Friday, March 13, 2009

Volunteers giving bandstand a facelift

A volunteer committee is looking to give Washington's Central Park Bandstand a face lift. Committee member Don Pfeifer says their goal is to maintain the structure's historical charm, while adding modern conveniences. That includes a bigger stage, improvements in acoustics and making the facility more accessible. Pfeifer says they hope to raise 330-thousand dollars for the renovation. The group will meet again on March 26..

Alliant to give Washington Schools energy audit

The Washington School District is getting some help in its quest to save money. Superintendent Dave Sextro says Alliant will conduct an energy audit of the district's buildings. He says this will help them find ways to cut back on gas and electrical usage. It will include things like insulation, more efficient lighting and automated systems. Sextro says the audit should take four to six weeks and could save them nearly $130,000.

Spring Flooding

There has been a lot of moisture this winter. State Climatologist Harry Hillaker says this winter was a lot dryer than the winter of 2007 which help attribute to the record flooding of 2008. Hillaker says the winter of 2007 was record breaking. He says 2007 was very wet, record wettest August ever, 4th wettest October ever and 2nd wettest December ever, which all led to the record flooding in 2008. Hillaker says with the lack of snow still on the ground, he doesnt see a lot of melting and rising water levels in the spring which should hold off another record flooding.

Flood donations put to use

The recent donation of $20,000 to United Fund of Columbus Junction to assist families in the Columbus Junction and Wapello areas with flood recovery is beginning to have an impact. Mallory Smith, United Fund of Columbus Junction secretary says certificates for $150 and $100 to be used toward the purchase of furniture, appliances and building supplies at Louisa County owned businesses have been mailed to recipients and these certificates are starting to be redeemed. Smith says they are really pleased that this money not only helps the flood victims but also supports local businesses

Wapello Flooding

Wapello has seen its share of flooding in the last few Years. Kathy Vance, the Louisa County Public Information Officer says crews built the levee on Highway H22 up another 5 feet over the last few days making it impassable to traffic, but better for water control and it is holding the water back from the Oakville bottoms. Vance says they are keeping the water at bay and it does not look like they are in dangers like last years record flooding.

College Prep Day

So what happens after high-school? Students looking for the answer to that question are invited to Washington High-Schools College Fair. Kathy Stender, with Washington Schools Guidance Office says around 60 different colleges, trade schools, community colleges and military recruiters will be on hand. She says it will also serve as an opportunity for parents to learn a little more about post secondary education. The fair will take place March 25 at the Washington High-School Gym. For more information contact Stender at 319-653-4245.

Home school measure stalls

A measure that would allow Iowa's home schooled students to be taught driver's education at home hit a wall in the state legislature this week. Andrea Farrier is a lobbyist for the Iowa Home School Assistance Program, and teaches in Kalona. She says the bill was essentially killed when it got kicked from one committee to another in the House. Farrier says allowing students to be taught driver's-ed at home in other states has increased safety, and saved money.

Washington School Board

24 classrooms at Stewart and Lincoln Schools in Washington are getting some upgrades. Washington School District Technology Director Jeff Brock says they'll be installing ceiling mounted speakers and projectors creating media ready rooms. Brock says the overall project will cost around $120,000. They'll be getting a grant for $40,000 from the Washington County Riverboat Foundation. In the end, the school district will need to chip in $80,000 towards the new classrooms. In other school news the board will take public comments on the proposed budget at the April 8 regular board meeting.

Marek on land values

Farm land values have been on the decline over the past six months, southeast Iowa State Representative Larry Marek says it's a normal fluctuation. Marek says last year's high production numbers drove the price up, and now that price is stabilizing. He is worried that another fruitful year could mean higher property taxes for Iowa farmers.

Road Closures

Heavy rains have affected many streets in Kalona and Riverside. County Engineer David Patterson says there are a few streets that have been closed down due to flooding. Patterson says there are four roads that are closed; 130th street west of highway 1, nutmeg ave north of the English river, willow ave north of 130th street and 230th street west of larch ave. Patterson says the reason for the closures are because of water on top of the roads creating a dangerous area. Nutmeg Ave in Kalona has been washed out and needs to be repaired. Patterson says they are estimating that the roads should be opened up by Friday evening. Currently the flood warning for the area that includes Kalona has been extended into today.

Columbus Junction flooding

Columbus Junction has been staying dry during the rainy weather. City Clerk Julie Heindel says they are in no danger of flooding so far. She says the only thing that has happened is the fairgrounds have been holding water but they are pumping the water back into the river. Heindel says no business are closing and the city is on stand by just in case.

Field damage due to flooding

Flooding has been affecting everyone from roads to business and even to farm lands. Gene Mohling, County Extension Education Director says farm lands may be in danger of erosion. Mohling says farmers may have to apply fertilizer again to low lying areas. He says it will vary by field and location depending on how fast the water is moving or if the water just sits and then runs off. He says everything is always dependent on the weather.

Harkin pushes new labor law

Iowa Senator Tom Harkin wants it do be easier for American workers to form labor unions. Harkin and other members of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee have introduced legislation that would stiffen penalties against employers that illegally fire or discriminate against workers for their union activity. Harkin says laborers are the backbone of our economy. He also says the 40 hour work week and and minimum wage helped pull the country out of the great depression, and feels this measure could help with the current economic times.

Grassley weighs in on agriculture

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says he's fearful that lower commodity prices, combined with declining land values could cause some hardships for farmers this year. On the plus side, Grassley says many producers might have funds set aside from the last two years. Grassley also says it was a bad decision for President Barack Obama to cut direct payments based on gross income.

Relay For Life

While the Washington County Relay for Life is still months away, organizers are wasting no time getting things ready. There will be a team captain and kickoff meeting this Monday night at the Washington Pizza Ranch. The organization is asking that anyone interested in attending R-S-V-P by tomorrow for food reservations. To make reservations, or if you want to participate but can't make the meeting contact Joni McArtor at 319-653-6367