to land in the top ten – for the second year in a row. Owner Donna King says the delicacy is a hand-formed 1/3 pound pattie (with special secret spices) on a 53 percent whole-wheat bun.

Aside from the standard cheeseburger and patty melt, the Elm's has also recently added a Bacon Blue Burger made with Maytag Blue Cheese. Customers had a chance to vote on their choice for the top burger, and King says today's mass communication definitely helped.

Now in it's fifth year, the contest garners thousands of votes each year. Burgers are judged on taste, appearance, presentation, and quality of cooking methods.

Mike and Donna King have owned the Elm's Club since 1976, and Mike's brother Gus joined them 12 years later. It's not the first time they've made a “top” list. Aside from last year's Top Ten Burger finalist, 11 years ago they were named runner-up in the Iowa's Best Tenderloin contest. Donna says there are benefits to the distinction. They do see traffic that comes specifically to check out the prize-winning offerings.

But she says it's not just one month of voting that matters, it's the ongoing support. She thanks the regular customers and the staff for maintaining the quality the establishment has to offer.

A covert team of judges will now visit the top ten sites, then select the overall winner to be announced the first week of May – Beef Month.

The Elm's Club is located at 108 North Elm Street in Creston.


East Union Taps State Grant Program

East Union Schools is taking advantage of a statewide initiative to improve education. East Union Superintendent of Schools Pam Vogel says East Union is one of 39 districts in the state to receive the Teacher Leadership Compensation grant. That means $309 per student for a TAP, or Teacher Advancement Program.

The funds will enable the district to hire two Master Teachers. The teacher leaders must come from within East Union’s ranks and will earn an extra $10,000 per year to focus full-time on improving teaching. The funds will also pay to hire two teachers to replace those promoted, and an extra $5,000 per year each for four Mentor Teachers, who will aid younger teachers in addition to their regular classroom duties.

The total cost to the district will be $175,000-180,000.

The State Legislature has pledged $50 million a year for the effort, in the name of ongoing funding. The 39 schools receiving the grant account for around one-third of Iowa students. The idea is to utilize teaching experience and excellence by helping all teachers to achieve better results. Vogel says with all today's talk about student test scores, it's important for people to understand the emphasis remains on education, not just numbers.

Teachers hired for the initiative are required to take additional training over the summer. East Union will be teaming with North Polk and East Marshall for the training.

County Honors Longevity

Four Union County Employees were honored Monday for their long-time service. Union County Board of Supervisors Chairman Dennis Brown explains.

Union County Recorder Paula White, County Attorney Tim Kenyon, and Assessor Gene Haner were all honored for 30 years of service to the county. Engineer Steve Akes was recognized for 35 years in county government, the last five in Union County.

Brown says the experience and expertise these people bring to their jobs is invaluable to the county.

County elected officials do not work for the Board of Supervisors. They are elected in their own right, and as such are autonomous, answering only to the citizens. The Board of Supervisors does have final approval of their budgets.

Brown says the “on the job training” the county has provided these people has been a good public investment – resulting in people who know how to do their jobs and solve problems with efficiency and professionism.

White and Kenyon are seeking re-election this year to their positions of Recorder and County Attorney. Akes as county engineer is a hired employee and Haner intends to retire as County Assessor later this year.

Farmers Work to Feed the World

National Agriculture Day. This is the day to celebrate and appreciate what those engaged in agriculture do to provide us with the food, fuel and fiber we need for our daily lives. One area farmer is putting in double duty – producing and working to increase world markets for products. Roger Brummett of Bedford is the newly-elected chairman of the Iowa Beef Industry Council.

He says farming has changed through the years. The scientific information used in crop and livestock production has expanded tremendously thanks to research at land grant universities and also the private sector. He says given the drought conditions of the past few years, he is amazed he can produce a crop at all – and that is due to drought resistant crop varieties produced by plant geneticists. In the livestock sector, advances in housing, nutrition, and breeding have allowed efficiencies that translate into better buys for the consumer.

He says it can at times be hard for the consumer to understand the forces at work behind the scenes, and they may not believe advances have been to their advantage given the current price of beef. But that is due to a supply shortage, with the U.S. beef herd at the lowest since the late 1940s. He adds drought conditions in areas of the U.S. are a driving that. Likewise, many producers have converted cow/calf pasture to corn and soy beans because the economics have dictated that.

There have been many changes in agriculture due to science, and that science can sometimes be controversial. Brummett says he “reads with interest” the opposition to GMOs, and news items like recent stories of Norman Borlaug work with wheat varieties that aided starving countries, and realizes those are emotional issues. But for him and many of his fellow producers, the concern is being able to feed the world.

Food producers around the world have been given a daunting mission – to double food production by 2050. The combination of increasing world population and increased world-wide standard of living create practical challenges as well as moral ones.

He says ag producers have a moral obligation to help people have sustainable diets. When a family is hungry, there are negative effects – anarchy, and child development that depends on adequate nutrition.

Brummett grew up in the Bedford area and graduated from Bedford High School. He attended Iowa Sate University and spent several years as a county extension agent and beef specialist before settling into his own beef operation where he will artificially inseminate around 200 cows this year. There are around 2 million farms in the U.S., each farmer feeds an estimated 155 people.

People in the U.S. spend less of their disposable income on food than anywhere in the world. They have a safe and abundant food supply, and money to spend on entertainment and recreation, and Brummett says, that is because of scientific developments. He hopes what has been a positive for Americans will continue to be a positive for the world.

Iowa ranks third in the nation in dollars received from agricultural production, behind California and Texas. It leads the country in pork and corn production.

Brummett will leave this Friday on a trade tip to China, where he will join Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey and representatives of the Iowa Department of Economic Development, along with other beef and ag producers and spokesmen.

Council Talks Housing

Housing issues were on the Creston City Council agenda last week. The council approved a deadline extension on a Neighborhood Stabilization Program development agreement with Union County Development. The amendment changes the completion date for a housing project on South Elm Street until September 15. UCDA Director Wayne Pantini says the project is on budget and mostly completed, but weather conditions have held up the final landscaping and parking.

He says they are currently seeking bids for that part of the project. He hopes to have the work done yet this spring, but the original completion date was March 15.

He says he hopes the home will soon be sold.

The council also engaged in discussion concerning a recent field trip to Atlantic to view condominiums developed by Don Sonntag. Sonntag has approached the council about developing similar units in the Cottonwood Subdivision. Councilman Loyal Winborn said he would like to see the project given consideration as one possible way to move the subdivision development forward and begin recouping tax revenue.

The council will continue to explore the condo project. No firm decisions have yet been made. Questions concerning the development of the Cottonwood Subdivision can be addressed to City Manager Mike Taylor at City Hall.

A New Payment Plan

Two road construction vouchers for $1,000 each were approved by the Union County Board of Supervisors this week. But these were different than usual. The vouchers were for work not yet begun. Union County Engineer Steve Akes says they the federal government does not like to see a project lying idle, so the county is now required to make a payment in order to activate the contract.

And so the early contract payments - $1,000 each on the High & Dry and Cromwell Roads for this summer’s diamond grinding projects. Akes says it is a method that is hard to get used to, and makes appears to make little sense.

The move is purely to satisfy the feds that the project is an active project, and Supervisor Ron Riley agrees.

Akes says previously, a letter of explanation would suffice if a project lingered in inactive status for too long. This is the first year this approach has been required.

The projects are slated to begin later this summer.

Check SIRWA Meters for Winter Damage

It's been a long, cold winter. The ground is finally starting to thaw, and with it, water pipes, tile lines – and SIRWA meters. Dan McIntosh is the manager of the Southern Iowa Rural Water Association. He says like pipes, meters can be damaged as they thaw.

He says generally the problem is discovered when the customer loses water, but even if you haven't had noticeable problems, you may need to check your meters. The meter pit can fill up with water as the ground thaws and that is not unusual, but if water is bubbling out of the top, call SIRWA immediately to make repairs.

McIntosh says it won't be long before SIRWA will be able to identify problems more quickly. Currently, SIRWA, like most utilities, reads meters once a month. By year’s end they will switch to a system that reads meters daily. That will help identify a problem much sooner.

He adds no one wants to see a precious resource like water wasted, even if it's Mother Nature's fault.

SIRWA can be reached by calling 641-782-5744.

County Roads Weathered the Winter

For Union County Secondary Roads, spring is a time to switch gears. For Engineer Steve Akes, that means taking the year’s first good hard look at the shape of roads following winter’s cold and snow. He says there does not appear to be any extreme or unusual problems.

County crews have changed their focus from cutting brush, a popular winter activity, to hauling spot rock.

Akes says conditions are nearly perfect for rock application, and the rock is available. Crews have also been busy picking up trash dumped in road ditches. And preparing for the first major construction project of the season – a double culvert replacement on the REA Road.

Also on the 2014 road construction calendar is the diamond grinding on the High & Dry and Cromwell Roads, slated for later this summer; and a DOT bridge replacement west of Creston.

Treasurer's Report Brings Good News

Union County Treasurer Kelly Busch presented her monthly reports for January and February to the Board of Supervisors Monday. Busch says all fund balances look good, and taxes are coming in on schedule. She has made some changes to the mailing contract for outgoing tax statements.

The cost for the mail prep and mailing increased slightly over last year. Busch and Union County Auditor Sandy Hysell say having the service prepare statements is much preferable to the old days of late nights stuffing envelopes, as well as saving the Treasurer's office a significant amount of money.

All totaled it costs around $3,000 per year to subcontract the statements. The contact covers

If you missed the March 1 deadline, property taxes are NOW DUE to the county treasurer's office.

Shooting for Fun

There is a new opportunity for shooting enthusiasts to practice and compete in southwest Iowa. At 3-Mile Lake, the new High Lakes Outdoor Alliance Shooting Range is sure to be a success in the coming years.

Union County Conservation Officer Doug Jones says the project began development two years ago.

As of now, the range is open to the public. However, this summer they plan to install an electric gate around the premises. The High Lakes shooting range will be full of events starting this year, including team competitions.

Steve Maltzahn, Vice President of High Lakes Outdoor Alliance, says league shooting will be held in April-May, and again in June.

In addition to a beginner trophy league, there will also be a Saturday jackpot shooting competition. He says that registered events will not be available until late this year or into 2015. Those registered events will be monthly, he adds, and will attract professional shooters up to 100 miles away.

The 80-acre shooting range is located on the north end of 3-mile lake, near 130th St and Creamery Road.

Membership to the High Lakes Outdoor Shooting Alliance is $45. For more information, contact the local DNR office or the High Lakes Outdoor Shooting Alliance in Afton.

County Gives Budget Final Thumbs Up

The Union County Board of Supervisors passed the county's Fiscal Year 2014-2015 budget Monday following a three-minute public hearing held for an absent public. Supervisors Brown, Riley and Monday all said they had received little citizen input. Supervisor Lois Monday said she had a few comments on salaries early on, but “they seemed to have worked themselves out.”

The budget reflects a decrease in the levy, despite a decrease in assessed property values. Board chairman Dennis Brown says the results were achieved through prudent management and sticking to priorities.

The new fiscal year begins July 1. The board will take up the issue of a budget amendment on THIS year's budget in coming weeks. Union County Auditor Sandy Hysell explains the amendment includes movement of mental health and secondary road funds.

Much of the budget amendment involves transferring funds into spendable form.

The public hearing for the budget amendment is set for Monday, March 24, at 10 a.m.

Washington Report

Congressman Tom Latham checked in Tuesday with the latest news from Washington. He is spending the week in hearings with agency and department heads concerning the Housing and Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee he chairs. Then they will try to figure out how to meet a budget shortfall of funds committed to states.

He says infrastructure is not only critical for rural Iowa, but as a country as a whole, roads and bridges, and locks and dams, are crucial to maintaining our place in the global economy. We are quickly falling behind other developed countries.

Latham says with the huge budget hurdles under control for now, he is able to focus on the nuts and bolts of appropriations.

All eyes will also be turned outward to events in other parts of the world, and Congress debates how best to deal with the situation in the Ukraine and other hot spots around the globe.

The Washington Report is a regular monthly feature of KSIB Radio News.


The entire interview with Congressman Latham can be heard
here

Getting a Handle on Hunger

The meals are flying out of the Murray school today. 60,000 Meals from the Heartland are headed from the hands of volunteers to dinner tables throughout the Midwest and around the world. The effort stems from an FFA project, as Murray FFA Adviser Susannah Miller says the opportunity for a grant presented itself, and senior FFA members decided to conduct a hunger awareness effort.

The grant, and community funds raised, will fund 60,000 meals to be packed at Murray High School on Wednesday. The project also provided an education component.

And that led to more activities.

The idea is to highlight how people of various socioeconomic classes from around the world eat through a Poverty Dinner, and then to put that lesson to practical use.

The FFA chapter raised $12,000 and plans to package 60,000 meals.

Plans are to begin the meal packaging shortly after noon and work until around 3:30. All community members are welcome to come and help.

Union Co Vet Director Resigns

The Union County Supervisors Monday received the resignation of Veteran's Affairs Coordinator Kevin Scadden. Gary O'Daniels, representing the County Veteran's Commission, presented the resignation.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Dennis Brown handles the formalities and says the resignation is accepted with “deep regret.” Scadden had served in the position for approximately two years, and O'Daniels says they have been pleased with his performance.

The VA requires the local office be accessible 20 hours per week, with the local director and commission setting the hours. O'Daniels says they don't anticipate a problem finding another candidate. They had several applicants the last time the position was open.

Scadden is retired from the U.S. Navy and is looking to take advantage of full-time retirement.

Art Camp Planned for Summer

There’s a new learning experience being planned for Creston kids this summer. Brian Zachary of Creston:ARTS says they will be offering a Summer Art Camp the last three weeks of June. Creston High School has offered the use of its art room. Zachary says it is a very generous offering that includes use of pottery wheels, paint brushes and other equipment as well as insurance and utilities. The camp will still need to purchase supplies such as paint, dye, or clay.

He says the art projects will have a focus. Activities will be centered on creating art from recycled materials, including projects kids can complete at home.

There will also be group projects, with something special planned for the final week that includes local artisans.

The camp will run in two half-day sessions, with grades 1 through 4 or 5 likely grouped together, and older youth in another group. Exact age groups and times have yet to be finalized. They would like to hear from eighth or ninth graders who would be interested in being counselors. There will be a fee for the camp to cover the cost of supplies, but Zachary says they are trying to keep that as low as possible. They are exploring outside funding.

More details will be available as plans progress. Questions can be addressed to Brian Zachary.

Students Use Data to Guide Learning

The purpose of student achievement data is to measure progress. All the testing, and interpretation of results, is designed to show where students are excelling, and where extra help is needed. But any educator will tell you it can be hard to get students to take the testing seriously. At Creston Middle School, that hurdle is overcome by giving students a stake in the action. Middle School Principal Brad Baker says 96 percent of students qualified for a special incentive by improving their test scores over last year.

The incentive is a tasty one – the students get an extra day off from school. Baker says the exact date has yet to be set, but will likely be at the end of the school year.

Student involvement began early in the process with a review of achievement data with the students; a move that helped both students and teachers focus on problem areas. Then, throughout the year, data is shared with students so they can see growth.

Detailed review of past scores not only channeled student participation, but helped teachers direct specific instruction to address problem areas. The Iowa Assessment is the required test to meet No Child Left Behind requirements, but it is not the only one used by the district to determine student needs and progress.

New this year, the district also uses the MAP, or Measure of Academic Progress, assessment. The MAP assessment focuses on specific knowledge or skills possessed by the individual student, rather than a grade level context.

Baker says all this will come together at parent-teacher conferences next week. Conferences are student led, with the student talking about classes and progress, backed by the teacher explaining the assessment methods. Then goals for the rest of the school year are set collaboratively.

Parent-teacher conferences in Creston will be held Tuesday and Thursday, March 11 and 13, from 4 to 8 p.m. There will be no school Friday, March 14.

This Friday is First Friday

Fridays are a day of celebration in Uptown Creston, especially First Fridays. Brian Zachary with the Creston Arts Council says this month will feature the second Creston:ARTS Poetry Jam.

But, Zachary says it isn’t just about poetry. The event the open microphone event is for any form of verbal expression. He says the first Poetry Jam was a well-received, with participants of all ages, and he’s hearing a lot of buzz about this next one.

This month’s exhibit at the Depot Gallery features the work of six Creston High School independent art students. Friday’s artists reception will give patrons the chance to meet all six artists and discuss their work. The reception will be held at the Depot Gallery.

The Poetry Jam will be held at Adams Street Espresso.

First Fridays is a monthly Creston:ARTS event celebrating the arts in Uptown Creston. 

KSIB Gets Ready to Roll

The polishing and positioning and planning has begun. The Third Annual KSIB Tractor Ride is in the works. KSIB Station Manager Chad Rieck says the final route details will be unveiled in April, but he can say the ride will be heading NORTH.

With details in the ride kept close to the vest awaiting a Grand Unveiling, Reick says riders can expect the same quality experience they've had the past two years. That means plenty of scenic views of the KSIB listening area.

He says getting out in the southwest Iowa countryside is one of the attractions of the ride, and as a native southwest Iowan, he is proud to be able to bring the experience to riders, as well as celebrate the rural heritage represented by the tractors.

One detail will remain as last year - the ride will be leaving from the Historic Restored Depot in Uptown Creston.

Rieck adds none of it would happen without the sponsor support, who make the ride free to participants.

The ride is set for Saturday, June 7. Stay tuned to KSIB for more details to come.

Listen to Full Story here


JD Dealer Helps Cattlemen

County Cattlemen’s groups are getting a boost from John Deere dealer AgriVision. AgriVision is the result of a merger between Barker Equipment and A&M Green Power. Todd Barker says Barker Implement’s eight locations and A&M Green Power’s five locations have merged into a company that now serves 28 counties in southwest Iowa, eastern Nebraska and northern Missouri.

He says this type of merger is common in the farm implement business, as producers’ operations grow larger, and require more technical support.

To help grow the customer base, AgriVision has partnered with the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association to support livestock production in the area. Adair County Cattlemen’s President Justin Stiens tells of the incentive provided by AgriVision.

AgriVision will donate the lease of a 125 horsepower tractor with cab and loader for 150 hours or six months to the county cattlemen’s association that signs up the most new members over their three-year average. The ICA’s goal is 10,500 members. Members must be on board by March 31.

The tractor can be used by the county organization however it wants. Steins says suggestions include use by the member who signs up the most new members, or a raffle fundraiser.

Barker says it’s a great way for AgriVision to start out the new company and the new year. He says the new road will look much like the old one, with the same faces at Barker’s providing the same, reliable service they have for 75 years.

A listing of AgriVision’s 13 locations can be found at AgriVision.us

Time for Candidates to File Papers

If you're considering running for office, today is an important day. Union County Auditor Sandy Hysell says Monday, March 3, is the first day potential candidates can take out nomination papers from the Auditor’s Office.

County offices appearing on the ballot this year are Sheriff, Treasurer, Recorder, County Attorney, and one seat on the Board of Supervisors.

Hysell says the process is simple. Pick up the papers during regular business hours and return them with the appropriate number of signatures by March 29. Based on the number of people from each party who voted in the last general election, Republican candidates need at least 50 signatures and Democratic candidates need at least 30 to have their name placed on the ballot.

You must be a resident of Union County to run for office in Union County.

The seat on the Board of Supervisors that will appear on the ballot is Ron Riley's. Riley says he does intend to seek re-election. He says he enjoys serving on the board and has projects he would like to see finished. Riley has been on the board for eight years and served two stints as chairman.

The Primary Election is June 3.

Student Enrollment Follows the Jobs

One of the most pressing problems facing rural areas is loss of student enrollment in local schools.

At the last Creston School District Board of Directors meeting, Creston Superintendent Steve McDermott presented student enrollment figures to the board. Taking figures from neighboring districts as well as other Hawkeye Ten schools, McDermott was able to piece together of picture of enrollment gains and losses compared to Creston's.

The data shows seven schools with gains in enrollment led by Creston, Clarke Community, and Denison with 8 percent. Seventeen schools show enrollment loss over the period 2009 to 2013, ranging from Clarinda, Lewis Central and Mt. Ayr with 1 percent to Bedford, Corning, and Villisca at 11 percent. McDermott says not all of that loss can be attributed to rural population loss. Some of the change can be attributed to students changing schools through open enrollments.

He says the open-enrollment movement has been good for Creston. The district open enrolls more students in than out, a rarity in the state. He says the reasons for students open enrolling to another district are varied. Some districts focus on marketing to lure students, but McDermott says it usually comes down to each family’s decision for their own reasons.

But McDermott says there is one common denominator. The students go where the jobs are. A community mush have employment opportunities to attract employees, and thus enroll their children into schools.

East Union saw a 1 percent increase during the measurement period. Diagonal was up 4 percent and Lenox 3 percent. Nodaway Valley decreased 3 percent, Orient-Macksburg 6 percent and Murray and Adair-Casey 8 percent.

Creston's 8 percent enrollment increase amounts to 106 students.

ECHCO Concrete Receives Iowa Venture Award

ECHCO Concrete LLC of Corning is the latest Southwest Iowa company to receive the Iowa Venture Award from the Iowa Area Development Group. The award is granted annually to enterprises showing leadership and innovation in helping to grow Iowa’s economy. Associated with Iowa’s Rural Electric Cooperatives, municipal utilities, and telecommunications companies, the Iowa Area Development Group has served as an economic development partner since 1985. Chris Cole of ECHCO Concrete says they are very grateful for the opportunity, and the recognition needs to be shared with their parent company, Henningsen Construction.

Cole says ECHCO has a long, proud history with Henningsen. E.C. Henningsen founded ECHCO Ready Mix in the 1970s. They got out of the business for a time, then realizing the need for more competition in the concrete business in southwest Iowa, opened ECHCO in Corning.

Hennigsen has history with the Iowa Area Development Group. The construction firm has built 51 percent of all spec buildings across the state built through the Iowa Area Development Group.

ECHCO began to meet the Southwest Iowa demand with a state-of-the-art facility capable of producing 150-200 yards of concrete per hour. Now an expansion is in the works. A permanent plant will be built in Corning, and the portable one moved to Atlantic. When complete, the Corning plant will employ 10-12 people, with another 5 or 6 in Atlantic. Both should be on-line by spring.

Cole says ECHCO has the “best team in the business,” and gives them full credit for the company’s rising success. He says the best is get to come. He says as long as the market and community support are there, they will continue to grow.

ECHCO Concrete was nominated for the Iowa Venture Award by Southwest Iowa Rural Electric Cooperative.

The Iowa Venture Award Hall of Fame can be accessed at IADG.com

Green Valley Benefits from Facelift

Beginning as a project to improve fisheries and water quality, Green Valley Lake has experienced a large facelift in the last five to seven years. In this project, it has also led to a revamping of the campgrounds and water spillway.

Park ranger Alan Carr says the Clean Lakes Program, an EPA program in place since the 1980s, placed Green Valley and about 300 other lakes in Iowa on an Endangered Water Bodies list.

On this list, the lakes have opportunities for funding by the government to improve such problems as water quality and fisheries. Though starting as a project to combat fisheries, he goes on to explain why additional work was done to the area.

Knowing the fishery would be off-line for a period of time while the lake was drained, a group of partners decided to complete as much related work as possible. Since 2008 when the lake was drawn down, there have been numerous improvements to the campgrounds as well.

Since these changes, Green Valley has seen an almost 25 percent increase in campers and ice fishing has risen 20 times from the historic levels, according to DNR fisheries biologist Gary Sobotka.

County Proceeds with Mental Health Changes

Iowa is making changes to its Mental Health funding system, and that means changes on the local level. The Union County Board of Supervisors will see a change in the way it processes mental health claims beginning July 1. Supervisor Ron Riley explains Union County will now be part of a four-county region that also includes Adair, Adams and Taylor counties.

Riley has been the board’s representative on a four-county board that has worked for more than a year to create the new region under a 28E agreement. The combined region allows for pooling of funds.

The changes were state-mandated; an attempt to reduce mental health costs statewide. Board Chairman Dennis Brown says the change did present challenges in developing the Fiscal Year 2014-2015 budget, with many expenses and funding still unknown.

Last year’s budget included around $600,000 for mental health. The county is working with the state to pay around $300,000 in Medicaid bills currently owed due to changes in the funding system, and unclear messages from the state about what would need to be paid. Once Union and other counties’ past-due balances are paid, Southern Hills Regional Mental Health will be eligible for state stabilization funding.


County Conservation to Replace House at Three-Mile Lake

Early in the budget process, Union County Board of Supervisors Chairman Dennis Brown remarked that this year’s budget was yielding few surprises. Then the board met with County Conservation Officer Doug Jones. He unveiled plans to replace the park ranger house at Three-Mile Lake.

Brown says the expense may have been unexpected, but it is needed. Efforts were made to shape repair and remodeling plans, but in the end it was determined replacement was the best option.

The old home at 3-Mile Lake will be replaced by a modular home. Supervisor Lois Monday says she was impressed not only with the moderation of the Conservation Commission’s plan, but by their preparation.

Conservation staff will provide some of the construction and the house will have one amenity – log siding – in order to have it blend with the surroundings.

Monday says she considers the home a great asset for the popular tourist and recreation spot. Brown says it was a challenge to come up with the needed funds, but the project looks positive going forward.

The new house will be built without a garage. That may be added at a later date.

Hospital is Vital Part of Economy

Your local hospital is more than a healthcare provider. It is also a valuable community economic partner. Such is the case with Greater Regional Medical Center in Creston, as Greater Regional Executive Director of Continuum of Care LouAnn Snodgrass tells.

Greater Regional Medical Center generates 366 jobs that add $26,842,112 to the region’s economy, according to the latest study by the Iowa Hospital Association. In addition, Greater Regional employees by themselves spend $7,323,293 on retail sales and contribute $439,398 in state sales tax revenue.

Greater Regional isn't the only one.

The study found that Iowa hospitals directly employ 71,437 people and create another 57,792 jobs outside the hospital sector. As an income source, hospitals provide $4.2 billion in salaries and benefits and generate another $1.8 billion through other jobs that depend on hospitals.

Snodgrass says the annual study sheds a light on medical facility's contribution.

The IHA study examined the jobs, income, retail sales and sales tax produced by hospitals and the rest of the state’s health care sector. The study was compiled from hospital-submitted data on the American Hospital Association’s Annual Survey of Hospitals and with software that other industries have used to determine their economic impact.

She adds it's a role Greater Regional is glad to accept, as it prides itself on being an active contributor to the local economy. She adds the facility has benefited from patients and families that choose GRMC for their healthcare, and it’s important to show the power of giving back through improvements in the local economy.

Iowa's healthcare industry accounts for nearly one-fifth of the state's non-farm jobs.


County Budget is Ready for Public

Union County's Fiscal Year 2014-2015 budget is complete and ready for final approval. A public hearing is scheduled for Monday March 10, at 10 a.m., in the board room at the Union County Courthouse. Board of Supervisors Chairman Dennis Brown says the levy will be decreased roughly 8 cents per $1,000 of property valuation. Part of that is due to a reduction in the county's debt status. Union County has paid off nearly $1 million of its bonds.

There are expenses to be paid, like bills associated with changes in mental health funding. And of course there are road projects, like the dowel bar retrofit scheduled for the Cromwell Road and the High & Dry, along with two major culvert projects in the REA road, and two bridges in the eastern part of the county.

Brown says everyone involved is able to benefit from the county's fiscal picture, a picture created by everyone working together.

Most county employees received a 3 percent wage increase plus a 2 percent cost of living adjustment. Brown also says they will not be adding an assistant county attorney at this time, as requested, but will remain flexible on the issue and continue to assess the situation.

Supervisor Lois Monday says it is all possible through keeping priorities in line – watching spending and looking ahead with programs to help families.


Students Want to Change Street Name

A group of Creston Middle School students would like to rename a street. The Middle School Student Governemnt approached the city council last week with the proposal.

They would like to change the name of Parkway Street to Patriotic Parkway Street. Parkway is the short stretch of street that connects New York Avenue and Highway 34 near the Phillips 66 Visitor’s Center. The area is the future home of Union County’s Patriotic Rock, scheduled to be painted by Ray Sorensen in 2015.

The students have laid the groundwork, as Trevor Downing tells. They have discussed the issue with Public Works Director Kevin Kruse and have volunteered to pay for the new signage.

Faith Wilson says they have also assessed the economic impact of those in the area, determining there are no businesses on the road that would need to change mailing address.

Jaden Driskell says they feel it is just something that should be done. The Middle School Student Government puts on a veteran’s program each year and feels the community should do what it can to honor those who serve our country.

The issue has been referred to the Planning and Zoning Commission. If approved there, it will come back before the council. Mayor Woods met with the students early in the plan development, explaining the steps necessary to make the change and the process required.

The students also consulted local veteran’s groups in making their plans.

Council Hears Cottonwood Proposal

The city of Creston has plans to turn a 40-acre plot of land north of McKinley Lake into a housing subdivision. Preliminary plans included a mix of single-family dwellings, and multi-family units in the form of duplexes or condominiums. At last week’s city council meeting, Don Sonntag, of Atlantic-based Sonntag Development, LLC, presented an alternative.

He would like to develop the area into condominiums. His plan is for 14 condos in the first year. If all goes well, he would plan to add another 12 units the second year. The units would range in size from 877 to 1,459 square feet.

Sonntag, who has built around 175 condo units in Atlantic, as well as developing seven new housing areas with lots, says the condo is an idea who’s time has come in rural Iowa. As people age, they stay in their homes longer. The condos present an opportunity for low-maintenance living and free up housing for families.

He says the challenge can be in the marketing in an area that my be unfamiliar with the concept.

He is prepared to develop the needed infrastructure along with the units, with a plan in place that would then turn it over to the city.

The council will take the proposal under consideration and discuss it further at a future meeting.

Taylor says there may be other developers presenting in the near future.

Reward Offered in Break-in

A weekend break-in in Afton has resulted in local businesses offering a reward for information. These photos were taken by the security system at Afton Fitness Center. The suspects stole cash, but did not damage any equipment. The Afton Fitness Center has offered a reward of $1,000 plus a lifetime membership. A nearby business, Up In Smoke, was the victim of a break-in this summer. It has offered a $500 reward. Local authorities report a series of break-ins in the area in recent weeks.

break in 1
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break in 3

Ash Trees, Beware

The Emerald Ash Borer is in Union County. The word became official a couple weeks ago. To educate the public about the pest, Union County ISU Extension and Outreach is holding a special meeting Thursday night. Carol Lafaver, Extension Regional Director, gives highlights.

The meeting will be held Thursday, December 9, 6-7:30 p.m., at the Supertel Inn and Conference Center in Creston. It is free and open to the public. No registration is required.

Lafaver says the meeting will include discussion on issues such as indentifying the Emerald Ash Borer, identifying ash trees, safety of trees, treatment options and replacement options.

The Emerald Ash Borer, or EAB, is one of the most destructive tree pests in North America. It first appeared in Iowa, in Allamakee County, in 2010. Since then it has spread to Des Moines County, Jefferson County, and most recently Union County. Transfer of firewood is one of the most common means of contamination.

A panel of experts will address the issue at Thursday's meeting. This slated to appear include Emma Hanigan, IDNR Urban Forestry Program Coordinator; Randy Goerdnt, IDNR District Forester; Mike Kintner, EAB Outreach and Regulatory Coordinator with Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship; and Mark Shour, ISU Extension and Outreach Entomologist.

Lafaver says for those unable to make the meeting, the Extension Service is committed to providing the needed information. There is now an Emerald Ash Borer website, or contact your local Extension Office for info.

County Depends on GRMC for Public Health Programs

The Union County Board of Supervisors heard a report on public health services at its Monday meeting.

Counties have an obligation to provide public health services. In some counties, that means a separate department housed in the courthouse. In Union County, those services are picked up by Greater Regional Medical Center. Greater Regional Director of Continuum of Care LouAnn Snodgrass provides the historical context.

Changes in home care delivery in the 1980s prompted changes in administrative structure. At that time the hospital and the board of supervisors decided to move the program to the hospital, with the hospital picking up the primary financial responsibility, tapping grant programs as appropriate to create and provide services.

Snodgrass says the current program is a good fit for the hospital, as one of the pillars of their mission is community.

The arrangement also works for the Board of Supervisors, whose members generally are not health care experts. It also works financially for the county, which unlike many other counties, contributes very little to public health services.

Public Health services are funded in part by a series of grants and patient payment, with Greater Regional picking up the rest of the expense. Services provided include maternal health services for new mothers, an adult and childhood immunization programs, elderly health services, education, and monitoring of health crises and disease outbreaks.

Snodgrass says recent efforts have helped eliminate duplication of services with other agencies.

Supervisor Dennis Brown is the county’s representative on the Board of Health.

Union County Treasurer Stops CDL Driving Tests

The Union County Treasurer's office will no longer offer CDL driving tests as of December 27. Union County Treasurer Kelly Busch says the office will continue to offer testing and will continue to issue licenses, but not the driving test.

Busch says the number of people taking the test no longer justifies the expense of keeping an examiner on staff. The retirement of the current examiner prompted the change. Busch says many of those served are from other counties, as the October/November statistics show.

Other services will continue as they are, including CDL renewals. Car and motorcycle driving tests will still be offered with Busch doing the testing. And all testing and license issuance will continue. Busch says those needing the CDL driving test can go to another county. Page, Montgomery and Madison counties all offer the service.

Or drivers can tap a new program proposed by SWCC, that will provide 80 hours of training plus the driving test. More information can be obtained by contacting Kim Oaks with SWCC Adult Continuing Education. Plans are to start the program in February.

Living in Creston: Does Our Housing Meet Our Needs?

Part 3

SICOG Regional Planner Jeremy Rounds says, “When we invest in our older neighborhoods, the surrounding housing stock will improve.” That’s one of the reasons why Creston’s efforts and improving its housing stock include improving and rehabilitating existing housing. There certainly have been many private efforts to improve Creston’s older homes, with many shining examples of design and historic appreciation.

There are those who would like to purchase a “fixer-upper” but have trouble obtaining the financing. Rounds says local lenders are often confined by parent company and government regulation and thus lack the flexibility for those types of projects.

City Manager Mike Taylor says some simply struggle with the expense of basic maintenance. Programs like the Chamber of Commerce Paint Program help with that. Local businesses donate paint, and through an application process, it is distributed to local homeowners who provide the labor to repaint their home. Taylor says the program currently serves four to five houses per year. He would like to see that increase to 10 or 12. He says it’s understandable that people can have problems keeping up with home maintenance and programs like this are there to help.

Bit by bit, house by house, the powers that be are chipping away at Creston’s housing situation. But despite the innovative partnering and agreement of the issues that is taking place, real progress may depend on greater coordination. Rounds would like to see a community meeting to identify specific needs and develop a plan to meet them.

Taylor says it is nearing time to redraft the city’s comprehensive plan and that will no doubt help pull various elements together.

The comprehensive plan will also help identify infrastructure needs going forward, though Taylor says in many ways the city is already prepared. Taylor says the city’s wastewater system is designed for twice the current population. There is also amply water available.

All that under the umbrella of coordinated effort is crucial, as Creston continues its roll as a population and business hub for southwest Iowa.

Part 2

If you talk to officials about housing for very long, you will hear the word “infill.” Unlike creating new subdivisions, infill makes use of existing space within the city. That effort often starts with removal of a substandard structure. For the past several years, the city of Creston has been involved in a Neighborhood Stabilization program to remove blighted homes. City Manager Mike Taylor explains a change in state law a few years ago allows for the city to take ownership of blighted properties. In some cases the owner relinquishes ownership. Any liens on the property are dismissed and the court re-assigns ownership.

Once the property is in the city’s hands, the structures are removed, aided in past years by grant funding, and the lots are sold, some to private landowners in the name of neighborhood improvement.

Those that are suitable for building have been put to use. Habitat for Humanity has purchased lots, and constructs around one house a year. Their current project is a two-bedroom home. Another already acquired property is slated for a larger family dwelling. The homes are sold to qualifying persons through an application process.

A partnership between Union County Development and SWCC is helping the effort. SWCC Vice President  of Instruction Bill Taylor explains UCDA provides the lot and the Building Trades Program constructs the home. UCDA then pays (at cost) for the house and puts it on the market.

The program, and South Elm Street location of the latest house, fit UCDA’s larger mission, according to UCDA Director Wayne Pantini, who says the program not only provides housing but enhances the visual appeal of a primary corridor into the city.

He would like to see the program expanded. Programs like the SWCC/UCDA partnership fill a need for-profit construction companies struggle to provide due to low profit margins on a low square-footage structure. The partnership also enhances SWCC’s efforts to provide the local construction industry with a steady, trained workforce by offering instruction in all aspects of building construction.

Taylor says Iowa Workforce Development data indicates 140 new construction jobs will be available in the area by 2020, with a 31 percent increase in people needed for building construction and a 24 percent increase in specialty trade contractors over 2010.

It’s that kind of strong economy that keeps Creston growing.

Part 1

Creston is a place where people shop and work. It is also a place where people live. But finding adequate housing is not always easy. There are those trying to correct that. Local government, development agencies, and private citizens are addressing the issue, with some results. But is it enough?

Truth is, much of Creston’s housing stock is showing its age, as Mayor Warren Woods explains. Many houses in Creston were built for railroad laborers, men who worked in the depot and the roundhouse. Some, like those on Cherry Street were built in the 1870s.

In short, there are entire neighborhoods in Creston consisting of small, old, track houses – many of which are in poor condition. Added to that, Creston is growing. Entities like Southwestern Community College, Greater Regional Medical Center and a host of local industry are bring new professional people to town. That demand for new and improved housing at nearly all levels of the economic ladder is creating the need for action. Union County Development Association Director Wayne Pantini says existing business and industry says as they recruit employees, they find a housing shortage at all levels – professions to entry level.

The city has turned to creating housing subdivisions to alleviate the crunch, as Creston City Manager Mike Taylor explains. James Subdivision was designed to offer new homes, with the idea that those in older or smaller homes would “move up” creating a ripple effect throughout the housing market.

Union County Development helped create the James addition, and Pantini says a survey a few years ago indicated about half of the subdivision residents followed that pattern and about half were new to town.

With only a few lots left in the James Subdivision, a new one, the Cottonwood Subdivision, is planned on a nearby 40-acre plot. Taylor says the hope is the Cottonwood project will help fill specific needs as well as contribute to the overall picture. There appears to be a demand for one-story homes for the newly, or nearly, retired; and multi-unit housing, both owned and rented.

Housing in a town like Creston depends, in part, on good rental stock – an element that is can be in short supply. Taylor says there is a definite need for multi-family units that are not income-based. Nor does senior housing, also in ample supply due to recent construction. Jeremy Rounds, Regional Planner with the Southern Iowa Council of Governments, or SICOG, says it is likely most of Creston’s population growth from 2000 to 2010 could be attributed to new senior housing. Maintaining the quality of rental properties is an ongoing concern. Rounds outlines part of the problem saying “Students will live in anything.” Thus, landlords have little incentive to upgrade properties.

SWCC has addressed the rental quantity problem by increasing student housing. The school is constructing its third new dorm since 2006. When finished, there will be dorm units for just over 200 students on campus, but, enrollment growth is consuming those nearly as fast as they are constructed.

The city of Creston has made attempts at improving the quality by enacting rental housing standards, designed to ensure properties meet basic safety standards. Taylor says many landlords who have completed the self-inspection checklist provided have initiated improvements. Still, more multi-family housing is needed.

It's All About Service

The road traveled by this year’s Volunteer of the Year and Youth of the Year runs through Appalachia. For more than 30 years, Becky Riley has taken a group of Creston youth to the Appalachian Mountains through The Appalachia Project. Both here and in the hills of Kentucky and Tennessee, the effort is all about service – both there and at home as the youth fundraise and help with community projects.

Riley, this year's Volunteer of the Year, came to the project at a young age. She served on the Appalachia Project as a youth and was inspired to serve others.

She first suggested the project to the kids while serving as youth group sponsor at her church. And every year since she has headed a group of kids and adults who spend a week making homes warmer, safer and drier for residents of the poverty-stricken region. Volunteers hang dry-wall, roof, build porches and ramps, and make other structural changes and repairs.

Like Becky, the experience for Creston kids can be life changing. She says they are most often amazed at how happy the people are when they have so little.

Creston’s Youth of the Year honoree is one of those kids. Levi Eblen is in his third year of involvement with The Appalachia Project, one of items on his list of contributions to his community. Riley says he is willing to do whatever is asked of him and influences others with his calm demeanor in times of stress.

Riley is not the only person to experience Eblen’s leadership skills. Among those to nominate him for the award is Creston High School Business Instructor and advisor for the Future Business Leaders of America Shannon Smith.

Smith says Eblen has earned the respect of the community through his professionalism in organizing FBLA community service projects.

A senior at Creston High School, Eblen is active in the FBLA, participating in competitions at the State Leadership Conference and active in the group’s community service projects. He is class president, has been a Student Council officer for four years, as well as participating in sports and is a member of the National Honor Society. He even dresses as Clifford the Big Red Dog at Library events. But it’s his leadership skills that most impress Smith. He actively encourages younger kids to get involved and leads by example. Smith says Eblen is able to apply his talents and dedication to every effort he takes on.

The Creston Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting was held Tuesday night at the Supertel Inn and Conference Center. Denny Abel was named Citizen of the Year.

Nominations for the Citizen of the Year, Volunteer of the Year, and Youth of the Year come from within the community. Selections are made by a panel of community judges.

listen: audio

Chamber of Commerce Names Citizen of the Year

“If you need help, call Denny” reads one of the stack of nomination forms suggesting Denny Abel as Creston’s 2013 Citizen of the Year.

From the halls of Greater Regional Medical Center to the VFW, Denny Abel is well known as a community volunteer and an advocate for veterans. According to Abel, a Viet Nam vet, that didn’t happen accidently. He says he does what he does because he loves his veterans, and a good share of what he does now is to get them the due they have coming to them.

But getting started wasn’t that easy. Like many vets of his era, being a veteran wasn’t always popular, and in some cases respect and appreciation wasn’t always forthcoming. When he first returned from Viet Nam he tried to join the VFW but was rejected because it wasn’t a “war.” He says it wasn’t until after the Gulf War that vets from Viet Nam and Korea were acknowledged. When he was asked to join in 1992, he jumped at the chance, and since his retirement in 2004 he has devoted his time to helping vets.

Abel says young veterans today can be hard to reach, as they rely on Internet social networks for support rather than their fellow veterans. But, Abel says, the help is there if they need it, in a way only fellow veterans can provide it. A person who has been in combat has a different mindset than those looking in from the outside. He suffered for year from post traumatic stress disorder and understands who vets need help with that.

His days are spent helping fellow veterans get the medical benefits they need, filing paperwork and driving vets to the VA in Des Moines or Omaha. He is working with Greater Regional to bring more vet services to the area. He also channels his efforts through the VFW, holding state office, and is the force behind Union County’s Freedom Rock. He has rallied volunteer forces throughout the community, amassing cash and in kind donations, to place the rock set to be painted by Ray Sorensen in 2015. He says while many community efforts honor fallen vets, the Freedom Rock honors the living.

He helps with those other efforts, too, setting flags for Memorial Day at the cemetery, and participating in Honor Guards here and at the Iowa Veteran’s Cemetery in Van Meter – an emotional contribution for Abel, who says he is always moved by the families of those who have given a part of their life to their country.

As for “if you need help – call Denny” – well, Abel has an answer to that – “I hope so. That’s what I’m here for. I hope those who need help will call me.”

Abel also serves as an information guide at Greater Regional Medical Center, offers support to vets in hospice, and spends time volunteering at the Union County historical site.

Abel, along with the 2013 Volunteer of the Year and Youth of the Year, will be honored Tuesday night at the Creston Chamber of Commerce Annual meeting. Listen tomorrow for features on the other two recipients.

listen:
audio

New Agency Addresses Domestic Violence

Much of the KSIB listening area is undergoing a chance in domestic abuse service providers.

This summer, The Rural Iowa Crisis Center, which had provided domestic violence and sexual assault victim services for the area closed its doors. The move was the result of state directed regionalization. There are now only six agencies serving the entire state, and services in this area now fall under the domain of the Crisis Intervention and Advocacy Center, based in Adel. Agency Director Johna Sullivan says as of July 1, her agency provides services in Adair, Union, Adams, Ringgold and Taylor counties.

Crisis Intervention and Advocacy already provides services to Dallas, Guthrie, Madison, Clarke and Decatur counties. It is working to open offices in throughout the new area.

In addition to the traditional services, the agency provides help for the homeless. It does not operate a shelter, but works with people in the community to provide emergency and transitional housing for people on their client list.

Union County Board of Supervisors Chairman Ron Riley says he is glad to see a new agency coming in to fill the void for much-needed services.

Sullivan is hoping she can count on the Union County Board for financial support. Historically, the county has provided funding for domestic violence victim’s services. The board instructed her to return at budget time.

The Crisis Intervention and Advocacy provides a full array of services, including a Spanish language hotline. Current clients are being transitioned to the new agency. Those in need of emergency help can call the 24-hour crisis line 1-800-400-4884.


CHS Hall of Fame

Creston Homecoming is Friday, and that means it is time to induct a new class into the Creston High School Hall of Fame. This year’s inductees are Curt Olson, Thelda Williams and Tim Kenyon.

Thelda Williams

Thelda Bender Williams was a typical high school student when she graduated from Creston High School in 1959 – with the possible exception of working in her parents' produce station. She never imagined she would someday serve as council woman and mayor in the nation's fifth largest city, Phoenix, Arizona. But she has no doubts about where and when those seeds were planted. She says she gives Creston High School full credit – with teachers who not only taught daily lessons, but taught kids to take a chance. She says she learned a little about a lot of things and that has taken her a long way.

Williams held several jobs before going to work for the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department. There she started a drug rehabilitation program that was known for its tough love. The program became a national model, and Williams was entrusted with other projects – the first high school for juveniles servicing time as adults, a pet MASH unit where prisoners learned to care for abandoned and abused animals.

Just like much of her professional career, her entrance into politics came from seizing an opportunity. She was working to lobby the city for more parks and ball parks in her neighborhood when the opportunity to run for office came up and she took it – and was elected.

That was in 1989. Since then, Williams has served on the Phoenix City Council and was appointed Interim Mayor for a time in 1994. Along with her array of city committees and boards, she is a frequent world traveler as an ambassador for the city. She determined early in her career that Phoenix needed an international airport, and has lobbied the world over for international air service.

She says there are perks to the job. She once conducted a seminar on democratic government in Moscow for more than 100 Russian mayors and was given full VIP treatment, including her own performance of the Bolshoi Ballet and a private tour of the Kremlin. Back in Phoenix, she says it's not hard to see where to fix things if you are out in the community. Trying to obtain the community ideal, with various factions helping each other, is a lesson she says she learned in Creston.

Williams offers a bit of advice for current Creston High School Students: “Learn everything you can. Continue your education throughout your live. Have the courage to take a chance. And think big.”

In high school, Williams was a member of the original Peppers squad, and has been married to fellow classmate Mel Williams for 54 years.


Listen: audio

Curt Olson

If one can come to the end of life and be able to say they made a difference, they can say they have lived a successful life. Curt Olson was a success. Olson began his career as a teacher and a coach in 1968 and came to Creston in 1982. He died last year, just as he was about to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, putting off the formalities of the honor until this year. Olson’s wife Beth remembers he was surprised he had been selected, he felt others were more deserving. She says that’s just the kind of guy Olson was.

There are few in Creston who would argue with Beth Olson’s assessment. Olson went to work every day determined to make a difference in kids’ lives. And make a difference he did. He worked with guidance counselors to identify students who needed a special hand – those with drug or emotional problems – or those who were struggling academically. Beth says that came from battling his own health problems as a young child, and parents who never lightened their expectations, and never failed to offer support.

Olson was a tireless coach and athletic director who saw to the interests of his students on and off the field. He also held several statewide Athletic Association offices and received the IHSADA Golden Eagle Award, the NIAAA Award of Merit, and the IHSAA Administrator award, and IHSADA State Athletic Director of the year. Olson was a big man – in stature and in spirit. His mighty laugh was well known throughout the community, as was his gentle heart and commitment to his “kids.”

Beth says she has had several students tell her they would not have graduated without Olson’s encouragement. Olson had started the 2012-13 school year, the same way he started every other – setting the stage for student success. He was coaching the 8th Grade football team at the time of his death.

For Beth, that was just life with Curt Olson: “He loved people. He loved kids. He loves sports. He loved music. He loved the arts. And he just thought everybody should have a chance.”

Olson was an active member of the Creston Chamber of Commerce, served as parade master for many years, and sat on the Foster Care Review Board. His Hall of Fame award will be accepted by his wife, Beth.

Listen:
audio


Tim Kenyon

Tim Kenyon graduated from Creston High School in 1976. He has sat at the same desk in the Union County Attorney’s office since 1983. During that time he has amassed an impressive record, prosecuting more than 6,000 cases – more than all previous Union County Attorney’s combined.

Kenyon says that is due, in part, to the changing face of crime. Today’s criminal activity all too often is the result of drug use, particularly methamphetamine.

He says his office has seen a drastic increase in juvenile cases and makes giving kids a chance a high priority.

Working with kids is part of the reason for Kenyon’s nomination into the Hall of Fame. In 1998 he received the Governor’s Volunteer Award for his work with the Creston Middle School Mock trial program. He is past president of the Creston Activities Booster Club and spent many years involved in the Marching Band Parent’s Committee.

For Kenyon it offers a balance to the side of life he all too often sees in his job. He enjoys the kids’ energy and positive attitude – and says he learns a great deal from them.

His work with the band also fits with his ongoing love of music. Still a practicing musician, he is a regular with the Waukee Big Band. He says a highlight was playing the Surf Ballroom. Kenyon and his trumpet are also regular guests with the Creston High School Pep Band.

He credits his success in all areas with the lessons he learned in high school about hard work and preparation, adding “you get out of it what you put into it.”

He says those lessons translated into what he considers the basic elements of life – mainly keeping a positive attitude and looking for the good in people.

He adds for most people that can be summed up by the phrase Carpe Diem – Seize the Day:

“When you get up in the morning, what are you going to do today to make your house better, to make your family better, to make Creston better? What are you going to do to make things better? Literally, you have to seize the day. And sometimes it’s a little hard to get a hold of.”

Kenyon has been an adjunct professor at SWCC since 1990, teaching child phycology and criminal justice, has served as youth group leader for the Appalachia Service Project, and was president of the Iowa County Attorney’s Association in 2010.

Listen:
audio

School Activities are Easy to Track

Creston schools is using a new tool to inform parents and community members of school activities. It’s a web-based tool called R-School, and it provides an interactive digital calendar of events and other information.

Just click on “Activities” on the school’s website, crestonschools.org, and then click on Hawkeye Ten.

From there you can navigate your way around Creston’s activity calendar as well as many surrounding communities. Click on Creston and you’ll get the full calendar, with daily details just another click away.

The site breaks down  information by activity, by school, by date, and by conference.

If you’re a Hawkeye Ten watcher, there’s a special feature. The site will soon have historical data and stats from throughout the conference.

Bevins says the R-school site isn’t just for sports. It covers everything from this week’s football game to the Fifth Grade band concert. The site even tells what time the student bus is leaving for any given out-of-town activity.

All the information is there for people to plan ahead to support their school.

Bevin says they are no longer printing the red, full-size calendars, but will still make the smaller tri-fold schedule available.

Stay tuned to KSIB Radio for the latest in area sports news.

 
 
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