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Ringgold County Declared a Disaster Emergency by Governor Branstad

Following the June 3 severe storms and heavy rain, Ringgold County was put under a Disaster Emergency Proclamation by Governor Terry Branstad.

Teresa Jackson with Ringgold County Emergency Management talked with KSIB. She explained what the proclamation means, how long it will be in effect and what residents need to do when in this situation. She also gave a recap of the heavy rain and wind damage from the June 3 storms that hit southwest Iowa.

Running for Trails

A July 3 run in Creston will benefit the town’s running trails. The Creston City Council last week gave permission to Mindy Stalker to plan the run to begin at 6 p.m. Stalker says the idea came to her as she was jogging and thinking of what a wonderful asset Creston’s trails are for the community. She decided to do something to help maintain them.

Stalker asks for limited parking along the route and law enforcement assistance at intersections. She says the 5K will be in the uptown area, the half-marathon will utilize mainly side streets.

Council members expressed concern about the run interfering with other activities planned for that night, like the street dance at the Elk’s Lodge. Stalker said an impromptu run last year posed not problems.

City Manager Mike Taylor sees the purpose of the run as a good thing, and appreciates the effort to help with the expense of the trail system.

Council gave approval pending finalization of the route.

Stalker has a website up on the event for those wanting more information.

Revival Meetings will Continue

Despite noise complaints, the tent revival on Highway 34 will continue. Pastor Joanne Davis addresses the Creston City Council last Tuesday night, asking for a continuation of the permit to operate through June and July, and the month of September.

Davis says if they are allowed to continue, they will make efforts to reduce the noise irritation by moving to the middle of the property away from the street and adhering strictly to time guidelines. The revivals begin at 6 p.m., and Davis says they will now end promptly at 9.

But councilman Ann Levine still has concerns. She’s hearing a lot of complaints from people living south of the site, especially the elderly and those with small children.

Levine was one of two council members to vote against extending the revival. But the five “yea” votes won out, extending permission through the end of July.

Revivals are held Friday’s 6-9 p.m. and Saturdays 4-8 p.m.

MATURA Celebrates New Location

The Creston Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting Tuesday, for a community fixture. After nearly 50 years in existence, the MATURA Action Corporation has moved to a new location, in a building that puts many of their services under one roof. MATURA Executive Director Ron Ludwig says the office, Union County Center, Head Start, and other programs are split into three sections of the building.

Since its beginnings, Creston has been home to the agency’s main office, with satellite centers throughout the area. MATURA is an acronym for Madison, Adair, Taylor, Union, Ringgold, and Adams counties; the six counties in the agency’s service area. They provide an array of services for youth, low income, and elderly populations, like a weatherization program that helps elderly and low income save on utility bills.

Ludwig says the community action agencies were created in 1964 by Congress as part of Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty.

Chamber of Commerce Director Ellen Gerharz offers high praise for the work of the agency.

Ludwig says that relationship is a two-way street – thanking the community for its support in providing them the resources to serve people who need their help.

MATURA’s main office and Union County Center are now located at 207 North Elm Street in Creston.

Tuesday’s celebration included an open house and Chamber of Commerce coffee.

Conservation House is One Step Closer

The Union County Board of Supervisors granted contracts on a planned ranger's residence at Three Mile Lake at its meeting this week. Bids were received this past month, and the contracts have been approved by the Union County Conservation Board. The board of supervisors gave final and formal approval to contracts with Creston Mobile Homes for a modular home for $123,750; Hayes Construction, $40,000 for a walk-out basement; and Hoffman Communications, $7,068 for the septic system.

Conservation Officer Doug Jones highlights the history of the project, saying a bathroom remodel on the current residence revealed further needed repairs – that ultimately totaled around $65,000. Jones says it didn't take long to determine new construction made more sense than putting that kind of money into an old farmhouse.

The board of supervisors will hold a public hearing to discuss financing options. Jones has gathered proposals from local banks. Supervisor Ron Riley says they will look over the options, and explain decisions made at the hearing.

The board has earmarked $70,000 for the project, and will look to borrow the remainder of the nearly $200,000 needed.

The public hearing will be held Monday, June 2, at 10 a.m., at the Union County Courthouse.

A Good Wind Blows into Union County

The Union County Board of Supervisors Monday granted Good Wind Energy approval to carry extra heavy loads on county roads. They will be bringing in sections of windmills to a site east of Creston. Curt Sheer, vice president of Good Wind Energy, says each unit comes in eight separate pieces, hauled on multi-axle trucks to accommodate the weight.

The three windmills will provide power for the city of Creston. The power will be supplied to Alliant Energy. Union County Engineer Steve Akes says the exact site has yet to be selected, but he has toured the possibilities with Sheer, and there are no problem bridges or culverts in the area. Good Wind Energy will sign an agreement agreeing to leave the roads in the condition in which they were found.

Roads will be subject to pre-construction and post-construction inspections, and is willing to post a bond to cover any possible costs.

Good Wind must also abide by DOT regulations and permits. Supervisor Ron Riley says this is the type of project the county should cooperate with. It not only provides a source of renewable energy, but creates a calling card for area development.

Union County may collect in the neighborhood of a million dollars or more tax revenue over the next 20 years from the project.

Construction will likely begin about a year from now, with some part possibly starting this fall.

Cottonwood Conversation Continues

In one way or another, the Cottonwood Subdivision on the west edge of Creston has been in the works for several years. The latest development proposal comes from Sonntag Construction of Atlantic, who would like to build 36 condominium units on the site over a two-year period. There have been tours and photos and plan changes, with the current proposal involving three offerings ranging from 1,229 to 1,459 square feet, and ranging in price from $171,000 to $259,000. But there’s more to a housing development than housing units, there is infrastructure to build. That part of the agreement, says City Manager Mike Taylor, is more complicated.

Sonntag would like part $1 million worth of TIF, or Tax Increment Financing. Tax Increment Financing enables the city to capture future tax revenue from the development to pay for need infrastructure.

He wants part of the money paid when a part of the infrastructure is complete, a part when all of the infrastructure is complete, and the rest when construction on the condos begins. Taylor says that is not necessarily the way things are usually done, generally the money is paid as a rebate after the fact, but it is a model Sonntag has used before. It would mean a financing move for the city, which would have to borrow the money, and then in essence, pay themselves back.

Unlike the traditional model, which relies on new tax revenue and comes with little risk, this model does have risk for the city. If the project falls through for some reason, or if the units do not assess as expected, Creston taxpayers can be left to make up the difference.

Taylor says that risk is one of the reasons the council has been slow to act, carefully assessing the options. He emphasizes it is the assessed value of the properties that matter in the TIF financing system, not salability of the units. Of course it is important to the project that the units are sold and utilized, but the funding portion rides on the units being assessed, not sold.

City Passes Budget Amendment

The Creston City Council approved an amendment to its Fiscal year 2013-2014 budget last week. City Manager Mike Taylor says it is the first and only amendment to this budget, and reflects changes from the original plan.

The total budget amendment is more than $400,000, with $300,000 on both the expenditure and revenue sides attributed to Creston Waterworks. As for city money, the amendment reflects a $17,000 shortfall.

Taylor says they should be pleased with the amount, a relatively small amount considering the budget was put together nearly 18 months ago.

Increases in expenditures came in the form of Public Safety, Public Works, General Government and Culture and Recreation. Road maintenance, ongoing library needs and repairs at the YMCA all added to the picture. A retirement fund issue Taylor terms a clerical error in the way the transfer of money was recorded contributed as well.

The increases in revenues came from a fire department grant, interest earned, and an increase in licenses and permits.

The current fiscal year ends June 30.

Teacher's Teacher Takes a Rest

One of Creston's premiere educators will leave the district. This year's last day of school will be THE last for Becky Riley. After 33 years with the Creston School district, and the past nine as Elementary and Early Childhood Instructional Coach, Riley will join the ranks of the retired. She says these past few years in the education field have been particularly rewarding. Working with teachers in the classroom, and learning from experts in education have enabled her to make a difference in the quality of education offered to kids.

She says formal training like today's professional development was scarce when she began teaching. Now it is common place, and essential to quality education. And, she says she sees the benefits every day in the classroom

Like teachers, the key to student success is a commitment to live-long learning; and that has meant a change in educational focus, as well as method. She says the days of the teacher being the center of attention with students expected to sit quietly and listen are no more. Today’s teacher is the “guide on the side,” stearing students toward taking charge of their own learning.

The theory behind the strategy is that people will retain information better if they research and learn it themselves, rather than being told. Riley adds if you can learn, you can do anything you want.

She also says technology has opened possibilities few could imagine even a few years ago. But it also creates challenges, as students have to learn not only how to navigate the web, but who and what are trusted sources.

She says the future of education is limitless, and contrary to popular opinion, the education system is not broken, except for some of the mandates that come down from non-educators. But she has the utmost confidence in the caring professional teachers going about the daily business of educating.

Riley says she is taking the summer off, and then will decide her next move in life. She's sure her husband, Ron, will have some farming duties for her. Riley keeps busy outside the classroom organizing The Appalachia Project.

The Rising Cost of Crime

Union County Attorney Tim Kenyon met with the Board of Supervisors yesterday, giving them a heads up on his end of fiscal year budget status. He says it is doubtful he will have any budget surplus to turn back to the county when the current Fiscal Year ends June 30.

Kenyon says he is over budget on the line item for deposition expense. The need for depositions has been “brutal” according to Kenyon.

He has also accumulated expense by enlisting the aid of the Attorney General’s office on an upcoming case. Involving the Attorney General's office is necessary in some cases, but can lead to extra expense. Kenyon says that could run an extra $1,000.

As for the deposition line item, he says he is already nearly $1500 over. But, he adds, he should be able to pull money from another line item to cover it. That is a move he is allowed by law without a budget amendment. That is only required if his total expenditures exceed his budgeted amount. Kenyon says he does not expect that to happen, but it could be close.

County Amends Current Year Budget

The Union County Board of Supervisors will hold a budget amendment hearing Tuesday, May 27, on its Fiscal Year 2013-2014 budget. The fiscal year comes to a close June 30, and the amendment will tie up end of the year business.

Union County Auditor Sandy Hysell explains more than $1 million involves a pass through CDBG grant for a housing project in Chariton, managed by SICOG. Union County serves as the fiscal agent for the project.

Other expenditures include $54,700 additional brush-cutting expense for Secondary Roads. Supervisors Dennis Brown and Ron Riley say weather conditions created a great opportunity to make extra progress on the county’s brush problem.

Also in the amendment is a $2,500 increase in Government Services to Residents attributed to Township Trustee and Clerk’s expenses. Administration costs also increased due to a net loss at C.A.R.E. and a special audit due to the CDBG grant and FEMA funds. Some of the audit expenses will be reimbursed.

Debt service on a roads and bridges bond accounts for $60,300. The funds are being paid by residents on Ryan Drive according to an agreement for upgrade of that street.

The total budget increase, not counting pass through moneys, is $141,900.

The budget amendment hearing is scheduled for 10 am, Tuesday, May 27.

Court System Goes Digital

It's called Electronic Data Management System, or EDMS, and it's changing the way court records are kept. Union County Attorney Tim Kenyon says the change is in process, and has been for some time. Union County is in the first half of the state to make the switch.

The Union County Clerk of Court's office is getting ready, says Union County Clerk Allison Danilovich. The go-live date is May 21.

Everything from hospital reports to small claims to criminal records will now be on the electronic system. Registered users will find it similar to Iowa Courts online, but will now be able to view whole documents.

There will be an open house Wednesday, 1:30-4:30 for those who want to view and learn about the system. The Clerk's office is closed today (Tuesday) and tomorrow (Wednesday) from 8 to 1, and again next Monday, for training. Danilovich's advice to the public is “be patient” as the clerk’s office learns its way around the system along with the public.

That open house is Wednesday, 1:30-4:30, and there will be trainers on site to instruct users on the new system.

Council Approves Elm Street Mural

The Creston City Council last week put its stamp on a public art project to be begun this summer. Blake Fry-Schnormeier, representing the Creston Arts Council tells of the plans to paint scenes on the South Elm Street retaining wall.

Paintings will have a historic theme, creating a timeline of the city. He asked for $350 to complete the east wall this year, and $350 for the west wall next year.

The council readily agreed to the financial contribution, only asking that Fry-Schnormeier return with more specific figures. But other parts of the plan raised questions. City Manager Mike Taylor leads the discussion, saying power-washing the wall is doable, but painting a coat of white base could be more of a challenge. The Taylor requested, and the council agreed it would like to see sketches of the artwork before it is painted.

Fry-Schnormeier says he plans for several artists to have a part in the mural, each one painting one of the rectangle portions of the wall. Community members will submit designs, and the artists will be selected from those submissions.

Fry-Schnormeier says they envision the project as ongoing, with squares being repainted as necessary over time. All artists will use the paint purchased by the Arts Council to provide continuity.

The council will have a chance to see the designs before work begins on the wall the end of July.

Construction to Start on REA Road

It's known as the REA road and it is set to get two new culverts this summer, the first step in a major improvement plan for the road. Following the DOT bid-letting, Union County Engineer Steve Akes presented the winning bid to the Board of Supervisors – along with good financial news.. The bid came in at $1,417,000, more than $200,000 under budget.

Gus Construction out of Casey held the low bid on the twin concrete box culverts and grading. Akes says Gus is a reputable company that has been around for a long time.

The board approved offering a contract to Gus for the job, but paperwork must change hands before work can begin. Akes says they plan to expedite the paperwork processing as much as possible, as the project has a mid-May start date.

Akes says the county is ready to go on its end. The detour signs are up and waiting to be uncovered when work begins.

The project has been on the drawing board for several years, and while the culverts will be replaced this year, the road will not be finished. Rock surfacing will be put down on the construction areas and allowed to settle before the final surface work is done. A decision has not yet been made on what that surface will be. The supervisors would like to repave the road if funds allow.

The detour for the construction area includes rocking a one-quarter mile stretch of road to allow emergency access to all surrounding areas.

The REA road will be closed most of the summer.

Washington Report

Congressman Tom Latham checked in earlier this week with the latest from Washington. As chairman of the Housing and Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, his bill is filed and ready to make its way through the system. The bill insures low income housing vouchers, state transportation funding, and FAA funding for air traffic controllers. Latham says the bill is around $2 billion less than last year.

He is also concerned about veteran's ability to get the medical care they deserve. Inefficiencies in the Veteran’s Administration are an ongoing concern of Congress. He says it is a management problem and not a money problem, and that vets generally receive very good care once they are in the system.

Latham issues an election year reminder to voters as they listen to debates over a multitude of issues. Many issues are “created” for political purposes, to create a circumstance where legislators must make a vote that can then be held against them.

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

The entire interview with Congressman Latham can be heard here

Contracts, Resignations Fill School Board Agenda

The Creston School Board at Monday night’s meeting accepted the resignation of head boy’s basketball coach Billy Hiatt and head girl’s basketball coach Larry McNutt and hired Billie Jo Greene as the district’s business manager. Greene comes to Creston after 13 years with the East Union and Diagonal school districts.

The board also approved master contracts with Certified and Classified staff. Superintendent Steve McDermott highlights the Certified contract, with amounts to a 4.9 percent total package increase.

Classified staff received a similar deal. And there were a few contract wording changes, which McDermott describes as minor language cleanup.

McDermott says the district did what it could this year, but there are no promises going forward. The goal is to stay competitive to retain the quality personnel already on staff and recruit talented newcomers.

The Iowa Senate approved a 6 percent increase in allowable growth. The Iowa House closed out its session without approving school year 2014-2015 funding.

Monday night’s meeting was a special meeting for the business at hand. The next regular meeting is Monday, May 19, at 6 p.m.

Bids Come in on Three-Mile House

The Union County Board of Supervisors got its first look at bids for a new ranger home at Three Mile Lake during this week's regular board meeting. Chairman Dennis Brown began the bid-opening process with a $40,000 bid from Hayes Concrete Construction for a walk-out basement.

That was followed by three bids for the septic system, one for $7,068 and two for $7,200 each. And one bid for the house unit – a three-bedroom, two bath modular home from Creston Mobile Homes for $123,000.

That brings the total to just over $170,000, right at the estimated cost. But, as Conservation officer Doug Jones explains, there are still many costs to be factored in, like framing the walk-out basement wall, water and electrical service, log siding, concrete sidewalk and patio, rock for a drive, and seeding.

All totaled, Jones expects the house will cost around $200,000.

The bids will now go the Union County Conservation Board for review, and to make sure all bonds, references, and adherence to specs are in order. The county has around $70,000 to put toward the project and will look to borrow up to $150,000 to complete the purse. A public hearing on the issue will be held Monday, May 19, at 10 a.m. in the Union County Board Room.

All bidders are local businesses.

Jones says they hope to complete construction by fall.

Patient Surveys Matter

So, you've been to the hospital, and now you're greeted by the bills in the mail every day. Mixed amongst them is a survey to fill out. “Really?” you say. “They aren't getting enough from me? They want my opinion, too?”

“Yes,” says Greater Regional Medical Center Director of Continuum of Care LouAnn Snodgrass. Greater Regional like most medical facilities depend on input from Customer Satisfaction Surveys to make decisions about services. She hopes all patents take a moment to fill out and return the survey to help make GRMC better.

Greater Regional uses standardized forms to collect needed information, like the 32-question HCAPS, required by Medicare, that looks at issues like re-admissions, falls, and patent comfort. Noise is one item addressed. Snodgrass says about a year ago the hospital implemented a quiet hour between 1 and 2 p.m. when the lights are dimmed, non-immediate treatment and therapy and suspend, and patients have a chance to rest.

Patent feedback also helped develop the facility’s floor plan, placing outpatient registration when it can be easily accessed from within the medical center to avoid long walks through the building.

It's all about patient satisfaction.

Business Holds Steady for Recorder's Office

Union County Recorder Paula White reports a good quarter in her office. Business was brisk for the months January, February and March; yet revenues were down from one year ago. White says despite recent national trends, real estate transfers have stayed steady. She says real estate transfers are a mixture of residential and farmland.

The passport traffic has been stable. White says there are some changes in certified records. The cost has increased to $20, though the county still retains only $4 of that with the rest going to the state.

The increased cost is part of a change in the way certified records are kept and issued. A new digital system implemented by the Department of Health makes it possible for a county to issue a certified death certificate regardless of the county of death. For instance, Union County can issue a death certificate for someone who died in a Des Moines hospital.

The Union County Recorder generally turns in the neighborhood of $5,000-$7,000 in revenue over to the county treasurer each month. That money comes in the form of fees for services.

Turn Around Before It's Too Late

Union County bridges, like those in most rural areas, are in need of repair. Many carry reduced weight limits, making farm equipment and delivery trucks trying to navigate rural roads a challenge. Even with federal, state, and local resources combined, there is simply not enough money to bring them all up to legal weight limits. But repairing and replacing bad bridges is not the only expense for the county. Over the next few years, Union County will spend nearly $9,000 on additional signage to warn drivers of the danger of substandard bridges.

Union County Engineer Steve Akes says the signs will warn of a reduced-weight bridge at the previous intersection, not just near the bridge. That will help eliminate a vehicle approaching a bridge that cannot hold the load, and having to either back out or turn around.

Supervisor Ron Riley points out the liability involved.

There are 18 bridges on rock roads that need the additional signage, and 12 on dirt roads. Akes would like to spread the cost over at least two years. There will be some ongoing expense as well, changing signs as the weight limits change.

The signage is a federal requirement.

Akes says even if all the signs are not put up immediately, it is important to show they have a plan in place. Union County has 12 bridges that have been closed due to their condition.

The Road that Never Ends

Repairing winter damage and preparing for summer projects were at the top of the list in this week's Secondary Road report to the Union County Board of Supervisors. Union County Engineer Steve Akes presented bridge plans to be signed by the supervisors on a bridge replacement project northeast of Thayer. He has to meet the DOT deadline for plan submission in order to have a July 15 bid letting. The purchase of right of way for another project also passed under the supervisors' pen.

Secondary Roads crews last week worked on three drive-ways, all but completing the list. Akes says the driveway work involves widening existing drives in some cases, and building new ones in others. With that task under control, crews are moving on to upgrading the county's 7,000 culverts.

With winter snows gone, Akes and his crew can also get a good look at where spot rock is needed, and where more attention is called for. He says weather conditions are right for rock application, and he plans to put down as much as possible in coming weeks. He will review the budget to determine how much can be spent on contract haulers.

Other jobs performed by secondary road crews this past week included hauling spot rock to problem areas, and setting detour signs for summer road and bridge projects.

Small Spaces, Big Ideas

Not everyone lives in a large home. For those who must find a way to make efficient use of space, Creston’s newest store – Small Spaces – might by just the ticket. Owner Jeanette Melhuish. The store offers furniture, storage and decorative items for small living quarters. Shelves, tables, futons, artwork, even remnant flooring are available, along with installation and on-site assembly.

Small Spaces was welcomed to the business community last Friday with a Chamber of Commerce Ribbon Cutting. Chamber Director Ellen Gerharz says people will be surprised at what they find there. For one thing, “futons aren’t what they used to be.”

Stop in to Small Spaces during regular business hours to see the line of compact living items. Small Spaces is located at 107 North Elm Street in Creston.

Thinking Like Scientists

Teaching science at the elementary level involves more than meeting curriculum standards; it involves instilling an interest in the universe. In the world of modern education, teaching science is a science, as Creston Fifth Grade Teacher Pat Rabbitt tells the board of directors in this month’s curriculum report.

Standardized testing and district developed benchmarks paint a similar picture, and the data is used to identify needs and guide teaching strategy.

But, Rabbitt says the data doesn’t tell everything. It’s what the teachers see in the students’ readiness to learn at the next level that tells them they are on the right track.

Rabbitt says technology is key to teaching science. The more student-driven learning becomes, the more digital and on-line resources are used, and the board can best help the effort by continuing to support the use of technology district wide.

He says it is not the only tool. Teachers use a variety of resources, including hands-on experiments. It’s a matter of identifying the learning goal first, then finding a way to meet it.

The result, Rabbitt says, is that oh-so desired curiosity about the world. He says he gets questions from his students every day as they explore the world and how it works.

Creston’s science program also works to increase skills across other aspects of the curriculum, such as math and literacy.

Adair County Sheriff Resigns

Adair County Sheriff Brad Newton has submitted his resignation to the Board of Supervisors. The board voted unanimously to accept the resignation last Wednesday. Newton explains his reason for leaving:

He wants to have more flexibility to help a family member with a new business.

Newton's last official day is still a few months away.

There is a special process for appointing a new Sheriff. Newton continues:

Once he is officially no longer sheriff, a deputy will be appointed by the board to take over as Sheriff until the November election. At that time, there will be a formal election for a new Sheriff.

Sheriff Newton is no stranger to law enforcement.

He has been Sheriff for Adair County since April 2008. Before that, he had been a deputy since January 1, 1985. Previous, he had served Guthrie County as a deputy as well.

He has been in law enforcement for the last 35 years. He feels that has been long enough for him, and wishes to enter into a different line of work. Newton adds that he still enjoys the work, however.

Newton's last day will be Friday June 27 at 3 PM.

UCDA Project has Impact on Economic Scene

The Union County Economic Development Association has begun its second year of a three-year plan called Project: Impact. Executive Director Wayne Pantini, explains a few details on the plan.

Three-year strategic plan. Information was compiled by doing surveys.

Those five areas Project: Impact will combat are business, community, housing, workforce and leadership development. He explains that some are already started, but can be improved, while other initiatives are just beginning.
Pantini tells what Project: Impact has accomplished in its first year, as well as what is being continued.

They are continuing to invest in small business investment center. In addition, they are offering workshops for different businesses around the area. They have also advocated to get trail work done at Green Valley.

Workforce development is one of the five targeted areas for the plan.

Pantini also explains the area of housing development.

Many homes around the area are have dilapidated, so they are working with Elm Street corridor to tear down these home for more affordable homes in the future.

Pantini says that classes have been offered for an adult leadership program. They discuss community topics and cover different leadership topics. There is also a Youth Leadership class. Graduation for both of these classes is coming up in May.

Project: Impact has been funded by various private and public organizations, including several local businesses. This project began in 2013 and will conclude in 2015.

The Old Market Opens in Uptown Creston

Old and new with a hand-crafted flair is the specialty of The Old Market Primitives, Antiques & Gifts – Creston’s latest retail addition. The establishment was honored with a Chamber of Commerce Ribbon Cutting on Thursday. The shop, located at 104 North Maple just north of Upper Crust, is owned and operated by Janelle Kretz.

Kretz has connections to the community; she is the sister of local auctioneer Tom Frey. She tells the ribbon cutting crowd how she came to join them in Creston. She says she has long been a collector of primitive antiques, and after several years of attending auctions in the Creston area and taking goods back to Nebraska, she decided it was time to settle here.

There are other Freys in on the Old Market. Her brother Jeff, from Nebraska, hand builds tables and cabinetry, that is then custom finished by Kretz.

The Old Market is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 to 5:30, and 10 to 2 on Saturdays, and is closed Sunday and Monday. Kretz says she has auctions to attend, always looking for stock.

Already at home in the Creston community, Kretz is looking forward to many more years to come.

It's Primary Election Time

The Primary Election is scheduled for June 3, and candidates have been filing petitions and ramping up campaigns at every level of government. Union County Auditor Sandy Hysell gives some important dates voters will want to know.

Absentee Voting starts April 24 at the County Auditor’s Office.

The Auditor’s Office will be open on Saturday, May 24, 8 a.m.-5 for registering to vote so your name will appear on the Election Registers on Election Day and for Absentee Voting. Same day registration will be available at the polls on Election Day.
The Auditor’s Office will also be open Saturday, May 31, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. for Absentee Voting.
The Primary Election is June 3. Polls will be open from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm 

Hysell says with the new voting system in place, now is a good time to update that voter registration card. Contact the Auditor’s office if your need a duplicate. Hysell says the voting machines will take an ID, but in past elections, things seemed to go smoother with the Voter ID cards. New cards must be requested by May 28.

She says the staff at the auditor’s office is there to make the process as simple as possible for those exercising their voting privileges. If you have any questions, or would like to serve as a poll worker, contact the Auditor’s Office.

STEM Provides New Ways of Learning

Included in Governor Branstad’s education initiative of the past few years is STEM – a program designed to focus educators on science, technology, engineering and math. School districts like Creston have been able to, among other resources, tap additional funding. Creston High School Principal Bill Messerole says the school applies for STEM dollars every year, but every year has a different focus.

Science teacher Richard Siglin says even though the state focus may change annually, the project dollars can still offer benefit. He was able to use wind generation materials purchased through STEM last year in this year’s classes.

Robotics is a popular area of focus, with contests held state-wide. Siglin says one of the plusses of these type of contests, and programs like Creston’s EAST program, which participates in them, is student collaboration like that seen by the Creston team of a freshman and several seniors.

Siglin says the STEM initiative has created new opportunities, but it still comes down to solid teaching, with teachers at all levels working together.

The Creston science program has also increased its use of technology to help provide individualized instruction and enhance scientific learning.

Middle School Works to Improve Achievement Scores

One of the sanctions placed against Creston Middle School for its inability to meet federal No Child Left Behind student achievement goals is a requirement that Title I dollars be diverted to professional development. Inclusion in that School In Need of Assistance, or SINA, designation has encouraged the school to step up efforts, particularly in the areas of math and reading. Middle School Principal Brad Baker says they have turned to outside consultants to help, working through the AEA and joining in with the Elementary on reading instruction.

Middle School students proficient in Math ranged from 75.3 percent for sixth grade to 80.9 percent in seventh, according to current year testing. Reading scores ranged from 60.2 percent for sixth grade to 78.9 for eighth grade. Social studies scores ranged from 59.1 percent to 67 percent. No Child Left Behind ultimately requires 100 percent of students to be proficient.

Baker says this is the first year in several years social studies scores have been included, and social study teachers have found the Iowa Assessment scores beneficial in pinpointing problem areas.

Middle School students were given an incentive to increase their scores this year. Those who showed progress will be dismissed from school a day early. Their last day will be May 30. The remainder of the students come back to school on June 2, where they and their teachers will take an in-depth look at their progress and future needs.

Creston students will be dismissed two hours early on June 2, the last day of school.

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

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.

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