Roadway closure across Red Rock Dam extended to June 26

KNOXVILLE, Iowa –The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Rock Island District, announces the full closure of Highway T15 across Red Rock Dam will now extend until June 26. The extended road closure is to allow for proper concrete cure times to the newly repaired bridge deck.

The closure had previously been expected to last through June 12.

For more information, please contact the US Army Corps of Engineers at Lake Red Rock at 641-828-7522 or via email at lakeredrock@usace.army.mil.

Ottumwa Man Charged After 11 Year Old Girl Reported Missing and Found

OTTUMWA — An Ottumwa man now faces multiple felony charges after an 11-year-old girl was reported missing and later found.

On Tuesday, May 30, 2023, at approximately 4:35 a.m., the Ottumwa Police Department received information regarding a missing 11-year-old juvenile female.  At approximately 9:20 a.m., the missing juvenile arrived at a residence in Ottumwa and the juvenile was located.     

Police then began investigating the circumstances surrounding what lead to the juvenile to be missing.  As a result, the child’s father, Peter Frederic Serrer, age 48, of 916 East 4th, Ottumwa, was arrested and charged with the following:  

  • Child Endangerment Causing Bodily Injury, a Class “D” Felony
  • Neglect or Abandonment of a Dependent Person, a Class “C” Felony  

Serrer is currently being held in the Wapello County Jail.  The Iowa Department of Human Services assisted with the investigation. 

A criminal charge is merely an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Expect big crowds for the summer travel season — and big prices, too

DALLAS (AP) — The unofficial start of the summer travel season is here, with airlines hoping to avoid the chaos of last year and travelers scrounging for ways to save a few bucks on pricey airfares and hotel rooms.

Some travelers say they will settle for fewer trips than they hoped to take, or they will drive instead of fly. Others are finding different money-saving sacrifices.

Stephanie Hanrahan thought she’d save money by planning ahead for her daughter’s birthday trip to Disney World in Florida. Instead, it ended up costing the same as the Dallas-area family’s trip for four to California last summer, so now her husband and son are staying home.

“We just had to grit our teeth,” said Hanrahan, a writer and speaker who also runs a nonprofit, as she and daughter Campbell waited for their flight last week at Dallas Love Field.

The number of people going through U.S. airports hit pandemic-era highs last weekend, and those records are almost certain to be broken over the Memorial Day holiday.

AAA predicts that 37 million Americans will drive at least 50 miles (80 kilometers) from home this weekend, an increase of more than 2 million from Memorial Day last year but still below pre-pandemic numbers in 2019. The Transportation Security Administration expects to screen 10 million travelers between Friday and Monday, a 14% increase over the holiday in 2022 and slightly more than in 2019.

With more travel comes more expense. The average rate for a U.S. hotel room last week was $157 a night, up from $150 in the same week last year, according to hotel data provider STR. And the average daily rate for other short-term rentals such as Airbnb and Vrbo rose to $316 last month, up 1.4% from a year ago, according to AirDNA, which tracks the industry.

There is a bit of good news for drivers, however: The national average for a gallon of regular was $3.56 at midweek, down from $4.60 at this time last year, according to AAA. Renting a car is also cheaper than a year ago, when some popular destinations ran out of vehicles. Travel company Expedia said larger inventories let the companies rent more cars at lower prices.

For air travelers, airline industry officials say carriers have fixed problems that contributed to a surge in flight cancellations and delays last summer, when 52,000 flights were nixed from June through August. Airlines have hired about 30,000 workers since then, including thousands of pilots, and they are using bigger planes to reduce flights but not the number of seats.

“I don’t have the hubris to tell you exactly how the summer is going to go, but we have prepared and we have a robust plan for it,” said Andrew Watterson, chief operating officer at Southwest Airline, which struggled at times over the summer of 2022 and suffered an epic meltdown around Christmas, canceling nearly 17,000 flights.

David Seymour, the chief operating officer of American Airlines, said his staff has fine-tuned a system it uses to predict the impact of storms on major airports and devise a plan for recovering from disruptions. He said it is reducing cancellations.

“It’s going to be a solid summer for us,” Seymour said.

In a report released last month, the Government Accountability Office blamed airlines for an increase in flight cancellations as travel recovered from the pandemic. It also said airlines are taking longer to recover from disruptions such as storms.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says the government will hold airlines responsible to treat passengers fairly when the carriers cause cancellations or long delays. But just like the airlines, the Federal Aviation Administration — the agency that manages the nation’s air traffic — has had its own staffing shortages and occasional technology breakdowns that have snarled air travel.

The FAA resorted to nudging airlines to reduce flights in the New York City area this summer, and it opened new flight paths over the East Coast to reduce bottlenecks.

“It’s going to be an ordeal — it’s always an ordeal to travel in the summer,” said travel analyst Henry Harteveldt, “but the airlines have done a lot to improve their ability to operate well this summer.”

Airlines hope that limiting the number of flights will improve reliability and reduce delays. So far, it seems to be working. About one in every 70 U.S. flights have been canceled this year — half the rate of a year ago and lower than in 2019.

Limiting the number of flights also keeps prices above pre-pandemic levels.

A provider of travel data, Hopper, predicts that average domestic airfares will peak next month at $328 for a round-trip ticket, which is down from last summer’s record of $400 but 4% higher than in 2019.

There are some last-minute deals on domestic flights, Hopper found, but international fares are their highest in more than five years, with prices to Europe up 50% from a year ago.

The same thing is happening within Europe, as airlines hold the line on capacity at a time of strong travel demand.

“There is no expectation of seeing cheaper fares in Europe in the next seven or eight months,” says John Grant, an analyst for OAG, a U.K.-based travel-data provider.

For the travel industry, the big question is how long consumers can keep paying for airline tickets and accommodations while they try to deal with stubborn high inflation, news about layoffs and bank failures, and fear of a recession.

Industry executives say consumers are favoring the experience of travel over other types of spending, but some analysts see cracks in the strong demand for travel that began in early 2022.

Bank of America analysts say data from their credit and debit card customers showed a slowdown in spending in April, as card use fell below year-before levels for the first time since February 2021. They say spending on hotels, which rebounded relatively early from the pandemic, dipped this spring, while the late-recovering cruise industry is still steaming ahead — card spending on cruises rose 37% last month, although from very low levels a year ago.

“Travel remains a bright spot relative to other sectors, but we’re also seeing signs of moderation in the travel space,” said Anna Zhou, an economist for the bank.

Share the fun of fishing during free fishing weekend June 2-4

DES MOINES — Iowa residents can try fishing without buying a license on June 2, 3 and 4, as part of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) free fishing weekend. All other regulations remain in place.

Free fishing weekend is a great time to share the fun of fishing with a kid, your family or a friend. Outdoor fun awaits at hundreds of Iowa lakes, thousands of miles of rivers or a neighborhood pond.

“A summer of family fun is just a short drive and a fishing pole away,” said Joe Larscheid, chief of the Iowa DNR’s Fisheries Bureau. “The water is waiting. Get your lines in the water and put your worries behind you.”

Find a list of stocked lakes and ponds that are easily accessible in parks and along trails on the Iowa DNR’s interactive Iowa Community Fisheries Atlas at www.iowadnr.gov/Fishing/Fish-Local.

Fun, hands-on fishing events will be offered across Iowa to help families new to fishing get started. Check the general fishing calendar on the DNR website at www.iowadnr.gov/fishing for a list of free fishing events.

Keep the fun going all summer long by buying a fishing license. It’s easy to buy a fishing license with the DNR Go Outdoors Iowa online licensing system at https://license.gooutdoorsiowa.com/Licensing/CustomerLookup.aspx. You can download the public Go Outdoors IA mobile app for iPhone and Android devices to buy and store your fishing license, so you will always have access to your license no matter where you are. Yearly, seven-day, or 24-hour fishing licenses are available.

Enticing a fish to bite your hook is fun for all ages. Get tips for taking kids fishing and catching crappie and bluegills on the DNR website at www.iowadnr.gov/Fishing/Ready-to-Fish.

Mahaska County Extension Honors New Master Gardener Volunteer

OSKALOOSA — The Mahaska County Master Gardeners recently elevated intern Lisa Vohoska to certification as a Iowa Master Gardener.  She took Master Gardener training in 2021 and recently completed the volunteer requirement and was presented with certificate and permanent name badge.

Iowa Master Gardener is a job title, describing a volunteer who has been trained to educate the public about horticulture and gardening.  To achieve Master Gardener Certification, candidates complete 40 hours of educational training and 40 hours of volunteer time in their inaugural year.  In ensuing years, a Master Gardener must complete 20 hours of volunteer time plus ten hours of approved advanced training, to maintain their certification.

Master Gardener training switched to online in 2020 and continues to be hybrid (meaning both online and in person).  Persons interested in the Master Gardener Program can learn more by contacting Suzette Striegel at the Mahaska County  Extension office by email striegel@iastate.edu, phone 641-673-5841or by visiting the website https://www.extension.iastate.edu/mastergardener/ .

Nathan Sage Named New Executive Director of Knoxville Chamber

KNOXVILLE — The Knoxville Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors has named Nathan Sage as its executive director. He will begin his role on May 30.

“Nathan possesses many of the qualities that are required for our Executive Director to be successful — leadership, relationship building, storytelling, and most importantly, a passion for Knoxville,” said Tracy Russell, president, Knoxville Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

The Knoxville Chamber of Commerce is a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering a vibrant business community through effective communication and stakeholder engagement. They promote business, encourage others to shop local and shop local themselves.

Presidential Candidate Ryan Binkley Hosting Public Meetings in Pella, Oskaloosa Tomorrow

OSKALOOSA — 2024 Republican Presidential candidate Ryan Binkley will be making campaign stops in Pella and Oskaloosa tomorrow (5/25).

Binkley will host a meet and greet at Smokey Row Coffee in Oskaloosa from 7-8am tomorrow morning to discuss his platform with Oskaloosa residents. Then, following a stop in Newton, he will host another meet and greet at Smokey Row Coffee in Pella from 3-4pm.

The full schedule of events is available here.

Recent shark attacks are worrying beach-goers, yet experts say they’re very rare

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Recent shark bites in Florida and Hawaii and a suspected case in New Jersey have piqued interest in an age-old summer question for beachgoers — is it safe to go in the water?

Scientists and researchers who study sharks said the overwhelming answer to that question is yes, it is safe. Potentially dangerous interactions between humans and sharks are uncommon, and serious injuries and deaths from the bites are vanishingly rare, scientists said.

Nonetheless, the dramatic nature of shark bites and the stories of survivors, such as Hawaii surfer Mike Morita’s tale of fighting off a shark in April, capture the imagination. It’s a good idea to remember just how rare shark bites truly are, scientists said.


There have been typically around 70 to 80 unprovoked shark bites annually, worldwide, over the past decade. And not only are shark bites rare, they’ve been especially rare recently.

There were only 57 unprovoked bites last year, and five of those were fatal, according to University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File. There had been nine such deaths the previous year.

The shark attack file reported a year ago that one reason for the decline in bites might be be the global decline of shark populations.

It’s too early in the warm season to get an idea of how active this year will be for interactions between humans and sharks, said Greg Skomal, a shark expert with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries.

“If we get lots of bait fish and forage fish species close to shore, we have a super hot summer that draws people to beaches, more people in the water, then we can determine the risk,” Skomal said.


The United States and Australia are typically the sites of the most reported shark bites. Florida had more bites than anywhere else on Earth last year with 16 unprovoked bites, two of which resulted in amputations, the shark attack file said.

This month, two Florida fishermen were bitten by sharks in separate incidents less than 36 hours apart.

The rate of shark bites has stayed steady in recent years, but it might feel like a more common occurrence because of the prevalence of smartphones, said Nick Whitney, a senior scientist at the New England Aquarium in Boston. Recently developed smartphone apps allow users to report shark sightings in real time.


White sharks, bull sharks and tiger sharks are the sharks most cited by the International Shark Attack File for unprovoked bites. Those species are large sharks that also cause the most fatalities.

However, it’s worth bearing in mind that many interactions with sharks are with smaller species that are unlikely to cause serious injuries, said James Sulikowski, director of the Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station at Oregon State University. Those species might bite a human, realize we are not their preferred prey and move on, he said.


Yes. You’re at exponentially greater risk of getting hurt in a car accident on the way to the beach than you are to get seriously injured by a shark bite.

Millions of people flock to the beach in the summer as the weather heats up, and that raises the possibility of interacting with a shark. But by taking simple precautions, such as not carrying shiny objects into the water and not swimming at dawn and dusk, beachgoers can reduce any chance of a dangerous encounter with a shark, Sulikowski said.

“We are intruders in their environment. What we can do is be logical and safe about that and avoid areas where sharks are going to be feeding,” Sulikowski said. “When an interaction occurs, it’s mistaken identity — we are in an area where a shark is looking to eat.”

Attorney General Bird Joins 49 State Coalition to Sue Avid Telecom Over Illegal, Fraudulent Robocalls

DES MOINES — Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird joined 48 other states in a lawsuit against Avid Telecom, its owner, and its chief officers for facilitating billions of illegal robocalls to millions of Americans.

Since 2019, about 9,000 of these fraudulent calls have targeted Iowa alone. Avid Telecom has helped make hundreds of millions of calls using fake or invalid caller ID numbers, including more than 8.4 million calls impersonating the government, law enforcement agencies, and private companies. They also sent or transmitted more than 7.5 billion calls on the National Do Not Call Registry.

Between December 2018 and January 2023, Avid sent or attempted to send a total of over 24.5 billion calls. The scam robocalls involved Social Security Administration scams, Medicare scams, auto warranty scams, Amazon scams, and more. The USTelecom-led Industry Traceback Group sent Avid Telecom at least 329 notifications about it transmitting known and suspected illegal robocalls, but they ignored the notifications and continued facilitating the calls.

“We’re taking action to shield Iowans from fraudulent and illegal robocalls,” said Attorney General Bird. “This company has helped connect scammers directly with thousands of Iowans over the phone, but we’re pushing back. Thanks to this bipartisan coalition of attorneys general, we are putting the full force of 49 states behind our lawsuit to hold illegal robocalling businesses accountable and protect Americans from scams.”

The 49-state coalition is suing Avid Telecom for violation of the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR), the Telephone Consumer Protection Action (TCPA), and other state and federal laws.

Iowa joined 48 other states in the Arizona, Indiana, North Carolina, and Ohio-led lawsuit.

Read the full lawsuit here.

Honors Presented to Central College Faculty

PELLA — Central College recognized six faculty members for their outstanding leadership in teaching, service and scholarship.

  • Elena Vishnevskaya, associate professor of religion, received the Dr. John Wesselink Award for scholarship with a direct impact on teaching.
  • Maggie Fisher Schlerman ’02, associate professor of accounting, received the David Crichton Memorial Teaching Award for excellence in teaching that challenges and shapes the intellectual development in students.
  • Mat Kelly, professor of art, received the Hutch Bearce Community-Building and Faculty Leadership Award for community building and mentorship or leadership.
  • Linda Laine, professor of communication studies, received the Huffman Award for Outstanding Support of International Education. This award recognizes the contributions made by Donald and Maxine Huffman to Central’s programs in international education.
  • Russ Goodman, professor of mathematics, received the Frank W. Moore Faculty Award for promoting student learning in the natural sciences division through teaching and/or service over time.
  • Sara Shuger Fox, associate professor of kinesiology, received the Franks-Mahmood Fund for Undergraduate Research award for work with Blue Zone research in Ikaria, Greece: A comparative analysis with Nicoya, Costa Rica.

These faculty members were honored during the annual recognition ceremony in May to celebrate the collective teaching, scholarship, creativity, leadership and the end of another academic year.


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