Area News Stories


LOCAL NEWS

OSKALOOSA WOMAN CHARGED WITH NEGLECT OF DEPENDENT PERSON

Charges of neglect of a dependent person and OWI, 3rd offense have been filed against an Oskaloosa woman in regards to a weekend incident. 41 year old Julie Jones was arrested Friday evening, September 26, in Oskaloosa. 

According to court documents, around 5:30 pm Friday evening, a caller advised the Mahaska County 911 Center that a vehicle was swerving over Highway 63 and driving on the gravel shoulder. Officers eventually stopped the vehicle in Oskaloosa. During the traffic stop, officers state that they could smell the odor of alcohol on Jones’ breath. Court documents also indicated that during filed sobriety tests, Jones showed signs of intoxication. Documents also indicated that her BAC was tested to be over .080%. During the traffic stop, officers noted that Jones’ 11 year old son was in the front passenger seat of the vehicle.
OWI 3rd offense is a Class D Felony, while Neglect of a Dependent Person is a Class C Felony. Bond has been set at $5,000 cash on each count. 

A preliminary hearing has been set for October 7th.

As always, a criminal charge is an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.


THOMPSON APPOINTED MAHASKA COUNTY MAGISTRATE JUDGE

Amber Thompson was appointed Mahaska County attorney yesterday after a two hour meeting of the Mahaska County Magistrate Nominating Commission. The commission voted unanimously to appoint her to the position. Three candidates were interviewed; Amber Thompson of Sigourney, Diane Crookham-Johnson of Oskaloosa, and Misty White-Reinor of Pella. Each interview lasted for approximately 30 minutes.

During her interview, among other things, Thompson stated that she would like to improve courthouse security, more specifically in the Magistrate Courthouse Room. Thompson also said she believed she would be a good magistrate because she can see both sides of an arugment without any preconceived notions.

Thompson was sworn in Tuesday 9/23 at 9 AM. She will attend a class for newly appointed magistrate on October 2nd and 3rd. 

Current Magistrate Scott Campbell will retire on October 1st. He has held the position since 1996.


OSKALOOSA SCHOOL BOARD DISCUSSES ASSESSMENTS

Oskaloosa School Board members met in special session Tuesday to discuss the comprehensive assessment with consultant Tony VanderZyl. The board met for about 90 minutes asking several pointed questions in evaluating the data released this past spring.

VanderZyl reiterated the number one recommendation from the study team, “Create a sense of urgency to get better.” That recommendation is intended for board members, faculty, parents, staff and students. Iowa students have continued to slide in relationship to other states on assessments, a comment that has not been lost during the pre-evaluation process and the follow-up.

VanderZyl, who assists Iowa schools through the Iowa Association of School Boards, walked the board through questions posted by the members. 
“Three out of four students do not meet the standards,” said VanderZyl. “If your student is one of the three, you had better be mad.”

The tone of the evaluator stated that Oskaloosa is no different than other schools in Iowa in that they are not doing well on standardized tests. VanderZyl said the assessments we are using in Iowa are bad. They do not test the rigor of Iowa Core. He said the Iowa Core is great and if schools will actually teach to it, they will see improvement.

The need to look at alternative assessments instead of MAP and the Iowa Assessment was questioned. Board member Kraig Van Hulzen said, “If we want to challenge students then we have to give them a different assessment. But only of we want different results.”

VanderZyl said the use of the National Assessment would be a good possibility. It was noted by VanderZyl and Van Hulzen that the Iowa Assessment is required by legislation. VanderZyl warned what the board will see in immediate results because of the difference in how the skills are assessed. 

“Instead of 80 and 90 percent proficiency you will see 20-30 percent.”
Superintendent Russ Reiter said he knows he would take a hit with those results. VanderZyl said yes, but that the district would find out what the students are actually learning. The current assessments are basically “color the bubble” tests and do not test rigor. As noted in an earlier meeting this spring writing is not included in the Iowa Assessments or in the MAP testing.

Oskaloosa students have begun the annual fall MAP assessment this week. Testing of all students should be completed in the next two weeks. The board will continue to look at the data and work with teachers, staff and parents to move forward.

Prior to the work session, the board held a closed session for an employee evaluation. Following the closed session the board voted to terminate the employment of Patricia Gibbons for violating the school policy of smoking on school property. The vote was unanimous.


OSKALOOSA RIDES OFFERING FREE FRIDAY RIDES IN OCTOBER

Good news for those looking to get around town this October: Oskaloosa Rides is free of charge on Fridays next month.

Oskaloosa Rides, the new fixed-route bus service, began in July with a goal of meeting transportation needs. Hundreds of people in Oskaloosa don’t have regular access to a vehicle and can struggle to get to places offering healthcare, retail and human services.
Free Fridays is a way to make it even easier to use Oskaloosa Rides and gain the freedom that comes with increased mobility.

“We have a long way to go in making it common place in Oskaloosa,” says Amy Langdon, director of the United Way of Mahaska County and Oskaloosa Rides organizer. “Using public transportation is not something everyone’s 100% comfortable doing just yet. But we’re hoping with Free Fridays and different promotions, we’ll be able to show people just how easy it is to use Oskaloosa Rides.”

The first step is just getting people through the bus door. Langdon says once they trust it to be convenient and reliable, more people will use it to meet their transportation needs.
“It’s a one-hour loop all around Oskaloosa, so if you’re not quite comfortable taking it from point A to point B, why not take it for the whole route? You can get off where you got on and get to see all the possible locations the bus can take you,” Langdon says.
Oskaloosa Rides runs 9AM to 5:30PM on Mondays, Wednesdays and Friday. Kids and teens under 18 ride free; adults are $1. Monthly passes are available at Hy-Vee, Fareway, and Walmart for $15/month or $10 for people with disabilities, senior citizens and college students.

Free Fridays will run in all five Fridays in October.
For more information on Oskaloosa Rides, “Like” Oskaloosa Rides on Facebook, go to unitedwaymahaska.org/oskaloosa-rides-0 or call the United Way of Mahaska County at 641.673.6043.


OTTUMWA MAN ARRESTED IN STABBING

On Tuesday September 16th, 2014 at approximately 4:35 p.m., the Wapello County Sheriff’s Office responded to 201 E. Main St., Apt. 7, Agency Iowa reference a 911 call of a female subject that had been stabbed. As a result of the investigation deputies arrested Patrick Murray, age 59 of 201 E. Main St., Apt. 7, Agency Iowa for Domestic Abuse with Intent to Inflict Serious Injury and/or Uses or Displays a Dangerous Weapon in Connection with the Assault. The female victim was transported to Ottumwa Regional Health Center where she was treated for her injuries and released. Patrick is currently being held at the Wapello Co. Jail on a $2000.00 cash only bond.


CITY COUNCIL VOTES DOWN FRANCHISE FEES

In a surprising move Monday evening, the Oskaloosa City Council voted AGAINST the 3rd and final reading of a measure which would raise the city’s gas and electric franchise fees by 2% each. The vote ended a nearly two month long debate over city revenue, which included charges drawn towards the state legislature, among other parties. City Councilor Jason Van Zetten, who has historically opposed an increase in the fees, again expressed his belief that this only was being considered because of a funding request from the YMCA. Van Zetten and other city councilors expressed their continued belief that now is not the time to raise taxes. At the public hearing on the matter held back in August, numerous members of the public rose to speak against the franchise fee increase, with one member of the public going so far as to call it a tax on the poor. The final vote last night was 4-3 against raising the franchise fee.

In other action, the council:

·         Unanimously approved the second reading of an alley vacate request at 701 High Ave West

·         Approved a site plan located at 1302 and 1320 High Ave West for a housing development referred to as The Reserves at Ironwood. The site plan shows development for a new 48 unit apartment complex.

·         Approved, on a 6-1 vote, the appointments of Mike Vore to the Oskaloosa Water Board and Sara Tarbell and Dawn Collings to the Planning and Zoning Commission.

The next meeting of the Oskaloosa City Council will be October 6th at 6 pm in the City Council Chambers.


STATE NEWS

GRIFFIN PIPE-VIOLATIONS

EPA: Pipe company had violations at Iowa facility

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) — Environmental officials say a pipe company must pay $950,000 for air and water violations at its former Council Bluffs facility.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Region 7 says Griffin Pipe Products must pay the civil penalty after multiple violations.

The company is accused of illegally discharging untreated process wastewater to the city's wastewater collection system between 2007 and 2008. It is also accused of violating its storm water permit in 2011. The EPA says the company also discharged zinc, lead, copper and other pollutants in violation of its permit levels.

Griffin Pipe Products has ceased production at the Council Bluff facility. It says it is now in compliance with the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.

A message left for Griffin Pipe Products was not immediately returned Monday.


FATAL CAR WRECK

Iowa man charged with vehicular homicide in wreck

DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) — A Davenport man has been charged with vehicular homicide following a car wreck that killed two Illinois men.

Twenty-four-year-old Kai Miller is charged with homicide by vehicle, operating while intoxicated and two counts of serious injury by vehicle in connection to the crash early Sunday in Davenport. Court records do not list an attorney.

Authorities say Miller's car collided with a vehicle carrying 21-year-old Andrew Scott Adams and 22-year-old Danny DeBacker, both of Orion, Illinois. An affidavit says Miller admitted to police that he drank multiple alcoholic beverages prior to driving.

The Quad-City Times reports court records show Miller pleaded guilty to a speeding violation in connection to a 2009 car crash that killed his 18-year-old passenger. He license was taken away for two months.


IOWA PRISON-CAPSULES

Lab returns tests on capsules found at Iowa prison

ROCKWELL CITY, Iowa (AP) — Lab results show hundreds of capsules found at a northern Iowa prison tested negative for any controlled substances.

The state Department of Public Safety made the announcement Monday about the 300 to 400 capsules found earlier this month at the North Central Correctional Facility in Rockwell City. The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Criminalistics Laboratory completed an analysis of the capsules.

The pills contained an unknown substance, prompting a state drug investigation. Initial field testing indicated they contained cocaine and the pain killer Demerol, but later testing came back negative for controlled substances.

State officials have not said how the capsules got inside the prison.


FATAL CAR CHASE

Man dies following short car chase in central Iowa

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A man has died following a short car chase with authorities in central Iowa.

The Warren County Sheriff's office says a deputy began following the car after it was reported stolen earlier Monday morning.

The chase lasted less than a minute. The vehicle hit an embankment in a private driveway and flipped. It then caught fire.

The Des Moines Register reports the driver in the stolen vehicle was pronounced dead at the scene. A name hasn't been released.


CEDAR FALLS POST OFFICE

Historic Post Office coming back to life

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (AP) — Volunteers are making progress on the restoration of a former Cedar Falls post office that once was destined for demolition.

In 2012, the city council voted to demolish the building. But the Cedar Falls Development Group acquired a 40-year lease for the city-owned structure earlier this year, preventing its razing.

The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reports volunteers have removed mold inside of the building, landscaped the front lawn and repainted the original window casings outside.

In the post office's basement, the exposed brick walls are still waiting to be resealed.

Several people have already expressed an interest in using the space, including a tenant who has proposed converting it into a boutique and wine bar. The development group says no lease agreements have been signed yet though.


MISSING STUDENT-IOWA

Authorities work to identify body found in car

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa City police continue to investigate a homicide after finding a body in the trunk of a car belonging to a missing Iowa State University student.

Police are careful not to identify the body as that of 20-year-old Tong Shao but say it was her Toyota Camry in which the body was found Friday night at an apartment complex in southeast Iowa City.

Iowa City Police spokesman Sgt. Scott Gaarde says an autopsy has been completed and efforts are being made to identify the body.

Shao, a junior chemical engineering student from China was last seen in Ames more than three weeks ago.

She is believed to have gone to Iowa City to visit her boyfriend, who police say is a person of interest they believe has flown to China.


DES MOINES POLICE CHIEF

Des Moines announces interim police chief

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A veteran law enforcement official has been named interim police chief for Des Moines.

The city announced Monday that Maj. Douglas B. Harvey will take over the duties of Chief Judy Bradshaw. He will hold the position until a permanent replacement is hired.

Harvey has a 37-year career with the Des Moines Police Department. He recently managed a $2.3 million building project at the police station that included a new high tech forensics lab and workspace for the crime scene unit.

City officials say they'll conduct a national search in the next several months to replace Bradshaw. She retires Friday.