12-21 NEWS

A Polk County Judge heard arguments today (Thursday) on the still contested Iowa House race in Winneshiek County. Democrat Kayla Koether (KAY-ter) of Decorah trails the Republican incumbent by 9 votes. Her attorney Shayla McCormally, is asking the judge to force a count of 29 ballots that the U-S Postal Service determined were mailed on time based on the bar codes on their envelopes.

McCormally

But Assistant Iowa Attorney General Steve Gannon has asked the judge to dismiss the case. He the district court doesn’t have jurisdiction to decide the issue now that the results have been certified.

Gannon

Judge Scott Beattie (Bee-tee) says he hopes to issue a ruling shortly. Koether was in the courtroom and talked with reporters following the hour-long court proceedings.

Koether

She says this could be a bigger issue down the road.

Koether 2

Koether wouldn’t say if she would proceed with a challenge in the Iowa House if the judge rules against them.

Koether 3

Koether ran against Republican Representative Michael Bergen of Dorchester and he will take his seat in the legislature if there is no challenge. Koether has 20 days before the opening of the 2019 Iowa Legislature to request the recount of the votes by the Iowa House. That means she would have to file by Christmas Day.

Decorah has received a 155-thousand dollar grant from the Iowa Great Places program. The project will be earmarked towards upgrading stone structures in Decorah parks. Parks and Recreation Director Andy Nimrod says the list of includes the rehabilitation of steps, pillars, and landings at Ice Cave State Preserve; the creation of new wayfinding and place-defining stone elements at Dunning’s Spring; the rehabilitation of walls, overlooks, pillars, steps, landings and a fountain at Phelps Park; and the rehabilitation of steps, walls, pillars and enhanced wayfinding elements at Pulpit Rock.The Iowa Great Places program recognizes and partners with Iowans who cultivate the unique and authentic qualities of their local places, such as neighborhoods, districts or regions, to make them great places to live and work.

Decorah Police chief Bill Nixon will retire next year. Decorah city manager Chad Bird said on Thursday morning’s Our Town Program on AM 1240-KDEC that Nixon has formally sent a letter to mayor Lorraine Borowski saying he intends to retire next year. Nixon has been Decorah’s police chief since 2010, when he took over for Tom Courtney.

The Decorah school board says they’re considering a location in the Decorah business park for a new bus garage. The Decorah-North Winneshiek school board revealed the location at its meeting Wednesday night. The board is seeking feedback from the public on the location. The district currently leases a property owned by Bruening Rock Products for its bus garage at a cost of four thousand dollars per month.

The Northeast Iowa Community College board of trustees has hired an architectural firm to assist the college with planned improvements. College officials say Straka Johnson Architects of Dubuque was hired by the board at its meeting this week. The firm will lead the design, construction and renovations for projects funded by the passage of a 39 million bond levy in September. NICC associate vice president of operations Rhonda Siebert says the main project ear-marked for renovation on the Calmar campus is the Max Clark Hall building.

The Holidays can be a stressful time. Brittany McIntyre from Helping Services for Youth and Family says its important to take some time to look out for number one this time of year.

McIntyre

McIntyre says its nearly impossible to avoid stress during the holidays, so its best to find ways to manage it.

12-20 NEWS

A court hearing will be held (Thursday) in the house district 55 race. Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate and Winneshiek County Auditor Ben Steines have filed a motion to dismiss a petition seeking to count 29 absentee ballots sent before a November 5th deadline. The motion argues that the court doesn’t have jurisdiction to order the 29 ballots to be counted. After a legal petition filed by Democratic candidate Kayla Koether. A polk county district court judge on December first ordered the Winneshiek county auditor to receive more information regarding the ballots which were received in the mail without a postmark. Pate and Stienes say absentee ballots without post-marks are not allowed to be counted by state law. Stienes says it was determined the 29 of the 32 ballots were sent by November fifth, one day prior to election day. Incumbent Republican Mike Bergan has already been certified the the District 55 winner by a margin of 9 votes.

The Decorah school board, the Decorah-North Winneshiek interim school board and the North Winneshiek school board have all given its approval for an early retirement incentive. The Decorah board and interim board took the action at meetings last night. The North Winneshiek board approved the incentive earlier this week. The incentive will be offered to Decorah and North Winneshiek school employees that will be age 55 by next August and have worked in their respective districts for at least 15 years. The incentive includes 50 percent of an employee’s current salary to be paid over the course of three years and the district continuing to contribute to an employee’s health insurance for up to 96 months or until they become medicare eligible. It is the same package that has been offered in the past by the Decorah district. Superintendent Mike Haluska says 12 employees in the Decorah district and one in the North Winneshiek district are eligible for this incentive. Employees have until January 11th to apply for the project.

The Decorah city council approved spending one thousand dollar to participate in a STARS-or Sunstainability Tracks and Assessment Rating System-at its meeting this week. City officials says the system will be used to get recommendations on ways to conserve energy. The measure passed the council on a 6-1 vote. Councilman Randy Schissell described the item as a way for the city to feel good about itself. Schissell said the city previously spent two-thousand five hundred dollars to join the Kyoto Protocol and received no recommendations on what the city should do. Councilman Ross Hadley says the STARS program would provide a baseline for the city to address ways to conserve energy, something that wasn’t provided with the Kyoto Protocol.

The monthly meeting of the Decorah Parks and Recreation Board will be held (Thursday) night. The board will receive an update on the Great Places Grant Application and will review financial reports. The meeting will begin at seven at city hall.

12-19 NEWS

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said Tuesday it has taken the unusual step of denying a permit for a large proposed hog farm in Fillmore County because of the threat of adding to groundwater nitrate pollution in the geologically porous region. MPCA Commissioner John Linc Stine said at a news conference that he denied the general permit for Waukon, Iowa-based Catalpa Ag’s proposed 4,890-sow facility near Mabel because of the threat to public health. The piglet-producing operation would have generated over 7 million gallons of manure annually that would be spread on farm fields for fertilizer.Stine says Groundwater nitrate levels in 19 of the county’s 24 townships already exceed the state’s safe drinking water standard of 10 parts per million. Stine said Denying the permit means there’s no need to decide on requests by project opponents for a full environmental impact statement. He added Catalpa still has the option of starting over and applying for a customized permit known as an individual permit. But he said any future application process would require a more rigorous analysis, with another chance for the public to comment. He said the protections provided by the general permit that Catalpa sought would be insufficient.

The North Winneshiek school board approved an early retirement incentive at its meeting Monday. The incentive includes 50 percent of the employee’s salary for up to three years and the district will continue to contribute towards the employee’s health insurance until they become medicare eligible. The incentive will offered to anyone who is at least 55 by August 15th of next year, had worked in the district at least 15 years and the sum of the employee’s age and years of service being 80. The incentive must be approved by the Decorah board and the Decorah-North Winneshiek school board as well. The Decorah board will meet at five-45 (Wednesday) to review the matter.

The Decorah-North Winneshiek Interim school board will meet tonight. Superintendent Mike Haluska says a presentation will be made regarding a potential new bus barn.

Haluska

The board will also discuss an early retirement program. The meeting will begin at six at the central administration office.

The Decorah city council approved a wavier to the city’s sidewalk improvement project at its meeting Monday night. The wavier was requested by Jeremy Thompson at 710 Vernon Street. City manager Chad Bird says the wavier was requested due to the topography of the area requiring extensive modifications and an excessive distance from the right of the way. The wavier was recommended by the planning and zoning commission and approved by the council on a 6-1 vote. Councilman Steve Luse was the lone no vote.

Decorah police are investigating a burglary at Ruby’s restaurant and catering. Police say a person walking by the restaurant reported the burglary around five-30 Tuesday morning. Authorities say the glass front doors of the restaurant were shattered and the doors were ajar and a box of loose change was taken from the business. Anyone with information is asked to contact Decorah police.

The Winneshiek county sheriff’s department says there have been 76 car vs deer accidents in the county since November first. The sheriff’s department says one of their vehicles was recently involved in a car-deer accident. Authorities say 41 percent of the accidents they’ve responded to have been car vs deer.

A Decorah man was arrested after allegedly shoplifting from Wal-Mart Monday. Decorah police say David Mendez was charged with fifth degree theft.

12-18 KDEC NEWS

The Iowa State Association of County Auditors are asking for a change to Iowa’s code governing the way absentee ballots are counted. The issue has been in the news since November’s election in which House 55 incumbent Mike Bergan narrowly defeated Kayla Koether by 9 votes. 29 ballots in Winneshiek, which were confirmed via bar-code technology to be sent prior to the Monday before election day, were not counted because of not having a legible postmark as required by Iowa law. The proposed change would eliminate the postmark language. The proposed language would simply say, “no absentee ballots received after the polls close on election day” would be counted. 39 States already have a firm deadline such as the one the Iowa Association of Auditors support. Winneshiek county auditor Ben Stienes says county auditors have raised concerns over the postmark standard many times in the past but the Iowa legislature has failed to act.

At least four members of the Decorah city council are in favor of keeping the city’s housing tax abatement program as is. The council’s economic development and property committee discussed the issue for around an hour last night. The current program allows for a five-year, 100 hundred percent tax abatement on new home construction with no valuation cap. The incentive is also available for remodeling projects that add at least ten percent to the property’s valuation. Council member Johanna Bergan feels the city needs to do more to develop affordable housing, something she considers a more pressing need. City manager Chad Bird says since the program started in 2015, there have have 57 new housing units built. Bird says the overall valuation of the new home construction is 21.9 million and the taxable valuation is 12.4 million. Bird says the first homes under the program will officially go onto the city’s tax roll in fiscal year 2021.

A Cresco man has been arrested and jailed on drug charges. The Winneshiek county sheriff’s department says 22-year old Steven Geerts was arrested after a traffic stop near the intersection of highway nine and 52 Friday night.

A Castalia man was arrested early Sunday morning in Bloomfield township. The Winneshiek county sheriff’s department says 31 year old Luke Knockel was charged with Aggraved Misdemeanor Harrassment and Obstruction of Emergency Communications.

Winneshiek County will soon be employing its own staff to transport recycling materials. The supervisors Monday approved the hiring of personnel after the retirement of Larry Sharp, whose company has been transporting the recycling bins from Decorah and around the County to the recycling facility in Freeport.The move includes the County’s purchase of two trucks owned by Sharp.

Toys Go Round is a unique lending library organizeed in Decorah in 1992. After 27 years in the lower level of the Decorah Public Library, Toys Go Round is looking for a new location. Judy Mowry is a board member of Toys Go Round:

(Audio: Mowry)

Toys Go Round was recently the recipient of over $11,000 from the organization, 100+ Men & Women Who Care. Toys Go Round has to be in a new location by June.

12-17 KDEC NEWS

Snow days could be affected when the consolidation of the Decorah-North Winneshiek School District is complete. The district will be nearly double in size. Superintendent Mike Haluska says there could be more school days impacted:
(Audio: Haluska)
Under the new boundaries, there will be three Director Districts, each with about 4600 residents.

The Winneshiek County Supervisors will hear several funding requests at today’s regular meeting. The Winneshiek County Historical Society, the County Landfill and Planning and Zoning Commission representatives will be speaking to the board, and a Public Hearing is scheduled for 11:15 to hear comments on a sewer revenue loan agreement. Supervisors will also make appointments to boards and commissions. A letter to State officials regarding absentee ballots is also on the agenda.

A Decorah convenience store sustained significant damage early this morning due to a fire. The Decorah Fire Department was called to Nordic Express on Montgomery Street at 12:19 this morning. When they arrived, heavy smoke was venting from the structure. Firefighters opened the roof for ventilation and made an interior attack to extinguish the fire. The convenience store interior sustained significant fire and water damage. Firefighters were on the scene for about 3 hours. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The last regularly scheduled meeting of the year for the Decorah City Council is set for 5:45 this evening. The council will be dealing with a request for a sidewalk requirement waiver, and approval of another residential tax abatement request. The tax abatement issue has re-surfaced after concerns have been discussed by the Council earlier this month. The debate centers mainly around the current unlimited home value amount eligible for the 5-year abatement. Following the regular meeting, the Economic Development & Property Committee chaired by Dan Bellrichard is scheduled to hold further discussions on Decorah’s Tax Abatement program.

12-16 KDEC NEWS

The president of the Iowa Recycling Association says a perfect storm has come together to cause the price of recyclable materials to plunge. Alan Schumacher (shu-MAKE-ur) says part of the problem is some Iowans think everything can be recycled and they’re bogging down the system with trash that should go to the landfill.
Schumacher
Instead of being recycled, recent reports found 20 tons of paper per day were sent to landfills in central Iowa this summer because China tightened the standards on what it would accept.

The Decorah high school vocal music department will present its annual winter choral concert tomorrow night. The event will be held in the Decorah high school auditorium. The D-H-S Madrigal singers will perform carols in the auditorium beginning at seven-10 with the concert beginning at seven-30 p.m. ozens of companies and governmental entities are members of the Iowa Recycling Association.

People who use and value farming conservation practices are applauding parts of the U-S Senate’s newly passed Farm Bill. They think the legislation will benefit beginning farmers and help sustain the vitality of rural communities. The Conservation Stewardship Program, which pays farmers who enter into multi-year contracts with the government to implement conservation practices, remains in place, although its long-term funding was reduced. Anna Johnson with the Center for Rural Affairs says she’s encouraged that the bill will continue many programs Midwestern farmers have come to rely on.
Johnson
She adds one disappointment was a decision to expand rather than close loopholes that allow mega-farms to collect even higher payments. That expansion of eligibility for crop subsidies was one reason Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley cited for voting against the bill.

The monthly meeting of the North Winneshiek school board will be held tomorrow afternoon. The board will dscuss classroom materials and furniture and take care of routine business. The meeting will begin at four-30 at the school library.

The Winneshiek county board of supervisors will continue budget work at its meeting tomorrow. The board will receive numerous budget requests at the meeting which will begin at nine-30 at the courthouse annex building in Decorah.

12-15 KDEC NEWS

Law enforcement officers in many Iowa Cities, including Decorah, responded to bomb threats that were quickly determined to be non-credible. Ames Police Commander Geoff(Jeff) Huff says the robo e-mails or cals were mainly received by large shopping centers and businesses, and provided many Iowans with a scare: Audio: Huff Ames Police responded to bomb threats at the City’s airport and a Target store. Authorities say they’re not aware of anyone falling for it and expects the threat to end quickly
Persons could see some commercial development near the Fairfield Inn in Decorah in the near future. Decorah city manager Chad Bird.
Bird
Bird says the pieces are in place to see development in that area soon.

The Burning Bright Community Holiday Benefit Concert is scheduled for (Saturday/today). The event began in the mid-90s. Kathy Reed, co-founder with Ellen Rockne(ROCK knee), says it all began with 8 performers, and now has grown to 34, with proceeds going to dozens of organizations:
Audio: Reed
This year’s concerts are scheduled for 4 & 7 p.m. at the United Methodist Church on Broadway in Decorah.

A Waukon man who is in the Winneshiek County Jail facing burglary charges has one more today. 22-year old Anthony Williams of Waukon was found to have marijuana in his possession Thursday, while incarcerated in a correctional institution. That’s a felony.

The Winneshiek County Sheriff’s office is investigating a case in Fort Atkinson. A residence there was searched Thursday night at 7:30, and arrests and charges are pending. No more details have been released.

Decorah schools will host a Robotics competition (Saturday) morning. Robotics team from Decorah, South Winneshiek, Aplington-Parkersburg, Mason City, Starmont, Wapsie Valley and Jesup will participate in the event. The event will be held from ten-30 until twelve-30 at the Decorah middle school gymnasium.
A documentary on the driftless area will be shown twice this weekend in Lansing. Decoding the Driftless will be shown at two p.m. and four p.m. at the Driftless Area Education and Visitors Center in Lansing.

Producers of the documentary say the film will take viewers on a wide ride of adventure through the air, across rugged landscapes, on and under water, through a secret underworld, and across time itself to explore and decipher ancient clues of the region with its captivating scenic beauty.
The producers of a CBS News program say they’ll reveal new information this weekend about the case of missing Mason City TV anchor Jodi Huisentruit. Radio Iowa’s Pat Curtis reports:
Audio: Curtis

12-14 KDEC NEWS

A Waukon man has been charged by Decorah Police with theft and possession of stolen property. 22-year old Anthony Williams was initially for public intoxication after officers responded to a disturbance at Decorah Mart on College Drive at 9:20 Wednesday night. During an investigation into property in Williams possession, officers found items stolen from burglaries in Waukon and Postville. Williams was taken to the Winneshiek County Jail.

A new addition to the Decorah airport is progressing.
Bird
Decorah city manager Chad Bird the city council approved the lease agreeement which paved the way for Gundersen to house a Medlink helicopter at the Decorah airport in August.

Three Winneshiek County residents have been arrested on felony drug charges following a search of a residence Wednesday in Calmar. 37-year old Destiny Chambers and 21-year old Dominick Watson, both of Calmar, and 27-year old Lane Breitsprecher of Fort Atkinson face several charges relating to methamphetamine. The three were taken to the Winneshiek County Jail following the 4 p.m. raid Wednesday.

Iowans are paying slightly more for a live Christmas tree compared to most Americans. Radio Iowa’s Pat Curtis reports.
Curtis voicer

There’ll be a renewed effort next month to convince legislators that Iowa needs a law requiring that when a patient gets out of the hospital, their caregiver receives comprehensive information to help them at home. Supporters of the Iowa CARE Act are citing a new poll from A-A-R-P Iowa, which shows 96-percent of current family caregivers in the state believe it’s ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ important that they receive instruction on medical tasks required when a loved one is discharged. The CARE Act did not win support in the last session, making Iowa one of only 13 states without such a law. A-A-R-P State Director Brad Anderson calls it a common-sense protection.
Anderson
The A-A-R-P survey polled 800 registered voters across the state age 40 or older. Governor Kim Reynolds has previously expressed support for the CARE Act.

The population of Northeast Iowa counties has gone down since 2010. The Iowa State Data Center recently recently released information on population change in Iowa counties from April first of 2010 to July first of 2017. Winneshiek county’s population has decrease 4.1 percent in that time. Fayette county saw a 5.2 percent decrease. Howard and Chickasaw counties each saw 3.5 percent decreases. Allamakee county’s population saw a 3.1 percent drop and Clayton county’s population decreased 2.7 percent.

12-13 NEWS

The South Winneshiek school board approved an early retirement incentive at its meeting this week. The program will be eligible to those who be 55 years of age or older on July first of 2019 or 2020 and have served the district at least 20 years. Employees must apply for the incentive by January 31st. The incentive will include 25-thousand dollars in a tax-sheltered annuity and 25-thousand dollars in a health reimbursement account. The measure passed the board unanimously.

The superintendent search was the main topic of discussion of a meeting of the Decorah-North Winneshiek interim school board Tuesday night. Board president Ron Fadness says they discussed the interview process and the composition of interview teams. Fadness says the the board will select finalists January seventh and interviews are scheduled to begin January 22nd. Current superintendent Mike Haluska will retire at the end of the current academic year.

A Cresco man allegedly involved in a two-county pursuit Tuesday ingested pills hours before the incident and was driving a truck stolen out of Cresco, authorities said. KIMT TV reports 29 year old Adam Collings is facing charges of first-degree theft and felony eluding in connection to Tuesday’s pursuit on Interstate-35 that lasted nearly 25 miles. According to court documents, Collings stole the truck from Alum-line property in Cresco and was caught speeding on the Avenue of the Saints near the I-35 interchange. After reaching speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour and swerving in both lines of traffic, stop sticks were deployed and the vehicle was stopped in Worth County, according to the Iowa State Patrol. Authorities say after he exited the vehicle, Collings “quickly pulled his hands up, acting like he had a gun,” according to court documents. After being put in handcuffs, authorities said Collings attempted to run in front of a semi before being safely taken to the ground as they walked back to the patrol vehicle.

There are several openings on the city of Decorah’s advisory boards and commissions. Decorah mayor Lorraine Borowski says she trying her best to get the word out about those openings.

Borowski

Borowski says there are currently openings on the city’s planning and zoning commission, board of adjustment, airport commission, low rent house agency, tree board and the self-supporting municipal improvement district boards. Anyone interested in serving on any city board or commission can contact city hall.

Should the city of Decorah regulate Air-B-n-Bs? The issue was discussed this week by the Decorah planning and zoning commission. City manager Chad Bird says there are 27 air-B-n-bs and 8 V-R-B-Os (Vacation Rental by owner) in the city. Bird says in his interpretation of the zoning code, these types of units are only allowed in R-3 multiple-family residential zoning districts. He says four current units would violate that zoning interpretation. The commission asked Bird to seek some other cities’ examples and report back to the commission. The commission also noted they didn’t want to be too restrictive.

Three Southeast Minnesota residents were injured around 6 p.m. last evening in a 2-vehicle accident caused by a deer on Highway 76 in Winona County. A car driven by 25-year old Angela Martinez of Spring Grove hit a deer, went out of control and slid sideways into the path of a car driven by 44-year old Marc Johnson of Houston, Minnesota. Martinez and Johnson were not seriously injured, but a passenger in the martinez vehicle, 52-year old Donna Jane of Caledonia, was taken to Gundersen Hospital for treatment.

The Decorah school district will hold a Family and Community Night at the West Side Early Childhood Center (Thursday) night. The event will be held from five until six-30 p.m. Activities include holiday games, art projects to make and give to others, a visit from dogs from the Humane Society and a holiday movie and snack. School officials says the target audience for the event is three to six year olds and their families, but all are welcome to attend.

12-12 NEWS

The Winneshiek county compensation board has made its recommendations for salaries for next fiscal year for the county’s elected officials. On a 6-1 vote the board recommended a four percent raise for the county supervisors, auditor, recorder, treasurer and recorder and a five percent raise for the county sheriff at its meeting Monday night. The recommendation moves onto the County Board of Supervisors. They will take action on the recommendation when they take action on the 2019-2020 fiscal year budget which is expected to occur in early March. The supervisors can set rates lower than the compensation board’s recommendation, but cannot go higher.

The name of a man who died in a farm accident near Dorchester Saturday has been released. The Roble Funeral Home in Spring Grove says 83 year old Ernest Gavle died Saturday afternoon when he was run over by a tractor. The accident remains under investigation.

Winneshiek Medical Center is notifying the public of a scam. Medical center officials say local residents have reported receiving calls from an individual claiming to be from Winneshiek Medical Center saying they’re updating account information. The caller is asking for addresses, credit card numbers and bank account number. The medical center says they will not randomly contact customers for information. They add legitimate calls from Winneshiek Medical Center are likely following up on an appointment or visit, test result or billing question. Authorities say no one should share personal information with an unknown caller over the phone.

Winneshiek county residents have until Friday to apply to serve on several county boards and commissions. County auditor Ben Stienes says they’re accepting applications for the Upper Explorerland Regional Planning commission, Pioneer Cemetery Commission, Board of Health, Historic Preservation Commission, Conservation Board, Compensation Commission for Eminent Domain, and others as needed. Interested citizens should complete an application which is available at winneshiekcounty.org or at the county Auditor’s office.

Just over one-quarter of Iowa employers plan to add more workers over the first three months of 2019. That’s according to a survey released (Tuesday) by ManpowerGroup. Spokesman Dave Wheeler says over 12,500 businesses across the U.S. took part in the survey.

Wheeler

Another 67-percent of Iowa employers responded by saying they plan to maintain current staffing levels over the first quarter of next year. Manpower’s last survey, covering hiring intentions for October through December, found 21-percent of Iowa businesses expected to add workers.

The process of hiring a new superintendent in the Decorah school district will be discussed tonight. The Decorah-North Winneshiek interim school will discuss qualities desired in a new superintendent and will discuss organizing site visits. The meeting will begin at six-30 at the central administration office.