January

CCDA approves $150K for project

The expansion of the Frances Banta Waggoner Community Library receives a boost with the news that the Clinton County Development Association approved a grant of up to $15,000 for the project.

Fitness center survey approved

The city of DeWitt and Central DeWitt Community School District embarks on a joint venture to potentially construct a new, state-of-the-art fitness center. The first step of that process is conducting a needs-analysis survey, which the respective governing boards approved.

Fair plans different, diverse carnival

The Clinton County Fair manager Mary Stevenson announces a new carnival vendor for the 2019 fair that promised to be “bigger and better” than past offerings. 

Charlotte VFD chief killed in explosion 

A fire and subsequent explosion at Clinton’s Archer Daniels Midland plant kills Eric Hosette, the Charlotte Volunteer Fire Department Chief. The explosion also injures fellow firefighter Adam Cain. Both men worked for the Clinton Fire Department and responded to the call Jan. 5. Shortly after 6 a.m.

Library project receives CAT grant

The Frances Banta Waggoner Community Library expansion project receives another feather in its cap in the form of a $350,000 Community Attraction and Tourism grant. It is contingent on the project’s steering committee raising $40,000 by the end of February.

A Love for the world

11-year-old Caden Bernauer takes the Central DeWitt version of the National Geographic Geography Bee and advances to the state geography bee in March. The fifth grader defeated competitors who were several years older for the crown. 

New senior care company announced

A partnership between two healthcare entities promises to bring senior living services to DeWitt. Genesis Healthcare systems joined with WesleyLife to form WellSpire, which will take over management of WestWing Place and, eventually, oversee the construction of a new senior living community in DeWitt. 

The voice falls silent

Longtime radio host and personality Leighton Hepker dies after a long battle with a rare blood disease. Hepker’s stories career included 44 years behind the microphone broadcasting news reports and local sporting events. 

Coach Flemming passes

Former Maquoketa and Central DeWitt basketball coach Bill Flemming has died after a battle with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. The hall-of-fame coach won 500 games, coached 29 al-state players and was known — by both friends and foes — for his fiery disposition. 

Let there be light

The lighting in DeWitt’s community center is notorious for being dim. Brian Green sought to change it. Green, an electrician, gathered a crew to replace the building’s light bulbs with those of the LED variety. Green says they will be much brighter and last much longer. The bulbs were paid for by donations.

 

February

A head above

Rural Grand Mound cattle producer Curt Claeys was surprised when he was named the Iowa Cattle Association’s Commercial Producer of the year. The first-generation farmer thanks his son, Kendall, and wife, Diane, for their help with the operation. 

Hunter surprised by multiple awards

Central DeWitt alumnus Jacob Hunter has been named the 2019 I.O.W.A. STEM teacher of the year. The North Scott agricultural teacher and 2007 CD graduate was nominated by a coworker 

Longer school days planned

Winter weather has forced enough cancellations for the Central DeWitt school district to push make-up class days well into June. To alleviate the pressure on the calendar, the district decided to add 15 minutes to the start and end of each school day. The additional half hour — will help the school meet the state’s required 1,080 of instructional hours without adding days to the schedule. 

Hinkle receives probation

Former Central DeWitt teacher Ramsey Hinkle receives a two-year probation sentence after pleading guilty to sexual exploitation by a school employee. The sentence stems from a plea agreement reached last month. A jail sentence not to exceed two years was suspended.

Sports betting debate ongoing

The Clinton County Development Association endorses sports gambling legislation. If signed into law, sports betting would be legalized across the state. Clinton legislative representation, including Norlin Mommsen, support the proposed legislation. 

Library reaches grant goal

The Frances Banta Waggoner Community Library reaches an important milestone and snags the CAT grant. The $350,000 boost come on the heels of the gathering of a $40,000 fundraising goal being met by community members. 

For the kids

Central DeWitt’s Dance Marathon fundraiser for the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital raises $4,686.99 and doubles its goal tally. 

 

March

Burglar pleads guilty

A man charged with breaking into Scott Drug in DeWitt pleads guilty to one felony and two misdemeanors. Daniel Whitcomb, 27, faces a third-degree burglary charge. 

Taking control

Central DeWitt robotics team, the Finger Puppet Mafia, advances to the world championships with its robot, “AlCadrone.” The group that includes students across all high school classes advances to the national competition in Detroit, Michigan.

The walls came down

The old Thiel Motors building is being demolished to make was for the Frances Banta Waggoner Community Library expansion project. The building on Fifth Avenue housed Thiel Motors before being purchased by the city in 2003. 

A quiver of excitement

The first archery team at Central DeWitt receives widespread support, including an inaugural season with 70 participants. The team, focused on kids, is the dream child of Ed Vance, social studies teacher at the high school.

A-peeling submission

Central DeWitt senior Gillian Lenth is one of three finalists for the prestigious Grand Wood Legacy Prize that goes to visual artists in high school. She was one of 450 entries. 

Melting snow, rain inundate area

The seemingly annual flooding along with Wapsipinicon River is expected to be more widespread than usual. The river will crest at almost three feet above flood stage and spread across rural roads. So much, in fact, that the county secondary road department has run out of “road closed” signs.

SAVE school funding on table

A crucial provision funding school infrastructure is expected to be signed into law soon. SAVE (Secure an Advanced Vision for Education) is a state-wide sales tax penny is set to expire in 2029, which is limiting long-term planning for area school boards. 

Library plans approved

Plans and specifications for the Frances Banta Waggoner Community Library expansion are approved. A contract will be awarded within the next month.

Switch wins approval

The Central DeWitt School Board endorsed a decision to leave the WaMaC conference and apply to compete in the MAC beginning the 2020-21 school year. The move was spurred by the idea of less travel time for competition and its academic impact.

Fire recovery

Kamper Korner opens its new service bay following a fire in September. The DeWitt business and purveyor of campers, propane, and services for recreational vehicles, suffered extensive damage when a refrigeration unit inside an R.V. parked in the service bay ignited. 

 

April

In with the old

A DeWitt couple has opened a new vintage store in an old electric company building. The Old Co-Op, located at 625 Sixth St., is open for business. Jay and Leora Claeys are the owners.

Payback program explored

A student loan payback program may be adopted and used as an attraction tool for young people, officials say. The publically-funded program would offer student loan payment assistance to anyone willing to move to Clinton County and plant roots. Buy-in from area school districts and municipalities is expected.

U.S. 30 project under scope

A long-discussed U.S. 30 renovation project entered the spotlight once more as Iowa Department of Transportation officials host a series of public meetings aimed at soliciting public feedback on proposals that include a “super-2” lane configuration as well as a four-lane widening project. 

Assistant JC prosecutor faces citation

Amanda Lassance, an assistant prosecutor in Jackson County, is cited for an open container violation while operating a motor vehicle in Clinton County. A police report said when officers arrived, they observed beer cans scattered around the car and Lassance displayed signs of intoxication. Officials are mum regarding details of the stop and will not say whether Lassance was given a field sobriety test or whether Lassance would face more charges. 

Hart mulls candidacy

Former District 49 senator and Wheatland resident Rita Hart is thinking about a run at the U.S. congress to fill a seat being vacated by Dave Loebsack. Hart said she would discuss the idea with family before making a decision.

Observer submits open records request

The Observer files an open-records request with the Clinton and Jackson sheriff’s departments seeking details of police work on an April 6 traffic stop involving Jackson County assistant prosecutor Amanda Lassance. 

Paul’s Discount Store closing

An iconic department store in Clinton is shuttering. Paul’s Discount Store, opened in 1964, was a retail staple along U.S. 30. When it was opened, it was the only store of its kind in the area. 

Urban Eats changes hands

Popular DeWitt eatery Urban Eats is changing hands. Sam Voss, the restaurant’s founder and initial owner, sold the business to employee Jessica Jones. Voss said a difficult health battle forces him to unload the restaurant. 

Pursuit of healthiness

A new downtown business in DeWitt focuses on natural wellness. My Vital Force will offer health and wellness classes, products and services to help with weight loss, stress, and general wellness. 

 

May

Unmatched empathy

Mary Landau, a 32-year employee of Central DeWitt, is retiring. Landau served as the high school secretary and said her fondness for the job was difficult to put into words. She said her love for the students kept her coming back year after year. 

Library proposal chosen

The DeWitt City Council has hired precision Builders Inc. as the head contractor for the Frances Banta Waggoner Community Library expansion project. Precision’s bid for the job is $4.5 million.

Sheriff denies footage

The Clinton County Sheriff’s Office denies a freedom of information act submission by The Observe for police documents relating to an April 6 incident involving Jackson County Assistant County Prosecutor Amanda Lassance. Key details of how police handled the call remain undisclosed.

Supervisors consider revised plan

Elvira’s wastewater system is under the microscope yet again. The Clinton County Supervisors approves a plan to update on-site wastewater systems. The town’s plumbing has needed updating since 2013 when an engineering firm provided an initial report. 

Library basement explored further

The Frances Banta Waggoner Community Library expansion project building committee is exploring the option to add a basement to the plans. Builders were asked to modify schematics to include a cheaper basement option and other related cuts, including prices for excavation and compacted fill.

Cal-Wheat approves sharing agreement

The Calamus-Wheatland School Board approves a measure to share the duties of superintendent Lonnie Luepker with the Bennett School District. He will split his time 70/30 between the two schools. The agreement follows a trend of similarly-sized districts around the state utilizing ways to shed costs. Delwood and Midland earlier on in the year announced the same move with superintendent Todd Hawley. 

Addition planned for nature center

A new nature center at Eden Valley near Baldwin is taking shape. Clinton County Conservation Director Walt Wickham said the addition to the current nature center will include a bathroom and showers to service the nearby campground, classroom space and a nature hall. 

Newspaper files complaint with board

The Observer files a complaint with the Iowa Public Information Board against the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office and county attorney’s office for declining to release requested public documents. Public records requests were filed April 22.

Chapter two: Breaking ground

Members of the community come together Monday to celebrate the groundbreaking for the Frances Banta Waggoner Community Library expansion. Among the crowd were citizens, representatives from the project design and construction teams, local business owners, and members of Friends of Frances. 

Clinton releases deputy’s dashcam

After a request from The Observer, the dashcams of Clinton County Sheriff’s Deputy Andy Petersen. The dashcam reveals some details about the April 6 stop along U.S. 61 near Welton involving Jackson County assistant prosecutor Amanda Lassance. 

 

June

Loebsack backs Rita Hart

Wheatland’s Rita Hart is running for the U.S. Congress and receives a high-level endorsement early on. Current seat holder Dave Loebsack, who is retiring at the end of his term in 2020, expresses his support for Hart. 

Fire truck involved in fatal collision

Roger Galloway, 76, of Grand Mound, is killed when a firetruck with the Donahue Volunteer Fire Department collided with his pickup truck. The truck’s driver, Clayton Schoenthaler, crossed into the path of Galloway’s vehicle, the accident report said. The Iowa State Patrol said Galloway was attempting a U-turn during a non-emergency test drive.

The newest Yankee

Former Central DeWitt baseball star T.J. Sikkema becomes a pro after being drafted by the New York Yankees with the 38th pick in the 2019 MLB Amateur Draft. Sikkema, who also attended the University of Missouri, is a left-handed pitcher. 

About 93 percent of corn planted

Farmers spend time in the field for a full week – possibly for the first time all planting season as wet weather inundates the area for months. As of June 15, farmers were nearing the end of a lengthy planting window.

The final cut

Longtime DeWitt barber Leo Fier hangs up his scissors after 61 years of cutting hair. Fier celebrated the occasion by making his final haircut on DeWitt mayor Don Thiltgen. 

New bug could help save trees

A proposal to integrate a new species of wasp into Westbrook Park’s ecosystem is approved by the city council. The stinger-less wasps will act as predators to the emerald ash borer. They are used in 26 other states for the same purpose.

Potential highway path revealed

The Iowa DOT reveals a possible pathway for a new U.S. 30 roadbed as the debate continues whether to expand the highway to four lanes or a super-2 style design. Nearly 300 residents from both Clinton and Cedar counties attend a public meeting to provide feedback on the highway’s new layout. 

Investigation opens into sheriff’s dept. 

The State Ombudsman’s office is opening an investigation into the conduct of the Clinton and Jackson county sheriff’s offices on an April 6 stop along U.S. 61 involving Jackson County assistant prosecutor Amanda Lassance.

Two die in plane accident

Former DeWitt resident Steve Niemann is killed in an airplane crash in northwest Ohio. Niemann and a passenger in his aircraft, Tracy Hartness, both current Bellevue residents, departed from Maquoketa and encountered heavy cloudcover on the Indiana/Ohio border, according to on-flight records. 

 

July

Old U.S. 30 bridge examined

The old U.S. 30 bridge east of Wheatland is under the microscope as western Clinton County community members investigate the possibility of rehabilitating it. 

The bridge, which is made of steel beams and a concrete deck, was closed to vehicle and pedestrian traffic in 2017. 

County Engineer Todd Kinney said the county is paying for a feasibility study on the bridge’s structural integrity.

Save some ‘bread’ with Peanut Butter?

The DeWitt City Council this week signed off on an innovative effort to attract new workers to Clinton County by helping them pay off their student loans.

The city is poised to team up with Clinton County and four other municipal entities to woo potential employees at a time when the overall labor pool continues to shrink.

The county led a five-year deal with a company called Peanut Butter Student Loan Assistance to administer the program.

WellSpire assumes control at Westwing

DeWitt’s Westwing Place is under new management. 

A joint venture between Genesis Health Systems and Johnston-based Wesley Life, a provider of health care for older adults, WellSpire will take over management of the assisted-living center. 

The merger includes a 60-40 split, with three Wesley Life representatives taking a majority interest on the company’s five-person board of directors.

Brace for flurry of Blizzards in October

For once, the rumors were true … well, one of the rumors was true.

Dairy Queen is coming to town.

Specifically, it’s DQ Grill & Chill, the expanded version of the iconic soft-serve ice cream franchise that serves burgers and sandwiches in addition to the frozen treats. If all goes according to plan, it would open on DeWitt’s main thoroughfare in three months — in mid-October.

It’s a race against time, says ag expert 

That’s how Dave Weiskircher, location manager for River Valley Cooperative in DeWitt, summed up the status of Clinton County’s crops last week.

He can recall some individual cases when farmers were prevented from planting until late June or even July 1. Sometimes it worked out fine. 

But the stakes are greatly magnified when roughly half the region’s producers are in the same danger zone this year.

Real heroes to visit DeWitt

Have you ever wondered how you could show your personal gratitude to the brave heroes who have put their lives on the line countless times to defend your freedoms?

If it bothers you to think you could go a lifetime without ever being able to cheer for a current or former U.S. Navy SEAL — in the flesh — you might want to re-think today’s lunchtime plans.

21 Chop House shuttered

A chef’s ambitious effort to establish a fine-dining restaurant in DeWitt has come to an abrupt end after nearly one year in operation, officials said this week in an online newsletter.

The Springbrook Country Club’s board of directors said the owner of 21 Chop House has asked the board to cancel the contract agreement after failing to meet the terms of the contract.

City seeks 11th Street speed study

The DeWitt City Council approved, 7-0, a request to the Iowa Department of Transportation for a study of speed limits on 11th Street in the vicinity of Westwood Drive.

Kevin Donahue, general manager at Spahn & Rose Lumber Co. at 1011 Westwood Dr. in DeWitt, is among those who have expressed concerns for drivers and pedestrians attempting to turn onto or cross 11th Street from Westwood Drive. 

Crops shrug off ‘abnormally dry’ stretch

A report released Thursday shows relatively normal rainfall levels virtually everywhere in the Midwest, with the exception of one region that has been bone-dry for the past three weeks.

Take a guess on where that is. 

An area roughly encompassing all of the land extending in a 50-mile radius around Davenport is “abnormally dry,” according to the U.S. Drought Manager (https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu).

Friends to reopen Grand Mound’s only bar 

This business partnership didn’t require months of negotiations and planning sessions. This one took less than a second.

Upon learning the news that Grand Mound’s only remaining bar and restaurant had closed, local resident Heather Chance, called her good friend, Mallory Kruse, of DeWitt. 

 

August

Sheriff: I will not run for re-election

Clinton County Sheriff Rick Lincoln said he would run for re-election in 2020. Lincoln held the position for 20 years and will retire from law enforcement. He also served as a deputy sheriff for 16 years. 

“It’s been a tremendous ride and it’s been a great educational experience, but it’s time to let somebody else do it,” Lincoln said.

All eyes on the ball

The entire town of DeWitt, it seems, is on pins and needles as the Saber baseball team traveled to Des Moines and attempted to capture the state baseball title. A convoy of trucks escorts the bus carrying the team to the high school before a send-off prep rally. 

Lincolnway adds manager

The Lincolnway Community Foundation announces a new project manager, Brett McKamey, of DeWitt. McKamey will assist longtime executive director Pat Henricksen.

Iowa Mutual’s DeWitt office will close

Before the year 2020 arrives, Iowa Mutual Insurance Co.’s prominent, 120-year physical presence in DeWitt officially will end, according to company officials.

The handwriting has been on the wall since last fall that the workforce numbers were continuing to decline at the office in DeWitt, where the company was founded in the year 1900.

Wedding ring is found 40 years later

Sitting on the kitchen table of Richard Walker’s DeWitt home Tuesday morning was a small, white box.

Nestled inside was a white-gold wedding band containing three round diamonds.

“There it is,” he said, admiring it with a smile. 

That was two days after the ring — which was Walker’s original wedding ring — suddenly was unearthed after it had been missing for 40 years.

Peanut Butter continues to spread

Life’s little surprises.

It was supposed to be a routine meeting for the Central DeWitt School Board. Instead, it was an end zone celebration after winning the Super Bowl on a desperation “Hail Mary.”

OK, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch. 

Just like the DeWitt City Council did a month ago, the school board embraced an intergovernmental student-loan-assistance program that aims to woo young college graduates to live and work in the county.

Donahue woman killed at Bettendorf store

Police have identified the 28-year-old Donahue woman who died of an apparent gunshot late Saturday afternoon at a Big 10 Mart in Bettendorf.

Brittany M. Wilson was working as a clerk at the convenient store at 2480 53rd Ave. when she was fatally shot during an attempted robber, authorities said.

Although Donohue is located in Scott County, which is just 10 miles south of DeWitt.

All-out assault on crop prices? 

Welcome to farming … governed by Newton’s Third Law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture report on Aug. 12 released its latest crop estimates, showing farmers have planted far more acres this year than private analysts anticipated. Most expected the planting estimates to drop because of the wet spring that caused late planting for many.

Good news, right? Not if you’re a crop producer.

 

September

Failed motion? Say it ain’t so

A surprised DeWitt City Councilman Garey Chrones thrust his fists into the air in a celebratory way as if to say, “Hah! I get the decisive vote!”

In DeWitt, it’s rare to hear a council member cast a dissenting vote against a resolution or measure. But an extraordinarily long line of successful motions came to an end.

The issue that led to the impasse might surprise some: whether to eliminate the issuance of practice of paper checks.

Preston home explosion victim dies

The Preston man who incurred third-degree burns over 95 percent of his body in a house explosion 2½ weeks ago died at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City. 

Donahue woman’s murder suspect ID’d

The man suspected of killing Brittany Wilson, of Donahue, is dead, authorities say.

The alleged killer, Manuel Rangel, 21, was located in western Nebraska by Nebraska State Police Aug. 18. After authorities disabled his vehicle, Rangel took his own life, a press release from the Bettendorf Police Department said.

Rangel is suspected of shooting Wilson while she worked at a Big 10 Mart in Bettendorf on Aug. 17.

Keeping his train of thought

Don Kent sat by himself in a golf cart chomping on a bag of popcorn while a group of workers scurried around him.

If one didn’t know any better, it would seem as though he wasn’t all that interested in what was taking place, belying the feelings of nostalgia that must have been raging underneath his stoic glare.

That’s because workers were moving something near and dear to his heart to the intersection of Clinton and Smith streets in Grand Mound — next to the train tracks.

It’s a replica of an old train depot that he had built about 26 years ago.

Iowa DOT says 2 is enough

The magic number for members of the Highway 30 Coalition is 4, but officials with the Iowa Dept. of Transportation came back from their initial studies with a 2.

There’s no guarantee on any timetable for when a Super-2 highway might become a reality. It usually comes down to funding. The commission will be looking at the U.S. 30 project with respect to how it fares in comparison to other projects being pitched elsewhere in the state.

Mentor program earns A’s

A lot of things that happen at school do not necessarily show up in test scores.

They can occur just a few minutes  before classes start on Thursday mornings, when the elementary and intermediate students don’t have a teacher in the room. 

What they get instead is grinning — theoretically — “bigger kids” visiting their classrooms at 8 a.m. for a 15-minute visit. It takes place while teachers are returning from their 7:30 Thursday morning meetings.

‘He was just so scared’

The man who was confronted by a masked robber pointing a gun at him last weekend was working at the Lost Nation convenience store for the first time as a favor to his friends, according to the wife of the owner of the business.

The perpetrator barged into Tri Stop at 7:55 p.m. Sunday and ordered the frightened clerk to load a bag with cash from the register and a large selection of JUUL starter kits and pods located on the front counter, according to the Clinton County sheriff’s department.

 

October

Authorities probe DeWitt woman’s death

The cause and manner of a 29-year-old woman’s death is under investigation, the DeWitt Police Department confirmed Friday, Oct. 1, in a press release. Police were dispatched to 319 Ninth Ave., where officers discovered the body of a 29-year-old woman. DeWitt police are being assisted by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.

Supervisors: DOT abandoned county

The Clinton County Board of Supervisors reacted negatively to a study that recommends implementation of a super-2 highway along U.S. 30 just east of Lisbon to just west of DeWitt. Officials have spent more than a decade lobbying for a four-lane highway.

Northeast school is filled to the brim 

What goes through the mind of a school district superintendent every time he or she sees a moving truck? With funding tied to enrollment numbers, the sight of a U-Haul likely triggers all types of thoughts. 

But Northeast Community School District’s enrollment continues to climb, with 42% of their students coming the way of open-enrollment.

Health region cuts budget by $1.2 million 

The Clinton County Board of Supervisors approved a $1.2 million cut in services for fiscal year 2020 so that the region would end the year with enough funds to get through the first three months of fiscal year 2021, Region CEO Lori Elam told Clinton County Supervisors. 

School ranking system inherently biased?

The Central DeWitt Community School Board wants to make sure the state Legislature is on the same page … or at least reading from the same book. Local educators told two Iowa legislators that the current rating system for state schools seems to be using a flawed methodology.

ATV rider to city: Re-examine ordinance

A man who lives just outside of DeWitt informed the City Council of an ordinance that likely goes under the category of unintended consequences. Matt Kent, a recruiter for the Iowa National Guard, said the way that the ordinance is written, wouldn’t allow anyone to ride into DeWitt on any of the streets entering the city.

DeWitt resident’s rags to riches story

Stanley Reeg’s amazing rags-to-riches story began with an inexplicable premo-nition that has clung to him as long as he can remember. 

 As a boy, starting at age 10 or 11, he just “knew” he was going to be wealthy. 

Through amazing drive and determination, he is just that. Reeg is the managing director of The Reeg Group for Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc. in Davenport.

Supervisors: U.S. 30 study not authentic

Clinton County officials continue to express their displeasure over the state’s reluctance to support expanding U.S. 30 to four lanes from DeWitt to Lisbon.

“I represented the U.S. 30 Coalition and ... we told them we really didn’t want their Super-2,” Determann said. “And we voiced some dissatisfaction in the way it was presented and the facts they used.

Leo Croce: Guts, grit and gumption 

The Nazis couldn’t kill him. Business executives couldn’t ignore him. Naysayers couldn’t silence him. 

 “He was a pit bull,” said his great-grandson, Justin Scott. 

Scott remains in awe of Croce’s transformation from a brash kid to a humble man who spent five decades advocating for those in need of food and shelter, particularly the elderly.

Education chief receives hero’s welcome

Something was up.

As Ryan Wise, director of the Iowa State Department of Education, entered Northeast Elementary School in Goose Lake, a dozen noticeably-giddy students were lined against a wall staring intently at the small entourage coming through the doors.

The young students strained to contain their enthusiasm for a few seconds, then erupted with a chorus of “yay!” and quickly surrounded Wise. 

“This is the best part of my job,” quipped Wise, who was visiting the Northeast, Camanche and Delmar school districts.

 

November

Pleasant surprises for area crop yields

If anyone could provide keen insight on what to expect after a topsy-turvy growing season, it’s Virgil Schmitt. 

The soil-management expert can tell you things about crop behavior that will make your head spin. He has “all the dirt” you’ll ever need on … well, dirt.

But Schmitt was shocked while gawking at all the gorgeous soybeans on his farm in Muscatine County. 

“When those went in (a month late), I said, ‘OK, I’ll be really happy if I get 40 bushels per acre, and I’ll be ecstatic if I get 50’ … and mine were in the 60s,” he said.

Electric election? Not exactly

Someday the 2019 election will be noted on official documents with an asterisk to indicate that it was the first time in Iowa’s history that city council and school board elections were held at the same time.

Other than that, there was little drama in elections held throughout Clinton County. 

In most cases, officeholders ran unopposed. In a couple of towns, the current officeholders didn’t even run official re-election campaigns, but they were re-elected anyway via write-in ballots. 

County bans cellphones in courthouse Possession and use of electronic and digital communications devices now are prohibited inside the Clinton County Courthouse.

The Clinton County Board of Supervisors voted 2-1 to prohibit the possession and use of electronic and digital communication devices inside the courthouse. 

LincolnWay Foundation is on solid footing 

The LincolnWay Community Foundation doled out more than $30,000 in grants to 16 local nonprofit organizations and celebrated the leadership abilities displayed by six young adults.

The 2019 grant recipients and “Leaders Under 40” were announced during the foundation’s annual awards ceremony at Springbrook Country Club. 

The foundation this year awarded a total of $30,380 in grant money. Since 2006, the foundation has awarded grants totaling $300,150, according to Greg Barnes, vice president for the foundation.

Street project slams on the brakes 

Thanks primarily to a lousy construc-tion season weather-wise, the $1.8 million street-reconstruction project will not be finished until the spring, DeWitt City Administrator Steve Lindner told the city council.

 “The lower temperatures are the limit-ing factor on what we can get done,” he said. “

Lindner said that portion of the project will have to wait until spring, as well as the corresponding infrastructure.

Wet fall choking propane delivery

As snow fell and temperatures plunged Monday, energy demands from farmers trying to dry corn and homeowners firing up their furnaces kept delivery trucks on the road and liquid propane providers juggling customer demands.  

A wet spring delayed planting. A wet fall delayed harvest, and corn coming out of the fields is wetter than usual and needs to be dried. The onset of frigid temperatures increased demand for LP to heat barns housing animals and homes.  

910 kids enrolled … another on the way 

In the Northeast Community School District, it’s apparently never too early to reserve a spot for preschool

“I had a mom call me after school today to inquire about preschool,” Gray said. “I told her that we have people that, as soon as their children are born, they call in to put them on a preschool list. She’s like, ‘Woah, you can do that?’ I said, ‘Yes, I can.’

 “She says, ‘Well … I’m pregnant,’” Gray said with a grin.

Poll: Caucus field shows virtual dead heat

Maybe the Iowa caucus race is indeed a two-candidate contest. But is it a race between the surging Buttigieg and poll leader Elizabeth Warren? Or is it between Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders?

That question could be argued, but a new poll in Iowa this week delivered some good news to the Buttigieg and Sanders campaigns.

Quinnipiac University’s latest survey in Iowa, which was conducted in the week before Tuesday and published on Wednesday, showed a virtual dead heat among the race’s four leaders: Warren at 20 percent, Buttigieg at 19 percent, Sanders at 17 percent and Biden at 15 percent.

Neighbors take place of farmer who died

Multiple combines and tractors hauling wagons loaded with corn lined Joyce Miller’s gravel driveway just northwest of Preston.

In past years, her son Kyle Miller would drive the combine through the family’s almost 200 acres of corn. The Millers relished the late-fall routine of bringing in the harvest and bonding over the hard fieldwork. 

Kyle was missing this year, however. He died Aug. 29 at the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, a heart attack ending his life only one week before his 41st birthday.

 

December

Council paves way for 6th Ave. project

The DeWitt City Council approved an agreement with the state concerning a repaving project on S. 6th Avenue next year.

The project is labeled a “SWAP” project because the funding will come from state funds that are being “swapped” for federal funds. State legislation passed early last year was designed to cut down on red tape and improve efficiencies during road-improvement projects.

The City will pay for the engineering and construction costs above $580,000 from local funds, roughly 25% of the total costs.

Truss issue: Panels seek to rehab bridge

The Hometown Pride committees for Calamus and Wheatland share some of the same goals, prompting a joint meeting.

One of their goals is an ambitious one. They are looking into the possibility of breathing new life into the former U.S. Highway 30 Wapsipinicon River.

Officials are hoping that the bridge can be rehabilitated to the extent that it could accommodate snowmobiles and pedestrians. The idea is that the bridge could be part of a recreational trail between Calamus and Wheatland.

Property tax revenues will fall 

Property tax revenue will be about $123,000 less in fiscal year 2021 than what Clinton County is bringing in in fiscal year 2020, Clinton County Auditor Eric Van Lancker confirmed Monday. 

Van Lancker said the county’s taxable valuation is down, leading to a decrease of about $123,000 in county revenues compared to the current year. 

Van Lancker said an industrial correction related to an ADM ruling led to about $12 million less in industrial numbers.

Iowa Mutual building is for sale

The stately office building that was the home of Iowa Mutual Insurance for more than a century is up for sale.

The building at 509 9th St. in DeWitt has been listed with a realtor for $850,000, said Steve Lindner, DeWitt city administrator. 

The current 43,340-square-feet L-shaped facility features two connected buildings that were built in stages between 1924 and 1974. It has an assessed value of $1,977,805, according to Beacon’s online real estate records.

Because it has the potential to house dozens, if not hundreds of employees, the sale of the building could alter the dynamics of the city’s workforce.