2-1 news

A Luther college graduate will appear in a Super Bowl commercial this afternoon. Kyle Hustedt is a 2002 Luther graduate. He will appear in a commercial with actress and singer Jennifer Hudson for American Family Insurance.

A reception will be held this afternoon for a retiring Decorah Public Library employee. Sally Stromseth is retiring after serving 20 years as the children’s librarian. The reception will be held from one-30 until three this afternoon in the library mezzanine. Refreshments will be served. The public is invited to attend.

Two Decorah middle school teams earned recognition at the State Future City competition held in Cedar Rapids last week. Competing against 50 teams, Decorah earned two of the top 12 awards, the best urban agriculture award and the best synergy of transportation with energy efficiency and water reduction. The Future City competition was adopted this year by Decorah Middle School to promote the engineering component of STEM education.

A joint meeting of the Decorah Planning and Zoning Commission and the Decorah board of adjustment has been scheduled. It will be held Tuesday, February tenth at five-30 at city hall. The two government boards will discuss items of mutual concern.

1-31 news

The Winneshiek county protectors will meet with the Winneshiek county supervisors on Monday. The protectors will update the board on conversations with state lawmakers about keeping local control of zoning. The board will also discuss budget matters with county engineer Lee Bjerke and county conservation director Barb Schroeder. The meeting will begin at nine-30 at the courthouse in Decorah.

Work is progressing on a plan to increase the gas tax in the state 10 cents per gallon. Republican state representative Josh Byrnes of Osage says all involved are on the same page.

Byrnes

Iowa’s gas tax has not been raised since 1989.

The Decorah city council will discuss budget matters at its meeting Monday night. The council is expected to set the public hearing on the fiscal year 2015-2016 budget. City officials say they are not planning on any increase in the property tax levy asking. The meeting will begin at five-45 at city hall.

A friendly reminder from Decorah city manager Chad Bird about those who walk their pets in the winter.

Bird

Bird says the city prefers to ask people to comply with the law rather than enforce penalties. Bird says the first offense is 250 dollars.

1-30 news

Plans are beginning to come together on a package to increase the gas tax at the statehouse. A few years back when the issue was discussed, a gradual increase over the period of a few years. Republican state senator Mike Breitbach of Strawberry Point says we’re beyond that point.

Breitbach

Breitbach says he expects both chambers and both parties to work closely together on this particular issue.

The Winneshiek county board of supervisors will meet (Friday). The board will take a tour of road issues and projects. No action is scheduled on the agenda. The board will gather at the Winneshiek county courthouse beginning at nine-30.

Right now, if a person gets hurt sledding on municipal property in the state of Iowa, they would have a right to sue the municipality under current state code. Its something Decorah city manager Chad Bird says lawmakers need to change.

Bird

The conversation started after the city of Dubuque closed down two sledding hills earlier this year due to liability concerns.

A Luther College graduate will appear in a Super Bowl commercial this weekend. Kyle Hustedt, a 2002 Luther graduate, will star alongside singer and Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Hudson in a commercial for American Family Insurance. Hustedt was a music and theater/dance major at Luther who also sang in the Nordic Choir. He went on to study opera and musical theatre, earning a master’s degree at Northwestern University.

IT APPEARS LIKELY STATE LAWMAKERS ARE GOING TO APPROVE A TEN-CENT PER GALLON INCREASE IN GASOLINE AND DIESEL TAXES IN THE COMING WEEKS.

The theme for the 2015 Nordic Fest has been selected. Fest officials say dancing with the trolls will be the theme of the festival which will run July 23rd through the 25th. Fest President Tom Houdek says everything from the buttons, t-shirts and programs all revolve around the theme that is selected. Houdek adds this year’s theme is a wink towards some exciting activities planned specifically for this year.

1-29 NEWS

The Iowa House passed a 1.25 percent allowable growth package for K-12 education Tuesday night on a party line vote. Democratic state senator Mary Jo Wilhelm of Cresco says whole the funding is short of what schools need, the situation is not all bad.

Wilhelm

Wilhelm says she expects the senate to discuss the allowable growth issue by next week.

Iowa’s three public universities may soon have a more uniform admissions policy for students from the growing number of high schools that do not provide class rankings. The Iowa Board of Regents will consider a new formula next week that would affect students from roughly 40 public and private high schools that don’t rank students. Students from those schools would be automatically admitted if they score above a 245 on a mathematical formula, which is based on ACT scores, grade point average and number of core courses completed. Students who fall below that number would be subject to individual reviews. The change addresses inconsistencies in how students without class rankings have been scored for admissions by the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa.

Word that state lawmakers are working on a bill that redefines beer probably not what most Iowa drinkers wanted to hear. But, that’s what happened in a House sub-committee Tuesday

O’Bradovich

The bill advancing unanimously out of sub-committee after lobbyist Jim Obradovich’s input this morning. But, Representatives explain that the legislation doesn’t really change anything except other *laws* concerning beer.

THE IOWA TRANSPORTATION DEPARTMENT IS TESTING A NEW SYSTEM THAT COULD HELP YOU DRIVE MORE SAFELY ON ICY ROADWAYS.\

1-28 news

A public hearing was held at the statehouse Monday night regarding educational funding. Allowable growth increases from one-point-two-five percent to six percent are being proposed. Republican state representative Darrell Branhagen of Decorah says they’ll do the best they can for education, while remaining fiscally responsible.

Branhagen

Branhagen says the legislature should proceed with caution rather than over-promise to avoid having to cut back schools mid-year as happened a few years ago.

IN THE PAST, THE IOWA MOTOR TRUCK ASSOCIATION HAS SUPPORTED AN INCREASE IN THE STATE’S GAS TAX. ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT BRENDA NEVILLE (NEVV-UHL) SAYS THEY ARE ON BOARD AGAIN THIS LEGISLATIVE SESSION:

neville

SHE SAYS AS USERS OF THE ROADS, THE TRUCKING INDUSTRY IS WILLING TO STEP UP AND HELP PAY FOR REPAIRS TO ROADS AND BRIDGES.

THE IOWA BUSINESS COUNCIL’S ANNUAL COMPETITIVE INDEX REPORT, FINDS THE STATE IN RELATIVELY GOOD SHAPE, ALTHOUGH SPOKESMAN ELLIOT SMITH SAYS THERE ARE SOME AREAS THAT COULD STAND SOME IMPROVEMENT.

smith

THE REPORT ADDRESSES WORK-FORCE READINESS. IT CITES IOWA’S LOFTY HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION RATE, BUT POINTS OUT THE STATE RANKS LOW AMONG THE STATES, IN THE PERCENTAGE OF ITS RESIDENTS WITH A COLLEGE DEGREE. SMITH SAYS THE REPORT RECOGNIZES THE STATE IS IN GOOD FISCAL ORDER, BUT CAUTIONS AGAINST SHIFTING TOO MUCH BURDEN ONTO LOCAL GOVERNMENTS.

The Allamakee community school board approved two recommendations at a special meeting Monday night. School officials say beginning next year all sixth grade students in the district will attend the junior and senior high school building in Waukon. Currently, sixth graders attend East and Waterville Elementary. The board also approved four administrative hires for next year. Dan Diercks will be high school principal, Jennifer Garin will be the 6-8 Principal, Joe Groffoth will be the principal at East and West Elementary and Julie Askelson will be a 3/10 time principal at Waterville Elementary.

1-27 news

The Allamakee community school board will meet in a special session tonight to discuss two recommendations. One recommendation is to move all sixth grade classrooms from east elementary and Waterville to the junior and senior high school building. The other is to restructure the administrative staff. The meeting will begin at five-30 at the high school library.

Decorah high school varsity speech students had a perfect day at the District Large Group Speech Contest in Monona held on Saturday. The varsity team earned 22 division one ratings out of 22 performances. The ninth grade team received another six division one ratings. All of the groups that received division one ratings will participate in the Northeast District Large Group State Speech Contest hosted by Decorah High school on February seventh. Over two hundred Decorah high school students participated in the event.

A player in the health insurance marketplace is no more. The Iowa Insurance Commissioner Friday ordered Co-opportunity health to liquefy its assets. Brian Huinker with Midwest Group benefits says one less company in the market decrease competition and could mean higher costs.

Huinker

Over 120-thousand persons had signed up for health insurance since Co-opportunity was founded after the affordable health care act was passed.

A northeastern Iowa school board has approved design plans for a new $10 million facility.

Officials of the Clayton Ridge School District in Guttenberg say plans include tearing down an old school building and gym to make way for a new building. It would include four locker rooms, a weight room, wrestling room and a food service area. The school building, which was built in 1903, currently houses some elementary classrooms, offices and storage space. The district’s business manager, Dave Schlueter, says other campus buildings that contain the majority of elementary and high school classrooms would not be demolished.
Schlueter says the district plans to hold two public forums to explain the planned project, but those dates haven’t been scheduled yet.

1-26 NEWS

Where to house sixth grade students in the Allamakee community school district next year will be discussed by the Allamakee school board in a special session tonight. The board will discuss recommendation to move all sixth grade students to the junior high and senior high school building. The board will also discuss a recommendation on restructing of the administrative staff. The meeting will begin at five-30 at the high school library.

Budget matters will be the main topic of discussion at today’s Winneshiek county board of supervisors meeting. The board will also discuss the D.O.T. budget and five year road program amendments with county engineer Lee Bjerke. The meeting will begin at nine-30 at the courthouse in Decorah.

An Elgin man was arrested after an incident in which he barricaded himself in a residence Friday night. The Fayette county sheriff’s department says they were called shortly after five p.m. to a residence outside of Elgin for a domestic assault incident that involved a firearm. Authorities say 44 year old Chad Lenhart barricaded himself in the residence for an hour. The victim was no longer at the residence At that time, Fayette county sheriff Marty Fisher entered the residence to try to deescalate the situation. Authorities say Lenhart reached for a firearm at that time and Fisher responded by deploying his taser device. Lenhart was taken into custody and charged with domestic abuse assault causing serious injury, an aggravated misdemeanor, intimidation with a dangerous weapon, a class c felony, and interference with official acts, a class d felony.

Friday it was announced Co-opportunity health, an public-private insurance partnership formed after the Affordable health care act was passed, has been ordered to liquidate its assets by the Iowa Insurance commissioner. Brian Huinker is with Midwest Group Benefits in Decorah. He says those who had signed up with co-opportunity health need to find a different carrier.

Huinker

Over 120-thousand people in Iowa and Nebraska had signed up with co-opportunity after the affordable health care act became law.

When the school year starts has been a topic of discussion, as the department of education has set new, stricter guidelines for school districts to be granted a wavier to start the school year before the week of September first. Republican state representative Josh Byrnes of Osage says the state should stay out of decisions like these.

Byrnes

Byrnes says he was very disappointed in comments from the Iowa Department of Education director Brad Buck last week. Buck stated waivers would not be granted for district who want to coincide their calendars with community colleges. Byrnes said that idea is going backwards in education and takes away some great partnerships that have been established between school districts and community colleges.

1-25 news

Budget requests will dominate the discussion at tomorrow’s meeting of the Winneshiek county supervisors. The board will receive budget requests from the Winneshiek Energy district, public health, the Decorah airport, recycling, the First Lutheran Church food pantry, c-s-s and the I-T and G-I-S departments. County engineer Lee Bjerke (Beer-key) will meet with the board to discuss the DOT budget and five year program amendments and County emergency management coordinator Bruce Goetsch (Getch) will discuss emergency management matters. The meeting will begin at nine-30 at the courthouse in Decorah.

The budget and finance committee of the Decorah city council will meet tomorrow night. Committee chair Paul Wanless says the committee will meet with representatives from Hacker Nelson to review the annual audit. The committee will also discuss utility rates. The meeting will begin at five-30 at city hall.

The officers of the Decorah Parks and Recreation Board will remain the same this year. The board held its organizational meeting Thursday night. Rich Gaard (Guard) will be the chair of the board and Cindy Albers will be the vice-chair.

The property tax levy rate in the Northeast Iowa Community College district is expected to remain the same in the fiscal year 2016 budget. College executive director of finance Tom Ridout presented the budget to the NICC board of trustees at its meeting last week. A public hearing on the college’s 60 million dollar budget will be held at the board’s February meeting.

Decorah schools superintendent Mike Haluska has started a blog. Haluska says the blog will allow district residents the opportunity to hear his views on many issues, primarily related to the current Iowa legislative session. The blog is available at michaelhaluska-dot-edu-blogs-dot-org.

1-24 news

The debate has started over school funding at the statehouse in Des Moines. Allowable growth percentage from one-point-four-five to six percent have been discussed. Republican state representative Josh Byrnes of Osage says six percent is unrealistic.

Byrnes

Brynes emphasizes this week’s discussions are just the start of the negotiations, and lawmakers have to separate fact from emotion in the debate.

For the third consecutive year, the city of Decorah and Winneshiek county recycling are teaming up for a recycling event specifically for electronics and appliances. Terry Buenzow (BEN-zow) is the recycling coordinator in Winneshiek county.

Buenzow

Buenzow says the event is designed to accept items that aren’t usually accepted at the recycling center in Freeport.

The Allamakee community school board will meet in a special session Monday night. The board will discuss a recommendation to move all 6th grade classrooms from East and Waterville to the Junior high and senior high building next season. The board will also discuss a recommendation on restructuring of the administrative staff. The meeting will begin at five-30 at the high school library.

Fayette county authorities have been arrested a Manchester man after receiving a harassment complaint from a county citizen. The Fayette county sheriff’s department says 53 year old Dennis Dean Porter was charged with third degree harassment after allegedly making numerous phone calls to a female victim, contacting the victim through face book and threatening the life of the victim. It was discovered that Porter is also a registered sex offender, and further charges could be filed.

Some improvements could be coming soon to Phelps Park in Decorah. Decorah Parks and Recreation director Andy Nimrod presented his department’s annual report at the city council meeting this week. Nimrod told the council some memorial money from Kaitlyn Quandahl may go towards park improvements. Quandahl died in 2013 from cancer of the brain stem. Nimrod told the council Phelps Park one was on Kaitlyn Quandahl’s favorite places.

1-23 news

The city of Decorah and Winneshiek County recycling will host its third annual recycling event this weekend. Winneshiek county recycling coordinator Terry Buenzow says the event is designed as an opportunity to get rid of items that are not usually accepted at their center in Freeport.

Buenzow

The event will take place Saturday from nine a.m. until noon and Sunday from two until four p.m. and will be held in the parking lot beneath the Oneota Co-op. Stickers can be purchased through Friday at Decorah city hall or the day of the event.

Members of the Iowa Natural Resources Commission are calling on the legislature and the Governor to increase the state sales tax to boost money for outdoor recreation and resource enhancement. Republican state senator Mike Breitbach of Strawberry Point says he doesn’t see a lot of push for it.

Breitbach

Supporters say a penny increase would increase around 150 million dollars. Breitbach says more lawmakers are focused on increasing the gas tax for infrastructure funding.

The Decorah Parks and Recreation Board will hold its first meeting of 2015 tonight. The board will elect officers for the year and will receive reports from the Friends of the Park organization and regarding trails. The board will also review the budget report and will discuss a potential water slide for the pool. The meeting will begin at seven-30 at city hall.

The State Department of Education will no longer grant automatic waivers to school districts seeking to start the year earlier than the set date. Department spokesperson Staci Hupp Ballard says districts will now have to prove significant negative educational impact before they are granted an early start date.

Hupp-Ballard

The guidance issued Wednesday will not allow factors like bus schedules or professional development days to be considered in the waiver-granting process. The department argues any issues caused by those factors can be solved through other means, like revising contracts or doing professional development before the start of the school year.

The Decorah Historic Preservation Commission made a presentation to the Decorah city council this week. Commission members presented ideas for a program to place the Downtown District on the National Register of Historic Places. They also presented information on a program to create a local landmark designation for significant features of the community. City manager Chad Bird says both programs are in their early stages. Bird says if the city wants to pursue the national register designation, that would require financial support.