Area News Stories


LOCAL NEWS

OSKALOOSA POLICE INVESTIGATE HOME INVASION

On Sunday November 16, 2014 at approximately 7:41p.m., Officers were dispatched to 501 South B Street in Oskaloosa in reference to a report of a home invasion. Officers were informed that the call came into the Communication Center from an unknown male who said he lived at the residence but refused to give his name. The male caller advised that three to five black males entered his residence all dressed in black and wearing masks. The caller also indicated that the intruders were all armed with firearms and ordered his family to lay on the floor and then tied their hands using plastic zip ties.

The armed intruders had fled the scene by the time officers arrived to the property. At this time it is unknown if the intruders took anything from the residence when they fled. The occupant of the home, Patrick McCoy, age 47, is refusing to cooperate and talk with police about the incident. 

During the invasion, there were three adults and one minor child present inside the home. One adult female complained of a minor ankle injury sustained during the invasion and was treated and released at the scene. No other injuries were reported. 

This incident remains under investigation, no arrests have been made as of this time. The Police Department is asking for anyone who may have seen anything suspicious in the area or who may have information regarding this incident to please call 641-672-2557.


OTTUMWA POLICE INVESTIGATE TWO STABBINGS

On Sunday, November 16th, 2014, officers responded to a medical call for service at the Bp service station located at 533 N. Jefferson in Ottumwa. Upon arrival, officers identified a male victim, Kelwin Dawley, age 22 of Ottumwa, as a victim of an assault. Dawley had injuries to his head and his hand that were consistent with injuries from a knife or other cutting instrument. Dawley was transported to Ottumwa Regional Health Center where he was treated and released for his injuries. Dawley claimed to have been assaulted by a group of persons near the intersection of 4th Street and Green Street. Dawley later refused to cooperate with law enforcement about his assault. 

While officers were at the emergency room speaking with Dawley, a second victim arrived at the emergency room with multiple stab wounds to his torso. The second victim was identified as Joshua Arnett, age 25 of Ottumwa. Arnett was later transported to the University of Iowa Health Center in Iowa City for treatment of his injuries. 

During the course of the investigation, officers identified that Arnett was stabbed at 345 North Ferry Street in Ottumwa. During the assault of Arnett, officers identified a female resident at that address who had also been a victim of an assault. Officers took a report from Tonya Gordy, age 25, for Domestic Abuse Assault. 

On Sunday, November 16, 2014, at approximately 1:04 p.m., officers arrested Tyler Martin O’Leary, age 26, of 345 N. Ferry, and charged O’Leary with Domestic Abuse Assault, a serious misdemeanor, for the assault reported by Gordy. 

On Monday, November 17, 2014, officers also charged O’Leary with Willful Injury, a Class “C” Felony, for the assault on Arnett.

The two stabbing incidents appear to be unrelated. 

Please note the following pursuant to recent Supreme Court rulings:
“A criminal charge is merely an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.”


SCHOOL BOARD HEARS FROM STUDENT COUNCIL

Oskaloosa Community School District board held a fairly routine meeting Monday. The meeting was highlighted by recognition of the Oskaloosa High School student council and discussion on how to market the sale of a student-built home on South M Street.

Oskaloosa’s student council hosted the state leadership conference in Des Moines. The council was honored as a distinguished honor council. This was the 18th time in recent years the council has been so honored.
Eight members of the council were present for the report to the board. Garrett Van Maanen who serves as the state president, and Leah Van Maanen, second Vice President, participates on the state council board of directors. Garrett stated his role is to guide the leadership team in activities for the year.
“We are trying to unify all the school councils in the state toward a common goal,” said Garrett. “This year our theme is Make a Miracle. We have joined with the Children’s Miracle Network and we are raising $40,000 across the state.”
Leah stated she just joined the board and will serve on the leadership team and assist in planning of events.

No firm offers have been received on the house at 501 South M Street. The board will determine the expectations of a broker and would be presented to all realtors in town for proposals. The house could be shown on the multiple listing service. After discussion, the board decided to put the issue on the Nov. 24 meeting as an action item to accept a proposal for selling the property.

The board approved an agreement with the City of Oskaloosa for joint use of facilities. The school district utilizes services such as Edmundson Park and the golf course. Superintendent Russ Reiter stated that there are times when the city may need to use school facilities. This document formalizes an agreement for each to use facilities at no cost.

Dawn Collins provided the board with an evaluation of the after school program. The Board was given a written report. Collins highlighted that the program met or exceeded nearly every goal set by the planning team. 

The board met in closed session for superintendent evaluation. The board will meet again on Monday Nov. 24 to discuss testing and consider the proposal for selling the student built house.

In other business:

• Approved applications for fund authorization for programs related to Limited English Proficiency. There was also an authorization for supplemental funding for increased enrollment costs. None of these result in an increase in taxes. The authorization allows the board the opportunity to request funds with their budget amendment in the spring.
• Approved the second reading of a board policy changing the board’s meeting date and time to the second Monday at 7 p.m.
• Approved 4-1 the first adding of a policy regarding wellness. The policy includes guidelines for provision of fruits, vegetables, and beverages. Board president Carl Drost voted no stating it was a Blue Zones guided policy and he is not in favor of the Blue Zones.
• Approved first reading of board policies regarding programming including school calendar, dual enrollment, and home schooling.
• Approved a resolution authorizing review and participation in the Municipality Continuing Disclosures Cooperative initiative.


SASH PLEADS GUILTY

Tyler Sash has been fined in relation to a May scooter chase. According to court records, on October 29th, Sash plead guilty to public intox, a simple misdemeanor. A charge of interference with official acts was dropped in exchange for the plea. As a result of the plea, Sash was fined $65. 

Sash was arrested in May after leading police on a brief pursuit on his motorized scooter. During the chase, Sash dumped his scooter and ran into a wooded area. He was later tased by police after he resisted arrest.

Sash was a member of the Iowa Hawkeyes for three seasons from 2008-2010. He then played for the New York Giants beginning in 2011 until he was cut in August 2013.


STRASSER PLEADS NOT GUILTY

A Mahaska County woman charged with embezzling money from the County Soil and Water Conservation District has plead not guilty. Court records indicate that Jessica Strasser entered a plea of not guilty on October 30th in Mahaska County District Court. 

A pretrial conference has been set for January 29th, 2015 with trial set for February 10th 2015. 
Strasser is charged with Theft in the 1st Degree, a Class C Felony, and Ongoing Criminal Conduct, a Class B Felony. 

On October 1st, the Auditor of State released a special audit on the operations of the Mahaska County Soil and Water Conservation District. The audit had been requested by officials with the Iowa Department of Agriculture due to concerns over the financial operations of the district.

The audit reported detailed what was identified as nearly $280,000 in improper disbursements and un-deposited collections. Disbursements included over $240,000 of cash withdrawn from the districts account. During the audit, it was found that Jessica Strasser’s name was on the many of the receipts for cash withdrawal. Strasser resigned as District Secretary on August 9th, one day after being suspended by the district.

A criminal charge is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.


CITY COUNCIL VOTES DOWN FRANCHISE FEES

Franchise fee ordinances were a hot button at Monday’s Oskaloosa city council meeting. The issue to raise the fee across the board for electric and gas utilities with MidAmerican Energy has been on the council’s agenda for much of the past three months. At issue is fairness of the fees and the usage.

The first agenda item for the fee was a purpose statement. City staff recommended a statement, which included the options for usage Public safety, public works, streets and sidewalks and economic development. Councilor Jason Van Zetten emphasized if the fee was to go to economic development then the voters needed to know what that means. The first vote failed with Van Zetten, Aaron VerSteegh, Tom Walling and Tom Jimenez voting against.
Van Zetten proposed a statement allowing for the fee to be used for public safety, public works and streets and sidewalks. This vote went 6-1 with Joe Caliguiri voting no.

The second vote dealt with the gas franchise fee. Mark Willett, assistant manager at Clow Valve Co., spoke on behalf of the company. He said that under the current structure it is estimated the fee would bring in $290,000. His company would be on the hook for about $70,000 or 25 percent. “He said that the company initially supported the fee, but now that the actual numbers are in his company no longer is in favor of it. The reason being that it is disproportionate.

Andrew Jensen of Mahaska Community Development Group said his board has not made an official decision on the fee now, but there is a strong feeling that the fee is disportionate. Van Zetten asked him if the letter of support received previously was still valid. Jensen said he did not have a board opinion, but he hinted that the answer might not be in the affirmative.

Ultimately on the consideration of the franchise fee for both the gas and electric utility, Van Zetten proposed to deny and both ordinances were denied by 5-2 votes. Councilors made it clear that the franchise fee needed work before another vote could be entertained.

In other business, the council agreed to a fee reduction on a mowing assessment from $250 to $50 for a property owned by Randy and JoAnn Plate. Photos taken of the property did not clearly show how tall the weeds were prior to mowing. Following discussion councilors agreed to the reduction.

Councilors approved a two-year extension for mowing of public properties with Four Seasons Yard Care in the amount of $1,260 per mow. Councilor Walling inquired as to why this was not bid. City manager Michael Schrock explained that the original bid received by the company was significantly less than the other bids. The council approved the resolution on a 6-1 vote.

Prior to the meeting councilors held a study session on options for the Third Avenue East street project. Options presented were widening the street to allow for parking on one side, bike lanes and travel lanes. No particular option is suggested, but city staff is looking for direction. Since it was a study session no decisions were made. The presentation was for information purposes only.


DROSTS ESTABLISH SCHOLARSHIPS FOR OSKALOOSA STUDENTS

Oskaloosa Community School Board met for a work session Monday night. While no action was formally taken, recognition of a scholarship fund by board president Carl Drost and his wife and Martha was made. The Drosts presented Oskaloosa School Superintendent Russ Reiter with letters establishing a scholarship endowment. The couple presented a check earlier this year in the amount of $50,000 to the Oskaloosa Education Foundation. 

The funds will guarantee two $1,250 scholarships to be presented each year to Oskaloosa seniors. The endowment establishes the Carl and Martha Drost Agriculture scholarship and the Carl and Martha Drost Elementary Education scholarship. If no senior is going to further his or her education in agriculture the scholarship may be awarded to a student interested in technology. 

The second scholarship is to encourage young people to enter elementary education.
Drost told board members and those present that he is a product of the local system and after college graduation taught one year. The Drosts owned the local John Deere dealership for many years and recently sold the business.

“If you take as much out of this community as we have we needed to give something back,” said Drost. “I am a graduate of Oskaloosa Schools and William Penn.”

Drost and his wife made an earlier contribution of $400,000 to complete the soccer stadium at the Lacey Complex.

The remainder of the meeting dealt with discussions of the 600 series board policies regarding educational programming. Some changes were made last year in a move from a 180-day calendar to one that is governed by 1,080 hours.

During the discussion Reiter offered up a consideration of moving to a semester schedule versus a trimester schedule. 

“This would not take place next year if adopted,” said Reiter. “With our current scheduling and the legislative requirements our students do not have the opportunity to take a lot of electives. If they are in band they are in for the entire year.”

Reiter also said that in looking at sharing agreements with area districts, all of them are on eight-period, days and semesters. One of the downsides that mentioned by Reiter is the need to reduce the class time from 50 minutes to closer to 43.

Board members will continue discussion of the issue over the next several months. This discussion led into action items to be considered by the board as a follow-up to the comprehensive assessment made earlier this year.

No action was taken on any items except to accept the scholarship gift from the Drosts and recognize them for the gift. The hold its regular session on Monday, November 10.


STATE NEWS

WAGE COMPLAINT-IOWA

Iowa City factory workers allege wage violations

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Activists are asking the U.S. Department of Labor to investigate allegations that workers at an Iowa City factory have been illegally denied wages.

The Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa filed the complaint Tuesday against RockTenn, a Georgia-based corporation that operates a packaging facility in Iowa City. Two staffing companies are also named.

Executive Director Misty Rebik says she believes there are 300 temporary workers at the factory, and most are instructed to show up 30 to 45 minutes early without being paid. She says she believes that is a violation of federal law.

In addition, she says workers have complained that they are not issued paystubs and not compensated for all the hours they work.

RockTenn denied the allegations, saying it complies with state and federal law.


MOTEL DEATHS

Police investigate deaths of 2 found in Iowa motel

FAIRFIELD, Iowa (AP) — Authorities say they're investigating the deaths of two people found in a motel room in southeast Iowa.

Fairfield police say 20-year-old Alexandra Higdon and 24-year-old Casey Griffin were found unconscious Sunday morning at a Super 8 motel room. They were later pronounced dead.

The Ottumwa Courier reports the state medical examiner's office will conduct autopsies. Fairfield police are seeking help from the public in gathering information about the deaths.


WAGE COMPLAINT-IOWA

Iowa City factory workers allege wage violations

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Activists are asking the U.S. Department of Labor to investigate allegations that workers at an Iowa City factory have been illegally denied wages.

The Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa filed the complaint Tuesday against RockTenn, a Georgia-based corporation that operates a packing facility in Iowa City. Two staffing companies that recruit temporary workers for RockTenn are also named.

Executive Director Misty Rebik says she believes there are 300 temporary workers at the factory, and most are instructed to show up 30 to 45 minutes early without being paid. She says she believes that is a violation of federal law.

In addition, she says workers have complained that they are not issued paystubs and not compensated for all the hours they work.

A RockTenn spokeswoman didn't immediately return messages.


GOP 2016-CHRISTIE

Christie's personality comes under scrutiny

DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's brash, say-it-like-it-is persona could be his biggest asset — and also a long-term liability — as he lays the groundwork for a potential presidential run.

Christie's latest outburst came at a press event for the two-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy. He yelled at a heckler to "sit down and shut up!"

Even Christie champions worry his tough, New Jersey shtick won't translate well in early voting states like Iowa and South Carolina.

But interviews with nearly two dozen voters from across Iowa, rural Illinois, and other states suggest that many view Christie's tough-guy personality as his biggest asset as they begin to weigh their choices for 2016.

The question, Republican operatives have begun to wonder, is whether Christie's persona has long-term appeal.


SCHOOL BUS CRASH

Officials: 8 students injured in Iowa bus crash

WAPELLO, Iowa (AP) — Authorities say eight students have been injured following a school bus crash in southeast Iowa.

The Louisa County Sheriff's Office says the school bus exited a county road Tuesday morning after the driver lost control of the vehicle. The bus then rolled over.

The bus for the Louisa-Muscatine School District was carrying 10 students in elementary school and high school. Eight were transported to a Muscatine hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. It is unclear which students were injured, or the extent of their injuries.

State and county officials are investigating the cause of the crash. No charges have been filed against the driver of the bus.


LAWMAKER ARRESTED-IOWA

Iowa prosecutors want sex-abuse trial moved

GARNER, Iowa (AP) — Prosecutors have made the rare move of seeking a change in venue in the trial of a former state lawmaker accused of sexual abuse.

Former state Rep. Henry Rayhons, of Garner, is charged with third-degree sexual abuse and has pleaded not guilty. He's accused of having sexual contact in May with his wife, Donna Rayhons, while she was a resident of a care center and not able to give consent.

Donna Rayhons died in early August.

The state's attorney general's office, which is prosecuting the case, filed a petition last week, asking a judge to move the trial out of Hancock County. The Des Moines Register reports prosecutors don't think they can get a fair hearing from jurors from Rayhons' home county.


TUITION FREEZE-IOWA

Memo: Broad Iowa tuition freeze would cost $14.5M

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — A memo from the Iowa Board of Regents says freezing tuition rates for all students next year would cost $14.5 million in lost revenue for the state's three public universities.

The Iowa Board of Regents is scheduled to set tuition rates Dec. 3.

Key members have indicated they would like to freeze tuition for a third straight year for resident undergraduate students, and are considering whether to extend the freeze to nonresident and graduate students.

A memo released Tuesday says the resident undergraduate freeze would reduce revenues by $4.5 million. Extending the freeze to all students would cost another $10 million.

University of Iowa President Sally Mason and Iowa State University President Steven Leath said Tuesday they can handle a resident undergraduate freeze, but broadening it would be difficult.


FATAL SHOOTING-TRIAL

Trial proceedings begin in Iowa shooting case

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) — Trial proceedings have begun in the case of a southwest Iowa man accused of shooting a woman to death.

Jury selection began Tuesday morning at the Pottawattamie County Courthouse in the trial of 63-year-old Robert Reynolds.

Reynolds is charged with first-degree murder in the April death of 64-year-old Patricia Kinkade-Dorsey. She was found dead in Reynold's Oakland residence.

The Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil reports Fourth District Court Judge Greg Steensland will oversee the trial, which has been delayed several times. Reynolds has pleaded not guilty.


STEVE KING-CONFERENCE

Rep. Steve King to host political summit in Iowa

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Congressman Steve King will host several potential 2016 presidential candidates at a political summit in January.

King on Tuesday announced he will hold the Iowa Freedom Summit on Jan. 24 in Des Moines. Conservative group Citizens United will co-host the event.

Confirmed guests include Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Utah Sen. Mike Lee. All are considered possible 2016 Republican presidential candidates.

In a news release, King says this is the right time to bring leaders to Iowa in advance of the state's leadoff caucuses in early 2016. He says the event will "energize conservatives."


DES MOINES YMCA

Des Moines officials denies landmark status

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The City Council has denied landmark status to the YMCA building in downtown Des Moines, meaning it likely the brick building on the riverfront will soon be demolished.

The council voted Monday to not approve the historic designation.

Councilman Chris Hensley said the owners of the 60-year-old building didn't want the designation. Des Moines television station KCCI (http://bit.ly/11gJwbp ) reports the owners want to have it demolished and use money from the sale of the land to help pay for the new Wellmark YMCA building.

Preservationist Jack Porter said the old YMCA building is worth saving, noting its brick murals. But real estate experts have said the building is beyond saving, which the City Council agreed.

A developer wants to build high-rise housing on the building's site.


WOMAN INJURED-TRAIN

Authorities say woman 'bumped' by train in Iowa

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — Authorities say a woman who was "bumped" by a train in Sioux City has been hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.

Sioux City police Lt. Rex Mueller says the woman stepped onto tracks Monday as a train was approaching. The engineer was able to slow down the train, and Mueller says it "bumped her."

The Sioux City Journal reports (http://bit.ly/1vmi3mD ) the woman was taken to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Additional information about her condition is not available.

Mueller says the woman appeared to be emotionally distressed prior as she walked on the tracks. No other information was released about the circumstances of the incident.